Getting them from HERE to THERE…Starting Your Literacy/Daily 5 Stations in Kindergarten

As teachers embarking on the beginning of the school year, we have these visions of how our literacy stations will ‘go.’  In our mind, we see our students working on meaningful tasks at their level and engaged for the duration of their station time throughout the classroom while we work with a small group of students on particular skills or tasks they need in order to be successful readers.  It’s good to have these visions of where we want our class to be. . . eventually.  But the real question in kindergarten is, how do we get them from HERE to THERE.
getting from here to there
Get them from playing and exploring with materials (HERE) to using those same materials in meaningful ways during center/station time (THERE). 
HERE, of course, is the first day of school impulsive, not knowing what to do, where to go, when to go, how to do it or how to work cooperatively when doing it and THERE being the well oiled learning machine in our vision. Whether you’re a Daily 5 teacher or a Literacy Centers type teacher…you have to have a plan to get them from HERE to THERE. And in kindergarten, that is an Olympic size feat worthy of a gold medal once accomplished.  It takes a lot of training . . . and baby steps.  I’m going to attempt to take a stab at explaining how I do it.  It’s going to be slow going, and it will take several posts . . . but I think in the end you’ll see how it works.  And who knows, maybe you’ll find something you can use in your own classroom.
My Daily 5 (Daily 6 in my classroom) Schedule.  Just to note, I don’t label my groups by numbers.  It’s labeled this way to make understanding my rotations a little easier in this post. Also, this is what my ‘4 weeks down the road’ schedule will be.  Towards the second half the year, I also add read to a friend to one of these stations.
To begin with, have a plan of how your stations/centers are going to rotate and transition.  It doesn’t really matter if you’re a Daily 5 teacher or a Literacy Center type teacher, you’re going to have groups and you’re going to need to rotate and transition.  Decide how many students you want to have in each group and work back from there.  Last year, I had 28 kinders and I knew I couldn’t possibly have more than 5 in a group (and that was stretching it) so I had a total of 6 stations going at any given time.  My stations lasted 20 minutes and students traveled to 3 stations each day.
** I need to put a note in here, because I know that many teachers have their students choosing their own stations each day and then the teacher calls students to come work with them at their table as needed.  While I think it’s great if you do this successfully in your classroom, this just never has worked for me.  I find too many kinders have trouble leaving a station they are engaged at to come and do meaningful work with me.   I have always had better luck at this grade level with having them rotate into my station and knowing exactly which stations they would be visiting on a given day.  While I understand choice is a huge motivator for students, I have found other ways to provide them choices throughout the day and within stations so that not choosing which stations to go to and when has never been a real issue in my own classroom.
Now I don’t know how to tell you this, but those first few days (weeks) your students are most probably not going to be able to attend to one station for 20 minutes.  As with anything, you need to build up stamina. Your goal these first few weeks is to get your kinders accustomed to your routine and procedures for these stations AND to explore and become familiar with materials and activities that they will be using in those centers so they can become independent and do meaningful work when the time comes.
They become familiar by exploring these stations.  So be ready to give them lots of opportunities those first days to play with materials, explore and handle them in order to get it ‘out of their system.’  I’m here to tell you, if you don’t give them the opportunity to explore those materials before hand, they’ll be doing it later when they’re suppose to be ‘working.’ 

Ok so what do those first two weeks ‘LOOK’ like?  I’m going to show you.  But before I do remember, the goal is to learn routines and procedures and to let them explore and become independent.  That being said,  I have 6 stations going at one time.  This year I have a student teacher at the beginning of the year so I will have two ‘Teacher Led’ or ‘Meet the Teacher’ stations within those 6.  Those first couple of weeks of school, I’m not doing guided reading.  Those teacher led stations are for introducing materials and activities and stepping back as quickly as possible to see where they need assistance and guidance.  In this schedule, you will see there are stations I labeled as ‘exploring’ meaning there really isn’t any instruction other than ‘explore,’ and there are stations that are labeled as ‘independent.’  Independent stations are the ones that have already been introduced by a teacher and that should be familiar to students.  Will they be perfect? No, but you re-address issues during your post station whole group meeting.  It will get better. Trust me.So take a quick look and see how I have them set up:

This is week one.


And this is week two.  



If you want to download these so you can take a better look at them, go ahead.  I put them on a google doc. I know some of you are looking at this schedule and saying…’where’s read to self.’  We work on read to self as a whole group until they are able to do it for 15 minutes.  Once they build their stamina up to that point, I move it into my station rotation.  Also please note, these are the activities and stations that I am going to be using in my class so I like to have my students become familiar with them as quickly as possible so that when they change thematically or seasonally, they are familiar with the materials and procedures. You don’t have to use these activities.  These are just what I like.  You may have completely different ideas and activities and that is perfectly OK.  I just want to give a little visual of the Back to School Stations I will be using so you can see what some of these activities might look like as your students explore and then as they transition into independent, meaningful work. So here’s a little tour…

Exploring Bingo Dotter Work

Yes, they’re going to want to smell them. These are Scento Bingo daubers after all.  Even when they Scentos, you may find them wanting to smell them.  Either way, they need to play with them a little before they can use them correctly.  So, let them play with daubers.
And then they can get to work, dotting their way from A to Z.
Play-doh Letter Mats
Play-doh and play-doh mats are SO great for building fine motor while working on letter recognition.
Write the Room Work
Using a clipboard and finding the cards are the first steps…
Once they get how to do that, they can get down to business.
Magnets and Alphabet Charts
Use any kind of alphabet manipulative you would like.  I usually start out with letter magnets, but you can build interest and engagement by having them use letter beads, letter rocks, Scrabble tiles or whatever you have available.
Exploring I-Spy Activities and Magnifying Glasses
Yep, I guarantee you they will do this….
. . .before they can do this!  But they WILL use those magnifying glasses correctly when it’s time, if you give them chance to explore with them first.
Sensory Table Exploring and Rhyming
They will want to play in those noodles  . . .
. . . before you show them how they can they start matching up those rhymes.
And the same goes for What’s Missing?
or Working with Linking Letters
(These plastic links can be used in so many ways.  They are great for letter order and building words.)
your Letter Sorting Mats
 . . .and your writing center work.
This by no means covers everything you need to know.  I want to come back and show you how these stations look in my lesson plans, how they are physically organized, how I introduce choices within the stations and what my task board looks like before we even talk about tiering.  But I think it can give you a good idea of those first few weeks and how you work towards getting them independent and getting your Daily 5 or Literacy Stations up and running.
Definitely leave me questions and comments. I’d love to hear from you.  If you’d like to learn more about the activities above, just click on the pictures.  You will find most of these activities in my Back To School Work Work Galore pack.



Marsha Moffit McGuire

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