Literacy Centers (Stations) are a big part of my Kindergarten class.
But they are hard.Every year you have a new class, with new kids and new issues. Sometimes you have a dream class who can do things by themselves. Sometimes you have a class with a really wide range of abilities. Sometimes you have a class of kids that have learning/behavior issues.
Every year I dread starting centers. I know it will be good once they get it. But getting there can really stink.
So here are my tips for a good experience:
#1: Be preparedYes, the old Boy Scout adage applies to everything. Don't try to just jump in. It will go so much smoother if you are really deliberate in what centers you choose and how you introduce them.
#2: Introduce Centers slowly
Introduce one center at a time. Too much too fast will have your students confused and uncertain about your expectations. I had ALL of my students do each center as a whole group before we moved on.
#3: Be VERY CLEAR about your expectations
Kindergarteners need boundaries. They live for rules. But if you don't give them guidelines they act like monsters. Tell them explicitly what you want the center and their behavior to look and sound like. Model it. Act it out. Have them model it. Do it until you are blue in the face and then do it again.
#4: Be FIRM and consistent
You know the saying: "Give them an inch, they will take a mile"? Yeah, it really applies here. If you let one student get away with not following your center rules then soon it will all be mayhem. Be consistent with your rules! I give them once chance to make a good choice. I see them fooling around during their center then they are OUT.
#5: Be organized!If you don't want 100000 questions about what students should be doing, then you need some sort of chart. Here is mine:
I have my students in colored groups. Then they can follow through with their different assignments. At the end of the day I move the names down one.
Notice how I have photographs? This helps them find what Center they need to go to. It also eliminates the "What is Build-A-Letter again??" questions while I am trying to work with a group. This is really important.
I also label the bins with matching photographs, so they can easily find their materials.
There are some centers that have a coordinating paper to write on. I keep all of those in labeled file folders organized in a dish rack! The pencils and spacers, white board markers, and tissues are all there too! No more running all over the room looking for stuff!
Centers are an integral part of my Literacy block in Kindergarten. Without them I wouldn't be able to get the results that I get. But getting them right takes time and patience and a ton of planing.