First off, it needs to be said that what I am talking about are not centers, per se. I know that. But it is the closest I can get right now without running from the room screaming in terror.
See, I am a secondary teacher. I don’t do cute bulletin boards. I don’t play get to know you games. I don’t cut out little shapes from construction paper (well, sometimes I do, but only squares and rectangles and never for something too fun). I get forty-five minutes a day to impart everything I know about Language Arts to 90 plus students who are only mildly interested. Consequently, learning centers are not in my bag of tricks.
But this year our school has gone to an inclusion model. Being the dutiful teacher I am, I read Differentiating Instruction over the summer. The author likes centers. Centers and stations. Of course I scoffed at the idea of using centers in a secondary classroom. Not enough time. Too much confusion. Too much planning is needed.
But I’ve never tried them before…how would I know?
So this week, I am planning a day of centers. The students in my class are reading one of three books and I am designing a center to expand on a non-fiction element in the book (not really a theme, just some part of the book). The students will be divided into groups based on their books. They will be assigned a category based on their FCAT level (all I have to go on right now). Each center will have a variety of resources including pictures, books and articles. The resources will be labeled according to category. Finally each center will have a question that the group will have to answer and present to the class based on their understanding of the novel and what they have learned from the reading in the center.
Yup…that’s the plan. And that’s the trouble…planning.
I like the idea and have adapted the idea of centers to suit the time limit I have, the space requirements and my own personal comfort level. Since many students are planning on reading a second book, I will leave the centers up for a while after this particular activity. I think that the topics I picked will be suitably interesting (witness protection for Zach’s Lie, eclipses for Tangerine, and Mt. Everest for Peak) without being a topic that they already know too much about. I think that the questions will give them purpose and breaking up the different resources and assigning them different categories will help prevent students from abstaining from work.
But I have been planning for over a week now, and I’m still not ready. I need so many different texts at different levels, not to mention some type of book that has visual interest for the lowest students. I need to find time to break it all down into manageable pieces, look at what I’ve got and then reassemble it under a question format. I need to write out clear instructions for students (in middle school just telling them what to do won’t work).
And I have to raise two kids at home while I do it. For those of you without kids, that means little time for after hours, at home work. In fact, on the agenda tomorrow is to take a two-year-old and a four-year-old to the public library, but not let them go to the kids section until I have amassed enough sources on the witness protection program. Or informants. Or traitors. Still working on it.
The big question is: will be worth it when I’m done?