Classroom Management Summer Series- Week 1: Centers

Hey there!

Thanks for stopping by for Week 1 of my Classroom Management Summer Series! This week I am going to talk to you all about CENTERS.
My favorite part of our day in Kindergarten is our Reading and Math Centers! Centers are the perfect opportunity for your students to grow socially and academically, while learning how to work independently and as a team. I look forward to my small group time, as this is where I am able to really work with my students and give them the attention they need. I've had lots of questions on Instagram about how I do centers in Kindergarten, so today I am going to explain how I incorporate centers in my daily schedule!

When/how long are centers in my daily schedule?
When creating my daily schedule, I schedule my Reading Centers time slot FIRST. I find a part of my day that I have an entire hour uninterrupted, preferably in the morning, and that's where my Reading Centers go. An hour gives you either four 15 minute rotations or three 20 minute rotations. Your students will need at least 15 minutes for a center, but anything over 20 minutes is too long and where behavior issues start, at least in my experience. My centers DO change a little every year, and that's fine! Each class is different and you will figure out how long they are able to work before getting antsy/bored with their center.

I have two options for center rotations. Depending on how big your class is or what your class is like behavior wise will help you decide which option is better. If you have a small class (less than 18) I would go with the 4 center rotation, because you would have about 4 in a group. If you have a big class, 6 centers may be a better fit, so you don't have 6 students in a group. I find that groups of 3-4 work BEST together and more than 4 becomes a behavior/management problem.
What do your center stations look like?
My center stations are Teacher Table, Technology, Activity, Pocket Chart, Art, Writing, and Independent Work. I've linked some of the resources that I like to use!

•Teacher Table: Weekly Readers, Phonics Interactive Notebooks, Sight Word practice, Fluency Roll and Read
•Technology: iPad, Chromebook, or SMART Board
•Activity: Puzzle, Matching Game, Sensory Bin, Bingo, Spelling Cards
•Pocket Chart: Phonics Picture Sort, Sentence Builders
•Art: Letter Crafts, Color by Sight Words, Sort by Color
•Writing: Handwriting, Picture Prompts, Sight Word sentences
•Independent Work: Worksheets, Cut and Pastes
Note: I only have Teacher Table and Technology every day, the rest I rotate between the remaining 2 or 4 center stations. 

How do you plan your centers?
When planning, I make sure I am covering the weekly skills from the reading curriculum and also any additional skills that we are working on for that quarter. I use my Erin Condren planner, to write down quickly what centers I will do. After I make copies, and pull any games/puzzles/activities from my files, I put them in a clear Sterlite bin with the center number on it.

Here's what a sample week looks like:

One tip for you is to keep it SIMPLE. I use the same type of activities/worksheets/games, so that I do not have to explain a new one every week. For example, we do three days of sight word work at an independent center. I use this Sight Word Super Stars packet by The Moffatt Girls, and print the worksheet for the two weekly sight words that we are practicing as a class. I also use my Editable Sight Word Cut and Spell with words that my students have previously learned. After two weeks of working on these worksheets, my students understand how to complete it and I don't have to explain it every time.

What are your procedures for centers?
After we finish our phonics lesson, I pull out the center bins for the day. I open each bin and show them the center for that station. I explain and model how they complete the center. I let them ask any questions, after I finish explaining every center. Then, my students will go to their first center and start right away. Around the classroom, I have these big center signs. It helps my students find their center quickly.
You can grab the EDITABLE Center Signs freebie here:
My students work for the set amount of time. If they have a question, they ask 3 others then me. I have this light up sign that reminds students to not disrupt me unless they have already asked 3 others.
I set this timer and display it on the SMART Board. I use the :57 second one and add my total time. If centers are 15 minutes, I put a 15 on the timer. Once it gets down to :57, then music will start playing. This cues my students to STOP, drop what they are doing, and clean up. My students know that they must finish cleaning up before the music stops. They turn their work into the Finished Work bin and if they did not finish, they put it in the unfinished work bin to be completed later. Once the music stops, they freeze and face me. I wait until the class is quiet and standing still, and I say "Switch" and my students rotate clockwise to the next center.

When/how do you introduce centers at the beginning of the year?
On Day 2 or 3, I start to introduce centers to my students. I put out fun, non academic centers at each station, like play-doh, puzzles, crayons and paper, etc. I group my students into random groups and they get 10 minutes to play at each station. When the music for the countdown timer starts playing, they freeze, and I explain how that is their signal to stop. We will sometimes practice freezing when they hear the music, kinda like a backwards Freeze Dance. I show them how/where to rotate and we do one group at a time. They get 10 minutes to play at the next station, then we practice again.

During the first two weeks of centers, I do not have a group at my Teacher Table. THIS IS MY MOST IMPORTANT TIP. Instead, I walk around the room and monitor each center group. I will sit down with each group, play the game with them or help them with their work, modeling how to act/work together during centers. Some students do not know how to take turns, or what to do when someone "steals" their turn, so I make sure they all understand how to take turns. This time also gives me the opportunity to get to know my students, see who works well together, and which students need to be in separate groups. I usually pull a couple of students and do any pre-assessments I need to complete once my students seem to be working nicely. If you don't take the time to make sure your students understand center expectations, your centers will not run smoothly, and then you will have to deal with problems down the road. Take the time to establish center expectations and procedures.

How do you group your students?
First, I list any students that absolutely cannot work together and separate those students first. There are always 2 or 3 students that need a solid group that won't tempt them to mess around. Then, I do it academically with what the students need to work on. Usually I have a "high" group- students who come in knowing many of the Kindergarten skills and need a challenge, and a "low" group, students who may come in not knowing any letters and need more intervention. The rest can be moved around easily. I do change my center groups every few weeks, that way students have the opportunity to work with others in the class.

Do you have Math Centers?
In my class, we do have Math Centers 4 days a week, with Fridays being a whole group lesson and math activity or craft. We don't have enough time to do a full hour, so we have 2 rotations every day for a total of 30 minutes. Centers are switched every other day, similar to the 6 station rotation mentioned above. We have the same type of centers, and I use the exact same procedures and routines, just using math skills instead.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out next week's post about Kindergarten Classroom Management- Procedures and Routines!

1 comment

  1. That was very helpful! Thank you. I run a home daycare and read all these things about centers but hadn't seen them explained. I have 5 kids ages 2 and 3 so they wouldn't do separate centers but I can at least see how I can adapt this to our day.