Independent Centers. If you do it right, they can change your game. Whatever the hour devoted to guided reading/small group instruction is called in your classroom, the key to successful guided reading is successful self-monitored independent center time.
This should be your favorite time of the day and theirs.
You get to devote yourself to teaching the JOYS of reading and reading strategies, while your students know exactly what in independent centers.
Too many times teachers complain that their students distract them from teaching. Here are some rules for success and survival!
Independent centers – Review Skills ONLY
Any skills students are required to do in centers, they must have practiced whole group.
Remember the “I do. We do. You do.” rule for centers.
In the picture, you see rhyme puzzles sheet.
This is a whole group activity before it is a center.
Using the box of rhyming puzzles, we practiced putting the puzzles together.
Then making a silly rhyming center with it: I see a moon with a spoon. I see a mouse and a house.
When this is put in centers, it is exactly the same lesson. Students will put the puzzles together, then choose two puzzles to write on their own.
In the second example, we had been learning about ordinals.
Students stamped a picture in each box of the train, then wrote a sentence about three of the trains: The boot is in the second car. The key is in the seventh car.
Independent centers – Change the Process, Not the Product
Most teachers complain about the amount of time they spend introducing centers on Monday.
If you change every center, every Monday…it will take forever, no doubt. .
If you teach a process and change a product, you don’t have to spend that time explaining something new every Monday.
(This also helps with planning.)
4 examples of Product/Process centers are in the picture.
Looking left-to-right and top-to-bottom, pictures are CVC Building, Fab 5, Squiggles, and Labeling.
Each of these centers can be introduced whole group early in the school year, but can also be differentiated with expectations throughout the year.
Some more process/product centers are Poetry, Art, 4 Square, Configuration Boxes, Word Family, First, Then, Last…and more.
Independent centers – Materials are clearly available.
One thing to avoid during center time…chaos.
Most of the chaos seems to be when students don’t know what they are doing and when they don’t have materials available.
We have solved the first problem earlier in the post.
Now, let’s solve the second.
Students should always know where materials for center time are located.
Routines for getting and returning materials must be explicitly taught and practiced.
Having common signs on tables, shelves, buckets, and hanging signs helps them be independent with supplies. The materials are here. I move them here. I put them back here. It’s clear and a necessary routine.
4. Independent centers – Self-monitor, stamp, and file
Students should be taught the process for what to do when they are done.
If there is a teaching assistant, parent volunteer, or helper in the room, they should know to raise their hand for the check.
If you are in there alone, they also need to know the process.
My students never moved as a group on a timer to each center.
As they finished a center, they had it checked, stamped, and moved on the next center.
This way students know that when they come to you for reading, they will be returning to their work for completion. If I was in the room alone, they finished one center, sat it to the side and started the next center until I was done with a reading group and would come to check. I never stamped their work, they could do that on their own. I always had a specific stamping station and the routine was explicitly taught. They stamped one time and we able to file their work in their mailbox or hang it in the hallway.
Independent centers – No Surprises!
Surprises are for birthday parties and engagements.
If you have surprises during center time, you will pay the price.
If they don’t know what to do…you won’t be able to have reading groups.
Successful center time is all about preparation in planning, preparation in lessons explicitly taught about routines and expectations, and preparation for student success.
Hopefully, these simple rules can ensure uninterrupted reading lessons in small group. Isn’t that what you want? Sure it is.
If you would like a sample of a Process/Product Sight Word Center, click the link.