Learning centres, also referred to as literacy and/or math work stations, are designed to give students the opportunity to practice what they have been learning through independent exploration at their own pace. Learning centres should include a balance of process and product, where some centres provide the opportunity to create products while others simply offer a chance to practice. Learning centres can be used to help students improve reading and writing skills, practice phonics skills, develop conceptual understandings and skills, use subject area vocabulary, and make connections to big ideas.
While they have a variety of potential applications, learning centres should generally involve simple (and not too many) materials where the purpose of the learning centre supports instruction. For example, math learning stations could include: five-frames and ten-frames, survey, counting cards, dice toss games, estimation station, time cards, etc. Literacy stations could range from poetry to buddy reading to themed writing stations. Technology can also be incorporated into learning centres, depending on access. Most importantly, the skills and needs of the learners in the class should be the primary driver behind selecting and applying learning centres in the classroom.
This strategy was employed during practicum with a group of grade 6 extended learners. Learning centres were carried out during a designated block, where different stations were set up around the portable environment (space limitations prevented us from having these stations set up permanently). Students had about 15 minutes at a station and then rotated 3-4 times. There were usually 7-8 stations set up at once. Stations often included practice on phonics skills and vocabulary (e.g. making words with letter tiles, WordBrain app on tablets). Other common stations included math flash cards for multiplication and division facts, Lego building to inspire creativity, typing games on Chromebooks, and the Osmo educational game system (numbers, tangram, words, and drawing practice). I saw many benefits of routinely dedicating time to learning centres:
- Students thrived on this time to explore their own interests and practice math and literacy skills.
- Students remained on-task and worked well with classmates.
- The more open-ended stations (e.g. Lego, Osmo drawing) gave the teacher insight into individual student interests.
- Learning centres allowed students to interact with technology (tablets, iPad, Chromebooks) in a low-stress environment without the pressure of creating a product, which helped to develop technological proficiency.
Diller, D. (2003). Literacy Work Stations: Making Centres Work. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers
Diller, D. (2005). Practice with Purpose: Literacy Work Stations for Grades 3-6. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Diller, D. (2007). Making the Most of Small Groups: Differentiation for All. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2010). Student Success: Differentiated Instruction Educator’s Package.