How to set up and run centers with your ELLs


Let’s move onto the second step of GRR. If you missed step 1, you can find that post here!

I love this step of the learning process. The teacher now takes on the role of the facilitator, whose role is to ask questions, prompt deeper thinking, and observe. Don’t be too quick to jump in and help, this part of the learning is a great time for students to struggle, take risks, fail, and learn. Observe and take notes of ways you might be able to better support them later, but it is important they learn they have a key role in this part of the process and that you will not immediately rescue them.

So what’s the best way to do this? I believe it’s by setting up centers!

Centers are a wonderful way to

  • help your students work independently.
  • give you time with one on one with students
  • provide structure and differentiation for a mixed group.

In today’s post I’ll walk you through how to

  1. How to group your students for centers
  2. How to set up centers
  3. What resources you can use to run centers smoothly

So, where should you begin?

First, you want to decide how you are going to group your students.

Here are a few ideas of how you can group them:

  • Same language level
  • Mixed language groups
  • Skill based
  • Same first language

Once you’ve decided how you will group them, you will then want to decide what type of stations you want to run.

I usually liked to run these 4 types of stations:

  • Teacher station
  • Partner station
  • Technology station
  • Independent Station

You can also run differentiated stations which are 4 different stations with similar activities for the groups to rotate from one to the next. We will talk about this further later on.

So now you have your groups and types of centers set, but what should you do in each center?

Here are some ideas of what you can do in each center.

Looking for more specific ideas?

Here’s a more in depth look at running the centers with specific resources already chosen for you.

Interested in these activities? Here’s a link to each one:

Everything You Need for ELL Newcomers

Digital Centers

Listen and Learn

Interested in these activities? Here’s a link to each one:

Close Reading Passages

Pick a Picture

Writing Activities

Vocabulary Boom Cards

Interested in these activities? Here’s a link to each one:

Speaking and Writing Cards

Close Reading

Boom Cards

(Pop is currently only available to Equipping ELL members)

A few additional tips:

  • Centers work best when the students are working for 15-20 minutes at each station before rotating.
  • It’s also important to have clear visuals and expectations of what should happen at each center. Practice before hand, especially the transition time!
  • Make sure you aren’t giving brand new activities to the students during centers. This will most likely them ending up in getting off task or disrupting the time because they don’t know what to do. If you can have a QR code explaining the directions that always helps!

What other questions do you have about setting up centers? Let me know!


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