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September 24, 2010

Learning Centers, Part 1: Why They're Important

By Allie Magnuson
Grades PreK–K

    Kindergarten was created as a place to emphasize the development of the whole child. Now, however, emphasis has shifted so much to academic development, at the expense of emotional, social, and physical development, that we often forget how important these are.

    Kindergarten was created as a place to emphasize the development of the whole child. Now, however, emphasis has shifted so much to academic development, at the expense of emotional, social, and physical development, that we often forget how important these are. However, your classroom learning centers, provided that you implement them right, can be a perfect place to promote these areas of growth in young children.


     

     

    In Part One of this series, I will tell you why learning centers are important and give examples of how my students benefit from them.

    In Part Two, I'll discuss center management and rules and routines.

    In Part Three, I'll share specific center ideas for your classroom.

    Also, stayed tuned every month to see how I've set up my dramatic play center to incorporate literacy!

     

    Five- and six-year-olds are natural, enthusiastic learners. Their impulse to ask questions, to investigate, and to explore, examine, and experiment, comes from a burning curiosity about the world and a desire to understand things. They learn, grow, and internalize through interactive experiences with each other, with adults, and with real materials that require all of their senses. For this reason, I spend careful time planning diverse learning centers, with open-ended activities and hands-on materials, to use throughout the year.

    Learning centers are areas within the classroom where students learn about specific subjects by playing and engaging in activities. Play is an active form of learning that involves the whole self. Even cognitive development, the primary focus in today's kindergarten, is achieved through child-initiated exploration and discovery.

    However, children need certain strategies and skills, such as making decisions, carrying out plans, cooperating and sharing with others, and problem-solving, in order to play and learn independently. As the teacher, your job during center time is to:
     

    • Observe
    • Listen
    • Ask questions
    • Show what to do when help is needed
    • Support first attempts
    • Participate in activities
    • Talk and have discussions with your students
    • Help your students make discoveries and connections
    • Share your knowledge and expertise


    Do not take ownership of the activities; figure out what the children are trying to achieve and how best to help them achieve it.

     

    Music01 Learning centers allow children to use up excess energy. In my Music and Movement Center, students are playing instruments.

     

     

     

    Reading01 Learning centers allow children to relax. Playing reduces tension because children Reading02 don't have to worry about expectations. There is no pressure. In my Book Nook Center, students are having a carefree, enjoyable learning experience.

     

     

     

    CutAndPaste01 CutAndPaste02 Learning centers allow children to take risks without fear of failure. Focus is on process rather than product. In my Cut and Paste Center, students are practicing fine motor skills.

     

     

     

     

    Learning centers allow children to be themselves. They become more open and engaged, more Reader'sTheater01 comfortable with their surroundings, and more natural.  In my Reader's Theater Center, students are playing with puppets. 

     

     

     

    Art03 Art04 Learning centers allow children to express themselves. In my Art Center, students are painting at easels.

     

     

     

     

    Learning centers allow children to be self-disciplined by exploring in their own way and intentionally Computers01 Computers03 directing their own learning. In my Computers Center, students are playing learning games.

     

     

     

    Writing01 Learning centers allow children to be self-motivated by concentrating on things Writing05 that interest them intensely. In my Writing Center, students are writing stories and studying print. Writing04

     

     

     

     

     

     

    ABC02 ABC05 Learning centers allow children to freely choose and experiment with materials that they find interesting. In my ABC Center, students are playing with tangrams and magnetic boards to recognize letters and learn their shapes.

     

     

    Learning centers allow children to investigate, explore, and discover things that are new to them and make connections with things that they already know. In my Science Center, students are growing plants and observing animals and insects.  Science07 Science04 Science03

     

     

     

     

    DramaticPlay02 Learning centers allow children to role play in order to understand and make sense of the real world and their personal experiences in it. In my Dramatic Play Center, students are playing house. DramaticPlay03

     

     

     

     

    Learning centers allow children to understand the social world, develop communication skills, and build relationships. In my Games and Puzzles Center, students are interacting while they are playing.


