Info on Centers
Starting centers in Middle School can be a daunting task. BUT... they are so worth the time and sweat with the pay off the students learn. We all are in the know that middle school students are in a transitional phase. They exhibit character traits that are still in the developing stages so typically they're chatting, have short term attention spans and sometimes can stray to off topic conversations as easy as turning a page. All the factors weighing against establishing centers in your math classroom are real and relevant. With that being said, it is still the most valuable way to spend time in your classroom. Peer support and communication for your low level students is beyond what you can provide to them. Just like my toddler, I can visibly see how much more he learns by watching older kids. This is the exact way our students learn too - by observing, listening, talking through obstacles and discussing methods for problem solving.
The age old saying, "sage on the stage" versus the "guide on the side" has been a topic of conservation in education for quite a long time. I think there is a time and place for each but the majority of your students learning, really should be guided instruction not leading them. Therefore, I am a HUGE advocate for Centers, strategic small groups and student-led activities. I prefer my time to be spent monitoring, posing questions, and inquiring on their thought process to ensure that students are concentrating on the bigger picture. This all comes with a plan of action, pre-written questions that I know I will ask at certain times, and consistent pen to paper note-taking on my part to identify students that may need some extra help. Using centers allows me to navigate the tasks easier and identify students that need remediation. It is clearly our job, as educators, to identify struggling students before an exam and prevent failure. Occasionally, it is not always a success story but I truly believe the students that I push a touch harder always appreciate the support I give. This support may be pairing them with a higher level student, sitting them near a great note taker, giving them differentiated assignments, printed notes due to poor handwriting etc. I promise, after establishing centers in your room it is somewhat second nature to modify things to fit your individual student needs.
Some teachers are experts in creating, implementing and completing centers (this is my category) and others are a touch shy in the beginning because the control and authority we have when it is a whole group activity is abandoned - completely <rofl>. It is a difficult thing to do to relinquish our control and pray that students are capable of learning on their own without us to guide them to the correct way of thinking and processing information. Let me tell you, they are! It's like a child taking off training wheels. They are a bit wobbling first and may fall but eventually, with consistent practice they will flourish! This post on Teacher Centered vs Student Centered is a great read with TONS of valuable information with pros and cons to consider. I hope you not only try centers but actively use them throughout your school year! You will never regret the leap of faith! It's exhausting but unbelievably worth it. Everyday, my students ask are we doing centers and I know yours will too!