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Smart Boxes or Smart Centers


Junior Member
Does anyone do Smart Boxes for third grade? I would love to trade ideas with you. I have recently made 10 boxes & I am starting them this week. I am collecting books, from my collection, for 26 more. In case you haven't done Smart Boxes...they are learning centers in a plastic container with books and activities to do. Each instruction page has the following: read, write, activities, & challenge. The student do those for one week (3-4 days), then trade with another student. You can start with only a few containers & keep the things in a baggie for next year.

Here is an example of a Bat Smart Box-
READ: Read all the books. (I have 6-8 books about bats on all reading levels.) Some of them are AR books, and you can take a test on them. Some of them are just for you to read and enjoy.

WRITE: 1) Write a cinquain poem about bats.
-one word title
-two adjectives
-three action words
-four feeling words
-synonym for title
2) Write a story about a bat. (Who? What? When? Where?)
3) Draw a bat and write what it would be like to sleep all day and go looking for food at night.

ACTIVITY: 1) Choose a bat worksheet to complete. 2) Choose a bat overhead worksheet to complete. 3) Make a list of 10 bat words and put in ABC order. 4) Write 10 bat facts.

CHALLENGE: Complete the webquest Stellaluna-

Please e-mail me at jologriffin@yahoo.com


New Member
Neat Idea

I have never used these, but think it's a great idea. Do students just get a weekly grade for the box assingments? Is there a resource book that has Smart Box Ideas?


Senior Member
I would love to trade ideas with you. You can get lots of ideas at Jan Brett web site for her books. We have reading parties. Read aloud books Charlottes Web afterwards we finish it watch it (video) and eat popcorn and students bring a bottle of water with a push cap. Stone Soup and make a big crock pot or oven roaster of soup. Invite the principal and janiotor and students tell the janitor thank you cleaning our room


Smart boxes for first grade?

Can this type of center be done in first grade? Has anyone tried it and what did they put in the box?


It's such a great idea!

I want to use SBCs for my next year in 3rd-4th, so I was thinking about it. Usually, women put over 90% of fiction materials in their classroom. I'm going to focus on mostly non-fiction or realistic fiction type books for my SBCs.

Some non-fiction ideas I've come up with include books focused on: animals, insects, reptiles, body/health/senses, how-to (take care of a horse, for example), music, geography/maps, chocolate, occupations, government (being a good citizen and civics info) and so on. I even thought about including laminated magazine articles like Nat'l Geographic Kids, My Big Backyard, Sports Illustrated Kids, and Ranger Rick for specific smart boxes. A variety of reading experiences and non-fiction exposure would promote meaningful learning in my view, since SBCs are strongly encouraged, not required.
Do you all think this is a right direction, or should they not be so bound to a specific direction, i.e. mostly non-fiction?


Smart Centers

Innovative Learning Solutions sells the books with the ideas for Science, math etc. It is about $21.00 a piece. Hope this helps.


Book On Smart Centers (boxes)

There is a GREAT book by Angella Dunn and his has smart centers already made for you. All you have to do is make copies and get the books and materials for your students. You can find it at "Innovative Learning Solutions." Order it online for like 21 dollars. IT IS REALLY WORTH THE MONEY..


$4500 a room for makeovers that use construction paper letters, cheapie tissue paper and you get all your own materials and put them in a box. Who care if centers are in a box, can or bag. It is just another organizational system


smart centers

I tried to find this book on the web site and can't. Can you give me the title or something that will help me find it???


I don't grade everything in the smart center. I typically label the folders with symbols. An eye for "I just need to see it", a heart for "heart to heart", and a star "this work will be graded". The students place their work into boxes marked with the same symbols when they complete it. I just look to see that the work is complete for the "I just need to see it". The "heart to heart" I meet with them individually to go over the work. The star work is graded.


Do you allow the students to choose which papers are graded and which will be the subject of a conference?


smart boxes

Questions for those doing or have done smartboxes:

Do you do them once in a while or is it part of the literacy block each day?

How long does it take to make one? Does the box have everything needed for the whole class or just individuals?

What kind of container do you use? Are they decorated or just plain?

