Saturday, January 23, 2016

Elementary Library Centers

You've read blog posts about them, scanned Pinterest boards featuring them, and attended conference sessions dedicated to them. But are you using library centers? Do you even want to implement library centers when they seem to be so much work?

Yes, yes, yes! Adding library centers to my K-5 library is one of the best decisions I've made, and they've become an integral part of my library.

What began as a classroom management tool has now morphed into dedicated time featuring STEAM and literacy activities. With very little money--and time!--you can include library centers for students, creating opportunities for them they may not have in the traditional classroom setting. Want to get started?

What are library centers?
•  They can be whatever you want them to be! In our elementary libraries, centers tend to focus on STEAM and literacy activities.

How are they organized?
•  My library centers are tied to students' table numbers, and each cycle students rotate through a different center. Other TLs I know set up centers as a "free choice" and work on the honor system. I use a poster as a guide for students.

When do students use them?
•  My students use centers during check-out time after they've renewed or checked out books. Centers also provide students an opportunity to be involved if they're unable to check out.

Where can I find ideas for centers?
• Pinterest is a great source--just search "library centers." TeachersPayTeachers is another great source. A few TLs who are leaders in library centers include Cari Young (http://librarylearners.com/), Carolyn Vibbert (http://www.risking-failure.com/), and Jessica Lodge (http://www.mrs-lodges-library.com/). You can also search Twitter using #librarycenters for ideas and pictures.

How do I get started?
•  Look around your library. . . do you have optical illusion, 3D, or I Spy books? Put them in a tub and you've got a center! Print bookmarks in black and white so students can color them as they'd like. Maybe you already have listening centers or tablets/computers students could use as a center. Do you have a puzzle or two you could set out? What about chess or backgammon or other strategy games? Look around your home as well. Is it time for those blocks, LEGOs or K'Nex to find new life as a library center?

How can I expand my centers?
•  This is where your own creativity comes into play. While centers don't necessarily have to cost a lot of money, it's possible that with grant opportunities or donations you can expand centers to include items you might not otherwise have on hand.

Are you ready to try library centers or are you using them already? We'd love to hear about your experience!