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Posts Tagged ‘parts of speech’

Grammar | Teaching in the Social Context

Language Conventions Literacy Centers

Language Conventions Academic Literacy Centers

If we consider the traditional four communicative contexts of English-language arts (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) and add on a fifth, the visual context, thanks to the interesting research of Kress and van Leeuwen, we find that language never takes place in isolation. Even when my wife talks to herself, she does have an audience (and I’m rarely included).

A few examples (with good instructional links and the related Common Core Standards) will remind us of how we teach the language interactively:

We teach students to actively listen to a speaker by asking relevant questions.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.1.C
“Pose and respond to specific questions with elaboration and detail by making comments that contribute to the topic, text, or issue under discussion.”

We teach students to speak to their audience, using specific techniques to interest our listeners.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.4.4
“Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.”

We teach students to engage their audience in writing assignments.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.3.A
Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and point of view and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.

We teach students to maintain a dialog with the author when reading.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.5.4.A
Read grade-level text with purpose and understanding.

We teach students to analyze media and consider the choices in terms of content, editing, and production made by, say, a filmmaker, videographer, or graphic artist.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.7.7
Compare and contrast a text to an audio, video, or multimedia version of the text, analyzing each medium’s portrayal of the subject (e.g., how the delivery of a speech affects the impact of the words).

So, why are teachers so reticent to abandon teaching grammar in isolation?

Now, most of you are thinking that I’m referring to teaching grammar in isolation via drill and kill worksheets, divorced from listening, speaking, writing, and reading. I’m not. As an aside, while I certainly try to apply my grammar, usage, and mechanics instruction to the instructional subject, I (like all teachers I work with at my school) find that some grammatical instruction is most efficiently accomplished in isolation. For example, when I teach sentence variety through modeled grammatical sentence openers in the context of revising process paper drafts, I always find that some re-teaching is necessary for some students. If half of my students still don’t know the definition of an adverb, its function, proper adverbial order, and some examples, they won’t be able to use a few of my grammatical sentence openers revisions to improve their process papers.  I see no reason not to bust out a down and dirty adverbs worksheet for those seventh grade students who need it.

What I mean by teaching grammar in isolation is didactic direct instruction (teacher talks to the class) or individual students complete a grammar worksheet and turn it in to the teacher to grade instruction.

Instead of those types of isolated learning experiences, I contend that grammar is best learned, interactively, in a social context.

Not to get to hung up on definitions, but let’s cite one:

“A grammar is the rules and constraints on what can be represented. A grammar is a social resource of a particular group” (Kress and van Leeuwen).

If grammar provides the tools (“the rules and constraints”) for communication, it makes sense that these tools would best be defined, identified, practiced, and applied in the context of collaborative communication (the “social resource of a particular group”). The classroom teacher certainly provides one important source of communication, but students themselves are often an untapped source of learning. Students can learn grammar from each other.

Academic Literacy Centers for Grammar and Mechanics

Language Conventions Academic Literacy Centers

Literacy centers provide an ideal social context for cooperative learning about grammar: parts of speech, syntax and sentence structure, standard and non-standard usage, word choice, dialect, punctuation, capitalization, etc. Now, of course your students need the right tools. We can’t have the blind leading the blind.

How about a few interactive grammar lessons to test-drive with your students in a cooperative group or literacy center? Your download includes four grammar and mechanics lessons, the unit test (with answers), directions, and literacy center leadership roles.

Get the Four Language Conventions Academic Literacy Center Lessons and Test FREE Resource:

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How to Teach Interactive Grammar

If I’m going to entice you to read this article by offering some how-to’s and free resources to teach grammar interactively, we had best get on the same page about what we both mean by grammar.

I like to think of grammar as a community’s language tools.

The tools of grammar are usually known as language conventions. A convention means “a general agreement about basic principles or procedures; also : a principle or procedure accepted as true or correct by convention the conventions of grammar” (Merriam-Webster). The Common Core authors use “Conventions of Language” for the first two Language Strand Standards:

L.1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

L.2: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Two other points will keep us on that same page:

  1. Teachers usually separate usage from grammar as in standard and non-standard usage, or word choice, or figures of speech, etc.
  2. Teachers usually separate mechanics from grammar and usage. By mechanics, teachers mean punctuation and capitalization. Some would also throw in spelling under this category.

Since our language conventions tools are always applied in a social context, it makes sense to teach and learn grammar how we use grammar: in the social context. Specifically, I find literacy centers to be ideal collaborative settings in which students will actually use their language skills to learn what the tool is and its purpose, be able to identify it, know how to use it, and use it a bit to see its value and, hopefully, remember it.

Academic Literacy Centers for Grammar and Mechanics

Language Conventions Academic Literacy Centers

For grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, I’ve developed twice-per-week, twenty-minute Language Conventions Academic Literacy Centers to teach the Common Core language conventions standards

Instructional Format for Interactive Learning: The How To’s

The Language Conventions Academic Literacy Center provides 56 lessons. Grades 4–8 alignment documents follow the lessons. Each Language Conventions lesson consists of four pages and takes 20 minutes to complete. Students work collaboratively to learn two tools per twenty-minute lesson: a mechanics skill and a grammar or usage concept, rule, or skill.

The first page is in Cornell Notes format and provides the content and skills in the Mechanics Notes and Grammar and Usage Notes sections. The Links and Response sections provide online resources for additional grade-level practice. Space is provided in this section for students to list key ideas, comment, make connections, and write questions. Additional space is provided at the bottom of the lesson for students to summarize the key mechanics and grammar content or skills.

