Monday, September 26, 2011

Management Monday - Center Time

Hey, all!  I thought that today I would share my very favorite management tip.  I use this for center time in my Pre-K classroom, but I feel like it could be used in a lot of different ways: indoor recess, math groups, guided reading, literacy centers, etc.

Here it is... the infamous center board!


This is a great management tool that I finally figured out and implemented after much trial and error.  I love it because you can very easily open or close centers depending on your needs, and it limits how many children can go to each center.  For example, four children can go to dramatic play, five can go to writing but only two can go to easels.  It also eliminates a lot of fighting and whining, as well as the need for "turns lists."

Here's how it works.  At the end of morning meeting each day, I explain the centers for the day and model any new centers.  Then I give each child their picture, two or three at a time.  The "Star of the Day" always gets to choose their center first.  They choose their center, and the next few children get their picture and make a choice.
Rules for the Center Board
  1. Children can NEVER touch anyone else's picture
  2. Teachers can move children who are uncooperative or are starting to grow roots in any given center
  3. The teacher will choose ONE helper to take the pictures off at the end of center time.  I always let my Star of the Day do it.
This system helps to foster independence and decision making in my students.  They love that they have so much choice in where they will play, and I love that I don't have to be involved 23,484,325 times a day!  Of course, if I notice that someone has been in one center all morning, or that another little one LIVES in the block center, I will encourage them to go elsewhere.  

In case you are wondering "Do these kids play all day?" the answer is no!  There are literacy and math opportunities throughout all of the centers.  Also, we have small group time where the children are rotated by me, and work with myself and Ms. C on very specific skills.  They also must start in the writing center at least once a week.  We have a separate math time, read aloud time and songs/wordplay/letters.  Does this make sense?  I feel like I'm rambling a little too much but you get the idea!

How to Make the Board

Supplies
Foam Board
Construction Paper
Contact Paper
Laminated photographs of each center
Velcro Strips
Velcro Dots
Laminated photographs of each child

1. Glue 10 construction paper rectangles to the foam board (as seen above).  
2. Cover the board with contact paper.
3. Apply one strip of rough velcro to each rectangle.  In the right hand column, the strip should be to the right.  In the left hand column, the strip should be to the left.  See the top photo for clarification.
4. Apply one strip of soft velcro to each center photograph.
5. Apply appropriate amount of rough velcro dots to each center.  This will vary from classroom to classroom and center to center.  
6. Apply one soft dot to the back of each child's photograph as seen below.
7. Sit back and marvel at how smoothly your classroom runs itself!


 Notes: 
  • Last year I cut my children's photographs to 1.5 inches square.  They were too small.  This year, I did 2 inches square.  They were too big.  Next year, I will try for 1.75 inches square.  I'm starting to feel like Goldilocks!
  • ALWAYS use the thickest lamination possible for this project.  I splurged a little to buy 10 millimeter laminate for my little machine and am SO glad I did!
  • It took me about an hour and a half to do this project last year, but this is the second year using the same board so it was totally worth it.  The only damage was one bent corner.  It has also saved me at least $20 in Advil purchases, so I figure it's well worth it. 
  • Put the board in an area of the classroom where a little bit of traffic won't interrupt anyone else.  I have it attached (with velcro, of course) to a bookshelf at the edge of my block area.

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