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