Prep time – The biggest challenge teachers face when implementing acceleration centers is that they require significant one-time preparation. Ideally, teachers can find time during a professional development day, on a summer workshop day, or choose to spend a few days after school to prep a center. Once the prep work is complete, you don’t have to do it again and you will have a center that can be used over and over again. You might add to it or adjust it, but you won’t have to create a new lesson from scratch.
Keeping students occupied – For acceleration centers to work effectively, teachers need to have options for students who finish early. If we try to make sure that students are finishing their assignment at the same time, we will become frustrated with the process. It is simply not possible for all students to finish their center activities at the same time. When a student finishes their goal chart and they’ve done the things they’re supposed to accomplish, have options available for them to choose from.
Wide range of abilities – You might have one or more groups of students working independently from the teacher, so if four or five different levels of students are working on different levels of assignments and there is only one adult in the room, you will have students working on their own. If you have a co-teacher or specialists pushing in to provide either Special Education services or RTI interventions, the other adults’ skills are maximized with the center approach. I realize that the option for collaborative teaching may or may not be viable in your classroom or school. Success depends on student behavior, initiative, ability to focus, and student understanding of teacher expectations and related consequences.
Behavior management – Teachers must have a good handle on discipline and strict rules about how time is managed and how students should behave during center time. Students need to be taught how to behave when working with Fitzell Acceleration Centers™. Otherwise, and especially if they have never worked with centers before, they might think it’s a free-for-all. We really need to be clear about our expectations and enforce them.
Noise level – During station teaching, teachers may experience a higher level of noise in the classroom than usual. Decide which students should be partners; ascertain which students will mix best, and put them together deliberately. I may say, “You can work with so-and-so.” Or, “I don’t want you working with so-and-so.” You can separate the talkative students and keep them apart. The trade-off for a quiet classroom is having students who are engaged in the learning process rather than experiencing frustration in their learning.
Excerpted from RTI Strategies for Secondary Schools.