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Authentic Writing Centers

Do you have a writing center in your classroom? If you run Guided Reading in your classroom or follow the Daily 5 approach to ELA centers (or a modified version of it), then you probably do. But may I question your writing center for a moment? Let's reflect on these points together. Are your students writing for an authentic purpose? Are they writing for a real audience? Are your writing centers simulating a real-life writing experience that your students will one day be asked to do in the future? If not, give me just a few moments of your time and let's rethink writing centers in our classrooms.

You see, I am ALL FOR the fun, playful, imaginative writing where students are creating characters and settings that live in a fantasy world. The students get really excited to write those pieces, don't they? I think those types of writing experiences serve a purpose and are useful in the classroom, I do. But I also think that students need to have writing opportunities that simulate a simplified version of the type of writing that they might one day be asked to do in their future career, whatever that may be. I'll get into some examples, but first, can we all agree that our students need experience in authentic writing prompts?

Let me paint a picture for you. When I first started teaching, I didn't think that writing to a prompt would ever serve a purpose. I had read research that suggested that very point. So that's what my writing center looked like. It was a writing center that was free-write - no prompts, no direction, basically just a list of things they could write (letters, poems, stories, cards, etc.) and let me tell you... that's where I was failing my students.

It was in perfect timing that I was asked to pilot the Common Core Standards into my primary classroom. This was in 2011, friends, and boy were my eyes opened to a whole new rigor of teaching and learning. I began to see that real-world practice was going to become an integral part of our learning experience. I remember reading the words "college and career-ready" and something clicked for me and I realized that our writing needed to be more rigorous, even for my 2nd graders. What I was currently doing in writing centers was not enough. Not nearly enough.

So I created a set of monthly writing activities based around the Common Core Standards that offered my students the opportunities to write for an authentic purpose and to a real audience. Each month my students were able to practice narrative, opinion, informative/explanatory, and shared research writing. The topics were ones that my students enjoyed and helped my students' writing to flourish over the coming months. It was truly a game-changer.

These writing pieces serve as a portfolio of rough drafts for the students. As teachers, we often ask our students to take every piece of writing to the publishing phase and, in my opinion, that's just not necessary. With that being said, these drafts can easily be taken to the publishing phase at a later date if the students choose to. But for now, in our writing centers, let's just allow our students to enjoy the writing process with topics that interest them.

You can easily create authentic writing prompts on your own or you can purchase the monthly writing activities that I have already created where all the work is done for you! Either way, let's transform our writing centers in our classrooms - together!

You can check out these monthly writing activities in my TPT Store by clicking on the pictures above or visiting the following links:

... or check them out individually {here}.

Please let me know if you have any questions by using the "Ask a Question" tab in my TPT Store

Happy Writing!

Guided Math: Budget-Friendly Math Centers [Part 3 of 3]

Welcome back! If you missed the previous posts in this 3-part blog series, you can catch up on Part 1: The Overview and Part 2: A Closer Look into Math Rotations before reading this one. If you've been reading the series, then you're ready to finish it off with Part 3 which is all about managing math centers without breaking the bank or spending hours printing, laminating, and cutting math centers. So here are some of my favorite ways to save time and money on math centers!

Guided Math: A Closer Look into Math Rotations [Part 2 of 3]

If you missed the first post in this series about why small group math instruction is best practice for your students, you can go back to {this post} to read "Part 1: The Overview" in my Guided Math blog series. I share the "why" behind Guided Math and how the students rotate through the stations including a sample schedule and rotation chart.

My students use the Math TIME acronym for center rotations and small group instruction. In Part 1 of this blog series, I explained what each letter stands for (see below) and today we will dig a little deeper into what each of the stations look like in my classroom.

Guided Math: The Overview [Part 1 of 3]

Why Small Group Math Instruction?

I have students that range in ability levels from 2-3 grade levels below average to 2-3 grade levels above. Do you see a range of ability levels in your classroom too? If so, how can we justify teaching the same whole group math lesson to all of our students? The below average kiddos will be lost and the above average kiddos will be bored. The only students you are reaching will be your average kiddos. That’s maybe 30% of your class… if you’re lucky. With those numbers, how can we justify that whole group math instruction is best practice?

Important to Note:
  • You can teach to the ability of your students.
  • You only explicitly teach 4-6 kids at a time which means you can give students the attention they need.
  • Your groups can be flexible (students can move groups) depending on the content and pre-assessment results.
  • You can target your below average group with interventions designed for their needs.
  • You can target your above average group with challenging opportunities to enrich their learning.

Back to School Picture Books

Let's talk picture books! I absolutely love picture book read-alouds. Sometimes I use them to introduce a lesson in a content area. Sometimes I read one and we dig deep into the context. Often we read picture books!

Today, I'm sharing some of my favorite picture books for back to school! Take a look at some of my favorites below. They are affiliate links that will take you right to Amazon so you can purchase. You can also find them all in one place on my Amazon Affiliate Storefront {HERE}.

Tools for Guided Reading

Let's talk engagement! With technology becoming so prevalent in our students' lives, I think we can all agree that we often struggle to grab our students' interest when it comes to reading. Let's face it, our students want instant gratification and sometimes reading takes patience. Sometimes it takes a few pages, or even a few chapters, to really grab my interest... same for our students! From guided reading instruction to reading for pleasure, I think it's super important to instill a love of reading in our young readers so any way that I can make reading more FUN will *hopefully* lay the foundation for a LOVE of reading if they can just learn to give it a chance. I have gathered some fun tools that I keep at our small group reading table to make our guided reading time more fun for the kiddos.

Classroom Reveal 2017-2018

Hello everybody! I wanted to welcome you into a virtual tour of my 2017-2018 classroom. I have included LOTS of pictures and links when possible. Welcome to Room 33.