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FAQ Literacy Centers

FAQ Literacy Centers

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Published by: teacherstartz on Jun 09, 2011
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02/17/2014

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How many students should work together at a center?
The smaller number of students working at a center, the better. This will helpwith discipline problems and noise level issues. Two students per center would beideal but most teachers find themselves having to put groups of 3-4 studentstogether. When at all possible, keep the number of students working together toa minimum. You might want to think about adding centers in order to keep thenumber down.
How many work stations should I have?
The more centers, the smaller number of students at each center. Many centersare ones that will be used all year long (i.e., reading, library, computer, writing,word work, spelling, etc.) and don’t require you to change every week or centerrotation. If space is an issue, remember that some centers can be in a tub thatstudents take to their desk or the floor, or the side of a file cabinet, or a pocketchart. A variety of centers keeps the students’ interest high.
How often should I change centers?
Many centers will be permanent for the entire year. However, you will need tochange out some of the activities so students do not get bored (and we all knowwhat happens when students get bored!) For example, at the writing center, youwill always have the standard materials for students to practice their writingbut you might change out the paper to go with a particular holiday or season. TheLibrary and Listening Centers can also be permanent centers but changing thereport form and, of course, stories will keep students interested.
How long should I plan for students to be at a center?
Most students get restless with an activity after about 15-20 minutes. Youngerstudents would probably be shorter. If students stay too long in one center,behavior problems begin to appear. Keeping a timer can help the busy teacherknow when it is time to change to a different center or different activity. Whenthe timer rings, students automatically (because of repeated practice at thebeginning of the year) clean up and begin moving to another center or activity.Many teachers let students work at two or three centers a day for a total offorty-five minutes to an hour. Of course, it takes a while to build up to thatamount of time.
Frequently Asked Questions about Literacy Centers
 
Who should work together at a center?
Many teacher pair their students heterogeneously so they can help each other.This can be beneficial in that students can help read directions, assist in times ofconfusion, etc.If your purpose at centers is to challenge students on their levels, you mightwant to group them by reading levels. Your center activities would bedifferentiated to meet the different ranges of abilities of your students. You don’t have to stick to only one way of grouping students. Varying partnersthroughout the year, keep interest levels high.
What if some students finish before everyone else? What is someone isn
!
tfinished when it is time to switch to another center?
Many teachers have one activity at each center that students are required tocomplete- a “have to” activity in order students to be held accountable for whatthey are doing at centers. When students complete this assignment, there may beother center activities for students to choose from. These centers, while stillreinforcing skills, are more informal than the “have to” activity. They include games, free writing, reading with a partner, extension activities etc. However, itis important for these extra center activities to be just as meaningful.Another option for those early finishers is to have a list of activities from whichthe students can choose to complete. These might include reading a book, workingon the computer, writing in journals, working on previous uncompleted work, etc.For those students unable to finish the assigned activity, you need to be flexibleand allow them the opportunity to work on their unfinished work. Centeraccountability will be lost if you aren’t consistent about unfinished work gettingdone. Some options for when to finish work:
during any free time throughout the day
before going on to next center (finishing work at student’s desk)
sending home for extra homework
some teachers have Fridays as special days of “free choice” orprojects but students must have completed all center work prior toparticipatingModifications should be considered for those lower ability students.
 
How do I keep track of center work?
Many teachers have developed systems for keeping up with center work. Here aresome ideas:
Finished Box/Basket- students turn in completed center work in onecentral box or basket
Center Finished Box/Basket- students turn in completed center workin a box or basket at each center
Individual Center folders- pocket folders for each student. Onepocket is labeled “Finished Work” and the other pocket is labeled“Need to Finish”
Individual files- portable hanging file boxes with a file for eachstudent to put their work inIf you are going to require your students to complete an assignment at centers, you must follow through by checking the work. A simple check mark, happy face,sticker, stamp, etc. is all it takes. Grades are not recommended for center worksince students often times “work together” to complete the assignment. However, you could give a grade for center participation and behavior.Accountability is necessary for many reasons. First of all, students know thatwhat they are doing in the centers is important and valued by you, the teacher.It sends the message that this is not a play time but a time to practice what youknow. For the teacher, it is proof that your students are being responsible whileworking at centers and not playing around. Most importantly, however, assignedcenter activities tell you how students are doing with those skills. There isnothing more damaging than a student who is practicing a skill incorrectly!!! Forexample, if you have student who is practicing their spelling words using beansbut are not requiring them to also write the words, how do you know they arespelling the words correctly? Or if you have a student making words at a pocketchart with current word families using magnet letters, how do you know they aremaking real words unless you have the students write down the words theycreated for you to check?
What is the most important thing for me to remember about centers?
Research and classroom observations have concluded that a significant portion(up to 70%) of a student’s time in a guided reading program is spent in activitiesthat do not directly involve the teacher. Needless to say, it is crucial that this

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