Responsive Classroom and Library Centers

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-4-16-03-am A zenergy chime rings three times in the library. Second-grade children working at 6 different centers stop what they are doing and give the silent signal. “It is time to put materials away. I am looking for children who are closing the Seesaw app and putting their crayons away. I am noticing many of you are helping friends close the app. Please push in your chairs and join me on the music rug.”

This is how we end our centers in the PK-2 Colchester Elementary School Library, and I learned this method by reading “Rules in School: Teaching Discipline in the Responsive Classroom.”

Responsive Classroom

“Rules in School” is a quick read. It’s full of headings, numbered steps, and bullet points. The techniques in the book helped me introduce library centers for making, illustrating, coding, wondering and researching in the library.

Step 1: Set the Stage 

  • blog-3Create a meeting space to begin and end each session.
  • Assign a number to every student in each class.
  • Purchase clothespins and number them 1-24 with a sharpie. Put the clothespins in a bowl.
  • You’ll also need a trifold billboard. Add the numbers of the stations along the edges of the billboard. We have 6 stations in our library. I numbered the left side of the billboard with the numbers 1-3, and 4-6 on the right side of the board.
  • Purchase clear plastic double-sided sign holders.
  • Set up a “Take a Break” space

Step 2: Introduce the Stations

  • Make “I Can Work Quietly in the Library” signs for each station.
  • Put the same activity at every station. I put a puppet and a book at each seat.
  • Students gather at the meeting space.
  • Say “I am looking for children who are sitting on the carpet with their eyes looking at me. I am noticing many children who are ready to learn because their voices are off and they are waiting for directions. Nice job, boys and girls! We are ready to work.”
  • Explain that you want them to have choices when they visit the library. Share the possibilities of what the stations will eventually look like.
  • Say “Today, we are going to practice what it looks like and sounds like to work at a station in the library.”
  • Explain what is at each station. I have an Apple TV in the library, so I use the camera app on an iPad to show on the monitor what is available at each station.

Step 3: Model 

  • Model what it looks like and sounds like to take a clothespin, pin it on the billboard next to a station, walk to the station, and quietly get to work. Ask children what they noticed about what you did. Ask a child to model the same steps. What did the children notice?
  • The silent signal is introduced next. Model what it looks like and sounds like to give the silent signal when the zenergy chime rings three times. Practice with children.
  • Follow the same steps for cleaning up a station, pushing in chairs, and sitting at the meeting space. What did the children notice? Ask a child to model.
  • Model what it looks like and sounds like if a center is full and you have to choose another station. What did the children notice? Let children know that it’s o.k. if they don’t get their choice this week because they can always get a chance next time.
  • Introduce the “Take a Break” seat. Model what it looks like and sounds like to “Take a Break.” Children will notice that you quietly sit at a desk, take deep breaths, and relax. Explain that some may choose to take a break on their own, or the teacher might decide to have a child take a break and regroup.

Step 4: Guided Practice

  • blogPick a clothespin from the bowl, announce the number, and allow children to choose their centers and get to work.

Step 5: Independent Practice

  • Introduce a new station during the next class. I introduced the Seesaw app. Model how to use the app.
  • Explain that not everyone can go to the Seesaw station. What does it look like and sound like to feel disappointed and choose another station? Ask a child to model making another choice in a quiet manner. Ask the class what they noticed.

Looking Ahead

I will add another station with Chromebooks. I will ask children to write or draw what they wonder about the world around them using the Chromebooks. I will introduce making centers, a Dash center and a video production center next.


The children are engaged in their learning and enjoying the freedom of making choices in their learning. I am looking forward to introducing more centers where children can practice information literacy skills.

Do you have centers in your library? If so, what are your management tips? Please share in the comment boxes!


I want to thank Tim Ley (@Tfley) for inviting me into his library where two classes at a time enjoy independent learning centers. I also want to thank Principal Judy O’Meara for giving all teachers in our school a copy of  “Rules in School” and giving me release time to visit Tim’s library. 





Author: Maureen Schlosser

Author: Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades and Social and Emotional Learning for Picture Book Readers published by ALA Editions
Skillshare Teacher:

Categories: Blog Topics, Makerspaces/Learning Commons, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

5 replies

  1. Thank you for sharing this! I have been trying to figure out a way to introduce centers for my students that visit me as a Related Arts class, and this will be a perfect way to do it!

  2. You are welcome!
    If you have any questions, please let me know!

  3. Awesome ideas. Thanks!

  4. Hi! I love all your ideas and I’m going to use them.

    I have one question. Do you make your centers revolve around a book you have read? I’m just wondering. Thanks for the help.

  5. Hi, Erin! I’m sorry for the late reply! I think it’s a great idea to create centers based on children’s literature. I hope you tried it! What a great way to explore books!

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