Reader Question: Center Management

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I was recently asked a few questions about center management by a reader, Jennifer: 
Do you assign the kids to specific centers or allow them to choose each week? Do you keep a list of the various center choices in a central location so the kids can see what their options are?  Thanks for the questions Jennifer!  

Center assignment?: 
At my new school,  I do a 20-25 minute lesson and then book checkout and centers for the remaining 20 minutes. If the kids want/need the whole check out time, that’s fine, but if not, they choose a center activity to work on.  I think of center time as an opportunity for self-directed learning.  I tell the kids the choices for the day and they make the decision what to work on.  I believe this gives them a chance to work on library and literacy skills in a way that is fun for them and accommodates their different learning styles.  The kids who like hands activities are the ones doing jenga or the puzzle, the kids who love art are at shelf talkers or another creative center, and so on.  I have set the expectation that you are focused, cooperative, and doing your best at a center and if someone isn’t making good choices, they will be assigned a center but so far that hasn’t happened!

Center Choice Displays:
This is only my second school year using centers and I have used a few ways to list center choices.  In my last library, I had space to display center choices on top of low bookshelves.  I just put the center signs in acrylic frames on top of a shelf with a card saying where the center was located.  I don’t have a set-up that would work well with that method now and I have no wall space for something like a pocket chart, which I’ve seen used for centers in classrooms.  I’m only 3 weeks in to library classes this year and what I’ve been doing so far is this: 


I end my lesson with a slide like this and review it with the kids before they go check out books.  

The list looks a little overwhelming – I had a lot of centers going on this week because 4th grade just went over fiction call numbers so I added Book Spines at the last minute.  It’s an art-y center like Shelf Talkers so I normally wouldn’t have both.  Blurbs is listed for now because it’s new but it’s really a quick extra thing the kids do and after a few weeks, it will just be understood that they can always write a blurb during center time.  The same goes for reading – it will just be known that is always a choice.  So, normally, there would be 4 choices listed something like book spines, zoinks, puzzle, crossword.

For another take on center management, check out Cari’s FAQs

The beauty of centers is the flexibility to do what works for you!

One Response to “Reader Question: Center Management”

  1. Carolyn

    I am so in love with this post right now! Mrs. L–you have brightened my library life in less than 3 minutes!

    I’ve been following Cari’s blog this summer, but never read her FAQs about Centers (hello obvious blog title….)

    When I heard of librarians doing centers I thought it was during the bulk of the lesson. I couldn’t even think of wrapping my brain around trying to manage that and haven’t pursued the idea. The idea of doing them during checkout as alternative activities–brilliant!

    I’ve even done something similar in the past and wouldn’t have thought to expand it beyond the one activity choice I had other than checkout.

    I am going to work on this idea and implement it in 4 weeks with the start of a new rotation.

    My activity that I used was to have was laminated cards with hidden pictures, connect the dots, hangman, the dot game and a few others for students to do at tables if they didn’t want to read while waiting. I think I’ll be pulling them back out of my drawer and incorporating them into the routine.

    Thank you!!!

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