I've been using centers for several years now and have really enjoyed the student-centered learning environment and the chance to work with students one-on-one. In today's article, I'm writing about something new I've been trying: giving students choice during centers!

So why give students choice during centers? In my experience, students really love the ability to choose what they do, when they do it. Recently, after I told the students they get to choose, I had a student look at me incredulously and exclaim, "We get to choose?!?! That's cool!"

So how does it work?

Typically, when I do centers and am not having students choose, I have four centers spread out around the room, and I tell them who's in their group, and when they switch (usually every five or so minutes).

Because students get to choose in this scenario, I use six centers, so there's more to choose from. I spread out those six centers around the room, explain each center, then tell students they can go to whichever center they want, and can switch whenever they want.

Are there rules?

Yes! I tell students that they have to go to at least three of the centers. About halfway through the class, I'll play the wind chimes (so students know to get quiet) and remind students that if they have only visited one center, they need to rotate soon.

This week, I have one center that I'm asking all students to visit — a worksheet center —because I'm using the worksheet as an assessment. Students have to monitor themselves and make sure they visit (and I remind them throughout the lesson).

If I notice that a student is not on task at a center — especially after a reminder — then I tell that student that he/she is done with that center and has to visit another. I sometimes also tell students who are not making good choices together that they have to separate.

I let kids know ahead of time that if there are lots of kids at one center, they should go to another center until it thins out a bit, especially if there are not enough materials at that center.

What are the benefits?

Giving choice during centers can foster a more student-centered learning environment. In my experience, the feel in the room is more relaxed when students have choice and autonomy in what they are doing, and when they are doing it!

Looking for an example?

Here are six centers you could use to practice ta and ti-ti, with students choosing their center.

Center #1: Students finish a ta and ti-ti worksheet.

Center #2: Students work at the SMART board, reading rhythm patterns.

Center #3: Students compose patterns with rhythm manipulatives.

Center #4: Students use popsicle sticks to dictate rhythms for known songs/chants.

Center #5: Students play with www.therhythmtrainer.com on Chromebooks.

Center #6: Students play rhythm patterns with ta and ti-ti on non-pitched percussion instruments. Once they are done with one instrument, they choose another instrument and play again.

I hope this helps as you try something new in your music room, and that your students enjoy it as much as mine do! Happy teaching!