This is the second in a series of Planning Department articles that suggest ways to increase the time your students spend reading text at an independent level of difficulty. The first article outlines several variations of a teaching model that has proven to be effective. This article is available online at www.CanadianTeacherMagazine.com (Fall 2008).
The first article outlined the organization and implementation of our Guided Reading Program. Each Guided Reading Group takes part in a 1/2 hour reading lesson and a 1/2 hour literacy centre Monday to Thursday. Here are some ideas for the literacy centre activities.
All of our materials are stored in lidded file boxes for easy access and organization. Each activity has a corresponding file folder. Worksheets and papers are stored in the folders. The instructions and rules for the activity are printed on the outside of the folder for the information of the supervising staff member.
COMMERCIALLY PREPARED MATERIALS
A wide variety of board, card and dice games are available at teacher’s stores and retail outlets. We use a number of these with our reading groups. Sight Word Bingo and Crazy Eights (with sight words) are two of our favourites.
TEACHER GENERATED MATERIALS
Most of our literacy centre materials are teacher generated. Among the most effective of these are the activities we have developed for use with a word wall.
What Is A Word Wall?
A word wall is a teaching tool that is usually displayed on a bulletin board in a classroom. Each letter of the alphabet is arranged, in sequence, in its own space. The words are placed beneath the letters. It is important that the words are printed in large letters and that the word wall is clearly visible to all the students in the room.
For our literacy centres, the word wall is arranged in a linear manner along a bulletin board that is at eye level for the students.
What Words Do You Use?
A word wall can be used to teach spelling, word patterns, sight words, sounds, etc. The words can come from the students’ own writing, sight word lists, etc. There are many lists, organized by grade, on the Internet. We use a basic sight word list for our centre activities.
Word Wall Activities
ACTIVITY 1: X Ray Vision
The teacher chooses a word on the word wall and gives three clues for that word. The students guess what word the teacher is thinking of and prints it on an activity sheet or word wall notebook.
ACTIVITY 2: Find a Word!
The teacher asks the students to look on the wall for a word that follows a particular rule (starts or ends with a certain letter, has a certain number of letters, has a certain sound, etc.) The students print the word. Answers may vary.
ACTIVITY 3: Word Search
Students are provided with a blank word search form. They choose words from the word wall to fill in the spaces. When finished, the papers are exchanged and students try to solve each other’s word searches.
ACTIVITY 4: Wacky Words!
The teacher chooses a word from the word wall. The students spell the word out on the tabletop using a variety of materials such as: beans, magnetic letters, macaroni, pattern blocks, bottle tops, etc.
ACTIVITY 5: Dice Rolling
Each student is provided with a multi-sided alphabet dice. Each student rolls the dice and then looks for a word on the word wall that starts with the letter that was rolled. The word is recorded on a worksheet, paper or word wall notebook. Continue until the time is up. A towel can be placed on the table top to deaden the noise of the dice.
ACTIVITY 6: Word Sorts
The teacher selects twelve words from the word wall. The students copy the words onto sticky notes or small pieces of paper. The students sort the words according to a certain attribute (first letter, last letter, vowel sound, number of letters, nouns and verbs, etc.) Have students share their sort and explain the sorting rule. Re-sort according to a new attribute.
ACTIVITY 7: Mystery Word
Have one student choose a word wall word and make up three clues to the word. The first student who guesses the word correctly chooses the next word.
ACTIVITY 8: Chain Reaction
One student chooses a word from the word wall and each member of the group prints it on a strip of paper (e.g.: when). A second student chooses a word that starts with the last letter of the word when (e.g.: next). The two strips are glued together to start a chain. Continue on by finding a word that starts with the last letter of the previous word. The chains could all be joined together to make one long chain.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brenda is the Literacy Resource Teacher at her school. This part-time position allows her to plan fun literacy events when she isn’t busy in her own classroom.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s January 2009 issue.