Learning centers, the bread and butter of math and literacy teaching. Not only are they great for review, they are also great for differentiated instruction, collaboration, and independent work. Plus, they can be used in the classroom or online! When you utilize centers in your classroom, you want to make sure you have awesome center rotations! Wait, what’s that? Here are five needs every teacher needs when they are using centers in their classroom.
(Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links that if used may, at absolutely NO additional COST to you, provide FHE with a small commission. We strive to only share and support products we have personally used and believe to be of great quality and value. We appreciate you using our links and supporting our blog this way.)
1: You need to KISS (Keep It Stickin’ Simple)
When you are planning your center rotations, make sure you are keeping it as simple as humanly possible. You want to make sure you have everything organized. I love using iris boxes for my centers. They are easy to organize and store. Plus, if you need to, you can keep your centers cleaner by keeping specific pieces in the correct boxes. Not only do you want to make sure you have your stuff ready, you want to make sure your students have what they need. If they don’t, make sure you have a plan for that! We all make mistakes and students often forget. Therefore, it’s important to have a plan just in case students don’t have something they need like a pencil or highlighter.
2: Display the Center Rotation Rules of the Road
One of the best pieces of décor you can have in your classroom, besides you word wall, is a list of how your centers are supposed to work. This is especially true in upper elementary when you are using centers. Your students are able to read, so make sure you use some chart paper and make a simple “Rules of Rotation” sign to keep students focused. This is great for a self-reminder and it’s something you can easily reference.
On this display, you might have to have “hazard” zones. Hazard zones are things that might come up like a boo boo or brain cramp. This would be a “If this…then…this” type of poster. This will help your students stay on track as well as keep you focused on your group because remember, you are a center!
3: Plan Ahead!
You always want to be prepared! Having to rush to find crayons or some other supplies is only going to lead to complete and total chaos. It’s important to make sure you have everything that your students are doing to need ready to rock right away. This is especially true for younger students. If you have a dead computer, an iris box that is missing something, or no rotation rules, you’re going to have mass chaos and no one has time for that!
4: Practicing Center Rotations Makes Perfect
One of the best things you can do for your students is to practice center rotations. Even if you aren’t doing centers, take two to three minutes to march your second graders, third graders, and even your fourth graders through the rotation process. By doing this, your students get some muscle memory and then your classroom management becomes the point of envy even when your students are rotating through centers.
Don’t only practice the perfect scenarios though. Make sure you practice for those interruptions that happen throughout the day. Having a plan for when a student needs to use the bathroom, an assembly is called, or a visitor comes into the classroom is all going to be very important for your classroom management. This will be especially true for your lower elementary students. Kindergarten, first, and second graders will most likely struggle with any kind of interruption during your class and centers are no different. So, when you are practicing, do some “fire drills” and get those rules of the rotation into your students’ heads. If you're feeling crafty, bust out the markers, my favorite are the Sharpie Chart Markers, and make hazard signs for your classroom.
5: Setting Up a Center Rotation Schedules
Once you have your center rotations down, you have to figure out how you’re going to rotate your schedule to make sure you have the right centers available to you and your students. If you are studying addition in kindergarten, you don’t want to accidentally include something with subtraction. Keeping your centers organized and having a simple rotation for them will be vital to the success of your math and literacy centers.
Not only do you want to keep your schedule on track, you want to keep your boxes on schedule too. Whether you color code for units or for the season, make sure your iris boxes with all your supplies are front and center when you need them!
6: Finding Centers to Rotate
When you start the year, you want to make sure you have your centers ready to go. You can either make your centers to put into your rotations throughout the year, or you can buy yearlong bundles and check one more thing off your list. While it can be nice to make your own, when you have a full year’s worth of centers, it’s simply a matter of printing and laminating. So, why re-invent the wheel. You can find center bundles for all ages from early elementary to upper elementary.
7: Keeping Centers Focuses with Accountability
While centers are all about learning and enhancing skills, there still needs to be some accountability. How you will keep your students accountable is up to you. Whether you use grades or some sort of accountability token, make sure your students have a reason to keep working that they will care about. This is going to be important to keeping their focus and avoiding the “I’m bored” or “I don’t want to” hazard of the center rotation road.
Centers are such an important tool to use in the classroom. Having a solid center rotation in terms of scheduling, how students move around the room, and how to keep students accountable is incredibly important to keep it stickin’ simple! Now you know what you need to know, it’s time to give out how to do it! Make sure to check out the Learning Centers Made Easy Masterclass. In this class, you will learn the ins and outs of using centers to make sure they are really rocking in your classroom.
Until Next Time…
Keep Being Educational Rock Stars