Tag Archives: Centers

PocketMod: The Free Recyclable Personal Organizer

21 May

PocketMod: The Free Recyclable Personal Organizer.

I am thinking this might be a great way for students to create a review sheet for exams.  In the future, possibly to make verb charts, sort vocabulary, lots of ideas.  

If you use it, please let me know what you used it for and how it worked out!  

Gracias, Penny

Here is their description:

The PocketMod is a new way to keep yourself organized. Lets face it, PDAs are too expensive and cumbersome, and organizers are bulky and hard to carry around. Nothing beats a folded up piece of paper. That is until now. With the PocketMod, you can carry around the days notes, keep them organized in any way you wish, then easily transfer the notes to your PDA, spreadsheet, or planner.

The PocketMod is a small book with guides on each page. These guides or templates, combined with a unique folding style, enable a normal piece of paper to become the ultimate note card. It is hard to describe just how incredibly useful the PocketMod is. It’s best that you just dive in and create one.


Now using centers

24 Apr

With the start of a new trimester I began using centers in my classroom.

The main reason I am using centers is because I have many more students in my classroom with Individualized Educational Plans.  This is because 2 years of World Languages are required now to graduate in Michigan, beginning with this year’s Freshmen.

Our high school World Language classes have typically included mostly college bound students who are in the top 20% of their class.  We are all happily learning to differentiate and accommodate learners of all skill levels.  I have found with centers that I can accomplish this in many ways.

1.  I can be available to all students by monitoring the classroom and checking in on their work.

2. One of the centers is occasionally just for students struggling with the current concept.  These are not just students with IEPs, I include other students as well who can use some extra guided practice.  We sit at a table together and go through the material together in a variety of ways.

3. It is a great way to differentiate student work.  All groups have the same objectives, but can complete them in different ways.

Prepping for centers is a lot of work for the first time through, but I have found it to be very much worth it.

I have gotten great ideas for center work form the Creative Language blog.  These gals have great ideas!

Let me know if you have some great ideas for centers in a World Language class.

Gracias, Penny


Skills circuits: Recycling language

6 Nov

Skills circuits: Recycling language | TeachingEnglish | British Council | BBC.


Skills circuits [similar to learning stations] are a fun way to review language. They also provide a change to coursebook activities allowing learners to work together to recycle grammar or vocabulary and share knowledge. They require careful planning of both materials used in the circuit and attention to the timing of the activity itself.

Flipped Classroom daily routine

28 Jul

Here is how I imagine my 70 minutes of Spanish in my advanced classes using the flipped approach.  Eventually I will teach all classes using the Flipped concept.

Following the advice in the “Flip Your Class”book I will begiin class by answering questions.  Students are required to form a relevant question while watching the video or reading the section of the book.  I had thought maybe I would ask them as I was walking around, but then I figured that either there will be lots of the same questions or students would learn from the questions other students had as well.

After that, I plan to run through the current set of Quizlet flashcards.  Then students will start where they left off the day before in their progress towards finishing the chapter.

While students are working, I will be walking about the room.  I will have a clipboard with the list of student names with me.  Across the top of the chart will be a list of all of the activities they are required to do.  As I look over notes, questions, worksheets and other learning activities, I will either put a check next to their name for full credit, or write in the number of points earnedd.  I believe this chart will be very valuable because I can tell how far ahead some students are (they may be able to peer tutor for a class period) as well as how far behind some students are (the ones who need tutoring).  

When I mapped out a full chapter, it appeared that we will finish a chapter a lot more quickly this way.  I have scheduled the lab for Wednesdays for taking qquizzes online and doing some collaborating with our classroom friends in Maryland and California.   They may also need that time to do some research foor the proficiency project and their culture project.  

I feel I will have to have a lot of sponge activities available.  I am still thinking through that.  I also am getting rid of my teacher desk in the classroom and amm working on the class set up.  As I said in my last blog post, I need to figure out a way to direct students who are working on the same activities to thhe same area of the room.  It seems the configuration of studnt placement couldbe different everyday.

This is my proposed routine.   As always, I would love to hear your ideas.  In my next post I will share my ideas for the classroom set up.

