How I Target Specific Skills with File Folder Centers
Do you use centers in your classroom? I do and it’s my favorite time of day! My students love working on activities independently and with partners. I love having even more time to work with small groups. It’s a win-win! What I noticed though, (as we get closer to test season in third grade) is that most of the passages and prep we use hit A LOT of skills. Spiraling is necessary but I also wanted to take a step back and target specific skills that I’ve taught throughout the year and see how students were doing with them in isolation. I decided to create a center where I could target skills one at a time and really see the strengths and weaknesses of my students. It ended up morphing into a file folder center and once I started creating them, I couldn’t stop! (I really couldn’t, just look at all of the centers I’ve created so far!)
In my state (Virginia), we have TEI items included on our end of year tests. TEI stands for technology enhaced item and it is basically any type of question that isn’t a multiple choice, A-D type question. TEI questions can be drag and drop, fill in the blank, use the descriptors to complete a graphic organizer, build a graph based on a set of data, etc. I knew my students needed practice with manipulating pieces of given data, so I decided to make all of my center activities a sort. For each activity, students sort or place word cards into a template or graphic organizer.
I also wanted to students to be able to work the center entirely by themselves so that I could work with a small group without being interrupted. I included student-friendly directions and a description of the skill on the cover of each center. I even put all my answer keys in a red binder that is stored in the center crate. As students finish, a group mate will check their work with the answer key and let them know if they need to fix anything. I was completely free to focus my attention elsewhere!
I decided that each file folder center needed the same design pieces: cover for the outside of the folder, sorting mats for the 2 pages inside the folder, sorting cards, and a user friendly answer key.
The cover of each folder has not only the title of the center, but what that skill means (just in case they forgot what a prefix is) and directions for how to complete the center. Directions. The bane of my existence. Does anyone else have students that love to say “I don’t understand it” before they have even read the directions. *heavy sigh* It’s a skill they need for testing because sometimes a question needs to be answered in a certain way before they can move on with the test and I can’t give them any help if they skip over the directions. So, I decided directions on the cover were a must and I made a promise to myself that I would NOT explain a center. I’m proud to say that I have never had to. I walked my students through the set up of the centers before I let them loose and now if someone dare ask, a peer will come to their rescue before they have to face the wrath of my teacher glare.
Inside the folders I basically have two graphic organizers serving as sorting maps. I really wanted to work this into student comprehension. Sometimes, students have to read text to complete the center, and that can be found on the inside pages. I laminated all of the pages to the folder, so everything is one piece and stays together. When the students are done sorting the cards between the two interior pages, they can check their work with an answer key. Like I said above, I keep all of my answer keys in a red binder inside the center crate for students to check each other’s work. I knew I wanted to structure it like this, so I took special care when creating the answer keys to make them student friendly.
Center Organization and Storage
All of my ELA file folder centers are in a pink file crate. Inside are all of the file folder centers that I’ve created. I separated my file folder activities into categories, with color-coded files, so it’s easy for students to know which group of skills I want them to work on each day. The categories I’ve created so far are word analysis, nonfiction, fiction, and reference material. I started out with 5 centers per category and it has been more than enough. I kept adding each week as my students mastered skills. The answer keys are all stored inside page protectors in the answer key binder so that little fingers don’t rip or tear.
Give it a Try!
Are you a member of my TeacherBoss community? If not, sign up! I will be emailing out my compound words centers as a freebie in the April 1st weekly email. Test it out and let me know what you think. If you don’t want to wait, you can check out all of the file folder centers that are available in my store right now.
If you’re in a testing grade and you’re curious to hear more about how I prepare my students for that dreaded end of year test, click here!
Talk to you soon,