Learning Centers for Middle School
Learning centers are a common teaching tool in the elementary grades, but lately there has been a push towards incorporating them in to the middle grades. I have had a lot of difficulty finding resources for engaging, relevant centers for eighth grade. Below are some ideas I have accumulated along with the skill sets they reinforce.
Using the Newspaper
There are several activities that you can create using the newspaper or a magazine.
Cut-Out Captions (drawing conclusions, context clues)
Cut out pictures and separate them from their captions. Glue both the pictures and the captions on to cardstock to better preserve them. Put the caption and the pictures in to two separate envelopes and put the envelopes in to a file folder. Label the front of the file folder with the activity name. Lastly, create instructions for the students and put them inside of the folder. You may also want to put response sheets in the folder so your students can hand their answers in to you. Students will look at the pictures and try to connect them with the correct caption.
Headline Hunt (drawing conclusions, context clues)
Similar to cut-out captions, heading hunt asks the students to match newspaper articles with the correct title. Follow the same steps as above to create this activity.
Comic Capers (sequence of events, plot order)
This activity is meant to reinforce sequence of events. Cut out the panels of a comic strip and glue them on to cardstock. Number the backs of the cardstock in random order. Students must put the comic back in the right order. On answer sheets, they will write the number order that they placed the strip in and you can either correct the activity or have an answer key for them to self-correct.
Poetic License (creative writing, poetry elements)
Purchase a magnetic poetry kit. Students can create original poems on any magnetic surface in the room. I have them use a large filing cabinet. Students will write their original poem down in a journal, notebook, or answer sheet.
Group Games (vocabulary building)
There are several games on the market that enhance student learning. Below, I have listed some less common games on the market.
Rummy Roots - This card game teaches Latin and Greek roots and helps students learn definitions. There are four different games that can be played with these cards. Rummy Roots can be purchased at Amazon.com
Blurt - I used this game in my Reading Workshop classes. The ninth graders love it! It is a great vocabulary builder. This game can be purchased in most retail stores that sell games.
Buzzword - Another great vocabulary builder.
You've Been Sentenced - This card game helps students with their writing at the sentence level by asking them to create logical,silly sentences.
Anomia - This game is similar to blurt, but it uses image cards to get you to draw connections and make examples before the other players.
Listening Centers (improve listening skills)
1.) Create a close exercise that corresponds with a recording of a short story. Students must listen carefully to fill in the missing words on the paper.
2.) Students can also do the listening activities on websites such as Exploratorium. This website is for a science center in California, but it has some great online listening activities, such as a memory card game that uses sounds for each card instead of pictures.
Make copies of reading passages with multiple choice questions. Students should use the reading passages to practice examining text features by using pre-reading strategies. Put a list of instructions in a folder with passage printouts. The student should read all titles and headings, examine any pictures and captions, and read the questions before they begin the passage. This will strengthen basic comprehension as well as standardized text taking skills. Include highlighters at this station so that students can get used to highlighting important information in the article. Students should be told to highlight anything that may answer any of the questions that were pre-read.
Logic Puzzles (inferences, drawing conclusions)
Print out logic puzzles with grids. Pin the puzzles on to a small magnetic cork board or bulletin board. Have students work in pairs to figure out the puzzle. Have two types of decorative thumb tacs or magnets to use to keep track of the right and wrong answers. Include a small paper where the students can write down the puzzle's solution.
The book Middle School Literacy Centers has some great ideas. I purchased it on Amazon.
I have also used Unjournaling for bellringers and creative writing centers. The kids really enjoy these exercises even though some of them are quite challenging. The do complain about not being able to do some of the exercises, but they secretly enjoy the challenge and are excited to offer their responses.
Station Activities has center ideas for grades 6-8.
I purchased these books from Amazon.
I hope you found some new ideas and resources for student learning centers! Do you have any centers that have engaged your middle school students? I'd love to hear about them and put them to use!