My first year teaching I remember being a little overwhelmed. When I say a little, I mean it felt like I was getting hit by a truck every day, but still surviving. Maybe that is a little drastic (maybe not), but I can guarantee you this: literacy centers were at the bottom of my to-do list. I was just trying to survive and make sure my students learned what they were supposed to. How was I supposed to do that with the added stress of centers? Now, I was teaching 6th grade in an elementary school so I also foolishly thought my students were “too old” for literacy centers. Those were only for the k-2 crowd. No. I was wrong. Literacy centers are for ALL ages, and I sure missed out my first year teaching by not doing them. Here are some reasons why you need to make time for literacy centers this year.
First, literacy centers allow you to meet individually with a small group of students. This is brilliant! After you level your groups, you can give intense, daily instruction to students who need a little extra push. These are short lessons, about 15 minutes, that allow you to focus on a skill that only those students may need. Some students do better in a small group atmosphere, and literacy centers allow you to do that.
Second, students learn responsibility. When I finally got my act together the second year (or maybe the third…) and got centers rolling, I loved to see my students accomplishing their tasks, and feeling proud about it. Don’t you love when you complete your work? Students do too. By keeping your centers consistent, and having a way for students to be held accountable, they can learn to take responsibility for their work.
Third, centers make differentiating much easier. Instead of trying to teach reading strategies to your students reading on a 7th grade level, at the same time you have students reading on a second or third grade level, you can now teach to each group. If you are debating whether or not to do literacy centers this year, this fact alone should sway you. Giving even 15 minutes each day to those stuggling readers will make a difference!
Last, you save time. I know what you are thinking, “You are crazy, centers take SO much time!” But the reality is, they actually do save you time. Before I introduced centers to my classroom, I was wasting time with spelling practice each morning. I had 4 spelling groups and was frantically running around making sure everyone was using the right list, doing the correct activity, and all while controlling 30 students. Before I knew it, 20 minutes had passed and we hadn’t accomplished much. Then, we would spend time doing whole group reading (which is still important, don’t take it all away!), but there were kids who were just lost…and became more lost each day. Centers allowed me to consolidate our literacy block and have it leveled. After my whole group reading instruction, I could pull aside my struggling readers and recap on their level. My higher students weren’t bored because they were doing their own tasks, whether spelling, grammar or vocabulary, and working with words or activities that met their needs. If centers are organized correctly, and run smoothly, then yes, they SAVE time.
Good luck running your literacy centers! They will truly be well worth your time.
Looking for some ideas for literacy centers? Check these out: