This week was the beginning of summer school. It runs Monday-Thursday for twenty days. I have twenty days to work some magic with my reluctant friends. It would be nice if I could teach in my own classroom, but they put us all in a school that has air conditioned classrooms. This means decorating a room that has already been completely packed up with all bulletin boards covered by the homeroom teacher. It makes setting up a bit difficult, but when the trade-off is air conditioning you won't find any complaints here!
Below are a few pics of the star-theme I went with. Overall, I kept things fairly simple on the decorating front. In the pictures you can see through the covered bulletin boards much more than you can standing in the room.
Our summer school program focuses on just literacy, so our day is a blend of guided reading, shared reading, word study, read aloud, independent reading, writing, and centers. I have eleven friends with me whose reading levels break down into three separate groups. It actually worked out pretty evenly. We spend about 30-40 minutes on guided reading, allowing me to see two groups a day.
The picture below explains how it works. I will meet with one groups first. Then, the group I will be meeting with next works on a center activity. The group I will not be meeting with that day works on centers for the entire time. Now, they don't really have the stamina to work on a writing center or any other center for that length of time so the rule is they must complete at least one center activity each day. Then, they have the choice of doing another center activity or finding a spot for independent reading. Each day, I rotate the group names (the center picture) so that the friends I see and the assigned center activity changes each day.
I thought I would write about the centers I decided to use this year. My friends are promoted third graders that will be going into fourth grade in September. Unfortunately, they are all working around a low second grade level. This means we need a lot of work with the basics, and that is what I had in mind when choosing my centers. I kept it simple with just three; one for writing, one for word study, and one for reading fluency. I would love to tell you I sat and made tons of center activites, but I just didn't have time for that! Instead, I went to Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) and found three that would meet the needs of my summer school friends while also work for my basic skills friends in September.
Before I go on, let me preface by saying that this is not meant to be an endorsement of TpT, although I do love the site. Also, the authors of the items below have no idea I'm writing about their products. As a busy teacher and one who would like to be able to spend at least a little of her summer at the beach, I wasn't looking to reinvent the wheel with original center activities. And since my materials are all packed away at school, I was perfectly delighted to go on TpT and be able to find exactly what I was looking for. I like them so much, I thought I would share them with you today. So, below are the three items I found that are working well as center activities.
- Writing Center
I wanted my friends to just do some basic writing. They are not yet proficient writers. I find I'm getting a lot of random sentences on a topic with no coherence. I'm also finding a lot of need in basic sentence structure. Having them work on writing topics that are interesting and relevant gives them a place to practice and a place for me to find great teaching points for our conferencing.
Irene Hines has created a Summer Writing Journal that has twenty days of topics, a word bank of summer words, a variety of summer themed writing paper, and is common core aligned. What more could I ask for?The clip art used is really cute and summery, too! I made each friend a booklet, and it became our writing center. Of course, they always have the choice of free writing in this journal as well.
- Word Works Center
This center covers a wide variety of basic skills. It gives you forty activity cards that ask the students to use their independent reading book to locate ten words (I did modify this to a few less words for some of the cards) that address the particular skill named on the card. Some of the skills include: phonics and phonemic awareness, compounds, contractions, syllables, prefixes, suffixes, verb tenses, part of speech, acronyms, abbreviations, antonyms, synonyms, homonyms, and possessives. With forty cards, you certainly don't have to use them all. There were a few that I left out as they didn't target the skills I needed to address for this group of friends, but there were still plenty of cards left.
- Poetry Center
It wasn't until I just wrote this that I realized the word works center and this poetry center are both created by SunnyDays. I must really like her stuff! While this is a poetry center, I see it as more of a fluency center. This pack comes with fifteen cards that ask the reader to read a poem to themselves, then whisper read it with fluency and expression, and finally complete a skills task. The tasks focus them on practice with nouns, verbs, adjectives, suffixes, prefixes, compounds, L blends, R blends, digraphs, rhymes, contractions, past tense verbs, handwriting, response to poetry, and imagery.
My focus with these cards is less on the skills and more on the "with fluency and expression" part. I wanted my summer school friends to practice fluency. To do this, I found a bunch of poems that contained a lot of sight words they should know and were not difficult to read. I copied about 15 different poems and put a few copies of each in a folder. To work on this center, all a friend needs is a copy of the poem and a task card.
The only other thing I felt it necessary to do was some explicit instruction on fluency. The blog Sandra's Savvy Teaching Tips has four fluency posters that were perfect for a mini-lesson on what it means to "read with fluency and expression." I used her posters and a picture book to do a mini-lesson on our first day before I explained the centers. The posters were perfect because they were very simple and understandable to my friends. The best part is that you can DOWNLOAD THEM FOR FREE on Sandra's blog.
In all, I think it cost me about $11 for all three centers. While it has only been three days, I can say the centers have all been working well so far. This is good to see as I am planning to use these same centers with my students this coming school year. Win! Win!