Creating Centers in the Classroom – Part 3

This blog is the third part of a multi-part series titled “Creating Centers in the Classroom.” If you’ve missed the previous installments, you can read part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE.

As we start the new school year, many teachers will try to create an engaging learning environment that meets the needs of all students in the class by implementing centers in their classroom during math.  My colleagues Brook Lewis and Beverly Ford started this series with their ideas for how to get started with centers and ideas for creating structures. The focus of this post is working smarter not harder in thinking about implementing centers for some big conceptual ideas in mathematics.

Even though one of the aims of the Common Core Standards was to narrow the scope and sequence of each grade level, it can still feel like a lot of ground to cover, and it’s hard to give students meaningful experiences in each domain of mathematics. I will use the domain of Measure and Data as an example. Within a pacing guide, you may focus for few weeks to instruction on the concept of length and measurement. If you can introduce this concept in a fun and playful way at the beginning of the year students will have the opportunity to engage in meaningful experiences in measuring.  Again, as Brook mentioned, you can utilize this idea of layering, introducing a center to the whole class and establishing expectations and then moving it to an independent center and keep on adding to the center. Here are some of my ideas for starting a measurement center:

  • Begin by having students use any non-standard unit of measurement (teddy bear counters, cubes, etc.) to measure things in the classroom in a whole class setting.
  • Have a couple of things at a center for students to measure and also a few different items student could use for a non-standard unit of measurement.
  • Students could compare the lengths of items they measured. Which is longer? Which is shorter? How do you know?
  • After measuring, students could also compare the units with which they measured their item. For example “The book is ten bears long, but only eight paper clips long.”
  • Students could measure with sticky notes, working on lining them up when they place them down.
  • When ready, students could measure with 1-inch cubes or 1-centimeter cubes. Later they could glue 1-inch or 1-centimeter squares to make their own ruler to use.
  • If appropriate for the grade level, students can use inch rulers and centimeter rulers to measure items.

As you can see the possibilities for center ideas are endless! This is just within one cluster of that domain, I encourage you to look at other clusters in this domain, Measurement and Data (ex. K – Classify objects and count the number of objects in each category. Grade 1 and 2 – Represent and interpret data.) and other domains, for example, Geometry. By June your students will have had a whole year of experiences in those domains instead of a couple of weeks. Stay tuned for part 3 of our series on centers when we discuss ideas for differentiating independent centers.


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