The second page duplicates the lesson text of the first page, but adds examples for the students to copy in the spaces provided on the first page. The Links and Resources sections provide online resources for extended learning (acceleration) and additional practice (remediation).

The third page provides students with practice for both the mechanics and grammar content and skills. Students individually apply the lessons with identification, error analysis, sentence revisions, and sentence combining in the writing context.

The fourth page consists of the practice answers. Students self-correct as a group to learn from their mistakes.

The program provides biweekly unit tests in which students must define, identify, and apply the tools they have learned. Students use their lessons on the test. Teachers may elect to have students take the test individually or as a group.

The FREE Resources

How about a few interactive grammar lessons to test-drive with your students? Your download includes four grammar and mechanics lessons, the unit test (with answers), directions, and literacy center leadership roles.

Get the Four Language Conventions Academic Literacy Center Lessons and Test FREE Resource:

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Remedial Literacy Centers

Grade-level literacy centers, also known as stations, are wonderful additions to any elementary or secondary teacher’s classroom. Literacy centers, in particular, offer a means of teaching key grade-level standards other than the didactic lecture approach or the pass out the same worksheet to everyone approach. However, good teachers know that not all of their students are at grade level. Certainly all students need grade-level instruction, but some need to catch up and some need to move ahead.

Many teachers who have experienced success with grade-level literacy centers also want to differentiate instruction with literacy centers. A worthwhile goal! Often, teachers try to design individual centers which offer grade-level, accelerated, and remedial activities. Or teachers try to create open-ended literacy centers which have different activities. However, in creating these differentiated centers, the centers tend to devolve into either or both behavioral management issues and/or individual work stations in which students are only members of the group for the purposes of the literacy center rotation. In other words, the key social and instructional benefits of literacy centers (cooperative learning) are negated.

So, the problem to be solved is the following: How can teachers teach to the different needs of students within the literacy center instructional approach to both meet the needs of diverse learners and maintain the social and instructional benefits (cooperative learning) of literacy centers?

The answer for remedial intervention is flexible ability grouping. Students benefit by working together on common needs. Literacy centers provide ideal vehicles for cooperative remediation in which teachers can target instruction to the demonstrable needs of the group. Targeted instruction necessitates assessment-based curriculum. Diagnostic assessments can pinpoint precisely what students need to master. Teachers can group students according to their diagnostic needs and then design literacy center lessons to meet those needs.

The focus of these remedial literacy centers becomes the learning deficits to master, not the remedial students themselves. In other words, remedial literacy centers need not be permanent groups of below-basic “bluebirds.” When learning deficits are the focus of the remedial literacy group, the bluebirds fly away from that group to either a grade-level literacy center or to another assessment-based literacy center.

Good teachers can use this model to assure that all students have the benefits of heterogeneous group and homogeneous group experiences. Literacy center rotations can easily facilitate this flexibility.

If you are committed to helping your below-grade-level students catch up while they keep up with grade-level instructional standards and you want to incorporate remedial literacy centers (stations) into your instruction, this is the Remedial Literacy Centers BUNDLE for you!

Designed specifically for literacy centers, each of these four full-year programs will target assessment-based instruction to the needs of your individual students. Following are the four programs included in this special value BUNDLE:

1. Remedial Spelling Literacy Center 
2. Remedial Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Literacy Center 
3. Phonics Literacy Center 
4. Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books 

Each of these remedial intervention literacy centers is diagnostically-based. Students take the whole-class diagnostic screening assessments, and once graded, you will know which of your students needs remedial instruction and in which centers to place them.

Because all of these diagnostic assessments are comprehensive, the test data pinpoint precisely which content and skills require remediation and which do not for each of your students.

This means that you will be able to let the assessment data inform your placement of students within these remedial literacy groups. For example, if the assessments indicate that Johnny has both diphthong and r-controlled phonics deficits while Amanda has only the r-controlled phonics deficit, Johnny will be assigned to the Phonics Literacy Center for two workshop sessions, but Amanda will join Johnny for just one workshop session. Now that’s assessment-based instruction that is efficient and prescriptive! Both Johnny and Amanda get the instruction they deserve without wasted instructional time.

The management system makes these flexible groupings work together. Whether you are using literacy centers solely for remedial intervention or adding to grade-level literacy centers (check out the author’s grade-level centers HERE), either may be implemented with success with the resources provided in these programs. For example, the resources include 10 literacy center rotation options to teach from 4 to 10 literacy centers within 40 to 100 minutes per day, 4 days per week. Literacy centers need not be a management nightmare!

You, your students, parents, and administrators will see measurable progress on the program progress-monitoring matrices with the resources in he Remedial Literacy Centers BUNDLE. And what a VALUE as compared to the prices of each individual program… it’s like getting four programs for the price of three.

Check out these FREE SAMPLES:

Get the Remedial Literacy Centers BUNDLE FREE Resource:

Mark Pennington is the author of both Academic Literacy Centers and Remedial Literacy Centers. These grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 centers are offered individually or as value-priced BUNDLES. Click to check out these Pennington Publishing programs on the Teachers Pay Teachers.

