In this post I’m sharing helpful tips and strategies to keep kindergarten, first and second grade students on-task and working independently during literacy centers.
When asked about literacy centers one of the biggest challenges teachers say they face is how to keep students on-task and working independently. How do you stop the constant disruptions? How do you work with your small group and keep the rest of the class on-task? If you’re asking yourself the same questions, know you aren’t alone!
Today I’m here to help answer those questions! I’m sharing simple, helpful tips and strategies to keep students on-task during literacy centers.
4 Ways To Keep Students On-Task During Centers
1. Gradual Release of Responsibility
I use the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model when introducing each of my center activities. It is a wonderful way to help students become confident, independent learners who can perform tasks by themselves which frees you up to work with your small group!
Think of it like learning to ride a bike. Just as new riders begin by just watching someone ride a bike, your students start out as observers. They watch you model the center activity just as you want them to do it. Next, they get their “training wheels”. This is when they try the activity WITH the support of you and their peers. Finally, they are ready to ride on two wheels! After enough supported practice, they are confident and ready to independently complete the center activity on their own.
2. Review Routines and Expectations Each Day
Even after your students are your centers are up and running you must continue to reinforce your expectations each day. Yep, daily! Every day before you release your students to work in their centers, take time to review the routines and expectations. As students work observe their behaviors. At the end of each literacy center block, come together and praise the desired behaviors you observed.
3. Choose Open-Ended Center Activities
One thing you DO NOT want during your literacy center block is to hear students declaring “I’m done!” To avoid this, I rely on activities that are open-ended and explicitly teach my students how to continue working even when they think they are done.
For example, if a student is at the listening center and the story ends I simply teach them to choose another story! No need to announce the story ended, just go ahead and pick another one until it is time to rotate.
I aim to use literacy center activities that offer choice because they are highly motivating but they also allow students to continue working and staying on-task.
4. Be Deliberate in How You Group Students
Give yourself some time to get to know your students before establishing groups. Here are some things you’ll want to be mindful of as you create groups that can work together successfully.
- reading levels
- English Language Learners
- students who may be pulled out during centers
Next, decide if you want to group your students homogeneously (students of similar levels together) or heterogeneously (varied levels). There are pros and cons to each! In my case, I find that when they are grouped homogeneously I have greater success. Leaders naturally blossom, there is less confusion and students feel more comfortable taking risks.
Finally, remember these groups are flexible. Nothing is set in stone! You’ll want to change the groups up throughout the year as abilities change, but also don’t be afraid to mix things if something just isn’t working.
I hope the information I’ve shared today will help to keep your students on-task during centers, allow you to focus on your small groups and make center time successful for all!
K-2 Teachers, are you ready to have consistent success for you and your students with literacy centers? I have great news! I’ve designed an online professional development course, SUCCESS WITH CENTERS, just for YOU!
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