Making First Grade FANTASTIC

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How I've Come to be "At Peace" with My Listening Center

I don't know about you, but whenever I opened up the listening center for my kiddos to use in past years, it was always so stressful.  First, most of my audio books were still on tape.  Do you know a child who even knows what a tape is anymore?  So, explaining how to use a tape player was a challenge.  Then, I had six pairs of headphones in one large perpetual knot.  That's always a delight!  And, while I have always had a very large library of audio books, I generally have only one or two copies of each book, so children had to share.  This became it's own monster...always arguing over who gets to hold the book and the inevitable child who just has to sit and listen because he can't see.  Doesn't really sound like an ideal situation to enjoy listening to books and improve reading fluency, does it?

The quest to improve my listening center started two years ago.  During the summer, I vowed to convert all my tapes to CDs.  Luckily, my husband has the equipment to do that, so all my tapes were converted to mp3 files, which I burned onto CDs.  Problem number one solved.  Every kid knows how to use a CD.

My next issues all revolved around storage: how to make books easily available and how to store those pesky headphones.  For this, I turned to DonorsChoose.  If you've never heard of DonorsChoose or haven't yet tried it, you are missing out!  It's a website for teachers to post grant ideas.  The public gets to choose grants and projects to fund.  I've had a total of five grants funded through this wonderful site.  Anywho...I turned to DonorsChoose and wrote a grant for a storage cart to house my book collection, organize headphones, and hold the CD player.  I also looked for a hanging bag storage system to hang many of my audio books.  Thankfully, both of these projects were funded last school year and I was able to better organize my listening center.  Problem number two solved.

Towards the end of last year, I still noticed that the headphones were still getting tangled and we were still having the issue of more children then books.  I got this idea then to ask for six individual CD players from DonorsChoose.  I was shocked when this project was funded almost immediately!  Problem number 3 solved.

So this year, for the first time, I am completely at peace with my listening center.  The generous donations from DonorsChoose made it possible for my students to listen to books of their own choosing. They can always see the words and pictures and never have to sit among a tangled mess.

This is what my listening center looks like now:

The books that are hanging are the ones my students are allowed to choose from.  I keep my other ones in the two drawers on the left.  I rotate them seasonally.  On the right, you can see that I have five stacked Ziploc containers.  Each one contains one CD player and headphones.  I also have storage for other CDs that I don't use as often.

This is how the CD players are stored.  I was very specific when I showed the children how to store the players.  The player goes in first, followed by the headphones, so they don't get crushed.  I know some schools required students to use their own personal headphones, but I just use disinfectant wipes, and have never had any issues.  

My students have taken extremely good care of the CD players this year.  Every single one works and is as good as new.  In case you're wondering, I've only had to change the batteries once, and that was this past week.

My listening center is always open now.  Children can use it during center time, but are also free to use it before school starts, after taking a test, or during indoor recess.  The other wonderful thing about setting up a listening center this way is the freedom the children have, not just to choose what they personally are interested in reading, but the freedom to choose where to sit.  Some children do better in a chair and some prefer to be sprawled out on the floor.  A few of my children like to sit in a quiet corner of the room and even under the coat hooks.

Not only am I at peace with my listening center now, but it really has made my classroom a more peaceful place.  

1 comment:

  1. I also highly recommend DonorsChoose. It's a well run program.