Have you ever felt like your students just don’t complete work during centers? Or have things gotten a tad bit disorganized and you’ve found yourself never knowing where the center work ends up? These are both common issues that can be frustrating and also detrimental to your student’s academic success. In this post, you’ll learn some easy ways to hold your students accountable during this crucial time of the day. No more stressing about if center work is getting completed AND student growth will skyrocket. So what’re we waiting for? Let’s get into it!
Set Clear Expectations for Work Completion
This is a no brainer, but I still feel like it has to be said. Expectations for what you want to see, and hear, in their centers is SO important. They should be explicitly modeled and students should have plenty of time to practice before enforcing the expectations. Be consistent and firm and it will transform this time completely. See THIS blog for more.
These first weeks of practice are CRUCIAL to how the whole year will run. Just remember, I WANT to be there to support you! Centers are a beautiful thing when done right and you will LOVE this time in your day. Let me help you through every step of the way. Learn all about these important steps in the Mastering Classroom Centers For Good: Turning Chaos into Calm Guide.
Turning in Work
Students do a lot of hard work during center time and it should be recognized! However, you don’t want the recording process to be ADDED work and take away from the skill practice. One super easy way for students to record their work is by using Seesaw. It is a great way for them to capture their work in a way that works best for them. The built in differentiation is my favorite part because you can tailor it for your student needs. They can record themselves playing a game, snap a picture of their finished product, or upload a recording sheet from their center and fill it out digitally. There are so many great ways to use the app and it’s beneficial for both students and educators. Learn more about Seesaw HERE!!
Other easy ways students can turn in work are with simple recording sheets or a good old exit slip. More importantly, don’t feel like every single turned in piece of paper or digital assignment HAS to be graded. Instead, you can do a quick scan to determine who needs more practice with what. Utilize those turn in bins and have students self assess with how they are doing with each skill. Remember center time is to practice and explore skills. Assessments are there to determine needs and drive your instruction, but not all need to be graded. Instead of having them show what they did, maybe you just need to know how they’re doing based on how THEY feel. Check our Level of Understanding turn in bin for students to self assess!
What To Do With Unfinished Work
Center time blows by fast, especially when the kids are having so much fun! Sometimes they won’t finish and that’s okay! Remember, organization is key so I love to equip my students with independent work folders. These travel with them to their centers and have a designated spot for unfinished work. They can work on it during down time, if they’ve finished other work early, or when they head back to that center. As long as you have a consistent and organized system in place, all the work can get done!
Differentiation and Engagement
My favorite thing about center time is the fact that you can differentiate for everyone and it can be such a fun time of the day. When students know their needs are being met, when it comes to both engaging and challenging them, the accountability piece is easy. They WANT to show off all they’ve done. It’s kind of a win-win for everything. Both pieces are crucial to the success of centers and holding students accountable so spend time figuring out what works best for your class. If we want students to be successful, we have to differentiate FOR them, while engaging them with activities to help them practice and have fun while learning.
**Remember center time is practice time. This means that students should be practicing activities they can do independently. This is not the time for them to work on things they still need a lot of help with as that is reserved for small groups or one on one time. **
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While working on holding students accountable, the classroom must be managed. One easy way I manage centers is setting up a ‘must do/may do’ structure. This provides lots of opportunities for practice without running out of things to do. Since students have things they must finish before they can have a choice on what to do, it’s a good motivator to get their work done. On the other hand, since they know after finishing their work they have a choice, it empowers them to take more responsibility for themselves and keeps them engaged and feeling valued in the classroom. Everyone is happy and that is how we like it! See an example of how that looks for students below.
Reflect, Reflect, Reflect
Reflection is a key to life and the classroom is no exception. This is one of my favorite pieces of workshop. We take a few minutes at the end of centers to wrap up learning and review altogether on our practice for the day. Students can discuss and reflect on their independent work with a partner and you can determine how students did as a whole and see who didn’t get finished. You can also get some feedback from students by using thumbs up, sideways, and down on how they felt about their center time. It’s a quick way to gauge how students did with the learning for the day.
I also LOVE using success criteria to help students clearly understand what success looks like deeply. You can have them hold up a 1, 2, 3, or 4 as an evaluation on how they feel their level of success is on a particular skill. The same scale can be used as an end of day lesson to see how students did. It’s such a powerful tool in the classroom. You can learn more about what that looks like HERE!
Build in Time to Check In
The last tip I have for you is to build time to check in with your students. I love using Fridays as a day to spend more one-on-one time with students that need it, allow students to catch up on unfinished work, and while others may be provided time to complete learning activities of their choice. Everyone loves Fridays for this reason, you get a good picture of where you need to support each student moving forward, and it’s a great way to end the week of learning. I really hope you enjoyed learning all about easy ways to hold your students accountable during centers. Be sure to check out all the other tools included to support you in your center’s journey. And believe me, it is a journey worth taking!
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