How do I get the most out of centers?

Discussion in 'Kindergarten' started by clld2tch, Jan 14, 2010.

  1. clld2tch

    clld2tch Rookie

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    Jan 14, 2010

    Hey everybody,

    Can anyone offer any suggestions for how to make centers more productive? Right now, I don't feel like my kids really get anything from centers. The reading center (which used to be the worst), is now the most productive place for my kids. They have word hunts, Write the Room, Roll the word, and just time to look at books. In the other centers, I just don't think students are practicing skills. It's more of a free for all and I know that's my fault. Just following what other K teachers do at my school.
    I've checked several websites and I'm playing around with a few ideas. Just wanted the opinion of a few good teachers:).

    Thanks!
     
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  3. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Jan 15, 2010

    Just make sure you are modeling each activity several times before you put it out and monitoring ready to redirect if they are not doing the specified activity. My question would be, are you changing out the materials often? Sometimes the kids start getting bored with an activity and then it becomes less effective. I try to have a set of stations for the week and vary the types of activities weekly.

    So are you looking for ideas for workstations in math?
     
  4. halpey1

    halpey1 Groupie

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    Jan 15, 2010

    Another tip I got from a conference that has TRANSFORMED my center time is partnering up my students. Everyone has a buddy for center time... I pick their partners and they change every week (when we change centers). I usually pair them high/low and boy/girl, but not exclusively. This works well in my room because they have someone to work with, help them, pace with, etc. You do have to talk about and model how to work well together, but overall - this is the most amazing way to make centers run smoothly. :D
     
  5. clld2tch

    clld2tch Rookie

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    Jan 15, 2010

    Well...the thing is...I only have a handful of things for them to do. This is my first year in kindergarten and the pickins', as far as manipulatives and the like, are slim. Everything I have is already out:( I taught them how to use the materials but apparently they've become bored with it, as you said. I guess I feel like I should be more in control of what they are working on; In our K classes, the kids just "go for it". They can use whatever manipulatives they want in their particular center. Obviously, that doesn't work for me. Wouldn't it make more sense to give them a few assignments or tasks to pick from? I really want to change the way things are going soon. Thanks for your help guys.
     
  6. KLSSwimmer

    KLSSwimmer Habitué

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    Jan 15, 2010

    I think that it would help to have more structure to your center time. I am working on getting more structure in my center. Right now students can choose from computer, leap pads, dvd players, math counting manipulatives, reading center, dry-erase boards, pocket chart, or big books (just to name a few).
     
  7. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Jan 15, 2010

    It's my first year in K too and I don't have manipulatives either but I change up my centers all the time. I have 8 different tubs for them to choose from. Each day they must complete the papers in their folders. Then they can choose one of the tubs. Once they complete it, they put a check mark next to that letter/description on the chart in their folder, then ask my aide to sign the other column proving she looked at it. Sometimes I sign it. I have a small class so this part may not work for you. The idea that you need lots of money to do this is not a good argument though. There is a lot you can do. With my 8 centers I keep at least 4 of them each week and add a few new ones at a time. They may keep tub C for several weeks before I change it. But I never change all the tubs every week because then I would have to explain to them what to do too often. So I wait until they've seen something for a while and can do it independently or I choose something new that I think they can understand fairly easy.

    Some examples.....

    *matching game for sight words
    *provide some index cards and have them make their own matching game using the word wall and play with a friend or two. (don't do this until they understand how to play and make a matching game).
    *use advertising to do sorting practices (again, my students have done enough sorting practices that they can do this). I provide the sorting mat (on printed paper so they can glue it on).
    *using magazines to sort letters vs. words (again, sorting practice).
    *using old scrabble tiles to spell out words of the week
    *using our classroom child-sized easel for all kinds of things (paid $20 at target).
    *using sticky notes to write the body part words they find on each page of a certain book (or any other similar idea) and posting it on it. Sometimes I might put words on sticky notes in the back of the big books and then have them find them and put them on the words. THey put them back for the next person.
    *Read around the room worksheets, clipboards and some pointy devices (dollar store rummage)
    *magnetic letter work ($5 per set from Toys R Us)
    *using magazines to tell a story (provide caption/cartoon strip paper)
    *putting laminated cards in ABC order
    *handwriting practice (laminated and reuse)
    *count the number of sentences on each page in their independent books, write the number words and number on sticky notes on each page.
    *shaving cream writing (cost, but so much fun)
    *make your own low cost play dough each week for them to roll out the letters, etc.
    *print letter templates from DLTK website, enlarge them, let them cut them out and do whatever letter craft the website gives you (always low cost or free)
    *buddy read

