Students choose own centers

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by laf-a-lot, May 19, 2009.

  1. laf-a-lot

    laf-a-lot Rookie

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    May 19, 2009

    I am already thinking about next year :) I want to change around the way I do my D5 centers. I would like to have students choose the centers they work on each day. But I just can't figure out a the logistics. Does anyone do this and have any ideas for me?:confused:
     
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  3. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    May 19, 2009

    I have a choice of 4 things - 3 specific centers or activities and one shelf number. Each shelf has about 3 more activities but they are small things that take less time to do and probably wouldn't engage a group for an entire hour. So one group might have a choice of file folder games, library, writing center and shelf number 3 (which has vowel puzzles, match letter/sound lacing puzzles, and a letter arc activity). I hope that makes sense :)
     
  4. SandyCastles

    SandyCastles Companion

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    When I student taught, we had a big pocket chart with many center choices in it. Each choice had a number next to it for how many children were allowed there. For example- Computers 3, because we had three computers. If a center choice was closed for the day, we flipped it over so the kids couldn't choose it. Then each child had their name on a card, and they would put the card next to their choice. If they wanted to switch centers, they could, as long as there was enough space in another center. They had to go back to the chart to move their name before they switched. This way we could see who was supposed to be where, and the kids could see which centers had space left, also.
     
  5. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    May 19, 2009

    laf-a-lot,
    I do self-selected centers and have for years. The key is to keep it simple. You don't need fancy charts, and students signing up for things. I put a sticky note on the top of a center (some are puzzles, some are games, some are folder files, some are books, some are manipulative based) which says how many people can do that center. If you don't set a number, you'll have 12 kids trying to do one puzzle and bedham will ensue.

    I give my students a set routine every day.
    1. Morning work
    2. Journal Prompt (must do ___ sentences in response to the prompt on the bulletin board.)
    3. Take an AR test at the computer. (For some, that means they have to read an AR book first, but most come to school already having read one.)
    4. Self selected centers.

    This works well for me because we have a staggered start time -- meaning some students arrive at 8:30am from our school operated day care, while others (bus riders) may come in any time between 8:30-9:15! Same thing with walkers. When you have a 45 minute drop-off window, you have to keep some kids busy for 45 minutes, and others for just a few.

    I ask kids to pick a different center if they continually pick the same one. If a center is very popular, I limit it -- one time only 'til everyone has had a chance.

    While my students are doing mornign work, journals, ar tests, and centers, I start my guided reading groups. I have pull-outs going on. I send students to the library. It is a lot of rotating.

    You have to be very "with-it" in terms of keeping an eye on everyone and everything, but after a while, you can keep track of it all without even giving it much thought.

    I don't use computers as a regular center. I need them open for AR tests, and I have several students in the gifted program who are studying computer programming -- so that keeps them pretty tied up. (When my gifted students get pulled for special programs, I make sure my other students get tons of computer time....)

    I personally think it is all about teaching kids to make good choices. At the beginning of the year, you have to spend a lot of time teaching them how to do this and what your expectations are.

    To me, setting a timer and in 20 minutes saying "Rotate" even though some kids finished after 10 and some have barely gotten started just doesn't make sense. I know the activity level of self-selected doesn't make sense to others -- it is all in your comfort level with either system. They both can work well -- I just prefer self-selected.

    You also need tons of centers for self-selected to work properly. (I also have some really unpleasant book work handy for the occassional student who makes a poor choice -- because poor choices such as hogging the same center, being loud, not doing the centers correctly, madly dashing from center to center without doing them, earn a student the "Here's a Big 'ol Pile of Book Work" award!!!!!!!! We all clap and cheer for the winner! Somehow they never seem terribly pleased.)
     
  6. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    May 19, 2009

    We just had this discussion at a training I recently attended. The teachers were asking how many minutes until I tell them to switch, how many students at each center? It was driving me crazy. You have to do what works for you and your students.

    I agree with what Rainstorm said, that's basically the system I use as well-and I've tried many different charts, etc. In the beginning of the year, it's a lot of modeling expectations. If I start to see them slacking off and continually not doing the structured activity at a particular center (baking cookies with the magnets on the cookie sheet instead of making words) I address it whole group. This is what the work at this workstation should look like. You do have to be able to monitor them from your small group vantage point, but I do think it develops independence in the students and also keeps them interested - they are choosing what they want to work with.
     
  7. laf-a-lot

    laf-a-lot Rookie

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    May 20, 2009

    Thank you so much for all your ideas! I will incorporate them into my classroom! Rainstorm, which grade level do you teach?
     
  8. mom2ohc

    mom2ohc Habitué

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    May 20, 2009


    Love this award!

    can you give more more ideas of the tons of centers you have? I also do self selected centers, and am always looking for new ideas.
     
  9. yearroundteach

    yearroundteach Companion

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    May 20, 2009

    I do self selected centers and have done some form of them for the 4 years I've been teaching.

