Using Centers in Your School Counseling Program

Are you curious about using centers in your classroom guidance lessons? Or are you in the specials rotation and looking for a way to mix things up for your students? Setting up centers in the classroom guidance setting may seem like a foreign concept, but centers can be a great learning format for accomplishing a lot in a little time. Your students are definitely already familiar with how centers work because teachers commonly use them in the classroom. Having students focus on targeted topics or skills in school counseling centers can transform a large, whole group session by giving it a small group feel. I’ve got a few tips for getting started and a free ebook with 101 ideas for school counseling centers below for you!

Are you curious about using centers in your school counseling program? Check out this breakdown that'll show you exactly how to set up your centers and download a FREE guidebook with over 100 school counseling centers!

School Counseling Centers

Why You Should Use Them

Because students will be working in small groups without direct counselor supervision or intervention at all times, they’ll have the chance to use their cooperative learning strategies, helping one another along the way. This is a time when conversational skills can be tested and cooperation can be honed.

Many counselors may find that using structured centers in a classroom guidance setting serves as a classroom management strategy. While students are working on time-limited focused tasks in small groups opportunities for off-task behavior are reduced.

Finally, the hands-on, time-limited activities will promote engagement with all of your students. Because they’ll be working in small groups, there are more opportunities for students to shine and to take on leadership roles they may have otherwise held back from in a large group setting.

Are you curious about using centers in your school counseling program? Check out this breakdown that'll show you exactly how to set up your centers and download a FREE guidebook with over 100 school counseling centers! School counseling centers are perfect for classroom guidance lessons and small group counseling.

Supplies for Centers

Most of your supplies will be totally dependent on the activities you’re doing, but there are a few things that will make setting up centers a breeze. First, get something that will help to label your centers. It could be something like a wooden stand with a clip or a clear picture frame that you can slide numbers into. Find something that stands on its own and can be used to clearly display center names or numbers.

It is also helpful to have tubs to store your materials inside. Grab a big tub for all of the materials for centers on a particular topic or use smaller tubs to store materials for individual centers. If you’re using a big tub, divide your materials for each center into smaller re-sealable bags or envelops with prongs so that you can easily store your materials and be ready to go simply by opening your tub.

For everyday supplies that can be used for a variety of purposes, stock up on play dough, watercolor paints and brushes, paper plates, notecards, pipe cleaners, envelops, dice and folders. These are probably things you have on hand in your counseling materials anyway, and they can be great for quick, creative centers across topics. You can see counseling centers supplies that I added to my Amazon list here.

Are you curious about using centers in your school counseling program? Check out this breakdown that'll show you exactly how to set up your centers and download a FREE guidebook with over 100 school counseling centers!

Setting up Your Centers

For centers to work, it’s imperative that you have a clear, natural flow to your space. Students will need to know where to go and how to get there. Label your tables or stations clearly with numbers so that when it’s time to move, students can see and get to the next center in the workflow.

At the actual centers, lay out all of the necessary materials to limit the number of supplies that students will have to carry with them from center to center. This will cut down on instances of forgotten or left  behind materials! You can even put together small caddies of general supplies for every table to include pencils, crayons, scissors, and glue so that students can move from center to center with ease and have everything they need at each destination.

Nitty Gritty: How it Actually Works

For any center setup to work, you’ll need to explicitly teach the process. Walk your students through the behavioral expectations while they’re at the centers. Show them the progression from one center to the next, and let them know how they’ll know when to move (Will you use a bell? Will they hear a buzzer?). Show them exactly what they will be doing at each center before releasing them out into the room. The actual process and flow of counseling centers will be different for everyone, but let’s look at two basic setups:

Format 1:

First, if you’re using centers in a regular weekly or monthly classroom guidance lesson, there will be a pre-teaching or mini-lesson component to your centers. Spend some time providing direct instruction about the topic you’re planning to cover today before releasing students to the centers on their own. After your direct instruction, review the activities at each center. You may want to assign your students to a group or let them choose their own groups. If you’re doing the latter, clearly state the maximum number of students who can be at a center at a given time. Once students are at a center, they will complete the given activity and then move when indicated by the counselor. If your centers contain art activities or things that require cleanup, give your students a 2-minute notice before ending their time so that they can clean up before moving on.

Format 2:

The second center format is more common for counselors who are in the specials (electives) rotation and see students on a more regular basis. If you’re seeing your students once, twice, or more times per week, setting up stationary centers can be a winning format. After teaching a lesson on a given topic, you may want to set up centers that will stay in place for a couple of weeks so that students have ample time to practice each skill or engage in each activity. In this case, your students may not be rotating in a prescribed format, but they will still need to know information like maximum number of center participants, how to know when they’ve truly completed a center, etc.

If you aren’t using them yet, click below to download this free guidebook that has over 100 ideas for school counseling centers!

Are you curious about using centers in your school counseling program? Check out this breakdown that'll show you exactly how to set up your centers and download a FREE guidebook with over 100 school counseling centers!

 

If you’re already using school counseling centers, what do they look like for you? How do your students respond to them? Let me know in the comments! And if you still have questions, check out this post I did to answer some FAQs I received about centers!

Happy Counseling! -Counselor Keri

Are you curious about using centers in your school counseling program? Check out this breakdown that'll show you exactly how to set up your centers and download a FREE guidebook with over 100 school counseling centers!

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6 thoughts on “Using Centers in Your School Counseling Program

  1. Thank you for this resource! I’ve been thinking of the best way to incorporate centers to offer hands-on-reinforcement of what we learn through guidance.

  2. Counselor Keri-
    This is my second year as a school counselor in a school where I taught for 13 years! I love the families, community and people I work with and I want to serve them in the best way possible. Your generosity, guidance and curriculum ideas are helping me find my way. You see, while I am in the position of school counselor, I am also in school getting my masters in school counseling. Right now I feel a bit like I am drinking from a fire hose, not to mention doing this all during the pandemic! Because I am not sure of all the things I will need and use, I am beyond thankful for your freebies! I am connected to your blog, newsletter and emails, so I look forward to a lasting relationship! Thank you again!

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