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Sep 23, 2015

Best Practices for Conducting Centers!

Hello everyone!
My name is Stacey Lynch and I’ve been teaching for ten years now.  For several years I was good about meeting with my reading groups, but not so good with center rotations.

Then I entered the “Pinterest and TpT” world and my teaching life completely changed! 

I was able to view what other wonderful educators were doing for their center rotations.  Taking bits and pieces from what I read, I put together a well-run and successful reading rotation schedule for my first graders! 

Center 1: Meet with me
Center 2: Seat work
Center 3: Fun center
Center 4: Meet with co-teacher
Center 5: Journal writing

Let’s break this down!

Center 1:  Meet with me
We do a number of activities when they meet with me.  We read books on their level of course, but the other activities depend on the needs of the particular group.  Sometimes we’ll do regular reading / writing activities, a Science or Social Studies activity, phonics or sight word activities, some of their unfinished work, etc...  I’ll even teach them some of the center games they will have access to.

It took me some time to remember that it’s okay if I don’t accomplish everything I wanted to with my groups that day.  There is always the next day! I’d rather take my time teaching / helping them with the concept so they understand it instead of rushing through and have them not understand.  There are still times I have to remind myself of this.

Center 2: Seat Work:
Generally, this is reserved for chunk work and sight word work.  There are occasions where they will also start / finish assignments related to what they did when they met with me.

Center 3: Fun Center:
Fun center changes every day! 

Mondays: TPT center and / or computer center – I have found incredibly wonderful language arts related centers on TPT!  I use MANY of them for this center - games related to sight words, contractions, compound words, forming sentences, and much, much more! 

Sometimes I will have computer center.  The problem is I only have one student computer.  In the past I’ve had the students use that computer, my school tablet, and a laptop from the media center for this rotation.  They love it!

Tuesdays: Listening center –Listening centers should be utilized more, especially in the younger grades.  Not only is it important for students to be read to, they really enjoy it!

My very first Donors Choose project was to request books on cd for my listening center.  I made sure to get a variety of books – classic favorites, seasonal, and biographies. I am so grateful that this was funded!  

My students look forward to listening to and following along with the stories.  After listening to the story, they complete a short assignment, usually writing about the story elements, writing their favorite part, or listing some facts from the book.

Wednesdays: Puzzle center – I spent three summers as part of an organization that tutors upcoming third graders who are struggling with reading.  There were several parts to their day.  (Half day.)  One of those parts was puzzle center.  My boss talked about how important puzzles are since it helps with both visual and organizational skills, along with developing hand-eye coordination.  She always taught students how to separate the pieces – outside pieces vs inside pieces.  She wanted the students to put together the border first, and then focus on the inside.

I have carried this with me into my own classroom.  My students LOVE putting the puzzles together!  As an added bonus, they learn how to COLLABORATE!

Thursdays:  Same as Monday.

Fridays: Art center – Kids need time to be kids!  They need time to be creative! They do what they want to do *as long as they are on task and they are safe!*  I have a bin full of paper that students can use for art center.  They can draw, cut, glue, fold, color, etc…They bring their supplies over and have a BLAST!  Every once in a while, I will put out a template for them to work on, but for the most part, it’s a free for all!

Center 4: Meet with my co-teacher:
I am incredibly lucky to have an administration that believes in the power of co-teaching.  The ESOL teachers, Academic Support Specialists, Reading Specialist, and many of the paraeducators, plug into our classroom for an hour or two each day. 

Depending on who my co-teacher is, I’ve had them do different things when they meet with their groups.  I’ve given some a list of indicators we cover each week / marking period and they use that to guide their instruction.  My co-teacher last year was an awesome science geek and therefore mainly focused on science.  This year, my co-teacher will be working on sight words, blends, reading comprehension, and putting words together.

Center 5:  Journal writing:
My students write every day.  I start off the year with them copying words into their journals:  color words, number words, seasonal words, etc…When printing out their lists, I use the font that has the lines on it so the students can see where their letters should go.  For my “fast finishers,” I have them illustrate those words.

After a few weeks of writing those words, I’ll give them some sentence starters.  “My favorite color is….. I like it because…….”  I include a word bank for them and pictures for the words when possible.

Following that is a general topic.  Write about what you did over the weekend.  OR Imagine we could go on a field trip anywhere.  Where would you want to go?  What would you want to do?  Why would you want to go there?  I try to have a word bank when possible.

For each level of “journaling,” I have reminders:
1.  Start your sentence with a capital letter.
2.  End your sentence with a period.
3.  Leave a finger space in between your words.
4.  You must have at least 5 sentences.  ** (This one changes again, depending on the topic and what my writers are capable of.*)

I’ve been known to throw in other reminders and I always go over the reminders with them before we start our rotations.

Some people ask me why I have journal writing as my last center.  It’s not really my last center, it’s just the last center they go to before meeting with me. :-)  When it’s time to switch, they bring their journal with them to my table and we take a few minutes to go over their writing. 

What about reading center?   
While reading center is not one of my regular rotations, I use it when 1) My co-teacher might have been pulled for the morning.   2) I’m giving them a break from writing center.  3) I will use this in lieu of one of the *fun centers.*

That’s it!  My co-teacher and I meet with four groups every day.  I will start the next day with the group I didn’t get to.  Rotating centers every 20 minutes allows me to get through four centers each morning.  Between rotations two and three is a brain break...usually a Just Dance Kids video.  My students are able to transition with ease and focus with this setup.

Thank you Suzy at the StudentSavvy Blog for having me as a guest blogger!!

About me:

I’ve been teaching in Maryland for 10 years.  I taught 2nd and 3rd before moving down to 1st, where I’ve been for 6 years!  I have a Master’s Degree in Educational Technology, am webmaster for my school’s website, and teach technology classes for my county. When I’m not teaching, you’ll find me singing, helping out with my husband’s acapella chorus, pinning away on Pinterest, or updating my blog.  I have one large, loveable, fur baby!

Make sure to check out my blog!


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