Tips for Managing Classroom Learning Centers

Center Time 
Submitted by: Tamela, Pre-K
This is my second year teaching Pre-K. I would have to agree with all previous statements, but I would like to add one thing. During their center time, that is your opportunity to work with small groups on developing some of their skills. So I only restrict the number of occupants in a center, but it is totally their choice where they go.

great resource 
Submitted by: Tripug, K
I attended a terrific workshop last year with Linda Holliman on managing centers. She also has some wonderful books on the market. Her idea is that centers should not be busy work when other work is done, but that they are skill building and part of your curriculum. Check her out!

Learning Centers 
Submitted by: Jaicie, Grade Level(s): K, 1-2

  • We have 6 learning centers in our 1st and 2nd grade classroom: computer, art, reading corner, listening center, construction, and writing.
  • Students go to a different center for about 20 minutes each day during guided reading time. Students look at the large center chart on the bulletin board to know where to go. One or two children are at each center. Every six days (after each student has done each center) I change the center activities.
  • The computer center uses a developmentally appropriate educational CD-rom with headphones.
  • There are three different story tapes with books at the listening center, each in a gallon-size zip-lock bag; one may have a finger puppet or small stuffed animal that correlates to the story.
  • The writing center is a “real” desk with an attached bookshelf on top containing picture dictionaries, spelling dictionaries, postcards, stationery, pencils, ABC stencils, gel pens, and “Oopsie tape” (white correction tape about an inch wide.) There is also an easel with a white board and dry erase markers. Students use Wikki stix or letter tiles to create their spelling words for the week; then they may write a friendly letter or card to someone, do ABC puzzles, or write a story.
  • At the construction center students build with Legos, Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, whatever I put in the dishpan tub for building. The activity at the art center may be seasonal or theme-related. Sometimes it’s a craft with very specific directions; other times it’s more “free choice”. I’ve also had children use a Lite Brite in the art center.
  • In the reading corner students may read from their own personal book box of “just-right” books or select seasonal or theme-related books from the book rack. There’s a rocking chair, a small easy chair, a few pillows, and a basket of stuffed animals. You could also have a math center, science center, or puzzle center.
  • Students are taught from the first day of school to clean up their center when they are finished or when they hear the bell signal from me to clean up. If students finish early at their center, there is a “What Do I Do Now?” chart with a list of other things they may do at their seat. One of our classroom jobs is “Center inspector”. Before we go out for morning recess, the center inspector checks for cleanliness. If a center isn’t clean, the helper checks the center chart to see who was there that day to come and clean it up.

Literacy Centers for Upper Grades 
Submitted by: teacher333
There is a great book out there called Practice with Purpose: Literacy Work Stations for Grades 3-6 by Debbie Diller. Many times when you hear the word “centers” you think lower primary, but this book takes you through step-by-step how you can incorporate these for the upper grades, and actually bring in Math, Science, Reading and Language Arts, Map Reading, etc. to complement the curriculum.
Grade Level(s): 3-6

Quiet Readers 
Submitted by: Jennifer
I became tired of my reading center being the loudest area of the classroom. I teach first grade and they all read out loud, so their voices build in volume to hear over the child next to them. To solve the problem, I bought long flexible tubing. I shaped it into a long skinny “U’ shape and tied it off with a plastic tie for durability. It is a very inexpensive version of a reading phone. One end of the U is held to the ear, the other near the mouth. The students have to whisper or it hurts their own ear. The added bonus is that they hear their own voice quality, rate of fluency, and mistakes. It is one of the best things I have in my room and the kids can’t get enough of them even by the end of the year! We keep a box of antibacterial wipes next to the storage basket. Students wipe off the mouth end before putting it away.
Grade Level(s): K, 1-2, 3-5

Highly Recommended Book — Primary Literacy Centers
This is an excellent resource for K-3 teachers! Find out how to set up and manage literacy centers that support a balanced literacy framework for Reading, Word Work, Listening, Research, Literature Response, Writing, and Poetry. Teaching strategies, detailed reading and writing activities, plus reproducible center signs and student pages are included. The authors connect the IRA/NCTE standards to strategies and activities teachers can use in the classroom. If you need literacy centers for students to work in independently while you do small guided reading or writing groups, this book will be a great help. It has everything you need to know to get standards-based literacy centers in place!

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