In this post I’m sharing 4 tips to help limit disruptions and build independence during literacy centers in the kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms.
Do you struggle to keep students on-task and working independently during literacy centers? Do they disrupt and pull you away from your small group instruction? If so, know you are not alone.
In my years of talking with teachers about literacy centers, disruptions and off-task behavior are issues teachers always mention. The ability to work with small groups is one of the main benefits of literacy centers– but it only works if the rest of the class can successfully work independently.
Today I’m happy to share 4 strategies to limit disruptions during center time. These tips will help your students to become more independent, giving you the freedom to focus on your small group instruction!
How to Limit Disruptions During Centers
1. Clearly model and practice expected behaviors
I am a firm believer in investing the time at the beginning of the year (or anytime a new center is launched) to explicitly TEACH, MODEL and PRACTICE expected behaviors.
Introduce just one center at a time. Use think alouds and model how you expect your students to complete the activity. Then ask students to recap what they saw you do. Next, practice that single center activity ALTOGETHER. After completing the activity come together to discuss how it went and give explicit examples of positive behavior you observed.
In addition to being clear about expected behaviors, you must be explicit about the consequences for when students don’t adhere to the expectations. Decide on the consequences that work for you. Then explain them to your students to ensure you are all on the same page.
And remember, when you need to put an end to disruptive behavior don’t be afraid to be firm. It’s not the same as being mean. Be direct and pay attention to your tone and volume. Be consistent and follow through with the consequences you have established!
2. Organize your centers to limit disruptions
I talked a lot about how to organize your centers in my last post, but it’s definitely worth mentioning it here again… It is essential that the materials students will need during centers be accessible and well-organized. This preserves instructional minutes and allows for maximum learning time. The last thing you want is to have students wandering around the room in search of a clipboard or interrupting your small group to ask for you for a dry erase marker!
In my classroom, all supplies needed are stored in a tub which is labeled with the matching center card for students to easily identify.
3. Teach students problem solving strategies
It’s important to remember that our students are young and still need a lot of support and guidance to make good choices. You don’t want little problems to take away valuable learning time and you certainly don’t want students interrupting your small group to tell on another or ask you a simple question.
Take time to teach problem solving strategies for specific problems that commonly arise in centers. Things like deciding who goes first, what to do if you need help, how to give help, what to do if you finish early, when is and isn’t okay to interrupt the teacher are just some of the things I find need to be taught. I explicitly teach students how to solve such problems and post them on a chart that they can easily refer to while working in centers.
4. Choose literacy center activities that are naturally differentiated
In any classroom you’re going to have a wide range of abilities among students. In order for my centers to be successful I know I need to find activities that adequately support and challenge ALL of my students. If an activity is too difficult students will become frustrated and lose interest. An activity that is too hard will lead to boredom and off-task behavior.
I like literacy center activities that have things like checklists, vocabulary banks, and/or pictures that support students and help build their independence. Having different versions of an activity is also helpful to ensure all students are appropriately challenged and supported.
The Story Sequence Writing Prompts are one of my favorite naturally differentiated literacy center activities. For this writing activity, students use four sequence picture cards to order events. They then use transition words and specific story vocabulary to write their piece. All the supports are in place to ensure all writers are successful!
I hope the tips I’ve shared today will help to keep disruptions to a minimum and allow you to give your small group your undivided attention!
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