Tuesday, May 8, 2012


So the last few weeks have been super busy (as if that ever changes) and also really fun.  I love this time of year because they are so independent and we get to do so much with all the foundational skills they have learned.  We can write meaningful stories and sentences every day, look at math and numbers in different ways, and discover new books independently!  I LOVE it and am sad when I realize this bliss will only last so long...

One of my big goals for myself and my class this month was to begin to implement centers.  Next year, our school will most likely go from early bird/late bird to AM/PM.  This means our small group rotations will need a massive overhaul because instead of having up to 19 students for groups, we will have 33.  Ouch!  To mentally prepare ourselves, my team has decided to try centers now, when we know our students well and can ease into it with half as many kids.  I was the pioneer, and am having a blast.  Figuring out the "human sudoku" (as I call it) to organize the groups and timing was definitely the most difficult part.  Now that I have that down, the fun begins with creating centers.  My goal was to create centers that have no true end, that my students could work on for a week or more, and that challenges everyone.  It was/is an intimidating endeavor but the results so far have been amazing!  My kids are grouped heterogeneously so they work together to complete many of the centers.  This may be my favorite part because they are doing such an incredible job helping each other... not sharing answers or being bossy...they are true mentors for each other now!  Not to mention the fact that at the end of the day, I find myself prepping less and teaching less.  I know that sounds terrible, but really, it's true.  I don't have to teach as much...drive it in so to speak.  I explain things once, and they go off and support each other.  They want to succeed independently and as a group, and they are all contributing.  This leaves me with so much more time to walk around monitoring, supporting, challenging, and pulling kids for reinforcement.  What more can I ask for?

Here are some centers I've done so far.

This is a math center that has 26 bees and a recording sheet.  Each bee has a lowercase letter on the corner.  The bees have circles to count, equations to add and subtract, missing numbers, and tally marks.  The students use the recording sheet to show the answer to each bee.  The recording sheet has all the capital letters with squares next to them.  Students find the corresponding capital for their bee and write the answer in the square.  They love the flexibility of it and that they can choose the order of problems to solve.  Of course the bees go with our spring theme.  I also created the same center but instead of math problems, there are pictures with elkonin boxes and missing letters for them to record.

Here is one that focuses on writing.  Some big struggles I have with my ELLs in writing are syntax and prepositions.  This center is so easy to prep and lasts for days.  I write sentences on sentence strips (color coded) and cut them up.  I model putting them together on Monday, talking my way through the search for a capital to start, reading as I go to make sure it makes sense, and finding a period to finish it all off.  During centers, students work in their heterogeneous groups to put the sentences together and when completed, they write them on whiteboards.  I also strategically placed this pocket chart next to a teacher table, so support can be given as necessary.

This center is another math activity.  The students have a recording sheet that has addition on one side and subtraction on the other.  The kids roll a die to fill in the equations and then solve.  The addition side has two blanks for two rolls, and the subtraction side just has the second number to roll.  The first number is written for them (to prevent negative answers).  There is plenty of space above for them to draw pictures as they wish.  (Don't worry, I had her correct her wrong answer!)

Here is a center with a book and follow-up activity.  This is a listening center (book on tape with headphones and multiple copies).  The book talks about the life-cycle of a butterfly and has a fun song.  After students listen, they have a pop-up book that shows the life-cycle that they can color and assemble.  Later in the week they will also write about their favorite part or something that they found interesting.

The ideas keep coming and I've been discovering more and more all over the internet.  If you have any gems, please share :)

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