Recently, I re-organized my Langauge Arts instruction to better cover all the various subcategories therein. We now follow a 2-week rotation schedule, alternating days between Guided Reading group, Writer’s Workshop, and Literacy Workstations.
Literacy Workstations generally include 4 centers through which the students rotate. They practice a variety of English language skills in a fun, hands-on way. A typical Literacy Stations day might look like this:
Station 1: Read to Ari.
This station is where students can practice reading a book on their level independently. Ari makes a great audience as students build fluency and engage with their listener. I love seeing the kids play teacher as they show Ari the pictures and encourage her to “look, look!”
Station 2: Noun-verb-adjective Sort
Here students find sticky notes of words featuring our focus sound from our Orton-Gillingham-based S.M.A.R.T. phonics program. This week the sounds were /oe/, as in toe, and /oo/, as in book. They sort the words in a triple Venn diagram of nouns (“things we can touch”), verbs (“things we can do”), and adjectives (“things we can be”). We’ve broadened our definitions of each part of speech recently as well. Nouns are now people, places, things, and ideas. Seasons, months, and days are nouns. Verbs are not only actions, but also include helping verbs like “is, was, been” etc. (thanks to the helping verbs song). Adjectives are not only words we can be, but they also tell us more about nouns. They describe things and give us details. Some words can function as several parts of speech, depending on the usage, which is where the overlaps of the Venn diagram come into play.
Station 3: Handwriting
At Cloverleaf, we use the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum. When students visit the handwriting station, they build the target letters with wood blocks, practice them on Gel boards, then complete their practice papers. They love the consistent routine, which surprised me at first. Handwriting is nearly the best-loved center, second only to Ari’s reading station, of course. On days we have to do assessments instead of handwriting, students voice how much they miss doing handwriting! You can read more about the wonders of Handwriting Without Tears in Ms’ Jessie’s blog, too.
Station 4: Dictionary Quest
Dictionary use is a sadly dying art, but a valuable skill nonetheless. Students learn vocabulary, alphabetizing, and research skills as they search for 2 of our phonics words at this station. They record the page number, the guide words, the words appearing before and after the target word, the part of speech, and the definition. We’ve done two rounds of Dictionary Quest so far and I’ve already seen improvement and increased independence. I’m a big fan of print media, especially with a generation of students so flooded with digital media.
For any teachers out there reading this blog, here is my Language Arts rotation schedule, which has so far been working out really, really well:
Also, a couple of great resources for planning Literacy Workstations are Literacy Work Stations: Making Centers Work, and Practice with Purpose: Literacy Work Stations for Grades 3-6, both by Debbie Diller, both available through Amazon (who will donate a percentage of the purchase price back to Cloverleaf when you shop via our website!).