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    Centers in first grade
    By Julianne

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    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!

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