Welcome to my week!! :)
Literactive as an alternative to Starfall:
I have been looking for quite awhile for a website that is as user friendly and valuable for reinforcing reading instruction as www.starfall.com. Lucky for the Starfall folks, I've not found anything that compares to them that is free. There is a nice site though, called Literactive which is free and has nice games---IF you aren't using Internet Explorer and you teach ahead of time how to navigate the site, which is full of small print and not as intuitive as Starfall. Still, literactive has a functional page called "road to reading" that is sequential in its phonics instruction activities. They also have many other skills and many other levels to choose from. I recommend this to anyone looking for something different. Also, Cookie.com is worth a try, with some teaching about navigation up front. I am consistently frustrated working in rooms at all ages levels with the lack of "computer procedures" taught up front. Please, teach your kiddies to scroll and navigate.... And look at the screen. Teach them the power of the computer or tablet as a learning tool!
Below is a pic of Oort if the user interface at Literactive.com:
I have been so very fortunate this year. I've seen some of the best center management techniques and some of the (ahem...) not best ;)
In the rooms that I've visited or taught that had the best behaviors and completed assignments were those rooms in which students could tell me why they were doing something. No matter the age, they need to be able to do that if you expect your centers to function well enough to pull guided reading groups while they're happening. If your Kindergarten students can't tell you why they're sifting through the big bin of magnet letters for all the "b's" then the center will be a mess and the learning piece of it disappears making it a waste of time. Conversely, if your Kindergarteners can tell you that they're looking for all the letter "b's" today because they're practicing the B sound and they're going to make a big B out of all the small B's-- that's purpose! There's your learning. And while you're pulling someone over to go over sight words or make predictions about a text, that learning is happening at another table without you. How powerful! The power lies in the purpose at all levels of learning!
Differentiating on the spot is ok:
In the urban schools that I have often found myself, there are challenges that seem impossible. It has been my experience that in public schools, many of these behaviors are not tolerated more than once or twice without a new placement for the child or some type of personal aide to keep them on task. In charter schools, it's a different story. The schools in which I've worked have fought hard to keep kids in class despite behaviors. Even though I refuse to agree or disagree in this issue (case by case basis is the name of the game for me) I will say that some of this behavior I struggle with coping with on a day to day basis. The young boy below is known for shouting, talking out, not keeping his hands tonhimself, never paying attention, and never completing any academic activities--- like, ever. His teacher is a first year teacher faced with other students with similar beavhior challenges, so how can she cope? Well, in modeling some best practices for her I suggested and showed her how to differentiate not he spot for kids and document it later. If she can't even get through math because he literally has no understanding of what math is other than sorting objects, then let him do that so you can have some peace while you explain addition to 20 to the rest of the class. I. The pic below, he needed to sort out all the pink letters-- ONLY PINK! And the. Tell me what they were at my convenience. Later, he had unified cubes that he just had to make into groups of ten. Simple, tangible, and he knew why he needed to do it. "You're going to do math now, if you can't do my math, you'll have this math to do", etc. he needs to know its math! Later, on his worksheet that he clearly did not do, make a note of what he did instead. Voila :)
Another thing about purpose:
Let's be honest, sometimes we write our plans knowing we need a read-aloud text to go with them, then we just grab a fiction or non fiction book off the shelf without really bothering to plan that text ahead of time. We just grab one that suits the genre and standard we want to teach. I don't think that really works. If I need my kids to pic out descriptive words and sequence events but then I grab "Skippy Jon Jones because it's one if my favorites, I've lost my purpose. Skippy Jon can be confusing and long, depending on which title you read. The. I'm giving kids answers to what happened first and next, because they're lost in the comprehension barrier. Choose read alouds ahead of time and with your purpose in mind. Also, keep 'em short and sweet :) carpet time is good for a change of scenery, but it's difficult to stay comfortable during it when you insist on "cross cross applesauce" for a prolonged amount of time.
Forgive my typos, friends. I did this whole post on my iPad this week :)