Fact: Center Organization can be a nightmare.
Consider this scenario: You find the perfect centers, print, laminate, cut and use them for the week. Your kids love them and you are quite proud of your students’ gains.
If you’re lucky, you can use that center for another couple weeks. Although, sometimes centers have to be “filed away.” Filed away in some place that usually ends up being the black hole of your classroom…never to be found again. Next time you need that center…forget about it. You’ll have to repeat the cycle above if you want to even think of using that activity again.
Has you ever been in this situation? Have you ever lost (gasp) a center activity?
Chances are you have. As much as we try to keep stuff straight, we just don’t have the time to go through all our centers to make sure we use them again.
This, my friends, is so not okay. I did not go into teaching to become a professional center finding, laminating, cutting MACHINE. I thought, “Is this how it’s always going to be?!”
I started creating extremely targeted and aligned 1st Grade Literacy Centers earlier this year. I made 10 centers each month. The first batch of centers wasn’t horrible. I made labels for them, added them to individual gallon zip bags, and I thought, “This won’t be so bad.”
Well…it wasn’t. Until I made the next 10 centers for the following month. I thought to myself, “This can not be the best way!”
I made it my goal to find a system in which I could STORE all my center materials and ACCESS them easily as needed.
And today, I am going to show you exactly how I did that in just 3 easy steps.
Step 1. Get serious about storage
Getting storage containers was a challenge for me, for two reasons.
Reason #1 because I literally couldn’t find anything that was a good size for my centers. #2 I was afraid of the cost.
Let me tell you, having piece of mind that all the centers I spend time on creating will all have a place is worth it.
I finally found these Iris 12×12 plastic cases would fit ALL 10 center activities for each month. You can even get the thicker ones, but I liked the size of the ones I got because they can be stacked nicely without taking too much space.
To further organize each month, I have placed each center in a letter size zip envelope. This way, they are not sliding all over the place like gallon bags would. Total game-changer.
Step 2: Use labels for each activity
If you don’t have these printable labels, I’d advise you go to Amazon.com and grab you some ASAP. They are truly a blessing. Not only because they are easy to print but because I can add a lot of text to one label. On these labels, I add the name of the center, the standard it covers, and the standard addressed. I can’t tell you how unbelievably INTENTIONAL I feel when I know exactly what standard I am covering in each center.
It will help you with your short and long-term planning. It also will feel really good when your administration walks into your room and they see all the standards listed on each center as they walk through the room. Glowing observations…here you come! 😉
[If you use my ready-made 1st Grade Centers, all the labels for each month and activity are in the big zip file and ready for you to print on Avery Labels!]
3. Label your storage containers
I know, I know…seems pretty basic. But it is a step that many of us do not take and we end up with a mess of storage containers laying around.
To make it easier on you, I made you some FREE Iris Storage Container Labels that you can just download and print! I even took it a step further and put another label on the front of the container so I can access specific months easily when the containers are stacked.
So there you have it. Organizing your centers is a matter of getting the right storage, and labeling your activities from the start! When you do this, you will not only have a more organized classroom, but you will have a more organized mind!
You can pull the centers you need for each month, and if needed, you can go into other months to target skills that need to be revisited! All your efforts will be worth it when you know you will be able to access any center, any time!
If you are a 1st grade teacher, and you are interested in my Literacy Centers, be sure to head over to my TPT Store to save big on my 1st Grade Literacy Centers for the Year!
Emily Garcia is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to educationtothecore.com. All the recommendations on my site are authentic and come from personal experience.