    For me putting things in specific bins and putting sticky notes with the letters A-H on them, lets me choose new things to change out without confusing them. I have the letter B on a table and the letter H on the easel. They find them. :)

    OH, and I have a poetry book they are practicing on and they add to their ABC book each week.
     
  8. lafogosa

    lafogosa Companion

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    Jan 15, 2010

    I make cloze activities for reading centers.
    If I put them on the computer, they have to take "notes" on what they learned.
    For word work centers, they must write at least 20 words from around the room or on flashcards. They then must pick words and write a short sentence or two.
    THey love letter detectives as well-in a box place Highlights and other kid-friendly magazines, colored pencils, and magnifying glasses and have students find letters, target words, or sight words.
    Wipe off boards are really good.
    I made a lot of activities from paper plates and paper clips, too.

    fcrr.org can give you some great, skill-specific ideas!
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2010
  9. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    Jan 15, 2010

    Yes, you need to have some different tasks to do - the 2 big ways we do this at my school are: I can lists or task cards.

    I can lists are chart paper where you write "I can" at the top and then lead the class to help you write a list of things they can do (probably with a sketch to help them "read" it) at that center. The spend lots of time modeling the behaviors and monitoring centers.

    Some task cards can be printed from Carl's Corner (http://01fa982.netsolhost.com/Centers/Read the Roombw.pdf) or you can use the ideas to make your own. I put a few out and change them out as needed. You can either put them on a ring and put several in each center or make a poster that you can tape the cards to (more like an I Can poster).

    One speaker I have seen a few times recommends having a product for every center so the kids are more accountable for completing the tasks. So, the listening center would have a response sheet (appropriate to K), a making words activity would have a record sheet for them to record their words, etc...

    Some of the K teachers have a "have-to" activity that each group starts with each day. After they complete their "have-to" they can choose from the other choices for the day and students who don't complete the have-to centers have a boring day of seatwork during center time the next week.

    Some websites for cheap/free center ideas:
    www.carlscorner.us.com/
    littlegiraffes.com
    http://www.kellyskindergarten.com/
     
  10. sevenplus

    sevenplus Connoisseur

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    Jan 16, 2010

    It depends on the purpose of your centers. I use centers as a time for students to practice skills and do hands-on activities related to what we have been learning. I have 6 centers and we do them 2 afternoons, so they rotate through 3 a day.

    ONE of them is "tubs" such as Legos, gears, pegboards, etc.
    One is sometimes puzzles.
    I also have a computer center, an art center, and the other two are a task to complete.

    Once students complete their jobs, there are some limited choices that they can do at that center until the time is up (whiteboards, letter magnets, etc.).

    I also have a "choice" time which is separate from center time where students can choose what they want to do in the room: art, computers, blocks, housekeeping, puzzles, playdoh, whiteboards, or tubs (manipulatives).

    You really don't need lots of manipulatives to have interesting centers, but it will take you some time to create things. During my first few years I made lots of games, built my repertoire of art activities, etc.
     
  11. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Jan 16, 2010

    Another good resource for reading workstations:


    http://www.fcrr.org/Curriculum/studentCenterActivities.shtm

    It's print and laminate. You can change the tasks you have in your workstations as others have said to go along with your curriculum. So using the same manipulatives, but with a different outcome expected. Making patterns one week, sorting another, etc. All my family and friends know never to throw away a gameboard-even if there are pieces missing I know I can make a workstation out of it. You can find them at garage sales sometimes as well. Or like I just bought some really cute mailboxes in Target's Dollar Spot-$6.00 -will turn it into a letter sorting center for February. Sometimes we poor teachers have to be creative but it's worth it to make those workstations more exciting! ;)
     
  12. PocketfuloCntrs

    PocketfuloCntrs Rookie

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    Jan 21, 2010

    Center Ideas

    I have found that changing the materials or adding "new" centers makes a big difference for the children. It is also important to practice the centers before allowing children to work in them on their own.

