Using student centers helps your students become more independent in their learning, differentiate instruction, and provide intervention. Try these 5 tips to use student centers in your classroom.
Display Instructional Slides.
To begin, each day, I make sure to display slides that let my students know what is going to happen. This includes the agenda for each of the centers and the objectives for the day. If the students have any homework, that is also listed. Making sure instructions are visible will keep your students on task. You’ll also want to go over directions verbally for auditory learners.
Create a rotation board.
Have a digital or bulletin board with your classroom centers and the order of the group rotation. You may choose to start with just a few centers. Don’t overcomplicate it! No matter what you choose, your students will be learning! Let your students know where they can find the rotation board and how it works.
Go over expectations for each center.
Make sure to model what it looks like to be an active and engaged participant in each center. For some centers, that may be talking to classmates and sharing ideas. Others may be more independent work. You’ll also want to explain where to find materials in the designated storage area.
Don’t do more than a few stations a day.
Even if you choose to have six stations like I do, you won’t want to have six every day! Have two or three each day and keep your groups as small as you can for maximum engagement. This is KEY for new teachers still trying to strengthen their classroom time management too!
Play some music or use some attention getters to transition between center rotations. (One of my favorites is “Hocus Pocus. . .Everybody Focus!”) Practice what to do when they hear the transition signals BEFORE you use it the first time. Veteran Teacher Tip #1: Have a classroom timer that’s projected on screen to make sure kids know how much time they have to work on center activity!! Also make sure you have a timer set or use music or sounds to transition. This lets your students know they should be wrapping things up. I love using free online stop-watches from www.online-stopwatch.com. They have a TON of fun timers you can use in your classroom for FREE!
Veteran Teacher Tip #2: Give certain students (kids can get anxious about being timed) a warning before center is over so they don’t have anxiety if they need that extra time to clean/wrap up!
You may choose to use table groups for your center rotations. However, it’s OK to switch up groups. Using data from assessments for homogenous groupings according to reading or math skills levels can help you work with small groups on targeted skills. Some days, you may have centers where students are working in collaboration with one another and may choose to have more heterogeneous groupings of varied levels. Don’t be afraid to challenge your students and allow them to show independence.
Using centers has been such a valuable experience for my young learners. From independent reading to technology centers, you can use centers for any content area and grade level. It’s not going to be perfect when you first start. Allow yourself some grace, and be sure to ask questions of colleagues who have tried centers before. Also my New Teacher Masterclass is the perfect place to start to get tips to use student centers! You can learn more about my course and other time saving tips HERE!