Our school is diving head first into guided reading this year and the number one question all teachers asked was, “What are the ‘other students’ doing while I have a small group?” Once I started thinking about it, centers were the way to go for my classroom. I implemented this idea a few weeks ago and it has been working out fantastic. It is a great way for the students to learn responsibility, collaboration, independence, and skill building.
While I am meeting with my small group we are focusing mainly on these three reading strategies:
1) Summarizing: This has been a difficult skill for most of my fourth graders to grasp, and continued practice on this topic (fiction and nonfiction) is always needed.
2) Fluency: Believe it or not, my students can never get too much fluency practice. Repeat reading of paragraphs during small-group time is a great way to focus on speed, expression, accuracy, and punctuation. I sometimes will even time the students for a cold read and count the number of words read correctly in one minute. After practicing the paragraph throughout the week, they then read it again and get a new number count. Charting this on a bar graph is an amazing motivator for all students.
3) Sequencing: With some of my students, we use sticky notes to write out the most important events from fictional stories. We then practice retelling the story, mentioning all of the post-it notes. We then use the notes as a resource to manipulate and start writing a summary. If the book is nonfiction, sequencing the growth, development, or timeline of the event/animal is always another great idea.
I’ve been using the amazing Underwater Encounters: A First-Hand Account series with my highest-leveled reading group, and my students are LOVING all of the newly learned information. They are so excited to turn the page and see the bright pictures; it is a great motivator and improvement from our normal black-and-white paper books. All of the strategies above work well with these books, and my students are mastering skill after skill through guided instruction.
What are the other students doing? Check out my center roatation list to see where the students go. Since the groups are fluid and always changing based on reading abilities and/or student interest, the students’ nametags have the number of their current group. As soon as my students enter the classroom in the morning, they know to look at the center list to see what they will be doing for a morning activity.
I have centers set up for Guided Reading (meet with the teacher), Wow Words, Spelling Center, Writing Center, Listening Center, Task Cards, and Seat Work. Most of the materials for each center can be customized to the current unit or curriculum. I also like to give students a choice of what they work on in the center, so I use menus or choice boards related to the activity. The information at the centers were all created by me and for my students. Check back here soon for another post on what is in each center!
Theresa has been teaching fourth grade in Connecticut for eight years. She holds two master’s degrees in education and loves finding ways to integrate technology into her curriculum. She blogs about lesson ideas, technology, classroom management, and more at her blog, Pinkadots Elementary.
For more information about the Underwater Encounters series, click here to visit our website or click the image to the left below to download an information sheet with series highlights. To download the Guided Reading Group Activity Packet, click the image to the left. To return to our main website click here.