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10 Tips on Creating Differentiated Classroom Learning Centers

By Michelle McFarland-McDaniels

Creating successful differentiated learning centers in your classroom requires you knowing your students well. Follow these ten tips for beginning and managing effective learning centers.

Whether you call them learning centers, literacy centers or work stations, the resources you organize to provide students with opportunities for self-directed differentiated learning need to be well-designed and skillfully implemented to optimally meet your students’ unique individual needs. The following tips and strategies will help you develop differentiated classroom learning centers that engage students’ interest, allow you to quickly and easily assess students’ needs, and enable you to target and remediate specific learning difficulties and skill deficits.

Ten Tips and Strategies for Creating Effective Classroom Learning Centers

1. Assess each of your students and create learning dossiers for each student as soon as possible. This step is absolutely critical. When you develop a complete learning profile for each student, you will obtain valuable information about students’ learning styles and preferences, as well as their strengths and deficits. Performing your due diligence on the front end will allow you to do a thorough and comprehensive assessment of each student’s needs and holistic and will enable you to take a holistic approach to differentiating and customizing instruction for each student.

2. Develop learning center activities as part of your lesson planning process. Your learning center activities should support the lessons you are teaching during whole group and small group instruction.

3. Clearly label your learning centers and make them easily accessible. Learning centers should have signs that direct students to them. They should also be located away from obstacles and obstructions. Learning centers that are easy to find and access allow students to derive maximum benefit from their usage.

4. Provide clear procedures for using learning centers in a variety of modalities. Procedures should ideally be offered in writing and supported with visual supports. If it would be beneficial for your students, provide an audio-taped version of learning center procedures, and a tape recorder and earphones for learners that need an audible reminder of center procedures.

5. Conduct one or more orientation sessions with students to familiarize them with how the learning centers should be used.

6. Provide clear instructions for completing learning center activities.

7. Make sure everything students need to complete learning center activities are conveniently located in the learning center.

8. Provide folders for both completed learning center activities and learning center activities that need to be completed at a later time.

9. Post learning center schedules and activity logs. Learning centers operate more smoothly, efficiently and effectively when students have a set day and/or time to use them. Activity logs that consist of sign-in and sign-out sheets make students accountable for their self-directed learning activities.

10. Require students to complete a self-evaluation form after each visit to the learning center. These can provide meaningful feedback to help you assess students’ progress and address their needs.