Thursday, July 11, 2013

Throwback Thursday!

Hey there!  I've gotten so many new followers in the past week or so and I just wanted to say "Welcome!"  I'm so excited to see this little hobby I started begin to take off!  It's been ridiculously humid here in the northeast and I have been getting ready to do the "Merrell Down and Dirty Mud Run" this Saturday in Philly.  But I just can't seem to find the motivation to log one more run before the big day.  You just can't catch your breath outside here until after 7pm.  And my hubby's business venture has kept me home with the kids in the evenings, sigh!  Oh well, thank goodness I'm running with a great friend and teaching buddy.  She promised not to get mad if I needed to take a walk break!  Stacey, "It's in writing, so I'm holding you to your word!"  I'll post some muddy fun pictures later on! 

So, I'm linking up with the fabulous Cara Carroll from The First Grade Parade for her summer linky series, Throwback Thursday.  I'm going to be reposting about how I work my version of literacy centers.  This post has gotten a ton of views and I thought it might provide another alternative for teachers who have a tough time making traditional literacy centers work for them.

******************* Originally posted on April 15, 2013  ***************

My Version of Literacy Centers

After teaching first grade for 10 years, I've FINALLY found a compromise to make centers/ Daily Five work for me (and our reading series).  

A little background for you... I began my career using a basal anthology.  I hated it!  Then I went back to grad school to get my masters in Reading and Language Arts.  I always loved teaching ELA but, when I spent 4 years studying how to be a great reading teacher, I truly discovered my passion.  It was also at this time when my district began to shift to the Reading and Writing Workshop Models.  I went to training at Columbia and became a loose follower of Lucy Caukins.  I worked on our district's ELA curriculum team for SO many years as we created a curriculum from scratch.  Fast forward a few more years, and the pendulum shifted again back to a basal anthology.  I resisted this change with everything inside me, but then eventually gave up knowing it was a battle I wouldn't win.  If we were going back to a basal, I was at least going to have a say in which one we picked.  Our district settled on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Journeys.  At first I hated it... but then I found ways to still add my style and make it work for me.  

I've always used a kind of hybrid approach to centers.  I've never been able to work with a strict rotation.  Some students always finish first and some just never do!  Sometimes I needed more than 15 minutes with a group, sometimes a group needed less.  I just hated being stuck with a schedule.  I used The Daily Five approach for a few years, but then when we got our basal, I felt like I needed more structure to have students practice the skills they were responsible for during that week.  So my checklist was born.  

Basically, I have two independent checklists (one for my top two reading groups, one for my lower reading groups).  Students choose from the activities on this checklist for their week's independent review.  Any highlighted activities are top priorities.  Each list is differentiated and students' highlighted priorities are differentiated based on their needs.  I've had an excellent response to this format.  The students feel like they have choice and they are working with hands on review activities.  They think they are playing and the time just flies by.  While students work on their independent activities, I pull reading groups for small group instruction.  Many of the activities on this checklist an be found through Dawn at First Grade Shenanigans.  Her work has been a major inspiration in me finding my groove again and beginning to create my own activities and blog while finding myself with Journeys.  

Here are some pictures so you can see some of what goes on during "Checklist Time."  
Students work on a variety of activities including Read to Self,  "ar" sorts, and sight word review.

My student teacher works with a guided reading group while students work on their checklists.

A close up of the differentiated sorts.  

Students work on their checklists on Monday- Thursday.  On Thursday, I collect students folders and mark their completed work.  Any corrections are made Friday morning before our weekly test and I am able to pull RTI groups based on observations and how students did on their checklist activities.  I don't think this is necessarily the best way to do centers but, it's been the best fit for me and my class.  

Thanks for stopping by!