Literacy Work Stations
Students spend a great majority of the week engaged in stations while I lead guided reading groups.
When I taught first grade, I used The Daily 5 as my station system.
I LOVED it for the simplicity and had great results, but when I moved to kindergarten, it just didn't work.
Still, I have taken bits and pieces of what "The Sisters" teach in their book(s) and applied it to my kindergarten stations.
My keys to deterring behavior problems and encouraging independence at stations:
-Only 2-4 students per station at one time
-Students do not travel from station to station in the same group, but instead move independently from one another so that they are with new people at each rotation
-Make sure there is at least one dependable student at each station (if possible) to lead less dependable students in the right direction
-Lots of choices: more than one activity to choose from at most stations
-Use only familiar activities that I have modeled, students have modeled and that we have practiced before hand
Ultimately, most behavior problems in my experience stem from boredom (not enough choices), confusion (unfamiliar activities not practiced well enough before hand) and the poor habits that form when the same students are forced to work together time after time, (certain pairs/groups of students can't seem to make good choices when they are together, one person might become the "boss" or controller of the group, always "helping" the others a little too much, or the same students will argue and get on each others' nerves because they have been together too long.)
I have nine stations in my classroom.
That is a lot, I know, but it allows the groups to stay very small, (usually just two or three students at a station at a time), which keeps noise levels down and behavior problems to a minimum.
Not every station is being used every time since 3-6 students are with me at guided reading and I only have 20 students total.
Students go to three stations a day, three days a week (in order to get to all 9 stations each week), in addition to coming to my table for guided reading on every station day, (so they actually go to four stations total, three days a week if you count guided reading as a station).
Most rotations last approximately 15 minutes each although I do tend to spend more time with the lower reading groups.
Nine stations and 4 guided reading groups would be a lot to plan for and maintain every week if I didn't have an easy system to maintain.
For one, most stations are basically the same every week so once they learn each station, students know what to expect and the directions don't change much from week to week.
Each station has an "I can" chart.
I printed the "I can" statements which never change and then laminated the sheets, leaving room at the bottom for the directions which do change to be written in dry erase marker.
(The clip art and most fonts I use are DJ Inkers.)
I do not have an aid in my classroom and since I am leading guided reading groups during station time, I am not available to help with problems that arise, (such as computers or tape players acting up or students arguing over whose turn it is), so I always have a parent volunteer in the room for that hour to float around and help "put out fires".
The "I can" charts are as helpful for the parents as they are for the students.
I don't have time to explain each station to each parent, so I tell them that if students are confused or seem to be off task, to simply read the "I can" statements to them.
Most students can't read the words but they know to ask the parent to read it to them if they are confused.
I have the parent helper carry around a sheet of stickers as well.
Some activities involve papers that I do not necessarily need to see as long as the student did it correctly, (see pocket chart, writing, and word work stations for examples of those kinds of papers).
I have the students show the parent helper his/her paper and the parent can guide the student to correct any mistakes he or she may have made.
If the paper looks good, then the parent puts a sticker on it and that student can stick it right into his/her folder to take home.
Great time saver for me-less grading!
Here is a little tour of the nine stations in my room and some of the little tricks I use to help them run more smoothly.
At the beginning of the year, students can do simple tasks like spell their names or sight words using letter cards.
They can sort pictures by the letter sound that the object in the picture begins with.
Later, I use poetry.
Last year, I followed another teacher's lead and found poems online or in books and wrote out a poem on sentence strips each week for the pocket chart, (or had a parent volunteer do it).
It was a lot of work that first year, but now I have a set station each week that goes along with whatever the theme of the week is.
Poetry is a great way for students to practice fluent reading.
We practice the poem each day at calendar so that students are familiar with it by the time they go to that station.
I copy the poem once on one color of sentence strips and again on another color.
One color stays in strips and the other gets chopped up into individual words, which are kept in a bag at the station.
Sometimes, if a poem has especially tricky words (or "wow words" as we call them in my classroom), I also print a picture to go with the word in order to help the students learn the vocabulary.
