5 Silly Misconceptions About Math and Literacy Centers

Centers are only for lower elementary grades, right? Busy work. That’s all centers are! I have heard it all before, and I am here to tell you it’s a pack of lies! There are so many misconceptions about math and literacy centers. So why are these misconceptions heard all of the time? Easy, they are believable. In fact, they are so believable that I thought all these misconceptions were true, but not anymore! Today, I’m going to bust the misconceptions and bring centers into all of your classrooms!

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Before We Get Started…Let’s Clear Something Up

There is a huge difference between the system of math and literacy centers, and the activities in them. Typically, the activities get all the focus but the system is incredibly important! The system of centers includes what rotation schedule you’re going to use, the number of centers you are going to include, grouping techniques, expectations, and more. The activities are what you do in the centers. That brings us to our first misconception.

#1: Math and Literacy Centers Are Only for Lower Elementary

The misconception that math and literacy centers are only for lower elementary is insane! Math and literacy centers are great for spiral review and enrichment. Therefore, they are perfect for every level of education. Many teachers believe math and literacy centers are only for lower elementary classrooms like kindergarten and first grade because they are thinking about the activities in the centers. However, it’s not about what you’re doing in your centers but how you are doing it.


If you have a system that works, then centers are great for all students whether they are fifth graders or twelfth graders. I taught a group of fifth graders, and I used centers. When I told my co-workers I was going to use centers, they looked at me like I was insane! I did it anyway. Guess what happened? My students LOVED it! When you put age appropriate activities in centers and have a great system in place, then centers are working for you no matter what grade you teach.

#2: Centers are TOO Time Consuming to Prepare!

Ok, this is one of those misconceptions about math and literacy centers that is going to completely depend on you. Can this be true? Yes. Does it have to be? No. It all depends on your setup! Having a good system in place that is predictable not only in the framework but also in activities will be a lifesaver for you. In fact, you’ll get time back! How do you make sure you get time back?


To begin, you have a system in place that works. Then you add activities that are easy to put together and maintain. Having a great supplies list is something that can go a long ways in making getting time back a reality! In addition, you want to make sure you have your organizing material labeled for easy grab and go centers! When your students are in centers, you don’t want them learning how to do something. That’s a recipe for disaster! Therefore, using similar activities is incredibly important. If you need to know more about how to create predictable centers, there are programs available to you that will help you get time back. Who doesn’t need more time?


#3: My Student CAN’T Work Independently in Small Groups


This misconception about math and literacy centers can be a touchy subject. The truth is, your students are like every other student in the country. They can work in groups independently as long as there are systems in place that work. The biggest piece of this is expectations. If you have solid expectations that you follow consistently, you will see your students can work while you are with another group; they can work without interrupting you for every little thing. This is typically, I’m sorry to say, a teacher issue, not a student issue. This doesn’t mean anything bad about you. It simply means you have to adjust your expectations or your system. Every group of students have their own personality. Because of this, each group will need their own unique set of expectations. However, the idea that your students just can’t work without you being a constant presence is simply not true.


#4: Math and Literacy Centers Are Just Busy Work!


The misconception about math and literacy centers being busy work is so frustrating! One thing we never have time for as teachers is every kind of review, but math and literacy centers can change that! Because students work independently in groups, you can easily differentiate instruction to push your students who get ahead and to help those who don’t get to the level of mastery you expect. When we teach a concept, we often have to keep moving because of time restraints. However, if you use math and literacy centers to implement spiral review, you are enhancing your students’ understanding of important concepts. Along with reaching mastery on various standards, your students get great test prep time as well!


#5: Centers Can’t Work During Virtual, Hybrid, or Social Distancing in the Classroom

This year has been a whirlwind with students and teachers at home, in the classroom, and in both places at once. Many teachers believe the misconception that math and literacy centers don’t work in this whirlwind. I’m happy to say this is a lie! You can convert your centers to digital centers by adapting your system to work. If you have center activities that are too complicated, that won’t work! You have to keep it stinkin’ simple with your activities. By doing so, you’ll have an easy transfer from in the classroom to online. Now, I know some of you might be adding a misconception within this misconception. What is that? My younger students can’t handle digital centers.  If you’re thinking that second and third graders couldn’t handle everything online, go back to misconception number three and remember anything is possible with the right system! Make sure you have clear expectations, and your students will do wonderful with centers no matter where they are!


There are so many misconceptions about math and literacy centers! No matter what you teach, elementary, first grade, fourth grade, middle school, or high school, you can use centers in your classroom. Having centers in your classroom will only enrich your students’ knowledge about concepts you’re currently teaching or have taught already making them perfect for test prep. Plus, you can easily differentiate for your students. But the biggest benefit of all? Your time! You can get your time back!

Until Next Time…

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