Student Expectations for Math and Literacy Centers Made Easy

Picture this! You have spent hours perfecting your centers. They are neat and orderly and ready to rock! Sounds like a dream right? But then the unknown variable enters the room: your students. Soon they are off task. Someone is “done” but has only answered half of the first question. Another student is interrupting you at your teacher table to tell you her dog had puppies last night. What happened?! All that planning and it’s still a mess? To avoid this scenario, and many more, you need to ensure you have easy to follow student expectations during math and literacy centers.

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What Caused the Problem?

So, what went wrong? While you had everything ready to rock and it looked beautiful, you forgot a crucial step: setting expectations. When you create centers, you need to do more than just get the content ready and framework ready. You have to make sure you get your students ready as well.

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How to Create Clear Student Expectations

When you are making student expectations for centers, you need to have no gray area! These instructions need to be black and white no matter what the expectation is. For example, if you have a time limit for cleanup time, your students should know exactly what their role is during those few minutes. By having clear cut expectations, there is no room for questions and students have no excuse to not follow your rules.

Practice Your Student Expectations for Math and Literacy Centers

When you are starting your math and literacy centers, you want to make sure you not only set the expectation but also practice the skills. You should practice every single day even if you aren’t using centers. You can practice what your rotation looks like, how to handle interruptions, and how to handle questions. It does not have to be a long practice, just a few minutes before going to lunch or when you’re transitioning from one activity to another. This can be huge for classroom management! When you practice the skill BEFORE actually implementing your centers, you are setting your student expectations high for center time.

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Consistency is Always Key with Student Expectations in Centers

Much like your general student expectations, your student expectations during math and literacy centers should not waiver. Do not let anything slide just this once because that slide is a slippery slope and all of your students are going to want a turn. Make sure you are deducting points or giving the proper consequences to students for not following the expectations you set before them. Being consistent with your consequences and your expectations is vital to the success of your math and literacy centers.

What Should Your Student Expectations in Centers Be?

When you are sitting down to think about what your student expectations should be, it can be hard to think of everything. A few things to consider when looking at expectations include noise level, where to put complete and incomplete work, what cleanup should look like and how long it should last, as well as overall behavior expectations.

Noise Level

When writing down what your noise level should be, consider your students’ grade level and explain where their voice should be in terms they understand. You can create a color system for this. For example, green level could be whispering, yellow a conversational tone, and red is your outside voice. Give students a warning if they are getting too loud.

Compete and Incomplete Work

Whether you’re online or in person, you want to make sure you are organized as possible. All students work at different levels and different paces. Therefore, each student is going to take a different amount of time to get things done. Have a digital and physical folder for your students to put complete and incomplete work in.

Student Expectations in Centers During Cleanup

When doing cleanup for your math and literacy centers, have a job for each person there. You can use lanyards to signify who has what job. Finally, get a timer, it shouldn’t only take a minute or two to cleanup a center area and move to next one in the rotation or complete cleanup if that’s what the schedule calls for.

Behavior Expectations

Your behavior expectations shouldn’t be too different than the ones you already have in place for your class. If you do have different expectations, make sure you communicate them clearly and practice them.

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Math and literacy centers are great for student learning. Having clear student expectations will take your centers to the next level by creating a center paradise where students are focused, organized, and prepared for the next step. You can learn more about effectively running centers in your classroom by joining the Learning Centers Made Easy Waitlist and get the Easy Centers Framework.

Until next time…

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