Register Now

Managing Student Centers

Compiled By: Mrs. G

These are strategies to use to help you manage your students center work.

centers issues
Posted by: Lisa

I feel you girl! I do my centers the same way with the rotations and I love the hands-on activities, but it can be problematic. What I changed for the better this year is working tremendously for me, so maybe it'll help you!

1. My checklist: has them "rate" their work when it is completed (smiley, ok face, sad face) next to the icon on their checklist of the center(s) they completed. Not all kids are honest with this, which is why at the end of the checklist I have a column called "teacher check." In the Teacher Check row I either put "IC" "a checkmark or check plus or a circle (not done).
On fun friday, I collect centers work, staple each child's work to the checklist and write comments on it about whether or not it was completed or whether it was "best work." This then gets sent directly home to the parents. It works! The parents know to look through the centers work and discuss it b/c I sent home information about our centers and "reflection sheet/checklist" and how to understand it. I can send it to you if you let me know.

2. Best work: I display examples of "best work" around the room and we also share it at meetings. When I notice a child rushing when I look through his/her work during centers on friday - I may have that child redo the centers instead of having choice. (on fridays I have them finish up what they haven't completed, then they have choice. This encourages them to do good work and to work hard so that they can do what they want on friday).

3. For the kids that rush - most of my centers, if not all, are very hands on but require a "reflection" follow up so that I can collect their work to see what they are actually doing. For example, when they are finished at the listening center they write the title of the book and a picture of the story. Later in the year I will make it more detailed. When they make words with magnetic letters or wikki stick, there is a sheet for them to record what they wrote. My science center has journals. Math center has a recording sheet, and so on. Sometimes I will even put one at the pocket chart center if I see they are not taking their time. All of this goes into their own centers folder, which they carry around with them. If its too big, it goes on the counter and i stack it to check later. Its convenient because I have all their work together to check and I know who is not doing anything because they have an empty folder!

4. For kids who do good work but finish early - they either go back to a center or go to "write the room" which they actually like! Its a basket with clipboards, paper and fun pens and markers. They silently walk around the room recording all different kinds of words, as many as they can. They are very proud of this writing and sometimes I post it up in the room to keep their eagerness peaked. As I discussed in the previous paragraph, having a written reflection for almost every center also helps to slow them down a bit so they don't finish quite so fast.

This really works for me so I hope it will help you too. I struggled through centers last year and this year I look forward to it!!


here is how i've done centers.....
Posted by: 3rd grade teacher

I have 40 mins. alotted time a day(there will be two rotations during that time). Most students will only get one time period (20 min) at a set-up center. They will do seat centers for the other 20 min. A few get 2 set-up centers in a given day but won't get any on another day (they would do seat centers)...Just the way it works out but ALL students get to ALL centers every week (unless something unforseen comes up).
The schedules are posted above each center broken into two time periods for each day. (ex. Research Center Monday 9:20-9:40 Susie Q. and Little Johnny, 9:40-10:00 Ann and Andy, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri are posted in the same way). It is a little crazy getting the schedule established at first because you don't want to schedule someone in two centers at a time. Also, I want to pick and choose who should work with whom. I'll also add that just because Lucy works with Ricky in the Math Center doesn't mean she will be with him in the Book Nook. I try to let them be with a friend atleast once if I know it will work.

My set-up centers are the same centers each week but the things within the centers change. Here are my centers...

Research/Discovery Center: (this could be states, rocks and minerals, volcanoes, whatever).
Right now we are using it for our Postcard Project to learn about different areas.

Computers: educational games, e-pals, some research.

Math Center: anything using manipulatives, games to reinforce skills and as a review, etc.

Writing Center: writing friendly letters to our Pals, writing stories, constructing sentences games, writing our postcards, word tiles to construct sentences, drawing pictures to go with our stories, lots of stuff. Right now I have a collection of old Christmas cards. I have listed a few words on the back of each to go along with the pictures. They have to write a story about the picture including those words and then illustrate them.

Book Nook: Books on topics we are studying in S. Studies, Science, Holidays, whatever.

Then I have a variety of things for them to take back to their seats...file folder games, activity cards, dry erase mats of states, presidents, money,handwriting, maps to name a few.

*I have an index card of clear instructions for each center plus I introduce the material for each center on Monday to get them interested and familiar with the activities.

