In today’s classrooms, learning centers are becoming a more popular way to run the class. They are designed to assist students in developing independence, learning through self-discovery and are also a chance for the teacher to target specific academic skills. Learning centers can be set up in a number of different ways, including stations that students rotate between. Learning centers truly give teachers a chance to recreate curriculum that fits the needs of their students. Not every child learns the same; therefore, learning centers are a way to incorporate multiple teaching styles as well. For example, a teacher may have a specific student spend more time in a literacy center than any other due to the student’s lack of literacy skills. This gives the teacher and the student a stronger chance at understanding one another and what it takes for the child to succeed.
On a website created by a first grade teacher, Mrs. McDowell, she speaks about the ways in which she uses classroom centers in order to better suite the needs of her students. Mrs. McDowell has created math, science, letter books (alphabet books), and etc. in order to keep her students actively engaged with what they are learning. Over the years she has been working on the development of centers that can be used throughout the years rather than changed weekly. Mrs. McDowell believes that children learn best when they are engaged, and by implementing learning centers into the classroom, she is incorporating not only educational lessons, but educational activities as well. After carefully reading through Mrs. McDowell’s learning centers, we completely agree with the idea of implenting lessons with fun activities. When you break up the schoolwork a little bit, it gives the child a chance to experience other forms of learning that will keep them interested and engaged.
One of the biggest advantages we found on learning centers are “guided reading”. As stated in the “Instructional Strategies Online”, learning centers are focused around the development of a child’s reading abilities. Typically, the teacher will break up the class into small groups in order to teach them various reading strategies such as word structure and context clues. There are different ways to approach these centers and they include switching up the grade level of the books used and pre-reading to the students (ie. prediction making).
We believe the use of Centers in the classroom offers many benefits for students including learning to work independently and having individualized attention according to reading ability. Many teachers today use Centers because it provides them the chance to incorporate guided reading while the rest of the class works on different tasks. In an article on Scholastic.com, the author, Mary Kreul, describes guided reading in Centers as having the opportunity for students to use the reading strategies on their own so as to become confident readers. But many people wonder if grouping students according to ability in their guided reading groups is a good idea. How does this affect the child’s self-esteem if they are in a lower reading group? On the Education World website, an article discusses whether or not it is a good idea to group students according to ability. In the article it gives an account of a college student reflecting on his elementary school experience, saying that grouping by ability places a stigma on students socially about who is in the “high” groups and who is in the “low” groups. Although guided reading helps students with what they are struggling with most, is it a good idea to label them in this way? Can this leave a lasting impact on a student about how they view themselves and how they view each other?
Despite this issue, we believe Centers is very beneficial to students and a good use of time in the classroom. Students are able to work on what they need to work on most, while learning to be accountable for their own assignments. Students also have more academic freedom to choose activities they enjoy doing and to choose the books they have the most interest in. Students learn best when they have the opportunity to make choices about their own education. This set-up allows students to do this as they are able to use their own interests and learn material in the way they learn best. Lastly, Centers provides the flexibility for teachers to individualize instruction for each student in the classroom.