Centers In The Classroom: Tubs

Let’s talk centers. Ya’ll, we love centers (or hippopotamuses as we call them). One of the key components of our centers is choice. We give the students a great day of choice during center time because this empowers them. When our students are empowered, they have buy-in. Buy-in means more engagement and fewer behavior issues. Today we’re talking about our tubs. (NOTE: this post is not to explain our overall center management. We have a detailed post on center management that is linked at the end of this post.)

Centers Vs. Activities

Before we get into the specifics of our tubs, let’s clarify centers versus activities. In our classroom, we have FIVE literacy centers and FOUR math centers. The centers are the umbrella choices. They are the big choices. Our literacy centers are: tubs, write the room, QR CODES, read to self, and sensory bin/light box. The centers are the choices on the wheel.

Our math centers are math baskets, QR CODES, math the room and ten frames and graphing.

So, when someone says, how many centers do you have going in your classroom, the answer is 5 literacy centers and 4 math centers. That’s it. Now, within each CENTER there are lots of ACTIVITIES. The activities are what the kids work on during centers. So they go to the CENTER and work on ACTIVITIES within that center. This means I don’t have to have 8-12 centers going. And that means I don’t have to plan for 8-12 centers. And because of all of the choices and activities, we don’t have to change centers often. In fact, we change them once a month. TRUE STORY! If you’re looking to reduce your workload, consider our center management system and center resources! Again, for all the details on our center management, check out the linked post at the end of this post.

Centers In The Classroom: TUBS

Our tubs are the center that we get asked about the most. It’s also our most useful center. Here’s why: we can run our entire center time with just tubs. The number of activities and differentiation means every child can work in tubs with no issues!

Let’s talk about the tubs!

  • Color-coded: the tubs are color-coded with duct tape. The color coding is a visual cue for the students. Each student is placed in a group based on their needs. Those groups are color-coded. If you’re in the pink group, you do pink tubs. If you’re in the green group, you pick green tubs.
  • Differentiated: The tubs are differentiated and targeted to meet the needs of the students in that particular group. That means you will see a variety of skills and activities across the tubs. But, you will also see some of the same skills but in a variety of activities. So you might see CVC words in all of the groups. Some groups will be doing CVC matching while other groups might be doing CVC word building. They’re working on the same skill just with different activities.
  • Activities: there are 9 tubs for each group. Each tub contains ONE activity. That means each group has 9 activities to choose from.
  • Choice: Students can choose any tub in their color group. There is no order they must follow. There is no must do/can do. They can choose any tub. This is because of the differentiation. No matter which tub they choose, that activity is a skill that they need to practice. And they can repeat the tubs. There is no expectation that they do all of the tubs.

What’s In The Tubs?

The literacy tubs include:

  • letters
  • sounds
  • word work (cvc, cvc-e, blends, etc)
  • vowels
  • sight words

The math tubs include:

  • numbers
  • counting
  • ten frames
  • tally marks
  • addition
  • subtraction
  • comparing numbers

We don’t have a sight word center or a word work center. Those activities are in the tubs. The reason behind this is because some kids might need more work with CVC words and less with sight words. So that group will have more CVC word activities and less sight word activities. This wouldn’t be possible if we had individual centers for word work, etc.

These are examples of literacy activities that would be included in the tubs:

Each of the activities also includes a recording sheet. The activity sheets are designed to help students slow down and focus on their work as well as providing accountability. These are NOT collected or graded. When the students finish an activity, the recording sheet goes home. So inside, each tub you find the pieces/cards for the activity and copies of the recording sheets. There’s no easy way to know how many copies of the recording sheets to make. I make about 10-12. The kids know if there’s not a recording sheet they can do the activity without it but they tell me so I can make more.

This video gives you a peek into our tubs:

FAQs About Tubs

Here are a few of the questions we get about the tubs:

  • Where did you get the magnificent piece of furniture? Well, it was in a classroom that I moved into years ago. They’re hard to find because they’re about 30 years old. True story. This beast goes with me wherever I go. However, we have a post on how to make your own tubs with PVC pipe. That post is linked at the end of this post.
  • How often do you change your centers? Remember, the centers never change. The ACTIVITIES in the centers change. We change the activities about once a month. Remember all of those choices mean there’s no need to change them often because the students never run out of things to do.
  • What about the early finishers? Nope. None. We don’t have them. If you finish an activity, you do another activity. You never finish centers. You finish activities, but then you just do another activity.
  • Do you rotate? Nope. That wastes time. No rotations. We move the wheel each day before we start centers.
  • What if they do the same tub over and over again? It’s not a battle to fight because those are skills they need to practice on. If I see it happening I do STRONGLY encourage them to choose something else.

Where Can We Get Center Activities For Our Tubs?

If you’re looking for some resources to start filling your tubs, I recommend our year-long center creations:

For more thematic centers, visit our TKS Online Store!

For more information and details on centers, check out these posts:

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