Anyway, I taught Kindergarten during the 2010-2011 school year. I must say, I absolutely LOVED it! So when Crystal asked for people to share their ELA centers, I was excited.
Here is how my writing centers worked. We held them for roughly twenty minutes, four days a week. That was we had a "spare" day in case of a holiday or snow day (I'm in South Dakota people - it happens!).
Our school did have an English curriculum that I was expected to use, but how much I used it was up to me. I tried to do a mini lesson from the book about twice each week. These typically only lasted five minutes. On the days when I didn't do a mini-lesson from the book, I modeled (and sometimes did shared) writing on an easel for the students. We would phonetically spell words, and then - when we were done - I would write the correct spelling of the words underneath. (More about this in the Writing with the Teacher part.)
After the mini lesson, the students had one of four centers to go to. They were Lexia, Writing with the Teacher, Letter Sorts, or Sight Words. They would rotate to one of these centers each day of the week. (I did assign the students to groups and controlled what center they went to. Call me a control freak if you want, but that's just what worked best for me.) I should also mention that I placed the students in mixed ability groups.
During the Lexia center, the students would use that computer-based program the entire time. Our district required any student who wasn't reading/performing at grade level to use Lexia at least 45 minutes each week. You can learn more about the Lexia program at their website. It's a totally (well, 95%) independent program where students work at a reading level that is appropriate for them.
When students were doing Sight Words, they would create a little "book" of the sight word of the week. I used the sight words from Donna Whyte of The Smartie Zone. I went to one of her workshops and fell in love! You can purchase her sight word books here. (Scroll down until you see the Popcorn Words Packets.)
The third center students rotated to was a letter sort. (Sidebar -- Folks, my students came in low. I mean to tell you that nearly a fifth of my class literally knew five or less letters at the start of the school year. We had something like 65% of the students K-5 on free and reduced lunches. About a fourth of the group couldn't even write their own name.) So I felt very strongly about letter sorts to help students with letter recognition/diffentiation. I'm sure this also had a lot to do with the fact that I taught Reading Recovery in first grade the year before I taught K.
You can get a FREE preview of the letter sorts I used here.
Finally, the students also had the "Writing with the Teacher" center. Honestly, folks, my students would cheer when it was their day to write with me. (This never ceased to amaze me!)
Here's how it worked. Students could write about anything. Once in a great while I might lead them to a certain type of writing, but if that didn't float their boat that day - they could still write about anything. I always had just scratch paper with a line draw about 1/3 of the way down. On the top portion of this line, the students drew a picture and labeled it. I typically gave them about five minutes to do this part. (They knew they could do a nicer illustration the next day, so they didn't freak about not having enough time.) Then the last ten minutes were spent on writing.
The students would write as much or as little as their hearts desired. Here are some samples from fall 2010.
This first one is from my lowest reader/writer. She literally sat there and copied letters that were behind my head. She wrote "cItaTEnccDaE" which translated to "My mom made me a cake so it could be my birthday after Christmas."
This came from my highest reader/writer. As you can see, she spelled both mom and dad correctly while labeling. She also wrote the first part of her name. Then for her story she wrote "My f ins" which translated to "My family is standing outside." She already had a good grasp on letter sounds and spacing for a beginning Kinder.
Here is what my weakest little writer from the beginning of the year looked like at the end of the year. She wrote, "I like the puppies. I wish I had one too. Do you?"
And below is the writing from my strongest writer/reader by the end of the school year. Here is what she wrote with my corrections as needed. "I am going to ask my mom if I can go to the Discovery Center. It will be fun! I hope it will be funn! I'm going to ask my dad too. I hope he says yes. At the Discovery center I am gong to the bones and I am going to play with some games. I hope it will be fun! It will be fun! It will be fun because I went there on my field trip. It was fun!"
Her writing was two pages long and she didn't even want to draw a picture!
To sum up the Writing with the Teacher center, students would bring their finished work to me. I always found something to compliment the student on - whether it was spelling, spacing, letter formation, punctuation, or even their drawing. Then I would write the correct spelling of words underneath what they had wrote. I also gave students one thing they could work on for next time. I did not want to overwhelm them!
Oftentimes, the Letter Sorts and the Sight Word Booklet did not take the students the entire center time to complete. So we had some "extra" activities they could also do.
The first of these activities was for students to illustrate the story they wrote yesterday. The day students wrote their stories, I always took it, typed it out, and printed it. That way students could illustrate it the next day. This also worked well because then I could keep all of their writings/illustrations (both their originals and my typed copy) as a keepsake for parents at the end of the year.
Another activity students could do if they had time was to write the room. Download your freebie by clicking on the picture below.
Finally, the students could write notes using post-its to family/friends. They were limited to two post-its each day, but I found this really motivated some of the students to write.
Before I go, I should mention a couple other random things. I kept an "Idea Box" near where students would be writing. This kept students from getting "stuck". It contained different pictures of animals, class activities we had done, and anything I thought might interest my students to write about.
I kept track of the words students were able to write. My logic here was that if they could write the word, they should also be able to read the word. And if they knew the word "cat" then they could also get to "hat, bat, sat, etc". So I used this known word list to keep a list for each student. Click on the picture below to get your copy. (I kept this in the folder for each student.)
I kept a writing folder for each student. In this writing folder were all of their orignal writings, all of the writings I typed and they illustrated, the checklist of how they were progressing through Jill Eggleton's book, and the known words list. Their original writings and completely illustrated writings were put together as a keepsake for their families at the end of the year.
One last freebie before I let you go. This is something I always wanted to get done when I was teaching Kinder, but I simply ran out of time. However, I was able to find the time to create my letter recognition mazes this summer. You can click on the picture below to get your freebie. I hope they will work well in your centers or at some time for your little Kinders!
If you want to see more of what I've written about Kindergarten on my blog, you can simply click here. That will take you to just my Kindergarten posts not to the K-6 posts I also write about. =)
Well, folks, that's all for me! I think I rambled on way more than my share. Hope you gained an idea or two that will be helpful to you. Please comment below if you have any questions, and I will do my best to answer them for you!