How Many Centers Do You Have?


The Question:
My question is about Center Time.
How many centers? At my school we have previously rotated through 4 at a time, but our Principal wants us to look at doing 8; one teacher led, with 6 students, and the others independent with 2 students each. Your thoughts?
The Answers:
WOW! Does she want them to all be different? That is a ton of extra planning.
 I usually have 6 total because we have about 16 students in each class. I like to have 3 kids in each center. I’m curious to know what the 8 centers are.
I do a modified version of the Daily 5…the Daily 6 and pull our groups of kids to read or work with as needed. I always have over 20 kids so adding one more station made the groups a little smaller.
Wow, that’s a lot to rotate through! How many adults are assisting?
Will the principal plan and monitor all of the centers? 8 is too many!
I have computer, sensory table, science, language & writing, book center, art, dramatic play, math, listening, and block center. I lead a group and the children rotate every 20 minutes for an hour and a half block.
Sure. Is your principal going to plan the other 4 centers for you? 😛
 Center time stresses me out…even after 20 years. Please tell me, when you rotate through, do you have the kids clean up before they go to the next center? Obviously, this could be a time issue especially in Dramatic Play, Building and Art. And then there is the volume! Sometimes, hearing the group I’m working with is a challenge!
I have 7 daily, not including my group. They require little to no planning on my part but are effective. I have computer, stamping (where they trace, write, and stamp sight words) library, writing, leap pad, magnets and play dough ( where they roll snakes to form the sight words.)
 I have 8 centers- but the students only go to two M-Th.
For math, I have 10 tubs of activities. They are out for a month. Students partner up and rotate every 7 minutes (I set a timer). This allows students to work in pairs and I pull students as needed for RTI, small groups, etc.
 Each station has specific jobs as well as free things to do after the jobs. When I pull for small group, they leave their station, but then return when they are done with me. I’m able to have 3 small groups during our station time. I use to have more stations, but that took too much planning time and I found that the kids weren’t getting things done (and done well). It’s worked for me for the last 5 years.
 My literacy stations last about half hour. I have 5 going at a time. Students work with their table friends (4 kids). They have a basket job to complete, then if time permits, they can pick another activity from that station. Basket tasks may be a pencil/paper job, a sorting activity, stamping, play doh, etc.
Debbie Diller has great ideas, check out her books. After almost 30 years of K, I have to agree with her…when there is more than 3 at a Center it becomes a party! She keeps them small, so if you have 8-10 Centers you will not have to change as much. I, too, use Centers that are self directed (puzzles, peg boards, play dough, etc). You must teach the procedures of staying there, quiet voices & I feel it really teaches kids perseverence…keep exploring, don’t give up!
 So, all students are to go to all 8 centers each day? That would be a long time! Or very little time in each center. I don’t think that would be effective. I have 8 centers (art, reading & listening, writing, math, science, animals, puzzles & magnets, dramatic play) and my assistant and I each have a group during centers time. When (if) we finish in groups early, those students may also choose a center. I don’t really let my kids switch centers during that time because of the mess it leaves behind and the noise level that creates. They are pretty good and honest about choosing a center and staying there unless given permission to leave. On Fridays we are much more lenient about centers and there are no teacher-led groups.
 I have 4 literacy stations each day ( 2 adult led, 2 independent activities) 2 math stations (adult led- others are paired in math tubs) then developmental free choice stations in the afternoons-
 I have 7, with 2-3 at each. We work in them for 15 minutes and they go to stations t-f. One on Tuesdays  and two on wednesday through Friday — ABC writing popcorn ( where they work with sight words) listening, reading, computers, and teacher
Since I have 34 students, I have 17 Debbie Diller based workstations with 2 students per station. This does not include when they will come to me for small groups. I also throw in iPads and the SmartBoard so students get exposure to those.
I do very much like Lynn with 4 basic centers-know as the Must Do stations (fluency, writing, word work, phonics,) plus I pull for guided reading and May Do stations which the students May Do after they finished the required work. I keep those very simple…listening, library, free writing, computer, play dough…things like that.
