Can you believe we're just days from November?? I swear time just speeds up. Although at the moment I'm really antsy! Yes, in part because I want to get past the hopped-up on Halloween feeling in my classroom, but I'm also excited to switch out my writing station. It tickles me to see how much the kids are enjoying this!
Now that I'm in my 2nd year of doing this, I'm much more confident and things are running sooo much more smoothly (except for Working with Words--don't ask). As it's outlined in the Daily 5 book, the stations don't change too much. At least not the way centers used to! And that, I think, is why it is so easy to maintain. The kids always know the expectations and understand their choices and Teacher isn't run ragged trying to come up with something for the next week. But I've realized that kids need something new to keep their engagement fresh. So I've tried to devise a balance between predictablity and novelty. The station's framework stays the same all year, but the content changes monthly.
So here's what we've had goin' on in September:
I found these "Create-a-Prompt" flipbooks at Lakeshore. I was excited because 10 in a box = a new one each month. But the kids haven't really gotten into these. Oh, they love flipping through it to make silly setnences, but it hasn't sparked any real writing. :/ Oh well.
I had the Take-it-to-Your-Seat writing center folders last year (I also have science ones), but this year I got wise and am only putting out 4 or so a month. That way no one is getting sick of seeing the same thing.
One of the main things each month are the journal prompts. The expectations are constant, but displaying them in a novel way really keeps things interesting. This is a little bus box I got at Target. Inside are apple shapes from the dollar store. I just wrote the prompts on the back of each.
(Get the rest of the months' tags and journal prompts here.)The letter and list writing choices are the same as last year. I've accumulated a massive collection of $1 notepads from various stores. The kids are limited to one "fancy" paper a day--and they use it! Letter writing is still a favorite choice.
List writing has gotten more popular thanks to a lightbulb moment I had in the dollar store. I needed an excuse to buy the cute school bus notepad at the dollar store and decided to make it the "list writing notebook." Apparently all the kids needed was a way to share their writing because someone always has this out.
I bought a pumpkin notepad for October (from Target) and an owl for November (from Dollar Tree). Michaels had cute Mary Englebreit Christmas and "wintery" themed ones for cheap, so now I'm good until I can find a Valentine-y one!
The class journals are getting more use this year, too. The kids enjoy looking at last year's entries and then adding their own. They also write comments to each other. I love reading these stories.
The Research choice is one I introduced part-way through last year. I have an assortment of flashcards from the Target dollar spot on random topics: bugs, landmarks, presidents, musical instruments, American animals, etc. I also have a couple sets from Jo-Ann's on transportation and jobs. These cost a little more and they're about a 2nd grade reading level, but the ones from Target are on more interesting topics so they get used more. I switch out the decks each month.
The kids choose 1 card, read the information on the back, and fill out a paper. These are collected and each month I bind a class book. Having a format for publishing their work makes them much more excited about this choice!
In a few months I'll introduce the Rory's Story Cubes. These are cheap from Amazon. I made a class story book for these stories. For a few of my kids, this was their choice every day and even some of my reluctant writers were composing 3 page stories! Well worth $7.50!! However, when I made the class journal I didn't expect such epic stories. I just copied each page front and back. This year I'll fix it by adding lots of lined pages between stories. Maybe a binder would be more practical than a book. Hmmm...something to think about.
For birthdays I found this fun set from Really Good Stuff. On the day of a birthday, everyone is expected to write the birthday child a happy wish very first. Who wouldn't love getting a sackful of wishes?
Another writing choice is the Write & Publish center from Lakeshore. This is the only thing that's changed weekly.
I still have room on my writing board for one more choice. I haven't narrowed it down yet. I want to do something with poetry, but I haven't found an idea that really gels for me. I'm leaning toward "Super Sentence" writing, but I'm not sure. If I figure it out I'll let you know!
Check back tomorrow and I'll give downloads and lists for each month's writing activities!