Last weekend, I blogged about my decision to change my Literacy Work Station/Centre rotation format based on a Skype call with Angie Harrison (@techieang). Since that Skype call and writing that blog post of mine, I’ve spent numerous hours trying to make this new system work for me (free choice independent work stations), and more importantly, for my students. There were many things that I had to consider:
- I like the Daily 5, but I also wanted to add in some more higher level response options. I do a daily Writer’s Workshop in addition to this literacy work station/centre time, so I decided to take out Work on Writing, as basically all of my centre options include writing anyway. I may decide though to change this once the students try out these new centres.
- I have two students with autism. Changing routines can be hard for them. I wanted to make this change a smooth one, and I wanted to ensure that it does not vary too much from the types of learning activities that they’re used to. That’s why I created the guide sheets of suggestions that I’ve laminated now and will put out for all of the students to see. They don’t need to only use these ideas, but these are suggestions of activities that relate closely to ones that we’ve already done before. This adds the familiarity piece that will help many of my students as they adjust to change. These sheets also provide options for those students that do not know what to do. I’m trying to build in here success for all.
- I integrate science and social studies into my literacy block. This is incredibly important with a split class, and it is something that I want to continue to do. I decided to do this largely through my Listening to Reading centre. At this centre, I will have different stories — related to our current science or social studies topic — that students can listen to and then respond to. They can choose how they respond, but in this case, I’m going to pick what they have to hear. I may sometimes have a choice of a couple of different stories, but there’s a little less choice at this centre than at my other ones. We’ll see how this goes. I’m also going to put out the Nelson literacy books and poems that relate to our current science or social studies topic at the Read to Self and Read to Someone centres. Then the students can continue their learning in these content areas at the other centres too.
- Due to a limited number of tools, I knew that I could not have all of my students choose Listening to Reading every day. I decided to use two of my iPod Touches — the ones without the camera — for this centre. With the splitters that I have, this means that I can have four students at this centre during each rotation. I then took some coloured dot stickers and put the number “1” on four bookmark cards and the number “2” on another four bookmark cards. The students that choose “1” will go to this centre first, and the students that choose “2” will go to this centre second. With different texts for Grade 1 and Grade 2 students, I may need to say that only Grade 1 students can choose the “1” cards and only Grade 2 students can choose the “2” cards. I’m still trying to figure this part out.
- Right now, I have not limited the numbers at Read to Self or Read to Someone. I have enough reading materials for all students to choose this option in either time slot. I plan on doing two rotations a day. Students will have to get creative in terms of where they read in the classroom, but there are many quiet areas to do so, and I think that they can figure this out. If I find though that I need to limit the numbers each time, then I will make this change. It’s definitely a possibility.
- I want this format to increase the amount of time that I have for guided reading groups. Not only do I want to be able to do two guided reading groups a day, but I also hope to take a few additional students for reading conferences during this time. Many of my students are at the same reading level and working on the same strategies. For my Grade 2 students, the majority of them are working on their written reading comprehension skills, which lines up to the DRA 2 that I administer two to three times a year. For students reading at a Level 28 or above, there’s a large written component as a follow-up to the reading, and this is the most difficult part for them. I spend many guided reading sessions working on these types of comprehension questions with them. Since I will now be pulling students from all groups for guided reading (by placing a guided reading card in their pocket chart), I can take groups of 5 or 6 students if I want, and work on this specific skill. Groups can constantly change as my strategy groupings change too. I currently change my guided reading groupings a bit, but not as much as I think that they should be changed. With the new ability to pull any student whenever I want, I can constantly mix the groups and give all of the students what they need to be successful.
- I usually use a timer to let my students know that the centre time is over. I don’t want to be quite as restrictive with this new approach, but I want to help the students organize their time too. Based on feedback that I got on my last post, I think that I’ll use a timer to let the students know that they should be thinking about getting ready to rotate, but I won’t insist that they rotate right at that time. Students that need to finish up a centre first can do so, and then move on. Then students still have control over the rotation but with some teacher guidance as well. As students get used to the format and the approximate amount of time at each centre, they may not need the timer anymore. This is definitely something that can change throughout the process.
- Even though this system is largely based on student choice, I want all students to visit all four choice centres every week. Since they have two rotations a day, they will get to visit many of the centres more than once. Most students will be able to organize their time on their own. Since students will be picking these centres as soon as they come in each morning, I’ll be available to help those that need it. Students will know that they can go to the centres more than once each week, so knowing that this is an option, may help them out if they are less eager to go to certain ones. Hopefully the numerous choices at each activity will appeal to the different learning styles and interests of the different students as well. I want students to be engaged as they’re learning!
- I need to teach the students this new system, or at least give them a good chance to try it out. I told the students this week that we would be making this change, and I explained to them what this change means. I really want the new system in place for after the March Break. As a result, next week — the week before March Break — we are going to try it. We will go through together how it will work. Students can ask questions about the new system, experiment with it, and then we can make changes as needed. I’m sure that there will be at least some changes to make! I want students to own this system too. That’s why I often included the option of “using a tool of their choice.” I will ask the students to write down on post-it notes what other creative ideas they come up with, and then we can leave their suggestions with the laminated ones that I created. Students can then learn from each other as well as from me.
Angie, I’m so glad that you shared this video of yours during the Skype call. Seeing your choice board really helped me figure out how I could use one as well. Now there’s just the nervous/excited feeling that comes when I am about to try something new. Here’s to hoping that it works!
How do you organize your literacy block time? How much “student choice” is incorporated into your centre approach? I would love to hear your ideas as well!