Do you break into center groups the first few days during math and ela time? Or mostly stay whole group for activities?
I want to let them look at math manipulatives but not sure if I should rotate or not?

This will only be my 2nd year in K (7th year teaching overall), but last year I did do centers the first day, but they were very basic (playing/exploring with manipulatives). I think I did switch, but kept that switching very basic (moving to the next table). Once we got more into centers I taught them how to follow my rotation chart that I use once we get started with "real" centers.

During the first week, I stick mainly to "table-top centers." These are not actual centers, but I'll pull out a bin of toys or manipulatives that can be used on the tables. Students stay at their seat, and I'll give them one bucket to play with. If time allows, I may switch their buckets out, but they remain in their space.

This helps students to learn how to share, communicate, and work together, while allowing them an opportunity to practice cleaning up on signal, etc. I start introducing centers during the second week of school. Our first week is a bit different though - we only have half days for the first three days of school, and then start full days the second week, so time also plays into how I start introducing centers!

In 1st grade last year I had the kids rotate centers each day, but only one per day. I did the lesson, and a “gradual release.”

This year I have an assistant, so I think I will make her one of the centers. But the first week I will have them stay at one center a day and take it from there.

For Math manips I put all student manips in a bucket for each child. For the first week or two I taught how to get the bucket,roll out the mat onto the table and how to use each manip. Free play on their table with the manips was part of that time block too. We covered things such as no items in the mouth ,in the pockets and we don't write on or tear the materials.

For Language Arts ,I introduced one or two activity buckets per day,put them on a shelf and those became a choice among other choices that were not as structured such as legos,play dough and other creation or play items. For the first two weeks we explicitly practiced how to work by ourselves or with a partner. Things such as how to get help,ask to go to the bathroom and when to interrupt the teacher were repeatedly practiced. As the first trimester progressed,2 thirds of the buckets around the room were structured Language Arts activities and one area was a play based area. By about the fourth week I introduced the rotation powerpoint slides. We practiced for a few weeks and only did one or two rotations per day.

Free Play without directed academic group structure was done in the afternoon.