Monday, May 13, 2019

Creating & Planning Math Centers Ahead of Time

In my classroom, I only have three math rotations, and the third rotation, math centers/games, is the only one I routinely have to plan & prep ahead of time. Today I want to share with you how I plan and choose the best math centers to make that third rotation meaningful and effective!

Within each small group, my students have a partner (chosen by me). That's the partner that students complete math centers with. The math centers students complete with their partner are meant to be review - I do not have students work on brand new skills during math centers. I usually try to pull a variety of skills each week: fact fluency practice, telling time, counting coins, graphing/measurement, addition & subtraction, etc. I use 5 centers a week, so students complete one center a day.
Fact fluency practice
I like to choose centers that match the standards we've already worked on, so I use these 2nd grade stations by standard (find the first grade version here) - This allows me to pull centers that match exactly what I want my students working on or reviewing without having to worry about them being seasonal (although I do use some seasonal/themed ones still too!)
Board game center to match 2nd grade array/multiplication standard
Sometimes I'll even print & prep two versions of the same center, that way students have the same games & activities but at the level they need. I use these differentiated centers to help with that!

I really like to plan and prep my centers a month ahead of time. I can look at the month ahead and know what I'm teaching, what I want my students reviewing, and more. Click the image below if you'd like your free Math Centers Monthly Planning Sheet!
Happy planning!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Holding Students Accountable During Math & Literacy Centers

One of my favorite ways to keep up with grading & checking work is by going paperless. Let's be honest, there's been a few times that I've taken a stack of completed worksheets or recording sheets from centers and just tossed them in the recycling bin.
I know, I know. That's terrible. But if we're being honest, it's really hard to keep up with it all! That's why I decided I'd share with you a little bit about how I maintain center accountability without having to throw away work.

The big question: How can I reduce the amount of work I have to grade/check while still holding students accountable for centers?

The solution: Take pictures!

Here are examples of some of the times I have students take pictures rather than turn in work into the turn-in bin. Note: Students took these pictures so the quality isn't great, but I do love the messages they add for me to see!
My students love math puzzles and matching activities, and it's so easy to just let them snap pictures to show what they've completed.
 Any time we do practice work in our interactive notebooks, I have students take pictures to show me. This student worked on the interactive notebook puzzle above for an entire week before he finally mastered it.
During word work, I always have word sorts available, and this is a great way to show the sort. You can also have students take pictures of any pocket chart activities they complete!

Because I'm sure some of you are wondering... YES, my students do complete worksheets/recording sheets with their center work. I manage this a few different ways. If time allows, I laminate the recording sheets for students to use with a dry erase marker and take a picture. However, when I don't have time, I just make the copies like normal and still have them take a picture.

Now you just need to have students submit their work to you. I use the free app Seesaw so my students can upload their work. I know some teachers use ClassDojo, and I'm sure there's many more options out there!

Want to share/collaborate with other teachers about holding students accountable? Join our free Facebook group, just for elementary teachers - Simply Creative Teachers!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Effective Word Work Centers & Activities for Phonics Instruction

When setting up your word work center, there's lots of things you need to consider. In my classroom, I want my word work center activities to match the phonics skills we are working on. 
I also wanted to make sure that my students could do these activities independently! That's why I keep the activities veeeerrrryyyy similar, but I change out the skills in my word work center.

First activity: Word Sort - In this activity, students sort the cards depending on the skill. For example, they might sort by putting all of the AR words in one column and the OR words in another. 

To differentiate, I include various sorting cards. Some students will write the entire word with a dry erase marker, some will write the missing phonics skills, and some won't write anything and will only sort the cards.
Activity Two: Puzzles - My students LOVE puzzles, so I LOVE to include various puzzles with our phonics skills! Sometimes they're simple two-piece matching puzzles, and sometimes they're puzzles with multiple pieces. No matter what kind of puzzle it is, it's a super easy activity to include in my word work center because students know what they have to do!
Activity Three: Dominoes - I love letting my students match the dominoes end-to-end! It's another super engaging activity for students to practice phonics & word work skills! 
Activity Four: Task Cards - Task cards are great to include in your word work center. My favorite task cards are the ones where students use letter magnets or letter tiles to build words. It's a hands-on, simple way for students to continue practicing these skills. 
Activity Five: Paper/Pencil Practice - While you've probably noticed that the first four activities were worksheet-free, the final activity I'm including is worksheets. While I don't always love paper pencil activities, I do believe students need some practice with it!
If you're in need of word work centers that match the phonics skills you're working on, you can find them below!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Simple, No Prep Sight Word Game for Word Work

Looking for a new way to practice sight words? Today I'm sharing with you a one of my favorite sight word games that my students LOVE! Bonus: It's a NO PREP, easy to implement game!
This game is called Guess My Sight Word and works best if you have a classroom word wall filled with sight words. You could also have students use a printable word wall if you don't have one hanging in your room.

I teach this game whole group first, but once students get the hang of it they can play in pairs. First, choose a sight word on the board and write 3-5 clues about the sight word. See example clues below for the sight word think. (Grab the free download here)
To start, I tell students that my sight word is any word on the word wall. They love to try to read my mind think, and they it's silly because there are so many to choose from! Students will write down a guess next to #1 on a post-it note, index card, or paper.

Then I give the 2nd clue. As students hear the next clue, they should be able to make a more accurate guess. After each clue, give students a chance to write down their next guess. After the final clue, students can make their most accurate guess.

Below is a sample list of guesses a student might make given the clues above.
This is a fun game to play during word work, and once students get the hang of it, they're able to play in partners or small groups. I also love to use this game when I need random 3-5 minutes time filler!

You can play this game with post-its, index cards, or scraps of paper. However, if you want the free printables for your word work center, just leave click here! Share ideas & get other sight word center ideas in the free Facebook group: Simply Creative Teachers!