 I wrote about how I do my 9 center rotations here:
Lizzy Ann 
We are required to have one hour of literacy stations in my district. I put them in groups of two and they rotate through two stations- smart board, library, star words, big book, writing, abc, letter sounds, art, easel, following directions, read the room, and listening. I am able to meet with 3 groups of about 4 kids during this time. I just pull them over and then they return to their partner. The hour of time probably includes 15 minutes of clean up and a review of rules/expectations
 We use Busy Bee centers. We set up 8 centers, a light bulb table, & a horse shoe table. The 8 centers are 1-2 students at a time. Students only go to each center once a week. The light bulb table is student run small group work, the work changes every day or two. The horseshoe is teacher led work table. Students stay at each center 15-20 min.
I have 28 kids and 7 centers.. They only do 1 per day
Tell your principal to plan them for you..8 is a lot..
 Wow! Nice to only have 20 students.
 I try to keep my center groups to 4 students at a time. Not too many. I have 24 children right now so, that is 6 centers. I have 4 computers which makes one quiet center and I always have a listening center. I use all my scholastic points to buy sets of 4 books and the cCD. A math center, LA center, puzzles and blocks. I usually work at the LA table.
 I set out about 11 center baskets a week-of course blocks and puppets are already set up. Then I put pictures of the centers in a pocket chart and write on each picture how many students each center is for at a time. Students use name cards and put their name by the center they want to do, and when it’s time to switch, they clean up and put a new name card by another center picture. By the end of the week, each kid will have a name card by each center. I monitor closely at the centers where I want to teach and/or assess student learning. Kids are more excited about centers when they feel like they get to choose what to do, although all kids have to do every center once by the end of the week. (I teach in a small private school, so this may not work with classes of 30. :))
Tandy Lynn
 Apparently my students think I am worth more than what Rick Scott does… Yesterday at the open house, one of my brighter students came into the classroom, greeted me with a big “hi Ms. Braid, this is for you…” and proceeds to throw down what must have been about 50 pennies…I laughed out loud and said “thanks Ja’Shaune, this my tip for teaching you?” He grinned and said “yep, can I go to a center now?”
No more centers…. Daily 5, Daily 5, Daily 5. And, did I mention, Daily 5??? So much less work for you and much more motivated, authentic work from your students. Read the book, it will change how you see kindergarten!
I always have enough centers for two partners at each. This year I have 22 kids so I have 11 centers going at once. It sounds like a lot, but once you have the management piece in place, it runs pretty smoothly. I change them every couple of weeks as needed and try to differentiate as much as possible. Centers include: big book, listening, sign language, science, social studies, math, writing, overhead projector, art (easels), computer, word work, white boards, library, read/write the room. Good luck!!!
I have 14 centers that the kids move through over the course of the week. I have an aide or parent with a clipboard moving the kids…in teams of 2…through each while I pull kids 4 at time for reading groups. They move at their own pace so that each center doesn’t have to move at the same time. Since I have more centers than kids, I start them with an empty center in between the quicker ones.
I use:
1. playdough and paint at one, to reinforce vocab
2. easel painting
3. magnet board with various activities
4. fine motor table
5. word work table
6. math table
7. sand table hunting for letters to make sight words
8. theme corner activity
9. chalkboard tracing of letters
10. floor puzzles
11. read to each other center
12. listening center
13. magnetic board vocab
14. computer and/ or ipad
 Trying Daily 5. Lord help me. Glad to know I am not alone
You should do whatever works best for YOUR class for this time of year. It may change as skill levels develop.
Thanks so much for your thought and great ideas. I love this site!
I have 14 students. I prepare 10 centers (one is me :))…and the rest are one student each. We rotate through 3 a day (everyone sees me plus 2 independent centers) I have to change every 5 days. I have a chart that tells them where they go for each rotation…I have to change it every day, but that is only a matter of removing the bottom and moving everything down (except my group) and placing the removed name on the top. It works for me 🙂
I use that method but have 6-8 stations open and we rotate 4 times.
Word work, computers, writing, charts, buddy reading, smartboard, listening, big books, and eventually smarttable (it’s on order) and a group of 4-6 at the teacher table
Right now I have 14 stations ( but have had up to 20 stations before as well) going, with 3 kids in each group. Station time is for 45 mins – 1 hr.Seems like a lot but not all the stations require you to prepare something for them to do. They visit 2 each day so a full rotation will last almost 2 weeks. I agree about reading up on Debbie Diller’s workstation method.
