We often get asked, how do your manage centers? Managing centers is not an easy thing to do, for sure and so the topic comes up a lot. There are so many ways, pocket charts, free choice, etc, but we use a centers wheel. efficiency
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Not going to lie, when I first became a teacher I struggled with centers. You mean, you want me to do 5-6 different activities all at the same time and have the students all be engaged during it?! I pretty much told my literacy coach she was crazy!
But as I started to have centers in my class, I realized I really enjoyed center time. It gave me a chance to really customize what the students were working on and it gave me time to work with students in small groups. Now, I prefer center time!
Truth be told, I moved schools a lot, I always had super small classrooms, and I never had space for my centers to have designated spaces (well besides my library and maybe a writing center).
So how do I manage centers? We use a centers wheel!
This wheel was the hub of our centers for the week. Here’s all the details:
- We have five centers per week. Not always the same five but five rotations.
- Students are placed in color groups. No rhyme or reason other than who works well together.
- Since I did not have designated center space for most centers, we put our centers in bins. During center time those bins go to the tables (or floor spaces) into the same order they are on the chart. (It’s usually the same so it’s not tricky). It’s important for me to be able to have the centers themselves flow in a circle and not have students crisscrossing around my room.
- So the color group will go to the designated center and complete the activity in the bucket (or whatever the center is based off of the directions I give).
- When it’s time to rotate centers, the wheel spins in a clockwise movement one time.
How did you make your centers wheel? We share full directions here in this article (and a template to actually cut the circle part correctly). The center cards displayed can be found in our Teachers Pay Teachers store here.
How often do you rotate centers? Depending on my class, we do two rotations per center session. So they will start at one center, do that for 20 minutes and then we will rotate one time.
What activities are in your centers? Our centers have one must do activity in the bucket. When they are done with that must do an activity they turn it in (we have a tray) and then they can do any of choice activities associated with that center. So in our alphabet center, they may play an alphabet puzzle or in our writing center they may do some free writing (based on the samples we have hanging).
How often do you change the activities in your centers? We change the items in those buckets every week most weeks but sometimes every other week depending on how many rotations we got through.
Where is your centers wheel in your classroom? We keep our centers wheel on our whiteboard. We actually use magnet buttons (click here to see) because we don’t want the wheel to move freely. So we put one button magnet on the back so it stays where it is supposed to. You don’t need to have it on the whiteboard, but if not you need a plan to have some magnets on it so there is some stability to the wheel. (It will stay but you won’t want someone bumping it or whatever).
The great thing is, that because it’s a systematic and organized process, the students will learn it. Eventually, I show my students how to turn the wheel so I can use that time to reset my table for my next small group. With that comes rules about the centers wheel –
With that comes rules about the centers wheel that we talk about from day one. We basically have one rule, NO ONE TOUCHES THE WHEEL (unless it is your job for the day when the class is ready). It will happen and you will not know what color the wheel is on to fix it. The students can usually help you figure that out though based on what center they were at yesterday.
What happens if there is a sub? This is something you will have to think about and it may change from year to year depending on your students. At the start of the year we do alternative centers but most years mid-year the students have centers down they can handle centers like normal.
Are you ready to make your wheel? Click here to read how!
We love seeing reader photos! Check out Mrs. Snethen’s Wheel for 4 centers! Well done my friend!
We shared all about how it works and how to make one here: