Using Literacy Centers Again and Again

Using Literacy Centers Again and Again

Spend less time prepping for your literacy centers by finding ways to re-purpose the materials for several different tasks.

One of the most time consuming tasks for a teacher is prepping material for the week ahead.  Many teachers have five to ten literacy centers to prepare and set up each week!  That's a lot of prep time. What if you could prepare one literacy center, make small changes and then use it for several weeks.   I'm going to take one activity, prep it and then see how many different ways students can use it in a literacy center.

I'll start with a packet from my store called Suffix Skaters, adding -ed and -ing. But any word sorting activity would work.  The packet has a sorting activity, written practice sheets and a game.

Week One:  Sorting words to add the suffix -ing.  There are 28 small word cards for the sort.  Students read the rules on the sort mat and sort the cards according to how the -ing would be added to the word.  For the first week it's a good idea for students to sort the words several times.  They can do the sort with a partner, and after a little practice they can try a timed  or speed sort. Doing multiple sorts can easily take 20 minutes.  If your center time is longer you can have them write the words with the -ing added.

Week Two:   Game Sort with -ing words. 2 to 4 students can play the game. Use the sort mat as a game spinner.  A pencil and paper clip make a quick and easy spinner.  Students spread the word cards out, face up, so every one can see them. The first player spins and then has to find a word that matches that rule.  When they find a word they say the word and spell it with the -ing added. If they spell it correctly they get to keep the word.  If they spell it incorrectly the card has to be set back with the other cards.  Continue taking turns spinning and spelling until all the words have been chosen.

Game version 2-  Pass out the cards to the players.  Player one spins.  If they have a word for that rule they spell it with the -ing added and take it out of their hand.  If they spell it incorrectly it has to stay in their hand.  The first player to empty his/her hand is the winner.

Week Three:  Sort and ABC orde.  The students should be very familiar with these words and the -ing rules.  Have them do the sort again, either with the cards or as a written sort.  Then have them take the words from each category and put them in ABC order.  If they have time, they can write them, with the -ing added in ABC order.  For more of a challenge have them put all 28 words in ABC order!

Week Four:  This week can wrap up the skill of adding -ing to words.  Students can start with the sort again and then complete any of the written practice sheets from the packet. There are 4 to choose from.  There is also a challenging page where students have to take a word with the -ing and change it back into the base word.

There you go!  One set of 28 cards, one sort mat and 5 optional practice sheets will see you through 4 weeks of literacy center prep! For the next 4 weeks you can do the same thing with the -ed cards and sort mat!

You can purchase the entire Suffix Skaters, Adding -ing and -ed from my TPT store. 
 Suffix Skaters, adding -ing and -ed, Crockett's Classroom on TPT

Or, if you'd like to try a free sample, click here to download.

 Suffix Skaters, Free Sample


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Fresh Fall Game

Fresh Fall Game- The Pumpkin Patch

There are so many skills that students need to practice over and over…math facts, sight words, grammar skills, etc.  One of the best ways to keep the practice fresh is with a game.
I made up this game several years ago to use in a spelling center.  But I soon saw how versatile it is and my students were soon playing it to practice all kinds of skills.

The premise is simple, players “chase” each other around the board.  The winner is the player who doesn't get “caught”.  The skill practice comes in because a player must answer a question, spell a word, read a sight word, etc. before they roll a die and move.  Click on the image to download this free game.

 Fun fall game!  Kids can use the game with any question cards, or flash cards.


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Reading Centers Drive Me Crazy!

If reading centers drive you crazy you need to learn how to make your reading groups and centers easier to manage.

I love the idea of reading centers---students working together, active engagement, meaningful learning tasks, time for practicing new skills, time for reviewing previous skills,  differentiating, freeing teacher to work with small groups, etc....

Too often, though, it turns into a nightmare to manage. I found myself spending way too much time making sure students were where they needed to be and doing what they should be doing.  I wasn't able to give my attention to my small group.  And then, there's the time it takes to prepare the centers every week and teach the kids what to do at each new center. 

I think the part that challenged me the most is coming up with centers that matched our curriculum and students were able to complete on their own without being just "busy work".

Throughout my years as a classroom teacher I tried so many different systems, each with some success.  But, I think what I saw in the second grade classroom of my friend, Mrs. Q, this week might have saved me a lot of headaches in my own classroom.  Mrs. Q, like every other teacher I know, is overwhelmed with the demands being placed on her this year.  The out-of-classroom demands keep increasing and this is affecting classroom instruction.  So, Mrs. Q is trying to keep it simple.

She's set up her small group/centers time in a way that will make the time valuable for the students and not take too much of her prep time.  Plus the simplicity and flexibility will allow students to manage themselves so she can give her attention to the students in her small groups.

I hope you'll find a few ideas that will help you bring some simplicity and peace to your teaching day!

Reading Groups:  

Here's a snapshot of Mrs. Q's whiteboard, where she has her groups and stations set up. (I changed the names for my sample class.)

Reading Groups and Literacy Centers, an easy way to keep kids on track while you have time to meet with small groups.
I'll try to explain how she has this organized.  There are six reading groups. Each group has 4 students, grouped by ability.  She calls reading groups when she wants to work with them.  This board does not show which group works with the teacher because she calls groups when she needs them, not by a set schedule.  She also has the flexibility to keep a group for just a few minutes or keep them longer, depending on their needs and her plans.  When she calls a group, those kids stop what they're doing and join her at the reading table with their materials.   So, through the week she will probably meet with the lower ability groups almost every day, while the higher groups will not meet with her as often.  But, one of the great things about this is the flexibility.  She can call a group to the table at any time for any reason. 

 Another benefit is she can call students from different groups at the same time if she thinks they would benefit from the same instruction.  Let's say she noticed that Mary, Amy, Jill, Brian and Mike all had trouble with contractions last week.  She can easily have a little
reteaching session with those students, even though they're from 5 different groups.

On the right you'll see the eight center numbers.  Students go to one center each day (Monday through Thursday).  Friday is a "catch-up" day.   So on this day, Joe, Mary and Debbie are scheduled for center #4.  When they finish their seatwork (skill practice sheets) they can go to their center.  If they finish their center they get a book to read or write in their journal. 

Since, working with the teacher at the reading table takes precedence over everything else, some students may not have time to complete their center for that day.  That's what Catch-Up Fridays are for!  On Friday they can go back to any of their centers from that week to finish their task.

I spent a little time with Mrs. Q this week to help her prepare materials for the center activities she'll use during the 2nd Quarter. Since the students work through 4 centers a week, the eight centers will last for 2 weeks.  We chose some activities because of they can be used more than once by the students.  So, her center planning and prep is almost finished for the entire quarter!

I've made some labels you can use to set up your own reading groups and centers.  Click on the image to download them for your own classroom.
 Reading Groups and Centers, Editable display labels, free!

My next few blog posts will focus on choosing literacy centers that are flexible, engaging and match your curriculum.  So make sure you're following Crockett's Classroom!


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Autumn Word Building Activty

Making Words has always been one of my favorite spelling/word work activities.  The idea is so simple, yet adaptable to be used at almost any grade level.  I think I purchased the first book way back in 1995. 

I then added Making More Words and Making Big Words to my professional library.  

All of these books, by Pat Cunningham, can still be found in bookstores and online.  If you haven’t tried these books you should definitely check them out.

Taking Pat’s simple idea of using a set of letters to make words, I’ve designed a set of letters for autumn. 

They are so much fun to get your kids excited about spelling patterns.  You can use the letters for guided class lessons or set them up in a center so kids can explore spelling seasonal words.

This beginning set has one set of letters on turkey feathers and a stand up easel you can make for each student. (You don’t have to use the easel for the word practice, but they’re really cute!)

To get your free set, along with directions, click on this image.
Building Autumn Words Freebie---Crockett's Classroom

Find more wonderful freebies at Manic Monday at Classroom Freebies.
 Manic Monday at Classroom Freebies


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