With the winter break ending and the children returning to school, now is an opportune time to reflect on what took place during the fall semester. When looking back, if you are pleased with how things went, then just a review of the expectations and procedures is needed. If, on the other hand, you are not satisfied with the structures and behaviors during the first half of the year, think of this as an opportunity for a fresh start--a time to try something new. The management and effectiveness of the centers in the classroom are areas that may need to be examined.
Centers can be valuable if they are structured properly. If, on the other hand, suitable thought and planning is not given, they can become areas of “busy work”, missed opportunities, and sources of classroom management issues. Some items to consider when creating centers include: Are the activities related to a skill or lesson that has previously been taught? Have the activities in the center been thoroughly demonstrated and explained to the students? Do the students grasp the skill to the degree that they can complete the task independently?
Today I will focus on just the last question. When classrooms are having difficulty during center time/rotations, one thing that I have found is that the work at the centers is above the students’ ability levels. To better clarify this issue, I will borrow the concept of independent, instructional, and frustration levels of reading fluency. Too often students are given work that is at their instructional level but are expected to complete it independently. This can result in students becoming frustrated, engaging in off-task behavior, and disturbing other students.
When these behaviors occur, the teacher can no longer focus on the small group she is working with, but instead her focus is divided between the small group and the undesired behaviors of the students in the other areas of the room. Thus, neither group of students benefits as much as they could from this time.
Although the solution is straight forward, it can only happen if the planning occurs beforehand.