I don't know how others do their centers. I know a lot of people do theirs during guided reading time but that doesn't work for me. I teach third grade and I'm the only third grade class that does this. I like centers because I can review and reinforce skills already taught and spend one on one time with those in need...there's just not a whole lot of time to do them in.

I don't know if this will work for you, but it is the only way I have been able to work them in and I really do like using them!

I hope you can atleast adapt some if not all of these ideas. I hope centers work out for you!

Posted by: SC

I also think you need to start up slowly with centers. As with everything else that kids have to get used to in your classroom (such as specific policies and activities), you cannot just expect to teach centers and center behavior once on the first week and then just expect everybody to work smoothly the rest of the year. Maybe around the second week of school, start out center time with just ONE activity students have to do, such as silent reading or a worksheet. Go over rules for center time, such as share, speak softly if talking is required, and don't interrupt the teacher. Tell students that if they can show good behavior, you will let them earn the right to go to other centers in the future. After about a week of this, you can introduce more centers. You could divide the class into four groups. Make a little spinning wheel that you can stick to the board, then write the center names/activities around it. Have a timer, and each time the timer goes off, give the wheel a spin.

Another thing you have to remember about centers is that you don't have to make them very complicated if you don't feel comfortable. You could just have a reading center for silent reading, a writing center for whatever writing you're doing that day, and a spelling center for worksheets. If your room isn't that big, the kids don't even have to stay in those centers; they could just be where they get their materials. One center could be working with you for a reading group. Like you, I was totally freaked about centers. I thought I would have to create these lavish hands-on experiences for my kids to participate in as they moved around the room. When I was student teaching, my master teacher told me that the point of centers was actually to make sure kids spent adequate time on each task they were supposed to do. (Like if you just made a list of all the work they were supposed to do, some kids would be totally freaked and get nothing done, while others would rush through the whole list in 10 minutes. So if you say they have to do one activity for 15 minutes, everyone's budgeting their time a little better.)

I can see that you have the same problem I did when I first started teaching. (Which was only last year, by the way.) You feel like you need to be perfect right off the bat. This is understandable, of course, because you want to give your students the best education possible. You don't want to admit to the students, parents, colleagues, and administrators that you aren't sure what you're doing. But don't worry. I'm sure you're doing fine. Just go slowly. After your first year of teaching you'll realize that the year is long, and that you have time to get to things in the future that you might not get to right away (like those fancy, hands-on centers). And if you rush into everything right away, none of it will be comfortable for you, and if you're not comfortable, nobody is. It's hard to take it slowly and just do what you can at first, because with teaching there's always more you can do. But there's nothing wrong with sticking to the curriculum and having students work out of books if it makes your life easier. Throw in a few of those meaningful, hands-on lessons (which you can get from a teacher supply store or from other teachers, if necessary), and everything will be fine. Trust me, that's how the veteran teachers do it, too.

Re: Centers
Posted by: fb

Hi there. I just graduated 2 years ago and for practice teaching grade 3, I used centers.

Basically, you can have centers that span across the curriculum. For example, if you are doing a unit in social studies...I am from Canada and we were doing a unit, well, about Canada. So, at the end of the unit, I set up centers. After I taught what the students needed to know.

Before I get ahead of myself there are some things to consider before you actually set up your centers. How many students per center? Do you want the centers timed or can the students move freely from center to center. Also, how are you going to actually evaluate or even keep track of the activities. Folders are great for each student.

You're going to have to set up a "traffic board." Once you decide how many students are in each group, and once the centers are made, I make the board.
Usually I make it out of poster board. I get those pockets that are in the back of library books or make my own pockets. In each pocket, I place a card with the names of each student in the group. In pocket one, I place a card with Johnny, Mary, Bill, and Bob. Usually you only want about 4 students per center. The pocket has a center name on it. For example, Puzzle Center and so on.

Ok, so for my center on Canada, I had a game of concentration. I taught about each province in Canada and their capital cities. I had pieces of two different colors. The red pieces had provinces, and the green had capitals. So they had to play a concentration game and get the right match.
Then I had a poetry center showing different poetry about Canada. The students had to make up their own poem about Canada.
Another center was a map of Canada that I cut up to make a puzzle.
There were other centers, but you get the picture.

