5 Secrets For Quiet Centers and Engaged Students + FREEBIE!


Have you ever walked past other classrooms and noticed students working quietly and staying engaged at centers independently?

Have you wondered what’s the secret?

Teachers who have smooth transitions and engaged students at centers have a few secrets. They’re not really “secrets.” But these teachers are just using practical strategies that are tried and true, plus a little problem-solving when things don’t go quite right!

Here are a few effective strategies I’ve used over the years to help my students stay engaged while working quietly at centers to help them reach their goals. I’ll continue to share more “secrets” in future emails as well, but here are some you can implement right away!

*Don’t miss the exclusive FREEBIE at the end of the post!*

Establish routines During Centers

It’s human nature to find comfort in routines. When our routines are different each day or somehow disrupted, our anxiety levels increase and our confidence decreases. This is how our students feel when we haven’t established routines for them.

Keeping our Must Dos and May Dos routine doesn’t mean our students will be bored at centers. It means our students will be confident in knowing what to do next and in knowing how to do the tasks. If you’re not familiar with Must Do May Do, grab the FREE guide and read about this successful alternative to rotating literacy centers here

Tasks can be tweaked a bit by changing out books, changing partners, changing out seatwork, rotating the types of games weekly, and increasing expectations gradually. But the basic routines will stay the same and,

Be Explicit with your expectations

Once you’ve established your routines for MDMD, decide on what you want that to look like. For example, how should students partner read?

  • Knee to knee?
  • Where should they sit?
  • Will they have 2 of the same books or just share 1?
  • How many books should they read or for how long should they read?
  • Where should they complete their vocabulary and seatwork?
  • Can they work together?
  • Who do students go to if they have questions?

Once YOU know what you want MDMD to look like, share those details with your students and be explicit. Gather them on the carpet and model how to partner read. Hold up an organized bin with materials and model how to keep it that way. Discuss every step of the plan you have in your mind and model, model, model.

When students are clear about your expectations, they are more likely to work confidently and quietly.

Allow for Repeated Practice of Those Expectations

We all need to review once in a while. Keep those expectations fresh in your students’ minds by routinely gathering them to the carpet and reviewing, modeling, and discussing explicitly what you expect from them.

Have them tell you what your expectations are. Ask questions with my complimentary Must Do May Do question cards at the end of this post! Suggestions for use are also included.

**Grab these FREE MDMD question cards at the end of this post**

Share WHY and Set Individual Goals

When students know why they are doing something and what their goals are, they have better buy-in! Take the time to let them know what the benefits are of partner reading or why they do vocabulary every day.

Have them tell you regularly what their individual reading goals are and what they need to do to reach those goals. These things should not be secrets, because

Reward Students For Positive Behavior

The easiest way to keep students engaged is by creating a positive learning experience and a positive environment when you reward appropriate behavior.

Notice and reward when students are following directions and your expectations. Often just recognizing and commenting on their good choices verbally is enough. Give points to tables that clean up quietly or work cooperatively well and then award the table with some free time. For example I love using these Happy Go Home Notes!

I hope these strategies help you out as much as they did for me! I’d love to hear from you, leave any questions or comments below.

Looking for more tips for engaged learners? Check out these posts below:

Thanks for stopping by!


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