    Magnet Center - I just use the side of a file cabinet and change the items. I have a few different sized magnetic letters and print out word cards for kids to write - names, sight words, days of the week, months etc. They love this! You could also use cookie sheets.

    "Names" center - I place a variety of activities for the kids to do with each others names - rainbow writing, matching games, sorting (boys/girls, which letters) etc.

    ABC Center - use a variety of letter games . . . bingo . . . go fish . . .

    Puzzle Center - kids LOVE this center and I look for puzzles at yard sales.

    I have a website that I have created for teachers with printable learning centers. I hope you find this helpful in your classroom.
    www.pocketfulofcenters.com

    Pam B
     
  13. clld2tch

    clld2tch Rookie

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    Jan 24, 2010

    Thanks for your responses everyone. I ran across some activities that I can use to review skills before they do choice centers, but I think that I ultimately want to keep each task in a bin (like I know some of you have done) and just rotate. Now, I have another issue.:) Is this something I should tackle in the middle of the year or should I just wait for a new start next year? I REALLY wish I could start tomorrow. But this is one of those things that will take a while to prepare...any thoughts?
     
  14. sevenplus

    sevenplus Connoisseur

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    Jan 24, 2010

    Start them NOW. There is sooooo much to do at the beginning of the year. You'll be so thankful that you already have them set up and ready to go. Plus, you'll know how it goes this year and if you'll need to tweak anything for next year.
     
  15. Rebel1

    Rebel1 Connoisseur

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    Jan 24, 2010

    I like this idea!
    I am going to try it this week and I will let you know how it turns out. Thanks for sharing this.
    Rebel1
     
  16. Rebel1

    Rebel1 Connoisseur

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    Jan 24, 2010

    The sooner you start it, the faster your children will benefit from it. You have to find some parents/volunteers who can help you with preparing the stuff ASAP.:D
    Good luck,
    Rebel1
     
  17. sarzacsmom

    sarzacsmom Groupie

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    Jan 26, 2010

    I put together a few simple things for a science center that were almost free--

    I Spy Rice -- shoebox size rubbermaid style tub ($1 at Walmart) and a bag of rice (about a $) and put all kinds of small items in it for them to dig through and look for with a spoon or their hands-- great for calming and quiet and develops observation and fine motor skills

    discovery bottles : empty water bottles (recycled), baby oil (bought at the dollar store) and misc items and food coloring. I made a 1/2 oil !/2 water wave bottle, an I spy bottle, a tornado bottle, color mixing bottles (tint oil and water different colors), etc. I have some magnets and magnetic items in a bin, a bin of books that I got with my bonus points from scholastic, a buch of bug cards that I made from a book about bug indentification (25 cents at a yard sale) and cut the pictures out and laminated them and I have a bin of plastic bugs to go with them, magnifying glasses, plastic slinkies, and my tresure this year, a bin of moon sand. I made a listening center with a small table (like in a kitchen area) taht someone was tossing out from antoher room, an old CD/tape p layer (the cd part doesn't work), an inexpensive splitter and two sets of headphones (total cost about 10 at Kmart) and story tape books that I scavanged or got with scholstic bonus p oints, a library area, block area with foam and wood blocks, cars, dinosaurs, train set, barbie camper, a ktichen area with play food, baby dolls and various paraphanelia, a literacy center with a table , 2 chairs, art supplies, lots of laminated writing practice papers etc, and bins of table choice mainipulativies that I scavanged or bought real cheap--- and puzzles and ABC matching and beginnig sounds games I made myself. I have signs in each center and places on the signs for them to velcro their names. If there are no more spots the center is full. I have a total of 16 spots. I randomly rotate things out of the classroom so they don't get too bored with them
     

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