By Karen Terwilliger
When deciding to set up learning centers, teachers might feel they need to make a huge change in the look of the classroom for it to work. They might feel like the task is too big and takes too much time to do. These limiting thoughts might discourage teachers from even giving learning centers a try. However, simple changes can make a world of difference in creating a whole new look in the classroom.
4 Tips for creating the optimal learning space for learning centers
1. Create different centers that align with your curriculum.
English teachers, for example, can create student learning centers for independent reading, small-group reading, writing, researching, and vocabulary building.
2. Turn each center into an interesting and comfortable learning space.
Create little nooks with different types of seating to make the space more inviting and enjoyable for students.
Change it up by using available furniture to create different formations, such as sections with rows, chairs in a circle, and an open floor space. Use movable objects such as open shelves or file cabinets to separate the areas.
Embrace comfort by asking the school community to donate furniture no longer in use or in need of a temporary home. Bring in beach chairs, beanbags, and carpet squares (towels or yoga mats work too) so each area has a different feel.
Of course, make sure you follow your district policy when it comes to moving furniture and bringing in outside items not purchased by the district.
3. Focus on functionality.
An efficient arrangement ensures more time on task. Specifically, make sure all the necessary learning resources are easily accessible. Make a list of the needs in each center, such as books, papers, writing utensils, laptops, headphones, and outlets for the devices. Maintain organization with designated supply bins so students know where to find them and where to return them at the end of class.
4. Involve students in the design.
Give students the chance to create their perfect classroom. Often, they will come up with simple solutions or changes that can make a space more inviting. Add this as a challenge for students to do when they have downtime after an assignment.
Sketch a quick floor plan to see if the design works before moving furniture—especially helpful if you share a room with another teacher. With a clear plan, students can help to break down or set up specific learning centers. Keep a map of the floor plan posted so kids can refer to it when creating the centers.
Start simple and add enhancements to the centers as the year goes on.
For more detailed guidance on how to design small-group instruction, pick up your copy of Hacking Learning Centers today.