Have you ever walked past other classrooms and noticed students working quietly at centers independently? Have you wondered what’s the secret??
Teachers who have smooth transitions and engaged students at centers have a few secrets. Actually, they’re not really “secrets.” These teachers are 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 and in turn, reach their goals. I’ll continue to share more “secrets” in future emails as well, but here are some you can implement right away!
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- Establish Routines. 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. 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, 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. When our students have routines, there are fewer interruptions at the guided reading table and more students working confidently and quietly at their centers.
- Be EXPLICIT With Your Expectations. Once you’ve established your routines for MDMD, decide on what you want that to look like. 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. Don’t assume your students know what to do and how to behave when doing it. Be explicit. 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 Questions cards, download below! Suggestions for use are included.
- 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. Your students will work harder when they know WHY they are working and WHAT they are working toward.
- REWARD. Create 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. See my best-selling Behavior Management Packet for a system of positive classroom management.
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.