Learning centers are an important part of classroom instruction. Children learn best when they are actively engaged and centers can enable teachers to provide one-on-one or small group instruction while other students are working either independently or in small groups. Designing centers don’t have to be complicated, but experts agree that they should be set up with a sense of intentionality. That is, centers should serve a specific purpose.
Most teachers will agree that there are three types of centers. Enrichment centers, skills centers, and exploratory centers. Enrichment centers are those that enable students to enhance their understanding of concepts through individual experiences in the center. For example, after presenting a lesson on the parts of a plant, you may assign children to a center where they can choose how to extend their learning by letting them observe plants under a microscope or plant seeds.
Skill centers are different from enrichment centers because you assign a particular learning experience rather than allow children to choose the activity. Skill centers are primarily designed to reinforce specific skills. The NewPath Curriculum Mastery Skill Gamesare great for skill centers because they contain everything you need to keep kids engaged and focused on standards-based specific skill practice.
Exploratory centers are designed to capitalize on the interests of the students. They may not necessarily match up with the lesson or curriculum, rather they provide students with lots of choices and materials for hands-on experiences students can pursue at their own level and pace. For example, you may provide art supplies for students that enjoy expressing themselves artistically. Maybe they will choose to paint a picture of their favorite scene in a book or create a birthday card for a relative. Exploratory centers are critical to fostering creativity and giving students a sense of ownership over their learning. They are especially valuable for reluctant learners or students who have limited access to books and other educational materials outside of the classroom.
Whatever type of station you use in your classroom, scheduling and organization is essential to ensure that all students have an opportunity to work independently or in a small group on the learning tasks that you’ve made available. There are many ways to do this, but a simple weekly schedule chart will do the trick and enable you to keep records of your groups and tasks.
Let us know what challenges and successes you’ve had with learning centers. We’d love to hear from you.
Filed under: Classroom Exercises on September 30th, 2011