Using Learning Centers to enhance Teaching and Learning

by Susan Scanlon

In the book, People Types and Tiger Stripes, Gordon Lawrence recommends that teachers approach curriculum planning with the four "quadrants" in mind, (ES, IS, EN, IN). According to Lawrence, the first two letters in a person's type have the most to do with how they take in new information.

Carolyn Zeisset, a Nebraska teacher, has taken Gordon's ideas and adapted them into learning centers with different activities designed to appeal to the four learning styles. She's found that since she uses these learning centers, people have noticed a drastic change in how much the children know.


ES Extraverts with Sensing learn best through hands-on activities that involve more than one person. Zeisset begins by creating activities for the ES students, since they are the majority, yet their needs are ignored in most curriculums.

She says that ES activities should allow students to hear themselves say something out loud or bounce an idea off someone else. This makes the classroom noisier but the noise is more like a constant hum than disruptive outbursts.

For an ES learning center, adapt lessons into card games like Concentration, Go Fish and Rummy. For example, in Concentration, the object of the game is to get as many matches as possible. Have students try to match the name of a person or an event on one card with a description on another card.

Or use a bulletin board for a string-across activity. Younger children can match pictures that show two scenes from the same event or two pictures that show two events in sequence. Older children can match terms and definitions, a description of an event and a picture showing it, the name of a person and a picture, or a place name and the corresponding place on the map.

Some other ideas for bulletin board activities are pocket charts
(younger children put pictures in sequence in the pockets; older children place a caption or title in a pocket beneath each picture), magnetic matching (children match captions or titles to pictures with magnetic cards rather than pockets), time lines (children match dates and events), and peek-a-boos (write a series of questions on the bulletin board; hide answers behind lift-up shapes).

IS Introverts with Sensing learn best through hands-on activities that can be done alone or with one other person. For example, crafts are basically an IS activity. Crafts are distinguished from creative activities in that crafts follow preset patterns, while creative activities allow students spontaneity and freedom.

Make craft samples unsophisticated so students who have difficulty do not feel intimidated, and students whose products are neater or more accurate than the sample have the opportunity to feel proud.

Paper and pencil activities can be adapted to hands-on materials. Mount a fill-in-the-blank page in a file folder, putting a small piece of magnetic tape in each blank and providing oaktag answer strips. Students can move the answer strips from one blank to another until they are satisfied.

An answer key on the back of the folder makes the activity self-checking. Providing answers makes the lessons familiar; the student (especially if an IS) tries it over and over, and as a result, learns the content.

EN Extraverts with Intuition learn best through conceptual activities that involve more than one person.

At one EN learning center, a group can make a newspaper. The center has a list of possible subjects to research, and the sources for the information. Put carrels on tops of desks to become reporters' work stations, or the students can go to the library. Students can work one or two to a story. After they research the story, the reporters try to write it as if they were living in that time. Then they can type their stories at a typewriter and put them up on the paste-up sheet.

In another EN learning center, the group can create a TV show. The learning center provides either the pictures or the close-captioned script, and the students do the rest. Then they can view their show on a cardboard box with dowel rods on either side.

Another activity that is appealing to ENs is creating a poem on a bulletin board. Zeisset likes to use the "cinquain" format.

  • The first line must be a noun that defines the theme.
  • The second line is two words that describe the theme
  • The third line is three action words about the theme
  • The fourth line is four words that describe a feeling about the theme
  • The last line is one word that refers back to the first line

IN Introverts with Intuition learn best through conceptual activities that can be done alone or with one other person.

For example, Zeisset provides a screened-off, pillow-covered corner where students can read books or listen to a story on a tape recorder. Children can also write or tape record answers to questions like:

What is the difference between being alone and being lonely?
What are the things that make you wonder?

Another activity that INs enjoy is writing contracts to create their own projects. After they describe their project, they list the supplies they will need, the amount of time they think it will take them, and the way they wish to share their project with others, such as making copies and giving them to others, displays, reports to the class or discussions with the teacher.

"You may worry that no one will visit a center because it's your least favorite," says Zeisset, "but there is always someone who will like it the most. It's for their sake that you need a systematic way of reaching all the types.

Susan Scanlon, INFJ, is editor of The Type Reporter.
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