University of Pittsburgh School of Education

What Does the Rest of the Class Do?

What will the rest of the class do while you're working with individuals or small groups?

By Barbara Milton (Pittsburgh teacher)


  • Divide your class into Center groups. Consider personalities, behavior and skill levels. Stronger students can help support weaker students. Designate a color for each group and write the children's names on the color. Laminate these sheets because you will be handling them and moving them around the room. The Center papers with the children's names on them will be moved almost daily.
  • A large envelope is needed for each Center. Write the Center name on each envelope and laminate, because the envelopes will be handled frequently by the children. What goes in these envelopes? When the class has Assigned Centers, cut and paste/paper and pencil activities are placed in these envelopes. There are different activities for each Center envelope. Place extra sheets in each envelope. The level of these activities should be on the child's independent level, not on the frustration or instructional levels. These activities should act to maintain and strengthen skills.


  • The first day of a new set of Center activities, take time to introduce the materials in each Center envelope to the entire class. Once each child completes the envelope activity, he/she places it on his/her desk. Then the child can work with the other materials in the same Center. Take time to teach the children what is expected of them. Begin Centers and monitor by moving from Center to Center and noting positive actions. Give adequate time here. It will ensure smooth sailing later.


  • Give a warning that Centers will be ending in two minutes. After two minutes, tell the children to clean up. When the children return to their seats, their Center paper/projects should be on their desks. Systematically ask for their Center work, Center by Center, group by group. This makes the children accountable. If a child is absent, ask another child in that group to put the Center assignment on the absentee's desk and include with make-up work.
  • The next day, each Center sign is moved to the next Center. After the four days of Assigned Centers, give the groups Free Choice Time. There are no envelope activities for this day.


  • Stamps and stickers of all kinds, clocks, money, numbers, insects, animals, objects. This promotes labeling and booklet making.
  • Bingo games of all kinds, magazines for classification and story starters, puzzles of all kinds, sight word cards, pictures with matching word cards, pictionaries, greeting card makers, numbers for War Game, memory games like Concentration, geoboards and design cards, magnetic shapes, letters and numbers, word puzzles.
  • Sentence parts which can be placed together to make silly sentences to be written and illustrated into booklets.
  • Stencils, calculators, Play-Doh for forming letters and words

Resource Text

Marriott, Kipperstein, Williams, and Connelly
What are the Other Kids Doing While You Teach Small Groups?
Creative Teaching Press, 1999.

Barbara Milton, Grade 1 Teacher, Pittsburgh Public Schools
KSRA (Keystone State Reading Association Annual Conference)
Oct. 23-27, 2000
Seven Springs Mountain Resort
Champion, Pennsylvania