First, I saw many comments about the length of time issue. It sounds like many readers have a variety of centers but kids can stay at them for as long as they wish, and can pick whichever center they want to play at. This is something I thought about a lot while I was finalizing my own routine. I think that it all depends on how the other aspects of your school day are set up. When I planned my Center Time I was factoring in the following: The kids at my school have an hour each morning of Choice Time to start off the day. They love this. They can use any activity in the school (and we have a variety of them!). They might play dress up, build trains, color, use our toy kitchen, build with blocks, use any of the tools in our center bins, play dolls or Little People...the choices are endless! They have an hour to pick as many things as they want, to move from activity to activity as they wish, and to stay at them for any length of time.
With that time already in place I was really looking forward to creating three "mini lessons" or activities for the kids to experience each day. My preschool always has a weekly theme, and daily whole-group project to go with that theme, so structured centers that could merge with our weekly learning sounded like a fantastic idea. One guided by myself, and two that are student guided/exploration based. So, I created my Center Time with all of that in mind :) I also wanted the chance to encourage kids to try new activities or work on skills that I hoped to expose them to, but allow them to experience it through their own guided-play. I am excited to continue to hear and share ideas with other teachers through the earlier post and this one about how you are choosing to run Centers in your programs (and how kids are enjoying them at the start of a new school year!).
Another thing I thought about a lot was student "choice". I made sure each center room had at least four velcro squares available (which meant a total of 12 different spaces for kids to choose from) and I limited my group size to eight kiddos this year! So, even though I get to pick the options each day, they get a lot of autonomy with picking the order they visit each center.
A Look at Our First Week of Center Time!
Teacher Goals For The First Week
1. How to use and put away crayons and markers.
2. How to find their coloring books and journals if they want to use them.
3. How to work cooperatively with new friends.
When I introduced the coloring center I spent time showing the kids how to care for our writing supplies :) And I was able to help children work on this skill as I lead this center. The kids will have a variety of times throughout the day when they could use their coloring books or journals for choice-time and I wanted to make sure they knew how to find the one with their name. With practice finding it in the bins each day they got comfortable with finding their own books.
I have found, from past years, that some of the best community building activities use things like building blocks. The kids have to share pieces, can build together, and work on being kind and respectful of what other kids build. So, I chose to put two centers out that would encourage the kids to work on those skills during our very first week. And I was there to help them because I purposefully chose not to directly lead one of the centers, but instead be available to walk around to all three and assist with transitions and rotations.
This week of centers was fun, successful, and helped build all the goals I had set for our first week. I can't wait to put out new things next week and see what the kids think!