Hey guys and dolls, how’s it going?
Summer is chugging along at an alarmingly fast
pace now that the calendar says July! Sigh.
One of the things that I am known for at my school,
is my love for centers. I love, love, love centers
and small group time. I often have teachers coming into my room
to learn about how I do centers, mainly how do I get them
started, and once they are started, how I keep them running
smoothly throughout the year.
So today, I want to share with you what I have learned over the years!
I begin center routines and procedures the first full week of school.
Now, they don’t realize that this is what we’re doing,
they just think that they get to play.
At my school, a lot of my students have not really had an
opportunity to participate in structured play.
So before we start moving around the room, we do some
tabletop work at our desks, which are in groups of 4.
This includes a lot of math manipulative and play centers,
like play-doh, legos, etc.
During this time, we talk about appropriate voice levels,
working with our friends and sharing and using materials properly.
What am I doing?
I am walking around, monitoring, modeling, and problem-solving.
So, we do this for anywhere from a week to a week and a half,
or two weeks. It all depends on the group, how much I
have to correct. The great thing is…nothing is set in stone,
and you can adjust it all to meet the needs of your students.
When things begin to move like clockwork, then it’s
time to move on to level 2.
In level 2, I move the “fun” otherwise known as the age-appropriate
centers (but I digress), out, and I exchange them for centers that
are academic. Still tabletop centers, but this gives me the
opportunity to have a discussion with them about working
in the center that they have.
We talk about how this is a part of our job in coming to school
each day, and that when we go to centers, we must work
the entire time. Because when they’re doing fun centers,
no one has to tell them to work the entire time!
Now, I’ll be honest……level 2 can take up to 2 weeks.
It takes a lot of practice, modeling, and correction!!
We build our stamina day by day, week by week!
It is not for the faint of heart!!!
But don’t give up!
Once we have success with level 2, then it’s time for,
you guessed it, level 3.
This is when we start moving around the classroom,
which has its own set of challenges.
At this point, I’m still reviewing appropriate voice levels,
working with our friends, sharing and using materials properly,
and working in our center the entire time!
I know, I know…..at this point, you’re chomping at the bit,
ready for them to rotate around, and be independent,
so that you can begin small group…..
…..don’t do it!!! It’s so easy to think that you can
move forward, but I promise you, it will fall apart later on.
I usually pick what I call the big four to start with.
This includes the magnet, pocket chart, library, and big book centers.
I introduce one per day…..so on Monday, we’ll continue with
the tabletop centers, and then I’ll introduce the magnet center.
On Tuesday, I’ll introduce the pocket chart center,
review the magnet center, and so forth.
This way, we only begin with one group out of their seat,
and then two, and so on. It’s also a great time to talk about
the fact that sometimes, there will be some students who are
out of their seats, and some students will be at different
groups during center time.
And of course there’s still a lot of modeling and correction going on,
but not as much as before!
Model, model, model!
Practice, practice, practice!
And then I introduce the sensory table.
Yup, you guessed it, a lot of modeling and practice!
to learn more about sensory tables in my classroom!
The writing center is one of the last centers that I introduce.
This gives me a chance to introduce labeling, and why writers write.
I can then transfer what we’ve been learning about in writer’s workshop
over to their center time.
At this point, we are anywhere between week 4 to week 6,
depending on where my class is, and how quickly they get it.
And now it’s time for the scary part!
Rotating centers!!!!!!!!! AAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!
It’s not as scary as it looks, I promise!!!
This is what my center rotation chart looks like.
It’s just an old calendar, and I cut off the
days of the week labels.
I like this version, instead of the cutesy
calendars, because they are perfect squares.
This is what I use, but anyway that you choose to
rotate your students around will be fine,
as long as it works for you!
The pictures match a larger version of pictures that I have
posted by each center. So they are already familiar with these.
I start by assigning each student to a color group,
and I only place one center next to their group.
We are not rotating at this point, only getting used to
what the pictures look like, and walking up
to read the center rotation chart.
Then they have to find their center.
We do that for a few days, and then I add the next line.
This is where we practice rotating to another center.
This is where we (you) must have a lot of patience!
I use a regular bell for a signal.
The first ring means clean up.
When I think everyone is finished, I’ll say,
“All Set!” and if a group’s center is cleaned up, they say, “You Bet!”.
If they need a little extra time, they say “Not yet!”.
When I ring the second bell, it is the signal to rotate to their next center.
This also takes practice, because we have to talk about
walking to the center rotation chart, taking turns looking at the chart,
and again, walking and not running.
Over time, you will see that they have memorized their rotations
for the day, and won’t need to refer to the chart but once.
Often, it becomes part of their morning routine,
they come in and look to see what centers they will be
going to for the day.
And then another line is added.
When it’s time to move on, I don’t add another line,
but I add myself, because I am a part of their center rotations.
When they see my picture, they know to come to my table.
At this point, I have a loose version of small group.
We do a little bit, and then I’m still up walking around,
and monitoring the progress of the other groups
around the classroom.
While I am doing this, I have an activity for the
group at my table to complete.
Some of the centers shown above are mine, and some are not.
You can find the centers in the following stores…
Now, let’s talk about technology centers for a bit.
We do have a lot of technology in our classroom,
but I like to hold out on that.
I feel like this generation depends too much
on being entertained by it, and I learned the hard
way a few years ago, when that was all my students wanted to do.
They didn’t have any interest in traditional centers,
and I think it was because I started off with technology.
I have three student computers, and interactive whiteboard,
several iPod’s and iPads, and I wait to introduce them in October.
I did this last year, and it just made everything run more smoothly.
I really talked it up, saying that we were going to add new
centers to the rotation chart, because they had been doing
such a great job!
This way, technology is just easily integrated into
our center routine, and they don’t give it a second thought!
I have several different types of centers,
and they can change throughout the year.
What is appropriate at the beginning of the school year,
may not be appropriate for the middle
or end of the school year.
So, this is how I begin centers every year.
Yes, it is a lot of work, but I promise, it pays
off in the end.
When I think about beginning centers, I think about the following:
You can do it right, or you can do it all year.
Ain’t that the truth!
If you have any questions, please let me know!