Mark Your Calendars! Introducing Math and Literacy Centers in Your Classroom

You have all the pieces. You have all the organization. Your framework is completely planned out. Now it’s time to introduce your math and literacy centers. We all know math and literacy centers are great for review and enrichment, but how do we introduce them in our classroom? Follow this step-by-step guide when introducing math and literacy centers in your classroom. 

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Week 1: Introducing Expectations

When you start introducing math and literacy centers, you want to make sure you have clear expectations.

The Fundamentals of Introducing Math and Literacy Centers

To begin, you want to establish how you are going to signal for your sentence to start, stop, and when to switch. You can use a variety of signals like a card, a hand clap, or a timer. Next, you’ll want to manage the noise level. With everyone working together, it can get loud quick! So, have a voice level expectation right away.

Practice How to Move from Center to Center

Once you have established your signal and your voice level, you can have your students move through the centers. You can help them by putting arrows on the floor or on the walls to show the direction they should go. As a whole group, have students walk through the centers. Then practice moving from center to center using the signal you have established and maintaining the appropriate noise level.

Introduce Math and Literacy Center Material

Knowing the basics of movement is just part of the first week. You’ll also want to take some time show students the type of materials they will see in each center. You can send students to their tables and have them peruse themselves or this can be a whole group activity.

Practice Independent Movement Daily

Throughout the first week, have your students go to their tables or work areas. It’s not important that they are with their group for this. Just have them practice moving from one space to the next. You may also give them some time to look through the center content. I would put the groups at a different center every day so they are familiar with a variety of center activities. By allowing them to do this, they will become familiar with the type of work they will be doing in each center which will make center work more productive. During this time, you should focus on voice level, signal movements, and clean-up of center areas. I suggest using a one-minute timer for clean-up so it doesn’t get too drug out.

Week 2: Introducing Rotations into Your Centers

During week two, you’ll want to keep practicing moving through your centers, what the signals mean and noise levels. Hopefully, you’ll be able to go longer stints of time before you have to stop and redirect. On top of reviewing skills, you’ll also get to introduce rotating. Before, you were just focusing on one center at a time. Now, students will get to move through the centers.

What Does Rotating Include?

Last week, you had students working at one center at a time and familiarizing themselves with materials in each center, their noise level, and what the signals mean. This week you are introducing math and literacy center clean-up initiatives and the rotation signal.

Introducing Math and Literacy Center Rotations with Materials

When students rotate through the centers, they should be spending time working with the materials and activities at each stop. Have something simple that students would normally see in your classroom at each center. This ensures the work is review and enrichment (which we always want it to be) and it gives you a chance to give feedback on the work expectations and voice levels because you aren’t answering a ton of questions. For this week, you’ll want your teacher table to be self-sustainable as well. You are not focusing on small group teaching yet. You are still working on center expectations and management.


Week 3: Introducing Common Interruptions During Math and Literacy Centers

Just like last week, you’re going to want to keep working on week one and two’s areas of focus. Keep practicing everything you’ve been working on and add another layer: common interruptions of the teacher at the teacher table. You’ll learn more about this in an upcoming blog post, but for now, follow these tips during week 3.

Introduce Math and Literacy Learning Partners

For this, you can use your actual reading group if you know. If you know, I would use them because you will be able to see any potential problems with pairings right away and adjust before you get to the real deal.

Learning How the Tag System Works

Once students are with their groups, you can have them work on getting their tags. What should they do? Which one do they need to grab? What happens when it’s time to move? You should practice all of this during week 3 on top of building stamina, maintaining voice levels, and paying attention to signals.

What Should You Do?

During week three, you might want to start tracking their stamina. This way, you know how long they can work and follow expectations before you have to intervene and redirect with feedback. Knowing this will help you know how much time you can spend in centers. Keep in mind, you are still not teaching in small groups yet. Your job is to stop and correct when needed.

Week 4: The Week You’ve Been Waiting for Introducing Math and Literacy Centers

At this point, your students should have a pretty good grasp on the overall expectations and how rotating centers work. Because of this, you get to start teaching during centers!

Teaching During Math and Literacy Centers

While you finally get to start teaching, you should keep it stinkin’ simple because you’re still going to have to monitor. Your students are going to have more stamina then what they started with but they are still going to need work. Students will keep doing whatever you allow so make sure you are strict from the get go! Remember, practice makes perfect!

Monitoring Procedures with Full Rotations

During this week, you’re going to want to complete full rotations. Your center and rotation times will depend on the framework you chose to use. While you are going through your full rotations, stick to your procedures for common interruptions, voice level, and clean-up time. Consistency is a huge factor when it comes to making your centers work.

Week 5: Put the Pedal to the Metal

Now that you have practiced, practiced, practiced, you can keep pushing forward with their reading groups and learning partners. Remember you need to reinforce and give good feedback along with the way. Never let any infraction slide because we practice how we perform and we want to practice perfectly.

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Introducing math and literacy centers in your classroom is one of the best things you can do! Using learning centers is great for review and enrichment but only if you introduce them correctly. If you need more guidance, check out this great free resource from me to you!

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Until Next Time…

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