Let’s Ponder CENTER TIME in the 2021 Classroom!

covid individual kindergarten centers

Hi friends and thank you for joining me today! We are about to take a stroll down a curvy road with some bumps and potholes (argh potholes). We are going to chat and ponder CENTER TIME for this upcoming school year!

A lot of teachers will be approaching school in a hybrid model, full distance learning model, or a face-to-face model (with many modifications). In all of those scenarios, center time will not look as we would normally see it! Center time has always been one of my favorite times of the day! Students are working independently and you’re working with small groups…. you peer out to your classroom and see so many little bodies working hard and a big smile can’t help but to come across your face!

2021 Center Time

However, we can’t (mainly me) stay looking towards the past! I always like to solve problems! I certainly wish this wasn’t a problem needing to be solved, but I think I came up with the perfect answer to keeping center time IN your classroom this school year! This can apply to those face-to-face with modifications as this will allow NO sharing of items. This also works for those in a hybrid model. When students come for their days in the classroom they can partake in center time! In you are 100% virtual this would also work for you! Some teachers have already devised a plan for the binder of centers to be something parents pick up/get dropped off.

Alright, you might be wondering what exactly I came up with to keep CENTER TIME in the 2021 classroom. No, it didn’t involve waving that magical reading wand in the picture above. Although, I should give that a try at the store next time I need Lysol wipes!

My solution to 2021 center time actually came from a packet I made back in 2016. In 2016, my students were absolutely obsessed with expo markers. If I placed any center type material into their baskets that included a marker that’s all they wanted to work on! So, I set out to create a set of centers that gave them what they wanted…. more time with the expo marker! (We have to do what we have to do right?!). That is when I created a packet called The Binder of Centers.

Binder of Centers

The Binder of Centers created fun and engaging all-in-one type sheets! The best part is they required NO cutting! All I needed to do was stuff the pages into sheet protectors! I equipped the kiddos with a few simple supplies: dry erase markers, spinners, rolling dice, and a few counters (cubes/poms). Below is a live action of the binder when I first turned it over to the kiddos!

Of course we never knew the binder would have a whole new place in the classroom for 2021. Let’s break down exactly what this binder of centers can look like and what it takes to prep because that too is important! One important note is… once I realized the binders would have such an impact on the classroom this year, I set out to completely update them from cover to cover and everything in between! The clips/fonts are new, there are now embedded “I can” statements and directions as well!

Setting Up the Binder of Centers

The idea with the binders is each kiddo will have their OWN binder or 3 prong folder. We have now 100% eliminated the sharing of material during center time. Everything the kiddos need during center time will also already be IN their binder so no passing out of markers, spinners, sharing of cubes or counters, etc.

Here’s what you need:

1 Binder per student (OR swap for 3 prong folders) 1/2 inch or 1 inch
5-10 sheet protectors per student
1 Binder pouch or baggie per student for their supplies
1 expo marker per student
1 spinner per student OR paperclip/pencil spinner
1 dot cube per student
1 set of counters per student (can be chips, cubes, mini erasers, etc)
Printed material from the Binder of Literacy Centers packet

EXTRAS (completely optional):

Reading wand for fluency
Google eye ring
Toy car
Magnet letters (or alternative letters see below)

As you set up your binders you can utilize the binder covers included in the packet or download this free binder cover option HERE! Download an EDITABLE version **HERE**

Binders, really?!

Now I know you must be thinking… ahh that is a lot of work to find binders and these supplies, too?! However, keep in mind that the binders will BE the centers! That means no cutting or laminating AT ALL for the duration of this “no sharing” of material phase. I can say there wasn’t one year that I wasn’t cutting or laminating something for center time. These also will require NO use of cardstock which is another added bonus! So, yes a bit of upfront work to get the binders going but then they’ll be quick to manage!

Okay, but what is IN the binder?

Next, let’s chat what you will be stuffing those page protectors with! I have a packet for both LITERACY and MATH! That means you can follow these for your literacy and math centers! I would advise that you use the same binder for both! It might be tough for students to work JUST the literacy centers or JUST the math centers. However, I have the perfect hack for you! This tip will allow you to use just the one binder but divide up the two sections. View this quick tutorial HERE or the video directly below!

Now we know how to set up the binder and for both literacy and math if needed. Next, we will chat specifically about the activities. The literacy binder was already amazing! However, once I go to update a packet I just keep stuffing it with more and MORE! This literacy binder offers over 1,000 pages for you to choose from for your literacy center time! I offer a WIDE range of skills! This will allow you plenty of choices for each skills you’re covering.

What skills are included in the Binder of Literacy Centers packet?

  • Rhyming
  • Alphabet
  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Sentences
  • Sight Words
  • Sounds
  • CVC/CVCe
  • Digraphs
  • Blends
  • Vowel Teams
  • Diphthongs
  • R-Controlled

View a complete overview of what’s included in the Binder of Literacy Centers with this video below!

Let’s look at the activities up close! Now, you’ll see I printed my activities in color. However, don’t worry… the FULL PACKET is offered in black and white! Yes, that means you could prep these binders with NO color ink!

Rhyming Binder Pages

Alphabet Binder Pages

Phonemic Awareness Binder Pages

Sentences Binder Pages

Sight Word Binder Pages

Sounds Binder Pages

CVC and CVCe Words Binder Pages

Blends and Digraphs Binder Pages

Vowel Teams, R-Controlled, and Diphthongs Binder Pages

The Binder of Centers and Beyond

You can see the binder has SO many amazing pages included! This also gives the binder more of a purpose than “just” a center time binder!

OPTIONAL Guided Reading or Intervention Binder: Set up a binder for students to use during guided reading, intervention, or small-group time. The binder will be stuffed with pages just like the independent binder. Keep the binders near your table so you can quickly access them during group time. Students will also need access to supplies like the independent binders.

Let’s Recap!

To tackle the battle of still engaging in independent center time but not sharing supplies among kiddos… you can make individual student center time binders (or folders). Each binder would contain 5-10 sheet protectors that are double stuffed with pages from the wonder Binder of Literacy centers packet!

covid kindergarten centers

Kids might be thrown into supplies that we wouldn’t generally use this early in the school, but don’t worry because Pip the Pup is here to save the day! Below you can download this free Pip the Pup Binder Adventures book. In this book, Pip and Levi will teach students how to get binder certified! They discuss important tips like getting started right away, using the markers correctly, using the spinner safely, erasing all the pages, and putting their supplies away as well. Download this free book HERE!

Binder of Math Centers

YES! I have a binder of math centers!

What skills are included in the Binder of Math Centers packet?

  • Numbers
  • Comparing
  • Counting
  • Place Value
  • Patterns
  • Shapes
  • Measurement
  • Addition
  • Subtraction
  • Time
  • Graphing
  • Fractions
  • Money

What is included in the Binder of Math Centers packet?

  • 1,000 all-in-one center pages
  • binder covers
  • EDITABLE binder covers

So much differentiation and variety included in this packet!

You can view the Binder of Math Centers **HERE**

Binders Q & A:

You mentioned each child would have 5-10 sheet protectors in their binders. How often do you change the center pages?

How often you change the pages will depend how long the kiddos are using the binder each day! If they are in them 10-15 minutes a day, then they can go 2 weeks! However, if they are using them 20+ minutes a day I would say once a week to swap pages so that they are staying engaged!

Do you differentiate each child’s binder?

Differentiation with this would be easy as you would just print and stuff with the pages/skills that kiddo is working on. If John struggles with letter names, he will have ABC pages, 1 rhyming sheet, and 1-2 sight word sheets! If Suzie came in knowing all her letter sounds, she might have 1-2 rhyming/sight word sheets and then cvc/word building sheets!