I still write the word on the back that they can check their work.
Students match words to words, paying close attention to words with uppercase letters or end marks.
When that becomes too simple, I add in another element.
I make print outs of the poem with missing word blanks.
We have fonts available on our computers which allow us to make worksheets with lined words and even dotted words for students to trace.
You can search for and download such fonts online.
(This sheet actually goes with a different poem.
I wasn't paying attention when I took these pictures.
They put the paper on a clip board and sit in front of the poem, searching for the missing words and then copying them in their best handwriting (with correct spelling).
I start by making the missing words simple sight words and then make them harder as the year goes on.
Somewhere in all of my recent classroom moves, I lost my "I can" sheets for the math station, (I even had two copies since I had two classrooms last year), so I just wrote it out this year and for the most part the directions never change.
I keep a bucket with a few different game choices and materials at the math station.
We use Everyday Math, which I LOVE because the games are a part of the curriculum and are already created for me.
I almost never have to create my own ideas for this station.
I like to give more than one choice of game.
Students are less likely to get bored when they have choices and if they do get bored with the game they are playing or finish before time is up, they have at least one other game to choose from.
Having a few choices also give me freedom in my teaching.
If I teach a game on a Thursday, for example, and we practice it as a whole class, I go ahead and put it at the math station even though most students have already gone to that station that week.
They will get a chance to play it again the next week.
Some weeks we don't learn any new games and the math station is the same as the week before but since they have choices and only go there once a week, they never complain.
Kids like playing the same games over and over and as long as the quality of the game is good, they are learning every time.
Usually, when I put a new game in, I take the oldest game (or the one that seems to be causing the most problems) out.
Sometimes I just have students work in their Writer's Workshop journal, but other times I use the writing station as an opportunity to work on sight words, handwriting and sentence structure.
Lately I have been making a lot of "Mystery Sentence Scrambles".
Even though they are easy for my highest students, it still gives them an opportunity to practice uppercase letter first, end mark last and best handwriting.
If they finish early, they can free write, (which they love).
I run the word work station a lot like math, giving two or three choices of activities so that students stay busy and engaged the whole time.
I put the word work station near the word wall.
I go for activities like "Write the Room" or pre-made games and puzzles.
Lakeshore makes a ton of these pre-made station activities for reading, math, science, etc. and all different grade levels.
They are easy for students to understand with little to no explanation
Our PTO has purchased tons of them for us and it is so nice to just go grab things like these:
I also use Lakeshore games a lot at the science station.
Their Instant Learning Centers come with a card that shows students what to do in pictures.
At the beginning of the year, students do simple activities at science like exploring with blocks or magnets.
This week, they are practicing shapes (an activity that overlaps with math) by playing a dice roll game.
The computer station is another easy station that almost never changes.
At the beginning of the year, I just have them play on websites like Starfall.
But at the year goes on, I teach them how to get on my classroom website (which I have bookmarked on the internet toolbar).
There, they are able to write on our class blog, (more about that here), play games, look at our class pictures or use the "creation station" which emails their drawings or writings right to me!
Whenever they get lost or click on something they shouldn't have, all they have to do is click on that bookmark and it takes them back.
It's absolutely amazing how quickly they learn and how much they are capable of.
I put a sticker on the left side of the mouse to train them to click there.
Students can read to self or read to a partner or a "reading buddy" (stuffed animal).
They can choose books to keep in their book boxes, however I don't expect them to really choose "just right" books at the beginning of the year.
Since most kindergartners come in not knowing how to read at all, they mostly just choose book that look interesting to them and I model how to "read the pictures".
I got these at Ikea and secured students' names to them with paper clips.
I tied pieces of ribbon to the paper clips for cuteness and placed a dot of hot glue behind it all.
This is the second year I used these same boxes.
They hold up pretty well if students are taught to be gentle and not over stuff them.
