New to 3rd grade, need help with centers

Discussion in 'Third Grade' started by TeachK36, Jul 22, 2009.

  1. TeachK36

    TeachK36 Rookie

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    Jul 22, 2009

    Hi all-
    I am a first year teacher going to be teaching 3rd grade. I have met with some of my fellow team members before the end of the year in June (but they were anxious for school to be over and I was excited for it to begin) so I feel kinda out of the loop on what the game plan is this year. I know that they work a lot with centers during their literacy block. Any ideas on what kind of centers I should have? I have some ideas but wanted some advice. Thanks I appreciate it! :)

    Any other advice for teaching 3rd grade would be appreciated as well.
     
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  3. newbie23

    newbie23 Comrade

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    Jul 23, 2009

    IMO Centers are awesome! They really allow you to differentiate in a discrete way and students enjoy feeling "independent" during them. One suggestion that I would make is to have a "teacher group." I did a research paper on centers during my ST and tried a variety of make-ups and found that this is one thing that helped to keep consistency. During teacher group you take 1 group of the students and work on a specific skill that they might need help on. Basically it's your time to work on whatever help they might need.

    Another thing to keep in mind is making your groups as flexible as possible. It's tempting to keep students in groups based solely on ability but I've found that sometimes mixed-ability groups really challenge all students as the higher kids have to communicate what they know to help extend the thinking of the other students. We all know it's one thing to "know" something and another to explain it.

    Some language arts/reading centers I've tried are based on some of the Mailbox games that students can work on independently or in groups, phonics review (2nd grade) and word study, character interviews with a partner, small group reader's theater (everyone gets at least 1 part!), and simple SSR. I hope to really develop my centers activities this year so we'll have to let each other know what we're working on.

    You'll also have to decide when students are going to rotate. Will they visit each center every day or will they visit 1 time a week? Basically this is decided by how long your centers activities are and how much time you devote to them in your schedule. One thing that also helped me was to allow students to choose which centers they attended some weeks. I gave each student a ticket for math, reading, science and social studies but there were a variety of options at those centers. The students wrote their name on their tickets and dropped them into an envelope with their center activity. This way they feel empowered but you know they've worked on appropriate skills and you also get a chance to see which centers are popular and which might need to be spruced up. Sometimes I would conference with students beforehand talking about their strengths and weaknesses and I'd allow them to pick 1 center that they were strong in and 2 that they needed some more work on.

    The possibilities are endless! Sorry so long but I'm really excited about this topic!
     
  4. jenejoy

    jenejoy Companion

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    Jul 23, 2009

    I dont do the whole rotating centers thing because for me it limits who I can pull for small groups. So here is what I've done.
    I do Must Do/ May Do. I list the job that students must get done in a prioritized list on the board. Then if they are done they are allowed to go to may do. Depending on the class and the time of the year they may be free choice may do's or they can be rotated during the week so they all get to go to different areas. This way if I need a longer time with one group I can take it and I'm not stuck with finishing early and not ready to rotate. I've found it is a better use of my time.
     
  5. newbie23

    newbie23 Comrade

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    Jul 23, 2009

    Definitely a good perspective. Last year my coop teacher just had it set up as "centers time" the last 45 min. of the day and it was more free choice/indoor recess than anything else but she was able to meet with small groups.

    I formalized the experience a little more and provided centers for all of the content areas (sometimes not all in 1 week). So, this wasn't necessarily a substitute for my time spent on the content areas but served more as "supplemental help." Not sure if that makes sense.

    I'm pretty nervous as to how I'm going to budget the time in my class (I'm the only 3rd grade teacher in the building, yikes). I like the idea of having a "centers" time every day but don't necessarily want to me constrained to having this time constitute my "reading" or "math" each day. I guess I'm just wondering if I'll have time to work on both.

    The must do/may do thing sounds like a good idea. I suppose I could also provide groups of students with a may do list that would be more conducive to their specific needs as well. Interesting idea.
     
  6. jenejoy

    jenejoy Companion

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    Jul 23, 2009

    I had my may do's that were different content areas. I had science, math, reading, listening, and learning games

    I use a timer to keep me on track, that way the time just doesnt get carried away. If I choose to go over, I realize an adjustment needs to be made elsewhere.

    I also like the must do's because it is also a time for students to get caught up on unfinished work in their work in progress folder. They have to have all work completed to go to may dos. In the beginning you will have some students who wont get that you are serious, thats when i pull out the great may do's to remind them that they need to not waste their time at any point of the day. I think it makes them more responsible.
     
  7. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    Jul 23, 2009

    I think I really like the must/may do's--it seems like a great way to get started in using centers (for someone like me who has practically zero experience with them). You could always add in some rotation or grouping later on. Thanks!
     
  8. TeachK36

    TeachK36 Rookie

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    Jul 23, 2009

    Thanks everyone for posting, I really appreciate it!
     
  9. 2Teach_is_2Care

    2Teach_is_2Care Rookie

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    Jul 28, 2009

    What I did last year was I split my class into 3 groups- h, m, l (A,B,C). While I would work with one group, the other two groups would break into their centers (4)- reading/spelling, math, sci/soc, grammar/journal writing. I had a schedule that students had to follow. Each day students would have a different center to complete. So Johnny would have reading/spelling mon, math tues, sci/soc wed, and grammar/writing thurs. If a student finished his/her work then they had a list of things they could do such as silent reading, cursive practice on white boards, computer review games (if they aren't used for a center), file folders, work on homework, etc.

    I also made sure that I always had high students with my lower students, that way if I'm "busy" students can get help from a classmate. When I would finish with "my" group then I would walk around during the transition time so I can assist those who needed my help.

    The only problem I had with centers was checking their work. I HAD to go through those items accomplished each day or I would get boughed down over the weekend checking things.

    Overall, centers were a great way for me to really work with each level of students and see who really needed help on certain areas. If I feel some students needed extra practice, then I would pull them at the end of the day (no matter if A,B,C) to work on those skills. I started the year as a whole-class instruction and would only get responses from the higher students. This allows me to really assess where each student is at in their reading skills. I guess I'm giving each group a "mini" lesson on the skill and we read our stories together and discuss while in my group.
     
  10. newbie23

    newbie23 Comrade

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    Jul 29, 2009

    2Teach,

    Sounds like you've used a more "traditional" centers approach but then you've also added an element of "must do" "may do." This sounds like it really might fit my style. One of the things I love about centers is, they take some time to plan before you implement them but then your planning is done for that time of day for the whole week.
     
  11. 2Teach_is_2Care

    2Teach_is_2Care Rookie

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    Jul 31, 2009

    I tried to have students go through their centers at thier own pace and I would have half student finish by Wed. and other still on their second center on Thurs. It seemed that they needed a more "structured" approach to working on their centers. This worked best for me.

    I agree that the nice thing is that the centers are "finished for the week" once they are created. I also like that they are tailored to fit what we are either currently learning or as extra practice or review. I just decided (yesterday!) that for my reading center I'm going to have my students go to www.raz-kids.com so they can practice reading literature that is on their level and that I can see their progress on. Check it out.
     

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