Planning a Successful Center

In my previous blog post, I introduced the topic of center management.  In this post, I will continue the discussion of centers.  

 

When developing a center the first step is to determine its objective.  In other words, what will the students gain from visiting this center?  Will the children review a previously learned concept, will it be an opportunity to interact with new tools/materials that will be used in a future lesson, will it be a time for children to explore individual areas of interest, or will it have another purpose?  I am sure I am not the only person who, early in my educational career, heard/read about an interesting idea and created a center around that activity.  I selected an activity and then found a way to make it into a lesson.  In other words, I started at the end and worked backwards.  For a center to be most effective, the purpose must “drive” the creation, not the other way around. 

 

In addition to determining the purpose and developing the activities for the center, decisions regarding its introduction need to be considered.  I have visited classrooms where teachers tell me that the students are not really engaged in the center work.  The question I consistently pose is, “Have you discussed the purpose of the center with the students?”  A common response is, “No, but they know why they are doing it.”  If we do not discuss the purpose and VALUE of the activity, we should not be surprised when the children do not engage in the center activity. 

 

Another area to consider prior to “opening” a center is the behavioral expectations.  These expectations need to be discussed, demonstrated, and then practiced by the students before the center is used. Finally, such things as: can the students work with a partner or is it an independent activity; what do the students do when they have questions; what do they do if they complete the center activity and there is still time left in that rotation; and other such housekeeping issues need to be addressed.

 

As I mentioned in the previous post, a center can be a valuable learning opportunity, but just like all good teaching, prior thought and planning must take place for that to occur. 

 

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Training Spotlight

1st-3rd grade educators worked together to learn engaging ways to develop number sense. Students will develop fact fluency while playing games that use their number sense strategies. By learning their facts in this way, students are not merely memorizing, but rather learning to work with numbers flexibly.  “Low achievers are often low achievers not because they know less but because they don’t use numbers flexibly – they have been set on the wrong path, often from an early age, of trying to memorize methods instead of interacting with numbers flexibly.” Jo Boaler,  Stanford University, 2009

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