How do I hold students accountable in a center based classroom?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I receive a phenomenal question by Caroline on the Center Based Classroom's Facebook page. She asks:
"I really like the idea of a complete center based classroom, but the problem I seem to have doing centers (which I love to teach this way) is holding them accountable for the work that they do. I can not grade everything that they do? Advice please!"
Thanks so much for asking this Caroline!  
Math Centers
My classroom is a mix of centers and workshops. This definitely helps me stay on top of things. To get a feel for my math workshop, please check out the blog post I wrote about how it worked last year! 
In math, I easily hold all the kiddos accountable for their practice book center. They complete the page during their rotations and I correct their pages during my special. This helps me to see if they are doing their work, who needs more help, etc. Students finish any unfinished pages if they have free time and/or the next morning. On Fridays we have "catch-up" day. Students work to make sure each page is completed and correct. Anything that isn't is sent home as homework over the weekend. Kids who still aren't working have to stay with me to finish their pages during recess (on top of missing our "Fun Friday" activity) this quickly remedied any problems!
The technology center is their favorite and I do not assign them anything that I need to correct. I rarely give them anything written at the game center either. They love the games and they are really engaged. I am able to get a lot of valuable information from the teacher group (I take notes), so I feel I don't need to add any more correcting to my extremely long to do list!
Reading Centers
Again, for reading, I use a workshop/center approach (the best of both worlds in my opinion!) The beginning of my reading block focuses on reading workshop. I begin with a 10 minute read aloud/mini lesson, followed by reading workshop. During this time I am able to conference with my students and discuss their books (I make sure to meet with each student at least once a week). This keeps them on track and working hard. 
We also do a modified version of the Daily 5. If you haven't read the Daily 5, it's fabulous! You can find out more about it here

I tweaked it to fit the needs of our classroom. I combined read to self and read to someone into one center because we already have reading workshop in our classroom. We do the rest of the centers normally (listen to reading, word work, and work on writing). Instead of having students visit each of the centers daily, they visit one center each day, Monday-Thursday, and we do another "catch-up" day every Friday. 

The "catch-up" day runs very similarly to our math workshop. Every Friday, students visit any of the centers they were unable to finish during the week. Upon completion, they must get their word work, work on writing, and reading log checked. The reading log is for read to self/read to someone and only keeps track of the book title and number of pages read. Students who do not finish their work take it for homework over the weekend.

Having Friday as our "catch-up" day and having some centers that do not require written work allows me to hold all students accountable for their work, without overloading myself with correcting! I've never had to take home any of our center work to correct - it can all be finished within our catch up time!

That was a lot of information. I hope it makes sense! Caroline, or anyone else who has any questions, comments, thoughts, or other ideas for holding students accountable, please share! 


  1. I can't wait to try the Daily 5 structure in my classroom this year! What do you have the kids doing at the technology center, Michaela? I used last year with my fifth graders, and I loved it! I'm going to get my new class set up in the next week or so. Do you have any favorites you'd suggest?

    Mrs. Beattie's Classroom

    1. For reading, I wrote a blog post a while back about great websites I use! In math, I've been wanting to write a quick post sharing the websites I use - thanks for reminding me! Here's the link:
      Math Websites

  2. Michaela,
    You and I would be great on a team together! LOL It sounds like we run our math and reading (modified Daily 5) in similar ways. This year I want to figure out a good way of tackling writing with small groups. Any thoughts on that? How do you do writing in your classroom!!

    First Grade Spies


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