Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Rules when Implementing Centers

Yes, I know that the "educational political correctness" is Literacy Workstation, but I am still going to call them centers.  It saves time to say and I am all about being efficient ; )

The Following is my Center Theory 
My rules when implementing centers.
  1. Have the students do the same center activity every week, but change the skill focus.  Teaching how to do an activity is a waste of time.  Students need to spend more time practicing the skill.  These center activities that never change, I call my "MUST DO" activities.  This means it is the first thing they must do in the center.
  2. Every station has a "MUST DO" activity and a "FUN NEVER-ENDING" activity.  The never ending activity is meant as a reward and motivator for them to finish the "must do" activity.  These never change and are differentiated.  Examples of possible never-ending activities would be: letter stamps, spelling scrabble (I explained this in a previous post), reading in the library, play dough letter stamps, writing etc.  A student will never finish a never-ending center or it is designed to take a long time to complete.  This eliminates the problem of students not having anything to do during centers.  Their work is never done. 
  3. I try to give my students at least two activity choices when they have finished their "must do" activity.  One choice will be the "never-ending" activity and the other one maybe an activity that reinforces a past skill.  These activities are new and therefore, exciting for the students (since it is something different), so I model it whole group, on Monday, before putting it in the center for that week.
  4. I post simple directions in the center.  I number each direction, so they know what to do first and last.
  5. I have two center rotations.  At the end of each center rotation, the students put their heads down and I walk around to "inspect" the center supplies.  This takes 1-2 min.  However, I feel it is a necessity if you want your supplies to be intact and everlasting.    
  6. I am super organized when it comes to putting my center activities in their tubs.  I have taught my students to place the flat things on the bottom of the tub.  Putting supplies in a tub may seem like an easy task, however, spacial awareness must be taught.  They need to understand that if you place something in diagonal it will get bent and that if it is awkward in shape, you might want to put it on top of the flat supplies.  Teaching how to respect the supplies of the classroom goes a long way. 
Directions are posted at each center.  Notice I use words and pictures.  These direction never change but the skills do in the "must do" activity.  The "must do" activity will be #1.
Directions are posted at each center.  Notice I use words and pictures.  These direction never change but the skills do in the "must do" activity.  The "must do" activity will be #1.
Example of a "never-ending" center activity.  These letter dough stampers were purchased at Lakeshore.
Example of a "never-ending" center activity.  These letter dough stampers were purchased at Lakeshore.
Example of a "never-ending" center activity.  You can print these mats from Alphabete Avenue.  This activity is great for the beginning of the year.
This is an example of a "never-ending" center activity.  I love these stamps because they have the lines underneath each letter.  So, the students do not accidently stamp them upside-down.  I purchased them from School Aids.


  1. Hey there! I just came across your site and I LOVE your ideas! I am looking for a new way to do my centers to help the kids stay on task while I'm doing my small groups and this is very similar to mine- but i love how they have a choice for their neverending stations! Do you happen to have a list of all the stations you use for that? If so, would you mind sharing?! Thanks again for sharing your awesome ideas!

  2. Thanks. I don't know if I am going to answer your question correctly, but here it goes....
    A.) Every station has 3 activities.
    B.) One is a "must do" activity that is geared towards our weekly skills.
    1.) Phonics Puzzles (w/ wkly phonics wds)
    2.) Word Sort (w/ wkly phonics wds)
    3.) Sentence Puzzles (w/ wkly sight words)
    4.) ABC Order Words (w/ wkly phonics wds)
    5.) Rhyming Puzzles (w/ wkly phonics wds)
    C.) One is a never ending activity. These are differentiated and can be used in any lower grade level, really. I use the following..
    1.) ABC Stamps-kids stamp sight words or spelling words
    2.) Play Dough Stampers- kids stamp sight, spelling or CVC words
    3.) Spelling Scrabble-kids use Scrabble tiles for sight, spelling or CVC words
    4.) Magnetic Letters-kids use for sight,spelling,CVC words
    5.) White Boards/Magna Doodle-kids use for sight, spelling, CVC, sentences.
    6.) Read in the Library
    D.) The last activity is a throw-in. It is normally some fun activity that the students can finish. If you look under ELA centers, I have some examples of the activities (phonics mats, contraction puzzles, CVC work, phonemic awareness picture sort, phonics stamps etc.)

    The students only have 1 never ending activity in a center, but they can choose to do the throw-in activity if they don't want to do the never ending activity. I never change the never ending activity. It will always stay in the same center, so I don't have to waste time explaining.

    Wow....I hope I didn't confuse you. Basically, all the never ending activities focus on the same skill (sight,spelling,CVC wrds) they are just practicing it in a different way...but they think it is different ; )

    You can do something as simple as getting a bunch of funky-colored pens and have some paper for writing sight, spelling or CVC words. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money.

    Now, I feel like I am more thing...the Never Ending Centers are how I teach my kids to do centers in the beginning of the year.

    Hahaha....anyway, I know that is WAY more information than you wanted. Good luck and I would love to know what you decide to do!!!

  3. I came across your site and spent most of the day looking over all the wonderful ideas you have. I will be moving from second to first next year, so am spending most of what is left of our summer making games for centers. I love your directions for your comprehension and fluency and the phonics and vocabulary centers. Are they available to print out on your site or are do you have them on teacherspayteachers for sale? I think the visual of having directions with picture cues would make center time so much easier.
    Again, awesome job!

  4. Thanks for the comment! You can give me your email and I can send them to you.

  5. OMG...thank you so much! I am in the middle of making word cards and lots of other fun literacy things you have in your room! My email is Thanks again. Christine

  6. Mrs. Berg,
    I was wondering if you had sent the direction sheets for your centers. I am doing my laminating tomorrow and hoped to have them by then. Thanks again for offering to send them to me.

    Chris Wallis

  7. I love your center direction signs! Would you be willing to e-mail them to me?


  8. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas! They are really helpful!!!!!!

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