I have a group of 3rd graders who have just been close to impossible to handle this year. Luckily, my 4th graders have been magically delightful so it has definitely cushioned the blow. However, I got to this point where I would literally dread the hour and fifty minutes devoted to 3rd grade literacy after lunch time.
The solution? Literacy Centers.
Those of you who are wise and fabulous are going to tell me that you already knew how amazing literacy centers could be and that the following information is way too basic, but for those of us who are young and new and could use a push in the right direction, here are some simple guidelines for success:
1) Read with EVERY child. Some literacy center models have the teachers work with only the lower groups (or spend more time with them). I split my time into 3 twenty minute sessions. I see every student every day for "Read with the Teacher" time. It gives the students a chance for individual attention and instruction catered to their level. I have students who never participate during whole group instruction who are the shining stars of their small groups.
2) Group students wisely. I know there are a lot of philosophies about grouping students. What has worked for me has been a combination of grouping based on skill level and personality. This takes a good understanding of each of your individual students but it is worth taking the time to figure out. Students who work well together are more productive when asked to accomplish independent and small group tasks.
3) Always have a Creation Station. One of the literacy centers should be an extension of the story which asks the students to push the boundaries and create something new. The story from this week, for example, was a folktale from China. The students were asked to do internet research and create a map of China and research facts and the language in order to create their own presentation about the country and culture. During the mythology unit we read the story of "Arachne the Weaver" and the students learned how to weave with yarn and handmade "looms". These creations apply a real life aspect to stories that the students might not otherwise connect with.