Strategy

Learning Centers

Learning Stations, Working Stations, Stations, Around the Room

Learning Centers is an exploratory and interactive learning strategy where students rotate in groups to different activities that reinforce and extend classroom learning. As students rotate to designated areas around the classroom they demonstrate their understanding of a topic and practice skills through tasks that integrate various learning styles. To implement this strategy, a teacher first determines a skill or content area to focus on and selects several activities related to the objective. The materials for each activity are placed in specific locations around the classroom and students complete the activities in small groups, while the teacher provides support to individual students. Learning Centers increases opportunities for differentiated instruction while students work collaboratively on engaging, content-rich activities.

Ready-to-Use Resources

Picture Icons

Visual Schedule Icons

A sheet of icons for that can be affixed to schedules to provide visual support.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 · Behavior & SEL · 1 pages


Self-Monitoring Tool

Specific Routine Picture Schedule

A picture schedule template to use for daily routines with students who need additional visual support.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 · Behavior & SEL · 1 pages


Implementation Tips

Student Expectations
Discuss academic and behavior expectations with students before implementing Learning Centers. It is important for students to understand the academic tasks they are expected to complete and accepted behaviors (e.g., walk between stations, only talk with students in your group, etc.). Specify the direction or flow of rotations and any cues or signals that you will use during the activity (e.g., timer for rotations, bell ring when volume is too loud, etc.).
Student Groups
Create student groupings that include a range of academic abilities. Pairing a student with a strong understanding of the content with a student who needs additional support can support student collaboration and participation. For larger groups, consider student personalities, academic strengths, and behavior to create balanced, productive groups.
Visual Reminders/Schedules
Post an [[https://debbiediller.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/106-man-bd.jpg|interactive chart]] to remind students of groupings and the order of rotations. Individual task schedules can also be provided to students who need additional support rotating between centers.
Classroom Arrangement
Spread out stations in the classroom so that students have enough room to engage in learning activities without disrupting a neighboring group. For example, some groups may work at tables, while others work on the rug and classroom computers.
Assessment Tool
Use Learning Centers as an alternative to traditional assessments. Different content-related tasks or parts of a problem-based project can be provided at each station and students can be given a rubric detailing the expectations for each task. At the end of the rotations, student work can be collected and graded based on the rubric.
Vary Resources
Provide a variety of materials or resources at different stations and change them regularly. For example, at a writing station, students can be given different types of paper to write on (e.g., letterhead, stationery, etc.) and writing tools (e.g., colored pencils, digital tablets, etc.).

Examples

Text Analysis
To help students build comprehension skills and content knowledge, a science teacher creates several stations with texts about animal adaptations (e.g., excerpts from textbook, popular science magazines, etc.). Each student is given a summary chart that includes space for students to write the key terms, main idea, and important details for each text. Students are assigned to groups and at each station they read the text aloud and complete the chart. The teacher uses a timer to signal when students should rotate to the next station. After the rotations, the teacher reviews the summary chart with the class.
Building Skills
A teacher prepares several stations that address the same skill with increasing levels of difficulty (e.g., 1. Single-Digit Addition, 2. Single-Digit Addition with Regrouping, 3. Double-Digit Addition, 4. Double-Digit Addition with Regrouping). All students start at the same station and complete the provided tasks. In order to move to the next station, the teacher must check the student’s work. While students are working at the stations, the teacher provides support to individual students. To better accommodate a large group of students, teacher can also prepare multiple stations at the same level or allow only a few students to start at a time.
Peer Editing
To support peer editing, a teacher sets up stations that are focused on different aspects of editing (e.g., punctuation, capitalization, spelling, grammar, etc.). Each station includes a task card that contains a description of the editing objective and exemplars. As students rotate to each station, they partner with another student and edit each other’s work. At the final station, students offer ideas for revising specific sentences or chunks of writing using sticky notes.
Learning Menus
To promote student autonomy and accommodate different learning styles, a teacher gives students a “menu” with different options for learning a concept. For an “appetizer” students choose from a variety of activities focused on summarizing a text (e.g., flashcards, outline, summary). The “entree” course develops higher level thinking and students have the option to create either a brochure or website based on the text. Finally, for their “dessert,” students reflect on the text using a learning log or by writing a journal entry.

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