Organizing Your Centers to Last for Years!
Does the process of prepping centers stress you out? It can be so overwhelming to print and cut and copy and laminate and do ALL OF THE THINGS for just one week's worth of centers. And then before you know it, the weekend is staring you in the face, and you know you have to turn around and do it all over again for next week!
Teacher friend, I feel you. As elementary school teachers, we already have a lot of content and random areas we are responsible for. Some of us are planning reading, grammar, writing, math, small groups for all, science, social studies, and RTI lessons for just one day. Then you throw in things like planning homework, morning work, parent communication, anchor charts, etc. and your plate is already overrun for one week. BUT THEN, the expectation is that your students all have fun, purposeful, rigorous, and differentiated center work to complete as you teach all of those small groups you spent all of that time preparing for.
When I was a first year teacher, all of this stuff literally took me my entire weekend to figure out. I was working one week at a time, and I was working hard to just keep my head above water.
I am almost getting hives just writing all of that out. We do so much as elementary teachers. My husband is a middle school teacher, and I can vouch for us.
would vouch for us. We have the toughest jobs. We juggle so many things and wear so many hats. So, when we started having babies over here in the Sutherland house, the only thing I could do to manage all of the classroom demands, and actually be a present mama at home in the evenings was to work smarter and get ahead!
That's what I'm here to share today, folks. 4 ways you can organize your centers so you can pull them out year after year! Using these methods saved me soooo much time, and I hope they do the same for you!
1. Store them in durable folders.
So, in college I was a folder snob. Weird, right? But I only bought these Five Star, heavy-duty folders. I had a different one for each class, and I would slide pages in the front that had the course number and professor name on them. I would keep the syllabus, paper for notes, study guides, etc. Anything I needed for the class. I typically had really busy days as a student. I always took a minimum of 15 hours, but many semesters I took 18 (I know.
Such a nerd.
) I also worked at a preschool. So I would pack my bag for lots of different tasks in one day. I would slide these folders in there because they were thin and lightweight, but I could easily see what class the folder was for as I was sitting gin a lecture.
Whew. All of that to say that I took this idea with me when I came to the classroom. I had all of these folders, and I had to do something with them!
You can keep all of the sheets students will need right in the pockets of the folders. Leave page pockets nearby so students can put some pages in them while using. Or just keep enough copies in the folders for everyone! Easy!
2. Store them in plastic bins.
I have seen these bins in a lot of teacher classrooms. They are my FAVORITE! They are the exact right size for a standard sheet of paper. They are sturdy, so they hold up to student use. And, you can customize them by putting labels right on them, like I did here!
I put a label page on the top of the bin's lid. This is just taped down, but I would really recommend laminating and hot gluing the labels down.
My favorite part is when kiddos open the lids, the directions are taped to the inside of them! There really is everything a student would need to complete the centers independently. Plus, if you put these bins in a cabinet and go to pull them out next school year, you have a refresher about what skills the centers are covering!
You can also put materials the students need in plastic bags. You could put several bags in one bin, so partners would be able to grab and go! Print student game boards on card stock and laminate them to make them extra durable!
3. Use Dry Erase Sleeves
I love these things. I have inherited some from other teachers in my years of teaching, but I've also bought some of my own, so I have quite a few now. You can also use plastic portfolio folders or simple plastic binder page protectors. I like these because they are dry erase, so I can have the actual work I want students to do in the sleeves. Or I can use them as they are shown here: You can see the cover for the center on the front side....
...and the directions with the student materials on the back! The plastic baggie of dice does not fit in here for this center, but I would keep all of my dice in a designated spot in the room for students to grab, or you could keep them in a drawer or bin with the page sleeves!
4. Store them in binders
Finally, you can store centers in binders! The ones that have plastic on the front and back for you to slide pages in are really handy. As I've pictured here, you can store them with a center label on the front, and the directions on the back. This makes it SO easy to pull out next school year and have them instantly accessible to your students!
I've shown two different ways that I have used binders to store centers in my classroom in the past...
This first one shows pages on card stock in the pockets of the binder. You could laminate these to make them dry erase. This would help them last much longer. I also punched a hole into the corner of a plastic bag to store the dice and counters (used as game pieces) that students need for this center.
This second option has the game board on card stock, and the score cards students use copied and put into the center of the binder. It is super easy for students to rip on out (or open the rings if you aren't worried about pinched fingers!) and turn it in when they are done. Either way works perfectly!
So, as y'all tackle this second semester of school, you may be feeling like your centers are disorganized and chaotic. How would you feel next year if you started prepping centers for next August and September and storing them in your cabinets like this? My guess is you would feel wayyyyy better!
PS-All of the centers featured in this post are from my
Clicking on any of the pictures will take you directly to the listing in my TPT store, or you can click on the hyperlink
Pssst...Don't forget it, Pin it!