Centers are pretty much a given in most elementary classrooms, and I even think upper level classrooms should also be able to implement centers if done in a “non-babyish” way. Centers are wonderful for allowing small group time to work with students on a specific skill, they teach students how to time-manage and work semi-independently, as well as allow for movement during learning which increases retention rates! If you aren’t doing centers, you might want to reconsider.
Many teachers who don’t do centers choose not to based mainly on management of the system. Depending on the class, centers can be a very challenging experience! I have found that even the most challenging of classes can eventually be “trained” how to work during center time instead of playing. Stop back tomorrow for my next blog post, and I will explain how I am able to manage my centers, while still allowing students free-choice!
But, today’s blog post is mainly about the organization of centers and the materials to set them up. I worked at one school that did not allow for anything to be hanging from the ceiling. Another school I worked at had 10+ foot ceilings in my room, so there was no way I was going to easily be able to get up there to change center signs (and I like to change them weekly). Plus, I wanted the specific directions for how to complete the center right there so I didn’t hear “I don’t know what to do” ten times throughout the center time.
I was wracking my brains trying to figure out a better way, when I was looking at photo frames in Walmart and spied the plastic clear cheapie photo frame/stands! The small ones (5×7) were only $1 each, so I quickly grabbed about 10 (just in case, you know – lol). They also have 8×10 versions, but I worried that they would be too hard to store (and the point was to find something that would store away easily for the next year when I was done).
I quickly headed home to see if I could make a template for my new find. I was able to create a custom label template that would allow me to edit the signs each week. My example is below.
Once you have your different center signs created for the week, you are able to print off (I suggest card stock), and keep safe in a file folder for the next year! No new prep needed! Just make a note of the supplies needed for the center on the back of the sign, so when you grab the signs the following year, you can also grab the corresponding supplies needed to complete the activity Super simple! (If you are at a loss for some center ideas, make sure to check out the FCRR for lots of great ideas!)
You do not have to get fancy with your centers, as I did in my examples. Very rarely did I get that ambitious. I found that if you printed off your black print center signs on brightly colored cardstock, it served the same purpose. Even better if you use the same color cardstock for all the centers for that week – makes for easy spotting by students, and easy organization for packing away and finding for the next year too! Each week just print, lay out the supplies needed, and pack it all up at the end of the week – super simple!
Feel free to download my customizable templates and my 2 “fancy” examples. One word to note – you will find that there is not much room to type out the directions for the centers. This is intentional. You should not have so many directions the students can’t keep track. Make your centers fairly simple to navigate, and you will find that you have better results AND behaviors throughout center time.
What are some of your favorite centers?