Saturday, September 7, 2019

Ten Easy Centers with Items Already in Your Classroom

I used to struggle to plan activities for one day or one week at a time.  One day, I had an epiphany to plan for a month at a time, and I couldn’t believe how “extra” time for my after school life suddenly opened up! 

Choose one day to stay late at school (or spread it out over two days so that you aren’t so late).  That’s only TEN days per YEAR compared to almost daily before I started this plan.  Look ahead at your curriculum map, and note the concepts and skills you will be covering.  The first thing I did each month was to get my centers for literacy, math, and extension classes ready.

Wait a minute…  Did I just say centers??  (I know you are thinking that those take a LONG time to prepare.)  Yes, you are correct.  They USED to take a long time to prep until I realized I could make them mostly NO prep or extremely little prep with the help of a couple of my most helpful students.

In my classroom, my students rotated to 1 center each day for 20-30 minutes per center.  I needed five centers for each week for four weeks.  That meant that I needed at least twenty centers for literacy, twenty centers for math, and twenty centers for my extension classes.  That was SIXTY centers.  That would have taken a LONG time to prepare.  Well, in my old way of thinking, it would have. Let me show you how it works.

In my NO PREP monthly series, there are 10 centers each month with 2-3 bonus activities. (Read a blog post about them, and grab a freebie for your own classroom HERE.)

Using these, I would need about ten additional centers for my classroom.  The good thing was that some things in the classroom never changed, which made it so much easier to plan.  Look at your own classroom, and decide what you can use almost all year without changing.  Not only does this help with your planning, but it is great for your students because they know exactly what to do at these centers.  

Here’s a list to choose from:

11) Technology – Some options here are Google Classroom, online games, website research, BrainPop, YouTube videos with comprehension questions, etc.

 2) Books – Give your students time to read books…free choice books, assigned reading, math books, science books, social studies books, etc.  Just get them reading.

 3) Games – This is an absolute favorite!  Keep out that game of Trouble or Sorry in both literacy and math centers.  Students are using reasoning, logic, reading, math, and so much more when playing a board game.

  4) Writing – Whether you assign a topic or let students complete free choice writing activities, writing is so important.  Each child can keep a spiral ring notebook for the entire year to write in.  Don’t be afraid to use writing in math also! 

 5) Puzzles – Keep a 1,000-piece puzzle set up in the corner of your room for the entire month.  Students love working on puzzles, and they are a great critical thinking activity for the mind.

 6) Teacher Center – Make yourself a center each week.  Use this time to work with small groups.

  7) Reader’s Theater or Book Club – Have a small group of students work on fluency, oral reading, comprehension skills, and more as they read together.

  8) Partner Activity – There are so many things you have in your classroom when you look around that will make perfect activities for two students to complete together.  What about something you love but that is not large enough for more than a couple of students to use?  This is a perfect time to put two or three of those out for the month.

  9) STEM – Prepare some STEM containers with tasks that students can work on either individually, with partners, or in small groups.  They can be as simple as popsicle sticks in a pencil box with instructions like “Build a bridge.” written on an index card.

 10) Task Cards – Use task cards spread throughout your classroom for a fun
scavenger hunt.

I hope this list has inspired you to look in your classroom at what you already have on hand in your cabinets and shelves to help you think about how you can implement those items into your classroom immediately for month-long centers to help make lesson planning easier.

Working smarter, not harder, that’s just…

My Kind of Teaching


  1. Oh thank you so much for these ideas! can think of several things that will work perfectly with this system.

  2. I love that these centers don't need to be changed daily ( or weekly). Thanks for helping a teacher out! Wendy 1stgradefireworks

  3. I really like these ideas! Thinking of new centers every week is so time consuming. This was a good reminder that it doesn't have to be that hard. Thank you!

  4. Thanks for so many great ideas for centers! This is so helpful!

  5. I love centers that are easy and keep the kids engaged. These are wonderful ideas! Thank you!!

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