My love hate relationship with Centers!

Centers - I love them and hate them!  One of the top things on my summer to do list is to build a better relationship with Centers.  I love the idea behind centers.  I know that my students need some time to just be hands on with previously learned skills.  I know that centers help the learning sink in and stick.  I know that this is supposed to give me time to meet with small groups so that I can help each student.  Despite knowing all of these things in my head - I still have things I don't like about centers.  I don't like the lack of control I have (I know I really should give this up!).  I feel like my students that really need this hands-on reinforcement time are the ones that aren't staying on task or that are reinforcing a skill the wrong way.  Finding, creating, copying and laminating centers takes a long time!  I don't mind putting that time in but I don't want to re-create every year.  Thus my problem, I don't have a good way to store and organize centers that aren't being used.  I guess all in all these are my 2 biggest complaints about centers.  I know that both of them point right back at me - so now its time to fix it!

So what am I doing to fix this problem?  First, I am doing lots of reading up on centers and how others use them.  I am already adjusting how I will teach the use of centers next year.  I LOVED the first chapter of the book The Next Step to Guided Reading which goes over setting up a solid system where students are working independently.  Side Note:  I am loving this book and the on-line book study being hosted by Freebielicious!  If you are interested in joining in you can get the get the book, the best price I found was through Amazon.  It is available in paperback (first link below) and for the Kindle (second link below)!


I am also looking forward to learning from others at the I Teach K Conference in July.  Some of my break-out sessions are on this exact topic!  I can't wait for Hillary Lewis' session called "Let Go & Let Learn: Encouraging Independence in Learning Centers."  Another Side Note:  Be watching for my Lessons from Las Vegas starting July 15 as I share what I am learning from the conference.

Next, I am on a search for ways to organize and store my centers.  I've been on Pinterest, blogs and google.  I check at just about every store I walk into for something that would work.  Although I haven't committed to anything yet, here's a few things I have found and am considering.
These upside down crates with fabric cushions on top are a great idea for students in a classroom used for  alternative seating for students with disabilities.  Sometimes the regular seating can be restrictive and at the wrong level.  Create your own, they are cheap too!
This was my first thought for storage that is usable in the room too!
Rolling storage crate/seat and prettied up Ikea easel
I think the crate would be a great place to store centers.
And what great seats for my teaching table, a center or computers.

 Then I ran across one of these in Ross and Big Lots and it got me thinking.  Is there an option available that would work for the same or less money than making them?

Foldable Storage Ottoman  I have seen them for $10 - 15 each.
 Still up in the air and looking at these and other options.  How do you organize and store the centers you are not using in your classroom?  Anyone else have a love - hate relationship with centers?  Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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