Monday, August 17, 2015

Back to School Centers and How to Introduce!

School has officially started for a lot of you and quickly approaching for others! I have had a lot of people ask about my Back to School Centers and how I introduce them at the beginning of the school year. I absolutely love centers time with my students and I know it is their favorite time of the day! They get so excited and engaged with the activities that I swear I could leave the room and they would never even notice!

The skills included in my Back to School Centers are: handwriting, forming letters, beginning sounds, uppercase and lowercase letters match, sorting letters, building sight words, identifying letters, rhyming, simple sentence building, counting, counting out pictures, shapes, ten frames, ordering numbers, showing numbers in a variety of ways, building numbers, sorting, and SO MUCH MORE!!  There are 27 activities altogether!

Here are some pictures of a handful of the center activities included in my Back to School Centers (not all activities are pictured below).

Keep reading after the pictures to see how I introduce centers in my classroom!

Show numbers 1-10 by clipping the card with the correct number of clothespins.

Show numbers 1-10 in a variety of ways puzzle.

Count out the correct number of students to show the number on the bus.

Match the number to the ten frame.

Make number towers with unifix cubes.

Roll and remove! A fun game to play independently or with 2+ players.

Number Order Puzzles

Spin and Graph (multiple spinners to choose from)

Counting objects mystery picture.

Sorting letters and numbers.
Build a sight word.

Letter Hunt- Find and cover the matching letters

Clip the matching lowercase letter.

Match uppercase and lowercase letters.

Beginning Sounds Match

Sentence Unscramble

Rhyming Words

I forgot to mention that each center activity includes a kid friendly 'I Can' poster for independence while working on each center activity. These are life savers! I use these to introduce the center and I am always seeing my students refer to them when they get to their center.

Now it's time to talk about how I introduce centers in my classroom!!! :)
The next part has a lot of reading, but I wanted to share in detail how I introduce and run my centers at the beginning of the year. :)
I do both math and literacy centers together. I usually introduce my Back to School Centers right at the start of the third week of school. I wait a couple weeks because I really like for my students to get a chance to learn and practice our classroom procedures, rules, and expectations. They definitely earn these centers after all of their hard work!

Having kindergarteners and wanting them to stay in one place/area for 15+ minutes was always very scary for me!!! I couldn't wrap my head around how I was going to introduce everything and how I was going to do my procedures for centers! However, these hands-on center activities really had my students working the entire time, in one place, was organized, and really allowed for a fun introduction to centers! I like to place the center activities into individual buckets. I get these buckets from The Dollar Tree.
(Pictured above are some of my November Centers)
Inside the buckets are:
 - 'I Can' Kid Friendly Poster
- Center Cards/Activity
- Student Accountability Sheet
- Pencils and Crayons
- Any manipulatives needed for an activity

All of these things fit right inside the buckets perfectly! Everything is in one place and easy for the students to take out of the bucket and to put away. My Back to School Centers includes 27 different activities (16 Math and 13 Literacy). I do not introduce ALL of these centers to my students at one time! I couldn't even imagine!!! That would probably take the entire day!

Day 1 and 2 of Centers:
I introduce 4 centers at a time. I bring everyone to the carpet and show each of the 4 activities. When I show them these activities, I model how to do the activity, I act like a student (showing good behaviors and not so good), then let a student model for the class. That way everyone is understanding of the activity, procedure, and expectations. I model all 4 activities this way. Then, I place a bucket on 4 of the tables and split the students between the 4 tables and also have some go to my classroom library and classroom computers. (6 groups altogether). I walk through the center rotation about 5 times. No joke! It makes the students laugh after the 3rd time and really helps them remember!
The night before I introduce the first 4 centers and library/computers, I jot down my students names into 6 groups. These groups are mixed and they are not their actual centers groups. I do not have any specific groups right at the beginning of the school year, but the groups I jot down are the groups they will work with for a little bit of time. My main goal while introducing centers is just for the students to understand the activities, procedures, and expectations.
I have my students first start with 10 minutes at each center. 4 of the centers are at the tables and the students are working together on that center. The other 2 groups are at my classroom library and computers. When the 10 minutes is up, I have a song play in the background. This allows them to know that it is time to clean up the center (put it in the bucket the way they received it) and to sit quietly at the table/center activity that they are at. I tell them that it is important that we can hear the music and it really allows for a quiet clean up!!
Once everyone has cleaned up their center and are all sitting, I have each group point to the table/center they will be rotating to next. This really allows them to see if their group is on the same page and if not then they can help each other out or ask me! :) If everyone is good to go and knows where they are going I play the music again to allow the quiet transition (since I told them it is important to hear the music). Works like magic!! When the music stops, they are ready to dive right in to their new center activity. The first 2 days I have them work in their centers for 10 minutes each. I have them rotate to 3 centers each day which allowed them to get to all 6 centers after two days. We celebrate our hard work and success!

Day 3 and 4 of Centers:
On the 3rd day of centers, I introduce 4 more center activities. I do not put away the other 4 center activities from day 1 and 2. Instead, I add another activity to each table. Each table now has 2 center activities for the students to choose from and I still have my classroom library/computers as a rotation. Before I have them go to the tables, I explain that if they are working with both buckets that they need to make sure to keep the activities separate and do their best not to mix them up. I am really impressed with how well they do with this! They love helping each other out and there is always one that seems to take charge and make sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to in their group :) Depending on how the first 2 days go, I like to keep each center rotation at 10 minutes for the first week with 3 rotations each day.

Where do I go from here?
I keep introducing about 4 centers to the students at a time every 2-3 days until there are 4-5 buckets at each table. It may sound a bit crazy, but I really do like to allow my students to choose from the activities they are working on. It keeps them engaged, excited, and gives them some independence. If I notice they keep working on the same activities when they rotate, I steer them to a different bucket in a fun way! :) Now when there are this many centers going on at a table, there is no way we can have all 4 or 5 buckets on each table! I have 4 shelves in my classroom that are designated for the centers buckets. Each table has a specific shelf for the centers buckets. By the time we run out of room at our tables and we need to place the buckets on the shelf, my kiddos have a good idea of the centers procedures. The only thing that changes is that instead of the buckets already being on the table, they just walk over to their specific tables shelf and pick the activity they want to work on. If they finish an activity before I have them rotate, they can clean up the center and choose a different bucket from their shelf to work on.

What if a student didn't finish their center work and it is time to rotate?
There are often times where a student does not finish their center activity and are kind of bummed out that they have to clean up. In order to keep the hard work the student has already done, I have a folder for each student and they place their unfinished center work in that folder. So when they come back to that center another day, they can pull out the work they have already started and finish the activity.

Now I know this was a TON to read!! If you took the time to read all of that... THANK YOU!! I really really hope that it can help you in some way or maybe give you some ideas that you can use in your classroom!

You can grab these Back to School Centers BUNDLED or separately (Literacy or Math). I also have these centers BUNDLED with my Back to School MEGA BUNDLE! Click on the links below to check them out.

Thanks again! :)

1 comment:

  1. I am teaching K for the first time this year and this post was super helpful. Thanks!


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