I’ve always been a fan of centers and wanted to make sure I incorporated them into my own classroom. So when I was a first year teacher, I eagerly dove right in…unfortunately, without training my students like I should have. Sure, I explained what to do and I thought my instructions were clear…but let’s just say things didn’t go as I had envisioned. 😉

Since then, I’m happy to share that I’ve learned the art of setting up successful centers. And I’m so excited to share what I’ve learned!


These are the steps I take to train my students on the procedures for center time:

  1. Introduce the centers one at a time and model the expected behaviors for each one. I only introduce one new center a day to keep my kinder students from getting overwhelmed and confused. I make sure to give each group of students a chance to practice in the center before moving on to the next one.
  1. Once all the centers have been introduced, teach the class how to follow the center chart (if using one). I personally like to use a center chart, but I know a lot of teachers allow their students to choose their own center. If you use this approach, be sure the students know (and practice!) the procedures for choosing their center.
  1. Have the students practice going to centers and monitor them (instead of pulling small groups). I don’t pull small groups the first week I introduce centers. I use that first week (or two!) to circulate the classroom during center time and provide scaffolding and support as needed. *During this first week I don’t have my students rotate through centers yet. Which brings me to the next step…
  1. Teach the students how to rotate through centers. Once the students get the hang of going to centers for a week or so, we practice rotating. I show them how to refer to the center chart to know where to go. We typically have 2-3 rotations per day. I continue to circulate the classroom to monitor the students and reinforce the expected behaviors (instead of pulling small groups).
  1. Have the students go to centers and pull small groups. By this last step, I’ve established a solid foundation for centers and I’m able to pull small groups for guided reading while my students work independently in their centers! Woohoo!! 

A few additional tips:

  • Assign a student to be the “center helper.” (It’s one of my classroom jobs.) The students can go to him/her for help before coming to you while you’re working with your small group. This has been an effective strategy for minimizing interruptions.
  • Don’t forget to review the procedures for cleaning up the centers! The center helper can also help with monitoring cleanup. 😉


Good luck! If you have any questions about centers, feel free to reach out anytime! I’d love to help!   ~Tara

>> If you’re looking for some low prep, hands-on, FUN centers click HERE!