Teaching with centers or stations is not a new concept, but it has had a resurgence in many of the schools I have been to and in many of the trainings I have been leading. Elementary teachers, particularly in the primary years are masters at creating centers of learning for their students and engaging them in multiple experiences with limited equipment. For some reason as the students get older, we do less station like activities. Why? I truly believe our secondary students have a greater need of learning activities. When we only have a few devices, stations are the perfect way to spread the wealth. Although there is A LOT of preparation that goes into the creation of stations, the time spent in the classroom facilitating, individualizing, working with the students and sitting in groups with them is priceless relationship building. This “tuesdays” is designed to help you take a second look at doing centers (or stations) or rotations or whatever you like to call them.
A creative website
Just yesterday I came across the most gifted centers teachers I have ever seen! Scholastic has always been a leader in supporting teachers, but I was totally unaware of their Top Teacher area until Barbara brought this particular idea to my attention on Facebook. Erin Klein is a second grade teacher who has created a hybrid flipped classroom like none I’ve ever seen. Her gift is for organization, sharing and creating a practical and appealing classroom environment. On her Scholastic blog, she has shared how she has leveraged technology in ways that are so creative. Not only is she utilizing a modified flipped classroom, she has trained her students to become very independent learners in 2nd grade! Her real gift is that she has made all her classroom organizational forms available for download. Now there’s a Top Teacher for sure. I encourage you to check out her blog. It may be one of the best out there. I did notice that Scholastic is highlighting 10 Top Teachers, but for me, Erin is my pick!
An image to share
6th grade students in centers
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.
Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
There is no doubt that stations/centers in the classroom has its pros and cons. Teachers who use centers are the greatest advocates. Teachers who don’t use centers have many valid reasons such as pacing guides, pressures of testing, lack of planning time, etc., however I would like to encourage you to try one unit of study in a station setting this school year. So much of what we teach from the front of the room is not absorbed by our students even if they sit compliant, but when they are given an opportunity to get the same work that they may have had to do in class in a station setting, it suddenly takes on a more engaging environment. Being able to collaborate, work at your own pace and get to try technologies that are normally unavailable are great motivators for students. Don’t try to overdo it and bring out every great idea the first time you do centers or you will exhaust yourself. Instead create only 4 activities related to what you are studying and make 8 centers out of them (2 will be the same, of course). Put your students in small groups and rotate them through the activities. One of the most unused pieces of equipment in our classrooms is the projector as a station. Have the students do an activity using the teacher computer (logged out of everything important, of course) projecting to the screen. Even a one-computer classroom can have technology in centers. Talk to your colleagues about trying centers and I bet you will get a great deal of support. Who knows? It may be just the medicine needed to add engagement to your classroom.
How do you do that?
How do you tackle centers in your classroom? Little-by-little and step-by-step. My favorite centers patterns happened by accident. When I taught 8th grade math, I had four times in the year that I ran centers (one a quarter). With 32 students in my class, I had 8 groups of 4. I designed 8 activities that took a whole class period, which meant I had centers for 8 days. Instead of doing them 8 days in a row, I had centers on Mondays and Fridays for 4 weeks and taught normally on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays. The students and I really loved Monday and Friday centers because without planning it, I gave them four days off. There was no homework for them and no planning or papers to grade for me! One of the greatest tips I learned was to make sure I kept detailed information of their work in class and got everything graded while we were in the centers. Like any learning environment, teaching strategy or classroom management piece, nothing works all the time, but having a classroom with variety is one of the great gifts you can give your students.
As always, I am