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Managing Student Centers

Compiled By: Mrs. G Bookmark and Share
These are strategies to use to help you manage your students center work.
centers issues
Posted by:Lisa #86585

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."...

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here is how i've done centers.....
Posted by:3rd grade teacher #52593

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...

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Posted by:SC #47683

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...

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Re: Centers
Posted by:fb #66086

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...

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questions about centers
Posted by:Karen #37392

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...

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Centers in first grade
Posted by:Julianne #52465

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...

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using centers
Posted by:judy #66377

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...

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Posted by:Colleen #57530

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...

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Posted by:Janet #53688

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....

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Posted by:Kerri #78982

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...

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Posted by:Brooke S. #83934

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...

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1st grade centers
Posted by:Lori #55327

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...

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Posted by:dh #18152

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...

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centers board w/guided reading
Posted by:Lisa #76360

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...

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My thoughts (Long!!)
Posted by:Kathy #81441

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...

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About Centers
Posted by:dish #57366

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...

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books about centers
Posted by:Maggy #44059

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...

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managing centers
Posted by:Sandy #55015

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...

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