Implementing learning centers in Kindergarten is imperative in order to run successful intervention groups and/or reading groups. Over the years I’ve learned a lot through trial and error when it comes to planning and storing my centers. I have finally fine-tuned how they’re run and really love how easily I can switch out the center materials plus give easy access the students to pick their learning activity.
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Learning Center Storage + Student Access
I used to utilize table tops for centers every day by putting one learning center “bucket” on each table. Now looking back I see that ‘method’ unfortunately didn’t allow for student choice or much differentiation. When our tables were removed following the pandemic, we were forced to use individual desks and I had to get creative with student access to centers but it allowed me to rethink everything.
Enter: labeled bins! I went to Walmart and got 5 matching storage bins. I labeled them using different colored construction paper for each so I could easily help students identify which is which before they are able to read. By using storage bins for each center, I can put them anywhere around the room, put a big variety of hands-on activities inside, and also give myself a good storage-solution during the year or at the end of the school year when things need a home.
Learning Centers Ideas + How-to
Learning centers typically don’t start being independent for my class until month 2 (or 3 depending on the class!) after we’ve settled into our classroom community and created our learning center ‘agreements’ to stay on task and be respectful with our time, space, and behavior. Once those things are established, I take time to model the thinking and activity in each center bin or ‘zone’ whole-group and let the students try them and take ownership independently little by little while I monitor them. Over the years I have found that expecting students to handle the materials carefully or stay on task is not automatic at the primary age, and it takes practice and guidance together over time to learn how to make centers successful for everyone.
I usually use the following center ‘themes’ and switch out which ones I’m using as well as the activities in the bins as the year progresses. Typically, I only pick 5 centers per week, but having all of these options has helped me gather or make more specific center materials, helps me stay organized, and keeps students engaged and excited to see which ones we will do the following week.
In storage bins:
- math (number work at the beginning of the year)
- word work (like CVC words, but also sight words as the year progresses; sometimes the pocket chart is utilized as a zone with this center)
- letter work (like uppercase/lowercase and letter sounds)
- writing (starts very guided and slow, and gains more independence during spring semester)
- reading/book buddies (these are usually leveled books that are not in my class library, a whisper phone, and a puppet or beanie baby)
- around the room (for clip boards and any corresponding materials for the week)
- puzzles (sometimes games added)
In zones around the room:
- free play (stays on the rug)
- listening center (a station with headphones and boombox)
- computer lab (at student desks – they use a board posted on our Google Classroom that lists specific online learning activties)
- STEM bins (they get a bin from the STEM station and take it to work at a student desk)
To save money, I have a different label on both sides of each bin to change out for something else – for example, ‘reading’ could flip and turn to ‘letter work’ for the start of the year before students are able to read, and math could be flipped to ‘number work’ before putting harder ‘math skills’ inside later in the school year.
I let my table/desk groups name themselves and then we usually do 2 rotations per period the way our schedule is split up. I use a Google slide and switch out the center name/picture and move groups to correspond with the bins and zones we will do for the week.
I usually call 4-5 students out of their center to meet with me (meet with teacher center), but sometimes I will do my teacher center as part of the rotation depending on the skills I’m working on with my groups.
Learning Center Materials
Being in education for 14 years, I have slowly made and gathered center materials after watching other teachers, doing research, scouring Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers, and reading blogs. I have spent plenty of my own money on white boards, learning materials, games, puzzles, and more (from Lakeshore!) and anything you can think of to be honest. But to start, really the only areas to spend money on for centers are the bins, the STEM supplies, a good listening center/books on CD, and puzzles or learning games. A lot of schools or districts supply classes with student Chromebooks, clipboards, books (you could check out from the school library if you don’t have any), math manipulatives (and sometimes curriculum has included centers, too), and student school supplies.
I have found that creating an Amazon wishlist at the beginning of every school year helps with donations for center materials as well as books and storage solutions. Put your wishlist out at Open House or utilize it when parents or PTO members ask how they can help your class. Also, check out this post for further tips plus center games and materials!
I hope this has been a helpful resource to you! I also have more info, a few little tours, and visuals saved in my Instagram highlight videos labeled “classroom” and “teaching”. If you have any questions or want further information, please reach out to me on Instagram or in the comments!
Thanks for stopping by to read!