Author Archives: Brook Lewis
As we (AIMS Research Associates) have been working in classrooms, we have worked with centers of four to six students per group. In classes of 25 to 35 students, this has allowed us to become familiar with the mathematics of our students by seeing behavior up close as we present math tasks. I thought I would share ideas for setting up centers.
First, it does not have to be done all at once. One strategy is to pick a center you want to become an independent center. Spend time learning the activity as a whole class. The amount of time spent teaching the center will vary by grade level. For example, a kindergarten teacher may need to spend an entire week before the students are ready to do the task independently, where other grades may require less time. Once your class is prepared to do this first center on their own, spend a day with the students working in centers.
If we allow the other centers to be playful and without very many instructions, we can transition into independent center work more smoothly. This structure will give you an opportunity to teach the students the process and procedures for center time. Eventually, you will want to have a teacher ran task, but don’t feel the need to rush into this. The teacher can be roaming the room, focusing on management and developing expectations in the beginning. If students get a clear understanding of how to function in centers very early on, it will save a lot of time throughout the year as the centers run smoothly. Don’t be afraid to take some time and work out the kinks. Expectations and structure are important parts of this process and getting those things nailed down will be a tremendous help in the long run. My collegue, Beverly Ford will be digging in to some more details as well as giving tips for setting up expectations and structure for centers.
Now we can spend more time as a whole class learning a new center that you would like to become independently run. Spend the number of days you feel is necessary for the students to do the task on their own just like you did with the first one. Once the students are ready, have a day of centers again. Use the two tasks you have taught them, and fill the others with playful, easy to manage tasks as you did on the first center day.
Continue this rotation of working with the whole class to teach a task, and then having a day of centers, weaving in each new task as students are ready to do them independently. Focus on setting clear expectations and teaching the structure of center time during the first few experiences. Once you have enough meaningful independent centers and the students know the expectations well, you can now turn to running a teacher-led center rather than worrying about managing all the other centers. It can be helpful to group students with others who are rouhgly on the same level of understanding so you can modify the tasks to be more meaningful for each student depending on their understanding. We’ll explore some of that in the final part of this series on centers.
This process is just one way to get started. How have you set up centers in your classroom? Let us know; we would love to hear from you!
It should be no surprise that, after working at AIMS for nearly two years, my co-workers still have the ability to inspire deeper learning in me. One of the things that the research and working with children have taught me is that their counting is very ordinal rather than cardinal at the beginning of their… Continue Reading
I want to tell you about a boy that we call Greg. If you’re a teacher, you’ve likely had a Greg in your class before. He’s the one that fascinates you because he thinks so deeply, is so curious, and seems to already know everything you’re trying to “teach” him. He’s also the one that… Continue Reading
If you read the previous posts from the Coordinating Units team here at AIMS, you likely know that we are studying how children learn about fractions. Earlier this week I realized that I almost missed something amazing and encouraging about how much our students are actually learning. The tasks we are using with them are… Continue Reading
The team I work with at AIMS has begun working with students on fractional understanding and it has been an interesting couple of weeks. We are seeing the students have opportunities to learn things we never intended but still fit right in with expectations in elementary classrooms. Personally, I have discovered that when we develop… Continue Reading
Every once in a while, something will happen at work that makes me miss the classroom and the kids that I taught. It’s like a craving at times, but today I feel more like the athlete on the bench that wants a shot at winning the game. Here I am on the sidelines, wanting to… Continue Reading
As the Fall semester comes to a close, we are preparing for Spring at our school sites. Next on the list for our team is fractions. I am so excited to begin working with students to understand how they think about fractions and what we as teachers can do to give them opportunities to increase… Continue Reading
***This is the final installment of a series. Click the links to go back and read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6*** For the final blog post in this series, I wanted to address one of the questions that was asked at the October colloquium regarding ways to… Continue Reading
***This is part 3 of a series. Click the links to go back and read part 1 and part 2.*** In last week’s post, David Pearce described a modification of the Towers Task in which the students are asked to build two sets of towers and combine them. For example, the student may be asked… Continue Reading
I wrote a blog post at the beginning of the school year talking about our plans for research this semester. I’ve been reflecting on our project and the progress we have made so far, and I thought I would share a few of those reflections with you. As I mentioned previously, we have been working… Continue Reading