Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Starting Literacy Centers: Where to Begin

I think it's fair to say that center time is my kids' favorite time of day.  In a day full of "rigor" (I hate that word, BTW) and one-size-fits-all curriculum, center time is a time for kids to just BE KIDS.  There is no one talking at them, no one making them sit for extended periods of time, and no one "shhhishing" them.  Center time is a non-negotiable time in my classroom.  We do centers every day, no matter what.  I often receive questions about what center time looks like and how to set it up.  Tonight's post is going to answer those two questions and hopefully help get your little ones started with centers, too!  I've included links to my favorite products to use for centers.  Feel free to click them and take a look! 

Note:  This is the way that I have run centers for many years.  I have tried Daily 5 and it wasn't for me.  I have also tried having kids visit more than one center per day and it was too chaotic for me.  If those methods work for you, excellent! 

The first thing I do when planning centers is organize my groups.  I group heterogeneously.  I try to mix ability levels.  The last thing I want is for my students to struggle while completing centers; center time is intended to be fun, spiral practice, not a time to stress kids out.  I usually put one strong "leader" in each group.  This way, if the others have questions about what to do or how to get started, the leaders will take charge and give direction.  I typically make 5 groups with no more than 4 per group.  *If you have a larger class size than 20 students, I recommend making 6 groups.  The center groups are fluid...once you start, you are probably going to notice some behavior problems and want to rearrange the students in the groups.  That's perfectly fine!  I move kids around in groups every couple weeks anyways, to get them used to working with everyone in the class.  To organize my groups, I use a little pocket chart from Target.  I use clip art of the number of centers I have.  I place a coordinating number on the actual bin/container I use for centers.  Next to the numbers on the pocket chart, I place student photos and names.  (See photo below)  My kids visit just one center per day.  Center time lasts about 20 minutes. 

Practicing/Setting up Guidelines
Once groups are established, I plan my centers out.  To begin, I recommend "play" centers.  Start by placing blocks, legos, play-doh, etc...in your bins...think inside recess activities.  Establish guidelines for centers with your students prior to beginning.  Making an anchor chart that can stay up all year is a great idea.  *I let my students know that center time is a privilege and that if they can not handle centers and follow the expectations, they will not be allowed to do them the next day.  I have already had several friends sit out from centers a day after they didn't work during their center time or didn't help their teammates clean up afterward.  I will say that once a friend sits out once, they probably never will again.  Let your children practice for an entire week with the "play" centers.  Float around and intervene as needed.  Be sure to reflect with kids each day about how they felt centers went. 

 The Real Deal
Once kids are ready, plan out your centers!  I like to begin with very simple activities.  Currently, we are working on my Fundations Phonics Level 1, Unit 1 game pack.  These activities coincide with our Phonics program.  However, I have many themed center packs that would be great for this time of year.  My Back to School BBQ center pack is perfect for August/September.  My Apple center pack is great for mid-late September.  Many of the products in my store would be perfect for centers!  I love using stamping activities, magnet mats, and play-doh mats as centers.  I also enjoy these short vowel packs for centers at the beginning of the year.  I make one center the listening center.  I have many books on tape/cd that I have purchased over the years for this.  The kids know that one center will always be the listening center. 

To grab all of my centers in one large bundle and save money, click below!  Hopefully this post helps you organize your thoughts about setting up a center routine!  What additional questions do you have?



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