Sounds like you could create all different levels on the same topic...would you have struggling students go to a different box? How bout advanced learners?

How would you grade what they do?

I hope these aren't silly questions....I have never heard of smart boxes and the concept is intriguing me. I teach 4th....


I've had the experience of the makeover, too. Very disapointing. The concept of the smart box is great, but I've personally spent a lot of time making them work. Makeover created a lot more work. Books that were shelved by genre, thrown together in tubs...they said it's a good project for the kids to organize them. They were organized, who has time to work on organizing them during the school day??? Not worth the money!


Smart Centers: My Version

I went to April's workshop on Smart Centers 2 years ago. I utilized her ideas, but adapted them for my first grade classroom. She has you have available enough centers so that each center only has 3-4 students. The students use that center all week. Because half my class would leave the room during my guided reading time to go to special classes, I used one "center" for all the students each week. A lot of times it focused on something that we had previously learned. I had one central space on the floor where they would go each day to get their materials.

This is how I utilized her ideas:
Monday: Read books in smart center based on subject of center, for example "Animal Habitats". I would collect a lot of books on the topic, with lots of pictures for my various reading levels.
Tuesday: Write to prompt. Choose an animal. Describe that animal's habitat.
Wednesday: Create. Make a triorama of a habitat.
Thursday: Challenge. Sort a given group of animal pictures into their correct habitats.
Friday: Usually it was a "down" day...or if I had a game that would go with the topic, they would play that.

I did things like "Pizza Smart". They wrote about their favorite pizza, made a pizza with a paper plate, solved a challenging math problem about pizza slices and friends for the challenge. On Friday we made mini-pizzas with English muffins. It was one of their favorite smart centers.

Once you start thinking, anything becomes a smart center. I did the four separate seasons, Valentine's Day, Number Smart, ABC Smart. At the end of the year we did "Vacation Smart". I got books about different countries. For create and write, they made a post card for the country or place they would visit. They wrote a note to their families about what they had seen. For challenge, they had to find their place on a world map, decide a good way to travel there, and trace a path from home to their destination.

For me it worked better to have everyone focused on the same topic for the week, especially because a lot of them were seasonal. It also created a lot of excitement and discussion amoung my students. It also allowed me to give instructions to everyone at one time and answer questions. My advice would be to focus on topics that your students would be interested in because they will put more effort into the products. Part of the beauty of smart centers is that no matter what else is going on in your instruction that week, they will be writing to at least one prompt, creating at least one project. I think too much of the time the creative things are left out of the classroom in the ever present push to have better test scores. But for some of my kids, that is where they excelled.


More info

I love your idea about weekly smart centers! Do you have a complete list, or a more descriptive write-up of your Smart Center? I would love more to jump off with!


great idea

I like your idea of sticking with one topic for the week. Your post says you teach first grade. You really sound like you know what you are talking about. Have you taught a long time and have you ever used these smart boxes with kindergarten? If so, can you think of any other advice, I'd love to here it! I have heard about these smart boxes from a really great friend of mine and I would like to try them out next year.


Senior Member
Would someone share how they make this part of their routine? Is this a sheduled part of the day or a go to job for early finishers?



Smart centers are done by students in small groups while you pull kids for guided reading. There is a rotation and centers are not done each day, usually 3 days a week. In my school guided reading is used more as our core, and our text series is a suppliment. It takes time (and wise incorporation of your state standards) to create your smart centers, you'll need 40 centers to last the year. However, they are a wonderful tool and provide interactive, authentic application of important skills. I love them.



I am very interested in buying these boxes, so if somewould get me the email address to do this I'd appreciate it--cost if possible too.Thanks.


New Member
Smart Centers Book

Teaching with Smart Centers, Level 2-3nd, Innovative Learning Solutions by Suzanne Simpson Angela Dunn (Paperback - 2003)


This book is not available on Amazon (it shows up, but is not available) and I can't find the company online either. Do you know of a web site for the company? Thanks for any help you can give!


How does this work with one topic per week? Do you still do the boxes/bags or just give the worksheets and info to the whole class and each student completes the work during the week? I have never heard of Smart Centers but it sounds very interesting and I want to learn more. TIA!