How to Set Up Third Grade Classroom Centers

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Third-grade teachers introduce students to much new information while continuing to build upon previously learned skills. Teachers can use classroom learning centers as supplemental instructional tools and as intervention resources for struggling students. Classroom centers require extensive work to set up, but they are easy to maintain if effectively organized.

Organize materials for centers. Although the activities will vary periodically, the basic supplies need to be on hand at all times. These include several types of paper, glue, scissors, and markers. Manipulatives for math centers should be stored in plastic tubs or storage boxes. Manipulatives are objects kept on hand to reinforce instruction.

Make center signs or labels. These can be hand-written or downloaded from sites like ABC Teach at no cost. Signs and labels should have large font and include colorful graphics to help students locate what they need.

Place centers in convenient areas for students. Teachers usually place center activities in large plastic containers with divided sections, in open baskets, or file folders. The ideal classroom will have a designated area for center time, equipped with tables and chairs. If lack of space and furniture is an issue, desks can be turned to face each other to make a temporary surface.

Establish a management system for students' use of centers. The system should be easy for kids to understand, so they can learn to function independently, while the teacher facilitates. Display a poster or use a pocket chart to indicate a rotation schedule. One effective way is to group students of varied ability levels so struggling students can get additional help from classmates.

  • Change groups once a month or every grading period so students get the chance to interact with every classmate.

Karen Hollowell has been teaching since 1994. She has taught English/literature and social studies in grades 7-12 and taught kindergarten for nine years. She currently teaches fourth grade reading/language and social studies. Hollowell earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Arts in elementary education from Alcorn State University.