Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Centers: Management and Organization Ideas

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I love using centers, so I thought I’d share how I use, manage, and organize them. Hopefully, you’ll find something you can use to help manage and organize your centers. If you don’t use centers, it may spark an interest in using them.

Using centers has really helped me manage my reading and math guided group time. I want the children to be involved in meaningful, engaging activities while I instruct small groups. I’ve found that using centers keeps my students involved in practicing skills.

The centers engage the students. They are usually manipulating cards, sorting, pairing, talking with a partner, etc. They are involved in hands-on activities to complete the center activities as opposed to doing a paper pencil task.  For example, a literacy center may have cards that need to be ordered on the pocket chart to make a sentence and then read using a pointer. They enjoy doing this.

I assign “Centers” to one group at a time. Other students work on math assignments, word work, or with technology. I am then able to focus my attention on guided instruction.

I integrate math and literacy skills with social studies and science in the center activities. During the holiday season, I include holiday themes. Children can practice skills thematically. Students also practice social skills.

I know that managing centers can be an issue. I have tried many, many different ways to manage them in my classroom. I’m sure I'll continue to change and improve upon the way I do this, but this is what I currently do. It is working well with my students this year.

I think one of the keys is to model, model, and then model even more. I continue to model repeatedly throughout the year. I find that the students need review on procedures for taking the centers out, working with a partner, problem solving, using  quiet voices, putting the centers back when finished, etc. I continue to make notes as I observe the students. We have discussions and on-going reminders as issues arise.

Centers make great partner activities. My students can choose to work individually or with a partner. Most of the time they choose to work with a partner. They learn to work together to solve problems and help each other to complete each center activity. They’re able to share their understandings with a partner and learn from each other. It’s especially gratifying to glance over and see and hear students talking about how to solve a problem and then deciding together on the solution.

The initial preparation of centers can be time consuming. Initially, the centers have to be copied, cut, and laminated. Once that’s completed, they can be stored and used year after year.

I bag them up and store them in large manila envelopes. I keep the envelopes in my filing cabinet. When I’m reading to use them, the only preparation is copying the recording sheets.

Each of the centers is kept in a single gallon baggie. The front of the baggie displays the center directions. The direction card stays in the baggie.

The back of the baggie has the cards that students will use along with the recording sheets.

When the students are using the centers from a packet, they're kept in a labeled bin on the floor.

If you were to enter my room when my students are involved with center activities, you would see them sitting on the rug. I think that’s one of the draws of the centers. The children have more opportunities to move around. They’re able to spread the activities out on the floor. They put their recording sheets on clipboards to record their answers.

I put the center pictures of each card on the pocket chart. The students can see what centers are included in the container.

The students have center folders. I staple a "Menu of Activities" to the inside front cover of the folder. I just use folded 12” x 18” colored construction paper for folders. File folders will also work.

The students put finished recording sheets in their folders. They also keep recording sheets that they’ve started and not completed in the same folder. I correct the recording sheets and stamp or put a happy face on the centers that are completed. It’s a way for students to keep track of what centers they've finished. It also helps to keep students accountable for their time at centers.

And just for fun, I sometimes add something extra to the topic, holiday, or season. For example, here are the "Merry" pencils the students can use for the Christmas centers. 

Instead of putting the cards on a pocket chart, the cards can be displayed on a strip of ribbon and topped with a colorful bow.

A few fun touches go a long way in engaging the students.

I created a sample center activity for the holiday. It's called Gingerbread Ten Frames Math Center. Students count the dots on the ten frames and match them to the equations. Click on the picture for a FREE download.

I hope you’ve found the ideas useful. Let know know if you have any questions about the centers. 

Thank you for stopping by.