In fourth grade, we study state history, so our major field trip is the one we take to our state capital. We went on Thursday this week. It's no exaggeration to say that the trip was an endurance test, but we made it!!!! Now, my students have the experience and memories to hang their new ideas on. When we talk about the cost of the capitol building, they know what all the marble walls looked like. When we see photos in our textbook of the dome, they can remember what it looked like as we approached the city from out on the highway. When we talk about the famous artist who painted the mural in the Thomas Hart Benton room, they can visualize the brilliant colors of the historic depictions. It was a good day no matter how tiring. Since I loop up to 5th grade with my students, I only go every other year, so I'm done with it now until the year 2008!!!! Fifth grade? Well, that's DARE Camp, but that's a whole other story!
In the classroom, we've finished 2 units of study, one in science and one in social studies, and tested. We are ready to move on. We've started a big writing project that will run throughout the school year as we work our way through the writing process all the way to publishing REAL hardback books. We were invited to participate in this process by a teacher across the hall who wrote a grant to fund the project. So, I guess my point is this. It's almost the end of first quarter, and we are off to a great start, BUT . . .
What things do I want to change and/or do better? Well, let's see. How much space do they allow me here on my blog page and how much time do I have to type? I have so many things I'd like to do better. Reflective decision making brings me to the realization that we have so much to do and so little time. The most important thing I'd like to "fix" is tightening up so that less time would be consumed by transitioning from one content area to another. My students are generally cooperative and try really hard to do what I ask, but we (not just them) use too much time moving from one thing to another. So . . . that's my goal for this next week (and the weeks to come). I want to plan so thoroughly that no time is wasted on trying to figure out what's coming next and no time is wasted in giving incomplete instructions that require regrouping and re-explaining what I really meant to say.
I guess what I want to do is think through every situation and plan for any and all loop holes. Well, we'll see what happens. I'll come back here to reflect and regroup again as soon as I see how everything is going. I'm willing to bet that, by then, I'll be thinking of other things that need tweaking a bit here and there.
I certainly hear you in regard to transitions. I think this is so big for all of us. I am finding it is taking my children longer than I would like to move from one thing to another. I think too, that we are more impatient than ever because we don't have a leeway of time anymore in our classrooms. I know you don't do centers in your school, but I am finding the children are not really listening to the directions of each center and then when the centers begin they have many questions that had they listened would have been answered. I have been thinking this over all weekend and I am going to try the following......I have put their names on index cards and tomorrow at center time I am going to tell them that after I explain the centers I am going to pull a name out and if that person can tell me what center they are going to and explain the center they will get a treat.
I think your idea to encourage listening is a great idea. In the last instructional conference I attended, the presenters used the strategy of having students repeat back instructions before starting an activity. You've added an extra motivational slant by offering a treat. Don't forget to post to let us all know how it worked for you.
It's funny you mentioned centers because just yesterday, I submitted a post on the Centers board. I have been letting the idea of using centers in math and reading/writing bounce around in my head for the last couple of weeks. I know there's a BIG difference in the way centers could be used with 4th graders than with your little ones, but I'm beginning to wonder how they'd work for me. I think the purpose would be the same for both of us -- to provide meaningful activities for students while the teacher works with small groups for instruction -- right?
A friend of mine was talking to me about having a "center" (really where students take a folder to their table) for reading nonfiction material in the National Geographic Explorer we get every month. We thought students could apply comprehension strategies they've already learned before/during/after reading an article in the magazine. What do you think? Does this sound like a reasonable way to start?
My question on the Centers board was related to a book another poster mentioned written by Debbie Diller. Now, that name rang a bell because of a book some of the primary (maybe even you?) were reading in one of the meeting rooms this summer. It was written by Debbie Miller. I was wondering if someone had gotten the names mixed up. Do you know of a great (not just good) book about using centers with intermediate students? I know I'm pretty much in the dark about what's written on primary topics, so maybe you don't have a title. But . . . maybe someone else will read this and have a tip for me.
By the way, about wasting time in transition time: I heard a speaker once say that in a year's time, we waste 18 DAYS of instruction time due to sloppy transitions!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now, that's a lot of time!
Like you....I am constantly trying to find ways to make transitions go more smoothly. My children have been working really hard at doing the best they can.....and overall, they do a wonderful job.....but of course, there are a couple of students that seem to slow down the process every single time!
One of the things that I have been trying to do......when I getting ready to transition to another subject, is to announce it ahead of time. For example, I will say....everyone take a look at the clock....it is now 1:55, and at 2:00 we are going to switch gears and move into Science....and we will need our Science books out today. This seems to help a lot! After I make my "group announcement", I zero in on the couple of students who take the longest and I have them start preparing for the transition ahead of time. Meanwhile, my other students are developing the habit of getting prepared for the 2:00 switch, without a lot of delay.
