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Step 1: Choose a type of reading center rotation
Decide on a way for your students to rotate. THEN, STICK TO IT! I know that sounds difficult because sometimes in the middle of the year it seems like what we decided on did NOT work. Trust me. Just stick with it. Maybe possibly change a detail here or there, but stick to whatever you decided. Your rotations can be clips on cards, a pocket chart with everyone’s names that move, digital rotations, a spinner or whatever you can come up with.
Once you decide which method would work the easiest for you, make sure you introduce it slowly to your students. I have used a few ways in the past. I’ve used the pocket chart method where I have the kids’ picture and then move the centers down. For this one, the kids moved around the room to where I had the matching picture and they did the center that was in that area. I eventually didn’t like this because the kids stayed together the entire time with that one person. After years, I decided that I like for my kids to mix groups with each other. Even if it isn’t every rotation, but at least every day.
Step 2: Introduce one rotation at at time for reading centers
Any year that I decided to try more than one center type at a time – fail. The years where my students have been totally independent, knew where everything was in the classroom and exactly what my expectations are, are the years where I went slow. If you’ve never read The Daily 5, I highly suggest that you do. It’s where I get most of my reasoning on why I introduce what I introduce in the way that I do it. (That sentence sounds CRAZY.) I start off with teaching my kiddos ways to read a book. We practice it every single day and work on building our reading stamina. Our goal is usually between 15-20 minutes of reading.
After getting reading a book (and staying in one place) down, we move on to writing. In kindergarten, most of them cannot write a sentence so we work on free drawing and trying to label our picture. As an entire class, we work on our reading stamina first and then we do writing. After we have those two down, I usually introduce a word work game. I try to keep it super simple. This is when I’ll have more than one option because obviously the entire class can’t play the same game at the same time when you’re limited on cards or game pieces.
Once I add in word work, we talk about rotating. We still discuss building our stamina and staying in one place the entire time until I say stop. I also introduce a clean up song at this time. It keeps me from saying clean up. The rule in our classroom is that they have to be on the rug by the time the song has played two times. Any clean up song will do as long as it’s long enough for you. If it’s a short one, you may say 3 times and on the rug. Once you start doing small groups and pull students, the song will be essential because while it plays you will still keep working with the group at your table. You don’t actually switch until everyone is on the rug and then dismiss your group that is with you.
Step 3: Introduce the Digital Rotation (or whatever you chose)
I currently use PowerPoint for our rotations. My students all have little Kidlette representations of themselves on each slide. Depending on what I’ve introduced to them, will determine what is on our PowerPoint. If I haven’t introduced computers, listening, and Square Panda – those won’t be on there.
The look each year with my students and how our reading centers run vary depending on their needs and how fast we work through each phase of learning what to do. By the end of the year, we usually end up with word work (I have two so more students can go to it since I have a lot of games to choose from), Square Panda, Computers, iPads, and some type of listening center (Epic is pictured). Reading and writing isn’t pictured because this was earlier in the year when we were still working to get to the top of our stamina chart so those stayed separate from this until we achieved it. Once we got those on here, I took off two word work sections, made the images smaller and moved the kids around so there were two or three at each.
I pulled my group that I wanted at the table with me from these groups. Since I switch up my small groups so often, I never have defined groups any more. It makes it a lot easier to switch depending on their needs. If you’re interested in creating your own PowerPoint center slides, I created a set to help get you started. It does involve knowing how to use PPT, but I provide tutorials to help. Check it out here.
Interested in reading more about reading centers? Check out my post about Making the Most of Reading Small Groups.