Gracais, Penny


My Flipped Classroom centers

27 Jul

The more I plan my Flipped Classroom, the more I realize I am probably not using the term “centers” correctly.  In my case they will be designated areas of my classroom for students to complete their work.  Read on and please offer suggestions.. 🙂

Students will receive a checklist that basically follows this pattern for the chapter:

Watch video/Read section.  Take notes.  Write question.
Hands on Learning activity
Worksheet 1
Worksheet 2
(both instantly checked by teacher)

Culture capsule
Tutor in Spanish 1 class

That is one section of a chapter.  Each chapter of our book has 4 sections:  Vocab 1/Grammar 1/Culture/Vocab 2/Grammar 2.  The vocab and grammar sections will repeat the above format until they complete the entire chapter. After Grammar 2 they will begin to work on a proficiency project and review for the chapter test.  Also mixed in is that we are in the computer lab on Wednesdays.  Wednesdays will be a day to take their quiz (online), use Edmodo, and do research if needed for their culture project or proficiency project.
Students who are ready for a quiz before Wednesday will take it on an iPad or computer in my room.
We will use Edmodo along with Spanish classrooms that we collaborated with last year from Maryland and California.  We post a prompt and the students take off with their discussions in Spanish.

So, when I say centers, this is what I am imagining and would like your input on.  The areas of my room will be:

Hands on: learning activity.  Most will be partner work.
Writing:  worksheets
Learn:  For students who did not watch the video or need to see it again.

Of course, all of the students will begin in the same place, so the whole class will be a hands on area.  After a few days I assume that they will begin to be in different spots.  I would like to keep them sorted as to what activity they are working on.
My thought is to hang large signs form my ceiling to direct them to the area they should go to.  I am trying to think of a simpler way since the ceiling is pretty high and centers (or areas) could change daily.

I am going to test the flipping with my advanced classes first.  I know some of them will move through the activities very quickly.  Lori Anthony, the other Spanish teacher at my school, and I were going over our schedules.  We noticed that during all of my Advanced classes, Lori has Spanish 1.  So, if a student takes a quiz and is way ahead of the rest of the class, they will be sent to Lori’s class to help a struggling Spanish 1 student.

If you have any ideas about labeling the areas of the classroom or the order of activities, please share!

Gracias, Penny




A TV Game Show Review Center

22 Jul

TV Game Show Review games are a popular way to review before tests.  My idea is to make it into a center.  Quite possibly one of my bulletin boards will be designated at the game show board.  Or, I could just outline a place on the wall with bulletin board borders…

I have several links and files of digital TV Show game boards, but this will be one that is truly interactive.  I LOVE technology, but I think in a center environment that this plan will work well.

Part of my “Centers” plan is that students will record their work in a journal.  We journaled last year.  Whenever there was an entry, students had to title it and date it.

For the game show center, a journal entry title might look like this:

11 octubre     “Juego de Jeopardy”

The entry itself would be to write down the answers to the questions that they answered.  I usually have them write the final score for all participants as well.  Since it is review, the second step may be be to make a dialogue or story out of the answers in their journal.  This would require each student’s dialogue or story to be unique.

So far I have plans to include $25,000 Pyramid, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.  I also think the bulletin board idea will work well for Tic Tac Toe, Memory, Checkers, What’s Missing, and many other typical classroom games.

I have also just pinned today a new game called Bazinga.  Love the Big Bang Theory….

Remember that the TV Game Show Center should only be used on “Active” days, not days when students may be working quietly and intently.

Let me know if you have any other ideas for bulletin board games!

¡Gracias!  Penny

Cheating: It will happen (Centers & Groupwork)

13 Jul

Dealing with cheating is one of my least favorite things to do.  I am not sure if it is the confrontation with the student or the student not valuing their education.  It’s a toss up.

There is a great section in Nooks, Crannies & Corners dealing with cheating in center work.

Forte and Mackenzie give this advice:

When dealing with cheating, they have observed the following strategies and the results associated with them:

1.  Students will hide cheating better

2.Students feels punctures ego & guilt.

3. Can be positive depending on rapport. Conference centers on leading student to see cheating as a deterrent to goals

4. Lazy day cheating is born.  Cheating because of anxiety remains.

5. “Hopefully” symptoms disappear.
6. Student learns something from copying that he may not have learned at all.


7. Students learn to work cooperatively. If partners are weak/strong-require they alternate days of who leads the work.




1. “Cheating is Cheating!”
Declare it loudly

2.”I can’t believe you would do such a thing!”

3. Private conference with student(s) caught cheating.


4. Ignore it



5. Pretend to ignore it


6. Encourage it



7. Require it (design carefully)







I have searched the Internet for suggestions for teachers to deal with cheating.  I didn’t find much.  Do you know of any resources?

In other discipline advice, the authors say the following:

**Rules should be developed by the group.  Form “Thou shalls” instead of “Thou Shalt Nots”.

** Unacceptable behavior should be re-directed.  Present them with an alternate activity.

**Behavior discrepancies should be viewed as challenges, not threats.”

Some students may lack the independence and self-direction necessary to work in centers or groups.  They may require more structure.  If this is the case, their work should be planned to operate concurrently and not interfere with the centers.
More great advice!  That concludes the center based posts as far as what to consider when creating them.  I promise future posts on specific activities that I assign at centers.  I look forward to hearing about some great activities from all of you too.