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Literacy Center Resources Grades 4-8

The Academic Literacy Centers

Academic Literacy Centers

Upper elementary and middle school literacy centers are qualitatively different than primary literacy centers. Recognizing this fact can mean the difference between success and failure of your literacy centers. Since literacy centers have long been the staples of self-contained primary classrooms, much of the available curriculum, articles, videos, and pins focuses on what works for a cute group of teacher-pleasing, eager-to-learn, well-behaved second graders. Those are not your kids, right? If you are a grades 4-8 teacher and you are interested in starting, adding to, or revising literacy centers in your classroom, this growing list of articles and resources is just for you.

Following are articles, free resources, and teaching tips regarding why to use and how to set up literacy centers from the Pennington Publishing Blog. Also, check out the quality instructional programs and resources offered by Pennington Publishing.

How to Start Literacy Centers | Upper Elementary and Middle School

http://penningtonpublishing.com/blog/grammar_mechanics/how-to-teach-essay-strategies/

A quick overview of relevant definitions and research regarding literacy centers and  12 solid tips about setting up or revising your grades 4-8 literacy centers to make them achieve your instructional goals.

Literacy Center Teacher Roles

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/literacy-center-teacher-roles/  

To provide options and some flexibility to teacher roles during literacy centers, I’ve categorized these roles for the purposes of discussion. Broadly speaking, a teacher may serve as a supervisor, mini-conferencer, or a specific literacy center facilitator. Of course a combination of roles is certainly another option.

Literacy Center Groupings

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/uncategorized/literacy-center-groupings/

Check out the advantages and disadvantages of homogeneous and heterogeneous groupings and learn how to form effective groups for literacy centers.

Literacy Center Research: 5 Reasons to Use Literacy Centers

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/literacy-center-research-5-reasons-to-use-literacy-centers/

5 Reasons to Use Literacy Centers: 1. Rigor 2. Assessment-based individualized instruction 3. Function over fun or cute 4. Coaching 5. Independence

10 Reasons Not to Use Literacy Centers

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/10-reasons-not-to-use-literacy-centers/

I do love literacy centers, but not the ill-conceived and poorly implemented literacy centers I see in so many elementary and middle school classrooms. Check out the legitimate reasons not to use literacy centers and some possible work-a-rounds to solve these problems.

Academic Literacy Centers

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/academic-literacy-centers/

I’m Mark Pennington, the author of Academic Literacy Centers, a decidedly different approach to grades 4-8 literacy centers. Academic Literacy Centers are designed to teach the grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core English Language Arts and Reading Standards with these six rigorous and well-planned 20-minute centers for grades : 1. Reading fluency and comprehension (includes YouTube modeled readings 2. Writing sentence revisions and literary response 3. Language Conventions grammar and mechanics lessons 4. Vocabulary 5. Spelling and syllabication 6. Study skills. This user-friendly program bundle includes lessons and activities designed for independent, collaborative centers with minimal prep and correction. Plus, biweekly unit tests and all literacy center signs and rotation options are provided.

Remedial |Differentiated Literacy Centers

http://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/reading/remedial-differentiated-literacy-centers/

Many teachers begin using literacy centers (stations) to give their students something meaningful to do while the teacher leads a guided reading group. For most teachers, their only differentiated or individualized instruction takes place in the guided reading group. While an excellent start to differentiating or individualizing instruction, reading isn’t the only subject area in which your students have a range of abilities and deficits.

While differentiated or individualized instruction is certainly a worthy goal, how that goal is accomplished does matter. My take is that a mixture of homogeneous ability-level groups and heterogeneous mixed-level groups makes the most sense, rather than the multiple-level lessons and activities in each literacy center approach. Check out Remedial Literacy Centers. Designed for grades 4-8 students with below grade-level literacy skills, these four literacy centers work nicely with my own grade-level Academic Literacy Centers BUNDLE or mix and match with your own. Get all the signs, answers, lessons, task cards, posters, rotation charts, and diagnostic assessments… everything you need to properly place students and run effective 20-minute remedial centers. Differentiate and individualize instruction with our assessment-based Phonics Literacy Center, Remedial Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center, Remedial Spelling Literacy Center, and Guided Reading Literacy Center with 54 illustrated take-home phonics books, designed for older readers.

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Remedial | Differentiated Instruction Literacy Centers

Individualized Assessment-based Instruction

Assessment-based Instruction

Many teachers begin using literacy centers (stations) to give their students something meaningful to do while the teacher leads a guided reading group. For most teachers, their only differentiated or individualized instruction takes place in the guided reading group. While an excellent start to differentiating or individualizing instruction, reading isn’t the only subject area in which your students have a range of abilities and deficits.

While differentiated or individualized instruction is certainly a worthy goal, how that goal is accomplished does matter. My take is that a mixture of homogeneous ability-level groups and heterogeneous mixed-level groups makes the most sense, rather than the multiple-level lessons and activities in each literacy center approach.

Problems with Multiple-level Lessons and Activities in Literacy Centers

When teachers try to create multiple-level learning activities in their other literacy centers, they typically find significant challenges and drawbacks to this approach. Most abandon the multiple-level lessons and activities approach soon after implementation and often (unfortunately) abandon differentiated or individualized instruction, other than guided reading, as a result. Here’s a list of why this is often the case:

  • Multiple-level centers are all the rage in literacy center books and from the lips of university professors. It’s nice to have an idealistic goal, but more effective to have a realistic approach that will work in your classroom.
  • Creating remedial, grade-level, and accelerated Standards-based lessons or activities for every literacy station that will work for your students is a guarantee for teacher burn-out. At some point, we all need to expend our available work-related energies in what will give our students the best bang for our buck. Plus, we do/should have lives outside of our classrooms.
  • Literacy centers are designed as primarily independent work stations. The more activities and more sets of directions, the more teacher interruptions. It’s a proven corollary.
  • Multiple-level stations are simply too complicated to design and run KISS (Keep it simple, stupid). Plus, they confuse your students.
  • Literacy centers are designed as collaborative, social instructional experiences. Kids can’t work together toward a common objective if they are completing different lessons or activities. Plus, the benefits of peer tutoring are short-circuited.
  • Multiple-level centers are a teacher-correction nightmare.
  • All the multiple-level lesson materials create an organizational challenge for the students and teacher.

