"Big" kids love learning centers, too! #bmswired

A few months ago I blogged about learning centers in a kindergarten classroom and how I thought there was a place for centers or stations at EVERY grade level.  Last week I was THRILLED to go observe a 5th grade social studies classroom participating in learning stations.  The teacher, Kaleigh Kankel, is one of our techno trailblazers and this was the second time she used a rotation with her students.  I was so glad I got to witness an easy, not-a-lot-of-prep-time, effective learning station set-up in a middle school classroom.  Here's how it worked...

After initial instructions were given, Ms. Kankel used Triptico to determine student groups.  Her philosophy: Stick to random student grouping - let them figure out how to work together.  (I love it!)

In order to give students enough time at each station, Kankel uses 4 stations.  She said she tried using 6, but that was too quick.  4 stations gives the kids 13 minutes for each activity.  She sets the timer on her iPhone and they're off to the races!

What I loved about the stations is that they weren't over-thought or too complex.  In fact, one of the stations was working on a map that would have been quiet seat work on any other day.  (Genius!  If you MUST do a worksheet, break it up and turn it into a station so it at least gets the kids MOVING!)

At each station there were task cards that clearly explained the assignment.  (Ms. Kankel and I both believe that the KIDS should be tired at the end of the day - not the TEACHERS!)  Instead of holding their hands and spoon feeding them at each station, Kankel lets the kids work together to figure it out!  We're working to create a classroom community of independent learners!

At this station the kids were simply using netbooks to do an online US map activity.  Kankel said she knew the kids were on task because they would shout out their score (for the record, I tried it and made a 10,500 - I think I could benefit from Ms. Kankel's class!)

I absolutely LOVED that Ms. Kankel also incorporated a SMART Board station in her rotation.  Often we see that the teacher is the only one who ever gets to touch the SMART Board.  It seems that we only have kids up at the board in the lower grades.  These 5th graders had a blast working through the interactive Notebook file at that station!

Not all learning centers have to be "high-tech."  This station was a simple set of paper flash cards for the students to practice with.  After I took this picture, I noticed that the group had chosen a "leader" to flash the cards up for the entire group.  They were loving it!  If we'd just get out of their way, they will learn to lead themselves!

My hat is off to those of you who are using learning centers or stations in your upper elementary and even secondary classrooms.  I would love to hear your best stations, tips, tricks or resources!