Hello Kreative in Kinder Fans! I am Heidi Raki of Raki’s Rad Resources, and I am super excited to be here today on Kreative in Kinder to share some ideas for you on how to promote independence in centers.
In my classroom, we do centers for the majority of our day. I use the time when my kids are at centers to teach differentiated lessons that meet my kids where they actually are, which can vary by a lot! So, having my students be independent workers when they are not with me is super important! Here are some things I do to promote this independence in my room:
<!--[if !supportLists]-->1. <!--[endif]-->
<!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]--> 1. Use the same centers each week, or at least similar centers. I have had the “same” centers pretty much since the beginning of the year, with a few exceptions. I created “category” centers, and fit all my skills inside the assigned categories. For example, one of my “writing” centers is a phonics center. The phonics center has a slightly different activity each week, but the kids know there will be a phonics activity and pretty much know what it will include.
<!--[if !supportLists]-->2. <!--[endif]-->Keep supplies simple and organized. I try to use as few supplies at each center as possible, in order to limit disagreements over supplies and frantic searches for missing supplies. Obviously, some centers are going to need supplies, you can’t go to the reading puzzles center without reading puzzles. Organization that the doesn’t change helps keep this simple. For example, in my reading puzzles centers, I have 3 levels of difficulties, and the puzzles are all sorted into bins based on their level. Each puzzle is in a baggy with a number on it. The numbers on the baggy are the same as the number on the bin they go in. All my reading puzzles are in red bins, my math puzzles are in yellow bins. Simple organization systems like this go a long way towards getting little hands to set up and clean up their own centers, allow you more teaching time!
<!--[if !supportLists]-->3. <!--[endif]-->
<!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->Use a center checklist, or better yet a center packet. My kids only visit 2 of 5 centers during each rotation, so in order to help them keep track of what centers they have been to, we use a simple center checklist with boxes that are easy to check off. I suggest using a checklist even if your students rotate through all 4 or 5 centers in one rotation, because someone is bound to miss a center, whether they were working with you, pulled out for extra help, playing in the bathroom, for whatever reason. The checklist allows you to have a better idea of who did what and what should have gotten accomplished. I staple my checklist to all the papers my students need for centers for the entire week and we call it our center packet. It contains reading, writing and math centers, and it eliminates the need for making just about any other copies throughout the week!
<!--[if !supportLists]-->4. <!--[endif]-->Explain each center ahead of time. Taking 5 minutes to “remind” students of what each center’s expectations are can save you 20 minutes of redirecting during centers, and increase the chance that what you want to happen will actually happen. My kids have been doing the same thing for 20 weeks, and we still start every Monday with an explanation about what I want to happen at each center, (and someone still ends up doing it incorrectly.)
<!--[if !supportLists]-->5. <!--[endif]-->Have a Do Not Interrupt symbol. My do not interrupt symbols is a hat, nothing fancy, just a little grey ball cap. I have seen people use a princess tiara or a Hawaiian lae, anything that tells the kids this is not the time to interrupt me. When I am teaching a small group and I don’t want students to interrupt me, I put on my ball cap and they know not to come up to me. Do they still try, of course, but generally they will get to me, see my hat and walk away. A few still try to ask their question, but generally get the point when I don’t answer or ask them “Am I wearing a hat?”
<!--[if !supportLists]-->6. <!--[endif]-->
<!--[if !vml]--><!--[endif]-->Explain the exceptions to the rule. I love my Do Not Interrupt symbol, but as with every rule, there are exceptions. My kids can tell you there are 4 reasons you can interrupt Mrs. Raki if she’s wearing her hat.
1. You peed your pants. 2. You’re gushing blood. 3. You’re throwing up. 4. You don’t know the phonics word. ( I teach in a school with almost 100% ESL population, a lot of the time, they don’t know what the picture represents, so then how are they supposed to know if it is a long A or a short A? So, for this class we made an exception and decided they can interrupt me, but they know that they just hold the picture card up, I say the word, and they leave.)
<!--[if !supportLists]-->7. <!--[endif]-->Have clear, age appropriate expectations. If you are clear with your students that you expect them to be independent, they will be. However, most 5 year olds will not sit with a worksheet for an hour. Keep your centers to activities students should be able to do independently, and limit the time at each center to 15 – 20 minutes.
I hope some of these tips will help you have independent students when you are teaching those important, differentiated lessons. Thanks for the opportunity to guest blog here on Kreative in Kinder. I’d be honored if you stopped by Raki’s Rad Resources for more ideas you can use in centers and beyond.
Heidi Raki teaches first grade at the American Academy of Casablanca. In addition to being a teacher, she is also a mother of 3 young boys and the author of the blog Raki’s Rad Resources. She believes in using quality teaching strategies and quality resources to create quality teaching moments that will resonate with her children, increasing understanding and a love of the learning experience. Feel free visit her blog at http://rakiradresources.wordpress.com or her TPT store http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Heidi-Raki where she has 20 free products available for download.