I've also used centers for addition and snakes and ladders with addition and subtraction, making a menu, calculator games, etc etc..
So don't limit yourself. Find fun stuff to learn with and the kids will love it..

A favorite thing of mine to use is a noise clock. It's like a clock, but cut into sections. One section I think had a snake, a fly, and it went up to louder symbols which I can't remember.
OH and if they are timed centers...get an alarm clock!!! They'll know when to move.
Good Luck!

questions about centers
Posted by: Karen

I teach 3rd grade and have centers in my classroom. I think that everyone has a different system as to when to use them, what activities to use in them, and how to assess them (or not to assess them depending on the case).

Personally I do center time as a rotation during my guided reading time. Everyone in my class reads for 20 minutes. Then, on a rotating basis, 2 groups go to centers, 2 groups do a reading activity, and one group reads with me at the back table. The centers in my room are not graded and are done on an individual basis or with partners. This is my schedule Monday through Thursday. So, the students go to centers about 2 times per week. Perhaps you could incorporate centers into the reading and writing block you mentioned and rotate the students.

In regard to grading the centers, I do not believe you necessarily have to. With all of the grading we have to do anyway it's just one more thing to grade (just my personal opinion).

I will tell you how I manage centers (even though I am sure there are many other ways). I have a posterboard with pockets. Each pocket has the name of the center, for example, Math. I have 2 craft sticks in the pocket which means 2 students can be in that center. The students take the sticks with them to the center. The other students know that if there aren't any sticks in the pocket then it's full and they have to choose another center.

The activities I plan relate to what we're studying in class. I have file folder activities, games/activities with shower curtain liners, word finds/crosswords/other puzzles for the overhead, etc... The centers in my room are: computers, language arts, math, science, spelling, listening, read around the room, library, art, and games and puzzles.

A good way to get started is to go to an education store and find a book about centers and center activities for your grade level. Then, plan a couple of activities and develop a rotation system (or just let everyone go to centers). You don't have to have many centers. Why not just start out with 3-5, see how it works, and then go from there. Everyone has a different way of doing centers - I hope I've helped a little bit. Good luck!

Centers in first grade
Posted by: Julianne

Creating and managing centers in first grade is a little more difficult that doing so in older grades, partly because many of your students don't read well enough to follow written directions. They also have little experience with self-directed learning. But, I believe centers are an excellent way of giving students meaningful learning experiences and are worth the extra effort.

First, make some decisions about how you want your centers to run. We have centers in our room that are intended for early finishers, like a book center, a creative writing center and a puzzle center. These activities are self-directed and have simple rules that any student can follow. We also run centers during a specific centers block of time. This is when we have our guided reading groups. These centers are more structured and take some time to teach. Ideally, one starts teaching centers at the beginning of the school year, moving from one center to the next, teaching the skills needed until the kids know it all. They then rotate through these centers as you change the materials, but not the actual structure. An example might be our spelling center where students are expected to write their spelling words three times, then quiz another student verbally about the words. The WORDS change each week, but the structure is exactly the same.

Since you're starting in the middle of the year, take time to teach each center to your students. You can use these newly taught centers as your free choice centers for early finishers for a while. When you have taught four or five centers it's time to split up your group and help them learn how to rotate between the centers during a structured time period. Your job, at first, is to roam around redirecting behavior and noting things you need to improve upon. After a few sessions you may be able to sit down and work with individual students or reading groups.

You might want to start with easier centers. You need time to create the centers and also time to determine how your students are handling them. Even a simple jigsaw puzzle is a good center because it promotes group cooperation and conversation, teaches spatial relations and gives the learners a chance to practice simple center rules. Good luck!

using centers
Posted by: judy

We have been using centers in our district for about three years. I was a little skeptical in the beginning, but I really can't see how I would handle reading groups without them. I use a center board in which I list all the names of my students in their reading groups and then the centers they are to visit under the names. Each day I just move the names, so they will be in two different centers. I find two half hour centers daily to be workable since I also have inclusion and ESL inclusion. I have a timer that goes off and they are responsible to clean up center before going to the next one. All of the names and centers are velcro'd to the center board in case I need to change groups or centers. I would gear your centers to the needs of your students....some good centers to use are Overhead(having a skill activity for them to do on it), Listening center....tapes to listen to books and react to them in some way....Writing Center....some sort of writing activity...targeted writing ..........library....I have the younger groups so I always have an ABC center, Poetry Center, Retelling Center, Math Center, Science Center etc. Once you start to organize you will see you can almost make a center out of anything. If you need any further help I would be glad to help in any way. Just make sure that the centers are an activity that they can do independently, because you will have reading groups and won't be able to jump up all the time. Also set the rules you want them to follow in centers right at the beginning. Take it slow...and always model the centers before they do it. I know you are probably very well aware of all this, but these are hints that I muddled through with in the very beginning.