Gracias, Penny

Centers: How to keep track of who’s where when & evaluating center work

12 Jul

Again, great information from Nooks, Crannies and Corners.  The authors explain how to keep track of student movement and how to handle evaluating their work.  I may throw in a few of my own ideas inspired by reading the book.

Keeping track of Student Movement:

1. Give each student a checklist.  The checklist will not only point the student to the center they visit next, but will allow the teacher to see if a center was skipped.  I envision the checklist not only including the name of the center, but a sub-checklist for each center of which activities need to be completed.  If differentiation is required, alter the assignment on the checklist as a reminder to the student and yourself.

2. Use a typed chart.  This could be just sitting at the center.  Students would refer to it to see what the next center was.  This works if the students stay together as a group.

3. Give a creative invitation.  Make the activity sound like a quest maybe.

4. Make your checklist a graphic.  Imagine a picture of a house:
On the roof is typed “Week of March 17-21” along with a space for the student’s name.
The second story windows are labeled: “Art: Peruvian artists”, “Video: Sports in Peru
Answer questions 1-5″, “Sports: Create a graph based on the survey you have given”.
The door says “Write 5 sentences about the last sporting event you attended or participated in”.
The first floor window says “Complete activity 12 on page 231”.
Each window and door represents a center they must complete that week or day.  You could even have the students color each part as they finish.  My high school students would love that…

Considerations for assigning centers:

1. The student must know exactly what course to follow and the teacher must be able to tell at a glance exactly what tasks have been completed.

2.  Exemplary systems offer choice and alternative assignments.

3. Have an “Open center” that students can visit at any time. Provides freedom and a safety valve.

Evaluating & Grading:

** Discuss grading system with students

** Talk about “failure”.  Why and how it happens and how to avoid it.

**Give a grade every day.

I will definitely be sharing what specific centers I use in my classroom for two reasons (or more): to get feedback from all of you, and to have a reference for later.  I have found blogging to be rewarding in both instances.

The following are types of centers that Nooks, Crannies and Corners suggest as evaluative measures:

suggestion box
record of observation

Open ended questions

I am leaning toward a daily journal.  I think it is important for students to be able to refer back to their work and reflect on it in writing.  It is always very cool to see the difference between the first few pages of the term and the end of the term.

I hope you got some ideas.  Remember to share your ideas and thoughts.

Gracias, Penny

Student developed activities

11 Jul

I continue to look forward to implementing the Flipped Classroom and incorporating centers in the classroom.  The following is advice from Nooks, Crannies and Corners about how to allow students to develop activities and how to shift responsibility to learners.  I am looking forward to developing center activities, I have lots of ideas.  If you use centers, I would love to hear what works for you.  Please also share any activities that you do that would be great in centers.

Steps to Students Developing Activities:

1. Teach students to plan:

a) Make a short list of the kinds of decisions your students are capable of making right now (attendance, # of students per center, arranging materials).
b) Make a list of responsibilities that can be absorbed more gradually and how they can be accomplished.


-Dependable student “checker at each center.
-Students individually record progress

Appoint a committee
-Each student gives an item (suggestion, question, picture, etc.)
-Committee organizes information, materials and evaluative measures.

1. Keep record of daily progress

2. Setting up one center

3. Choosing student guide or resource for center

-Teachers determines duties of guide & criteria to choose guide
-Students decide how to select guide






I am not positive about what a student guide does…  Any ideas?

Considerations for shifting responsibility to learners:

A) Decide what decisions students can make now.

B) Assign responsibilities gradually

C) What do you want students to do in an ideal situation.

That is what I have to share about student responsibilities from the book.
I picture that
there will be a need for peer tutoring.  I am looking into the Flipped Mastery concept from Flip Your Classroom.  I am not to that chapter yet but am assuming that peer tutoring could be involved.
The record keeping process in a center based classroom intrigues me.  It will be the focus of my next blog.

As usual, let me know what you think, share any ideas you have.

Gracias, Penny

Centers: Determine Learner Needs

10 Jul

Continuing with my research on using centers in my classroom, Nooks, Crannies and Corners suggested to determine the needs of the learners.

They gave a few suggestions on how to do this:

**Battery tests – short tests, one in each major area.  Test in several ways: matching, writing, listening, etc.
**Student created tests
**Student’s personal preference/interests (questionnaire)

I did some research and found a couple of web sites to refer to when creating Learner Needs Assessments:

Learning Needs Analysis

Identifying Learner Needs

At our school, it is preferred that we give a pre-test and post-test.  We do this to show growth, but I can see the value in assessing student’s needs as well.

What are your thoughts?

Gracias, Penny

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