A Workable Alternative: Grade-Level and Remedial Literacy Centers 

Rather than abandoning the goal of differentiated or individualized instruction, try a mix of these two student groupings: #1 Grade-level and accelerated Standards-based centers with heterogeneously grouped students and #2 Remedial centers with  homogeneously grouped students. The advantages?

  • Grade-level content or process literacy centers are relatively easy to create and can accommodate open-ended, free or guided choice alternatives for accelerated learners.
  • Remedial content or process literacy centers can be designed according to assessment-based data and students grouped accordingly in ability groups.
  • Remedial centers are task-oriented, fluid, and flexible. When a student has masted the center content or skills, that student transitions out of the remedial center. Remedial centers are flexibly established to meet students’ needs, not as permanent classroom centers.
  • Students, parents, and administrators can see measurable progress in the specific areas of literacy deficits.
  • Remedial literacy centers permit teacher-led centers. Just as with guided reading, teachers can rotate through a variety of remedial groups, teaching the whole time or splitting time between groups (a very effective approach) in which the teacher gets a group started with brief instruction, then rotates to another group to do the same.
  • Rather than students working at the remedial lessons or activities in a multiple-level literacy center individually, students work with their peers cooperatively, and not have to rely on a high-low peer tutoring approach in which the advanced student does the work for the student requiring remediation.
  • Remedial literacy centers can reduce behavioral problems. Rather than assigning Johnny, who reads at the first grade level, to a multiple-level literacy group to supposedly work on his own, and instead create havoc because he can’t read the directions and is bored, eliminate the issue by providing appropriate ability-level work and give him a chance to learn. Veteran teachers recognize that behavioral problems are usually learning problems. Plus, strategically it is much easier to manage a group of behaviorally-challenged students than when they are dispersed at every corner of a literacy center classroom. Let’s face it, the teacher cannot be everywhere at once.
  • Specifically-designed remedial literacy centers are available for purchase… no need to invent the wheel. Of course these are harder to create than your own grade-level centers.

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Academic Literacy Centers and four grades 4-8 Remedial Literacy Centers.

In a nutshell, the four Remedial Literacy Centers have been designed with assessment-based lessons and activities to help your students catch up while they keep up with grade-level instruction. Each comprehensive year-long (if needed) center will minimize preparation, correction, behavioral problems, and clean-up time and to maximize flexible, on-task learning. These are the four Remedial Literacy Centers, designed specifically for your grades 4-8 students to teach them what they missed in the shortest possible timePhonics Literacy Center, Remedial Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center, Remedial Spelling Literacy Center, and Guided Reading Literacy Center with 54 illustrated take-home phonics books, designed for older readers. Make sure to click PREVIEW THIS BOOK to get a nice sample of the contents, diagnostic assessments, literacy lessons and activities, and supplies for each literacy center. Not sure if your students need any or all of these Remedial Literacy Centers? Why not give the whole-class Diagnostic Grammar Assessment, Diagnostic Mechanics Assessment, Diagnostic Spelling Assessment, Vowel Sounds Phonics Assessment, and Consonant Sounds Phonics Assessment to let the data drive your decision-making. Click HERE to get these assessments absolutely FREE. 

FAQs

  • Are there diagnostic assessments for proper group placement? Absolutely. Plus, recording matrices are provided for quick and easy progress monitoring.
  • Are there directions for each lesson and activity? There are longer teacher directions and shorter student directions on the literacy center task card (provided in both color and black and white).
  • Who corrects the work? Your students will do all the correcting of the practice exercises in their literacy group. Answers are provided with each task. Students learn from their own mistakes. The teacher grades only the short formative assessment during mini-conferences with individual students.
  • Will these remedial literacy centers work with the six grade-level (4, 5, 6, 7, 8) Academic Literacy Centers? Yes, they fit nicely into rotations with these grade-level centers, your own centers, and/or guided reading.
  • Do students complete all of the center activities? No, these are flexible ability groups. Students complete only the center activities they need, according the results of the diagnostic assessments. Student will move in and out of these Remedial Literacy Centers per individual need.
  • Can I set up, tear down, and move these centers quickly? Set up and tear down only take a few minutes. Perfect if you share a classroom or move to another classroom.
  • What supplies do I need to provide? Only the paper copies. These are not art centers.
  • Are the usual literacy kit supplies included in each program? Yes. The program provides group norms, leadership roles, seven  possible group rotations, task card directions, and answer sheets for each lesson or activity and both pocket chart and larger center signs. Each Remedial Literacy Center, as well as the grade-level Academic Literacy Center BUNDLE is complete and ready to use.I’m Mark Pennington, the author of Academic Literacy Centers, a decidedly different approach to grades 4-8 literacy centersAcademic Literacy Centers are designed to teach the grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core English Language Arts and Reading Standards with these six rigorous and well-planned 20-minute centers for grades : 1. Reading fluency and comprehension (includes YouTube modeled readings 2. Writing sentence revisions and literary response 3. Language Conventions grammar and mechanics lessons 4. Vocabulary 5. Spelling and syllabication 6. Study skills. This user-friendly program bundle includes lessons and activities designed for independent, collaborative centers with minimal prep and correction. Plus, biweekly unit tests and all literacy center signs and rotation options are provided.

