The Basics of Centers

Centers give teachers the opportunity to focus on specific areas of study. This article describes how you can effortlessly set up centers in your classroom.
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Rotating students through centers

  • Select a signal to change centers. It can be a patterned clap, a bell, a song, or a specific word.
  • During the first week of school, have your students walk through the centers to understand the procedure. One possibility is to have your "center stations" set up in four different areas of your classroom. This will allow students to rotate in a clockwise or counterclockwise fashion. Practice this several times to show your students how you expect them to do this.

Parent help with centers

  • Parents can be of great help with centers. Set up a volunteer calendar at the beginning of the year to schedule different parents to come to class and run one center.
  • Have a schedule on each center's board that shows who is running the center and a general title for the center.
  • After all of the parent volunteers have arrived for the day, explain each center to the children and the volunteer.
  • If possible, have directions and sample work at the centers for parents to refer to.

Ideas for centers
One center should always be guided reading with the teacher. The other three centers depend on the number of available volunteers.

  • Parent centers: spelling, word sorts, vocabulary, letters to student-of-the-week, language arts games, phonics lessons, a thematic lesson from a unit of study, poetry, a writing workshop, Readers Theatre, etc.
  • Independent centers: listening center, silent reading, book share, journal writing, independent language arts games

Shana Ellison is a recent graduate of Dominican University and works as a second-grade teacher at Meadow School in Petaluma, CA.

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