Learning Centres

block-centre

Often we found that we needed to stimulate some conversation within the centres and to change things up from the typical blocks in our building centre, we brought in recylced materials.  We collected a variety of boxes, toilet paper rolls, and added some tape, crayons, and scissors.  We got some logs from the forest about 8 pieces that they would be able to carry easily.  We bought some reflective vests, PVC piping from the plumbing section of the hardware store and pylons from the gym.  Vladimir Petruk Président du conseil Interbudmontazh

The look on their faces the very next day was priceless!  As the day progressed they creativity was truly coming to live and the oral conversations were great!  Later on we added some inspirational pictures and books of firefighters, buildings, and different modes of transportation.  This also lead us into creating moving vehicles in our art centre.  We created modes of transportation using recycled materials, straws, dowels, spools, etc.

opportunity-to-engage-in-centres

Play is critical to learning. Children learn best when they can play, explore their world and  interact and talk with adults and peers. From personal experience, I have seen some students disengage with mindless tasks quickly and you may even see some different behaviours.

Centres are an excellent way to share the oral language experience, see their personalities and creativity, and to collect great assessment information.  I often carry around a clipboard with both blank paper, and paper divided into  squares where I can record a child’s name.  You just never know what is going to happen as you share…..

When planning a centre think of these:

  • What is my big ideas, my goal that I am trying to achieve?
  • What are my open-ended questions (2 or 3) so I can begin the conversation? Oral language assessing?
  • Do I have enough materials that they can explore?
  • Pause and Reflect on what you see and hear from your students?

Listeded below are some links within this site that discuss the importance of play.

Colouring sheets to materials that will explore their creativity……..

Research on play vs worksheets http://ultimateblockparty.ca/home/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Play-or-worksheets.pdf

Playing is learning http://ultimateblockparty.ca/home/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Planning-for-Play.pdf

The importance of play http://earlylearningcentral.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/importanceplay.pdf

leaf-art

A fun fall activity that I did with my students late in the month of September was a leaf activity. The ideas ties in with our community and observing the world around them in nature. Children were responsible to collect leaves of any size, shape, and colour from around their neighbourhoods.  We displayed them on our light table and placed paper and crayons for the children to create leaf rubbings.  It really sparked some discussions around why leave change colours, what kind of trees they came from etc.  So I added some books to the centre about leave, and their colours.  It was a great conversation and it allowed me to work with children and show them how answers can be found by reading in a book.

Later, I read the book:  The Leaf Man by Lois Elhert.  This book was selected to spark/inspire a creation of a leaf person.  Children collected other outdoor materials like-rocks, sticks, flowers, pine cones to add.  On Dollar Store cookie sheets students placed their materials and created a person.  I took a picture of them and their design.  After I asked them questions and I recorded the children’s thought about their leaf person.  Some told me about what they used, some gave them names and told me be about family.  I typed up the information and posted the picture along with the write-up on construction paper and hung it around our classroom.  The children loved seeing themselves in the classroom and loved talking about what they created.  It was so cute and this simple activity sparked so much discussion building on their oral language skills!

planning-for-learning

Now that the you have had the opportunity to meet your students over the last little while, you can reflect on your daily schedule.  Thinking it Through has a plan for both full and half days.  http://earlylearningcentral.ca/?page_id=1218 .  Some things can’t be changed due to the large schedules within your school,  but you can always try to move things around if they are in the best interest of your students.  Many schools are on the balanced day program with 3, 100 minute blocks of learning.  I always ensure that my students get 60 minutes or more in one of those blocks, and a second block of about 45 minutes.  The reason behind the time frames is to allow the children to explore the centre, select materials, create/manipulate, think and change, discuss, and share their learning without having to rush.  They are learning how to learn!

During these next few weeks circulating the room with children would be a great opportunity to discuss with them what is available in each centre, behaviours, and routines.  Remind them daily of what is available. 

I personally do not designate where children should be nor do I have number limits.  Children move freely to different centres as it sparks their interest.  My ECE partner or myself will call children over to work in small groups during this block of play the other circulates, documenting and asking questions as they pertain to our goals or big ideas for the centre.  All children are responsible for the entire room clean-up.

planning-idea

In the beginning of the school year my ECE partner and I worked together to review the curriculum document and decided on how to best meet the needs of our students in the first 6 weeks.  For most, this was an entirely new setting for them and we wanted to make them feel as comfortable as possible. 

Our first idea was to start with them and their experiences.  We got them to design special “Me” bags at home.  Children places special items and picture to discuss in large group.  This year, we decided to purchase picture frames from the dollar store and have the children bring in a photo of their family or a picture of them doing something fun. These remain around the classroom and it creates great discussions.

