Are Reading and Writing Centers Really Beneficial for Upper Elementary & Higher? A Guest Post by The Teacher

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Are Centers Really Beneficial?
Guest Post by: The Teacher

                As a parent and educator it is always important to
think about the purpose of what goes on in a classroom whether it is Preschool, Elementary, or High School. One of the hot topics of late is the use of centers.
Now I’m not talking hands-on science experiments, math problems, or anything like that. I’m talking about centers for reading and writing where the children review what we have learned in class and are UNmonitored by a teacher during this center time. Before we engage in a discussion I felt it important to show you quick video
clip of what a center typically looks like:

In summary a center can be used for math,
reading, science, and or writing and is an opportunity for the student to spend
time manipulating or “playing” with a particular skill.

                Centers are very big when it comes to Preschool and
Kindergarten and is pervasively used (and beneficial) for students to develop
peer to peer relationships, communication skills, as well as a chance to explore what
they are learning. The problem with today’s current idea of use of reading/writing centers is
that K-5 public schools spend a lot of times involved with centers. Students may have one hour
during reading, 30 minutes during math, 30 
minutes of extra time for reading, and if possible an extra 15 to 30
minutes a day for math or reading if needed. What that comes to is 2 hours to 2
½ hours of centers daily.

The problem I have with centers above second grade
is the question – What happens when students are in centers? In preschool for my sons’ class
the teachers circulate the room and monitor what is being learned and played
with. What happens in a fifth grade classroom when the students are in centers?
During centers, teachers are expected to have
a small group of students with them learning and the other students in the class are expected to engage on their own with no direct supervision. How beneficial is it for a student who is
on level to spend two hours of every instructional day walking around the room
playing with games, worksheets, or other learning activities? I don’t think it
is the best use of time for the upper grades and in fact is a waste of time,
when you could be using whole group instruction. I do, however, feel that it is important that children of all ages learn to work together as a team and cooperative correspondingly.

In short, are you sending
your fifth grader to school to spend 2 hours of instruction daily playing
centers like preschool? Or are you expecting your child to be actively engaged
in learning throughout the day supervised by the teacher? Are centers beneficial? They definitely are – they are being used pervasively throughout the country, but I don’t think they
are beneficial for EVERY grade level and become more unbeneficial as a student
gets older for a simple reading/writing center (this does not include math strategies, science, and team building efforts). Reading/writing centers should be used as a building process for younger students
but not wasted time with students who are in your higher grades. 

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