This post originally appeared on the blog Tidy Teacher.

The most frequent question I hear from newbie and veteran teachers is: “How do you stay organized?” So today I thought I’d write a post about tips I use to stay organized in the classroom while running centers. I love providing tips to other teachers but the key to any system is to make it yours. You must be comfortable with your own systems in order for them to be successful. 

My favorite thing about centers is planning and organizing them. These are a few of my “Tidy Tips” for running successful centers. 

Be prepared (make copies, gather supplies, materials and have them ready for the students)! 

I love color coding my center groups supplies  and putting numbers on everything. I have always worked at a Title 1 school and provided lots of the supplies for the class, so why not make them match? I would shop during summer break for penny sales and buy enough of the colors I want and add to them from the students’ school supplies. The colors I use help students to identify their groups and organize their materials for each table. This tidy tip cuts down on transition time and makes your classroom look very tidy!  I organized each group’s folders with labels and a handy pocket chart!

Assign Center Leaders! They are the “go- to” person designated to help others when you are working in small group. Center leaders are usually chosen by the teacher at the beginning of the year, but as the year progresses and the students learn the system they also can begin to choose their own center leaders each week! 


Practice… Practice… Practice Center Rotations. Use a chart or some kind of visual aid to reinforce your center rotation goals! Please go over rotations until all students understand what is expected of them and how to move through centers. We do several “fake” center rotation practice run-throughs before we actively work in centers (it usually takes about a week)! We’ve been successful using timers and music to transition through centers!

Provide clear instructions and directions for each center! I love to use choice boards to go along with my center menus! Students are also trained to use notebooks in my class! This is one of the key Teacher Tips for center organization! It may seem simple but it was a game changer for my class. I began to use notebooks about seven years ago and I would definitely recommend that if you are not already using them, then try them out.  I went from loose papers to folders; then I went to a workshop some years ago and they shared their interactive notebooks. I was like, “Of course.” Why didn’t I think of that? So with our school district purchasing less student workbooks and of course cutting back on copy paper and rationing copies, I needed to discover a new affordable way to keep all students’ work. I used folders, binders, and even those dreadful ringed notebooks but I have found that composition books work best for me. I try to get tons on sale over the summer during the penny sales so that I can ensure that all students have enough for each subject. Then I laminate a nice colored subject cover for the front and attach so I can write their names and change if students leave (high turnover rate). I use different colors for each subject notebook.

I create an anchor chart like the one posted above and go over a PowerPoint to teach the students each year how to navigate through appropriately using notebooks in the elementary classroom. 
We store the notebooks in containers easily accessible for each group ( never in our desks)! During conference time students simply pull them out and show their parents how hard they’ve been working in the class!
5Use music to transition in, out, and through centers!
You can set your desktop, laptop, or iPad to play automatically at a certain time each day and students can learn that certain songs correlate with different parts of the daily schedule. For instance, if you play “Peanut Butter Jelly” then the class dances to the line to get ready for lunch! I hope you found these Tidy Tips for Center Organization helpful!


Tidy TeacherJamila James, Ed.S. is a full-time TpT Teacher-Author in Georgia. She has served the Atlanta community for over 18 years teaching and mentoring in Title 1 Schools grades K-8. She enjoys designing curriculum, blogging, and sharing organization tips & hacks for busy educators. Feel free to visit her TpT store or blog, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, or Periscope for more great ideas to support your organized classroom.