Center Questions Answered!

Happy Tuesday!  I had every intention of writhing this post yesterday…but the first day back from a 2 week fall break did me in.  I came home and sat in the recliner and didn’t move.  It was actually quite nice!  But I’m back and full of energy today!

One of the most frequent questions I get is about my centers and how I run them.  So I want to answer a few questions and hopefully give you some ideas.

I started using this system during my 2nd year in kindergarten and have never looked back.  It works so well for us and keeps things running as smoothly as they can in kindergarten!  If you were to come in to the classroom during center time, you would see a lot of movement, you would see ‘staches everywhere doing all sorts of activities and you would hear noise.  I don’t expect centers to be silent or still.  I like the organized chaos because it means we’re hard at work and growing our brains!

It all starts with my groups.  I have 4 center groups that are formed using out DIBELS data and my classroom assessment data.  These center groups are students who need to work on similar skills such as beginning sounds, CVC words or sight words.  These are not based on reading levels.   My groups are color coded so I have the pink group, purple group, green group and blue group.    Students names are written on Post-It Notes in the color of their group.  These are displayed in our center area.

The Post-it systems makes changing my groups simple.  When I need to change my groups, I just pull of the Post-it and put up a new one.  My groups are flexible so they change when necessary.  Again, these are skill groups and groups are formed based on data.
My next tool is our center wheel.  This ingenious little device helps cut down on the “Can I go to this center?” questions and also eliminates the  “What center do I go to ?”  questions.  When a student asks where they can go, I say “Ask the wheel!”
The wheel is divided into 4 sections (4 groups=4 sections) and each section is color coded to match my center groups.
Around the outside of the wheel are our centers.  We have the following centers running in our classroom every day:
Tubs-differentiated skill activities (CVC words, beginning sounds, letters, sequencing, etc)-these are the totes that are colored with duct tape!  The ‘staches grab one and work on the activity in the tub.
Write The Room
iPad (We only have 1 iPad so I have a separate schedule for the iPad so everyone gets a turn)
After our whole group literacy lesson, we have independent work.  This usually a picture sort or a comprehension skill (usually a flow map for sequencing our story) that we call our “ticket to centers.”  Once this independent work is finished, the ‘staches turn it in and go to their centers.  They simply check the wheel and get to work.
As soon as they have started on their independent work, I start pulling my guided reading groups.  These groups are different from my center groups because these groups are based on the running record levels of students.
Once centers and guided reading are underway, we do not rotate after a set time.  We work in our centers until clean up time.  Our rule is this:  if you pick a center, you do the whole thing.  If you finish the center, then you may switch to a new center as long as it’s one of the centers the wheel says you may go to.  Remember:  it’s all about asking the wheel and not Mr. Greg!
The wheel is set up so the ‘staches have choice of 2 centers.  Within those centers are other choices such as which story to listen to, which write the room activity to complete or which tub they want to choose.  If they finish a write the room activity, they can do another write the room or they can choose to go to the library.  If they finish listening to their story, they can choose another story or choose a center tub.
This system allows to work continuously in centers without cleaning up and rotating.  The choices allow students to keep working even if they finish a center.  I like this system because there is less downtime (no cleaning up and rotating…just continuous learning…as continuous as can be with 5 year olds!)
Many of our centers have recording sheets so we have baskets for unfinished work.  At clean up time, any unfinished work goes in the blue basket.  The next day, we check the basket before we go to our centers.  If we have unfinished center work, we finish it first!
(The pink basket is for unfinished math centers)
I also have a system in place for students who are not making the right choices in centers.  If you’re caught more than once not working or doing the right thing in centers, you clean up and return to you seat.  Once at your seat, you get a sheet of paper and a pencil and must write sight words from the word wall until Mr. Greg tells you to return to centers.  This keeps them working while removing the pleasure of centers.  After 5-10 minutes of writing, I have a brief discussion about their choices and they return to centers.
So that’s how we run our Common Core aligned centers in the kindergarten smorgasboard.  Is that as clear as mud?  If you have questions, must leave a comment and I will do my best to answer it!
Now I have two gifts for you!
The first is a free math center just in time for Halloween!  These are simple spider web counting cards for numbers to 20 that are perfect for math centers and math tubs.
Click to download your freebie!
I also updated this fun Halloween math center and doubled it from 25 pages to 50 pages! Check it out!  It’s simple to set up.  Just print and use!  Who doesn’t love simple?!



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