When Sanity is Hard to Come By…

It’s been a while since I posted. I could make up some excuse why, but let’s be real. Teaching is hard work on a GOOD day. Teaching is exponentially harder on not-so-good days. This year has seen many not-so-good days.  So I’ve been avoiding the teaching blog world, because it’s depressed me. Reading about a happy happy happy classroom would be uplifting, if I felt I was in the same boat.  Instead though, I’ve felt immense guilt. Guilt because I go to bed stressed, wake up stressed and angry, walk around wanting to scream, and have likely developed about 18 new twitches.

I feel like, as important as it is to post about the happy, fun, exciting times in the classroom, it’s probably equally important to let others know that you are NOT alone in the rough times.  This year, we experienced the joy of rezoning. Those of you who have been in this place understand the sarcasm here. Rezoning is chaos. However, always up for a challenge, I faced the year with optimism. Hadn’t I always been praised for my strong classroom management? Surely, I could handle a few new little friends, no matter where they came from. I would just teach them how things have always worked here, they would fall into line, and things would be fine. Well. Reality soon slapped me in the face, over and over again.

However, things have improved and today was good. I can’t explain why, but for once, I didn’t have to silently will myself to count to ten throughout the day. Only one kid had to be sent out for screaming during a test. Progress!  So feeling optimistic again, I decided it was worth posting about the things that HAVE gone well in my room. And what the heck, why not give something away in celebration of a GOOD day?

Let’s talk centers. It’s hard to trust that your kids will do what is expected of them in centers. And the truth is, some wont. But the majority of your students likely WILL benefit from this combination of independent practice, partner work, and the consistent change-up to break up the monotony of the subject.

I now do centers for ELA and Math.

I’ve posted about my Math centers before. We do the basic math workshop model, in which students get time with me, time to practice math facts,  hands-on activities, and independent practice at their seats.

We are fortunate enough to have iPads for every 5th grader in our school. This makes life a ton easier when planning for centers, but I also like to make sure they have plenty of time to use their hands and TALK with others.

This student is working on an assignment on ThinkCentral (Go Math!) during seat work.

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This is the math facts center. I created a bunch of Word Worth activities (soon to be posted on TPT!) In essence, each letter has a worth. The students have to solve a multiplication of division problem to figure it out. They create a word, find out the worth of each letter, and then add each letter up to find its worth. The kids LOVED figuring out whose name was worth more.

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Students are practicing that ordered pair goodness at the hands-on center. I created a coordinate grid version of Battle Ship that the kids had a blast with. This also will be posted soon!

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These students were playing Boom! during their visit with me to practice their multiplication facts. This gets a bit loud, but it’s ALL in the learning. 🙂

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Some of my students are far past the need to memorize their facts. For these students, they require a bit of enrichment to stretch their minds. These students were working on creating a picture by connecting ordered pairs.

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I LOVE Math simply because of how quickly things seem to move. I teach whole group for about 15-20 minutes, and then off into groups we go.

ELA was a bit harder to get started. This year, we began the introduction of Common Core and a whole new reading series. Learning a new text book and a curriculum is not easy. I’m still figuring things out, but I have at least gotten centers started. Instead of having them ability grouped, they get to choose two centers a day. They then must choose the other two centers the next day. But they enjoy the freedom of this Daily 5-Like structure, and I do too. My kids know that I can pull them at ANY time and they are not allowed to whine about being pulled away from their center! 🙂

I’ve established, for now, the following centers for my kids:

Fluency (reading with a partner, using a rubric to “score” fluency, and re-read until time is up)


Science (we are tested in Science by the state, boo)

AR/Silent Reading

During this time is when I pull small groups for intervention.


Silent reading. This kid is an avid reader, and always chooses this center first!



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Fluency, in its various forms. Whatever works!

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The beloved Science center. Here, I dusted off those boxes of rocks and minerals. The kids picked two rocks or two minerals, and compared and contrasted them. They used their iPads to make t-charts or venn diagrams. They thought they were happy enough until handed out the magnifying lenses…which quickly caused shrills of excitement. It’s the little things, I suppose. Regardless, the kids were not happy to be pulled away from this center at alllll.

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Picture 1

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On this particular day, we played Pictionary to practice our vocabulary. The past few days, they had practiced with flash cards and whatnot, but this was more fun! In partners, the kids got to look over their vocabulary list for the week and draw a picture of one of the words. Their partner had to figure out what word they were showing. Tons of fun!

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Now, onto the freebie.

One of my newest products on Teachers Pay Teachers is this set of Fall-Themed Main Idea Task Cards. They’ve been selling quite a bit lately, and if my own classroom is any indication, they are a great way to reinforce the concept of main idea and supporting details. There are 20 task cards; 12 expository and 8 narrative.

I would love to give TWO sets away to the first two commenters in this post, letting me know this: Do you use centers in your classroom, or not yet? If so, do you just love it or does it drive you nuts??


3 thoughts on “When Sanity is Hard to Come By…

  1. Is it too late to get that freebie? LOL I just found your blog and LOVE IT! I keep thinking of diving into the blogging world! I am a first year teacher (Dec. Graduate) I loved using “centers” with my 3rd graders! I am *hopefully* going to switch to math centers this year as well!

    Any tips on centers?

    • Never too late! I just emailed the file to the email address attached to your username. 🙂

      Centers are seriously life saving. I really enjoyed teaching Math that way, in particular, because my kids were at such different levels and it really helped me intervene with my lows. The biggest thing I can emphasize is the need to go over the routine and expectations over and over and over again. I didn’t mind stopping in the middle of rotations, bringing them to the floor, and going back over the “looks like, sounds like” deal…and this was with 5th graders. I would have a t-chart up with the “looks like, sounds like” ideas, with input from the kids, and refer back to it as often as necessary. Consistency is the only way I was able to help my kids make gains throughout the year, with centers.

      I created the MASH model for my math centers, which you can see over here: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Math-MASH-Up-Making-Math-Workshop-Work-for-You-840729

      I will be teaching only ELA this upcoming year, but using centers for Math really saved my sanity! I hope you do the switch too…you won’t regret it!

  2. I really enjoyed this whole post. I have recently discovered your blog and I am so inspired to start creating some of my own products and things to organize my classroom. My school is departmentalizing this year, which I am very excited about. I will only be teaching reading, so I am very interested in incorporating centers/rotations into our daily routine. I did a rotation last year that was basically 2 assignments the students had to complete and 1 “teacher time” where we either reviewed what the students completed independently or I prepped them for their independent work. It was my first year teaching PLUS the new curriculum for the common core. Looking back, I definitely want to make it more fun and engaging for my students. Thanks for all the freebies and ideas! Happy Summer!!

    Is is too late for the Fall-Themed Main Idea Task cards? 🙂

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