| |

Center Organization Made Easy

Center organization…..One of the most popular questions I hear is “How do you manage your Centers? It’s a great question!

Setting Up Centers

Center organization begins with the set up process. When setting up centers I think about the flow of my room as well as its size. I have 4 main center areas: Library, i-pads, Phonics and Math games/activities and Writing. I keep the library in close range to my teaching area because I grab books from the classroom library to read as either a planned or unplanned read aloud. Also, I have a carpet in my teaching area which allows students to have a confined library space where there are some physical boundaries. I keep my i-pads in containers with student headphones and cards with their passwords on them. For the rest of my centers, I keep them all on a shelf. The Phonics and Math games/activities are in containers on the shelf and the writing papers are in a 3 tiered tray on the shelf, so it’s easy for kids to grab the papers and tubs they need.

Here is a blogpost showing pictures of this shelf and explaining center routines:

Centers Need Routines

Running Centers

There are so many ways to run centers. One of my favorite ways is to do a special kind of rotation. This is where I have 4 groups of kids but only 3 rotations. Wait…..what? This means the kids only rotate to 3 different things but I see 4 groups of kids. Here is how I do it.

Group 1 is at the Teacher Table, Group 2 is doing i-pads and Groups 3 & 4 are at centers. I see Group 1 for 15 minutes and then they go to i-pads while I see Group 2 for 15 minutes (those two groups flip flop). Meanwhile Groups 3 & 4 are doing Centers for the entire half hour. At the 30 minute mark Groups 1 & 2 do centers and I see Group 3 at the teacher table while Group 4 goes to i-pads. At the end I see Group 4 and Group 3 visits i-pads. Here is the beauty of it all: It doesn’t matter which activity switches with the Teacher Table. It could be i-pads or centers. I used to have i-pads be the entire 30 minutes and centers were what my kids did right before or after Teacher Table. Using i-pads for 30 minutes only works if you have enough i-pads.

Now here is the next question: What if my kids get bored of Centers? My kids always had a task to do BEFORE going to Centers. They did seat work, put it in the Finished Basket and then off they went to Centers. This way I could differentiate the seat work and allow them to make choices during Centers. Reading Group/Center Time was right before recess and I would gather the seat work and call them to go outside based on the finished papers. Kids learned early to put their names on their papers and to finish the work.

Favorite Centers

When thinking about center organization I think about the type of centers I use with my students. I like to use centers that do not have to be explained over and over……..and over. I like to model centers during the first month of school then use the same type of center all year but change out the skills or themes. But I also like to have a variety of centers as well. So I spend the first month or so really teaching and modeling how to use all the centers. What to do and what not to do.

Here are examples of some centers that work really well.

Here are 6 centers that come in different skills and themes (seasons and holidays) but are played the same way every time. I like to change these out monthly. There are phonics and math activities but they all have the same format: Color By Code pages, Roll and Write, a partner game, reading words, letters or numbers with clothespins and more.

For the Writing Center I love to use this resource. The Writing Center resource comes in many themes and includes labeling pages, class books writing pages, student books with cut and paste options. I like to have weekly themes and change out some of the writing activities weekly. Most are low prep.

cover of writing center five senses with link

Another very favorite Writing Center activity is Write the Room. I have them in all the same themes as my Writing Center resources. I change Write the Room weekly as well.

Using Poetry Journals weekly is a great way to bring engagement to the classroom. The poems are actually songs. There are activities that go with the songs. Some of the activities can be done in a whole group and some of the activities can be done as seat work or used in centers.

Here is a blogpost about how I do Poetry Journals:

Tips For Poetry Journals In The Classroom

Storing Centers

Center organization would not be complete without discussing how to store the centers when not in use. I use large ziplock bags (gallon) or smaller ziplock bags, to store the prepped centers with all the pieces of the centers. I label the bag and I store all of the same type of center together. So all my Write the Room cards are in a container (or multiple containers). I keep the recording sheets in a notebook with page protectors. Another way to store them would be to keep them in the bags but put all the fall center bags in a large storage tub so that each season has its own tub. You could keep all the centers for a season in one or two tubs. How you choose to store them depends on the type of centers you are storing. If they are more bulky then you might like large tubs but if they are flatter then they could go in a smaller containers. I actually do a mix of the two organization types. Here is an example of containers that I have used:

center organization container for smaller and flatter centers
center organization large tub for bulkier centers

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to set up, run or store your centers. My way is just one of many. But I hope some of these ideas helped you begin imagining Center Time in your own classroom.

Similar Posts