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. As you know, we need to allow time in our schedule for reading groups and math groups, so adding center time to your daily schedule is essential. Additionally, this is a great way for students to practice social skills.
CENTERS IN KINDERGARTEN: MAKE IT SIMPLE
Starting centers in kindergarten at the beginning of the year 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 to implement in a kindergarten classroom. You don’t need to explain much… “This is a puzzle!” DONE!
These puzzles are from my color centers and are a perfect activity to add to your center rotations for the beginning of the school year.
A dough activity is another great option for a simple activity.
Check out these dough centers for math and literacy:
Listening to books is an easy center activity 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 skill for them.
There are listening center response activities for students to complete after listening to the story. Each book has a variety of literacy skills with a recording sheet. They are a great way to introduce students to many different books.
The library center is a slam dunk! So easy! Students can browse and read books in your classroom library. This is the best way to allow young children to explore their interests.
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.
The writing center cards and response activities are all newly updated! Check out the year-long bundle here:
Pocket Chart Center
The same is true in the pocket chart station. Teach these meaningful activities with your whole kindergarten group then move them 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 with the whole class 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.
Students play bump during literacy stations as word work centers or you can also have them practice math skills.
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. Virtually all of my kindergarten literacy centers and math centers have these included. These viusal directions really help students become independent centers gurus! 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!
These little learners are working on letter recognition.
Just Roll With It centers are another great option for a predictable center.
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.
Students 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.
You will want a variety of activities to meet the needs of your students. I recommend that you introduce a few stations on Monday, then a few more on Wednesday…
This time is important. Getting routines in place is important. I would typically start small group time around the 3rd-4th week of school.
However, each year is different so you may need to start centers at a different time in your school year. Sometimes it is better to go slow, so you can go fast later. Center times is when students are doing independent activities, so we want to limit introducing a lot of new skills at once.
That’s it! Kindergarten centers in a nutshell!
So helpful! I am SO excited about this year because I have so many thing from last year that worked and that are ready to go!! Learned a ton at the SDE conference, too!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing.
You are welcome!!!
How many Stations do you have and how many do they do a day?Do you expect students to go to all Stations? How do they move?
Stations Management I bet this post will answer a lot of your questions! If not, let me know!
I have a quick question, how do the students know what part of the room to go to when they grab their station bin? Do they have a certain place to go with the station or do you just have them work at their desk?
Hi Mrs. Willis,
Do you offer your writing lists anywhere? They look amazing!
Yes! They are in the Writing Stations units. Simply click on the links in the blog post.
Thanks so much for this post! I’m a first year teacher and it was super helpful.
Do you do guided reading during this time? If so… how many students do you pull at a time for guided reading? As you pull students for guided reading, it leaves students to work by themselves at that station. Does this cause a problem if they were playing a game? Thanks!
It does not for me. I have students leaving my room all the time (speech or vision tutoring). This is how I handle it. If they are left alone at a station, I tell them to play with my dog, Dexter. Who is not in the classroom, but they hear a ton of stories about him… so they use their imagination. I actually have a picture somewhere where they put “Dexter” down as their partner in a response sheet. HA! One sweetie came up to me and said, “Dexter won!” I just replied, “Well, he is a smart dog.” (which is not really true… bless his heart!”
Do you have the updated literacy station cards somewhere? I love the cute graphics
I updated them a few years ago. You can find some of them in this unit:
Hi! This was super helpful! What is your procedure for students that have questions or get done with your work or station early while you’re working with a group? How do you manage those situations?
Here is a post on early finishers: Early Finishers
We have an anchor chart for what to do if they have questions… Basically… they are not allowed to talk to me while I am at my table unless “they are bleeding or their hair is on fire.” This makes them laugh. I don’t think I have a picture of the anchor chart, but it is a “self-help strategy” chart. You can find it: Anchor Charts
I love your stations…am slowly adding your bundles to my rotations. Finally feel like I am getting a handle on my literacy stations. Now I am working on my math stations. Due you have math station cards like the literacy ones?
If so, where can I find them?
I’m a first year teacher and reading your blog posts and TpT resources have really helped me wrap my mind around centers and how to implement them into my kindergarten classroom. In your post you mention introducing a couple centers per day. My question…which might be obvious…but until all the centers are introduced and you have 2 students at each of your stations, what do you do during center time? Do all the students practice the two that you have introduced for that day until they are all in the rotation?
Students do things like puzzles and dough activities. I JUST did a blog post that will show you WEEK 1 lesson plans. Let’s see if that helps
Kindergarten lesson plans- week 1
I am very interested in the activities this blog shows for the Writing center. Are those available to purchase? Can you tell me the name of the product to look for it? It’s the one that has several pictures in a clothesline and the kids choose to write list, story, etc. Thanks in advance.
Yes, you just need to click on the images and it will take you to the place where you can make a purchase. Thank you
I love your blog, webinars and products. I am a teacher in Australia. I have just done your Guided Reading and Engaging Readers webinars and loved them!
In the Guided Reading webinar, you mentioned another webinar about running centers. I have looked and looked but I can’t find a link to it. Is this still available?
I’m waiting for an update to be done on my software, then I will reschedule it soon. I hope to have it scheduled within the next few weeks. If you are on my email list, you will be notified when it is available. 🙂
Wonderful! Thanks Deedee!
I have a full time teachers aid in my kinder room. I always have a hard time figuring out things for her to do. What do you suggest would be a good for her to do during centers?
How lucky you are!
I would first suggest that she observes YOU for a few days so she can see the tone you would like set during center time. Depending on the skills of the para, I would ask her to pull a group and do a guided reading lesson with your higher students once you start guided reading.