Centers are a great for differentiation, collaborative work, test prep, reviewing material, and enriching learning that is already taking place. However, all of this is only possible if you have all your ducks in a row. Setting up centers in a way that is easy for students to follow and you to maintain is going to be vital for the overall center success.
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Starting Your Center Setup
Setting your centers up takes time and a lot of thought. You have to think about your grouping, scheduling, overall framework, gathering materials, organization, and more! While it may seem overwhelming, following these five do’s to help you get started.
Do Plan Your Centers Out
Planning is the first thing you need to do and you need to follow the big 3: consistency, clarity, and functionality. What are you going to include and when? This will help with your framework and organizational planning as well. When setting up centers, you’ll want to make sure you have five different ones. One of those centers should be time with you. During this time, you can differentiate instruction and push students to higher levels of understanding on various concepts. In every other center, you’ll want to have two different activities. You can have digital and nondigital activities to mix things up. When you are planning your activities, make sure they fit into your framework.
Do Design a Simple Framework
Your framework is the when and the how of your centers. When you set up your centers, you’ll have to allot a certain amount of time. Depending on how much time you give your centers will depend on the type of activities you can do in the individual centers as well as the teacher-led center. Having too much to do will make tasks feel impossible and not having enough to do can create chaos quickly. Therefore, knowing your framework is important when setting up your centers for success.
Do Develop Unbreakable Expectations
Creating expectations for your centers is going to be vital for the overall success. If students don’t know what to do when a pencil breaks, something isn’t charged, or there’s an interruption, you’ll constantly be on the run and the students at your center won’t learn anything. A good way to keep track of centers and jobs within centers is with lanyards that students wear in each area. When you set your expectations, you want to make sure you are considering more than just behavior and noise levels. You’ll want to consider things like fire drills or getting sick. Having expectations for the what ifs and this will absolutely happens is incredibly important when setting up centers.
Do Develop Organizational Methods
Putting centers together takes thought and double and triple checking the first time. When you begin to get your centers together, you want to make sure you have the proper materials. I like to organize my centers into iris boxes because they are easy to store and label. You also want to make sure you have Ziploc bags for all your little pieces because that will keep each activity separate in the iris box. Finally, you’ll want to have laminating sheets and your own little laminator to make life a bit easier for yourself. These low cost purchases will make your centerpieces last longer and keep everything running smooth for easy classroom management. Once you have all of the work done the first time, keeping centers organized with a supplies list becomes so much easier because checking off what is needed is part of your unbreakable guidelines.
Do Create Groups that Work
When you are setting up your groups, you want to make sure you consider what kind of groups you want to put together. Grouping students in a way that is most effective for your class will be incredibly important. For example, if your students are going to be doing a lot of group work, you might want to have various levels working together. By having different levels of students together, you can have collaborative learning. Oftentimes working with peers can be beneficial for students who are not grasping an idea as quickly as others.However, having students on similar levels can also be effective especially when you are utilizing the teacher center. By having students of the same level together, you can push them a bit further towards mastery without having to worry about group differentiation.
Centers are amazing for so many different reasons! If you set up centers the right way the first time, you’ll be able to keep them going all year long. Remember to always have your expectations set, your centers full of materials, and a list of items each activity needs along with it for easy clean up. Creating strong centers will help your students reach mastery and be ready for whatever is next.
Until Next Time
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