July 10, 2012

Your Back to School Questions Answered

I have gotten a ton of emails and comments on my "back to school" posts throughout the years.
I truly do appreciate all of your compliments and how many of you have pinned pictures of my classroom onto Pinterest.  I'm glad you like what I've done. Setting up my classroom each year has become one of my favorite things to do and I'm really bummed I won't be doing it this year! 

I've tried my best to email back people with answers, but often people have a "no-reply email address".

So, I thought with back to school coming up, I would try to answer your questions by doing a post.

By the way- if you missed the original posts, 
click here or here or check out my albums on my Facebook page

What community supplies are in the table buckets and how did you manage them?

In my district we aren't allowed to ask students to provide their own supplies (ie. crayon boxes, etc.) So everything I want them to have I have to provide myself. I have tried both table baskets and individual crayon boxes and I think I prefer the table baskets.  The students have the 1) share materials 2) work together to keep it clean and tidy.  I found that my kids tend to be little hoarders with those individual boxes and then end up with tons of trash.

In each table basket I provide pencils, colored pencils, and glue that they share as a table.  Each student also gets a box of crayons, a pink eraser, and a scissor that has their class number on it. That is basically it!

This past year I got these particular table baskets at Big Lots and the colored cups at Walmart.

What are the baskets under the tables for?

The laundry-type baskets under each table are for backpacks.  I've had these particular baskets for the last 7 years (and I left them at the school when I packed up- they were pretty dead!) We didn't have hooks or anything for backpacks and with 27 students there was no way I was going to walk around with backpacks on the backs of chairs- this drives me nuts!

Where did you find the table trays at each station?

I have gotten these little lap trays at Michaels for the past 2 themes I have done. I've had them in this lime green and light blue. I think they are perfect for my stations (especially since I have my stations on the floor around the room). I think they sell for $7 each.

Where did you find the big magnetic letters?

I got these letters at Lakeshore Learning for $40.

Can you explain how you manage station rotations?

See that little pocket chart easel behind my reading table? It shows the reading group rotations.
My kids visit 4 places each day during our reading block
1) reading group with me
2) table time (where they do seat work focusing on the sound and skill of the week)
3) 1 literacy station
4) fluency practice

At the beginning of the year the kids are pretty dependent on this chart and I have to make sure to switch their reading group (A,B,C,D) after each rotation so they know where to go.  But after a few months they have the rotation in their head and they don't need the chart to know where to go. *To rotate, I just move each group/letter card down 1.  The bottom card moves to the top spot.

This big chart shows the literacy station rotations.

Across the top show the 4 reading groups (A,B,C,D). The kids' names are on apples and they line up under the reading group they are in. Down the left hand side show the stations that are set up. I label them by number and word.  (This picture is from a few years ago, so these stations are not necessarily the ones I had most recently.) This chart is definitely one that the kids look at each day. When it is time for them to go to a literacy station they come look at this chart.  They find their name and see which station they will visit that day.  *At the end of each day I move each apple card down one.  The bottom cards then move to the top.  I realize I could also just move the stations, but I've gotten in the habit of moving the kids' cards.

Students usually travel to each station by themselves or with a partner.

Can you explain your literacy stations?
I should start by saying my stations change every year. I think we all do that- as teachers we learn more and adjust to better meet the needs of our students.  So, the following were the stations I did last year!

Station 1: ABC Order Station
This station concept stays the same all year but the job/skill gets progressively harder and the words change each week.  At the beginning of the year the kids alphabetize just a handful of picture/word cards.  I usually try to have the words have something to do with our story or theme for the week (ie. apple week they would be "stem, core, apple, and tree") At the beginning of the year I make sure the words all start with different letters.  A tool that I have found to be really helpful is an ABC line for the kids to lay out in front of the station. Some of the kids who struggle with ABC order like to physically move the words.  For example for the word "stem" they would put it under the letter S. They would do the same for the other cards and then they can see the order before they write it.

As the year goes on the words get alphabetized to the second or third letter.

