Center-Based Tolerance Instruction Utilizing E-readers
- Grades: 9–12
Center-based teaching is nothing new in the lower grades, but I haven’t heard of many high schools using this style of teaching. Nonetheless, I have found that students are more focused during center-based activities, and I design many units this way.
A few years ago, I designed a center-based unit on discrimination and tolerance. This year, I took those materials and reformatted them for our e-readers. All questions and readings are now in Kindle format. Utilizing e-readers in these centers has increased students' motivation, time-on-task, and focus. Read on for more on how I use centers in my high school classroom, and to learn about the activities I created for my unit on tolerance.
Scheduling Time in the Centers
To allow me time to explain instructions and procedures, on the first day of the center-based activities, students only go to two centers. After my explanation, they spend twenty-five minutes completing their assigned activities. Each center is labeled with a sign and only accommodates four students at a time. Students are allowed to choose the centers they go to, but "Scriptwriting" and "Peer Review" are mandatory.
Each day, students are required to complete four nine-minute center activities, which they log on their student center sheets. Only six centers are set up per day. I have found that allowing a minute for students to get up and move to the next center increases time-on-task for each of the center-based activities. To keep track of time, I use the Online Stopwatch to signal when each of the nine-minute center sessions is up.
My class periods are 45 minutes long, so allowing for 36 minutes of activities and one minute between each activity leaves me about five minutes for announcements or for introducing or wrapping up the day's session. For the tolerance unit, I read an excerpt from the Scholastic book Hate Hurts at the beginning of each class period. This reading time focuses them and gets them ready to complete the tasks for that day.
Center Descriptions and Tasks
Each center activity is designed to challenge students to think about their life and to learn about others while reinforcing basic writing skills. Two books, Zlata’s Diary and The Freedom Writers Diary, provide the basis of study for the tolerance unit. All book excerpts are downloaded to the e-readers. The questions and exercises are created in a PDF and downloaded on the e-readers as well. Below are the descriptions of the eight daily center activities.
The writing center consists of a variety of activities, which change from day to day. Some days, the students will be comparing and contrasting something that relates to their life. For example, students may have to compare and contrast their town to a larger city. On another day students might write a letter to their local representative or senator discussing tolerance, equality, or discrimination. Each day, students will add more information to their letter.
The journaling center focuses on reading and responding to an excerpt from The Freedom Writers Diary. Each excerpt deals with issues of tolerance, equality, and discrimination. After reading the short excerpt, students respond to a question raised by the reading. The journal prompts students to reflect on their life and apply what they read. By reading The Freedom Writers Diary, students see that they face the same issues other teens face.
The reading center focuses on diary excerpts from Zlata’s Diary. Zlata’s Diary was written by Zlata Filipovic during the war in Bosnia in the 1990s. After reading the excerpt, students are required to answer three comprehension questions on the reading. I use excerpts from Zlata’s Diary to help students understand the feelings of people in a war zone. In this center, students might also reflect upon the fact that people experience these same feelings in some areas of our own country.
Daily Oral Language Center
The daily oral language center focuses on reinforcing English grammar. Students correct grammar errors in sentences related to the two excerpts from the reading and writing center. Students correct five sentences a day and read the corrected sentences to me after they have completed the changes.
The vocabulary center focuses on expanding my students' vocabulary. Students define three to four words a day from The Freedom Writers Diary and Zlata’s Diary. Students can use the dictionary on the e-reader to define the words.
The scriptwriting center allows students to create a script on conflict resolution that they will perform. This center is only an option on Thursdays and Fridays. The script needs to be realistic and to address ways that students can resolve conflict in a nonviolent way.
In the typing center, students type their scripts up in an easy-to-read format. Before going to this center, groups must have their script approved by me. This prevents students from having to revisit the typing center to make corrections.
Peer Review Center
The peer review center allows students to have their scripts peer reviewed by other groups. This center is only an option during the third week of the unit. My goal is that students will give each other constructive criticism to make the scripts the best they can be.