Posted by: Colleen

I began using centers many years ago. I went through a period of no centers but now I'm back to centers. I feel the kids need time to get out of their seats and interact with activities and each other. I find I have a friendlier classroom with centers. They are better behaved during the day when they have centers. The first thing they do when they come into the classroom in the morning is to check the center chart.I have them open ended. I do not "grade them". The students are assigned to one a day during reading group time. They are responsible for some seat work to reinforce skills and once they are finished they go to their center. I introduce them gradually during the first few weeks of school. I use a pocket chart with the color coded names of kids in my three reading groups and the six or seven centers along the side. Each day I just rotate the centers with the groups of kids. Then once a month or so I switch groups of kids around. My centers are: computer(I have 3 in my room), library, creation station, listening(books on tape with head sets), phonics (games), math(games),puzzles, write the room. When I add a new game to the math or phonics box I will show one reading group how to play and it's up to them to show the others how to play it. My centers are scattered around the room at extra desks or they sit on the floor. In the beginning you must be very strict on the fooling around and noise. I take the centers away for the rest of the week if they goof off. I do this once and by golly they learn to not test me. Once you accumulate stuff for you centers it is easy. Sometimes I would think they get board with them because the are basically the same all school year but they love them they add the newness by their creativity on how they use them. I don't jump into them but ease into them when I am comfortable. Some classes need more time than others.

Posted by: Janet

I don't believe that anyone who has tried centers hasn't had frustration with just what you are talking about. I have been teaching for over 30 years and I still get frustrated by just what you are saying. Here are my suggestions. 1) you need to spend 4-6 weeks preparing (training) your students to do centers. I know that seems like a long time but it is worth it in the end because you really do save time. 2) Ask yourself if you are presenting new material in centers. Centers should be practice and review. If the kids don't know what to do, it may be that the material is too difficult for them. 3) Is the class as a whole mature enough to work on their own for long periods of time? I would think by this time in the year the answer should be yes but think about it. 4) Can you rearrange your groups so these boys are not together? It sounds like they may play off each other thinking they are being cute. 5) I have a rule that says "Don't bother my book club unless it is B or B. (Blood or Barf) They think that is very funny when I tell them that the first time but they take it to heart. I do allow them to ask someone in their group if they don't know what to do as long as they use a 6 inch voice. 6) Consistently enforce some kind of consequence when they interrupt your group. I have been simply announcing loss of recess to the group that is working too noisily because that is a type of interruption to my book club too. If that isn't enough, I send the culprit to a table to sit by him/herself. 7) Is it possible that you have too many centers with too many directions for the children to remember? I have only 4 right now since I just started reintroducing centers again and I will add other options for those who finish as we go along. Hope this might be of help to you.

Posted by: Kerri

I successfully used math centers in my classroom last year. I had tried them before, but couldn't quite get the management part right for me.
This year, I chose about 4-5 centers to be completed by the end of the week. At the beginning of the week, I went over each center and explained what was expected at each one. The students' names were put on popsicle sticks. The name of each center was put on a library pocket and stuck to the board. Each pocket also had the # of students who could be at that center at one time. I also had pockets labeled "Work With Teacher", "No Centers", "Seat Work", and "Restroom". The No Center pocket was for students who lost the privilege of centers because of behavior. They had an alternate assignment to do. This did not happen oftern. Seat Work was for students who either had make-up work, unfinished work, or other classwork to complete. Work With Teacher was for students who worked with me in a small group or individually. When a student went to a new center, he/she put her popsicle stick in the correct pocket. They were in charge of moving to a new center when they completed one and of making sure that their name was in the correct pocket. At the beginning of the year, we moved to new centers in groups until I thought the kids could handle the responsibility. I didn't take long though. The kids liked being in control of their own pace. When kids finished their centers, I had an extension activity to be completed. I also had a self-evaluation sheet to be completed each day. The kids had to evaluate their behavior at centers (E-S-N-U) and had to write a description of what they learned that day. It was also important that each center had something written for the child to do, even it was just writing a description of a strategy that they found useful. This was the "proof" they had to give me that they completed each center.
I hope that this made sense. I found that by putting the kids in charge of the centers, I was more likely to do them. It freed me up to work with small groups or individual students.

