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4 Ways to Use Independent Center Activities for Elementary

Are you afraid to use centers right now because it's just not safe? Centers are great for so many things! Review! Test prep! Enriching material! Collaboration! The list really goes on and on. However, there are times when we want students to be on their own to see specifically what that student knows. In order to do that, you need independent center activities for elementary students that will keep them engaged, and, in today’s world, healthy.

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1: Make Individual Centers Cleanable

We all know that elementary students are essentially walking petri dishes. Kids are simply not good at scrubbing away the germs so it’s important that we keep our centers clean. In order to do that, you can create reusable center pieces with a laminator, laminating sheets, and the use of Expo markers. Because laminated papers are easy to clean, you can use them over and over. Expo markers are great because you can erase them which makes one copy enough! All of the paper centers out there can be cleaned if the time is taken to make them cleanable. In order to make a usually unsafe activity safe, you simply have to add a step to your center set-up: clean up time.

When students are finished, they simply need to spray or wipe down their center materials with a Clorox wipe. In addition, you can add a mini hand sanitizer to your stations for use before and after the activities. If you use this method, you will need to make more than one copy of the center activity. If you don't want more than one copy, you will need to have more than one activity that reinforces the same skill.


2: Divide Center Activities and Conquer

Another way you can create independence in centers is by dividing up activities and re-adjusting your framework a bit. For example, if you are using a center that has students putting synonyms together, you can divide up the number of matches they need to make into multiple centers. This will help spread out your center activities. Plus, it also chunks the material which can help create a deeper understanding. You can add a step to the activity like using both words in a sentence and have them type them up on a Google Document or another digital resource. By adding another step, you don't have to rework your center schedule.


3: Create Independent Center Activities with Digital Centers

One of the easiest ways to create independent center activities in a one-to-one elementary school is to utilize digital centers. Digital centers are great for differentiation, cleanliness, and non-group work. When using digital centers, students can work independently. Plus, if the school is one-to-one, there is no cross contamination between electronic devices. To keep things safer, you can use covers, like the iPad case, that are easy to sanitize at the end of the day. In addition, there are so many technology tools online that you can use to make independent digital centers fun and engaging. From Boom Cards to Kahoots, you can keep students learning while not having to make too many (or any) trips to the copy machine.


4: Forget the Worksheet with Independent Centers Activities in Elementary

Finally, to create independent centers in elementary classes you can skip the worksheet and focus on the process. While we often think of projects and long term activities as group work, it is possible to allow a student to work on a process or a step-by-step activity over the course of several centers. By focusing on the process, you can have students working at different stages of the same activity without having to make a ton of copies.

For example, on day one, you might have all students complete the same three tasks. You might have your students read an article, hypothesize, and then start the process. Then, each day you can have different students looking at a different angle of the project. For example, if you are writing a short story, have students work on various elements at different times. Some students might be working on setting in one area while the others are creating their character etc. In addition, a lot of this work can be done online so it doesn’t become a lot of work for you! By doing so, you can have students working toward the same goal but taking various paths to get there.


Creating independent centers for elementary can be hard because we want our students to collaborate. However, when it’s time to know who knows what, independent centers can be telling for teachers and students. By using independent centers, you can differentiate for students on an individual level and help them master the content.

Until Next Time…

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