Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Center Organization {linky}

As I was looking at all the different organizational skills my fellow teacher bloggers on Lesson Plain Diva's link party, I starting to think I should just throw in the towel and NOT link up with such insanely perfect organized people - Britt, you're going to look like a mess, fool beginner! *haha* But after viewing a few centers, I realize that I definitely do centers differently than most of the ones I was seeing, so I thought I might have something to share ... maybe not. I'll give it a whirl.

A note prior, in preparation for middle school (and due to my insane hatred of messy, overflowing desks!) I have the students use their desks as "tables" - if I could get the funds I would LOVE to get tables ... but this works till that day comes.
Each table has a mini-commander (robot theme *grin*) for the week who is in charge of getting supplies and centers for their group. They collect the supplies in little green buckets {Dollar Tree SHOUT OUT!}. I put my "weekly" center work in labeled number bins. My partner teacher, who always takes things an amazing step beyond, attaches a pocket with a sheet with students names on theme - my class is on one side and hers on the other so students know which center they are at and which group they are with. Inside each bin there is a direction sheet for student reference that I place in a plastic page protector - this keeps it safe from student daily wear and tear (yet somehow a few still manage to get utterly destroyed - isn't amazing??) and makes it easy for my to simply stick in a binder for future use.
Notice the name card (Partner teacher's bin)
My center boxes above student mailboxes
Center Set - up: 
I do integrated centers for a half an hour each day. As you know, with all the million things we have to do with reading, writing, and math, science and social studies often find their way to the back burner (TEAR). By having integrated centers I am really able to have the kids focus on social studies while still considering it ELA work time (NOTE: I partner teach so I only teach reading, writing, and social studies).

Example Centers (this week): 
1. I checked out EVERY book I could find from the library on explorers
The students were to read explorer books (at their desks or on the carpet)

While they were reading I gave them little scrolls to fill in 2 facts along with the page number
We posted these throughout the week under the heading "Look what we know about Explorers"

Rationale behind center - plain and simple reading is one of the BEST ways to soak up and learn about ANY subject. By having to find facts, it eliminates the more reluctant readers from not reading and gives them a task to focus on.

2. Explorer Video Game
I used a Mailbox Magazine handout that I found a couple years ago
The students are to use a REAL explorer (used social studies book and neat little biographies from the library) to create a video game about their adventures.
They REALLY like this one - such a video game generation!
Rationale - Gets kids excited about a writing activity in a genre they know. Also, helps them learn more about specific explorers since they are recreating their journey through a game.

Photo wouldn't turn for some reason ... stink. >>>>>>>>>>>>>

3. Vocabulary Quest:
I took our social studies vocabulary (and my own!) on explorers and made a dictionary discovery sheet. Students could work in pairs at this station if they wanted but they both needed a sheet and a dictionary.
Rationale - different way to learn social studies vocabulary. Practice dictionary searching ... a very lacking skill!
4. Easy Grammar sheet:
I use "Easy Grammar" as my grammar program and it comes with daily grammar sheets. While this did not have to do with explorers necessarily, students get this done fairly quickly since it is short, so the time filler sheets had to do with explorers.

Center Schedule: 
Monday =  introduce this weeks centers (check off center work from last week)
                 mini-commanders are in charge of re-reading the instructions to their group each morning as a
                 Students begin first center (one center per group each day) - work for 1/2 hour
Tuesday = Commanders review instructions
                 Center work - work for 1/2 hour
Wednesday = Center work
Thursday = Center work
Friday = Finish centers (absent make ups, students who were not able to get done in the time given)
              Go over the weeks centers - students have the weekend to finish any centers for HW

Student Organization: 
As I mentioned, we do not use our desks so everything is placed in our mailboxes. Throughout the week, students keep their center work in their ELA folders which they keep in their mailboxes. This helps keep them better organized instead of just being able to "stick it in their desks." Come Monday, it is rare that I have a student who "doesn't know" where their work is :) Now, having it done is sometimes a challenge ... but independent work, accountability, and organization are important skills to learn before middle school so it's really just a learning opportunity right ?!? *sigh*

I really appreciated all the posts on center management ... it was almost the death of me when I first started them .. however, now I am really enjoying my centers and feel that they really give the kids a good opportunity to connect all of their learning in a hands-on, independent, accountable experience. This year's group LOVES them ... they are actually upset on weeks when we don't have time or mornings when I have to cancel them. This always warms a teacher's heart! *smiles contently*

Center TIP: 
HAVE EXTRA ACTIVITIES FOR STUDENTS WHO GET ANY OF THE CENTERS DONE EARLY - They are your management problem. By having something like "Filler Cards" (you can find GREAT pre-made ones from Mailbox Magazine) you eliminate most management issues. Also, it eliminates student rushing since they know that if they get done there is just another activity for them to do. Mwahaha - tricks of the trade ;)
If you are discouraged doing centers, remember some groups just can't do centers ... but sometimes, you just have to stick with it and you will be loving it in no time!
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