Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Center Management and a Freebie!

Hiya peepers
Shuna here
from Pocket Full of Kinders

I am thrilled to be here again with you

Can you tell I am thrilled?


Well how about this


How was that?

Did you hear me? Cause you know I can say it louder! 

YIP...................... Well never mind lets move right along

Don't want to lose you


I am joining you to blog about my fav time of the school day……………………………………………………….

Today I will be blogging about how to organize centers
So what are centers?
Why are centers needed?
Where do I start?

I know as a first year teacher all of these questions ran through my mind. I was at a complete lost and it took me a while to figure out what the heck I was doing. By no means am I an expert but my principal calls me the small group queen so……………………….

I guess I will toot my own horn

Toot, Toot!

Moving right along

I don’t want to lose you

Back to the matter at hand

It can be very difficult for a teacher to meet each individual child’s need especially when that teacher has 33 kinders (that would be me) for the first 2 months of school! How do you do centers when you have that many children and how do you do them successfully?
I eventually ended up with 29 kiddos and I had 14 stations. I have 2 students per group which made my center time so much easier
I have tried groups of four or five and it was just too darn many and all they did was argue!
Sorry so off topic
Must stop rambling
Must stop rambling
*Shake, Shake*
I think it is all out of my system now
We may now more on
Centers are a great way to differentiate instruction and provide students with opportunities to learn independently
So here goes
Setting up stations

Step 1: Plan your space

Decide how many stations you would like to have and how you want to arrange those stations. It is a good idea to arrange your stations from quiet to loud or loud to quiet. You don’t want your library station right next to the listening station, now would you?
Maybe you would but I sure don't

I don’t have a large room by any means but I did run 14 stations for literacy and 14 stations for math! It was very messy but we lived
I mean it looked like a hurricane and an earthquake came through and we were the remains after the storm
But it is okay we were learning
Don't be afraid of a little mess

All of my stations were portable and the students would either go to a table or use the floor for stations. 
Mostly the floor because the kiddos liked to lay on it after sitting in chairs all morning

When I set up my room I did so with centers in mind

My stations were arranged as follows

I had my centers arranged so that they flow around the outer edges of the room in a circle

So that when students moved to their next rotation I didn’t have to lose time with them trying to figure out what station to go to next! They just simply moved to the station that was to their right
Here is an example of my station list
Station One being the quietest station and the stations gradually get louder the lower down the station list you go  then gradually back to quiet
Remember my station are set up in a circle so Station 14 is actually next to Station 1

Station One: Alphabet/Buddy Reading
Station Two: Listening Station
Station Three: Word Work
Station Four: Library
Station Five: Spelling
Station Six: Computer
Station Seven: Sensory
Station Eight: Word Family/Word Work
Station Nine: Magnet
Station Ten: Word Wall
Station Eleven: Pocket Chart
Station Twelve: Write the Room
Station Thirteen: Phonics
Station Fourteen: Journals
When planning your space make sure that you clearly section each area and define each center space. You can do this with a bookshelf, furniture, or rugs.

Step 2:How will you store your center material?
When planning for your stations it is important that you plan how you will store your material
I have a teeny tiny problem with cute storage containers so I use these to store my center materials in

I am very ocd about my center buckets. My centers usually have several parts: games, manipulatives, crayons, pencils and etc
These were my center buckets at the beginning of the year. I don't have many bookshelves so I had to make one out of crates
The baskets on the top row  are for literature centers and the red baskets are for math stations
The buckets are two to a crate so that students know which basket to go and pull. In the first crate there are baskets for stations 1 and 2 in the next crate stations 3 and 4 and so on. The baskets are in the correct order of the stations for example the blue basket in crate one is for Station 1 and the purple basket is for Station 2. The center captains of responsible for getting their basket and putting it back. ( We will talk about center captains in another post)

This is how I stored my center buckets last year

This year I store them a little differently

I have a rolling cart that stores my math centers and my literacy centers are store in flat rubbermaid boxes
( Forgot to snap a pic)

Below are some examples of how I store my material
Each basket has a label so that I along with my students know what belongs in what station.
Inside the spelling station basket is everything they would need to complete the station
I don't allow my students to walk around during center time so I take a little extra time preparing my centers so that everything students would need is already in their center bucket.

The listening station material remains next to the listening station.
 Listening center materials
A book inside the ziploc bag with the cd
Game with pieces and boards for when the students finished listening to the story



Station 3. Setting up your small group area
When my students are in centers that is when I pull my small group
Here is a look at my small group area
My small group area is located in the back of the room so it is far away from the other students while  still close enough for me to monitor them
I have a space for my anchor charts that I create with my groups
A pocket chart for various activities and my letter tubs in the windowsill for easy access
The area below the pocket chart is magnetic so I utilize that space also
A white board is a must!

IF you don't have one a table top one will do
The purple bucket on the white board holds student's pointers for guided reading
I have two buckets that hold my pointers, small anchor charts, sight words, alphabet cards and picture cards. The crates on the left side hold activities that my small group is working on that week and also binders for me to track their progress.
The pink container in the middle also holds games and reading buddies
The two crates on the right hold another set of alpha cards and also the students guided reading books

Once you have set up your stations and organized them what is next?

We are going to talk a little about how to manage stations so that they will run smooth and effectively for the entire year

Are you ready?

