I believe that centers are a fabulous addition to my classroom. Centers meet many needs for my students and myself. The reasons why I am a fan of centers is as follows:
1) Centers give me a chance to meet with small groups and/or individuals for reading.
2) Centers give the kids something "fun" and novel to look forward to in the schedule.
3) Centers give me (and my voice) a break from the whole-group teaching mode.
4) Centers allow the students to review learned skills and strengthen their knowledge.
5) Centers allow me to check for student successes and/or needs in many areas.
In my classroom, I have 10 literacy centers. (I am very particular about referring to them as literacy centers because they all indeed do meet literacy (ELA) standards!)
It may sound like a lot, but it's what I need to keep myself and my students running smoothly.
There are three reasons why I have 10 centers-
1) I can have the students review many different skills (with variety).
2) I can have 2 students per group (or 3 if I have an odd number of kids).
3) I only have to change my centers once every two weeks.
That means only one later afternoon of work per every 10 days!
My 10 centers are as follows:
Pocket Chart Center
Fine Motor Center
Puzzles and Games Center
Here is a brief explanation of what students typically do at each specific center:
Students listen to a familiar story; they look at the book and track print. Students then either have meaningful discussion, participate in a response activity or complete a response sheet.
Students complete reading activities on a variety of websites and/or practice typing and writing with the keyboard. They sign in on a clipboard to let me know they completed their assignments.
Pocket Chart Center-
Students read and help put together a familiar poem or piece of writing. After they've finished, students read their poem or story to each other. They then complete a response sheet.
Students work on letter sounds and/or making words at this center.
Fine Motor Center-
Students complete a variety of review activities that require cutting, sorting, etc. This center is typically focused on having students manipulate their hands and work on strengthening their fine motor skills through the repeated use of their hand muscles.
Students work on science or social studies extension activities.
Students work on math review skills that are connected to a book or story we have read (usually a piece of literature or a true picture book).
Puzzles and Games Center-
Students complete puzzles or games that are connected to review skills connected to reading.
Students create their own book of some type to take home and read. Students also have the opportunity to read their choice of leveled books.
Students complete a variety of tracing and/or writing pieces that are differentiated according to students' instructional level.
Here are some visuals of my center buckets, my library center, my writing center, and my listening center.
In my classroom, students stay in their one particular center for the entire center/small group block. In my opinion, I have not found that switching centers multiple times in one block is a do-able thing for my 5-year-olds.
(It could just be me and my lack of stability when they're moving all around like little bugs on a log, but I personally just do not feel comfortable having students go from place to place while working.)
When I send my students to centers, they have about 50 minutes there; however, they are also called for reading groups (which last about 10-12 minutes) during this time as well. In the end, students spend about 25 minutes at their center with the partner, 10 minutes at their center without their partner, 10 minutes in reading group and maybe 5 minutes setting up, cleaning up and going to the bathroom and/or water fountain.
Students can read my center sign about halfway through the year, but until then, "they follow the circle." My centers are set up in a circle around the perimeter of my classroom. The center buckets, although they are all together, go from number 1 through number 6 and typically run seamlessly within the circle. (They know that if they went to #4 today, they will go to #5 tomorrow, etc.)
My center buckets are labeled so students know where to return their bucket. And, at the other centers that do not have buckets (listening, library, writing and computer), students have buckets to take their materials from and return their materials to. This is helpful and keeps students from making a mess!
In the end, with all of these supports, students typically have no problem going from center to center! After about the second center rotation, everyone has it down and they don't need my help anymore!
Every 10 days, centers change. So, students will complete each center one time before they change to accommodate some other standard(s).
It is good to change things at centers besides the skills being reviewed!
Here are some different things I go to switch centers up throughout the year:
- I change students' center partners every 9-weeks.
- I give specific students jobs- some are helpers for their partner, some are reporters for the class, some are monitors to help others, some are "technicians" for computers and listening, etc.
- I always have a variety of extra activities available for students to CHOOSE from when they complete their center work. This way, students complete the needed activity I have assigned; if they do this in a timely manner, they will have at least a few minutes to do something of their choice as well!