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Using Work Stations in Your Classroom

by Debbie Diller

Excerpted from Literacy Work Stations: Making Centers Work by Debbie Diller

What is a Work Station?

A literacy work station is an area within the classroom where students work alone or interact with one another, using instructional materials to explore and expand their literacy. It is a place where a variety of activities reinforces and/or extends learning, often without the assistance of the classroom teacher. It is a time for children to practice reading, writing, speaking, listening, and working with letters and words.

Instructional Materials

Instructional materials already used in teaching go into the work stations. The idea is for the teacher to model how to use the materials first, using them with the students to be sure they understand how to use them, then moving these materials into the work stations for independent practice.

A Variety of Activities

Choice is an important feature in making literacy work stations successful. A station should include a variety of things for children to choose from, but there shouldn’t be so many choices that the children feel overwhelmed. Aim for what I call “controlled choice.” Provide several choices of activities within a work station. Any of the activities there should provide the practice the child needs, but allowing the child to choose the activity will enable him or her to learn more.

Time for Children to Practice

The emphasis at literacy work stations is on practice— meaningful, independent practice. It is a time for children to practice all that the teacher has been modeling. Thus, activities placed at the literacy work stations grow out of what the teacher has done during read-aloud, shared reading, modeled writing, shared writing, small-group instruction and so on. Things aren’t put into the work stations just to keep children busy.

The Handwriting Work Station

Materials you may wish to include at your handwriting work station include a variety of writing implements (pencils, pens, crayons, markers), writing paper, and handwriting posters demonstrating proper letter formation. If available, you may also wish to include Touch and Trace Cards™ , magnetic letters, and a write-on, wipe-off board.

After each letter has been modeled, students can use the handwriting work station to practice writing letters in various media and choose “my best letter,” teach a partner how to make a letter, and trace a letter multiple times in different colors to make a rainbow letter. You might also copy appropriate Practice Masters onto transparencies and make these available at the overhead along with dry erase pens to add novelty to handwriting practice.

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