Some of my colleagues had been mentioning how they use ‘centres’ in their classes, which is an area I feel I’ve never really explored properly. By ‘centres’, I am referring to one lesson where you might have 4-5 activities going on at the same time, with small groups of students moving from one activity to another every 10-15 minutes.
If centres are done well, you can really differentiate your class and have the students working on activities at their exact level. It can also help your students gain some learner autonomy by giving them space to perform a task with minimal supervision. A teacher can use this time to take aside one small group of students at a time and work with them on something specific to their level (perhaps an informal reading assessment). If done poorly, you can end up with a lot of students not doing anything and just staring at their friends, while waiting for their turn to do the ‘fun’ activity!
I’ve started to introduce a couple of games I have at home into class, with the idea of using them as centres at a later date. My first game was Bananagrams. The easiest description of Bananagrams is that it is like Scrabble with no board, with everybody playing at the same time. To simplify the game for my first grade, I altered the rules:
-Before we play a round, I name a topic (or one is drawn by random).
-The students (3 or 4 playing at a time) have to think of and then spell TWO words that are part of that topic, using the letter tiles.
EXAMPLE: The topic is food and a student puts together the words ‘rice’ and ‘apple’. She was the first person to make two words, so she wins that round.
Possible topics include: food, names, places, verbs, nouns, adjectives, animals, countries, something you find in school, something you find at home, clothes, body parts, jobs, words that start with ‘a’, words that start with ‘b’, words that have no ‘e’ in them.
Once the kids have played the game for a while, I’m going to look at upgrading the difficulty by having them find two words that have to be joined together, like when you play Scrabble.
I played this game in front of the whole class to get them acquainted with it, then I stepped back and monitored the students playing for a while to make sure they all had grasped the rules. They absolutely loved the game!