Posted by: Brooke S.

I have done centers 2 different ways. The way I am doing it this year I really like. Last year I had a great class, and this year I have a challenging class, but my class this year does far better at centers. I think it is how I changed it. I previously had centers set up and the students rotated to the center with their entire reading group, thus having 6 children at each center. This led to higher noise level and less work being completed. This year I have 6 centers set up and then me also as a center. I meet with groups 4 days per week (Friday for assessments). I meet with my low group all four days. I meet with the high and average two days per week. I do 2 30 minute rotations per day. My centers are: creation, language arts, writing, listening, technology and spelling. These are the centers each week, I just change up the activity. For example, creation is like an art center, but in an educational way. Activities I have done are: Stamp on object, and then write a sentence, use stencils to trace and then write a sentence, make a bookmark and write a book summary, etc. Language arts: normally sentence work, grammar, etc. Writing: we have a class stuffed animal named Walley Walrus. Each student have a notebook that they use to write him. They are first expected to write him and then they can use additional time to write to other people. I, Walley, writes each student back modeling and pointing out correct letter writing skills. Listening center: at first I chose certain books and had the students listen and fill out a worksheet, then I moved on to doing book projects and letting the students choose from several books. Spelling: stamping words, writing in 3 different colors, spelling memory, etc. Technology: using the computer to play a game, type spelling words, book on the computer, etc. I really try to have engaging activities for center time because I don't want it to be a waste of time. My students know that they are never finished until I say center time is over. If they are writing sentences, some may complete 10 while others only complete 5. I judge by what I know each child is capable of. Their are only 2-3 students at each center and they work with different students all time. I think this really cuts down on disturbance. I also do something called voice levels. 0 means no talking, 1 means whisper talking, 2 means partner talking, etc. I model this and we discuss what levels they think certain centers are, and this works great for their noise level. I hope this helps. If you have any more questions, please let me know.

1st grade centers
Posted by: Lori

I have been using centers in my classroom for quite a few years now. I usually have about 8 or 9 centers for students to go to during a month. I rotate what the center might be and the activity in the center if it stays the same. For example, in a given month I might have the following centers: Math 1, Math 2, Writing, Word Study, Science, Social Studies, Listening, Computer, Read the room.

While I am doing guided reading groups the other students go to a center. My rules are very clear - they go to one center a day (some center activities might require them to go back a second or third time). I also have a rule of "ask 3 before you ask me" so that I am not constantly being interrupted. I have a cute card on a stick that I hold up if they come up to my reading group and I know they have not asked 3 others for help. I just hold the card up and they go away and ask for help!!!!

Each student has a tracking sheet that they fill in so they know (and I know!!!) what centers they have completed. I usually take a thematic or holiday coloring sheet and fill in the center name in different parts of the sheet. The student then colors in that particular area when they have completed the center. These sheets go in their "center folder" with any work from the centers. At the end of the month everything gets sent home.

Students have free choice of where they go, but I limit the number of students at each particular center. I have a simple sign up board - poster board with blank squares along each side. I write in the center name and draw a picture with dry erase markers. Next to the square is a number of how many people can go to that center. The students have clothespins with their names that they clip to the square. If there are too many clothespins they have to choose a different center.

If a student finishes a center early they have a few choices of things to do. If they finish all centers in the month early they may go back to their favorite center of have free choices (also designated).

In re-reading this it sounds sort of confusing, but this system has really worked for me and it allows children to do many different things.

Hope this helps!!!

Posted by: dh

Hi Mandy,

Before getting my degree, I worked in the classroom for 8 years as an assistant. We did centers this way

1. The teacher would do some whole group instruction ex. penmanship, math, explanation of new materials. etc..

2. We had the children sit at tables 5 children to a table. There were 4 0r 5 tables in the room referred to as stations or centers. There was math, writing, discovery, computer.

