Thursday, April 2, 2015

Organize Your Centers for the Year

Happy Thursday!  It's Lisa here from Second Grade Stories and I'm so thrilled to be part of such a wonderful group of bloggers and the new iTeachSecond blog!  I've taught second grade now for MANY years and I absolutely love it!  It is definitely my favorite grade to be teaching. 

I know many of you are either on spring break, or getting ready for spring break - I still have another week to go!  But either way, spring break often means spring cleaning, whether it's at home or in your classroom.  It might be true that I like to spend a few hours one day at school over break going through any paper piles, putting away books and just generally getting a fresh start as we head towards the end of the year. Today's "Tipster Thursday" post is all about a great way to keep track of all the centers and activities you cut, color and laminate all year.

Last year, one of the things that drove me crazy was trying to keep all my centers and activities organized.  I started out by keeping everything in file folders, which quickly overwhelmed my file cabinet drawers.  I couldn't find what I needed and all the materials kept falling out.  I knew I had to find a better way. And I did!  Ta-dah!

I absolutely LOOOOVE these bins!  I found them at Wal-Mart for $3 - $4 ea. and it was love at first sight!  (Ignore the fact that there are two different kinds because I bought them in two different places and didn't realize they were not the same ones - drives me crazy!)  All nine of these bins fit perfectly on my shelf and hold a LOT more than I thought they would.

I labeled them by math theme, with ones for spelling and grammar, too.  (Actually, I might have gone a little crazy labeling things before school started.) I also have a thing for plastic bags of all sizes - I store all my centers/activities in ziploc bags.  Then all I have to do is pull out the one I need and I'm ready to go!  If I have more than one set of an activity (like for small groups), each one is in a bag and all the bags go in one bigger gallon size bag.

This has saved me so much time digging to try and find what I need - and I find I put things back right away, which is more than I can say for my old system!  Another advantage to this system is that I can keep out the container for the skill/concept we're currently working on, and add to it as we go.

The only disadvantage so far?

I need more!  I found that having just one container for things like "2-digit addition and subtraction" is too broad.  I really need separate ones for addition with regrouping, subtraction with regrouping, etc.  I'm also going to divide my spelling activities into smaller categories: short vowels and magic e, vowel teams, etc.  I'm going to need two for grammar, as well!

While I was getting photos for this post, I was taking things out of my current math centers and putting them away - and I thought of another tip to share with you to make your life easier! Aside from Ziploc bags of all sizes, I buy a TON of sheet protectors each year.  We use them for so many things!
This is a picture of one of our math center bins from the last week.  Those are Easter BUMP games and I always put my gameboards in sheet protectors to help cut down on the wear and tear.  (The exact number of cubes and the dice, or whatever is needed for the game) is also in the bin, so all my kiddos have to do is grab the bin and head to their spot - no wasted time trying to get everything ready!

I also put the recording sheets for centers or small group activities in sheet protectors - that cuts down on the amount of paper being used, because kids can just wipe it off at when they are done.  (I have them show me or leave the sheet in a pile for me to check if I want.)  I put the cards or pieces for the center right in the sheet protector, which keeps everything even more organized - no more searching through the bin for the cards to go with each center. I even go so far as to include the markers and erasers - no excuse not to get started right away!  The directions are on another sheet in the sheet protector, turned so the pages are back to back - recording sheet facing one way, directions facing the other way!

At the end of the week (or whenever we're changing out centers), I have my kiddos take out all the old sheets and materials, put them back in gallon baggies and drop them in the plastic bin.  Then we pull out new things!  I've always found that having my students help do this allows them to see that we are working on new things and gives them a sneak peak into what we're doing next!  It also helps them take ownership of the materials and it's a great way to build that classroom community!

I hope these tips have helped give you an idea for how to organize small group activities for the year.  I'd love to hear how you keep things organized!


  1. This is wonderful, I've enjoyed reading all your ideas and I've pinned you too!
    Have a great weekend,
    Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas!
    Fern Smith's Pinterest Boards!

  2. What great ideas! I wish I was as organized as you! :)

  3. I guess Great mind things alike! I do the same exact thing with my centers! We even have the same containers!! Don;t you love those?! Ad yes, I have the same problem, I need moreeeee!!!
    Thank you for sharing this! :)
    Brinca Into Bilingual!