My students seriously needed some structured activities on which to work while waiting for the other students to finish their main projects*. I decided that "centers" would be the best thing. Implementing these mini-activities (or centers) into my classroom has helped cut down on problems such as misbehavior, mess-making, and mischief in general.
I spent about 5 weeks at the very beginning of the year teaching rules, procedures, and expectations for these centers. It felt like a LONG time, but it has really paid off in the end. When the students are independently working on centers, I am free to work with students individually and in small groups on other skills they need to complete their main projects.
Here's what we do:
Since my classroom is rather small, and I teach up to 30 students per class, it isn't feasible for my students to move from one center to the next. Instead, each table has a center basket placed underneath the general supplies basket. I rotate these each week. This photo shows the general supplies basket on top of the center basket (which is really more like a tray). You can also see the paint that students are using on their main project. I allow students to use any supplies that are on the table to work on their center. They can choose whatever they like as long as they aren't wasteful.
I use this board to let the students know exactly what center activity their table will be working on for the week. It is helpful because the supplies used to get transferred from one table to next very easily. I suspect sneaky students were moving the supplies hoping they could get away with working on the center they like best, and then pleading ignorance. They can't do that with this chart posted. The cards must correspond to the materials with which they are working. ;)
This is an index card box that goes with the Following Directions center.
It holds "How to Draw" cards.
Below are two examples of the cards. I chose to make these cards for the beginning of the year. I started with about 5 of the same card in each box. It was "How to Draw a Star". Very simple! When I first began teaching this center, I wanted the students to focus on the steps to completing the center, not the actual drawing. (That came later!)
Anyway, each student used just the one card until they learned all of the steps and could complete the center independently. This took about 3 weeks. However, this was the first center that I introduced. All of the other centers came much more easily for the students once they got the hang of this one.
I added new cards to the box every week after those first 3 weeks. Now there are about 50 different cards in each box. This gives the students some choice in what they learn to draw.
These simple steps are written inside the box. (See below.)
Eventually, I started adding "How to Draw" books to the center to give the students more choice in what they learn to draw.
I really had to enforce the "No Tracing" rule with this! Tracing defeats the purpose of the center, which is to follow directions. Therefore, if they trace, they don't get to participate in the center. Since they are eager to use the "How to Draw" books and cards, they usually obey the rule.
I have this Flow Map posted so they can easily remember what type of Thinking Map to apply to their Following Directions center work.
3. Flow Map
This center is differentiated. All students can draw what they see. Therefore, all students can complete the first step. Most students can also make it to the second step. They can use any available supplies (the ones on their table) to add color to what they have drawn. The third step requires a little more of the students. They must make a flow map of the steps to draw whatever they chose. However, most students can also be successful with this because they have the directions in the book or on the card. The fourth step requires the students to write sentences (and a paragraph if time permits) describing the procedures for drawing whatever they chose.
Most students don't have time to make it through all 4 steps in one class period. They are encouraged to bring what they have finished back the next week.
*Main projects are the big, multi-step projects that hang for display around the school and throughout the community. Centers are like mini-projects that the students can take home after each class period.
Share your own ideas, photos, etc!!!
Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room