    Also check out our remedial literacy centers: Phonics Literacy Center, Remedial Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center, Remedial Spelling Literacy Center, and the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books.

    Grades 4-8 Remedial Spelling Literacy Center

    Remedial Spelling Literacy Center

    Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center for Remediation

    Remedial Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center

    Literacy Center for Phonics

    The Academic Literacy Centers

    Academic Literacy Centers

    Guided Reading Phonics Books Literacy Center

    Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Mix and match with your own centers.

Grammar/Mechanics, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Start Literacy Centers | Upper Elementary and Middle School

Upper elementary and middle school literacy centers are qualitatively different than primary literacy centers. Recognizing this fact can mean the difference between success and failure of your literacy centers. Since literacy centers have long been the staples of self-contained primary classrooms, much of the available curriculum, articles, videos, and pins focuses on what works for a cute group of teacher-pleasing, eager-to-learn, well-behaved second graders. Those are not your kids, right?

Following are some of the relevant definitions and research regarding literacy centers and 12 solid tips about setting up or revising your grades 4-8 literacy centers to make them achieve your instructional goals. And, yes, a disclaimer is in order. Note my sales pitch at the end of the article.

Definitions and Research

According to the Reading Rockets site authors: A literacy center is a physical area (or station) designated for specific learning purposes. It is designed to provide appropriate materials to help students work independently or collaboratively (with partners or in small groups) to meet literacy goals. A literacy center can be portable, temporary or permanent.

The integration of literacy centers can support improvement in reading comprehension, language, social, and writing development (Fountas & Pinell, 1996; 2000; Morrow, 1997; 2003). Literacy centers facilitate problem-solving because students are able to explore, invent, discover, and create alone or with others at centers (Stone, 1996).

Effective literacy centers allow for student choice, have explicit and ongoing routines. Literacy centers promote student collaboration, facilitate student motivation, and provide targeted practice for students (Daniels & Bizar, 1998).

The integration of literacy centers can support improvement in reading comprehension, language, social, and writing development (Fountas & Pinell, 1996; 2000; Morrow, 1997; 2003). Literacy centers facilitate problem-solving because students are able to explore, invent, discover, and create alone or with others at centers (Stone, 1996).

Students are more engaged, motivated, and successful when they have choice. The ability to choose empowers them and helps to create self-motivated learners” (Boushey & Moser, 2014).

Multilevel center activities are strategy-based tasks designed at three levels of challenge: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. By using these tiered center activities, teachers enable students with different learning needs to apply the same key skills and strategies but at varying levels of complexity and open-endedness (Tomlinson, 1999).

The literacy center can become “… a common gathering space establishes a tone for respectful learning, trust, cooperation, problem solving, and a sense of community in the classroom” (Kriete & Bechtel, 2002).

However, these authors and researchers have not cornered the market on what literacy centers should look like in your classroom. A few of my comments regarding these definitions and research: Any instructional methodology must be adapted to teacher and student needs. Square pegs don’t fit round holes. Students don’t have to love literacy centers. Learning can be fun, but it also can be plain old demanding work. I have found that the “explore, invent, discover, and create” goals of the ideal literacy centers are highly overrated. These terms usually are euphemisms for goofing around and doing little, or no work. Regarding student choice… Obviously some degree of learning choices empowers students, but they are kids. They will choose candy over vegetables every time. I favor guided choices for literacy centers. “Yes, you do have to do that activity in that literacy center, Jamie, but you can also choose this or that.” I prefer multi-level lessons or activities in different literacy centers for curriculum creation and management purposes. Every literacy center does not have to have differentiated instruction within each center. I favor a mix of grade-level (or accelerated) centers and remedial centers with both heterogeneous and homogeneous groupings.

Clarify why you are doing (or thinking about doing) literacy centers:

  1. Start with your students. We often say that we teach Name Any Content or Skill or the Common Core State Standards or Name of School District or State Benchmarks or to the PAARC or Smarter Balanced Tests. But it’s not really true. We teach kids. An important distinction. Of course we teach content, concepts, and skills to standards criteria, but we’ve got to do so through the lense of the teacher-student relationship. We’ve got to know our students and adapt instruction to what will work for them. Stop at this point and ask yourself if literacy centers are the best instructional methodology for you and your students.
  2. Start with you. You aren’t the teacher next door. You have your own strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. You have your own temperament and your own levels of risk tolerance. Are you primarily interested in maintaining the status quo: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (nothing wrong with that by the way) or do you want to experiment at this point of your teaching career? If things are crazy in your life at this point, you may want to tweak or totally re-vamp your teaching style. Are you primarily interested in cute? If the visual appeal of artful literacy centers appeals to you, impresses other teachers or parents, or is motivational for your kids, fine. If not, fine as well. In sum, be yourself.
  3. Start with this year’s situation. As much as you’d like to be in control, you can’t control everything. If your administrator is not going to be comfortable with your literacy center approach to instruction, count the costs. If you’ve got an especially behaviorally-challenged class, literacy centers may not be practical. However, many literacy center hacks can work to minimize the negative behavioral affects if you are not a literacy center purist and understand that what works for the majority of the class will never work for Bobby, Juan, and Thieu.
  4. Start with the purpose(s) for your grades 4-8 literacy centers and keep this/these foremost in your planning. Are you primarily interested in giving students good stuff to keep ’em busy while you work with a small group? Are you interested in using literacy centers to teach grade-level standards? Are you interested in using literacy centers to differentiate/individual instruction? Are you mainly interested in giving students a social context in which to learn? Are you chiefly interested in centers as a way to create a less-boring instructional approach for some of the school day?
  5. Start with your role as teacher. Will you be a floating supervisor, a mini-conferencer, a specific literacy center facilitator, or a little of each?

