We’re so excited to have guest blogger Amy Mezni from Teaching Ideas 4U on the blog today! If you want to use centers in your classroom, then you’ll find her guest post on tips for organizing classroom centers very useful!
Are you new to using classroom centers? As an upper grade teacher, I know I was. I used to shudder at the mere thought of trying to organize all those big bodies into on-task groups. This year I wanted to make a change. I spent a lot of time researching student-to-student interaction, and I decided that centers would be a terrific addition to my class!
Just one problem: how in the world do you organize all of those centers?
See, like many people, organization is just not my strong suit. I have pinned many pictures of beautiful classrooms and dreamed of every item being in its place! Then, twenty-four fifth graders entered and inhabited my “much-smaller-than-Pinterest” classroom, and pretty went out the window.
Centers have a lot of value, but you need to be organized, organized, organized. Now, what you organize may depend upon what you teach. I have a self-contained classroom, but some teachers switch and only teach one subject. I am going to outline some strategies that worked for me, but you may need to adapt them to your own classroom.
1. Student Data
Organizing your student information is so important. This is the first year I have ever done a file like this, and it is absolutely invaluable. I keep it in my plan book. I take it to meetings. I take it out for parent phone calls. You get the idea. I included the student’s state test scores, as well as their current reading and math levels (we use Lexiles). I then group them into reading and math groups according to ability. I do not always group them by ability during centers, but at least I have a starting point when I do.
2. Center Activities Chart
If you are new to centers, then you may not envision how many activities you will one day have. (You will have a lot. Trust me.) This helps to remind you which activities you have already used so you don’t accidentally pull out the same one.
I filled in some example reading activities on the chart. Since I teach all subjects, I usually have a center focused on each subject area – even if it is a reading activity about our current science content. Having this organizer also helps me to shift groups. I just write the centers up on the white board and move the letters down one each time.
3. Activity Materials
This was the most challenging for me. I found a lot of great center materials. Now, how could I store them so they were easily accessible? I also needed my storage to be cheap. (Cheap is the motto in our house.) Here are the storage materials I use:
- large and small crates
- file envelopes of various sizes from a certain store’s $1 area at the front of the store
- storage bags – mostly gallon size
- permanent markers
- duct tape in different colors
- science fair display boards
I am sure you were nodding along until you hit the last item. I seriously love the idea of using science fair boards as mobile bulletin boards. My room has two square bulletin boards. I do not have a lot of display area. The science fair boards easily set up on a table, in the chalk tray of your unused chalkboard, on the floor, etc. In the picture is my writing center that I created on a science fair board. I just copy the files I want to use, put the copies in the file folders on the board, and the center is ready!
For task cards or page-sized game boards, I use those cheap plastic file envelopes. I write the subject, the topic, and the name of the activity on the outside with a permanent marker. To help me find things quickly, I use colored duct tape to label each subject – yellow for math, pink for reading, etc. Once I have that done, I organize them in crates. Right now I only have the two crates, but by the end of the year I expect that I will have many more resources. At that point, I will split the crates into subject area. I use the storage bags to store anything I use that won’t fit into the envelopes – like card games and clothespins.
I hope you find these tips helpful! What are your best tips for storing center materials?
Amy Mezni comes from a family of teachers. Her grandmother and sister both taught music, while both she and her brother have taught all ages. Her passion is the middle grades, and she has spent most of her teaching career in grades 4-8. Amy lives with her husband and two children on Florida’s Space Coast.