small groups & centers

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Last year, I really struggled with centers and small groups. I shed many tears and spent too many hours after school trying to figure out what would work for myself, and my students. There was so much pressure for me to get it just right, and I never did.

This year, it's going to be different.

I started picturing what I wanted small groups and centers to look like in my classroom. I think having a vision of what I want my room to look and sound like has really motivated what approach I'll be taking this year for centers organization.

This year, my new school uses the AR reading program, which is how I'll divide my students up for their small groups with me. Easy peasy. I really like AR and am excited to use it.

But for centers? The classroom management of being invisible while you're with a small group and yet the rest of your class is still on topic and engaged is scary business. Especially for a new-ish teacher. And especially when you're working with the little ones.

Enter the Daily 5.

I've never used it. Heck, I've never even really seen it done before. But I get the jist of it, I like it, and am planning on finding the book in the next week or so to read up on the logistics of starting it up and running it successfully. Essentially, their five center choices are: read to a partner, read to self, listen to reading, writing, and word work.

Read to a partner and read to self are pretty self explanatory. Listen to reading is essentially a listening station. I'll be using accountability sheets so that students are responsible for keeping themselves on track with what they should be doing, knowing that I'll be checking in on what they were reading or listening to. I need to get some cd's and tapes that read along to books for this because I have none!

Writing I'm pretty excited about, to be honest. I found a great resource on pinterest that I am so, so excited to use. It came from the blog, second story window, and is essentially a basket for each month with journal writing prompts, research cards, and list ideas. I love this because it introduces students to various types of writing. Not all writing is done in a journal, not all writing is research based, and not all writing is a list (like a grocery or to-do list), but the point is it is so easy to focus on just journal writing during centers! It's a neat way to get them to branch out and explore different writing venues. I'm so excited to make my own monthly baskets and keep things fresh in our classroom writing!

For word work, I'm thinking I will use my Words Their Way phonics lessons that are differentiated to each student's needs, but will also use a teachers pay teachers phonics activities packet. I think I'm going to have my students bring me their packets during small groups, look through whatever was assigned, and then let them work on various parts during their Daily 5 word work. That way it extends my small group lessons into what they're working on outside of our specific, differentiated time together. I would then fill in any extra time they have with Words Their Way sorts that go hand in hand with whatever phonics skill packet they're on.

Is it perfect? No, of course not. But since I found an organizational Daily 5 folder system (thanks again, pinterest!) with a weekly accountability chart for them, I'm pretty confident that it just might work for my classroom next year. I'll share later how I'm putting mine together, since it's a little different than my original inspiration and source for the print outs. I especially want this to work well so that when I'm on maternity leave, things can operate like a well oiled machine in my absence. That might be wishful thinking, though. They are, after all, only seven and eight years old... ;)

Has anyone else already started prepping for next year? Our guest bedroom/office is starting to look messy from my piles of paper to sort and put into binders for my organization. Yikes! While I'm really enjoying sleeping in and staying in pajamas all day, I am looking forward to getting back into a schedule and teaching second grade on the Air Force base!


  1. Don't forget to visit for additional CCSS aligned centers. They're split into K-1, 2-3, 4-5 bands and then with fluency, vocabulary, phonics, comprehension, etc. I bet the phonics ones would be great for you! I'm doing AR & daily five for the first time this year too! We'll be great. Let me know if you want to chat more about centers doll. Xoxo

  2. I'm not a teacher (anymore) but OMG reading this made me miss it all!!! Good luck with the prepping and the getting it done!!


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