Follow these 12 steps to give your literacy centers the best chance at success:

  1. Start small. Just because one of your teachers runs 16 centers, you don’t have to do so.
  2. Be realistic. Time is a factor as well as the number of students you have. Again, don’t rely too heavily on primary teacher literacy center resources or advice. You can’t do literacy centers with 36 students the same way that the second-grade teacher can run literacy centers with her 18 students.
  3. Minimize set-up and tear-down times. Teachers frequently abandon literacy centers because it gets extremely old moving desks, putting out signs, changing rotations, etc.
  4. Teach group norms and refer to them repeatedly. I’ve developed the HEROIC acronym to make these memorable.
    Leadership Roles for Literacy Centers

    Literacy Center Leadership Roles

    HEROIC Leadership Roles

  5. Assign and teacher LEADERSHIP ROLES. Small groups fail when everyone is in charge of everything. Develop a rotation for these roles, but again, don’t be a purist. Don’t assign Tami as the Reader, if she can’t read well. Don’t let Brenda serve as the People Manager when she will snitch on every kid in her group for everything. Don’t make Pedro the Task Manager when he can’t tell time. Don’t let Sam be the Clarifier if he is too lazy to get up and ask the teacher a question. You get the idea. We want to develop leadership and social skills of working together, but the learning should be our chief goal, rather than solely the learning process.
  6. Make sure that your rotations between centers will work. Click to see seven workable rotations HERE. Practice these rotations before you begin instruction. Time students and reward effective transitions. “Literacy centers will have a high degree of success when the center routines and rotations are well-modeled, rehearsed, and reinforced. Researchers Harman and Nelson” (2015).
  7. Before you run your centers, model any new centers by teaching the key center activity whole-class. Be flexible. If a literacy center is not working, dump it. Add on literacy centers as you go.
  8. Have students evaluate their own work. In other words, have students do the bulk of self-correcting to learn from their own mistakes and save you grading time.
  9. Decide on whether to put together weekly literacy center packets for each student or provide the instructional materials in each
    Rotations for Literacy Centers

    Literacy Center Rotations

    center.

  10. Limit the fun. Grades 4-8 literacy centers work best with rigorous work, specifically designed for collaborative learning. Plus, I highly recommend keeping things simple; limit the number of center activities or lessons and keep the directions predictably the same. KISS (Keep it simple, stupid!) You don’t want to be pestered with questions about complicated literacy center directions.
  11. Limit independent literacy centers. Many teachers will disagree, but I prefer independent reading as homework with specific accountability. Keep most of your literacy centers as interactive, cooperative groups. With grades 4-8 students the centers are going to devolve to this format anyhow. Unless you are relentlessly supervising independent work in an independent work center, they just won’t get it done. And “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Rely on you group norms and leadership roles, along with challenging and accountable center lessons and activities, rather than on independent work.
  12. By all means, get some help. Fairly priced, quality literacy curriculum that is classroom-tested will be a lifesaver. Check out the following grades 4-8 grade level specific and remedial literacy center kits with everything you need to set up effective literacy centers. Mix and match and add to your own centers.

I’m Mark Pennington, the author of Academic Literacy Centers, a decidedly different approach to grades 4-8 literacy centersAcademic Literacy Centers are designed to teach the grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core English Language Arts and Reading Standards with these six rigorous and well-planned 20-minute centers for grades : 1. Reading fluency and comprehension (includes YouTube modeled readings 2. Writing sentence revisions and literary response 3. Language Conventions grammar and mechanics lessons 4. Vocabulary 5. Spelling and syllabication 6. Study skills. This user-friendly program bundle includes lessons and activities designed for independent, collaborative centers with minimal prep and correction. Plus, biweekly unit tests and all literacy center signs and rotation options are provided.

Also check out our remedial literacy centers: Phonics Literacy Center, Remedial Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center, Remedial Spelling Literacy Center, and the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books.

Grades 4-8 Remedial Spelling Literacy Center

Remedial Spelling Literacy Center

Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center for Remediation

Remedial Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center

Literacy Center for Phonics

The Academic Literacy Centers

Academic Literacy Centers

Guided Reading Phonics Books Literacy Center

Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mix and match with your own centers.

Grammar/Mechanics, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Literacy Center Teacher Roles

Roles for Teachers in Literacy Center

Literacy Center Teacher Roles

Let’s first admit that no one has the corner on the literacy center (or stations) market. Teachers can certainly run their literacy centers the way they want to run them. Furthermore, there is no research suggesting that one teacher role is superior to another. What a teacher is supposed to do or not do during literacy centers depends upon many factors: Are the centers designed to be purely independent work stations? Are the centers teacher-led? Are the centers focused on grade-level work or remedial work? What are the behavioral challenges of the students? Are the centers designed with homogeneous or heterogeneous groups? (See this article regarding group composition.) What are the rotations and time factors? (See this article regarding time management and get seven rotation example charts.)

