Center Management 2009


How I Run Centers--This part has not changed:

Grouping I generally have 20-25 children in my class. I divide the class into 5 groups of 4-5 students in each group. I group the kids based on ability so that I can provide differentiated activities for the groups.
Time We have centers for 1 hour near the end of the day. Students spend approximately 20 minutes doing an assigned activity and the remaining 40 minutes doing choice activities (including snack).
Planning Each week I plan 4 theme-related center activities. Many of these are based on our shared reading selection for the week. Sometimes I will include a seasonal or holiday activity. Most of these activities are available on my Monthly Centers pages. I usually have an art activity, an ABC center activity (letters, phonics, sight words), a writing activity, and a math activity (usually a variation of our Investigations math). Each center activity is stored in a bin that we place on the tables at center time (I bought the bins at Big Lots):


During the Choice center time, I pull students who need re-teaching (usually Dibels groups) or I work one on one with students to assess or practice skills. Many of these activities are available on my Games to Make page.

Bucket Center Rotation and Choice Centers--This is the new part!

Organization Instead of creating all of those posters with photos, velcro, plastic chips, etc. I am now using a pocket chart. I actually converted an extra 100s pocket chart for this but I know that they sell ones designed especially for this. Unfortunately I did not take a picture of it before the end of the year but it's easy to describe:

I placed Group cards down the left side--this year I had 4 groups. Next to each group is a card with a bucket center icon on it. To the right of that (after a space) I placed 3-4 choice centers that they could choose during our second rotation.

How it works Each day I move the Group cards down one space so that the students have a new bucket center and a new set of choice centers. Students complete their bucket center and remain in that general center (ABC, Writing, Math) using other materials until I announce that they can change centers (usually about 20-25 minutes). The students at Art center are the only ones that can move directly to their choice centers (since I don't have a general "Art" center).  When I announce that they can "go to their second centers" students can choose from one of the three/four next to their group. They can move among those as they like until centers are over.
What are my Choice centers? I include cards for my main centers (ABC, Math, Writing) in my choice section too. I just make sure that the ones for choice aren't the same as their first center. For example, using the chart above, Group 3 did Math center first. However, Math center may be a choice for Group 2 (or 1 or 4). Group 3 could have ABC or Writing as a choice. My other choice centers are:

Library, Listening, Computers, Doll House, Mr. Potato Head, Puzzles, Games, Construction, Dramatic Play, Science, Easel, specialized theme centers like gardening, Marble Works, and playdough.

Why I like the new way I was hesitant to try this new system out this year. I really didn't have a problem with the old system but my district was moving in this direction (actually I give my kids more choice than the district recommends). It took me a few weeks to create everything and to find good combinations of choice centers for each group (splitting up the most popular so that each group could have one). Once I did I really liked this new way. First of all the kids weren't in such a rush to get to a center that they thought might be filled--everyone stayed in their first centers until *most* kids were done the bucket centers. Once they did move to the second centers, everyone in the group could go to any of the centers (exceptions: easel and computers since those only accommodate 2-3 kids but if the kids wanted to share that was fine with me). No mad dash to "sign up". Along those lines, I no longer had kids "cheating" and moving other kids chips. And no more chips to lose! I could tell in a glace where kids were supposed to be and I could arrange it that everyone had an opportunity to visit all the centers each week. Best of all...lots less materials to prepare! I plan to use this system again this year.

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