3. Lets say you have 2 hours to devote to centers. You could have 30 minutes for each center. Use a timer. When the timer rings, have the children stand and rotate to the next center clockwise.

4. If you only have one hour for centers, you could have the students do two 30 minute centers on Monday, then on Tuesday do the other two centers. Then do new center material for Wed and Thurs.

5. You will have to see what works best for you.

6. Usually, I would take a center and the teacher would take a center. Or we would "float" where ever we were needed. Sometimes, we would do a cooking center in discovery. This would need an adult during all the center rotations.

7. Usually our centers consisted of reinforcement or things that went along with our thematic unit. We did LOTS of GREAT hands on things. We also put things like file folder games that helped with reinforcement or science experiments. Don't forget you can use listening (tapes of reading to go along with the story) too as a center.

8. I hope this is a little help to clarify center activity. Good luck If I can help further, I would be glad to explain more.

9. Centers worked great for our room. When I get my classroom this fall (hopefully), I will use centers.

10 Oh yeah, we had a chairperson of each center that helped to clean up before center rotations and reminded the students to use their "center voices"

centers board w/guided reading
Posted by: Lisa

Hi, I don't have a website for you but how I run centers is a technique from the book Guided Reading (by Fountas and Pinnell). There is a whole section in that book specifically geared towards setting up centers in your classroom so that you can pull small groups - its terrific!

Basically its a foam board with different icons/pictures that stand for certain centers. You'll have to teach the kids what these mean obviously. There are 3 icons in each row and a plastic insert at the top of each row with the names of about 5 kids on an index card. Those 5 children need to complete the 3 centers underneath their card. Those are their choices for the day. I have about 4 index cards so 4 groups of kids going to different centers. Each day I slide the index cards one row over so the kids have a 3 new icons to choose from. After rotating through I start over the next week and might change up a few of the icons to keep it interesting.

This method works well because centers aren't crowded, the kids still have choice, and there is a sense of direction and structure but still fun! I wasnt sure if it would work at first and it did take a lot of learning procedures but it turned out wonderfully (and you can always change it up a bit to suit your room better). Also I'd like to note that at the beginning some of the kids were only going to one center out of their three because they didnt like the others as much, so I ended up making a Centers Folder for each child for them to record on a checklist what they completed with the work completed. Checking the folders on friday it was easy to see who was working and who was goofing off. We could then have some class discussions and work through those problems.

Hope that helps! If it is confusing at all, feel free to email me or I would HIGHLY recommend you look through that Guided Reading book to get a better idea of what its all about. :-)


My thoughts (Long!!)
Posted by: Kathy

I have used the "traffic light" system for years and it can be very positive if you slant it that way. I use the green, yellow, and red just as you said, but everyone starts on green and the goal for them is to preferably stay there--or at least get back there as soon as possible.

Here's how I make it positive:
I call it the ICMM Club (I Can Manage Myself)
Those students who are on green show that they are managing themselves by following classroom procedures without reminders. (Most kids like the idea of managing their own behavior and not having someone else tell them what to do!!)

I have a 3 by 5 card for each child with their name and a sticker on it. (Sometimes I vary the stickers according to season or theme and I usually give them a new one every couple of months because they tend to become worn. Last year I used matching stickers as a grouping system for cooperative learning groups. I also started laminating the cards which made them last much longer!!)

Children who have their pass are entitled to certain privileges. In our classroom this includes: Reading up in the loft or going to the computer when work is completed, Eating lunch at a friend's desk. (We eat in the classroom), Going to the bathroom without permission if it's not instruction time--I have a place on the door where they can place their pass--one at a time. (If they don't have their pass they can still go, but have to ask permission and use a generic pass.) I like this because I can instantly tell who is out of the room and don't have to be bothered with requests to use the bathroom.

When I taught first grade they would also use their pass for various freetime centers I had around the room. The first graders liked to call it their "driver's license" and I expanded on that saying that just as with a real license they had to use it properly or it would be taken from them!!

Back then I punched holes in the licenses and then put up push pins around the room (I varied the # depending on how many I wanted at that center.) Now I post the little pockets you find in the back of library books along with the procedure for that area on a large piece of construction paper. I place the same little pockets on the left hand corner of their desks where they keep their "license" when it's not in use. (I also have a holder on my desk for confiscated licenses. At the beginning of the day everyone starts out fresh!)

