I've done read and write the room for a few years and it is always a favorite center and the students STAY ON TASK! They love to be able to walk around, too.
Start by gathering some fun "props." I have a bucket of them and the students may choose ONE to use. Most of them I got at the dollar store. In my bucket there are neon sunglasses, magic wands, batons, plastic claws (really used for digging in sand), and some other stuff I've forgotten. So the students get either a pair of glasses or a special kind of pointer. They also get a clipboard, piece of paper, and a pencil. All of these things are kept in the bucket.
First I model it. So I grab one of the props and the clipboard, paper, and pencil and, with the whole class watching, very dramatically start to look for words in the classroom that I know. (It really helps to have your classroom labeled and have a print-rich environment.) As I point to a word, I have them tell me what it is, and then I ceremoniously write it on my paper. Then I search for another word. I do this several times.
The first time (after I've modeled it) I give EVERYONE a turn all at once. I just use pieces of cardboard instead of real clipboards for this, since I don't have enough clipboards. Instead of the fun pointers (again, I don't have enough for the whole class at once) I use paint sticks. We spend several minutes looking for words and copying them down.
Once I open it up as a center, I model again the first several days. I also change some of the props out periodically to keep in fresh.
Another thing I learned is have the child write his or her name on the paper and CIRCLE it. They like to copy each others' names and then you can't tell whose paper it is later.
I haven't done this yet, but I thought about starting "read around the room" out this year with just searching for letters. I am planning to use paint sticks and put one letter of the alphabet on each one. They can choose a letter and look for it around the room.
So do you use read the room and write the room as the same center? I've been using them seperately...maybe that is why it hasn't been working so well in my read the room center. They have nothing to do but walk around!
Sevenplus, that sounds fanstastic! I would love to have that as a center, problem is my room is soooo teeny and tiny, all of my centers are close together. I'm afraid having students walk around too much might become a distraction. What do you think? I may do this when I have a community helper or a 6th grade student come in. Then they can watch my kids and keep them quiet. But, like I said, I have a tiny room. They cut my room in half to make it into a office for the reading first coach!!
Peachy - perhaps you could only allow 2 or 3 students in this center at a time. That way it won't be a huge distraction having a bunch of kids wandering around at one time. My room is pretty small, so I think I'm going to only open this center for 4 kids at a time.
I actually introduce "read the room" today, I took a small group around the room with me and they LOVED it, I pointed out all the labels they could "read" and the charts we have made so far and places where everybody's name was. We also went over how to handle the pointers (not whacking our friends with them ) and not interrupting other centers. Then they got to practice on their own. They loved it.
Try using fly swatters and back scratchers for pointers!!!!! My kids love them. I bought colorful fly swatters from Dollar General at the end of August when they were on clearance. They had a pack of red, blue and green ones for like a dollar!!!! Also, The Dollar Store has wooden back scratchers with little hands on the ends that is perfect to use for a pointer. Just model and review the rules of using them appropriately and your children will be excited about reading the room.