Learning centers are a great way for kids to work independently, but they can also become disorganized quickly. Come up with an organizational system that works for your classroom.
You first need to decide where the learning centers will be located. It’s best if you can find a permanent spot for each center where you can also store the materials when the centers are not in use. For example, you might set up a literacy center in the classroom library. The materials can be stored in a tub that fits onto one of the shelves in the library.
You also need to teach the kids the boundaries for working in a center. If a child is working at the literacy center in the library, she needs to stay within the shelf area, for example. If a center is set up on a table, the students should stay at that table while working.
Having all of the materials in the learning center is an essential part of management. You want the kids to go directly to the center and get to work without having to go get other materials. Have a container to hold the materials. Containers with lids work well for holding the materials. This prevents the items from getting lost or misplace.
Don’t forget to include instructions in the learning centers. This allows the kids to work independently so you don’t have to constantly answer questions or repeat the instructions. Include labels on the containers with the instructions also attached. For young kids, include pictures that help explain the instructions.
Before you start using learning centers, you need to decide how the kids will use them. Will they decide where to go? Will you assign them to centers? Can they stay as long as they want or will they move after a set amount of time? Once you decide on the details, teach the kids. Getting the kids in a routine makes center time more efficient. They can go right to work instead of standing around or waiting for direction.
Another part of managing learning centers is the accountability. Since you can’t follow every student, you won’t know for sure how much work is getting done. When possible, include activities that have some type of artifact the child can turn in. For example, you might have the kids glue shapes to paper for patterning.
To keep track of which centers the kids have done, create a simple sheet with each center listed. When a child finishes a center, she marks is off. This helps her know where else she needs to go.