The Good And The Bad

As a primary teacher, I was used to doing centres with my class. The small group instruction time and small group practice time was a daily occurrence. I’ve always seen the benefit of literacy and math centres, and I am determined to make them work in Grade 6.

Last week, I shared how the Grade 6 students used the Language Curriculum Document to plan their activity centres and provide choices for practising skills. This week, the students began making their choices of literacy centres and going to their chosen ones. Watching the students at these activities throughout the week has given me lots of time to reflect. Here are the positive things that I saw:

  • Students are working and learning together. They are including other students, and helping each other out throughout the work time. I really see a community of learners, and I love it!
  • Students are engaged and on-task. When walking around the classroom, I see students eager to learn.
  • Students are creating the learning environment that works for them. A small group of my students like a quieter environment, so they moved the chart stand and set up some stools behind it. This helped block out the noise and helped all of them concentrate better. It’s great that the students can create their own learning environment!

Students Working Together In The Quieter Environment They Created

I think these literacy centres have tremendous potential, but there are some things that I want to change:

  • At times, the noise level is too loud. Yesterday it was particularly noisy, and while the students were on-task, I know that if I had a guided reading group, I would not have been able to focus my attention on them. I spoke to my teaching partner, and we decided that we need to review the Y Chart we created with the two classes before each of the literacy centres. We did this today, and things improved. It’s funny, as I made a Y Chart with my Grade 1/2 class last year, and we reviewed it every day before we started literacy centres. This review helped remind the students of the expectations, and while I saw its importance then, I forgot about it until now. From now on, taking a few minutes to review the Y Chart will definitely be part of our literacy centre routine.

Y Chart

  • Some students take too long to get started on their literacy centre activity. They spend too much time contemplating choices, and not as much time working. When my teaching partner and I noticed this, we went through some of the choices with these students and helped narrow down the options. While this helped, we want a solution to this problem that still allows the students to be independent. After literacy centres today, we thought that next week, we will give the students five minutes before nutrition break to write down on a sticky note what centre they want to go to and what they plan on doing there. Then the students can look through the lists of options prior to literacy centres, and spend their short centre time completely on-task. We think that this will work well, but we also welcome other suggestions.

During our staff meeting yesterday, our wonderful new principal spoke about the importance of always looking for ways to improve. None of us are perfect. I know that there are ways for this centre time to get better, but I also know that we have a plan of action, and that we will follow through next week. Then we can reflect again and go from there.

While there’s still room for improvement in this literacy centre routine, I definitely see the benefit of what we’ve established. After centres today, I had the students take five minutes to record in their Thinking Book something that they learned during literacy centres this week. I asked them to be specific. A number of students volunteered to share their reflections, and you can see videos of them below:

This reflection time is something that I will continue each week, as it’s clear that the students are already thinking about their learning and looking at ways to improve. I can’t wait to see how their thinking changes throughout the year.

What are your experiences with literacy centres? How do you make them meaningful practice and learning time for students? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!


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