Thursday, February 13, 2014

Creating a School Family: Organizing Center Time

I have observed that many teacher have good intentions and want to allow children to have a choice about where they want to play and when.  Unfortunately, if it isn't managed well, free choice time can turn into chaos and the anxiety in the room goes through the roof.   

I get the opportunity to visit many classrooms when I am coaching.  I always keep my camera handy so I can snap shots of brilliance in action!  Recently, I found two new ideas for managing Center Time that I would love to share with you!  These ideas would work best with children that are preschool age and older. 

This first idea comes from a Head Start Classroom in my community.  At each center in the classroom, the teacher has posted a simple poster like the one shown above.  She added photos from school supply catalogs to help the children have a visual support along with written label for each center.  The bear cutouts give the children a visual reminder for how many children may play safely at each center.  When children arrive at the center, they hang their individualized bear on one of the spaces provided.  What a simple and easy way to add safety and predictability to your center time!

Speaking of simple, it doesn't get much simpler than this next idea!  I came across this fabulous and super super easy idea at the same Head Start, but in a different classroom.  You will flip when you see how easy it can be to kick your center management up a notch!

This teacher has a baggie with hair ties in it.  Yes, you heard that right, HAIR TIES!  When it is time for centers the teacher lays out the correct number of bands for each center.  So, if the yellow center is allowed to have four children, then she lays out four yellow bands. When the children choose their center they put the band around their wrist to help others know where they're going.  If they want to change centers they simply go over change colors and move to the center of their choice. 

The teacher spends time at the beginning of the year teaching the children which color represents each center.  She practices it with them and sets them (and her) up for success!  You could also hang some sort of colored symbol in each center to remind children of the color for each center if you choose.  What a great visual and tactile way to manage centers! It just doesn't get any easier than this!

Remember, our goal in center time is for children to be engaged in learning activities that increase social, motor, and cognitive skills, as well as language development through play.  Lack of structure at Center Time creates an atmosphere of stress for children.  When children are stressed learning will not occur.  By adding just a few little structures such as the ones shared above you can soothe the lower centers of the brain, help children feel safe and ready to learn!