Let’s get down to the big question: How do we get students to focus on a specific idea or concept inside the classroom? When learning something new or trying to reinforce a skill in math and literacy, it can be difficult to work with a large group of students. Using math and literacy centers is a great way to help students gain knowledge and feel more confident in your classroom.
What is a center?
A learning center is an area of the classroom where students can work individually or in groups on a specific concept or idea. Using centers is an easy way to differentiate and engage students of all ages and learning styles. Why should you use learning centers?
Reason 1: Small Group Instruction
Often when you are using centers, you are going to put students in small groups and have them work together in a particular area of the classroom. When you have a smaller group of students, it is easier to explain an idea and get their full attention. Because you are using small group instruction, your students are getting individualized learning which makes it that much more meaningful. For example, if you are working with a group of 4th graders on math, you can introduce the concept or review it, then get them started, and help each student as you go. This makes the learning specific. You can find great fourth grade material to help you with your centers in the classroom or online by clicking here.
Reason 2: Using Math and Literacy Centers to Review
We all know that the review is incredibly important. Often the subjects we teach like math build on past concepts. When students are adding another layer of knowledge on top of something they have already done, it is important to go back and review the basic skills. You can do this in learning centers. Using centers to review is a great way to make sure each student is where he/she needs to be in order to move on to the next level. Bonus, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel when you review. You can use past information in these centers to help reinforce past ideas. If you are reviewing addition or multiplication in third-grade math, you can use an exercise from a previous lesson and simply change some numbers, or leave it the same and see your students’ growth.
Reason 3: Enrichment
Some students grab onto a concept and soak it in like a sponge. Others take more time. Whether the student is fast, slow, or average learner, you can enrich their knowledge at any level he/she is at in centers. Because you can individualize, you can challenge students without leaving some of them in the dust or leaving some bored out of their minds. As you know, a bored student is one who is probably going to cause a problem, but that’s a different blog. If you’re using centers in second grade, and are learning a new literacy concept that some have gotten, you can push that group forward, you are challenging them and creating teachers for future centers.
Reason 4: Engagement
Imagine trying to teach a group of first graders after being home for an extended period of time. Whether that’s in the classroom on Zoom, getting all of our students to focus is going to be more than a task. Someone has to tell you their favorite color is pink. Someone else has to tell you about a new pet. Using centers eliminates some of that distraction. When you have students in small groups, they are more engaged because there is less of a distraction. In addition, you are giving them a challenge at their level. Tactfully grouping students together for maximum learning is vital when using centers.
Reason 5: Differentiation Using Centers
Differentiation is always needed in the classroom. When you get a group of fresh students in kindergarten, you’re getting students from all walks of life. Some of them have been reading with their parents and reciting the ABC’s since they were two. Others have never had any structure in their lives at all. Some went to preschool and others did not. Using centers will help you differentiate for your new kindergarten students. By differentiating, you are pushing your students who may be a bit behind forward in an appropriate way while not letting those who are “on track” sitting there bored and dangerous.
Centers are a great way to help students academically, but when done correctly it can be a classroom management savior. Making sure all of your students are getting an education that pushes them forward no matter where they start is the ultimate goal. When you use centers for learning, your classroom becomes an individualized work of art.
Until Next Time,
Keep Being Educational Rock Stars,