For years, I have tried and tired to do “center rotations”. However, no matter how hard I try, I never seem to be able to make it work. That’s not to say I don’t do center – type activities, I just don’t do rotations. Here are my big issues with center rotations:
1. It means that every group gets exactly the same amount of time for the same activities. However, my kids NEVER finish the same activity in the same amount of time. I always have early finishers and kids who require more time. So, giving each of them exactly 20 minutes to complete the same task is not sensible.
2. It takes a lot of effort to “watch the clock” and be sure that each group moves when it is supposed to. Now, I still watch the clock a little in order to be sure I see all of my reading groups at the same time. However, if I am not nailed to that “20 minute rotation”, then I can spend that 30 minutes with my struggling readers while only taking 10 minutes to check and make sure that my top group is on track with their novel studies.
3. When I rotate, I am stuck with finding a set amount of activities that fit into set time blocks, instead of thinking about what my students actually need to be doing.
4. Transitions! I have spent my teaching career trying to get rid of “dead time” transitions. Getting rid of center rotations got rid of the concept of having all of the students transition at the same time.
Now, don’t think that my students are sitting and listening to me lecture all day, or that they are all working on the same activity with my guidance all day – far from it. Instead, I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year training my students on how to use a To Do List.
I generally write my To Do List on the board, although for younger students I may type the list on a sheet where they can cross off each thing they do and I can check their progress at the end of the day. My students are trained to start at the top of the list and work down to the last item, which is generally an unending or open ended item, such as working on puzzles or reading a book. This prevents a teacher’s most dreaded words “I’m done, what do I do now?”
1. Complete your Calendar Book
2. Complete today’s Daily Math Review
3. Finish this week’s Reflection in your Interactive Math Notebook
4. Complete page xxx in your textbook
5. Work on creating your Math Tutorial Videos
6. Work on your Tiling Puzzles
7. Work on Izzi (a critical thinking puzzle)
1. Complete today’s poetry reflection
2. Complete today’s vocabulary
3. Read for 15 minutes
4. Work on Reading Response Journals
5. Work in your Writing Journal
6. Make “quiz questions” for a book you’ve read recently
7. Listen to stories on assigned websites
Now, all students do not get to number 5, 6 and 7 every day, but that’s okay. They have spent time on the things that I feel are most important for that block of time. I will often set apart separate chunks of time to work on the bottom items of a to-do list, so that students who haven’t reached that point will get extra time to complete their tasks.
I know at least some of you are going – Wait, Heidi, don’t you sell holiday oriented center packets? Sure I do, but generally, students don’t rotate through these in my class. Rather, they will work through each activity at their own pace and make an X over each activity as it is finished. BTW – St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, and here is a link to my St. Patrick’s Day Center packet.
How do you run independent work time in your classroom?