Centers in kindergarten are a must! However, figuring out how to start kindergarten centers can be tough. Here are a few ideas to help you get ready so you can love your daily center time.
Centers in Kindergarten: Make it Simple
Starting centers in kindergarten can be a little daunting. My advice to you is DO. IT. SIMPLY. My goal for that first week of school is to have students GO to their station and STAY! So when I have a fun and engaging task for them to do there, it is simple.
Puzzles & Playdoh
Puzzles are easy. You don’t need to explain much… “This is a puzzle!” DONE!
Listening to books is an easy center to introduce. I like to first have a student model how to listen to the beeps and turn the page. For many students, this is a completely new thing for them.
The library center is a slam dunk! So easy! Students can browse and read books in your classroom library.
Centers in Kindergarten: Build Them Over TIme
Some centers are great to introduce in the beginning and build upon as the year progresses.
The writing station starts out really simple. Students just go there and write! They may only take one paper to work on. Over time, you can nudge them toward doing more. Whereas, in the first few weeks, I was happy with my students just going, writing, and staying.
Pocket Chart Center
The same is true in the pocket chart station. Teach it in your whole group then move it into centers a few days later.
After the first week, I might discuss this station like this, “Friends, when you go to the pocket chart today and every day, I want to you write one of the sentences you made. Let me show you.” NOW, every day, I expect an attempt at writing. I applaud their best efforts. When you brag on their approximations, they are more likely to be risk-takers and excited about doing their best.
Centers in Kindergarten: Keep the Activities Predictable
When students know the structure of an activity, then you can change the content they are working with. As the year progresses, the complexity will go up.
Pick a BUMP game and play it several times in whole group during your first week. Then on the second week of school, it is ready to go into a center. There are a TON of bump games so you can easily use these games throughout the entire year, so you’ll want to be sure your students understand how to play. Once students know the game, you can swap out different versions and you don’t have to reteach the rules. It. Is. The. Same. Game… but with a different academic skill or theme.
Centers in Kindergarten: Building Independence is Key
We know they are going to have some dependency tendencies. This is kindergarten… right? BUT we want students to be empowered to solve their own problems. My students often heard me say… 100 times a day, “How do you think you could solve that problem?” I would also praise those students who were “problem solvers” during our station debrief period. This is the time after station rotation #1 where we all return to the carpet. At this time I would send out compliments and offer short clarification.
“I Can” cards are a great resource. Remember, you can make your own. All you need is a pen and a piece of paper. Kindergartners think their teachers are magical! They will love your drawings!
Centers in Kindergarten : Set High Expectation
There can be a lot of important work being done during center time. Set the behavior expectations high. Yes, there will be some chatter. The amount of chatter depends on how you set your expectations.
Beware… Transitions can be the death of you! I always used music to trigger the time end of center time. I put on a quick song (under 2 minutes) and the students play, “beat the clock.” They have to clean up “neatly and completely” and be waiting on the carpet before the song ends. They love it, and I didn’t have to hustle students along. Major time saver!
If you are looking for other time-saving tips, check out this blog post:
One More Thing...
I will advise you to NOT put 10 new and different stations out at one time. You will lose your mind. Students can listen to about 2 new center introductions a day… that’s it! AND… if they are not going to that station for several days, know that you will need to touch base with them so they are doing the task as designed. I recommend that you introduce a few stations on Monday, then a few more on Wednesday…
This time is important. Getting routines in place are important. I would typically start small group instruction around the 3rd-4th week of school, so how you introduce stations is important. They must be independent.
That’s it! Kindergarten centers in a nutshell!