Thursday, August 30, 2012

Centers - This Changed My Life!!!

It's almost here...a THREE DAY WEEKEND!!!  Woo hoo!!
I can't tell you how excited I am about it. I think the kids (and I) need that extra day. We have been in school for four weeks, and there's nothing like a little break to refresh.  My kiddies are doing GREAT & I absolutely LOVE this group.  They are so sweet, and the cutest things you have ever seen :)

This week, we started centers and they are doing so well with them. I love teaching small group & always look forward to when we finally get our rules & procedures downpat and it all becomes second nature. Ahhhhhh!!

Anyway, I just HAVE to share with you how I do centers.  Seriously, folks, this absolutely changed my life!!!

For years, I had my four groups of learners and they moved around in centers from place-to-place. . . in big huge loud, groups.  Then, I met an angel.  I don't remember her name, but it was in passing during a district learning workshop and she was telling me how she did centers.  And a lightbulb went off . . and my teaching life and classroom changed forever.  I wish I could thank her . . . with flowers and a parade!

Warning - this sounds SO confusing at first, but the kids get it faster than you will & it's great.

First of all, my kids are divided into four groups - red group, blue group, green group, and yellow group. This is what my Center Board looks like.  (Excuse the "handmade"-ness of it. I haven't gotten around to cutesy-ing it up yet)

If you look closely, you will see dots along the top - green, blue, yellow, and red. These dots represent my groups.  The kids in each group are below that dot.  

 Where it is circled, that is the green group.  Five children straight down from the green dot . . . that's the green group (they made their own name tags as of now).

Each child's name is UNDER the dot that represents their group.  Make sense so far?

Okay, as you can see, there are CENTERS and there are STATIONS . . . and there's a wheel. Here's how this works.

We turn the wheel, and every color on it represents the group.  That group goes to THAT station.

The green group comes to me!  This is Guided Reading or Read to Someone when I am testing.  The kids in the green group come to my table.

The red group goes to SEATWORK.  They each go to their own desks to work on seatwork . . .  a worksheet, craft, or any other assignment.  They work quietly and independently.  Independently = quiet focused work!

The yellow group goes to SPELLING STOP or Work with Words (I'm trying to implement Daily 5). This is the ONLY group that works together, so they are the only ones that make any noise because . . .

The blue group goes to CENTERS.  Centers are different from stations & they are represented by the frogs on the pocket chart.  I have five centers in my room:

And there's a yellow frog/center but I can't find the picture. It's my skills center.

Anyway, think back to the wheel.  Right now, the BLUE group is going to centers . . . everyone else is at Stations (guided reading, seatwork, or Work with Words).

The only people going to actual centers are the blue group members.

They look at the pocket chart to determine where they go.
So, because the kids are listed down the pocket chart under their group, each of their names lines up with a colored center frog that matches those around the room.

Have I lost you yet???

Okay, basically it should look like this:
 This means that only one child is at each center.

Working quietly.

Working independently.

It's awesome!!

PLUS, you only have to make 5 centers for the whole week!
Or, my colleague only meets with 2 groups a day so there are only 2 rotations, making centers last for 2 whole weeks! Fabulous :)

And, it works. The kids know exactly where to go & they actually work hard. It cuts down on management issues and children get the opportunity to work alone and work in a group.  If you rotate 4 times (for each group) like I do, every child will go to EVERY center EVERY week.

When people walk in, it's fairly quiet (I like productive talking, not playing during centers & stations) and everyone is working. It's a dream!

Okay, I hope I haven't confused you, but it's one of the best things I have ever done in my classroom.  Centers with 6 years old is finally easy to maintain & productive.  The kids learn and it's organized, which I love!

Hope you like it. If you have any questions, feel free to ask or email me at

Update: I just posted on how to do this for Guided Math. You can see that post HERE.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend ! :)




  1. Do you have a teachers aide or parent helpers during this time?

    1. No, it's just me all day :) This is why this system works so well for me ! :)

    2. this system!! Do you do this group rotation 4 times through every day of the week? How do you keep up with which student goes to which center in order to keep it fair and easy to manage? Thanks so much for sharing your great ideas!!

