Another way I differentiate my classroom is through centers. I love centers because I can really teach to each student’s needs. I also am a huge fan of the daily five. For my reading centers I incorporate the daily five into the centers. But read-to-self time, partner reading, and writing are pulled out of centers because I want everyone doing that at the same time.
Back to the centers!
Here are my reading centers:
1) A center to work with me
2) A center to work on something individually for an assessment
3) Task card center
4) Word Work
5) Listen to a story/Technology
Within each of these five stations I am able to differentiate activities and instruction and I do it by color-coding EVERYTHING. Literally…everything ha! It helps me stay organized, which again helps me keep my sanity.
Here is how I organize and have each station set up.
When students come to meet with me each day looks different. However, I teach to their needs and their level at this time. They do not complete any worksheets with me here, we use whiteboards, read books, I can pre-teach or even reteach lessons here and complete charts/posters. But each chart, book, and all of my meetings are geared toward their specific need. Now let’s say, you have a student with more than one need. What do you do then? My question to you is, does each child have to go to all of the centers? For me, the answer is no, but I will only keep a student twice, so they are not overwhelmed with all of the new material. This way they can learn two concepts that they need and then go practice them. I just have them skip one of the centers.
Remember differentiation is not just for kids who are low in a certain area. It is for all students in your classroom. During my reading meeting with an advanced group we have a book club (which I will talk about later).
To keep myself organized when students meet with me I use those colorful rolling carts. I plan out two weeks at a time and keep it all organized in the cart.
Rotations #2 and #3
I set up my individual center and my task card center in the same way. Each group of students has a specific color. They know their color and that all of their work for the day is in that particular colored folder and in a basket labeled for each day of the week. Students know to grab their colored folder and complete the individual task or the task cards during that time. Once students understand this routine it makes it super easy for the rest of the year!
The labeled bins and folders help me stay organized when differentiation and it tells students exactly what to do each day. This way there isn’t any confusion or questions on their job while they are at these stations.
With my word work center, I set it up with differentiated lists. I have three different lists for this center. One has shorter words and easier words, whereas my advanced list has a longer list and longer words. This challenges everyone in my class with their spelling skill. Once again, I use bins for the materials, however, these colored bins don’t matter because all students have the same activity, but just a different word list. My stations here range from hidden words, play-dough writing, shaving cream, sand carving, sorting, and other activities. This center provides a lot of variety for my students to practice words.
Click here for my year round word work activities and a detailed list of hands on spelling activities for all elementary students!
For spelling tests I use Spellingcity, this way I am not giving three different tests each week and all students can log on and take their specific spelling test at the same time.
The last rotation is for listening to a story or some days students get to use tie iPads. For the book here I pick, but I add in papers they need to complete while listening to the story. I make sure that each story is at or above their reading level. This will expand their vocabulary and word knowledge.
Some days during rotation #5 I use iPads. I have this app that was 99 cents and it is one of the best investments ever. It has a mouse on it and it’s called TeachMe: _____ grade. They have this app for student’s prekindergarten to third grade. You can put every student name in this app and they can play under their own name. It has them practice a variety of skills and it paces them. It also gives them rewards, which they really enjoy. Personally, you can’t beat the price and how it is skills they need to practice, and they can do it under their own name, which means more data points for you!
Another app I use, and love is Epic, which is free for teachers! This has a ton of leveled books for students to listen to and it works perfectly as a center rotation and gives students freedom to choose between books and categories. You can also import all of your students’ names so they can personalize their books.
At first setting up my reading stations was a daunting task. But as I got used to this set up the easier it became. I was able to prep all these stations, really assess students’ needs, make changes within my lessons, and best of all challenge all students in the areas that they need to be challenged. I think the most important thing for me was seeing their progress throughout the year as they worked on skills they needed. I saw all my students make tremendous gains the year I started this and I’ve never looked back since.
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