Do you include one page per skill?

It my opinion, 1 sheet per skill isn’t necessary if you haven’t touched on that skill yet, but letters currently being taught, sight word of the week/previous week, 1 phonemic awareness sheet, etc!

How much time will be spent changing out the pages within the binder?

This will depend on how many new pages you want to change within the binder each week! I like to like 2-3 “repeat” pages. This gives students an opportunity to really work to master that skill. It also helps students that struggle with the skill, they will get confident in these pages because of the repeated practice. You can also utilize amazing classroom helps, older grade buddies, etc! The other great thing about the binders is this will be the “only’ part of center time you’re preparing. You (un)forunately won’t be cutting, laminating, etc hands-on material for the year.

Binder of Centers

Click below to view the centers!


I also have a bundle of both ELA AND MATH!

Individual Tool Kits

A lot of teachers are also utilizing my tool kits this upcoming year! The idea is each kiddo will have their own personal set of lesson resources! This means no sharing, no teacher passing out/collecting, and works for kids that are at home with 100% virtual learning! I previously shared about the tool kits HERE!

Teachers have been finding the most unique ways to organize the tool kits!

You can also do a combined tool kit for both ELA and MATH! If you so you can download these freebie TOOL KIT LABELS!

The pictures shown above are from TEACHERS in the Facebook group! If you aren’t yet part of our amazing community you can join us HERE! If you are in the group join us you can access all of the posts JUST about the tool kits HERE!

I’ve also added several components to the tool kits since first posting them! If you previously own the math tool kit be sure to redownload for all of the new pieces included PRINTABLE manipulatives! The packet now has printable pattern blocks, teddy bears, counting cubes, and place value rods!

View my tool kits by clicking below!


Teachers have also found great use of my FREE INSTANT ABC board download! Access that freebie HERE!

Micheyla made adjustments to her board to better fit her needs! You can download her modified board **HERE** She also is sharing the EDITABLE version of her board **HERE** Thank you Micheyla for sharing with us!

Download this freebie INSTANT ABC board HERE!!!

I hope this post allowed you to have a clearer picture on how you can tackle centers this school year! I like to solve #alltheproblems so it’s my hope that this will give you a jumping off spot for your center block!

XO- Tara


    1. Hi there! Above it states: YES, YES, YES! Simply purchase the Literacy Binder HERE…. then send me your receipt OR order number to LI******************@GM***.COM and I will email back with the link to the math binder! That link will auto update once the new set is ready! WOOT!

      Did you email me?

  1. I love this idea! I teach Pre K. Any chance that you will be creating binders for that level.? I love your PreK Math bundle. You are truly gifted in creating activities for students and teachers. Thanks for sharing all your ideas.

  2. Wow! This is fantastic! I have already been switching my centers to binders this summer. I have so many of your math and ELA bundles that I love using in class. I have been using those to create the binder activites for the week. Your materials are truly making my stress level so much lower because I KNOW I can create hands on centers in a safe way!

  3. Hi Tara, I love all you packets and bundles. I have been waiting until after you have updated to print my Binder of Math Centers. Can I start printing?

    Thank you,


    1. We have one on one ipads in our classroom so we are going to have the students post a picture of the finished product. We have done this in the past with word work activities in the classroom during center/daily 5 time. It is an accountability factor for the kids to complete the work. I love that it lets me see what they did and if I need to meet with them to review what they were working on.

  5. YOU my virtual, teacher friend, who I have never met in person, are one of my inspirations behind early education. I just can’t with you. Like, how do you even store it all in your brain?! UGH!!! I love youuuuuu and all you put your blessed hands to do for the teaching community. I am just so grateful to the Lord for you.

    I wrote about you here: https://mstessasclassroom.com/top-5-teachers-in-homeschool-learning/

    And I am forever cheering you on!

    xo, Tessa

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