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    By SC

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    I also think you need to start up slowly with centers. As with everything else that kids have to get used to in your classroom (such as specific policies and activities), you cannot just expect to teach centers and center behavior once on the first week and then just expect everybody to work smoothly the rest of the year. Maybe around the second week of school, start out center time with just ONE activity students have to do, such as silent reading or a worksheet. Go over rules for center time, such as share, speak softly if talking is required, and don't interrupt the teacher. Tell students that if they can show good behavior, you will let them earn the right to go to other centers in the future. After about a week of this, you can introduce more centers. You could divide the class into four groups. Make a little spinning wheel that you can stick to the board, then write the center names/activities around it. Have a timer, and each time the timer goes off, give the wheel a spin.

    Another thing you have to remember about centers is that you don't have to make them very complicated if you don't feel comfortable. You could just have a reading center for silent reading, a writing center for whatever writing you're doing that day, and a spelling center for worksheets. If your room isn't that big, the kids don't even have to stay in those centers; they could just be where they get their materials. One center could be working with you for a reading group. Like you, I was totally freaked about centers. I thought I would have to create these lavish hands-on experiences for my kids to participate in as they moved around the room. When I was student teaching, my master teacher told me that the point of centers was actually to make sure kids spent adequate time on each task they were supposed to do. (Like if you just made a list of all the work they were supposed to do, some kids would be totally freaked and get nothing done, while others would rush through the whole list in 10 minutes. So if you say they have to do one activity for 15 minutes, everyone's budgeting their time a little better.)

    I can see that you have the same problem I did when I first started teaching. (Which was only last year, by the way.) You feel like you need to be perfect right off the bat. This is understandable, of course, because you want to give your students the best education possible. You don't want to admit to the students, parents, colleagues, and administrators that you aren't sure what you're doing. But don't worry. I'm sure you're doing fine. Just go slowly. After your first year of teaching you'll realize that the year is long, and that you have time to get to things in the future that you might not get to right away (like those fancy, hands-on centers). And if you rush into everything right away, none of it will be comfortable for you, and if you're not comfortable, nobody is. It's hard to take it slowly and just do what you can at first, because with teaching there's always more you can do. But there's nothing wrong with sticking to the curriculum and having students work out of books if it makes your life easier. Throw in a few of those meaningful, hands-on lessons (which you can get from a teacher supply store or from other teachers, if necessary), and everything will be fine. Trust me, that's how the veteran teachers do it, too.

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