About Centers....I've used them different ways in different years. Some years, I used them for those gaps of time when students completed their assignments and had spare time. The problem with that is there were always a few students who never had spare time and never had time for the centers. Others, would rush through their work and do a poorer job, just to be able to get to the centers!
Last year, when I taught a 3-4 split, I had centers and it worked out very well. Sometimes, I would have one grade level use the centers, while I worked directly with the other grade level. Other times, I had all the children use the centers, while I worked with small groups for more individualized instruction.
This year.....with so much that has been happening both at home and in school...I decided to wait until we complete the State Standardized test, before I start using the centers. We have spent a lot of time in class on test taking strategies and using the writing process. (Writing was a weak link last year on the test, so we have implemented a school wide goal to improve in this area.) By the time we finish the State Test, the first quarter will be almost over. I thought it would be ideal to begin them with the beginning of the second quarter. I'm tentatively planning on setting a specific time each day for centers, while I work with small groups.
Glad to hear your field trip went well! Among other things going on, our first field trip is slated for Oct. 26th. As part of our community service projects (third grade does one each month), we are going to a local food bank to learn how donated canned goods are received, packaged, and distributed to those in need. We typically go on 3 or 4 field trips each year!
Have a great week....and keep sharing your thoughts and ideas...you are such an inspiration to me!
Off hand I do not have a book title for intermediate kids...however, the centers I do in my K can be modified to hit any instructional group. I always have a poetry center, some sort of phonemic awareness center, an art/writing center, listening center, concept bin center, Read and write the room center, and this week I have added a scavenger hunt center where children have to find the longest word, a compound word, a three syllable word and so forth from text. I have explicit center ideas if you want them......Debbie Miller is a great resource for literacy instruction. Let me know if you want explicit center ideas.
I'd love to have some explicit center ideas. I love the idea of the scavenger hunt which could certainly be adapted for any grade level. Do you have a specific book in mind when you create the scavenger hunt, or is it generic enough to go for any literature book any student may be reading at the time?
I came over here all tired out, not expecting to find any new responses, and now I've found your post and I'm feeling all energized!!!!!! Thanks so much for sharing your ideas.
In going through my materials I tried to choose some which would fit a upper elementary classroom. The scavenger idea is kind of my own. I use it also with my 2nd grade reading buddies. The children go through the text and have to find some of the following.....you can adapt it to whatever skill you wish....I might use : find a compound word....find a 3 syllable word, find a word that begins with.......,find three of our word wall words...etc.....it can be any book the children are reading. Center: you might try a poetry center. I make copies of a poem that we are doing. They have to glue it in their poetry books and illustrate the poem. We also have an literacy art component, such as this week we made trees using their hand print as the trunk and writing -all words using the colors mentioned in our poem "Fall Leaves" on the leaves. I always have a phonemic center and a little later I add a fluency center which would be great for your kids. They love to read text on to a tape. My para runs a variety of centers, but this week was beginning sounds. I also use a listening center with taped books. Read and Write the room...(you could ask for more complicated items) a scavenger hunt using print that is in the room. You might ask them to find a variety of items found in the print according to the needs of your students. They walk around the room with clipboard and pointer locating what you ask for. Making words is fun as well...I allow them to use stamps, magnetic letters, and other manipulatives to make words.Writing Center allows them the opportunity to practice what they have learned in Writing workshop. I also have book concept bins. They are given time to read and voice an opinion about the text and illustrate and write about what they have learned from text. Last week we did a science concept bin activity and they really enjoyed it. Concept dominoes are really fun as a center. Word sliders.....One letter in a word is covered and they must guess the missing letter. You could use Spelling words or HF words or just words you want them to know. I hope this helps you a bit. Hopefully, you will be able to adjust a couple of these to the needs of your students, J Elaine. If you need anything further, just ask! Oh,before I forget I would like to thank you for the heads up on the book, INTO THE SEA. I love it! The cildren love it as well. I will tell you how I used it. We are making label books in WW. I read the book and we talked about what sea animals were mentioned in the book. The children each made a three page label book on sea animals. Thank you so much.......it was such a wonderful text!
Thank you so much for the detailed explanation for your centers. I really appreciate it. I just wish I could have about a week off, so I could prepare some of these really great ideas tp use in my class. Of course, some of the things you mentioned wouldn't take that much prep, but everything still takes t-i-m-e!!!!
I am so glad to hear you used and enjoyed INTO THE SEA. Sometimes, when I remember I have it, I can hardly wait to do the animal adaptation unit, so we can read it. I force myself to wait, though, because it is such a rich resource to use for life science. It's great to hear how you used it with your kids.