Sunday, 21 September 2014

Centres Organization

I've been asked this many times: "How do you manage your centres?"

I first started The Daily 5 three years ago in a Grade 5 LTO (long-term occasional assignment covering a maternity leave). I let the students pick freely - checking in with a clothespin clipped to a chart. It didn't work; students chose the same thing all the time, spent forever choosing, chose what their friends chose, and we spent more time handing out the clothespins and clipping them on the chart than I'd like.

Then I moved to Grades 1/2. I used old library pockets labelled with the centres which were stapled stapled to a bulletin board with popsicle sticks labelled with students' names. It was OK but I had the same problems. Plus, we kept losing or breaking the popsicle sticks!

Now, I made a table with four quadrants. I divided the class into four groups. I did not divide them by age, ability, or any other data! There are a few reasons for this:
  1. to separate behavioural students
  2. availability of resources (I don't have to make 5 copies of the Words Their Way, Sound Skills, or Dolch activity for the Word Work station as there will likely be several different levels of ability in the group.)
  3. so higher-level students can assist lower-level students if needed (as I will be busy with reading conferences)
  4. each group will have roughly the same level of overall independence

I LOVE this because it's small and doesn't take up a lot of wall space. It's not huge, colourful, and clunky. It's not distracting. It's small and purposeful and not overpowering. It's simple and low-prep and low-maintenance.

* I don't do "Read to Someone" regularly as it's too loud at the moment and I like to introduce it later on in the year when they're a bit more mature and can regulate their voices better (and have some read-the-words ability).

Last year, I had the same chart in my room and I used Post-It notes with the centre titles on them and moved them around each centre change. It worked well but Post-Its lose their stickiness. This year, I've labelled coloured popsicle sticks and affixed self-adhesive velcro from the craft section of Dollarama.

When it's time to change the centres, we will reconvene on the carpet and I will assign the new centres. This way, I can ensure each child is practising each skill.

I use the same chart for my BUILD Math centres. I have different popsicle sticks with the BUILD Math centres (Buddy Games, Using Manipulatives, Independent/Interactive Math, Learning Numbers, Doing Math). During our Math block, we just switch-up the sticks we're using! They're all stored neatly in a magnetic locker organizer nearby.

How do I get my guided groups, then?

My groups change all the time based on need and because students are learning and making gains at different paces - plus because of absences, SST (student support teacher) help, et cetera.

Before assigning the groups, I simply announce: "____, I need to have a reading meeting with you. Please meet me at the guided reading table - bring _[any supplies needed]_."

Sometimes, I meet with one student to work on a specific skill - or because of attention difficulties when working in groups - or to complete a reading level assessment with them. Sometimes, it's a group to have a guided reading session.

I hope this helps! How do you organize your centres?


  1. Thanks for sharing. A very simple but practical idea. It makes perfect sense.

  2. You're welcome. It took a lot of experimenting and a lot of failures - and a lot of talking with and learning from colleagues, too! Sometimes, simple is better - at least for me, it was. :)

    1. Sounds great! thanks for sharing.
      Do you do any groups of guided reading?