The key I've found to making the color system positive is to really stress the self-management. Strongly emphasize the positive behaviors and the rewards of being self-disciplined! Another thing I've found helps is to give children a chance to redeem themselves! I tell the children that when they get on yellow, it's like a warning. There's no penalty, but they haven't earned the privileges of being on green.

When they are on yellow they have a decision to make. They can go back to being self-managers
and get their color back to green. If I have to continue to manage them they they get moved to red. Generally I tell the children I need to see a definite change of behavior for at least 30 minutes before they come up and tell me that they are ready to go back to green! If I don't see a change and they tell me they're ready to go back to green, then I tell them I'll watch them managing themselves for awhile.

The trick here is to get them to want to stay on green. In our classroom it's a major event to get on red! No one wants that as then they lose part of recess time!

About Centers
Posted by: dish

Hi Dean - I've been fiddling with how I run my centers for 8 years and finally have a procedure I like. For the first couple weeks of school we just have an open ended "Choice Time" where the students can choose manipulatives, games, and easy worksheets. The goal is to make independent choices, use materials correctly, and clean up when they complete an activity. I just rotate to help keep on task and remind that this is a work time not play time! Btw, the students can't last much more than 20-30 minutes before they start to play... The next two weeks we divide in half - one group works with me on carpet doing some guided reading, practicing partner reading familiar text, or a shared writng experience. The other group has a "have to" - some simple activity to complete and then place in a "Centers Folder" before moving on to the choices. This is to train them to keep all center work in a folder and to stay busy w/o me! We only do about 15 minutes for each rotation. Then we start my regular center time. I need rotations to make sure everyone gets direct instruction. I have four 15 minute centers - Guided reading w/ me, writing center, reading center, and specials. Guided reading groups do story retells, partner reading, practice spelling, phonics lessons, etc. In reading center they can look at big books, class library, listening center, reading games, read the room w/ magic wands,word wall activities, etc. and I usually assign an activity for "have to" before they can choose. Writing center is the same management w/ some kind of "have to" before choices. I include journals, handwritng exercises, wipe boards, letter writing, story prompts,class journals about class pets, etc. The specials center is a parent directed activity that relates to our theme - it can be art, poetry, finishing projects, making snacks, games, math extensions, anything FUN! The reason why this works best for me is that I think there is a good balance for their "literacy diet" as well as room for the students to have some ownership of their learning. Hope this helps! Email me if you have questions!

books about centers
Posted by: Maggy

I'm in the same boat! Here are some books which I have found useful. "Guided Reading: Making it Work" published by Scholastic, "Guided Reading" by Fountas & Pinnell, and "What are the other Kids Doing...". The "Mailbox Best of Learning Centers 1-3" has lots of center ideas, but no management strategies. The first 3 books mentioned contain various reading ticket/planning page ideas, how to set up your classroom, how to implement, etc. Some of these I purchased, and our school library has a small (but growing!) teacher section.
I am starting out small with only 4 or 5 centers, and planning to add activities to each center as the year progresses. One idea was for the reading ticket to contain Have-To's/Daily assignments, Once per Week, and choices. I am in the process of finalizing my plans and have been picking and choosing ideas from these books. Our 2nd grade team will meet on Tuesday to discuss how we will implement literacy centers with our new reading series & I hope to get some pointers there. One piece of advice I have been given: Model and practice the center activities one at a time. Let the class practice, practice, practice. It makes sense!

Sorry this was so long. I hope it helps. This board has been very helpful! Good Luck!

managing centers
Posted by: Sandy

I have been using centers in my classroom for several years now to keep the other students "out of my hair" while I conduct my small literacy groups. Some things that I had to learn the hard way are:

Have several activities in each center. (one that is mandatory and several that are optiona)

Hold them accountable by providing some way for them to document what they have done.(pencil and Paper work)

You don't have to change every center out every week. You can rotate to make planning easier.

I have one center for each day of the week and the students rotate through them. I group my students so that I have no more than four students at a center at a time to keep noise down. While I have 1/3 of my class in a small group the other 2/3 are at centers. I rotate them through so that I can provide small group instruction with them all. I am always looking for great ideas to use so please send them my way.