Monday, June 15, 2015

Starting Centers the First Week of School

I start centers the very first day of school, some may think I am crazy, but trust me--it makes life so much easier (and it makes the time go by faster)!! 
On the first day I already have the kids at assigned seats at different tables (I have 4 tables in my room). Their name tags are removable so when I figure out their behaviors I can always change their seats. I have 4 to 5 kids at each table.  
For one hour in the morning I do center rotations.  I have four different centers and I put the center activity at their tables.  So during the first rotation everyone is in their assigned seats. 
You can put anything at their tables--if you need to get school supplies organized and unpacked or first day folders checked, then put 4 independent activities at the tables.  If you have time to sit at one of the tables, then put something more difficult at that table.  

Here were my first day rotations this past year:
1. Unifix cubes- a completely independent center, but never a waste of time. Kids quickly figure out patterns, how to work together, how to clean up, where the unifix cubes go when they are put away, etc.
2. One page of their first week of school rule book. I leave my example on the board and all they have to do is cut and glue to assemble.  The lips were already pre traced. 
3. Monster Spin and Graph- This is the center I sat at. I had to sit here for the first couple of minutes until they got the hang of spinning, graphing, passing the spinner, etc.  As soon as I knew they could handle it, I left. I had to do this with each group/rotation.
4. Whiteboards- I leave my word work cards at this table and I instruct them on how to use the cards prior to starting centers.  They are only allowed to draw pictures if they write the word as well.  They did awesome on the first day! 

On the second day, my rotations were as follows:
1. Their first page in their memory book. They write their name and illustrate themselves. 
2. We did the second page of their monster school rule book. Again, I left my example on the board and all they have to do was glue to assemble.  Since I knew this wouldn't take much time today, I also introduced book bins to them at this center.  I took two book bins from our classroom library and put it at the center. I wanted them to see how they match the number on the book to the correct book bin before giving them access to our entire library.
3. Their third rotation today was blocks.  We have free choice at the end of the day; however, I don't give them free choice until I feel comfortable enough knowing that they know where everything goes and can clean everything up. So I introduce some of the free choice activities during center time this week.
4. They practiced their fine motor skills by coloring, cutting, and gluing back together this monster number puzzle.  
During centers, I set the bell for about 15 minutes; however, I keep an eye on each rotation.  Sometimes a rotation takes longer and sometimes they are all finished faster than 15 minutes.  If that happens I ring the bell and we move on.  When the bell rings I say, 'Simon says, clean up.' Followed by 'Simon says, stand behind your chair and Simon says, push your chair in.'  Then we do a quick round of 'Simon says' before I say 'Simon says, point to your next center.' This is key!! During this time I check everyones finger to make sure they are pointing in the right direction. If they aren't, I let them know so they can fix where they are pointing.  By the end of the week, they are all pointing the right way and they officially know how to rotate!!
You can also sit at a center during this time and test letter names/sounds or introduce activities like write the room that they will eventually do independently.  We did write the room the first week of school and my kids loved it! Some students only wrote 2 words the entire time and others filled up an entire page. But, they were all engaged and learning how to complete centers!

I use my Back to School pack the first week of school


  1. wow! What a thorough post! I love this...thanks for sharing. I have to admit, at first introduction, you're right this does sound daunting..but the way you explained things, it totally makes sense. I am saving your post to come back to in August and I'm going to think about how I can do something like this in my room this year. :) Thanks!


  2. I agree. It makes it routine and they don't know any different :)

    Literacy Without Worksheets

  3. What if you have some slow workers while the majority is done?

  4. Thanks for sharing. I love the details and pictures. I too have pinned this post to refer back to in August. I am curious about the "first week of school rule book." Would love more details. It looks like a great idea. Thank you

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  6. After the first day, if you know a center will finish faster than others or if you know you have some slow workers/ fast workers, leave something at the center for them to do when they are done. This is why I left book bins on the second day at the rules book center. But you can leave play doh, manipulatives, etc. something that they can't 'finish'

  7. Thank you for this wonder post. It makes such sense and I LOVE getting started right away. Thank you again for sharing your ideas!!

  8. Thank you so much for this post! I teach prek so I will be modifying to work with my four year olds but I'm excited to cut down some of the chaos!

  9. Will your memory book be in your shop soon?

  10. Thanks for the detailed post. I bought your Owl back to school pack and I can't wait to use it.

  11. One question, I didn't see a memory book in your TPT store. do you sell one?