It wasn't until a few years ago that I began to really try to implement centers in my room. Although I was initially nervous, I have had so much fun (as have my students!) My lessons had been admittedly pretty teacher-centered until then, so centers allowed me to provide a more student-centered learning environment. Other benefits of using learning centers include:
- Promoting student independence and responsibility
- Allowing time for intervention
- Allowing time for individual assessment
- Allowing students to take charge of their learning
- Students' achievement can quickly improve through the focus on one concept/skill
So what do centers look like in the music classroom? It depends a bit on who you talk to, but in my room, I typically split students up into four groups, and have each group at one center for five or so minutes, and then they rotate to the next center, so that by the time music class is done, they have done all of the centers. Each center has a different activity, but is typically focused on the same concept or skill as the other centers. For example, if students are working on notes on the treble clef staff, with one center, they might be playing a jumping game in which students are jumping to the correct line or space on the staff (with a staff being taped to the floor), in another center, students might be playing the "Flashnote Derby" app on my Ipad, in another center, students might be writing words on their own staves (like EGG, BED, FACE, etc.) and in another center, students might be completing treble clef staff worksheets. You as the teacher could be anchored at one center--assessing or helping as needed, you might be providing intervention to struggling students, or you might be floating from one center to the next as you help students out.
I've been asked quite a bit, as I've presented this topic at workshops, how I set them up in my room. I have a fairly large room (compared to other rooms I've had) so I choose four spots in the room, kind of at the north, east, south, and west sides of the room, and put all the materials there. I'm taking an ELL class right now, and the book I'm reading ("50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners" by Herrell and Jordan) suggests posting written directions at centers. I also plan on posting signs this year with the center's number. I typically don't do centers for more than one grade level on any particular day, so that I only have to have materials out for one set of centers, but if you were to do more than one grade level of centers on any day, you could make sure to plan ahead and post signs for which materials are for which grade level.
For my lessons, I have found that centers work well done every so often, when students have shown that they are ready for some independent work. For my classroom, I do centers maybe 6 or so times each year. However, I'm sure some music teachers do centers more and find it works well for them and their students; you just have to choose what works for you! I would suggest starting small and then increasing from there as you get used to the set-up.
When deciding on types of centers, I often have types of centers in my mind, like SMART board, worksheets, Ipad, instruments, manipulatives, and game. Then, when I've decided on a concept, I plug the concept into those types of centers.
Here is a picture of my students at a center in which they were matching up stick notation cards to staff notation cards (using this set):
And here are students at centers creating patterns for recorder (using this freebie):
To recap answers to questions you may have about centers:
- Why? To create a more student-centered learning environment in which students are responsible for their own learning, and to provide time for intervention and individual assessment
- What? Centers are stations at which students work in small groups or independently. They can work in increments of 5 or 10 minutes before rotating OR they can work independently, rotating when they are ready and/or have completed the assigned task. I usually set up centers so they are all focused on the same concept but target that concept in different ways.
- Where? This depends on your room, but in my room, I set up the centers in four different spots. Keep in mind that noisy centers should be far away from each other!
- How? You get to decide which centers you do, how students are put into groups, how long they will spend at each center, etc. I usually spend one lesson on centers, but you could spend more if you need to. I also often have one center be an assessment center, in which you can individually assess students, but you could also provide time for intervention, pulling students who you know have been struggling with that particular concept.
- When? After students have become familiar enough to work independently with the given concept. I typically do centers several times a year with a given grade level, but this is up to you!
Keep in mind:
- It will get noisy. Most kids are used to this because they often do centers with their classroom teacher, but keep this in mind when figuring out where centers should be located.
- Experiment until you find what works for you. I've detailed what works for me, but you might find a different set-up that works better for you and your students!
- You will have to give up control...but it will be worth it! (Students will be teaching other students...it's wonderful to watch!)
Want more ideas about centers? Check out Tracy King's post about centers as well as The Yellow Brick Road's post about centers.
Let me know if you have any more questions about centers, and have fun!