In my classroom, I use what I know about attention spans, how the brain works, and differentiation strategies that engage learners to meet the needs of my students. One way I do this is through workstations or centers. I was trained by Debbie Diller in Workstations, and highly recommend her books for an insight on the power behind them and for organization ideas. I like to teach a modeled lesson with guided practice my first day of instruction and then follow up with time for students to practice the new skill, allow myself some time to work with struggling readers and give the students some independence. I like this because I know my students do not want to sit and listen to me teach all day everyday, nor should they have to. For this session, my students will be completing a reader's theater about chronological text structure(CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.5 and CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.5.4), working on a chronological writing piece they started previously(CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.5), and work on their context clues skills with a game on the SMART board or computer(CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.4).
Workstations will occur over 45 minutes with 3 groups rotating to a station every 15 minutes. Show students their stations for the day and review your expectations. I show the students how to slide names or stations on the workstation board so they can do it on their own. This is what my Literacy Workstations board looks like. Review that when the timer goes off, it's time to switch. One of my biggest expectations is quiet transitions. In my best airline stewardess voice, I always say, "Transition time is a SILENT time," and then smile sweetly. I also stress the importance of clean up. "Leave the station neater than how you found it, " is something we repeat often. Finally, I always have a direction card at each station. The card tell students what to do, how to do it and how to turn it in. I usually write these on an index card and fold it at each location in the room. The title of the workstation is on the front and the directions are on the back. Sometimes when I'm feeling on top of things, I have all of the directions printed and in a page protector.
Teacher Small Group: I do this a variety of ways, but today I will run my own small group separate from the workstations and call select struggling students to join me for a predetermined amount of time. The students will leave their workstation and meet with me and then return to that workstation or the next workstation. These students will not be held responsible for missing the work in the missed workstation. The benefits here are you can determine how many students you see and the amount of time you see them. The skill can be isolated from the choice of workstations for the day. For example, if 4 students are really struggling with a skill from a previous unit, you could meet and work on that skill. Also, you could decide that a small group won't be successful in the reader's theater workstation, so you work on fluency with them in a different way.
Today, I will be working with students to complete a reading task from the previous day. We needed to finish a chronological graphic organizer from my last lesson and then work on practicing using the text to find answers to questions. This group I am pulling today have a difficult time justifying why they chose an answer to a question. They can find an idea, but they may not read on to get the exact information they need or just aren't making sense of the detail they find. They can find the word clues, but just aren't reading deep enough. I'll be using the questions that accompany the Bill of Rights passage. I won't go through all of them, but I am going to let this particular group skip the chronological writing extension. They will have some more structured time during my writing block to work on this later.
Context Clues Independent Group Station: Context Clues- Students will play Word Master on the SMART board or individual computers if you have them. Students will work on the website to complete cloze style context clue games. Since my groups are bigger, I ask the students to take turns being the "host" and the "recorder" while the rest of the group sits in front of the SMART board. The host acts as the teacher to assist students in figuring out the answer and clicks the letters to fill in. The recorder takes notes about the word selected and the context clues used to determine this word. Students rotate roles for each question and turn in the recording sheet with all student names written. Context clues is an area my students can always use more practice. Teaching vocabulary in isolation shows very little effect on student learning, so I try to work in fun ways for students to utilize new vocabulary. Getting to work in teams and pretending to be a teacher adds a bit more excitement, thus enhancing the learning experience.
Reader's Theater Independent Group Station: Chronological Text Structure Reader's Theater. You can download here . This week I am planning to be at the Reader's Theater station since it is our first time doing this. Not only do I ask the students to act out the parts, I also have them record themselves reading using vocaroo internet voice recorder. Students will read, perform and record. To complete the station, students will listen to themselves and complete an student fluency self evaluation for themselves. If vocaroo is not accessible at your school, you can use the windows sound recorder. This is actually nice because the students can save their recording to the hard drive. You will probably need a microphone for this. Just click on the start menu, find accessories and then click sound recorder. You can also use a CD player/Tape Recorder if you have one. I had to use this form my workstations when I had some computer problems. Some of the kids thought this was new technology! Haha! Here are some student examples of the fluency self evaluation. Fluency can be tricky to teach explicitly by 5th grade, so I try to work in many opportunities for students to do this throughout the year. Adding on the self-assessment component lets students see how important this skill is and has them evaluation their own fluency. Many times after doing these workstations, my students ask how they can make themselves sound better, so I've already hooked them into trying to grow as a reader.
Structure Writing Independent Group Station: Students will work on the chronological writing extension that were started yesterday. Students work in a small group to complete this task. I assign anything not completed in this group for homework, to be kept for early finisher work, or I include it in stations for next time. My students also have some time set aside in the writing block for this. I know that a good way to learn the structure is to write using that structure. This activity is dual purpose in that it links my reading and writing instruction. I like to have the students totally immersed in what I'm teaching to make more of an impact.
I've included a sample of my workstations in action just in case you wanted to take a peek into our classroom.
When the rotations are over, open the class to a discussion about how the workstations went. Ask students to reflect on their behavior and focus during the stations, how they worked with peers, etc. Lead students in thinking about what they might do differently next time and discuss ways that you could improve stations in the future.