May 2 | #EarlyLang

“Using Stations and Centers in the Early Language Classroom”
from May 2, 2018

On May 2, language teachers from grades K-8, and beyond, met for the biweekly #EarlyLang chat. Participants discussed how centers can help students to explore language, overcoming logistical issues, and the benefits of centers. Participants also shared how they implement centers, what is needed for successful outcomes, and how to hold students accountable for their learning.

Q1: What are the benefits of having centers in the early language classroom?

So many benefits! They can be used to preview new content or as a final activity to encourage independent work. Stations provide fun ways of learning through games and different modes of communication. They can also be a source of differentiation, make learning student-centered, and allow the teacher to work with small groups or individual students. Stations also allow students to have enrichment or review opportunities depending on the skills they have mastered. Finally, students who may not be comfortable speaking up in whole-group activities may participate more in the smaller group.

Q2: How can we make centers work, even when traveling on a cart or facing other logistical issues?

Given the constraints of many #earlylang classes–short classes, classes that don’t meet daily, traveling teachers–it is very important to plan for these challenges. Organization is essential. Put items into large plastic bags or other storage for quick distribution and collection. Include no more than 2 manipulatives per group and use activities students are already familiar with, either #earlylang of gen ed, to reduce time spent on directions. For time constraints, suggestions included not doing centers for every class, having only one center per class and rotate through in subsequent classes, or don’t have all students get to all centers in each class. Finally, simple materials or ones that are easy to prep, working with colleagues to set up the room in advance, and model how to complete the tasks so students can work independently.

Q3:What activities or tasks do you have learners complete at centers?

@rrrrrrrrrrrrosa “so for my 1st grade listening centers, there’ll be an EdPuzzle, a Seesaw activity, a straight video+worksheet, hopefully a QR code+worksheet…and hopefully something else.”

@MaestraAubreyCT “Standard centers are writing, listening, speaking, playing, computers/ipads, reading, and creating.”

@SECottrell “I mentioned this earlier, but anything that explores an #authres related to our unit/CI story. So this semester, they mapped cities on Colombia and checked the weather report for that day.”

@doriecp “My students love switching their iPads to Spanish so they can ask Siri what’s the current weather in other cities. It may be one of their fav activities.”

@NathanLutz “I like to have a balance of the modes represented at my centers – something interpersonal (info gap activity), something interpretive (an EdPuzzle), and something presentational (make a @Seesaw or @Flipgrid video). I also like to have a “with the teacher” center.”

@alcolli1 “I recently had my 6th graders complete some exploring centers about the Amazon. They listened to sounds of the rainforest trying to guess where the sounds are coming from, they looked at maps to tell me what countries Amazon covered, they also read articles.”

Q4:What setup, organization, and materials make centers a success?

Organization is again the key–have groups posted, organize materials for easy distribution, provide a book of useful words and phrases during independent work; minimalism also helps. Another important factor is to have clear expectations. All of these factors minimize time wasted repeating instructions and ensure students can complete the tasks. Other suggestions included making sure materials are based on student interest so they have more to talk about and offering a choice in activity after they complete the assigned center.

Q5: How do you hold learners accountable for what they do at centers?

Sometimes it is easy, younger learners (and even the not-so-young learners) will “rat” on those who are not doing the work. Centers free the teacher to walk around and observe/listen in as a means to ensure on-task behavior. Other ideas include a checklist so students check off what their partners have answered or sign off on each other’s work; all members write their names on the work they completed; have students take notes to keep as a reference. Some things teachers can do are have a Google sheet or other checklist to use while observing students and to post indicators for meeting, approaching or beginning expectations so students can check where they are and redirect themselves as needed.

Reflaction–What center will you implement or change based on tonight’s chat?

Among the actions steps shared were to use authentic resources as reading prompts and to include interpersonal communication throughout centers. Another action step is to post performance indicators in the classroom so students are able to refer to them at all times.

Thank you to all who participated in this #EarlyLang chat! Thank you to our lead moderator, Sara-Elizabeth, (@SECottrell)‏ for leading the chat and to our co-moderator, Dorie, (@doriecp) for helping guide the conversation. Thanks also to EMC School (@EMCSCHOOL) for sponsoring tonight’s chat.The next chat is May 16, 2018 at 8 pm EST.  Hope to see you there.

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