When you’re a kindergarten teacher, you have a unique and powerful responsibility. You are the person who sets the tone for a student's first “real” school experience. When you think about this, you might start freaking out, but don’t! You can make your kindergarten students’ first year of “real” school the best ever by starting centers in kindergarten. Not sure how to do that? Follow these simple steps!
1: Set Simple Rules for Starting Centers in Kindergarten
When you are first starting centers in kindergarten, you want to make sure you go over the expectations with them. By laying out exactly what you want them to do, how you want them to move around the room, what a center should like when they leave, you’re setting them and you up for success with centers. More than telling students what they need to do, you should show them. Practicing how you move around your centers might be the first part of starting centers in kindergarten before you do any activities during center time.
2: Start at the Center Table
Speaking of starting slow, you’ll want to introduce the activities at the center table. Instead of just having students go forth and do, make sure you have done the activities you are expecting them to do as a class first. When you are starting centers in kindergarten, you’ll want to be very explicit with these directions for activities. Because students will be working independently and in groups, they need to know what they are doing without you being there to constantly redirect them. The best way to do this is to do the first activities all together at the center table.
3: Create Simple Center Activities When Starting Centers in Kindergarten
What activities should you be doing when you are starting centers in kindergarten? That’s a great question and the answer is simplicity. Kindergarteners need to work on the basics like writing their letters, numbers, and their own name. Having stations where students can practice writing these simple parts of school are so important. When you start with these simple centers, your expectations for center time will also be easier to reinforce and practice.
4: Get Students Excited with Hands-On Activities
Beyond making sure you have expectations that you and your students can follow and activities that are easy to do, you want to make sure you are making it exciting for students as well. One way to make starting centers in kindergarten fun for students is to add hands-on activities. Whenever you add something that students can manipulate, like Play Dough, students have a better buy in.
5: Stay Consistent
Whenever you are starting centers with kindergarteners or any group of students, you need to make sure everything is consistent. Your expectations need to be the same every time you do centers and the consequences need to be the same as well. When it comes to activities, you want to change them up. However, having a formula that is similar will help ensure you have successful centers.
How I Set Up My Centers for Kindergarten
When I first started, I didn’t do everything the right way. Now that I have had some time to grow and learn from my past mistakes, I have a formula that works for me. This is how I get students started in centers.
Day 1 of Centers with Kindergarteners
I like to start the first day by discussing expectations for the centers and how to work at tables or on the floor. I also make sure to discuss the expectation that they are staying on task. Finally, I make sure to model the center activity while talking about what I am doing and reinforcing procedures and expectations.
Once centers have started, I let students work for 3 to 5 minutes before I get their attention and talk about putting away our supplies. After talking about it, we put everything away. Then, we return to the carpet and talk about the first center rotation. Then, we trade activities and do it all over again.
This will last a total of 20 to 30 minutes on the first day including the discussions that we have.
Day 2 of Starting Centers with Kindergarten
If Day 1 went well and my students are ready to move forward, I will add another center on Day 2. However, if my students still need more practice, I will repeat what we did on Day 1. Remember, the goal is to create good habits first! If you don’t create good habits right away, you’ll pay for it later! Day 2 is much like Day 1 in that we review the expectations, model the center activities, but then we add that rotation in there. From here, I keep adding one center a day until I have a full rotation using the same model over and over again.
- Introduce the activity
- Give clear and simple procedures and expectations
When you are first starting centers in kindergarten, it can seem a bit daunting. However, being organized and chunking the process and expectations will make centers a breeze for you and your students! Because your centers are so successful, your students will be better at socializing, group work, and practicing important skills!