It sounds like a lot, but you’ll love the peace that comes with only having 2 at a center. Plus, if you only do a couple rotations a day, they last for a long time before you have to switch them out. Read Debbie Diller’s book.
As usual,those who aren’t teaching have the worst input-too many principals micromanaging. Don’t they have enough to do?? You know your class and Your preferences best…my choices were always dependent on the number of kids, amount of time, and needs of the students. Usually no more than 5 @kindergarten level per station with 5-6 centers/stations. One being teacher led…Could rotate in same time period or each day…but usually need more small group time with the teacher-that’s where it gets tricky.
Again, depends on needs of students. And, so long as there is a balance, still need whole group-that’s how we teach them the expectations of the centers and then lead to independent skills…Why oh why don’t politicians start listening more to the TEACHERS?
YES YES YES partners! I used to have groups of 4 and it was always too loud and crazy. This year it’s partners and it’s SO MUCH BETTER. 2 sets of partners get to go to the dramatic play/playhouse at a time, but otherwise it’s just 2 kids at each station. They get so much more done and nobody ends up wrestling, rolling around, throwing things, etc. I am happy!
 I currently have 3 math stations during our math block. These are rotated through and change each day. We also have literacy centers where I have four centers with three or four students assigned to each center and they get pulled to work at a teacher led center for Handwriting. The students work at one center each day plus the teacher led center. We are still in the process of introducing centers so this is my first full week using the center model during literacy. My colleague does 8 centers but she changes every two weeks. We have reading intervention groups at a separate time as well as math intervention groups. During the morning after arrival we have explore time centers which offer more choice and play.
I have 10 centers. 2 kids each. I run them for two weeks (much less planning). I pull reading groups, but my centers are never empty- one partner is always still there… I group one high with one low for helping, etc. We do not rotate at all…We have library, listening, writing, pocket chart, math, puzzles, phonics, explore (science and social studies), computers and fine motor.
I agree with Kelli. 21 kids and 10 centers. 2 students in most centers. timer set for 30 minutes and they work silently. My assistant (at this time) walks around to ask students about what they are working on. She rewards on task behaviors. I pull from these centers to do my guided reading. It’s so calm and quiet.
They rotate to their next center when the timer goes off (drum roll). They know to stand at a designated place and then move to the next rotation station. It takes about 5 minutes to clean and move and begin next task. As we do more games/activities in the week during whole groups, these activities will be added the next week to a station. The kids could now rotate work stations without me. I can stay as long or little with my guided reading groups as needed, without rushing to be done.
I do ten centers a week, 3-4 kids in a group–they rotate through two centers a day and they live for centers–play-based, art, math, making words/independent reading, iPads, etc….Though I am intrigued by daily 5 and will have to check it out! 🙂
Maria Cristina 
 I have big books, library, puppets, home center, listening, art, read the room, writing, abc center, computer, play school, science, math, smart games, TA time, and teacher time. My system is simple. They have work cards and move freely. If we see someone always go to the same one, we try to change them, but that rarely happens. The main thing is having a good management system and that they are clear on the consequences if they don’t follow along.
 I am considering starting daily 5 this year but last year I ended up doing 9 centers (I had them in partners) and it was FABULOUS! No assistant. But it was much quieter (because it wasn’t a group of 4 or 5 kids working, just 2) We didn’t get through all 9 in a day usually but I’d just put a post-it note where we stopped and then we’d start there the next day! 🙂
Your principal is crazy! Is she going to come in and monitor the madness and help make sure all students are on task at 8 centers. BTW, two students at a center does not seem like a center to me!!
 I have 25 kids, 1/2 k and 1/2 t.k. We have 15 centers, and 5 at a center. They go to 3 centers a day and I pull them for small group language arts. At this time we have writing, listening, read the room, language master, etc. In the afternoon we do free choice centers with home center, legos, blocks, etc. At free choice the rule is only 4 at a center, but its free flowing.
 I do listening or computer, math, color/small motor, puzzle, blocks, dramatic play, art, writing/printing, pocket chart or thematic games, and sensory on a daily basis.  Sometimes woodworking or music. I only “rotate” through the “work” centers that will not be repeated and let them choose the others along with their group and time limit and only intervene if more than 5 want to get into the blocks, dramatic play, or sensory areas. Sometimes one or more are empty- but then we just do that one again in the afternoon when their “class” work is done. My advice is this- DON’T open them all at once. Introduce one at a time over the course of a week or two and go over the rules and expectations regarding noise and amount of children. I let them know they must “tidy up” before leaving each area so the next group has a nice place to work. If you do it right, it’s less planning in the long run because the kids can help themselves and aid in the clean-up. Also- I go over the directions for each activity before we break for work time and make sure most of them are clear on what needs to be done. If anyone misses the instructions, they have to find a friend to explained what they missed if they weren’t paying attention. Since they all like to be in charge- they all listen super attentively in the hopes that someone will have to go to them for help. lol!
 I do as many as I need to have 2 students at each center. After reading the Debbie Diller books, I think 2 students work best.
 Why is your district dictating how you deliver services in your classroom? I have teacher choice center time, but the students can choose how much time they need at each one, art, math, reading, dramatic play, letter work, writing. My aide pulls for a must do, and I pull for small group work. The rest explore and replay from previous lessons and it is working well without having to keep a timer going and transition from center to center.
What happens when one student is missing?
I have 9 centers with two kids at each center.
 In the AM, I have a center for every 2 kids. We switch twice during those centers. In the afternoon, I have 2-4 kids in free choice centers that are developmental and sort of fixed. Like: iPads, dramatic play, sensory, art, computers, building, puzzles. I highly recommend Debbie Diller’s books–Literacy Work Stations and Math Work Stations. It talks about having 2 kids in a center, how to manage and what each station looks like. I started doing those last year and it really changed my classroom.
 Daily 5
 What about having the kids choose 2 of the centers? Then you are planning 4.
I do Daily 5 and left centers a few years ago. It is so much easier. check out the 2 sisters web site.
Afternoon centers in my classroom = choice time. It’s their time to choose what they do and with who since I have been telling them what to do all day long! Daily 5 is our literacy block and it replaced my academic centers 4 years ago… no prepping other than the stamina building in the beginning of the year. So worth it!!!
 I gave up centers and use daily five. Love daily five.
 I also gave up centers. During my morning time the students either read to themselves or to a partner. Unlike daily 5 though I encourage talking about the books and interacting. I don’t work on the quiet/ silent reading. I also have a few word activities in their book boxes they can work on. Things like sight word flash cards and a white board. In the afternoon I have several working with word activities on a shelf, they choose something and work. They can work alone or in small groups. I don’t set a limit of people–just have them learn to monitor for noise. They can also read, write, or do the listening center at this time. Way less work for me. I do change what is on the shelf for words 3-4 times a year as they advance.
I have 33 kindergartners.. I do centers everyday in the morning, 3 a day except Fridays I do 6…Tuesday and Thursday in the afternoon I do math centers…. lots of manipulatives….. I then use the cafe (just starting) Monday, Wednesday and Friday…. I work with very needy kids… small groups are a must, I got a lot of center idea from lakeshore (donor project)
Daily 5 all the way! Tweak it to make it your own and it will be much easier!
I teach Chinese immersion kindergarten. I run 3 days center in a week. Since the children are learning Chinese in math, language, science, art, social study, and inquiry. I have to prepare at least 7 centers in each time. The certain subjects will need more than 2 activities to challenge advance children especially math centers. I couldn’t just order the center materials from school supply stores because the materials have to be in Chinese. I make all my center activities. It takes a lot of time for me to design and prepare the activities and explain as well. Sometime, it takes 15-20 min for explaining the new activities with children in Chinese but I found centers really help my students in learning. It’s hard to run a reading center with my kinders due to the children have very limit of Chinese vocabularies. So, I don’t have reading center in my class. I have a Chinese language specialist helps me for one on one reading.
I have 14 centers that change each week. There are 2 kids per center and because there are extra centers they move at their own pace. I have an aid or parent who holds a clipboard and manages the movement as well as helps the kids, while i take them 4 at a time for small group work. It takes them all week to get to all of them. I found it very stressful to have four centers that had to move at the same time…it was just hard to match them up and there were so many worthwhile activities that just didn’t take very long. This way I can put quick centers and not so quick centers into the same rotation.
