Even though I've been doing centers for a few years, I am still learning how most effectively to run a centers lesson in my music room. I've written a few blog posts about centers, which you can read here, but thought I'd offer five tips for doing centers in your music classroom.
#1: Think about noise
This week, I've been using materials from my fourth grade centers set, shown below:
Two of the centers–the solfa manipulatives center and the instruments center–depend on students being able to hear. Here are a couple pictures of these centers:
I knew they both involved being able to hear…but then I planned them to be next each other.
I know, I know, it's silly that I would do that! But planning was tight and I was distracted and I just wasn't thinking. About one minute into the first center, as I sat at the solfa manipulatives center assessing students, I realized my mistake!
I did a couple things to help. First, I had my students at the instruments flip their mallets around into what I call “practice mode.” Then, during the next lesson, I moved the solfa manipulatives center. Students could hear so much better! Consider the amount of concentration students will have to have, and how noise will affect that. Spread centers out if possible, or just plan one center involving noise.
#2: Anchor yourself strategically
While I was at the solfa manipulatives center assessing students (now sitting a ways away from the instrument center), I realized that my students, although overall very well-behaved, were taking the math counting chips I had them using for staff work and flicking them at each other. Luckily, I was anchored close by so I could watch and give warnings as possible. Here is a picture of the staff center with those fun little chips:
Students will try to take advantage of the freer environment…so just make sure you are near anything that might be a problem!
#3: Only have one high-maintenance center
As I sat at the solfa manipulatives center, I realized how much I appreciated having a student teacher, as she was able to work with the students at instruments, trying to transfer their knowledge of solfa to the barred instruments and figure out the song “Tideo,” knowing that mi is E.
She was so excited to see them transfer their knowledge–but she did have to guide some students more than others. Had I done a similar activity in a previous lesson, those students would maybe not have needed as much assistance, but I didn't…so I'm glad she was there!
If you are anchored at one center, assessing students, think about how much students can work independently at the other centers.
#4: Think about how students will be grouped
Sometimes, when I group students for centers, I do it randomly. Other times, I look at their previous assessments and pair students by skill (with struggling students working with students who understand the material well.) The first time I did centers this week, I just had students grouped by last name (first 5 alphabetically at one center, second 5 at next center, etc.) but then some kids were disappointed (as they were the only girl in the group or the only boy in the group.) I tried something different in a later class, and then had students choose their own groups, with no more than 5 at one center (as I had 5 centers.) That seemed to work well, although there were a couple kids I had to watch closely. 🙂 Think about how you want to group the students beforehand. If you want to provide intervention to specific students, then you will want to figure out the groups beforehand.
#5: Give you and your students enough time
Now that I have 50 minute classes, I decided to do 5 centers, and to lengthen the time to 6-7 minutes. Since I was anchored at one center, I decided to just let each rotation go until I was done assessing each group and had walked around a bit to check on all of the other centers. I loved having a longer class period so we didn't feel rushed! Think about how many centers you want, how much time you have, if you will be assessing, and if students will have too much or too little to do.
I hope this has been helpful! What are your tips for centers? Feel free to comment below!