ORGANIZING CENTERS TO MAXIMIZE STUDENT INDEPENDENCE

Hey Teacher Friends!

There are so many amazing ways to organize centers, but it's important to find a system that works for you. True Teacher Confession Time: When I first started centers in my classroom (as a first year teacher) I was so lost. The idea of my students rotating around the room, where to store centers, how students would get them ... I just couldn't wrap my head around it all! As a result, my centers definitely were not as efficient and effective as they could have been.
Looking back, I'm glad I had this experience, because it allowed me to develop a system that really works for me and my students. Today I'm going to share how my center system increases student independence in my classroom .... and I teach Kindergarten, by the way.
Just because they're my favorite... I'm going to show you my Math Centers in this post (but my Literacy Centers work exactly the same).

STORING YOUR CENTERS

First things first ... you need a space to store your centers once you have them. My first year teaching, this was literally just 2 crates. That's it. One for math, one for literacy. This was fine... but I would recommend having multiple crates or storage bins. Decide if you want to organize by month or by skill. I've always organized by skill. I do currently have 1 separate bin with monthly themed centers, just because I don't have a lot of those. Now the bulk of my centers are organized in cubbies by skill. Other great storage options include sterlite bins and drawer bins.
PREP TIME: Each activity is printed on cardstock and laminated. At my last school, laminating film was hard to come by... so everything was carefully placed in ziploc baggies and I hoped for the best. It wasn't the most durable... but it worked. Lesson to learn: don't fret if your school doesn't have a working laminator or if you just can't afford one for your home use. That's ok!! Your kids will still get the instruction and independent practice they need :)

Think about what you have in your classroom already or what you're willing to purchase to store your centers. Write those ideas down now so that you don't forget.

YOUR WEEKLY ACTIVITIES


Now that you have some ideas for how to store the centers you're not using, let's think about the ones you are. Creating a system that helped my students independently get and clean up materials has transformed our routine and their independence. Parents who volunteer are amazed when they see how simple it is for my students to get and return their materials on their own. You can have your students doing this too!!
First.... you're going to need storage. But don't worry - I have the perfect solution for teachers on a budget: The Dollar Store!!! I grabbed these 4 bins because I have 4 centers. $4 for Math Center Bins?? Yes, please! (Ok... I did spend a little more because I needed 4 more for literacy centers and 4 more for morning work.... but still).
Next, I label each bin with these Math Center Labels. These labels correspond with my Math Center Rotation Slides (which I'll talk more about below). I label the bin and the space model (the model some more) where I'd like the bin to be returned. Everything has a place and that's what makes this system run so smoothly.
Finally, I put all of the materials I'll need for each center that week into the bins.

If you're just starting out with math centers: think about what kind of centers you want to have each week. I currently use the MATH model: Meet with the Teacher; Apply; Technology; Hands On. Write down your ideas. 


USING VISUALS TO INCREASE STUDENT INDEPENDENCE

Using visuals (and auditory cues) during centers helps my kiddos know where to go, when to start, and when to clean up. After grouping my students by strengths and needs, I teach them to use the center slides as a resource for where they need to be and what they need to get. This takes practice, practice, and more practice. When we practice getting materials and moving to centers, we also only pretend to do the activities. Students then listen for the auditory cue (that's built right into my center slides) to know when to clean up.
One of my biggest struggles during the day is time management. This is especially true during small groups. That's why I use the Center Slides with Automatic Timers to keep us on track. All I have to do is play the slideshow and let the timer do its thing. When time is up, a bell rings and students know to clean up. I don't have to say a thing!

Plan out how you'd like your students to know when to start and clean up their centers.


If you have any questions about how to get your centers up and running smoothly, please let me know! I'd love to help you out :) Comment below or click the email button on my homepage to send me an email.

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