Jennifer uses an inquiry-based approach in her classroom, where her students are able to explore, analyze and question in different learning centres. Small-group instruction is a key component to her program, and she uses her centres time to be able to meet with small groups to do guided reading and move students in their learning as readers.
In order to set-up this structure in her classroom, Jennifer started the year with only a couple of centres open. Students learned how to use the centre, and what to do, and things were well planned out so students could work independently. Slowly, as the year progressed, other centres were introduced and now Jennifer has a variety to choose from when organizing her learning centre time.
As students work in their centres, Jennifer reads with a small group, and also finds some time to do reading conferences with individual students, usually one a day. In her guided reading, she works on strategies her students need. Every group has a different focus depending on their needs. Some may need to work on one-to-one correspondence or directionality, while others focus on a picture walk. The strategies that she teaches are then focused on at home, with their home reading book.
In this lesson, she guided the children through how the pictures can help us with the story by taking them on a picture walk to begin. From there, students read individually in different places on the carpet and Jennifer met quietly with each to do a quick running record.
Important to the management piece is having a spot where students know to meet for guided reading. Jennifer uses the big sun on her carpet as her guided reading spot so students know where to go.
While Jennifer meets with a group, or reads individually with a child in a reading conference, the other students explore in different learning centres. Here are a few examples from her classroom:
Students explore what happens when you mix oil and water, with food colouring added for effect.
Later in the year, Jen brought tadpoles into her room and the students made and recorded their observations:
Different programs, such as Sammy's Science House, Millie's Math House or Bailey's Book House, help students learn more about a particular subject.
When at this station, students create a craft or artpiece connected to a theme. Here they are creating cherry blossoms for Chinese New Year.
This centre changes often to include a different focus and possible media texts. It was set up as a grocery store and students helped Jennifer by bringing in and then pricing the items.
Using a variety of manipulatives, students explore and make connections to the math strand being studied. Jennifer has included different utensils for students to use to pick up the manipulatives to strengthen their fine motor skills.
At this centre, students are free to write, using the resources and materials they need.
Students were inquiring about how to make the most bubbles. Jennifer added soap to the water and had different tools for them to use.
Stories on tape allow for students to follow along while listening to them being read.
Students are free to paint and explore colour as they create their masterpiece.
Instead of having one set time for all children to eat their snack, the snack centre is embedded into the centres time and students are free to eat when they need or want to. This allows them to self-regulate and build independence to decide what they need, when they need it.
For more information about guided reading in the primary grades, please click on the following link: eWorkshop: Guided Reading