Winding up another year: more on Literacy Centers


I know it seems like I’ve dropped the ball here, and for that I apologize. Life takes some difficult turns sometimes, and I’ve just had to take a break to recuperate a little. But enough of that. As I wind up another school year, I’m already planning for next year. I’ve been doing some research about using literacy centers in middle school, and it is clear that I am not cutting any new edges for anyone but myself. In the interest of passing along what I’ve learned, I thought I’d share a little here today. Just in case you, like me, aren’t one of the many for whom literacy centers are already a part of your regular classroom practice, here goes:

Why use literacy centers in middle school?
* For differentiation for the different capabilities of multiple intelligences.
* To give choice and increase student engagement.
* To provide practice on a deeper level.

Some things to keep in mind:
* All literacy center activities should already have been done as a large group. The literacy center is not a place to introduce new activities.
* The activities of the centers themselves are consistent from week to week – just the content changes.
* Students can help maintain the centers and give ideas for new ones.
* Each student should have a folder for completed work.
* Centers can be portable – bins, binders or those plastic carrying boxes are good ways to store them.
* Figure out how you will schedule them. Will they be a weekly occurrence, or maybe at the end of each unit? Will they last only one period, the whole block or over two days?
* Each project (each center) needs to have a rubric, so students know if they have completed the task correctly.
* Students need to know what each center should sound like, and what it should look like. A sign giving this information is a good idea.
* It is critical that you, the teacher, have a pre-talk and a post-talk with the class to set up and debrief the centers for the day. What do you expect to see and hear? What went well and what could be improved for next time? It is important that the Centers be a whole-class project, not just one you “do to” the students! A clarity of purpose and expectation is essential to the success of this activity.

A list of possible centers
These are the centers I’m thinking of putting together:
1. SMART Board: a review activity that ties to the recent lessons.
2. Sentence revision or construction
3. Critical reading
4. Brain Gym (a little fun break)
5. Grammar review
6. Vocab development
7. Timed silent reading for fluency
8. Wild Card! This would be a writing/reflecting center, or some sort of a challenging thought problem.

The assumption under which all this is based is as follows:
* Class period of 100 minutes.
* 34 students in the class
* 4 – 5 students in a group, no more.
* 10 minutes per station
* 7 – 8 stations. This would allow for time to talk before and after the activity.

Books I’ve read about this topic:
* Practice With Purpose by Debbie Diller
* Middle School Literacy Centers by Lynette Prevatte
I also found some very helpful information by searching for “Middle School Literacy Centers.”

Has this been helpful to anyone? I’m pretty interested in making this a viable, ongoing activity. If anyone has any ideas for me, I’d love to hear them.

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5 thoughts on “Winding up another year: more on Literacy Centers

  1. Delaine Zody says:

    You have done an excellent job putting this all down on “paper,” Lynn. I know next year will go much easier, now that you’ve had some practice. Also, the students will do better because you know what to look for and to do.

  2. lynnjake says:

    Thanks Delaine. I hope to build this into my regular lesson planning next year. The kids really liked it when we did a day of this.

  3. Kevin Hodgson says:

    Lynn
    I haven’t always replied but I am still following your year. I love the idea of centers. I need to do more of that. Thanks for sharing your thinking.
    Kevin

  4. stuckinmypedals says:

    I love that you’re going to continue this next year. I’m thinking of how I can revamp my literacy work stations next year to better accommodate thirty first graders. It worked okay this year, but not as well as it did with 20. I’m glad summer is coming because I need that time to step away and reflect.

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