Managing Kindergarten Centers
In order to fit it all in, you’ve gotta have a plan. Managing centers/stations can be an overwhelming challenge without one. Let’s see if I can answer some questions that I have had about centers with these 10 tips for managing kindergarten centers.
Tip #1: Managing How Students Know Where To Go
It all starts with this chart. Naturally, I have real student photos in the pocket chart.
The first few weeks of school, my student come up, touch their photograph with a pointer then slide it over to the right to see their “Blue Station.” The partners go off together to work at that station. When the 15-20 minutes are up, I have the other partner repeat the process to find their “Yellow Station.” TIP: Make sure both students know how to find their station. I had one student just follow their partner around. One day [about the 4th week of school] that partner was absent and the remaining student was like Moses roaming the desert for a bit. Bless!
You will also want to let students know specifically where you want them to do the center activity. This center sign above the set of desks works perfectly!
Tip #2: Limit the Number of Students at Each Center
My students love these BUMP games!
Tip #3 Managing Transitions During Center Time
Tip # 4 Managing Small Groups During Center Time
I pull 2 small groups a day during center time. I pull an additional group during my math station time. If I pull students for a small group during that center activity, they simply miss that center activity. I used to try to schedule it all, but it was like planning a royal wedding… This girl does not have that type of brainpower, nor do I think this is the best use of my planning time. I KNOW their most powerful learning is with me, so I do not stress about it anymore. Plus, they love coming to my table so they rarely complain.
Tip #5: Number of Centers
WOAH! You have 12 kindergarten centers going on at all times? Are you crazy? How do you manage them all?
Each week I don’t really have to. I keep my stations super predictable. We spend the first few weeks of school gradually introducing the activities. After my students learn about the writing work station, the stamping station, or how to complete the roll and write activities; they are good to go! I can just replace the activities each week or month and gradually raise the difficulty of the work.
Tip #6: Student Independence During Center Time
Student independence during center time is crucial because I am working with a small group and do not want to be interrupted. Unless of course, there is blood or fire (or other major emergencies). I definitely don’t need them coming and asking “What do I do at this center?” So, since most activities are predictable, they usually already know. However, I always provide an “I Can” card at the center. It is okay to let them struggle a bit to figure out what to do. We want students who can look at the materials and with confident independence, decipher the task. I do not want to be the person that spoon-feeds their learning. When they ask me what to do at a station, I just say, “What do you think you do?” 9 times out of 10 they can tell me. Why would I want to enable dependence? They can do it if you give them the opportunity to problem solve. This is an “I Can” card from my Dough Centers.
Tip #7: Stamina
Tip #8: Student Accountability
How do I hold students accountable for their center work? This is an old image, but I think it explains it best. That first image… oy! When we only have 1 minute to clean up, put their papers in their bin, put their bin away, and sit down… we tend to stuff… ha!
Several times a week, I have the students take the center bins and sort the papers, so their papers are on their desk. If there are no names, the papers go in the recycling…THE END! No Name = No Reward
Tip #9: Quality Student Work
I want their center work to be quality work. First, we provide a rubric. Sometimes the most capable student rushes through their work in order to be “done.” Well, I want students to make smart color choices because it is through illustrations that they make their meaning known. I want them to color carefully because it helps to strengthen their writing muscles. So this is our rubric. Note: One student’s “All Star Work” may not look the same as another students. I am striving for personal best and we celebrate the
I also provide exemplars and use those exemplars as a tool to help nudge students forward.
How often do I change out the center activities? I used to change it every Monday… years ago… but this is what I noticed. Some bins still had papers left for students to work on. I was wasting paper. Here is how I solved the problem. At the beginning of the month, I made all my station activities and response pages. I filled the bins, then held the other center activities aside. I trained my students to bring the bin to me when they took the last 2 response pages out. They didn’t interrupt my group, they would just put the bin on the floor. When I was done with my small group, I would fill the bin. When the station time was up, the students brought me what was left of their materials (sorting cards, I can cards..) and picked up the newly filled bin… EASY! No more Monday morning crazy time!
I hope you found these tips for managing kindergarten centers helpful!
Find More Kindergarten Center Management and Curriculum Ideas:
- What does my schedule look like
- How to introduce stations at the beginning of the year
- What does a guided reading lesson look like
- Literacy station ideas
- Math station ideas
- Early Finishers “I’m DONE!”
- Writers workshop nuts and bolts
- Reading workshop nuts and bolts
- Math workshop questions answered
- Classroom behavior and expectations
- Organizing for Instruction (click HERE to view)