Saturday, September 7, 2013

Literacy Centers

Literacy Centers are effective instructional practices that include meaningful and productive activities for students to do while you as a teacher work with your guided reading groups. At the beginning of the year I have a few activities that I use in my non-negotiable centers: Library, Independent Reading, Technology (Computers and Listening) and Word Study. During the school year, I constantly change the activities in these centers as I see fit. These are the templates I use. Center Directions
Center Cards

I encourage my students to take responsibility for their assignments and to demonstrate progress by using this center assignment page. I check their completed work every Friday and they receive prizes for completing their work. If their work is incomplete they have to complete it during the weekend and their parents have to sign the assignment page. I also complete their Parent Report on Friday and their parents have to sign the page. All these expectations are set at the beginning of the year. I have the same system for my math workshop block and centers. I will talk about math at another time.

Differentiated Instruction

Students bring to the classroom a wide range of skills and abilities. As a responsive teacher, I make sure that all my students’ needs and different learning skills and abilities are addressed effectively by differentiating instruction, providing students with choice, selecting activities that are interesting and engaging, and monitoring student learning by continuously assessing students formally and informally.

To begin with, differentiating instruction is a very effective way to make sure all students have access to a challenging curriculum at their level of academic performance. In other words differentiated instruction allows my students to learn at their own pace without watering down the curriculum or lowering expectations. In this way, all my students will be able to learn through multiple assignments tailored to their individual needs and their own level of achievement. I always plan learning center activities that are geared to diverse learning styles, readiness, and levels of interest. Also, I make sure that my students have the opportunity to meet with me daily to conference about their learning progress, reading, and writing. I achieve this through guided reading, center work, math workshop, and conferences during writing workshop.

Second, all students should be able to choose activities and assignments. I make sure that I have a student-centered classroom where students are not only able to choose their assignments but also they are able to choose how they want to demonstrate what they have learned. For example, at the reading center my students can choose books that they want to read and they can also choose how they want to show what they learned -completing a graphic organizer, writing a book review, writing a letter to the author, etc. Providing students with choices and opportunities to explore topics in which they have a strong interest makes learning more exciting. 

Third, I always select activities that are motivating and engaging for my students. Cooperative learning strategies, involving students in asking and answering their own questions, think pair share, one minute papers, learning centers, individual and group projects, are some of the strategies that effectively engage my students. 

Finally, I make sure that I continuously assess my students, whether it is a formal or informal assessment, they both provide data that allows me to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses. It allows me to provide feedback, monitor progress, and narrow gaps in learning. Ongoing assessment allows me to make educated instructional decisions to support my student learning and progress.

All these strategies help me to address the wide range of skills, abilities, and learning styles that my students bring to the classroom.