How I Manage Small Groups and Centers

I wanted to share with you MY way that I do centers. I don't do Daily 5 or anything along those lines, but what I do works really well for me, so that's why I haven't joined on the bandwagon. I have done centers/small groups in SO many different ways over my 11 years of teaching, but I think I actually like this the best way so far.

First off, when students come in in the morning, they pick their centers. They do this with their clothespin, which has their number on it. (no, they're not pretty, but they get the job done, and I've probably had these pins for about 5 years now.) 

I do have ten centers, but they last for 2 weeks. The reason they are 2 colors is because some years I've had 5 reading centers and 5 math centers, but this year, because of our schedule, I just assign my tables a center for math, instead of them picking their math center.

The centers are housed in these buckets, which I got at either Target or Wal-Mart....or (the different colors matched the labels where they picked their centers.) ALL their materials that they will need are kept in the buckets, except for pencils and clipboards.

So this is how it pans center menu is labeled, which match where they pick their center and the bucket that holds all the materials. They write the date where it says "date", and then when I check the center, I sign/circle where it says T.S. (Teacher Signature).

Check out THIS post to see how my filled in center menu looks like and to grab a FREE editable version!

So they take the bucket to where they need to do the center, or where ever they have room. This round of centers, is a lot of my Pete the Cat centers, 

This a poem I got from the Phonic poem book...

I loved how Teeny does her poetry centers that she's talked about, so I did it for one of our phonics poems, Invisible (short i). They use the poem to put all the word cards in order, which I think is great practice for reading and re-reading the poem!
If you want to try out the center, click HERE to get the file - it has color and b/w cards, the poem written out how I do it in their poetry journals (check out that post HERE) and recording sheet for putting the poem together.

So, what am I doing while my kids are doing centers??  Small groups, of course!  I have my groups come back to the table, and I go over vocabulary and "big words." Then, depending on my groups, I have them stay up at the table with me, reading with their whisper phones (check out my post on how I made my own whisper phones!), and I go around the table having them read out loud to me.

Also, make sure you check out {THIS} post to see all my Guided Reading goodies I like to use! Guided reading is one of my favorite things that I do during the day, so I love lots of little "tools" in my toolbox.

My more independent groups, I'll send to the floor behind my table to read the book together (see them sitting knee to knee?? that's a rule!)

On the 2nd day, I'll call them back to the table again. This time, we'll do the comprehension questions to the story. I have post it notes in the books and I have a "teacher" in the independent groups who will ask the questions. I'll call the other groups to my back table to ask the questions with them all there with me. (I will also do a quick check with the independent group to make sure they went over the questions.)

Yes, I DO see ALL my groups (I have 4 of them) EVERY day. Sometimes I see them for 5 minutes, and sometimes I see them for 15-20 minutes. It really just depends on the groups and what the lesson is for the day. (I'll be back to show you what I do the other days in a few days). 

Now...back to checking centers. When centers is over, I have my students put their center, center folder, and center menu on their desk. Then they have 10-15 minutes of silent reading time. During this time, I quickly walk around the room to check of centers and menus. 

I will either circle their center for the day, or sign it. If I circle it, that means they didn't finish it, but they have until the last day of centers to get it finished. Sometimes it just means that I kept them at the back table a long time, or sometimes they just need to focus a little more. hehe...If the center isn't finished, it goes on the not finished side (with the center menu), and if it is finished then it goes on the finished side...I will staple all the work to the menu at the end of the 2 weeks, so the parents can see WHY they only got 1/2 credit or no credit for that center. 

If they didn't finish the center on the day they picked it, they get a circle, and whenever they do finish it, I'll sign it inside the circle (like in the picture below).

Hope that all made sense to you! I'll be back with what I do on other days of my guided reading. 


Roxane Fox said...

Thank you for the poetry cards. I am using the poetry book as well. I can't wait to see how my kiddos notebook turns out.

Carrie H said...

I like your center management ideas!

Joan Wilson said...

This post was really helpful to me, Jen. I've got to tweak my reading block routine and I like your approach. Thanks for sharing!

julie allen said...

Jen, I've been meaning to email you and ask you how you do your centers. This came at just the right time! Thank you. I've got a little mix of Daily 5, my own center thing, and some Debbie Dillard. This will really help me organize what works for me! Thank you!

Cheryl said...

I love how you do your centers and I've been trying to open your "edible" menu. I'm having a difficult time, as it won't open for me to write on. It's opening in "google doc." and usually I get them in word. What's the trick I'm missing? Thanks,

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