There is no doubt about it — we live in a different world than we did just six months ago. Covid-19 has brought lots of fear and uncertainty to the world of education. What will school look like next year? Will we wear masks? Will we have students in the classroom or will we still be teaching virtually? If we are in the classroom, how will we keep ourselves and our students safe while still delivering the best possible lessons?
I wish that I had all of the answers for you. Sadly, I do not. What I can do is brainstorm and come up with tips and ideas based on what we do know. Please know that I am NOT a doctor or a scientist. I am not your school board or your principal. I am going to share some ideas, but ultimately we all have to listen to the rules and restrictions in our school and go with our gut.
You all know that centers are my jam. I use them in reading and in math. I love that centers are engaging, great for review and practice, and the perfect activity for students to complete while the teacher meets with small groups.
So how can we continue to do centers next year if we do have students in the classroom? Some of my centers were things like technology and read to self. Those activities aren’t as difficult to continue. But what about the hands-on center activities? You know — the sorts, task cards, and the stations with manipulatives?
Check out these tips for making hands-on center activities safer next school year…
Take time NOW to laminate your hands-on center activities if you have not already done so!
They will last so much longer than just cardstock alone. That’s a major bonus and time saver.
But even more importantly, once the centers are laminated, it will be easy to wipe them down after students use them. In fact, if you are allowed, I would make it a routine or class job that a student wipes them with a Lysol wipe each day after centers. If you teach and practice the routine, they can do this task very quickly.
If you don’t already have a personal laminator, I love THIS one.
Hand sanitizer will most definetly became a staple in every classroom this year.
For hands-on centers, I recommend keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer right next to the center activities. Make it a part of the center routine to use the sanitizer BEFORE and AFTER using the center materials.
One Student at a Time
When I would do math centers in my classroom, I always had 10 different activities available in my hands-on rotation at one time. Students needed to complete all 10, but they could do them in any order they chose.
Having more activities available than you have students in a group means that one student can be working on an activity at a time.
Students can take their activity to a certain spot in the classroom and not work super close to other students. You might want to declare certain spots in the classroom that are specifically to be used for the hands-on center activities.
Now, don’t kill yourself trying to come up with a million different activities! Buy bundles that already include multiple center activities for each skill!
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Make Independent Student Kits
Are there certain manipulatives or tools that students use often during centers? Maybe dice? Or spinners? Or counters?
How about putting these materials in zip up pencil pouches for each student? Put student names on the pouches and have students bring the pouch when they are working on hands-on center activities.
Now there is less sharing of materials!
I consider this to be the “if all else fails” option. I love having hands-on centers that keep students off of screens. But in times like this…you do what you have to do!
The important thing is that you look for engaging centers that ask students to think deeply! Online games are fun, but they don’t always stretch our students as much as we need them too.
Great news! My team just completed making all of my math centers for grades 2, 3, 4 & 5 digital! They are all on Google Slides. Students can drag, drop, click and type in answers. The centers are engaging and still ask students to write about their mathematical thinking! It is a great combination of fun and thinking deeply.
These centers will also be ideal for those teachers who will need to teach virtually some or all of the time. Students can complete them at home!
Year-long digital bundles are now available!
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I hope that these tips give you some ideas and maybe even some hope about using centers in the classroom!
There is no denying that this school year will be a bit unconventional, but your students are so lucky to have a NOT so wimpy teacher!
Have a Not So Wimpy day,