Ready to calm the chaos in planning your center rotations?

6 Tips for Organizing Centers for Simple Set Up

Scenario time! You’ve decided on when you’ll do your centers, what the framework will be; your overall expectations. You’re ready to start but once you do disaster strikes! Students are missing pieces and you’re running around like a crazy person. What did you miss? What went wrong? Centers are a great way to review material, enrich what students already know, and prepare for tests. However, if not organized well, math and literacy centers can become a headache. Organizing your centers for optimal use is what truly makes centers work for you.

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Keeping the Pieces All Zipped Up

We all make mistakes in the classroom but not having all your materials together for your centers should not be one of them. While there are several ways to get your center pieces together, one of the easiest (and least expensive) ways to do so is to put everything into a Ziploc bag. For each center you have, you should put all of the necessary materials into the bag along with a pen or pencil and some “supply” list cards. On the supply list card, have students put a check next to the items they are running low on so you always have what you need. By having all of your materials in a Ziploc bag, you easily have everything together and ready to go right when you need it.

Making Lasting Material

Before you put your pieces in the Ziploc bags, you’ll want to ensure they are safe. Students, while they mean well, tend to bend paper and cardboard until it is unrecognizable. If you want to keep your game pieces safe and help them last longer, you can use laminating sheets and your own laminator to get the job done.

Organizing Centers with Iris Boxes

Once you have all of your pieces in Ziploc bags, you can keep organizing centers more with iris boxes. Iris boxes are great for holding multiple different center activities and easily stack on top of each other. I personally have 12 monthly boxes for math and 12 monthly boxes for literacy centers. This makes organizing them easier because I know what box goes with which month and which lesson. Not only does this help organize my materials, it also helps me organize my content for the school year.

Using Labels to Keep Centers Organized

In order to know exactly what is in each box, you should always stay organized by labeling them. What you label them with, or how specifically you label your boxes, is up to you. You can use our downloadable monthly center labels, or you can expand on that by writing the standards or concepts being covered in each box. No matter how you choose to label, make sure it is clear to you and easy to see so you don’t have to dig to find what you are looking for.


Creating Center Jobs to Stay Organized

Whenever you do anything with math and literacy centers, you want to make sure you are staying organized. The initial process can be time consuming. However, if you don’t keep up with the needed supplies you’ll find yourself in a time suck. In order to keep your centers organized, assign jobs within your centers. For example, you can have one student have the job of writing down what’s needed in each center and dropping the slip into the “shopping cart.” On the supply sheet that you provide, make sure you label which month and which center needs the materials. This will help keep your centers stocked up as well as save you from having to dig through centers to ensure all the needed materials for an activity are available.

Use Digital Centers

Another way to keep your centers simple is to get your digital centers up and going! While digital centers are not the only thing you should be using, and they still require materials (just in a different sense), they are easy to set up from anywhere. When you implement digital centers into your classroom, you’ll want to ensure you have direction cards in your Ziploc bags and still include them inside your iris boxes so you stay completely organized.


Using math and literacy centers in your classroom is a wonderful way to get students up and moving, thinking, and really mastering material. There are so many great reasons to use centers, but you need to ensure they are organized and ready to rock before you truly start them in your classroom. You can do this by making sure you have all your materials together and organized in simple and inexpensive ways.

Until Next Time

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