    3. Thanks, Becky. I tried emailing you directly, but couldn't find an address :( Yes, I rotate through 4 groups each day (sometimes we take Fridays off for Finish Up Friday, but most the time I do the whole week). To keep it fair, I move the frogs , not the kids' names, each day...they rotate up. That way, every child gets to go to every center during the week. They also have a center check list that they use to make sure they have done all the rotations. :) It's the easier management ever!! Thanks for stopping by !! :)

  2. Love it Kelly! Great organization, thanks for sharing:)

  3. Wow! This sounds interesting! I want to try Daily 5 this year, too. Now I may have to try this. It's been a slow start for me this year with 28 kiddos!

  4. I read this earlier..but I was um confused. Now I'm rereading and I think that my light bulb has finally turned on--I get it now! LOL :)
    It is a great organizational tool---and I like how there is only like 1-2 kids at each station, so much easier to manage. Whew---I was wondering for a moment if I was going to figure it out! :)(the part where the kids are in a group going down lost me I's late)

    1. I completely understand!! It confused me too!! I had to work through it about 5 or 6 times before it clicked. The kids got it way faster than I did. haha!! Hope you had a great weekend :)


  5. Love your green IKEA chairs!! I have the exact same ones in my room... I saw some other IKEA finds too. :) I do Daily 5 right now, so I'm not sure if I could swing doing centers this way, but it looks like it would work well for you. How long do your kids actually spend in center time total each day?

  6. Would you mind sharing your center checklist? :)

  7. You should send that person flowers or a parade this is incredible. I'm sure others have done this and maybe it's your great explanation but I will be implementing this a.s.a.p.!!! Thank you soooooo much for sharing. Ellen in CA

  8. I love this way too! I haven't taught first in 9 years, but I'm back now and this is what I did. I am trying to explain it to my first grade colleagues and it is a little confusing. I think I may just send them your post and maybe they can figure it out!

  9. I've been doing Daily 5 for the last 3 years. I love it, but it seems the kids tend to get bored with it in first grade around February/March. The other problem is that I miss being able to do some of the fun activities of the past. How would you change the board to reflect 28 students?

    1. I would have 7 centers (instead of 5) and arrange them around the room :) I hope that helps!!

  10. I would love a copy of your center checklist! Thanks for sharing this amazing organizational tool!

    1. Absolutely! Just send me your email address, so I can get it to you! :)

  11. I, too, would love a copy of your checklist! I think I need to read this over a couple times more before it will "click," but I think I have the general idea! (I hope! :o))

    1. Sure, Jennifer.. Just send me your email address (it has you as a "no reply blogger"), & I will send it to you! :)

  12. Can I get a copy of your center checklist? My email address is: Thanks so much!

  13. I am in love with your idea! I have been looking for a great way to organize/manage my daily groups. Thank you so much for posting this! Can I get a copy of your center checklist? My email is: Thanks!!

  14. Hi! Can you also send me your checklist to my email do you also have the explanations of each center? I'm very interested in learning more I will have second grade this year.

  15. I love the organization of this! Thank you! I'm still trying to understand it, but how many times do you meet with each group during the week then? What if I had a parapro in the room? Could I also get a copy of your center checklist, please?
    Thanks so much!

  16. I love this!! I'm finally ready to implement this in my classroom on Monday. My email is love a copy of your checklist.

  17. I do believe this is the answer I've been searching for!! I feel like station time has become a nightmare of fussing over who gets to go first and "playing" instead of actual work. This system makes so much sense and will be fantastic for me! Thank you so much for sharing.
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  18. I just saw this post and it looks like the perfect answer to all my center problems! Could you please email me your checklist? My email is

    Thank you!!

  19. Loving this!! If you could mail me your center checklist that would be great! Also, once you start the rotation do you signal for a switch so that you meet with all four groups. Do the other students switch where they are or do they stay at their station?

  20. I noticed this is a few years old. Do you still do your centers this way? I'd love a copy of your checklist.

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