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This might be my longest post in history. Ever. So, if you are anything like me and just want the ideas for the dessert centers —> SCROLL DOWN. There is nothing I love more than setting up for back to school. Seriously. I LOVE new crayons, pencils, markers, glue, anything brand new in a package that has to do with school, I LOVE it. I wish everything could stay new and pretty! Another one of my favorite things is setting up my literacy and math centers….and now — my Dessert Tubs! I know, it seems like more and more work on top of more work on top of “yeah right, I don’t have time”, but with some careful planning and easy suggestions to grab in a pinch, your “I’m Done!” nightmare can finally end. I did “dessert tubs” all year this year and the kids went nuts over them. Even did ’em during indoor recess. Yup. #WINNING.

First, I give 100% of the logistic credit for these Dessert Tubs to Katie Mense from Little Kinder Warriors. I went to the ESGI conference in Vegas last summer and got to hear all about her Can-Do System. She’s basically amazing!  I will let you read all about her system here, but essentially, each child has a laminated card with their photo on it, one red for literacy, and one blue for math. On the backs of the card, there is a menu and whichever dessert {I call them this, though I have no idea who I took it from} they choose, they put an X over that choice. This means they cannot revisit that center again that week. We erase the cards on Fridays, so it starts over the next week. I bought her Can-Do System on TpT, but slightly altered it to match my room decor {duh}.

I have 12 dessert tubs, 5 for literacy, 5 for math, and the last 2 are computer. At the beginning of the school year, we set expectations and model, model, model how the desserts should be used. Here are a few of our rules for desserts:

  1. No rushing through center work to get to desserts. Rushed work = dessert time out for the WEEK. No one likes that, so this is seldom a problem.
  2. Share when at the dessert tubs if a partner joins.
  3. No repeat desserts in one week. This is managed by having the students mark an X on the back of their cards on the station that they choose. They are erased each Friday. If they’re caught duplicating a dessert = dessert time out.
  4. Work the WHOLE time. Not working = you guessed it, dessert time out.

So now that the logistics are out of the way, here’s the important, fun, exciting part. {It’s totally ok if you scrolled down to this part. I would’ve.} What in the world do I put in my dessert tubs so that I don’t stress myself out every day/week/month?? First of all, I only change them once a month. I know that doesn’t seem like much variety, but really, they are only visiting dessert tubs if they finish their literacy/math center activity, and I have very few of those that are quickies. {Wait. What?} So the odds of them getting “burnt out” on my desserts are, like, nil. I try to keep these dessert tubs paper-free. I don’t want to have to make MORE copies. I’m done with copies. {I’m also in BIG TROUBLE with my wonderful, fabulous, beautiful principal for having, ah-em, the MOST copies on my floor. Oops.}  I also wanted to make sure my desserts were not just busywork. Every one of my desserts has a content standard that can be attached to it, even if it’s a social studies standard {importance of following rules, sharing, social interactions, etc.} If I cannot tie it to a standard, {and I usually can, since I’m so sneaky creative} then I don’t put it out.

So here we go!We have a ton of ABC practice activities. From these free tracing mats to $1 puzzles from Dollar Tree, the possibilities are endless. I also have the ABC Play Dough Binder available in my shopl! Livinia Pop has some great beginning sound coloring pages in her TpT shop as well.

These and these are freebies that go along with math manipulatives that most teachers have lying around. Pattern bears, cubes, counting shapes, any of those things are great for desserts, especially at the beginning of the year when you can just let them explore.

These card packs are great for desserts, alone or with a partner. They choose a card pack, grab a timer, and try to “Beat the Timer”. At the beginning of the year, depending upon their ability level, they can choose the letter cards and say the letter name or sound. This particular pack also has CVC words, digraphs, beginning sounds, ending sounds, and an editable sight word feature. Click here to check it out!

I know you have a ton of games lying around. If you’re anything like me, you completely forget you have them, actually! Any type of game is perfect for desserts, because playing games promotes social interactions, gets students acclimated to playing by the rules, and being good sports.These can be anything that gets your kids working with small parts. Lacing shapes are great ones, as well as these pom pom pages from Tara West. If you have a set of small locks and keys, those are great for fine motor practice! I also happen to have these pegs in my classroom when I moved in, so of course, we use these all the time!

Any type of number practice is good for the beginning of the year. Writing numbers, tracing, practicing counting, basically anything to get your kiddos used to working with numbers. I have a Number Practice Kit that I laminate all of the pages and have the kids use dry erase markers to trace the numbers and number words. It also includes homework pages and a practice booklet that can easily be used for regular math centers. Cara Carroll also has some really good number practice goodies in her shop. Of course, you can always go with the freebie — just lay out some number cards and ANY type of manipulative and have students match the numbers to quantities! Easy and free. Love free.

I created an “All About Me” mini binder that has 15+ practice pages for students to work on. The binder includes name writing practice, birthday, family information, phone number and address practice, and more “all about me” info. It’s also editable and includes a page for you to include student addresses so they can practice writing and memorizing their address. You can also edit your school name, as well as a class list so students can practice writing their friends’ names. I printed a couple copies of this, put them in mini {half} binders, laminated all the pages, and put them in page protectors. Works perfectly for desserts! They can also work together, so if they need help, they can rely on each other. There are also some free downloads on TpT that could easily be printed as 1/2 sheets and put into the half binders. I just think the mini binders are cute, easier for my kinders to maneuver, and they fit in my dessert tubs.I use these computer pages so that students aren’t just aimlessly surfing the web for God knows what. I open these up before we start centers to they’re ready to go if someone chooses to work on the computers for their dessert. They just click on the image that appeals to them and it takes them to it. I have several others in the works that I will post for free later this summer as well! Click  here to download a copy to use.I love any kind of puzzles, but incorporating environmental print is always a plus at the beginning of the year! Just cut up some cereal boxes, containers, paper wrappers {and adhere them to cardboard or yardstick for sturdiness} and you’ve got yourself some free puzzles. I also love these math shape puzzles {which reminds me of Tetris!}. You can also get regular ole’ puzzles from the Dollar Tree. Puzzles are great for fine motor and collaboration.

Finally, the listening center. I didn’t have a listening center this past school year because I didn’t have the resources — or so I thought. But then I discovered a way that you can take any book that you already have, record yourself reading it, and then create a QR code for it. Then your kiddos can scan it and listen to it! Click here to read my post about how to create your own QR Code Reading Center.

I hope this post has helped you tame the “I’m Done!” beast. All of these centers can also be used in regular ole’ literacy or math centers if you don’t fancy doing dessert tubs. I plan on posting another version that includes activities that would make sense for the middle/end of the year soon. Be on the lookout!

Do you have dessert tub ideas you want to share? Or maybe a question? Leave a comment!





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