To provide options and some flexibility to teacher roles during literacy centers, I’ve categorized these roles for the purposes of discussion. Broadly speaking, a teacher may serve as a supervisor, mini-conferencer, or a specific literacy center facilitator. Of course a combination of roles is certainly another option.

For teachers trying out literacy centers for the first time, I recommend the supervisor role  As supervisor, the teacher is available to answer questions, walk the room, and help students fulfill their leadership roles. For example, “Who is the People Manager in this group? Sophie? Sophie, would you like me to help you maintain quiet voices in your group?”

If one of the goals of literacy centers is to encourage team collaboration, the teacher needs to teach students how to positively collaborate. This requires constant reinforcement and the supervisor role helps facilitate this reinforcement. Up front and ongoing training in group norms and leadership roles is essential for success.

Teachers serving in the supervisor role may be tempted to micro-manage and control the collaborative problem-solving of the group. One of the most beneficial outcomes of literacy centers is independent learning. Teacher-dependence can be exacerbated by choosing this role.

Academic Literacy Centers

Collaborative Academic Literacy Centers

The mini-conferencer role works well when formative assessments are key components of the literacy center. Rather than grading work during prep period (or worse yet at home), the teacher provides immediate feedback on the group or individual’s work accomplished in the literacy center. In this role the teacher may pull entire groups or individual students. The teacher may visit the literacy center or set up shop at the teacher’s desk or in the center of the classroom to monitor. The mini-conferencer role works nicely in conjunction with the supervisor role.

Additionally, the mini-conferencer role is ideal for running writers or readers workshop mini-conferences and status of the class check-ins if writers workshop or readers workshop are included in center rotations.

Save the grade-level instruction for the supervisor role or for whole-class direct instruction. The mini-conferencer role is not an efficient means of repetitively teaching a grade-level Standard to each group.

The facilitator role works with a class with few behavioral concerns. Note that well-designed, task-oriented literacy centers with thorough up-front modeling and training in leadership roles and group norms will help minimize class management issues; however, veteran teachers (and some administrators) understand that there is just so much that a teacher can do. The students, themselves, determine which instructional role the teacher must take sometimes. If instructional aides or well-trained parent volunteers are available to serve as the supervisor or mini-conferencer, the facilitator role is always a good option for the teacher during literacy centers.

Many elementary and some secondary teachers use the facilitator role for guided reading. Like literacy centers, there is not only one way to do guided reading. Many approaches will work just fine for literacy centers. Teachers can also facilitate remedial intervention.

The choice of group rotations is more important with the facilitator role than with the supervisor or mini-conferencer roles. A teacher is not omnipresent: he or she cannot be physically present to run every center. In addition to a teacher-led group taking up the full time allotted to a literacy center before the transition to the next center, a teacher can also split the teacher-led literacy center time. For example, a teacher could spend five minutes getting a group started and then dismiss the students to independent work. A teacher could build into the centers rotation a 10-minute guided reading time (Yes, it can be done effectively) and then a 10-minute remedial group (or another guided reading group). See my remedial intervention centers below.

The keys to success in literacy groups are experimentation and flexibility. These keys are especially essential regarding teacher roles.

I’m Mark Pennington, the author of Academic Literacy Centers, a decidedly different approach to grades 4-8 literacy centersAcademic Literacy Centers are designed to teach the grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core English Language Arts and Reading Standards with these six rigorous and well-planned 20-minute centers for grades : 1. Reading fluency and comprehension (includes YouTube modeled readings 2. Writing sentence revisions and literary response 3. Language Conventions grammar and mechanics lessons 4. Vocabulary 5. Spelling and syllabication 6. Study skills. This user-friendly program bundle includes lessons and activities designed for independent, collaborative centers with minimal prep and correction. Plus, biweekly unit tests and all literacy center signs and rotation options are provided.

Also check out our remedial literacy centers: Phonics Literacy Center, Remedial Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center, Remedial Spelling Literacy Center, and the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books.

Grades 4-8 Remedial Spelling Literacy Center

Remedial Spelling Literacy Center

Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center for Remediation

Remedial Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center

Literacy Center for Phonics

The Academic Literacy Centers

Academic Literacy Centers

Guided Reading Phonics Books Literacy Center

Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mix and match with your own centers.

Grammar/Mechanics, Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Literacy Center Groupings

How to Group Literacy Center Students

Literacy Center Groupings

Teachers tend to be ardent democrats (lower case d). Whether Republicans, Democrats, or Independents, we all value equal opportunity and responsibility. Every one of our students deserves the same, fair shot at the American Dream and education is the ticket. Teachers who resonate deeply with these values tend to favor grade level Standards-based literacy centers (or stations if you wish).

However, no matter where we teach… in the cornfields of Iowa, in the multiplicity of languages that is Los Angeles, or the heart of inter city Chicago… we all teach to diverse student populations. Whether diverse by culture, language, socio-economic status, urban, suburban, or rural status, and so forth, every student is a snowflake. Teachers who identify their core values with diversity tend to favor differentiated Standards-based literacy centers.

Of course, many of us lean toward one of the ideals, but mix the two. However, let’s explore the two ideals a bit more in detail before discussing mixed approaches to literacy center groupings.

