Ever try to introduce new centers to students, expecting them to catch on and work independently while you meet with reading groups only to find that your little guys didn't quite understand? Whether you start reviewing centers work which reveals that they somehow missed the boat or your "focused attention" with your reading group gets interrupted with a shortie hanging out by your side (or the more obvious vocal interruption), when your students don't understand the center you end up with unwanted results. You may find students off task or realize after you've collected the assignments that the time was . . . well . . . wasted.
One trick I found that helps with this is a Friday Preview.
I usually start my new centers on Mondays. There's so much going on on Mondays that there isn't too much time to introduce and model new centers extensively with enough time left over for my students to get some quality time at their new centers. Last year I started using many different Reading Responses for my Independent Reading center focusing on different skills or literary concepts. The skill I chose for the Reading Response usually correlated with a recent focus/lesson, so this response would be putting it into practice. I started to build a whole group mini lesson into my Friday plans where I would introduce the actual Reading Response form on my document camera. We would use a story we read whole group either that day or that week (so that it was familiar to all and fresh in their minds) to complete the reading response together.
Not only did we practice the skill together, but students could now visually see how to use the reading response form properly!
I used the same format of introduction for file folder and board games. It made a world of difference for the students which was reflected in their work habits and the work they turned in. (Not to mention that they could no longer claim they didn't know what to do since we had already done it together!)