Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Literacy Centers Part 2 - Grouping Students and Teacher Directed Small Groups

    During literacy centers, my students work independently in mixed ability groups for cooperative learning. I use this repurposed calendar pocket chart to display the student group information. (See Literacy Centers Part 1 if you are curious about how it works.)

     Mixed ability grouping for independent center work just makes so much sense to me and it doesn't mean that the center work isn't being differentiated. Sometimes my students are working in literacy centers on differentiated activities, while other times they are working together to complete something as a group. Either way, my students are in mixed ability groups. Grouping this way also allows for me to change up the center crews more frequently so that students are getting to work with different partners. I think this keeps them engaged and cuts back on the fussing. I recommend placing 3-4 students in each independent work station for literacy centers, math centers, you name it. So thats what I'm do here. I have just 12 K5ers this year - smallest number I've ever had - so I have only four different literacy center work areas. As you can see, I have many other literacy center activity types - so I just switch them out!

     My teacher directed groups, however, are usually homogeneous by ability. Unlike my math centers, my students are grouped based on overall reading/literacy skills, as opposed to grouping based on individual reading skills. Whole group and one on one observation, overall Reading and Language Arts Think Link results, letter/sound recognition assessments, and reading fluency assessments inform me on how students should be grouped. This sounds like a lot, but really it isn't. I have 12 kids this year so I am trying to stick to 3 different small groups - each containing 4 students. Most years I end up with at least 4 different groups of students. Of course, I will often set aside time during literacy centers to work one on one with students who need the extra attention.  Since my kids do not go to specials or activities of any kind and my school does not have a special ed program, an ELL program,  or any other pull out programs, this is pretty much the only time I have to give my students the extra help they may be needing.  I do my best. I try to spend 3-5 minutes teaching English to my students who come to me speaking Arabic, etc. I fit in what I can and try to accept that I can't do everything and be everywhere all at once. 

Since my t-directed reading groups are homogeneous they are not on my blue literacy center rotation chart. I pull students out of their regular centers by calling their groups name, so students miss out on part of the center activities. This is totally OK with me. While the center work is meaningful, I do not think it is as meaningful as the individually catered hands on learning activities that I am offering in my teacher directed group. Also, I often use the same center activity for more than one week and I switch the order that for pulling the groups each week. More than likely every student experiences each of the center activities at least once - so they aren't really missing out. 

Hope y'all are finding these literacy center posts helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions that I can answer or if you would like me to touch on something additional. 

If you are interested in getting my pirate themed reading group charts for your teacher directed center you can check them out here! 

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