I am the mother to two wonderful children. C is 5 and has severe autism and seizure disorder. E is 4 and has I want to mother everyone disorder. I have been married 7 years and teaching 9. We have a pet dog named Cooper and a service dog named Happy for C.
This last week was a 3 day week so I thought it would be a good week to start centers (that and it took me that long to teach each center and it just so happened to fall this way!). I am doing my centers differently this year and it seems like it is really going to work. I have 5 center groups, three to four students in each. Every day they have a "Must Do" center, which comes from our reading series and usually takes about 15 minutes, there are four of those tubs. Then one group meets with me for about 15 minutes. After they complete the "Must Do" center they can go to one of their two "Choose To" centers. I have 10 of those 2 for each group. They include reading, writing, art, listening, Smart Board, Hot Dots, Leap Frog, pattern blocks, word work and computers. I have most of them pictured below. We were missing Leap Frog because no one was using it while I was taking pictures!
(you can see a part of the Listening Center on the left)
Computer Center (using their portaportal folders)
Hot Dots Center
Pattern Blocks Center
SMART Board Center
Word Work Center
I wish I had a picture of the center chart, but I keep forgetting to take one. On one side I have center group signs, these have a number in the middle with their names and pictures surrounding it. On the other side I have the actual chart. It is three columns Groups, Must Do, and Choose To. They read straight across from their group number to see what color tub they do and then to see what Choose To centers they have. The biggest problem we have had is reading the chart, but on day 2 that got better and even better on day 3. I like to meet with more than one group a day, but for now I am only pulling the one group that gets me as a Must Do, and then I am monitoring the Choose To groups. I just make sure they have gone to one of their two choices and not somewhere else and make sure they understand the center. Once I am sure they completely understand the center I will pull students during choice time. I have my groups put together based on reading level and so we work on reading strategies and high frequency words. When I pull during choice time I pull for other things, such as to work on specific skills, or more focused phonics lessons. The students in these groups may come from several center groups, or it may even be an individual conferences. I am fortunate to have a full time assistant (which are disappearing and will soon be nothing more than a back when story!) and so she walks the room during Must Do time and helps them when they don't understand the buckets, then she helps get the Choose To centers setup and running. On Friday she was pulled to do sign in for our Grandparents Day program, so the kids had to function without her. I was scared!!! but they did great. It really shows that taking two weeks to teach the centers really payed off. The way we did that was splitting the class in half. I took half for 15 minutes and taught one choice center and my assistant took the other half and taught another center. Essentially we taught two centers a day for five days. We had one day in the beginning talking about basic center rules, such as stay with your center group- no aimless wondering!, use quiet voices in the center, rules for going into and out of the loft, and cleaning up after yourself. We basically repeated that lesson after teaching all the centers, so we had two days of basic center rules total. Then we took three days of doing nothing but choice centers, their were no Must Do tubs and no small groups. My assistant and I did nothing more than help them understand the chart and make sure all the centers were functioning properly. My assistant calls it organized chaos. The teacher she was previously with had 4 "centers". One with her, one with the assistant (completing a worksheet), and two completing reading series centers like my Must Do tubs. The kids never left their seats. They rotated through all four centers each day. I guess I just like having one stable group each day, but then having the flexibility to do other groups as needed. To each their own! I think my assistant really likes the changes I made, she is doing a lot more fun things with the kids than a worksheet.
I hoped to link my center chart signs and my center lesson plan I use during the two week introduction for each center, but google docs is not functioning correctly ARRGGG!!! If you want to see them I will be happy to try again in a later post.
I was frequently being asked by parents what are some good games my kids could play at home on the computer or what game did they play in the computer center today, it's all they talked about. I thought social bookmarking has to help me with this in some way. So last year I started a portaportal account. I created 20 folders and numbered them 1-20. This is important because each child in my class has a number. After our beginning of the year screening I placed games in each folder based on what the child needed to work on. Some of the different types of games included things on letters, numbers, colors, and shapes. Some of the kids had 1 game and some had 4 or 5 at that time. Then each week after our assessment I would add games as needed (I never removed games, because they loved the games in their folder and would continue to play them even after a skill was mastered). I also made my portaportal account my homepage on my center computers and the students knew to play games in their folder during center time! I have been working to get my portaportal account up and running this year and I thought I would share with blogland. We did not screen our students at the beginning this year, so it has taken me a little longer. I had to wait on our baseline test in reading and placement test in math. I just got started this weekend so the folders are still a little empty but I think you can see how it works. I gave everyone a link to a color game and starfall letters. I am working on deciding who needs what in math and will put those games into folders later. So that I don't lose games I keep a word document of all the games I find organized by topic. I didn't do this last year and when I cleaned out my folders I lost a lot of games, lesson learned! Below you will find a link to my portaportal account the way the students access it, and a link to my website document, which as I said is a work in progress.