The kids are responsible for writing their words in ABC order on a response sheet.  Often times with a holiday or special theme I find cute word cards and response sheets, but usually it is just regular paper.  I also keep a book box , a pointer, and a couple of ABC order games or flash cards at this station for early finishers.

Station 2: Skill Station
This station changes every week depending on what skill I am teaching that week. For example, synonyms, antonyms, compound words, etc.  I usually try to find games and such from the creative bloggers out there!  The games are usually matching etc. and come with a recording sheet.  These games/skill cycle through throughout the year.  I also keep a book box , a pointer, and a couple of reading games or flash cards at this station for early finishers.

Station 3: Rhyming Station
This station concept stays the same for the most of the year but the words/games changes each week.  Basically I put a bunch or rhyming words in the pocket chart and the students have to match them and write them on a recording sheet. When I notice the majority of the class is mastering rhyming words (usually in spring) I make it a more difficult station- like a second skill station. I also keep a book box , a pointer, and a couple of reading games or flash cards at this station for early finishers.

Station 4: Word Family Station
This station's concept is the same all year but the word family changes each week but stays the same with the word family in our reading program. For example, if the word family is -an, there are word and picture cards for that family.  The students use a paper that one of team mates created years ago where they have to 1) list as many -an words as they can, 2) pick 5 and draw a matching picture, and 3) pick 2 words and use them in a complete sentence. I also keep a book box , a pointer, and a couple of reading games or flash cards at this station for early finishers.

Station 5: Name or Syllable Station
This station's concept changes about halfway throughout the year.  At the beginning of the year it is the "name station".  I got the cards and such from Deanna Jump's Back to School unit. I changed the job of the station every couple of weeks. For example, at the beginning of the year I wrote about 7 kids names on sentence strips.  The students would have to sort the names by how many letters are in the names and then write them on the recording sheet.   The stations changes into how many vowels are in the names, how many consonants are in the name, and how many syllables are in the name.  I also changed it later on by choosing only 1 name and seeing how many words the students could make using the letters in that child's name.

After Christmastime I changed the station to a syllable station.  I would put various syllable games and recording sheets here for the students to complete.  These would be varied depending on the child's reading group.  The early readers used picture/word cards and the higher readers had to put the slashes in words to show where the syllables were. 

 I also keep a book box , a pointer, and a couple of reading games or flash cards at this station for early finishers.
Station 6: Library/Computer/Other Station
This station changed often.  At the beginning of the year I pretty much kept it for the library station.  Students got to free-read a book and then fill out a response sheet.  As the year went on, the library station would get harder.  For example, they would have to choose a nonfiction book and write 3 facts and a question.  Or they would choose a fiction book and write the main idea and details.  When I noticed the kids getting sick of library, I would change it to computer station and the students would play games on Starfall.com.  If I noticed students were struggling with a certain skill (for example, fact and opinion) I would add a bucket and fill it with a fact and opinion game and recording sheet and that would be the station. 

Do you have any other questions about my room set-up or anything school related? Just leave your question in a comment below and I would be happy to do another blog post! 

Happy Back to School!


Amber said...

I can't believe you have to buy all those supplies! You are a great teacher:)

Victoria said...

Mandy, what a great blog! It shows how much you love your students, and I know it will be a great help to new teachers! Wood School will certainly miss you this year!

Ms. H and Ms. B said...

I just wanted to tell you that my friend and I were very inspired by your reading, writing, and grammar walls and we decided to dedicate an entire wall of our room (we are co-teaching with 40 first graders) to a focus wall. We always are looking back at your pictures for inspiration. Thank you for posting them! When we finally finish our room we will surely link back to your entry so that people know the source of our inspiration :)

Jonathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jamie said...

GREAT post and tips!

I think I'll go pin it right now :)

mdunn said...

I love your literacy staions.
Where did you get your baskets that are under the lap desks?

California Natives said...

I love your literacy station ideas, and how you set them up!! I was wondering, for your rotations, what do you have the students do for Fluency practice?