Let’s face it, small groups are here to stay for a while and learning stations are too. It is honestly the best way to meet the needs of all of your students. Yet the biggest complaint that I hear is that students aren’t engaged and that teachers spend more time redirecting and correcting off task behavior than teaching. I have Five Ways to Promote Engagement during Centers tips for you today to hopefully change the behaviors of students in your classroom!
Tip #1 Self Choice
It’s no surprise that students can attend and focus on a task when it is what they want to do. Why not try to shift your focus from “have to” centers to “have a choice” centers? My last EIP class that I taught, I implemented choice boards with a fellow co-worker. We worked together to prepare the stations. At first it was a lot, but then we realized that stations can stay the same and the work or requirements for the station can change. As long as the students get to pick, they are happier. Here’s a free Choice Board Template for you! All you need to do is open in PowerPoint and add your centers and directions. It is ok to have a must do once a week or once a month. The most popular station for my classroom was the Listening Center. Read more here or check it out for yourself here.
Tip #2 Self Check
Guess what? It is one less interruption to your small group if students don’t have to come to you to check their work. One self check station that was a staple in our centers was the Versa Tile station. They are hands on and self checking. If you don’t have Versa Tiles, where have you been? Just kidding, how about have an answer key? When students are finished, they can go to the answer key (kept away from the actual center to prevent cheating) to check their work and make corrections.
Tip #3 Accountability Based on Trust
We all like to feel trusted. We want our administrators to trust our teaching and our students want the same trust from us. Do you have a digital camera in your classroom? As students finish a center or activity, such as a word sort, they can take a picture. This way you can see the work when you have a spare minute and they are accountable for completing the task. I usually printed the pictures on Thursday and if there were mistakes, I could go over them with the students using their picture on Friday.
Tip #4 Hands On
The fewer sheets of paper that make up your centers and stations the better! Go paperless if possible. Students need a break and you don’t want to have to grade that many papers! 5 stations x 20 kids = a whole forest!!! With holding the students accountable for the work in other ways, you can eliminate paper and free up some time. Word sorts, letter tiles, magnetic letters, puzzle pieces, popsicle sticks, stamps, etc. work fantastic for spelling stations and word work centers.
Tip #5 Allow Movement
Let’s go back to my EIP classroom. These poor babies had the attention span of a gnat. I was happy to get 5 good minutes of engagement. So one major adjustment for me was allowing students to leave a station (such as a writing task) without completely finishing the activity. Yep, go ahead and throw a shoe at the screen. I had to allow students who couldn’t focus to finish, the opportunity to leave the center and return later that week to complete it. That meant that there was movement in the classroom while I was working with a small group. It honestly wasn’t terrible! I had to implement a few procedures for this to work successfully though. I had a 3 strike policy that worked. If you were wondering 3 times during my group, then I found you a station next to me to complete and you were not allowed to get back up. I had to make one student a believer and that was it!
These changes can’t happen overnight, but I promise that if you try these Five Ways to Promote Engagement during Centers tips, that you will find your students more engaged and happy during stations! What has worked for you? Comment below!
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