Before teaching 5th grade for 10 years, I taught Preschool (3 year olds). So, using centers to teach and engage learners has always been a part of my lessons. It wasn’t until I taught 5th grade, though, that I knew I needed a student accountability piece during centers.
During the time that I taught 5th grade, I had students who would play U-Know just like UNO (without answering any of the questions). I had students who would sometime argue about the correct answers (before I incorporated answer keys). I even had students who would just write down an answer without showing work. *gasp* I know.
Student Accountability During Centers
Throughout the years I used some different ways to make students more accountable for their learning without burdening them down with tons of extra work thus making it fun. The strategies use were only when I believed that they weren’t getting done what they were supposed to be doing or there was a lot of conflicts.
Keep it Consistent
The more consistent your centers are the better the students will know what to do (and what not to) so that they can get right to work. And the more consistent you are in using centers in your instruction the more students will know what to expect. For my classroom, I try to have a game day every Friday where I choose the topics that I think the students need more practice on. I also incorporate the other pieces below to help keep them accountable.
In the last few years of teaching, I moved towards more of a guided math framework and had centers running on the daily. They would meet with me and practice the work from that day’s lesson, they would have a math fluency center (usually practicing those math facts), and there would be a specific skill centers that I wanted them to have more practice with (this is one way in which I spiraled the math and reading skills). For ELA, I do a modified Daily 5 with Word Work, Read to Self, Meet with Teacher, Work on Writing, Skill Work (game).
Make It Fun & Engaging
I think students will act up more or find ways of not working if they are bored. So when I have something that I need students to practice, I will try to figure out how to make it work in a fun and engaging way. If I need them to work on a skill, I’d rather them be engaged so that they will retain the information better. I’ve had students thank me for letting them play games because they remembered the information for the test better.
I have put different task cards sets with so many different games. That helps to keep the students engaged and having fun. They only get to do the activity with the cards if their answer is correct so that also helps keep them accountable.
Some things that I’ve had them do if they are correct are throw the beanbag to score extra points, throw a mini basketball in a mini net, score a touchdown with a tiny football, roll the bowling ball to knock down pins, roll the color die and pull a Jenga piece…the list goes on. They want to do all those things so they try their best to get the correct answer so that they can score extra points!
U-Know (and other card games) Accountability
I created U-Know games with a built in accountability piece for students. When they are playing and they discard, they are to read the question and then give the answer. I have a student in charge of the answer key and they check each answer (except for their own).
Here’s the kicker, if they are incorrect, they have to draw 2 cards and take their card back. It’s a built in way to encourage students to get the correct answer. I also include a cheat sheet for students to use when they are first learning a skill or if they need a little reminder…great for differentiation! If you’d like to try out two free sets of U-Know games, sign up below.
Even with the built in accountability, there were sometimes group who would just play UNO instead of U-Know. That’s when I’ll add the extra accountability piece, a recording sheet. Click here to download. It is only after they have been given reminders about appropriate play that they will receive this page. I just keep copies on hand just in case. Mostly, the reminder is enough to get them back on track and I don’t have to actually use them.
Task Card Accountability
I use task cards in many different games and activities in the classroom. For most of the task card games I use in centers, students draw a card and everyone answers on their task card recording sheet. I made a generic recording sheet (Download recording sheets now) that can be used with any set so that I can make a bunch of copies and use as needed.
When they play games with task cards, I make them all answer every card. They flip one and everyone solves and records their answer on their recording sheet. Once they are done, they check their answers with the answer key. Then, if they are correct, they move their game piece, shoot the basketball, pull the Jenga piece of whatever game I put the cards with. Get some more ideas on how I use task cards with different games by checking out this post.
Use a Checklist
When I first started doing stations with my students in 5th grade, it helped me and them to have a checklist of items that they must complete and then some they may complete if time permits. I’ve included an simple, editable checklist that I used in the download. Click here to get it. I filled it in with examples (see examples in pic below) for my classroom but change it up to fit your needs.
You could put them into groups and have them check off something at once and you could include independent activities that they would need to get down. They would get a new checklist every unit or story or week…however best works for you. Usually there were a few blanks that we would add in as the unit progressed. They would add classroom they didn’t to finish or activities they missed that needed to be done. It worked great!
Want to know more about how I use games to spiral content all year long? Check out this post.
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