Next, we started discussing their natural surrounds-we discussed family, our neighbourhoods which lead to discussions about nature, buildings, shapes, signs etc.  We planned a community walk field trip early October to travel around the neighbourhood to view some of these things.  During the walk we stopped and talked about what we saw–I took the camera to take pictures. 

From the photographs we created large posters with the children telling us what they saw and adding the language below the pictures.  We make books and started to change our centres according to our neighbourhood. 

Examples are; Our house centre became the bake shop, another centre become the clinic, the building centre become a construction zone with a fire station, and our math area focused on shapes–naming and sorting.  The children made signs, added in their own writing, they wore different clothing, and this lead to discussions about careers. 

This is how our long range plans began to evolve–their ideas drove the learning, and we reviewed and matched curriculum expectations for each centre.   We used a web format for our planning.  The Big Idea or overall learning was the focus –each centre developed around the idea (each had a purpose and focus) so we would write down questions that we would ask the children as we entered each centre to extend their learning.

classroom-environment

When thinking about your classroom organization for the students attending in the next few weeks, the Thinking it Through document -Learning Centres booklet starting on p.9 makes some great points to ponder when reflecting on your classroom set-up. http://earlylearningcentral.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/TIT-aug-8.pdf

  •  The classroom should be warm and inviting to students, and the Reggio Emilia approach is to have the classroom serve as a “third teacher”. 
  • the environment reflects our values as teachers, and informs and shapes the kind of learning that will happen
  • consider positioning of centres (loud vs quiet), flow
  • include natural materials as much as possible-in my science centre I have pine cones, rocks, twigs, leaves just a few to start off and then the children will be responsible to help build this centre
  • think about large and small groupings-tables in my classroom  are incorporated into centres as well as for snack.  This way they have a multi-purpose and it reduces the amount of large furniture.  I also have no desk, but I have 2 filing cabinets one for my daybook and supplies and the other for files.
  • p. 15-17 poses some reflective questions to consider in classroom set-up
  • starting on p.32 some recommended learning centres are listed discussing there purpose, observation pts, material lists, furniture, and a suggestion for location.

In our classroom, my ECE partner and myself think about making it a “home like” environment where the walls have little commercial bought products, but picture frames handing where we will eventually display children’s art work.  I purchased a few plants, we are going to add some lamps to create a cozy feeling in our reading corner, and last year we had some birch branches cemented into flower pots and strung with white Christmas lights to add that outdoor feel to our science centre.  In the first few weeks we have just enough materials out, so that we can observe, establish routines in the classroom, get to know the children and their strengths, and to see what they need to develop their learning.  Some centres are permanent like building, but the items within it will change.

learning-centres-in-kindergarten

A learning centre is also known as an activity centre.  Some of these are permanent (ie: reading corner), while others can be temporary and based on student interest (ie: boats in a water table).  Materials should be chosen based on the children’s developmental needs, as well as the potential for exploring and learning.  Open-ended materials are advised.  Centres should be well defined, organized, have an easy access to materials and allow for children to be involved independently within them. 

In Kindergarten, a classroom is organized around the learning centres.  The centres are how we provide a developmentally appropriate learning environment for our students.  They contribute to the development of oral language, social skills, learning, physical skills and inquiry.  They are places where children can explore, revisit, create, recreate based on pas experiences and build their knowledge.

Some examples of common learning centres in a Kindergarten room are a dramatic play centre, a sand table, a water table, a discovery table/centre, an open art centre, and centres for literacy and mathematics.

making-leis

Next week, we are having a “Beach Day” at our school.  To help our children get in the spirit of summer, we made leis with our kindergarten students.

To begin the lesson, we all met on the carpet as a large group.  We showed them a few pictures of leis, and discussed what they are.  We then told the students we were going to make our own for our “Beach Day”.  Next, we reviewed different types of patterns by using our bodies as well as by drawing shapes in patterns on our whiteboard.  We used yarn, plastic needles, tissue paper flowers (easy to thread through), and straws (all white) to create the leis.  We did a quick demonstration to the large group so they could watch how to create the lei.   Then, we had them create patterns by threading the flowers and straws.  Some children did their patterns as a simple AB pattern (flower, straw).  Some children chose 2 flowers and straws to create an AAB pattern, and others chose 2 colours of flowers and straws to make an ABC pattern. 

It was a fun activity for everyone, and we had the opportunity to review and assess the students’ knowledge of patterns and we can wear them next week to celebrate the beach!