STay with me peeps

When I set up my centers I also determine my center jobs for my students

These are different from classroom jobs

Here are my center jobs

* Center Captain: The center captains are responsible for getting their center card and their center bucket. The center captain gets to wear a special hat and is the only person in that group allowed to disrupt my station or my TA's station if there is a question


*Material Master: The material master is responsible along with the center captain for putting all material back into their bucket and cleaning up.

* Noise Monitor: simply put they monitor the noise level

If a group gets too loud and is playing in their center the center captain loses their hat and that group can't get their number for their BINGO Board

I start the year off with a Ten Frame chart with numbers on it as a reward system

If the center groups are on task they get to pull a number and cover the number on their bingo board

When they get all numbers filled on the board they have a small treat such as popcorn for snack

As the students get better in stations I begin to use a 20's chart, 50's chart and finally after Christmas I use a 100's chart to manage center behavior

This is the same idea as behavior bingo I just called mine Center Bingo

Works pretty well for me


The next thing that I noticed that tends to make my centers run smoothly is using center signs


These are posted around the room and are also written on students center cards that the center captains use

I use a sheet protector wrapped in duct tape stuck to the wall to slide the center signs in

*Warning the chart below is very ugly! This was before my TpT days so................... don't hold it against me*

Each of my center groups has a name

I had a jungle theme classroom last year so all of my center names where jungle themed
The large picture cards are my center group names. At the beginning of the year the center captains would come in and look at their group picture and see what two centers they would go to for that day

The books are my guided reading groups

The two books at the top showed what groups I would get for that day

I would see each of my reading groups 3 times each week

* EEks I told ya it was hideous*


This worked pretty well but I did not like that they numbers were so small and some of my groups forgot where they were supposed to go causing some confusion so I changed it a little and I was so much happier with the results.

I like this system much better and I am going to use it again next year

Sorry I don't have a picture of them in the pocket chart so I had to improvise

Here are my center group cards

Don't worry about the numbers along the side they were from a previous management system that I used but didn't like so well

On the back of each card is the student's numbers who are in that center

Helps me out when I am rotating center captains plus I had a couple of students who for the life of them could not remember what center group they were in

With 30 kiddos it was hard for me to keep track

Problem solved

Instead of using the number cards from the earlier pic I used some ready made center cards

The small black numbers on the cards are the center number that match the numbers on the large center signs.

These are the cards that the center captains get to tell what station they go to,

In my pocket chart the animal cards are next to the center cards

So using this system in the pocket chart the giraffe center captain will come get their card and go to station 10

Lions would go to station 6

Monkeys will go to station 2

When it is time for students to go to their next center they will just rotate to the number that comes after. Remember my stations are set up in a circle so the next station is right next to the station that students are already in. So giraffes will go to 11, lions would go to 7 and monkey would go to 2

Here is a look at how the cards would be arranged in a pocket chart so when I get ready to assign students their centers for the next day all I would have to do is rotate the cards up



The first group will always start in center 1  in this case it is giraffes. I do centers on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Tuesday the first group, the giraffes, will go to Station 1 and when the next rotation is called they will go to station 2.

On Wednesday when we get ready to go to the next station I just simply take the cards 1 and 2 from the top of the pocket chart and move all the rest of the cards up! The giraffes will now have the station card that says station 3

This is by far the simplest management that I have tried and it worked really well last year!


Okay enough of that


Now what do you do with all those recording sheets?

I used recording sheets in just about all of my stations and I do not like the kiddos bringing all those sheets to me at one time so.......................

Each student has a center folder that they put all of their recording sheets in and their guided reading books in

These made it ALMOST till the end of the year

The students just slid in all of their center work and guided reading books

At the end of each day I would check them and give stickers to the ones who completed their center work. On Friday if the students did not get a sticker on their work they went back to that center

On all of my center recording sheets I write the station number in the top corner so when the students have to go back and complete work they know which station to go to!

After we cleaned up stations the students would put their folders back into a pocket chart attached to the back of our door

* sorry my pinkie is in the pic*

Next year I think I might use these folders that I got from Target to see if they hold up better

Alright peeps I think I have rambled enough

Now on to some a freebie

You can use these for you center folder covers if you would like

Click the pic to take you there

When you have time come and visit me sometime

Peace out Peeps


  1. I LOVE the rotating cards for the center chart!! It works GREAT for me! I also have found THIS group works great w/2 friends. I usually ONLY did 3 but that causes this group issues!! LOVE the post! How long does it take you to get through 14 stations? 2 weeks? 3weeks?


    1. I used to have 4 students in a group and that just didn't work for me! I find that the kiddos are more focused when there are only 2 of them

      It takes me two weeks to complete a center rotation

  2. Shuna, I'm trying a take on the Daily 5 for literacy workshops this year. I have 6 block rotation with 10 minutes in each block daily. The kids do 4 workshops (Read-to-self, Listen to reading, writing, word work) and then spend 2 blocks (20 minutes) in Guided Reading with me. I have three reading groups (I know, I know, no way with your numbers). What I love the best is that I created an audio timer on my computer that runs with 10 minutes of silence and then about 1.5 minutes of a clean-up song to signal the transition. I used soft songs in between when my Guided Reading students don't rotate and then more active and bouncy songs when all students transition. It works like magic. No telling someone where to go and the next Guided Reading group appears like magic with no downtime. I'm so loving this time of day, especially not changing out so many center activities or teaching new activities.