First-grade centers can be done independently and with success with these teacher tips! Teaching our youngest students to do centers can already feel like a nightmare, but then making sure to teach them to do them independently can be a new kind of disaster. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be! I’m going to break down 6 easy steps to teach your students to do centers independently.
You may also want to read: ? How To Manage Your Centers During Guided Reading
First Grade Centers: How to teach students be independent
Step #1: Model
This is an extremely important step that I wasn’t great at during my first few years of teaching. When teaching a center to your students, explicitly model each step. It is painful, but I literally mean each step. Say your thinking out loud.
Here is an example if I was teaching my students how to use our word work center:
“Today, I think I will pick the Silly Story. With Silly Story, I have to pick 4 of my words to use in a story and the story has to be a silly one! My 4 words are: of, both, the, and step. Now I need a pencil to write my story. I think I want my story to be about a pig.” Then start writing while saying your silly story aloud for them to hear what you are writing.
Step #2: Practice
This is a crucial step. Have different students come up to practice the center. I like to point out what the students are doing. For example, “Oh look, Cindy is picking the Picture Spelling. Oh, it looks like she chose some colored pens to use for her picture.”
Offer praise and encouragement during each step! Give plenty of time to practice and re-practice as necessary. This really helps develop first-grade centers’ success!
Step #3: Talk about what the students did during their practice
After practicing, make sure you talk about it! Ask students how they felt while practicing their center. Did they feel confident? Do they have questions about how to do something?
You will learn a lot by providing students time to discuss and ask questions!
Step #4: Give visual directions
One thing you’ll want to do is show them visual directions and a visual of the supplies they’ll need for their center. Visuals are always a great idea, especially when children are still learning to read. They’ll know which supplies to get out ahead of time and won’t constantly be getting up to go get something or to ask you where something is.
Step #5: Teach them how to clean up
This is very important! Make sure your students know what to do with their center when they’re finished. Do they turn their work in? Are they supposed to read? Should they clean up when they’re finished or should they wait until you say it’s time to clean up?
Step #6: Check in at various points
Especially in the beginning, it’s important to check in with your students often. I like to do simple check-ins like, “Give me a thumbs up if you’re doing well and don’t need help, and give me a thumb to the side if you need help or are struggling.” I make sure they do this right in front of their heart because 1. It’s easier for me to see rather than students putting their hands up all over and 2. Other students won’t see.
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