Since I’ve been at this rodeo for over 45 years I have seen many ways to manage centers. There is no “right” or “wrong” way, but you do have to adapt to your district’s requirements, the age of your students, and your standards.
Each week my students received a “contract” with ten centers they “got” to visit during the week. We did center rotation for 45 minutes at the end of the day when they were too exhausted to sit and listen. They got to choose where they went and how long they stayed in each center, but the goal was to do all ten activities by the end of the week. If they finished they got “Fabulous Friday”! What was Fabulous Friday?? They got to take their shoes off and do whatever they wanted. They LOVED it!!!
After visiting a center they colored it in and then raised their hand. My assistant walked around with a hole punch and would punch the activity after they explained what they did or learned. (During this time I could pull one or two students to give them extra help.)
Yes, I did limit the centers to 2 or 4 at a time. On Monday we’d go around the circle and they chose where they’d like to start. If a center already had four people they had to make another choice. When someone left a popular center then they could go there. This really worked itself out. If they wanted to stay in blocks all day Monday they could, but then they’d have to work a little faster the rest of the week to complete their center cards. It was amazing how they became self-directed learners by the end of the year!
I visited another kindergarten that had something similar. Children had index cards with numbers 1-10 on them. These were tied to a string that they wore around their necks. Scattered around the room were the numbers 1-10 with something to do at each station. As children completed the activity they raised their hand and the teacher punched their card.
Another idea might be to have a class list with the children’s names at each center. Write the focus goal at the top. As children complete assignments they make a smiley face or other comment next to their name.
Make a choice board with the different learning centers you have in your classroom. Put dots to control the number of children who can play in each center at a given time. Write each child’s name on a clothespin or put Velcro on the back of their photo. Children take their clothespin or photo and clip it by the center where they would like to play. If all the spaces are used, then they must make another choice. They may stay there as long as they want. When they leave they take their clothespin and attach it to another center that is open.
*Use alphabetical order to determine who chooses first each day. For example, on Monday the first five children in the alphabet get first choice. On Tuesday, the next five in alphabetical order, etc.
Make a digital camera available so children can take photographs of the work and projects they do in centers.
Take a look at my June 16, 2015, blog to look at an idea for center signs.