I am almost finished my first week as a Grade 6 teacher, and what a marvellous week it’s been! As my amazing teacher partner, Gina Bucciacchio (@_missginab), and I started planning for Grade 6, we spent many hours discussing our literacy centre routine. We wanted to give students choice over their literacy centres, but we wanted to make them accountable for their learning as well.
We both love Debbie Diller’s book, Practice With Purpose: Literacy Work Stations For Grades 3-6. While re-reading the book, we noticed that Diller makes the suggestion of having students write suggestions for the literacy centres, so that there’s always an anchor for people to follow when at each of the centres. This got us thinking!
In the past, Zoe Branigan-Pipe (@zbpipe), a Grade 6 teacher with our Board, spoke about giving her students the curriculum expectations and having them help plan the year. Jennifer Faulkner (@learninghood), the Blended Learning/eLearning Contact for the Grand Erie District School Board, has also shared how she had her students help plan one of her Science units using the curriculum documents. Then last year, Aaron Puley (@bloggucation), blogged about the importance of linking classroom activities with curriculum expectations, and really making learning meaningful for students.
Gina and I considered all of this when contemplating our literacy centre routine, and we decided to do something different than we’ve done before: we gave students copies of the Language curriculum expectations for Grade 6, we divided them by the basic Daily 5 literacy centres (Read to Self, Read with Someone (a slight change with the wording), Word Work, Work on Writing, and Listening to Reading), and we had them create lists of suggested activities that would match the curriculum expectations. Students pulled from all areas. They looked at how reading and writing could overlap with oral communication and media literacy. They were creative and thoughtful. They planned fun and engaging centres that would also allow them to practice the skills that they need.
After brainstorming in partner groups, they combined their ideas with other partner groups, refined their suggestions, and added some new ones. Now we have our literacy centres: all linked to the Ontario curriculum expectations and all created by Grade 6 students! The best part is that as the students worked on creating these centres, they also met many of the expectations that they outlined: they read and spelled familiar and unfamiliar words, they showed their understanding of what they read, they edited their work, they explained their thinking (metacognition), they generated ideas, they listened and spoke with purpose, and the list goes on. Students also learned how to work well together and solve problems along the way, which will just lead to further success throughout the year.
Below is a short Animoto slideshow of this literacy centre creation, along with some examples of the activities that the students produced:
Thank you to all those people that inspired us to try something new and really give students control over their learning and over the curriculum. We can’t wait to see these literacy centres in action! Have you ever done something similar before? What were the results?