 I have 7 and they stay the same and require VERY little work from me. I have a rotation chart that the children read on their own. I have only 2-3 kids per center to help with behavior. They

spend 20 minutes per center and when my timer goes off they clean up and move to the next one all on their own. The centers k have are: computer( they must be on Odyssey or taking an AR test) writing ( they can write a story, letter, post card, list, whatever ), library ( they fill out a response to the story when finished, listening center ( books on tape, response afterwards), magnets where they write their sight words and play dough where they also work k. Sight words

Read Debbie Diller’s books. You should have 2 kids per station! You are making it too hard on yourself changing everything so much…some stations can stay the same for weeks!! Class library, big books, pocket chart, poetry, listening, abc station, word work 1, word work 2, computers, puzzles, overhead station are examples. With 12 stations that do not all need new things each time, you will go longer without having to

 change them up. You will have less management issues with only 2 kids per station. When Debbie Diller came to our school and helped us with this it was a life saver! Good luck!
Ditto to Jen. I have 10 literacy stations: these 6 never change (just the sight words or books change) listening, letter stamps, magnetic letters, white board easel, big books, and write the walls so I only change 4 which are rhyming activity, or, lower and upper letter match, or, story telling props, etc.
Amy Henderson Gunter
 I have a scrapbooking-type cart with 11 drawers filled with Word Works activities. Only 1 child can be in 1 drawer. The drawers pull out. I change out 2 activities every 2 weeks or so, to go with new skills. Other choices are Writing, Computer, Listening/class library, Read to Self and Read with a partner. This is from the Daily 5 management system. I pull 1 group of students. My assistant follows the Voyager LA intervention program everyday with 4 students who score low on DIBELS phonemic awareness testing, so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I have many word works activities filed by skills so I can switch as needed and I add a few new ones each year. It helps to share with other teachers and see what they have.
I made daily 5 into daily 6 and love it! Four of the six stations only require minor changes every few weeks to keep interest high. Changing 2 stations weekly is not too hard.
 Are these math or literacy? We do centers for both but they do 1 center per day and by the end of the week they’ve been to all 4. I change them about once a month.. we don’t have time for the old kind of developmental centers.
 Try to develop some centers that don’t change much. I have a block center. They go every week. I just change the type of block. I have a play dough center that I only change the cookie cutters to match the holiday, etc. I have a puzzle center where we only change the floor puzzle. If you have computers or I pads use those at a center. If they like an activity leave it for a few weeks without feeling guilty.
I have 10 work stations with 2 kids in each. they go to 2 a day. The items that go into math work stations are activities we did as a whole class or small group the week before. one work station is a craft that is theme based. reading area has books on their level, computers are also differentiated. one workstation is a writing based and one making words and only one is a worksheet. noise level is VERY low. timer on smart board and they know what to do and where to go when sound goes off. i do my guided reading groups at this time.
Randy Goff
 I loved Debbie Diller. I have 7 stations with two parts for each. I put several activities in each, simple things from Florida Center or games or card activities memory, sorting syllables with picture cards for our theme and poems or Words Their Way on the big pocket charts, with little pocket charts at several other stations. I change my stations every three weeks, and two kids at a station. Several are the same, like write the room, but I change the words,( it is fun to use a tiny font for that and magnifying glasses). I only have them at one station a day but extra activities for if they get done for each group. I do Diller’s math stations, but not daily and I have most doing the same things for the math topic we are on…The stations stay the same just different words etc…except a few that change more, like a fishing for words in one, I also use our easel to sort pics with clothes line around it and clothespin like clips.
 Here are some more that don’t take much to set up – library (I call mine the “Book Nook”) and write a book report, listening center which also has a book report, creative art center (just put out paper, markers, stamps, etc), book making with little blank books premade by moms, writing on white boards, write the room with clipboards, etc
I have 22 kids with 14 centers. I only change out the book, popcorn word, word work, math and read the room centers on a weekly basis. Everything else with the exception of the writing center is on a as needed basis…boredom, next concepts, new books in listening center, new stories in storytelling center.
 Debbie Diller is a life saver! Definitely read her books. Two kids per work station works amazingly well! And you don’t need to change everything weekly. It made life so much easier!!!
At the beginning of the year someone on this site recommended only 2 kids per center/activity, and so I tried it, and it’s AWESOME. I used to have 4 and it was too rowdy. Only 2 of my centers have a product, and even that is open to interpretation.
 Add more centers so you can have smaller groups. Hit up garage sales this summer for Legos, Duplo, blocks, etc.

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