With all of the amazing new technology resources available, it can be a bit overwhelming deciding which ones to use in our classrooms or where to begin. I've compiled a list of the literacy centers I feel are the most beneficial to my students and that encompass the major components of a balanced literacy program. The following ideas are free, easy to manage, and can be adapted to fit any grade level.
This was, by far, my students’ favorite literacy center because they got to use their favorite program on the Macs—Photo Booth. I would set out reader’s theater scripts so they could practice a few times with their partner and then read it into Photo Booth. They would play it back and decide if they needed to re-do it by self-evaluating their fluency. Your fluency center can also be done individually with any text that’s below the students’ instructional reading level. Kids love Photo Booth because they are able to see themselves perform and there are many neat effects they can add, such as a space background. If you find Photo Booth to be too distracting for your students at times, you might want to try Garage Band since it is audio only. You can hold students accountable at this center by setting out a fluency self-evaluation form, or even a graph to chart their fluency progress over the course of the year.
Online Listening Center:
I frequently use listening centers in my classroom because they provide a good model of fluency and expose students to new vocabulary and story elements. Heidi Raki recently referenced her three favorite sites with free online storybooks for children, which you can find here. It’s always a good idea to have students respond in some way to the story and, if possible, let them know their task ahead of time. You might have them fill out a graphic organizer about the plot or main idea. For the younger ones, you might want them to simply write or draw a picture about their favorite part or character. Today’s Meet, an online chat room, is another interactive way for students to respond to a story. You can learn more about Today’s Meet and how easy it is to use from my recent post on my blog by clicking here.
Online Leveled Books Center:
Since my school purchased the digital version of Pearson’s Reading Street, I was able to assign books to my students by reading level. If your school does not have Pearson, there are many other great websites out there with leveled ebooks. Here is a list of 147 FREE sites with ebooks for kids. I always had my students complete some type of response activity at this center, similar to the listening center.
Spelling and Vocabulary Center:
I set up the FREE version for my class on Spellingcity.com so that they could practice their weekly words at school and at home. Once you enter your weekly words, it creates fun and interactive games that correspond with the list. Spelling City is extremely easy for the teacher to set up and manage. This center is a fun one to do in small groups on the SMARTboard if you have limited access to computers/iPads.
Miscellaneous Skill Practice Using Notebook or Keynote/Powerpoint:
These programs are extremely easy for teachers and kids to use to manipulate words and objects. The skills your students practice at this center will vary depending on your objective. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I would first check SMART Exchange to see if another teacher had already created a Notebook file on the particular skill I was teaching. If I found something I liked, I would download it for free and make any changes to fit our needs. I also used Keynote, which is the same as PowerPoint on a PC, to create activities on word sorts and word endings because of how easy it was to use.
I would love to hear which of these ideas you’ve tried or plan on trying, and also any other tech literacy centers that are staples in your classroom.