If you need some great tips for managing classroom centers, you’ve come to the right place! No matter how you run your centers, there are crucial components to the management of them that will always apply. Preparation is key and after reading this you will feel so ready to tackle centers like never before. This is center management made easy. Let’s get to it!
Organization is a Must
Creating sustainable systems for organization is a must. You want every little thing to have a home so there are NO guessing games when it comes to cleaning up and putting things away. Labels go a LONG way. Check out the labels I use HERE. Focusing on a good organizational system that works for you and your students is a great way to keep your materials in place, keep your centers running smoothly, and YOU less stressed. Not only do you want to think about the organization of all your center materials and activities, you always want to consider WHERE you’ll actually conduct each center. It’s important to know how far away each center will be, what center will be closest to where you pull small groups, and things of that nature. See THIS blog for a more in depth post about center organization.
Differentiation and Limits
One of the reasons I love center time is because the differentiation that takes place is HUGE. It is where most of the student learning occurs and you as the teacher can really push and move students forward. During centers you can provide hands-on activities to target specific skills students are working on. You can gear it all to their needs. For math, my favorite way to differentiation is by planning my lessons and activities using the CRA Model. It is SUPER engaging and allows room for every student to thrive in a way that works for them! You can learn more about that model HERE!
Fill your center bins with fun activities that allow students to practice important skills they need more support with. This is a time where they work together not only to practice important academic skills, but social skills as well. The independence students will build during centers is amazing and when you set them up for success, the growth will be immense. Another key here is to place limits on the number of students at each center to help with management. I also like to provide them with must do and may do activities at each one. This is a great management tool so students can never say “I’m done” or “I don’t know what to do.” If you want to go more in depth on center management, check out THIS blog for more.
Want to dive into centers but no sure where to start? Don’t worry, I’ve got you COVERED with the jam packed Centers Management Ultimate Kit! You will have everything you need to take charge of centers and THRIVE from day one. Students will know EXACTLY what to do and you’ll have everything planned out for YOU! Grab yours now with the link below!
Visuals for the Win
Anchor charts are a great way to help students “anchor”, or reference back, to their learning. It’s a visual reminder of all those important skills and strategies that have been practiced. It’s important to be picture heavy on your charts with kinder students and transition to more words towards the end of the year. They provide support in helping students become independent learners. Anchor charts an easy way to provide them important reminders they may need about our learning throughout the day. Now I love making adorable anchor charts but let’s be honest, I’m no artist. Solution to my problem? Traceable anchor charts! Simply project these templates on your anchor chart paper and trace away!! Easy, cute, and most importantly, FUNCTIONAL! Grab this KWL Traceable FREE below!
Grab this free resource now!
Want to elevate your charts even further? One thing that I have found that really helps students is to snap pictures while students are completing different activities we are practicing. This provides a meaningful visual for students to refer back to as we learn and practice when anyone needs a reminder. Students love seeing themselves around the classroom and what better way to showcase them than with a picture of them upholding all your expectations?! I love using THESE editable posters in our classroom.
Without an accountability piece, how will you monitor what’s going on in your centers? Holding students accountable is super important and you can do this in some simple ways. You want to set clear expectations for your students completing their work, how they will turn it in, procedures for unfinished work, and implementing a reflection piece. See THIS blog to learn all about accountability in your centers!
Starting From Day One
The first weeks of setting up center time should include A LOT of modeling and practicing for students. Starting day one, you want to explicitly discuss clear expectations, most likely way more than once, and practice, practice, practice. Taking the first six weeks is crucial to gradually start to loosen the reins on how much support your students need from you. It may seem like a long time, but I promise you that anything less just won’t cut it. Students need this time to really become those independent learners you know they are capable of being and there’s no better time than day one.
My secret to getting your students to meet your expectations EXACTLY how you want them to is to model with the framework “looks like, sounds like”. What does it look like to transition to my center? What does it sound like? We use this for every single procedure and it works like a charm. Use it to practice transitions and more, practice over and over again to build up your student’s stamina, and watch magic happen. Check out THIS blog to get a complete rundown on what the first six weeks looks like with an emphasis on the first week.
Make Prep and Planning a Breeze
Centers are A LOT of work. Between all the prep work and planning, you might feel like you want to throw in the towel. But I am here to save you a TON of work by reminding you to keep it simple! I love using no prep center activities that can work on multiple different skills. Got a group working on letter sounds? Have them complete a sort. Need to differentiate? Have some students simply sort letters to work on recognition, while others can work on sorting by letter sounds. One activity with two purposes. This activity is built for success.
One thing I’ve found very useful is to teach students how to complete an engaging activity that can work with many different skills. This could be a simple game of Bump. Once they know how to play the game, it can be changed for what they are working on, from CVC words to Addition within 10. Super low prep, extremely high engagement. I also like to group my activities by skill for easy rotation when a group is ready to move on. For example, if a group is working on letter sounds, while another group is working on CVC words, when the letter sounds group is ready for CVC words, you’ll have all the activities prepped and ready. I’ll do the same thing for math. So much less work for me which means more time to give to my students. Win-win! Check out the no prep growing centers bundle below!
These first weeks of practice are CRUCIAL to how the whole year will run. Just remember, I WANT to be there to support you! Centers are a beautiful thing when done right and you will LOVE this time in your day. Let me help you through every step of the way. Learn all about these important steps in the Mastering Classroom Centers For Good: Turning Chaos into Calm Guide.
And if you want to delve even deeper, enroll in the course that will allow you to say goodbye to the hassles of classroom chaos and hello to confident, effective centers – Mastering Centers for Good!
I really hope you enjoyed learning all about creating successful centers for the entire year with your students! Be sure to check out all the other tools included to support you in your centers journey. And believe me, it is a journey worth taking! Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list! Not only will you get the most up to date tips, tricks, and classroom projects… and of course more fun FREEBIES including the Traceable Anchor Chart FREEBIE! You will also have exclusive access to tons of digital how-to videos! If you would like to learn about this and other things happening in my classroom follow me @sweetnsauerfirsties on Instagram.
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