This blog is the second part of a multi-part series titled “Creating Centers in the Classroom.” You can read part 1 HERE.
A couple of weeks ago, Brook wrote about working with the entire class to train them in the tasks you intend to use in your centers and then moving the tasks into the independent centers. Today I’m going to write about my experience with some logistics around running centers.
When I was in the classroom, I used flexible groupings with my students, and they followed a specific rotation. There are other ways of doing centers. This way worked the best for me. I realized it was essential to know how I operate as a teacher and to find what the right fit is for me. As Brook mentioned last week, giving yourself the time to develop your procedures with your students in the logistics at the beginning of the year is vital and will pay off in the long run. I had to make sure my expectations and procedures were clear. Sometimes you have to go slow in the beginning, to be able to go fast later. Some key things that I needed to think about were how I would get my students attention and what was my system for going to the next center.
Some ways I have seen teachers get their students’ attention are bells, songs, clapping, turning on and off the lights, etc. There is nothing magical about this, find whatever feels most comfortable to you. I spoke to one teacher who liked variety, so she had a few that she would use to get her students attention. When my colleague Grace was working in a kindergarten class, she used a bell. One ding was their cue to clean up and line up. The students in each group lined up behind a strip of painters tape she had strategically placed on the floor. She chose a line leader, and the kids lined up the same way every time. The order the students were to line up was written on a laminated paper and given to the line leader. Two dings meant to go to the next center. In 1st grade, I had a song that I started, and they finished. Then I would say, “Popsicles.” They would respond, “Freeze” and clap their hands over their heads. The key principle I followed was to make sure my students knew and followed my expectations. After Thanksgiving vacation, my students forgot the cues. It is normal. I just went back into training the procedures until it was automatic.
The second thing that I needed to decide is how my students would rotate from center to center. Grace had specific places that the kids would go to regularly. She would plan four centers: a teacher center, counting center, measurement center, and geometry center. For example, the students always knew that the measurement center was on the carpet. My centers were not always in the same place. I had coordinated two colored cards with the name of the center. One card was on the board next to the group that was to be at the center and the second card was at the location of the center. I would often have the students point to where they were going next. This action allowed them to look at their peers and make sure they knew where to go.
The logistics of running centers are a critical piece to doing them well. I needed to be thoughtful and well planned so that I could get to content. I’m sure there are many more ideas out there. How do you manage the logistics of centers?