When I first started teaching, stations stressed me out. There were so many moving parts and things that needed to be done to ensure that the centers were ready for my students each week. Organization is key to implementing centers in your classroom (along with almost anything else you want to do in your classroom!). This post shares 10 tips to organize your elementary centers.
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By now we, as educators, know that teaching students in a small-group setting whenever possible is best for our kiddos. What, though, do the rest of the students do while you are in small groups?
Stations, of course! But with that comes a whole slew of things to stress about. What stations should I have? How should I manage the transitions? Where do I store the materials I am not using? How do I organize elementary centers efficiently?
I get it, teacher friend! There is a lot to prepare for stations so I took some of the grunt work on for you. I have scoured the internet for some of the best resources on how to organize elementary centers so you don’t have to!
Tips to Organize Elementary Centers
Below are 10 tips you can use to organize your stations, or station materials, more efficiently. Also, all of the pictures I got from other teacher’s websites are gorgeous! Please remember that these teachers are working extra hard to make great photos for us, using filters, and creating pictures that will almost 100% look prettier than what you create in your own classroom. BUT! Classroom organization is more than just a pretty classroom- don’t forget that! 🙂
Create a System to Update Centers
The thing I hated most about having centers in my classroom was the time it took each week to update them. Check out the system I used to update my math stations each week in a quick and organized way.
Utilize Different Sized Containers
When it comes to organizing anything in your classroom, the key is to provide homes. Homes give your things a place to “live” where you can always find them.
I love how Jillian uses a variety of different plastic bins, drawers, and containers to store all of her math center supplies.
Have a Filing System
When you are teaching in small groups and students are doing stations, you need a way to keep track of the things they are completing in both stations and at your small-group table.
Greg Coleman, from Mr Elementary Math, has a great resource and tip on how to organize student work so you can ensure you have all necessary data on each student.
Organize Your Small-Group Teaching Area
If you are meeting with students in a small-group setting, you need to ensure that your small-group table organized!
This resource teaches you how to clear off, clean up, and organize your u-table (or any desk in your classroom) so you can make meeting with your students a priority.
I love how The Kindergarten Smorgasboard utilizes color coordination for stations. They use colors for groups, baskets, and bins to signal to students which station materials are theirs.
This is a kinder focused blog, but I think these same ideas could be translated into upper grade levels. Also, don’t feel pressured to go out and by color coordinated bins! They just taped some colored sentence-strips on bins to coordinate things.
Plan Centers for Upper Elementary
Stations in the upper elementary classrooms are just as important as stations in the primary classrooms.
Upper Elementary Snapshots gives teachers a 6 step process to set up literacy centers in the classroom. These 6 steps could apply to any subject you want to utilize centers for.
- Plan Centers and Center Spaces
- Decide Types of Centers (they give you a list of 9 ideas to choose from!)
- Prepare Your Centers Ahead of Time
- Decide How to Structure Centers (Will they be student or teacher selected?)
- Set the Expectations (SO important no matter what grade level!)
- Teach to the Whole Class First!
Group Bins Cohesively
When it comes to organizing things that will be on display in your classroom (like your center materials) or even the items behind your small-group teaching area, do your best to group the baskets and bins cohesively.
In this video I tell a teacher how to do that with her bins on her small-group teaching bookshelf. How could you implement this to organize elementary centers?
The biggest secret to staying organized is simple…you just need to label everything!
I love the labels that Elissa uses to organize elementary centers in her classroom. Her labels are great because all you have to do is get some Avery labels, print, and apply!
Use a Management Board
This idea came from my time working with Debbie Diller. A management board like this is great because students can see, at all times, what station they are supposed to be at. Learn more about how I used my management board with literacy stations in this post.
Create Your Own Station Cards
I love TPT as much as the next person! But sometimes it’s hard to find exactly what you need, in the color or theme you want. Amy Lemons gives a great tutorial on how to use Power Point to make your own station cards!
Organize Your Small-Group Teaching Area
If you are taking time to organize your centers and station materials then you want to make sure you also have an organized small-group teaching area! There is no point in working hard to organize your centers and then not be able to meet with your students.
The Organize Your U-table Resource is a downloadable guidebook walking you through the steps you need to organize your small-group teaching area (or any desk area in your classroom). Learn more about the resource and purchase it here.
Until next time,