In my discussions with teachers, it is assumed by many that centers are for the elementary students only and can’t be done by older students. One resource I found (http://www.middleweb.com/MWLISTCONT/MSLcenters.html) shares some of those concerns and some possible answers. Middle school students want to distinguish themselves as different from the younger elementary school students. Center activities for older students can look much different and still provide an avenue for the differentiation that many teachers need to provide.

Because classrooms become more lecture-based as the students get older, students find less time for independent work inside the classroom. Centers, even in high schools, can provide for individualized educational needs as well as putting students in a position to create products that synthesize information presented or provided during class.

A retired teacher in San Diego is maintaining a site with a section on centers activities. (http://www.carlscorner.us/Centers%20City_4.htm) While it is mostly centered around the elementary classrooms, a slight modification to the ideas can make them relevant for specific older student settings. Instead of “draw pictures of things that start with the letter B”, high school students could “add to the poster metaphors you found your novel”. Centers can have a positive effect if created with your specific population in mind.

Blogging is an ideal centers activity. It is a high interest tool for students and it leaves measurable data behind. As a center, there is no cutting and gluing of pretty posters and it doesn’t take up space in a drawer when not being used. Once the blog has been setup, adding a post for the day takes very little time. Students who thrive on it can continue working on it after class from any internet connected computer. As an independent activity, there is nobody to answer for the student, often a drawback for the shy student in group work.

One Blogging Centers organizational strategy in an older student environment:

  • Centers happen every Tuesday and Thursday. When students enter, they know the routine and schedule and can self-direct from the start.
  • In a 45 minute time slot, leaving additional time for whole class direct teach, four groups of students can rotate through centers. The blogging center will see each group for 10 minutes, during which time they read the prompt, comment on it, and reply/respond to other student comments. A Two-Minute Warning timer sounds before the end of each rotation.
  • Other centers can have longer times to allow for more in depth project work. Teacher can have small group analysis time for each group to either review difficult content or preview specific ideas with a smaller T/S ratio in front of her.
  • Allow 5 minutes at the end of the center time to specifically highlight blog comments so that it isn’t a separate and forgotten time waster but a valid and meaningful information synthesis device.
  • What strategies have you found helpful in your centers routines that would benefit a blogging center? (share the age level)