This month's Teaching Tip comes from Jumbo Book of Teacher Tips and Timesavers.
Center time can be provided every day for independent student practice. During this time, everyone is engaged in learning by interacting with an activity.
It is important to allow students to choose which activity they'd like to investigate further. Some will choose the same activity for several days if their curiosity is stimulated or if they're becoming expert at the task, which in turn builds their self-esteem. Students tend to choose activities appropriate to their ability levels because activities which are too easy or too difficult will not hold their interest. If a child is not able to choose an activity which is appropriate or productive, you may have to provide guidance.
This block of practice time is quite useful in assessing students. Teachers can hear and see what students are choosing, what they are capable of doing, what they are interested in, and how well they get along with others.
The teacher needs to provide many types of activities. He or she must also give instructions, model them, and set specific parameters for the use of each. Teachers must also be able to explain the various skills and purposes to each activity to visitors and/or parents who experience this time with the class.
Once the classroom is conducive to productive, enjoyable learning, the teacher's job is simply to monitor behavior. When students are involved and active, take the opportunity to listen and watch all of the excitement that learning brings to the classroom. If desired, keep anecdotal records of your observations.
There are many areas or activities that can be made available to the class during open work time. Remember to provide activities done previously in formal instruction. Repeating lessons and activities is a useful learning tool for students. Lower achieving students benefit from the repetition while higher achieving students will improvise and extend the learning.
The labels provided on the following pages can be duplicated and used during center time to mark each area or activity. Duplicate each twice--use one to label the area or activities and one to display as either open or closed. Using a pocket chart or double-sided masking tape, put up the labels of the areas that are open. Hang these in a place that is easily seen. The second label can be hung or placed at the area that is open for work. Children can match words or pictures to find out which areas are available. Labeling the centers open or closed gives the option of closing an activity that is being used inappropriately or needs some update or adjustment.
Finally, open work time should not be used as a reward for finishing a particular task or for good behavior. It is a fundamental part of the instructional day for each student. Students will find an activity they can perform successfully somewhere among the choices.
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