Centers for Upper Elementary Classrooms

Hi, it's Melissa from Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late! I know many of you are winding down your school year at this point. We are in full review mode here in Virginia with state tests right around the corner (3 weeks away - yikes!). With review time, I like to pull out centers for students to rotate through where we can touch on a variety of skills at different times. Here are a few tips for centers that don't take a ton of prep time and are valuable to the students at the same time.

1. Don't underestimate the value of a simple "Read to Self" station. I know it may seem like a cop-out, but studies have proven time and time again that having students read and make their own choices on what books they select is the most effective way to create life-long learners! Maybe have a nice, cozy reading area (if you have that luxury), or just get a few pillows. I just let them choose a place around the classroom. You'd be surprised how excited 4th graders get about reading under their desk. No money spent, and everyone is happy! I would say this is a MUST station, whether you have all children do it at once or include it in your rotations or both.

2. Games are okay! I have some fantastic Reading Comprehension board games from Edupress, and my students love them. We pull them out frequently. Each game includes a set of cards with short passages and multiple choice answers (so basically test-prep). I make the students hold on to cards that they answer correctly to see how well they are doing with the skill. This is an ideal center for this time of year when many students (and teachers) are burnt out on regular test prep passages and practice sets. I actually pull them out even more at this point.

3. Find Reading Centers on TPT or create your own. I have created centers for almost every month, and I print and laminate them to put in colorful folders for students to grab and use throughout the year. Yes, it takes a lot of prep at first (whether it's actually creating them or just putting them together after purchasing), but these are great ways to practice different skills that you are working on throughout the year, and there are TONS of great options online! I like to include a graphic organizer with my centers so I can monitor their progress.

4. Computers/Listen to Reading. It may sound "babyish" to have students listen to reading at this age, but they still love it and can benefit. See if your school has Tumblebooks or check with your local library. I also have used, which has popular picture books read by celebrities. You can also use this time for one of the MANY great websites (free or paid). We just recently started using Raz-Kids, which is well worth the money in my opinion! It has a great selection of short, leveled books for students to read (or even have read to them), and then they answer a few questions about the book at the end. Students can earn points for completing books and questions, and then they get to use the points for fun activities on the website!

5. Last, but not least, make wise choices with your teacher station. You may choose to do small groups or individual conferences. I would do a mix. My station almost never looks the same. During individual conferences, I am usually listening to a student read a book they selected, and then we discuss what they need to work on. However, I also pull students or groups to work on specific areas of weakness. We may go through a reading passage (I like to use, which is free) or read a book together and discuss it. Just make sure it is meaningful!

Of course, there are many other ways to run centers, but I like to stick with a few staples. I would recommend creating a pattern that your students are familiar with so they can settle into a routine quickly and easily!

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