Saturday, September 13, 2014

More about Centers

Here are some answers to a few questions I have received about the way I organize and manage my Literacy and Mathematics centers.

I have 5 Literacy Centers and 5 Mathematics Centers. I am also using centers during RTI as skills centers (right now, my mathematics centers here), for those students who are not meeting in my RTI group.

This is the rotation chart. I have it on my calendar board (not my students' real names).
Every day the students go to a different center. They will visit that same center for Literacy, Mathematics, and Skills. I take the bottom circle off and move the rest of the circles down a space, then put the bottom circle I took off on the top. My students in the center groups are not grouped by ability. I have 4 students at each center and 4 small groups. I place one student from each small group at the center. This helps to take students out of the centers and there are not as many at the center working when one of the four is at the teacher center and another on the computers.

I have these hanging from my ceiling to show students where the center is located. They are also used as table names for calling over to the rug, lining up, etc. I use pictures instead of numbers or colors because I sometimes have students who may not be able to identify numbers or colors at the beginning of the school year.

Here is a picture of my mother's center/table signs.

(I am making these center signs, rotation cards, and center basket signs for different themes. I have ocean and jungle themes in my TpT store now. If there is a theme you prefer, I will take special orders. Follow me at TpT to see when they are uploaded.)

During the Literacy Center/Small Group hour, the students visit one center with a must-do and choices, visit the computer center for 15 minutes, and meet with me for 15 minutes.
The rotation looks like this:
Group 2 has two center spaces. It is the same center just broken into two different time slots.
After the 15 minute small group, I escort the "teacher group" over to the computers and we let the students working on the computers know that their time is over, I stand by the computers as the students get off and on the computers. Then I quickly check how the other students are working at centers as I walk back over to the table to call the next group.

Each center has a must-do and choices. The students know that after they complete the must-do, they can make choices on their own. I do not have a formal rotation time. Sometimes it takes students longer to complete the must-do and sometimes you have students that can complete the must-do in 10 minutes. Having the choices provides them with activities to do the entire 30 minutes. The must-do provides accountability.

This is how the centers are set-up. Each one has the must-do in the white basket labeled with the center icon. The choices are in the cart drawers. 
I have a detailed post about what goes in these baskets and carts here.

The must-do assignments change every week. The task is the same but has different words, letters, or skills that we are working on or needing to review. After next week, I plan to differentiate the must-do work at the centers for the students. I will be posting my literacy centers weekly and showing/explaining the differentiated work.
The choices are left in the drawers for several weeks. I have empty drawers and will add activities as I find or make them and as the skills change.

I started centers the first full week of school. Because my students do not rotate, it is easy to do.
The first "training week" of centers I had a simple worksheet (shape cut and paste, dot to dot, tracing) and then one choice. They only stayed at the center for about 20 minutes. 
 During the "training week" as part of the hour center time slot, I gathered the students to the rug and taught them how to complete the centers that are in my literacy units-the ones I have in the center baskets now (pictured here every week). I modeled one a day and they recorded the answers on their recording sheet with me and then the second week of centers
the students completed those as the must-dos. Every week for the first few weeks, the must-do's are the same task (cut and paste sound sort, cut and paste popcorn words, stamping letters and words, alphabet match with recording sheet) but different skills/letters/words.
For the first few weeks, I place a completed sample sheet in the basket in case they forget what to do or need some scaffolding.

For Mathematics Centers, we use the same rotation center icon. They will return to the same table/zone they were at during Literacy Centers. They have a math tub with the center activity. Right now, they are using the Kathy Richardson counting centers. I will post pictures of them next week.


  1. How many copies of the must do assignments do you print. I noticed the recording sheets in the white basket but no manipulate / printouts. Do the students get them from somewhere else? Do you print manipulates for each child or each group? I purchased the Journeys Unit 1 bundle and I would like to set up my first few weeks centers but I don't understand how many to print of each activity.

    1. I print enough recording sheets for each student that does that activity. I print one set of game cards and they share them at the center. I keep the recording sheets in dry erase pouches and the game cards in a basket or with the recording sheets in the dry erase pouches.


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