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Set Up Centers the Easy Way: 10 Quick Steps

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Show Notes:

Do you use learning centers in your classroom? There has been a lot of talk inside our Beginning Teacher Talk private Facebook group lately about best practices and tips for setting up learning centers so I knew it was time to talk about this in more detail on the podcast. Again, this is one of those topics that we think we should know a lot about because we just completed a four year degree, right? 

You might have seen your mentor teacher do centers in your teaching placement, and it probably looked pretty simple. Chances are, it looked simple because you didn’t see what it took for them to set up centers from the start. The expectations for centers had already been taught and established by the time I got there.  If you’re anything like I was, when it came time to actually implement centers of my own I had more questions than answers.

Kind of like when you set up your own classroom for the first time, it never occurred to me how much groundwork and thought work had been done before the students actually started their centers in order for them to run seamlessly and peacefully. So, we're going to talk all about how to get started with learning centers, even if you’re in the middle of the year. Once you get clear about how you're going to do centers in your classroom, you can hold a classroom meeting with your students and re-establish the routines for centers just as you can do for many other routines and procedures inside your classroom.

Full disclosure: Until I figured this out, I used to dread doing centers in my own classroom because quite honestly, it always seemed like chaos in my room when I tried them. On a theoretical level I knew how good learning centers could be for my students. But that doesn't mean that I had a clue about how to set them up or run them effectively. In the beginning it took me a long time to figure out what would work in my classroom. I had to do all of this through trial and error. Now I am so excited to be able to share this information with you so you don't have to go through the same learning curve that I did. 

If setting up learning centers seems daunting to you, I encourage you to still give it a try. As with many other things that come with the first years of teaching, you are essentially creating and then refining all that comes with learning centers. But the beautiful thing is that once they're created, you're always going to have them. You won't be starting from scratch ever again, unless, of course, you change grade levels.

So, even though this might feel like a lot of work right now, you're actually making a super valuable time investment that you're going to benefit from for years to come. Just trust the process. Let yourself be a learner here and figure out the best way to implement centers for you and your students. 

Lastly my friends, I hope you have a fabulous winter break wherever you are in the world. I hope you're getting some time for rest and rejuvenation and feeling recentered to dive into the second half of the school year. This is often a time when teachers begin to feel newly enthusiastic and ready to make a huge impact in the remainder of the year.

Inside this week's show, you'll learn:

  • Why you need to get super clear on why you are choosing to do centers for a particular content area.
  • Examples of when centers were successful and useful in my classroom.
  • 10 tips for setting up your centers the easy way.
  • Why it’s a good idea to use learning centers in any subject area.
  • How to incorporate student jobs into your centers.
  • Detailed logistics of how to manage learning centers.

Want to learn more about how to re-start routines (including learning centers) in your classroom? You're going to love my mini-course:

Want to learn more about setting up learning centers in your classroom? Check out my Learning Centers Starter Kit on TpT by clicking the pic below:

Want even more inspiring activities for the month of January? Check out my new teacher bundles! πŸ‘‡

Links & resources mentioned inside this episode:

I hope this information is helpful as you prepare for your first, second, or third year of teaching. Until next time, remember, just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.

πŸ’› Lori

Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor

Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at and at

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