Elementary Library Centers for Anytime

Making the Most of Student Choice and Student Voice through Makerspace Centers

Need some new high interest LOW prep makerspace type center ideas that work great any time of the year? Love the idea of library centers but feeling frazzled with center prep? Read on, my friend! You are not alone.

I used to feel so overwhelmed with the planning and maintaining of library center activities that I rarely used them with my K-5 classes. I knew that for my own sanity for years to come that I had to tame the center time beast. Here’s what I have found that works for me. It has been a game changer!

Taking the Stress out of Center Prep

I began to intentionally study what was working with my center time and what was giving me the biggest headaches. And you know what? After spending some time to prep once for the whole year, my center time has more purpose and is quick and easy to set up. Now centers are a part of my library classes most weeks. I honestly don’t know how I ever taught without them!

The kids love (and I mean LOVE!) having student choice center time. The bonus: when students are actively engaged with hands on learning that they choose, their behavior is better. This gives me more time to help students find library books and attend to individual questions and needs.

How to Organize Library Centers

This closer look at my own center time struggles taught me that first I needed to organize them in a way that would work for easy set up all year long. I also needed a way for a substitute teacher or others in the room to know what students were learning and expected in each center. Most of my centers are makerspace type centers but I do have some writing and science centers in the mix as well. What they have in common is they are all high interest.

First, I started with these Trofast bins and shelves from IKEA. (I have no affiliation with IKEA, I just love using these shelves and bins!)

Having an organized space in the room really helped. My library is a small cozy space with very little storage room. These work great for my needs. I’d love to have about 4 more rows of these shelves if only I had the room! Check out my Instagram reel of how easy they are to put together.

Library Center Time Favorites

Next I sat down and made a list of all the center things plus some new ideas and came up with names for each. These have changed a little since I first set up my bins. It’s time for me to make new center bin labels. (Coming soon!) Sometimes simple ordinary things can become a bit more magical or interesting when you name them just right. Some of my favorites (because the students never get tired of them) are listed below.

  • Build a Story
  • Make a Book
  • Cozy Reading
  • Book Joy (Making Bookmarks or Writing Book Reviews )
  • Create a Card
  • Pixel Creations
  • Engineering Challenge
  • Plank Challenge
  • Clue Trackers (especially for first grade! Ohmygoodness!)
  • Investigators / Research Challenge
  • (Mini) Science Lab

Another thing that bugged me before I tamed the beast: I felt the need to explain the purpose of center time and what students were working on in each (instead of just playing) every time an administrator, parent volunteer or other adult came in the room. Makerspace centers bring so much more to student learning than first meets the eye. I needed a way to share what we were doing without having to stop and explain every time.

How do you set up Library Centers?

Organize Library Centers directions and signs easily.
These clear dry erase pockets keep all the center time directions in one place for easy set up. Clipart for signs by Kari Bolt.

The next step took me what seems like forever: I made center signs and wrote out student directions / expectations for each.

Having these written down has not only helped give students a friendly reminder of center expectations but it has helped me stay consistent with my center expectations for all of my classes throughout the year. It has also helped with organization and communication.

Now when other adults walk in the room to volunteer, observe or to substitute they can see exactly what students are expected to do in each center. Make them your self or save time and grab these here. This set comes with signs and directions for all 24 centers plus the student pages needed for each set.

The 24 center signs and directions pages were my starting place for getting the center bins ready. I use only 12 trofast bins at a time because of lack of storage. So I only keep 12 centers set up at a time. These are easy to swap out with velcro dots for the bin labels and center signs that I keep in the clear dry erase pockets. Check out my Instagram reel of how simple center set up is with this system.

How long do students spend in library centers?

Sometimes students only have a few minutes for these centers, other times they have a larger chunck of time. It just depends on how long our library lesson and activity is that day. With these ready to go at all times we don’t lose time trying to find materials or set up stations.

Unleash the Power of Student Choice Centers

I hope you found this helpful. Setting up my centers this way has saved me so much time in the long run. Students are actively engaged in hands on learning, cooperating and problem solving activities that they choose after the library lesson and lesson activity. They are empowered to learn what they are curious about. I have more time to give more individualized attention to students needing help finding books they will love. Win Win!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *