Tricks of the Trade Thursdays: Centers Organization

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Here are some of my 
Tricks of the Trade: 
I create my groups by ability. At the beginning of each school year, I have my students take a couple of informal assessments that lets me know where they are in terms of some basic skills. Then, I pull each student one by one for a formal reading comprehension and fluency test. This really drives my assessment and helps me form my reading groups.

This past year I had three groups:
Motorcycles (Low)
Cars (On-Level)
Helicopters (High, needing enrichment)
Each day we do reading groups, I fill in my schedule for the group rotations:
I have glued down library pockets and then just change out the activity (written on an index card). The first column represents the activities for the first rotation, the second column is the second rotation, and the third is the third. (obviously). My group cut-outs are attached with sticky tack, so I can move them around. (I often meet with my lowest group first, but occasionally I will switch it around) and sticky tack gives me the flexibility to do so.
Types of Activities
One of the rotations is almost always meet with the teacher and we usually work on skill-building activities (story elements, re-telling, fluency checks, TONS of reading comprehension work, etc.).  I take anecdotal notes on their progress during these sessions. When assessing their oral reading, I usually tell them what specific skill I will be checking for - expression, volume, pacing, word accuracy, etc.

The other two rotations change all of the time. Frequently the kiddos do:
  • Word Work center (focusing on spelling or vocabulary)
  • Curriculum focus: usually Social Studies or Science - I usually use it to get in more non-fiction practice!
  • Writing center (usually prompted - I have made TONS of writing center activities)
Click the pictures to see some of my
most popular writing center activities:
 I have also gotten a ton of these take-it-to-your seat center books from Mailbox and Scholastic. Each one is organized in a folder with a laminated game board or mat, the individual pieces in a labeled envelope (with the number of prices written on it), student sheet in a sheet protector (so they can write on it with a dry erase marker and then wipe clean when they're done), and answer key.
I keep the reading and grammar centers organized by topic in cardboard boxes from the DollarSpot. The hanging folders hold my math, science, and social studies centers.
When I'm with a reading group, I want to focus on these kiddos - and only these kiddos. I try to plan activities that require little instruction or explanation, but occasionally I will have students who come across a problem. 
To avoid (most of the) constant interruptions from students who are (supposedly) working independently, I have implemented the "Ask 3...Then Me" rule when I'm working with a small group or conferencing with an individual. It's simple: The phrase “Ask 3…Then Me” instructs my students to ask three classmates a question about the activity before coming and interrupting my small group. 

^My kids laugh because this teacher looks just like me,
right down to the purple earrings! 
(I've included several different "teacher" options in the packet.)
Here are some lovely ideas I would like to
implement next year:
Classroom Freebies Too: How to make learning centers simple and meaningful Teachers Notebook math centers
Literacy 'Centers'Center Organizations
Center Organization chart Center organization
 How do you organize and run centers in your classroom?
Link up below!

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