I have received a lot of questions about how I organize activities for my centers. So here is a post to answer all those questions.
To start, I'd like to say that there is no need to buy those super cute, but overly priced containers from Micheals that come in a crying case and multiple colors. The Dollar Tree carries snack and sandwich containers in a variety of colors for a much more reasonable price (I also like that they are a bit bigger).
So it doesn't matter what your color scheme is, the Dollar Tree offers these in a variety of colors throughout the year. The shades may slightly differ from year to year, but the difference is not that obvious. Once the season of the color you are looking for makes it to the shelves, hurry in and start grabbing. My local Dollar Tree runs out of everything quick, so I like to order items in bulk online through their website (Sometimes certain items are unavailable online). Anything extra can just be exchanged when you pick up the package upon arrival. I personally like the Spring Colors, so I purchased the different size containers and locker bins in bulk for these.
I use the locker bins to separate the math centers from the literacy centers. Each bin has a label with a logo that represents the type of center and a color ring to represent the level of difficulty. The activities are differentiated by color, which makes it easy for me to sort and assign. This also makes it easy on the students when finding and putting away their activities.
How many activities are in each bin?
I start the year with only a few activities in a bin for two reasons:
1. I need to introduce each activities. Half way through the year new activities are pretty similar. I can introduce new ones and have more out.
2. I model how to put away the activities in the beginning of the year. I started on the first week with this years group. While they still get used to putting these away, it is best to have only 1 or 2 activities in each bin. Otherwise you'll be left with loose pieces in the bins, trying to find their container.
How do you assign the levels?
This looks differently for each center. Literacy Centers:
The literacy center activities are for the students to use doing their Word Work center. I assign the colors to students during Small Groups/ Guided Reading. The activities are created based on the needs of my students in each group, and also the skills that we are currently working on during our small groups/ guided reading.
I introduce these early in the year, and they are all really simple. I explain to the students that they may find some color activities may be real easy, while others may be too difficult. I explain to them that just like Goldilocks, they have to find a color that is just right for them. I also explain that if the activity is too easy, they will be bored and their brain won't benefit from it. The "just right" activities are just a bit challenging, which helps exercise their brain (ClassDojo Reference).
Math Centers are only done when the lesson and the activity of the day is completed. The students learn to choose their own activities and are quite good at it. They are allowed to work with a partner in whispers, which is great for peer scaffolding. I often hear the students encourage each other to try a more challenging activity, while also offering help. They really enjoy finding a friend who may be struggling with a skill that they have mastered and teach them. They love being "mini teachers" and I highly encourage it. I have seen many struggling students have "aha" moments with their helpful friends.
How often do you change the activities?
This really depends on the theme and skills of the activities. I try to look through these in the beginning of the month and start pulling out all of the thematic ones. I switch them out for similar (sometimes new) activities with new themes for the month. If there are activities with skills that students need to continue working on, I keep them out longer. I also keep the favorite ones out. The favorite ones are these number ones where they have to search for five components that go with the number (written form, tallies, ten frame, fingers, dominoes).
Sometimes I shift the activity from one color box to another, because maybe it's a skill that only a few are struggling with, and the majority need a new challenge.
Do you make your own activities?
I have made a couple, and every year I set out to make more, but never find enough time.
I have purchased many sets from other teachers on TPT though.
Here are some of the centers I purchased from my favorite TPTers:
I usually adjust the sizes of activities when printing, so that they each fit in the containers.
Where do you get your containers:
The Dollar Tree!
If they have them in the store, I'll grab as many as I think I need, plus a few extras. If they sold out in the store, I'll order them online.
(Click on the images to be redirected to their online listing)
Snack Size Containers:
Sandwich Size Container:
I hope this was helpful! If you have anymore questions, please leave them on the comments below, or message me on Instagram. Either way, I will update this post with any new information.