Thursday, September 09, 2010

Surviving Centers

I think I just survived two days of centers.

Mrs. Eagle and I had the great idea this summer that we would occasionally do centers instead of a unit test so that we could give the kids more hands' on experiences and also a different way of assessment. Mrs. Mallard, one of the most creative and amazing science teachers we know (she teaches 8th graders), is a big fan of centers and we saw the great results she got with them, so we thought we'd try them. I know a lot of teachers, in particular elementary, do centers, but it's not something we've done much of in seventh grade science.

So, we came up with four center activities dealing with our rock and mineral unit. We had a mineral identification center where they could identify a variety of minerals using streak plates, among other things. We also had a center dealing with the rock cycle that included labeling and diagramming. Another dealt with the three rock types and involved drawing a comic strip. The last one was a puzzle dealing with minerals and their uses in our daily lives. Pretty simple stuff and stuff that could be done, with a bit of focus, in two class periods.

One thing we learned from this is that large classes, small rooms, and center activities can be a challenge simply from a space and mobility perspective. The smaller classes seemed to be able to get on task a bit quicker, while the larger classes seemed to have trouble just navigating around the room without stopping and interacting with other kids. However, once they finally got going, they didn't do too bad.

Mrs. Eagle and I haven't graded the center packets yet, which is something we're going to do this weekend, however from what I've seen, they range from kids who barely did one activity to kids that rocked and did all four and did them well.

The big problem with most of these kids is they have absolutely no concept of time management (despite a giant timer on the screen, thanks to my Kagan Timer Tools software), and they are highly social and can waste an entire class period talking about cheer-leading and other important things. I ran laps around the room trying to get kids focused and helping them stay on track. It worked with some, but not with others.

Many of these kids seem to think that if they turn in anything, even if it's poorly done or incomplete, that they deserve a good grade. I think many of them will be surprised when they get their packets back and see that we actually expect some sort of effort and quality work out of them. Hopefully it will wake a few of them up.

And just think, progress reports come out next week.

1 comment:

OKP said...

I use a kitchen timer for all sorts of activities, and I teach HS. It helps keep me on track sometimes!

The centers sound like fun!