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!
Introducing Centers to Students
Assessing Center Activities
Jenga Math Centers
One of my TOP 10 Favorite CentersJenga! I'm sure you have played this super addicting game as a child and couldn't wait for someone to topple that tower so you could shout out "JENGA!". Well... I brought that pure joy into my classroom with Math Jenga. I started out using my original product on Rational Numbers (addition and subtraction of fractions).
It was such a hit that I have since added to my list of Jenga Editions with:
1. Rational #s
3. Scientific Notation
4. Combining Like Terms
and now... my latest edition on Proportions!!!
You can snag these bad boys at $1.50 a pop and very soon I will be making these my first ever BUNDLE edition... ahh... my oh my! I am really excited about it!!
These games are perfect for those quick twenty minute stations you dream of having in your math classroom. Students will be begging to keep going, trust me! Mine, didn't want to leave after the bell rang! Answer keys are always included. So, how are you going to keep track of your students learning and understanding??? Well... I have taken care of that for you too with my handy dandy Workspace Document that includes sections to show their work on plus it indicates if the student has gotten the problem correct. This gives you valuable insight on your struggling students. From my classroom to yours!
Update :::::::: JENGA 5 Editions Bundle Now Available!!!As promised in the above entry, I have finally released my very first Bundle Edition for the enticing Math Center that I used in my very own classroom. You will receive ALL 5 activities from the original post at a discounted rate of course ;)
However, if you so choose the editions can be sold separately if you would rather pick-n-choose which activities are right for your lesson plan.