By Teachers, For Teachers
Learning centers can be an exciting addition to any classroom, just ask your students. You may have noticed your students’ faces light up with joy when you announce “Its center time!” That’s because classroom learning centers allow students to get up and get moving, as well as interact with their peers. Children get excited about centers because they are hands-on and fun!
While it does take a lot of classroom management, advance planning, and creativity to design effective learning centers, they are definitely worth all of your hard work. Here are a few classroom management tips to help you set up these dynamic areas for learning.
Centers are great because you can tie them into whatever you are teaching your students. All you have to do is design a learning center to correlate with what students are studying in a particular subject area. For example, if you are teaching your first grade class about problem solving, then you would create a center around that. You could create a math treasure box that is filled with numbers, students’ names, and different objects. The goal would be for students to use the objects in the treasure box to fill in a math story on their paper to create an addition or subtraction problem. This center is a great hands-on way to intertwine your curriculum with your centers.
Choice boards have become extremely popular with students because they are given the option to choose how they will learn a concept. You can devote an entire learning center that would give students options as to what they will do in order to meet your requirements. The teacher directs the choice board, but the student is given control over his/her choice and is able to select the option(s) that most appeal to them. By allowing students to choose how they will learn, teachers are able to tap into their students’ interests and find out how they like to learn, and how best to reach them. Empowering students through choice ensures that students are meeting their learning goals, as well as helping them learn in ways that best suits their learning style.
In order for you to take student learning centers to a new level you will have to add new activities periodically. This doesn’t mean that you should change them every day, but you should change them every week to every few weeks in order to keep students on their toes. This will keep things fresh and interesting for the children. You can even have some centers that are permanent but vary by theme or interest. Or, you can have some centers that are available every day, while others are only available once a week or month.
Children are drawn to inviting environments such as cozy corners that have area rugs and a comfy chair. They respond to a place that has attractive decorations, special touches from pictures that they have made, or decorative pillows. Anything that will make the area appealing to the eye, students will be drawn to. Create spaces that students can participate in groups as well as alone. Try partitioning off sections in the classroom where you can have bookshelves in one area, child-sized tables in another, and maybe a space for large materials like microscopes and such. Put quiet and noisy centers away from one another, and make sure that all centers look inviting and are comfortable.
Encourage students to contribute personal items or related artifacts from home to the learning centers. This will give them an even better connection to what they are learning when they have a piece of home with them at school. For example, let’s say that you are doing a unit on animals. You can then create a learning center that is about pets. Students can bring in a picture of their pet and you can make copies of them so that at the “pet learning center,” students can play a matching game with the pictures that they brought in.
Learning centers provide students a way to work independently or together at their own level and pace. When you match a variety of activities to a students’ learning style and preference, then you increase the chances that you will reach every student. Make sure that your learning centers are cozy-comfortable and you will see your students thrive.
Do you use learning centers in your classroom? How do you take them to a new level? Share with us in comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.