Centers... Revisited and Revised

Ok, so a few weeks ago, I showed you how I started my centers off in the beginning of the year. We started off slow, doing one center a day, and only 2 people were allowed at a center at a time. My kids did surprisingly amazing - and only 3 days after school started! If you didn't see that post, you should definitely check it out. It's a great starting place for centers! It really goes into how I do centers. 

I also said in that post that I wanted to start doing 2 centers a day eventually. 

Well that day has come! Last week was our first week of doing them.

After I figured out who could "handle" centers, which students I was going to be spending the most time with, who took longer to complete seatwork and activities, I figured out how I was going to do them. And it worked out pretty well this week, so I think it'll work for us!

Ok, So. 

Let's see if I can explain this. 

I have 2 different sets of reading centers: the Blue Centers and the Green Centers. And the students have blue cards and green cards with their numbers on them. Each day they will pick a Blue Center and a Green Center. Now, not everyone is going to get to do the green centers. These are the students that I will be working with longer than the rest of the students, so they really won't have a lot of time to do the 2nd center. BUT, I didn't want them to miss out on centers at all, so they get to do the Blue centers.

So... blue cards to the blue centers and green cards to the green centers.

You can see that I have less students at the green centers, and sometimes a lot of kids at the blue centers. That's okay about the blue centers though, because I call 3-5 students back to my table for small group, so that helps to break down the groups to be a little smaller at the center.

Now the blue center goes to the blue buckets and the green centers to the green buckets....see how that all worked out?? It's actually purely coincidental that it worked out that way.

SO, what are my centers? 

They change weekly, but I think I've figured out my "constant" of the centers each week.  The "TOPIC" of each center will stay the same each week, but the activities will change through out the time.  Here is an example of my Center Menu. (The one the kids get don't have the pictures... although that's a good idea! ha!)

By the way, you can download this center menu to find out where the activities come from on {THIS} post.

The Blue Centers are the "must-dos" which are the core centers... practicing spelling and sight words and comprehension and such. And "Write the Room" is always a favorite, so that's a constant, but the actual activity or product I use will be different each week. These are the centers that I want EVERYONE to do, so even my kids who only do 1 center will do the "core" centers.

The green centers are the "extra" centers that some of my students get to do.

So, I set the big timer for "Round 1" and if they finish that center before the timer is up, then they can finish other work (old centers included!) or read a book.  Once the timer goes off, they quickly clean up and I go around and quickly check off those centers and tell them they can go to their green center or finish their blue center if they don't have a green center. I set the timer for Round 2. I usually save my lower groups for the "Round 2" time to call back to my back table so that they have time to do their blue centers... they are the ones that have a hard time ever going back to finish work, so I really want to give them time to do their centers during round 1. 

I know. This sounds really confusing. But I promise, once you do actually do it and put it into motion, it's really smooth flowing!

I hope that gives you some ideas... coming up soon is a new post all about my guided reading binder... what's in it and how I plan for my small groups - the whole reason to have centers to begin with! Gotta meet with those small groups!

Let's do a little Q and A session, shall we?? I've been getting a lot of questions on some of the same things, so I figured I'd just write them all out! 

When do they pick centers? Do they all go at once?

They pick centers as part of their morning jobs. They come in, unpack, sharpen pencils, trade books, and pick their centers. They have to have their menu IN THEIR HAND while at the pocket chart so they know which centers they've already done.  Since my kids come in anywhere between 7:45 and 8:00, there is usually a pretty good spread of kids at the pocket chart. Every so often I have to tell students to come back since there are more than 3-4 people at the chart at once...but not too often.

Do you assign them centers?

No. It's all about choice... although they HAVE to do every center, so it's only a slight choice. But, some days, you're just having an off day and you want to take it easy, so you want to pick the "easy" center, go for it! And there are favorite centers, so yes, the people who come in earlier get to choose those centers first.  BUT, they can only do each center once, so eventually they will have done them all, no matter the order.

NOW, there are some kids who don't get to do the green centers, so in essence, I am assigning them centers; they can only do the blue centers.

How do you handle picking centers with just their friends.

Well, I just know which students work well together and which ones don't. lol. There are certain students that are not allowed to pick the same centers as their friends. We figured that out real quick.  But sometimes, kids work better when they're with their friends.  And since I'm randomly calling people back to my small group table, they don't always get to hang out with their friends the whole time at the center, so it usually works out.

When do you check centers? Does it take a lot of time?

In the beginning, it does take a lot of time, but only because they aren't so quick at the procedure yet. BUT, right now, I can check centers in about 3-5 minutes. I check Round 1's centers halfway through our small group time. My timer goes off, they know to get cleaned up while I'm finishing with my small group, and they are waiting for me at their desk with their center and menu out on their desk. Then I tell them to either go to their Green center or to finish up their blue center if they don't do a green center.  Then my timer goes off again at the end and the same thing happens; they clean up and I come around to check Round 2's centers. Sometimes, I've used that time for them to be doing their silent reading while I'm walking around checking centers, but right now it's working out me doing this way.

How long do centers last? 

It really depends on how long my whole group takes. But generally 60-75 minutes.

What are you doing during centers? What does your guided reading look like?

It changes year to year.... and this year it's really changed since I'm in a different grade, but you can check out my my post I've done before on small groups {HERE} and {HERE}.

I hope that helped you with any questions you might have!


Miss Foote said...

This is such a great post! I wouldn't have made it through 1st grade without centers!!!
Chickadee Jubilee

Unknown said...

I love your blog, so many great ideas! I teach 2nd grade and don't do centers, but I want to start doing them. My question is.......what are you doing with small groups during center time? Is it all reading or do you do math the same way?

techeagle said...

Thanks so much for your ideas:) How long do you set your timer?

Alane said...

Where are your center signs located? I would love to purchase!

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