    My first year my students recieved "contracts". On these contracts were 3 "must do" activities and then 9 boxes of choice centers. Throughout the week students would choose 5 or more activities from the choice section to do in their time and in the order they chose. This worked well for this class but the following year I decided to try something a little different.

    My 2nd year until current I've used a very simple poster for my self selected centers. It isn't fancy. It is just a poster board that I divided into sections. I'm not sure exactly how many sections there are but off the top of my head I'd say about 12 or so.

    *After I divided it into those sections with marker, I laminated it to make it durable. I then labeled the different centers I wanted students to have with a Vis a Vis overhead marker. I did this after lamination because I wanted to be able to add/change/take away centers that weren't working.

    *Under each center I put a certain number of velcro squares. The squares indicate to the students how many people can be in the center. If there are no squares left, you can't go to that center at that time.

    *The way students indicate that they are at the center is by moving their number to the velcro square under their choice. Their numbers aren't fancy either. They are just small construction paper cutouts that I wrote numbers 1-20 on, laminated, and attached velcro to the back. Due to using numbers instead of names, I've used these rectangles for 3 years now though they are getting a little dilapitated. I'll probably remake them for next year.

    Some of the centers students have to choose from are: word sorts, sentence builiding, reading, read to a partner, reading corner, Leap Pads, "read the room", flashcards, computer, writing, and a few more I can't remember.

    I should probably also mention that my students don't go straight into this self selected time. They first have a required center and story work they must do before going to choice center time. Their required center is indicated to them by another poster similar to the one for the centers. It is divided into 4 long sections and the 4 seatwork pages for the week are listed across the top. There are velcro squares under each and the students number is under the work they must do for that day. I rotate the numbers each morning. This poster is where they get their number from to put on the self selected poster if all their work is done.

    I hope that all makes sense and helps a little.
     
  10. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    May 20, 2009

    I teach 2nd grade.
     
  11. nattles19

    nattles19 Comrade

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    May 20, 2009

    Here is a similar thread on this topic:
    http://forums.atozteacherstuff.com/showthread.php?t=84280

    I won't write again what I do for students to choose their centers, since you can read it there! :)

    A first grade teacher at my school has a pocket chart with the kids' names in it. They pick out cards with the choices on them and put them next to their name in the order they want to do them. They are color coded, which I think is a great idea because kids can tell from a glance far away what choices they made if they need reminding.

    The cards are kept in little baskets near the pocket chart.
     
  12. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    May 20, 2009

    This is very specific to 2nd grade:

    Puzzles - I have puzzles on all kinds of things. I have 5 puzzles of the United States (Dollar Store) and 5 puzzles of the World (Target’s Dollar Section.) I have two large floor puzzles – one is the continents of the world, the other is the life cycle of the butterfly (both from Teacher Stores.) I have 4 small life cycle puzzles, 4 seasons puzzles, 4 habitats puzzles, 4 parts of the plant puzzles, and a few more I can’t recall. They are from Lakeshore Learning. I got all of my puzzles through grants I got using Donorschoose.org. Of course, I don’t put them all out at once – I put the ones we are covering, and then I pull some back out for review throughout the year.

    Stamping – We have letter stamps and “Stamp your spelling words” activities. We have Word Study stamping activities. We have dozens of letter magnets that we use on the side of the file cabinets or on cookie sheets.

    Buddy Reading - with whisper phones and book pairs. I have activities to go with it.

    File Folder Games – I have over 70 folder file games. About half are store bought, and about half are home-made. All subjects.

    Pre-made Centers for Vocabulary, Word Study, and Language Arts – these are premade from Lakeshore Learning. Each set costs around $156 bucks. I got all of these through grants with Donorschoose.org.

    Phonics Tubs, Word Wheels, Vocabulary Flash Cards -- most are from Lakeshore or from Learning Resources.

    Home-made Centers – such as a box full of plastic animals (replicas) and I have 8 foam mats that are each labeled with a habitat. Students must sort the animals into the correct habitats. For the first quarter, this is the favorite activity. Up to 4 kids can do this without fussing too much. I have around 100 different animal replicas. Some of them have been “borrowed” over the years, but each year I add a few more.

    Math Centers - I have tons of games from Lakeshore Learning and other places, like Dino Math Facts, Swamp Sums, Allowance, etc. I actually have 8 Dino Math Facts (it is a place value game) so I can have the entire class playing at one time. I have Dominoes, Memory, all kinds of dice games I’ve made and had laminated...

    Computers – In addition to AR, I have lots of computer software, but the most used is my own website. I have an account with Quia, and I design games and quizzes for my students to use, and I can see their results and time played any time I want.

    I don’t do Listening Centers, because I much prefer to do shared reading, so I can “think outloud” while reading – I think it helps the kids more.

    I have tons more, but those are a few. Obviously, I don’t have everything available all the time.
     
  13. mom2ohc

    mom2ohc Habitué

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    May 20, 2009

    thanks!
     

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