Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Monthly Update sign up
Mailing List signup

Teaching Math: A Video Library, K-4

Story-Based Centers

Video Overview

This lesson starts with students listening to the story Caps for Sale (HarperCollins, 1947) by Esphyr Slobodkina. Students discuss the mathematics in the story and then work at centers set up around the classroom (although not all students visit all centers). In some centers, students construct and interpret displays of data, create or recognize and extend patterns, or problem solve to find different combinations of coins that add to fifty cents. In other centers, students work with concepts of whole-number operations by sharing candy hats fairly or by posing their own word problems and writing the corresponding number sentences. Students also use calculators in several centers to perform whole-number computation. The specific center activities are: (1) graphing candy hats by color; (2) using the computer to explore patterns; (3) writing story problems and number sentences; (4) figuring out different combinations of coins that make fifty cents; (5) painting patterns on paper hats and graphing them by type of design; (6) listening to an audiocassette of Caps for Sale as they read along; (7) using construction paper, geoblocks, and tiles to build a model of the story1s town; and (8) drawing a map of all the places the peddler went in the story. The lesson concludes with students meeting as a whole class to discuss and share their accomplishments. Students continue working at the learning centers in the days that follow.

Topics for Discussion

The following areas provide a focus for discussion after you view the video. You may want to customize these areas or focus on your own discussion ideas.

Using Learning Centers

  1. Identify the learning centers used in this lesson, and describe the curriculum content of each task. If a center focuses on an area of mathematics, identify the specific mathematical ideas.

  2. How does the use of centers allow for simultaneous instruction in several curricular areas? How did this lesson make connections between mathematics and other subject areas?

  3. What are the advantages and disadvantages of setting up numerous learning centers? List ways that centers can be managed.

  4. How did the direction cards at each center facilitate the students1 work? Describe how students worked with one another in the centers without the teacher1s supervision.

  5. Ms. Cleary-Bewley stated that she does not have traditional desks in her classroom. Instead, students work only at centers. What do you think about this approach?

  6. What was the purpose of gathering the children as a whole class after they had worked in the centers?

Examining Questioning Strategies

  1. The teacher began the lesson with a whole-class discussion and then worked with one small group of students while the other students worked at other learning centers. What are the advantages of this method? The disadvantages?

  2. To what extent was the teacher nonjudgmental in her conversations with the students? Cite some examples.

  3. Cite examples of Ms. Cleary-Bewley1s ability to listen carefully to the students1 ideas and to get them to clarify and justify their ideas.

  4. List questions the teacher posed during the lesson to probe the students1 thinking and encourage them to make decisions for themselves.

  5. At the beginning of the lesson, when the students were unsure how many caps the peddler was wearing, Ms. Cleary-Bewley did not tell them the answer. How did she handle the situation? What did you think of this approach?


Creating Learning Centers Based on Children1s Literature Select a children1s book and design a set of learning centers to teach the mathematics in the book to a specific grade level. For each center, identify the mathematical or other subject matter content, list the needed materials, and describe the activity.


© Annenberg Foundation 2017. All rights reserved. Legal Policy