My classroom library is organized in ClosetMain fabric cubes (from Target) on two separate bookshelves which my amazing father in law built for me when I moved from first grade and my cubes no longer fit perfectly on the built in classroom bookshelves in my kindergarten classroom.
Some books (the majority actually) are organized by theme: Beginning of the Year, Fall, Winter, Spring, Community, Animals, Farm (since we visit a dairy farm in the spring), Fairy Tales/Folk Tales, Non-fiction, Favorite Authors, Poetry and Listening Centers.
Each theme has a picture.
Other books are organized by Fountas and Pinnell's Guided Reading Level's, (those bins are just much less stuffed).
Only later in the year am I really able to teach students about "just right books" and which Guided Reading Level is appropriate for them but this was very useful when I taught first grade.
Inside the bins, each book has a sticker that matches the label on the outside of the bin.
This makes it easy for them to put books back where they found them.
I keep a few "books of the week" and big books (which I read aloud that week) out separately and students are always welcome to look at those books but they may not put them in their book boxes.
The listening station is always engaging and easy, (once students are trained in how to use the materials).
I teach students all different ways to "make a deal" (decide which book to listen to and who will push the buttons, etc.: Rock, paper, scissors is a easy one).
I keep the book(s) and tapes or CDs in an extra "book box" near the listening center.
Little cushions for the students (from IKEA) to sit on are kept under the table.
This is the best idea I have seen in a LONG time:
Each headphone set has a different colored sticker on it.
The table underneath also has the same sticker.
That way, as long as the student sits right in front of the headset he or she wants and puts it back in it's place when the story is over, there aren't any tangles!
CD's are easy.
My students seem to be able to load CDs and push play without any problems most of the time.
Tapes are trickier.
I put a smiley face sticker on the side I want them to listen to.
Then I say, "The tape has to be smiling at you.
The 'teeth' of the tape should be showing, (my tape player loads tapes upside down), and the smile side should be facing up so you can see the sticker."
I use stickers on the buttons also.
green = play, red = stop and yellow = rewind
They usually don't have problems.
(or "Creation Station" as I like to call it.)
This is the only station that can take some serious time and effort.
It changes every week and usually involves construction paper, craft supplies, making copies, etc.
Kindergarten used to be filled with craft projects.
I think when I tell people I teach kindergarten that's what they picture, (especially because I love crafts myself).
But in reality, our curriculum is intense.
I can barely figure out how to squeeze in all of the essentials, so finding time for cutesy craft projects is pretty much out of the question.
The art station is it.
One crafty project a week.
(And I almost always try to tie in some reading, writing, math or science with it.)
This week's project:
I use a magnetic clip on the door hinge to hold each week's example since the art table is right next to that cabinet.
Some weeks, I simply can't get a whole craft project together, so these come in very handy:
A good friend and fellow kindergarten teacher made them for me.
She bought two How to Draw Using Shapes books for kids then tore out and laminated the pages.
My students love them and they are genuinely helpful in teaching kids how to be better illustrators.
In fact, they are awesome to use as writing starts.
I let the kids pick an animal to draw (or a few animals), add a setting and write a story about it/them.
Shared writing is fun too.
One student draws one animal, another student draws another animal, then pair kids up and have them work together to write a story about what happens when the two animals meet.
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Side note: I had done shared writing as a whole class activity, but I started allowing shared writing in partners last year after two girls got together during writer's workshop, (behind my back) and wrote a story together.
At first, I was very unhappy and tried to explain to them why they couldn't do that.
Then I saw the story.
It was awesome.
They had shared the pencil and switched off writing.
They helped each other sound out words.
They bounced ideas off of one another.
I could see it in their eyes: writing was so fun for them when they were allowed to do it together.
So, on occasion, I allow my students to pair up and make shared stories.
Writing anxiety is so much less and everyone, (even my most struggling writers), seems to have a blast.
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So, those are my stations.
For this year anyway.
These types of things seem to be always evolving...
I have a busy weekend ahead but I will be back next week with some more teacher tricks: time and money saving ideas.