Grade Level Standards-based Literacy Centers

Some teachers believe in the value of sameness. Each student should be afforded an equal opportunity to access the Common Core Standards-based curriculum. Separate is inherently unequal Groupings according to perceived differences means that students will always miss out on something. For example, students pulled out to work on their phonics with the special education teacher will miss out on the “core curriculum” during the literacy block. Education is always reductive. Teachers would like to see learning opportunities as being both-and, but in reality they become either-or.

With regard to instruction, it would not be fair to characterize these teachers as all about direct, whole-class instruction for 100% of the instructional day. Teachers with this sameness philosophy often see the instructional value of small groups for both content and process learning. These teachers see literacy centers as helpful means to practice the gradual release of responsibility in order to promote independence in learning the same content. “Using this mode of instruction, teachers gradually release the responsibility for a task to students through four components: demonstration, shared demonstration, guided practice, and independent practice” (Fisher & Frey, 2008).

For example, teachers who value sameness might use a centers approach in which students would be grouped heterogeneously to rotate via either free choice or guided choice to each of the same centers, say to reading, writing, language conventions, and vocabulary centers in which they would work together collaboratively to complete the same work on grade level Standards-based lessons or activities.

Differentiated Standards-based Literacy Centers

Other teachers believe in the value of differences. These teachers would argue that the only way to access the Common Core Standards-based curriculum is through differentiated instruction according to the individual needs of individual students. Only when learning opportunities are truly differentiated will equality be achieved in the classroom. Because students have different abilities and challenges, they will learn best when accommodations are made, instead of ignored. In response to the the either-or conclusion reached by teachers adopting the sameness point of view, teachers valuing differences as an instructional approach might argue that the sameness instructional philosophy results in neither-nor.

With regard to instruction, it would not be fair to characterize these differences teachers as less rigorous in their expectations of student achievement. Plus, it would be unfair to assume that these teachers are less devoted to Standards-based instruction. The Common Core State Standards emphasize both linear and cyclical instruction. The authors explicitly leave the issue of remediation up to teachers, administrators and district personnel. In Appendix A, the Common Core authors state, “Local teachers, principals, superintendents and others will decide how the standards are to be met. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms” (http://www.corestandards.org).

For example, teachers who value differences might use a centers approach in which students would be grouped homogeneously by specific criteria, say reading levels, to rotate via either free choice or guided choice to different content or skill-focused centers. The teacher might run five different guided reading groups during centers, have a center set up for multiplication practice for students who need it, have a center set up for remedial writing skills, etc.

Instruction in the Real World for Your Classroom

Because teachers live in the both the ideal and real worlds, we compromise. Many teachers of both sameness and differences educational value sets form both heterogeneous and homogeneous groupings in their literacy centers.

There are instructionally sound reasons for doing so. If half of your students need phonics instruction, according to the results of diagnostic assessments, but half don’t, it would be educational malpractice to either force all students to rotate to a Phonics Literacy Center and work on learning diphthongs. Sameness doesn’t make sense here. However, if all your students need to learn the Six Steps to Active Listening study skill, it would be crazy to group “bluebirds” and “redbirds” in ability groups for this skill that all need or deny remedial students these skill s because they can’t do anything else in life until they learn their diphthongs. Differences doesn’t make sense here.

Classroom management and behavioral considerations must supersede ideal groupings for literacy centers. Even if Robert and Juan have the same instructional needs and same reading levels, you know they can’t be in the same group. They would kills each other and, perhaps worse, make your life miserable.

Additionally, some literacy groupings need to be formed according to some good-old-common sense. Your non-English-speaking newcomer should participate in some, but not all of the literacy centers. The same will be the case for your three special education students and your two gifted and talented students who are pulled from your class on a regular basis.

Lastly, structural considerations will necessitate compromise between the ideals of homogeneous and homogeneous literacy centers. Check out the helpful seven group rotation models HERE.

We teachers always seem to have one foot in the ideal and another foot in the real. Don’t give up on literacy centers because  some compromises are necessary. My take is that some melding to the sameness and differences instructional approaches is possible. I believe students can catch up while they keep up with grade-level Standards. Literacy centers are a helpful instructional approach to achieving this end.

I’m Mark Pennington, the author of Academic Literacy Centers, a decidedly different approach to grades 4-8 literacy centersAcademic Literacy Centers are designed to teach the grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Common Core English Language Arts and Reading Standards with these six rigorous and well-planned 20-minute centers for grades : 1. Reading fluency and comprehension (includes YouTube modeled readings 2. Writing sentence revisions and literary response 3. Language Conventions grammar and mechanics lessons 4. Vocabulary 5. Spelling and syllabication 6. Study skills. This user-friendly program bundle includes lessons and activities designed for independent, collaborative centers with minimal prep and correction. Plus, biweekly unit tests and all literacy center signs and rotation options are provided.

Also check out our remedial literacy centers: Phonics Literacy Center, Remedial Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center, Remedial Spelling Literacy Center, and the Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books.

Grades 4-8 Remedial Spelling Literacy Center

Remedial Spelling Literacy Center

Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center for Remediation

Remedial Grammar and Mechanics Literacy Center

Literacy Center for Phonics

The Academic Literacy Centers

Academic Literacy Centers

Guided Reading Phonics Books Literacy Center

Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mix and match with your own centers.

Grammar/Mechanics, Reading, Study Skills, Uncategorized, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,