I know that center work is not new in a classroom setting, but it was new to my classroom last school year. My students had done an outstanding job on a comic/cartoon project using the subjunctive, and I wanted them to spend some time reading and viewing each other’s work. The problem was I had too many students per class to do this in an effective manner, so during a brainstorming session at lunch & through email several colleagues (thanks again Charlie, Andrea, Gail, MaryAnn & Rod) helped me flesh out a plan. The most visually creative pieces were placed on a bulletin board for students to read and enjoy. Rod gave me some ideas on how to structure a student centered evaluation for the students to use with the pieces. In order to practice listening skills, I had former students record a mini-podcast of another comic strip, and my students did a cloze activity with it. A third comic was used as pronunciation practice in a station using dropboxes from CLEAR. Students selected a part and performed the script with each other. All of the Animoto and ToonDoo cartoons were viewed online. The rest of the comics were stapled in a booklet for small groups to read at a 5th station. The last station had students working on grammar and sentence structure with translation work. They had about 7-8 minutes at each station, and not all students made it through the six centers.
The key to making the centers successful is having all the stations clearly marked and establishing how the rotation works before the groups start moving. The group members had roles, and students had to complete an activity at each location. Three students per group is ideal and five students were one student too many. The student feedback was extremely positive. They wanted to finish the centers they didn’t get to the next day, and several asked me when we would do center work again. I plan on incorporating more of this kind of work next school year. It does take a bit of prep time, and my biggest problem, because I share my room with two other teachers, was the setting & re-setting up of the centers during the school day.
This blog entry is especially written for my art colleagues. The typical symbol of Costa Rica is the ox cart. Before buses and trucks, coffee would travel for trade in ox carts. Now they are decorative in nature, and are a symbol of Costa Rica’s cultural heritage. We visited the Alfaro Factory in Sarchi, where the craftsmen make these carts by hand with the help of a water mill. We were able to see several wood pieces at different stages in creation. A gentleman was painting one of the ox carts, and told us that the painting would take a couple weeks to complete. I was enthralled with the intricate decorations, and wondered out loud how he was able to keep such perfect symmetry with the execution of his design. Hannah, one of our traveling students, told me that this was possible because it was a Mandala pattern. She went on to explain how a portion of the design is created and then repeated over, and over so that the pattern is duplicated in a seamless manner. Thanks to our great Art Department for that teachable moment! A true cross-curricular moment :)