    Games04 Games05

     

    Learning centers allow children to see things through another person's point of view by working together Blocks04 to create, construct, and build. In my Blocks Center, students are making cities using blocks and Legos. Blocks05

     

     

     

     

    Listening02 Learning centers allow children to be independent. In my Listening Center, students are silently enjoying a book on tape.

     

     

     

    Math02 Learning centers allow children to face positive challenges and gain self-esteem Math06through success. In my Math Center, students are sorting, sequencing, and counting.


    Math07

     

     

    Learning centers allow children to feel satisfied by completing purposeful activities. In my Names Center, students are practicing writing their names.

    Names01 Names03
     

     

    In sum, learning centers allow children to develop appropriately. Since mature, well-rounded growth must include the whole self, children should be encouraged to play and explore their environment for selfish and social reasons as well as academic ones. When used for all of these purposes, learning centers are an important part of a balanced kindergarten.

    Do you use learning centers in your classroom? Why do you feel they are important?

    Have a playful weekend!

    ~Allie

     

    Kindergarten was created as a place to emphasize the development of the whole child. Now, however, emphasis has shifted so much to academic development, at the expense of emotional, social, and physical development, that we often forget how important these are.

    Kindergarten was created as a place to emphasize the development of the whole child. Now, however, emphasis has shifted so much to academic development, at the expense of emotional, social, and physical development, that we often forget how important these are. However, your classroom learning centers, provided that you implement them right, can be a perfect place to promote these areas of growth in young children.


     

     

    In Part One of this series, I will tell you why learning centers are important and give examples of how my students benefit from them.

    In Part Two, I'll discuss center management and rules and routines.

    In Part Three, I'll share specific center ideas for your classroom.

    Also, stayed tuned every month to see how I've set up my dramatic play center to incorporate literacy!

     

    Five- and six-year-olds are natural, enthusiastic learners. Their impulse to ask questions, to investigate, and to explore, examine, and experiment, comes from a burning curiosity about the world and a desire to understand things. They learn, grow, and internalize through interactive experiences with each other, with adults, and with real materials that require all of their senses. For this reason, I spend careful time planning diverse learning centers, with open-ended activities and hands-on materials, to use throughout the year.

    Learning centers are areas within the classroom where students learn about specific subjects by playing and engaging in activities. Play is an active form of learning that involves the whole self. Even cognitive development, the primary focus in today's kindergarten, is achieved through child-initiated exploration and discovery.

    However, children need certain strategies and skills, such as making decisions, carrying out plans, cooperating and sharing with others, and problem-solving, in order to play and learn independently. As the teacher, your job during center time is to:
     

    • Observe
    • Listen
    • Ask questions
    • Show what to do when help is needed
    • Support first attempts
    • Participate in activities
    • Talk and have discussions with your students
    • Help your students make discoveries and connections
    • Share your knowledge and expertise


    Do not take ownership of the activities; figure out what the children are trying to achieve and how best to help them achieve it.

     

    Music01 Learning centers allow children to use up excess energy. In my Music and Movement Center, students are playing instruments.

     

     

     

    Reading01 Learning centers allow children to relax. Playing reduces tension because children Reading02 don't have to worry about expectations. There is no pressure. In my Book Nook Center, students are having a carefree, enjoyable learning experience.

     

     

     

    CutAndPaste01 CutAndPaste02 Learning centers allow children to take risks without fear of failure. Focus is on process rather than product. In my Cut and Paste Center, students are practicing fine motor skills.

     

     

     

     

    Learning centers allow children to be themselves. They become more open and engaged, more Reader'sTheater01 comfortable with their surroundings, and more natural.  In my Reader's Theater Center, students are playing with puppets. 

     

     

     

    Art03 Art04 Learning centers allow children to express themselves. In my Art Center, students are painting at easels.

     

     

     

     

    Learning centers allow children to be self-disciplined by exploring in their own way and intentionally Computers01 Computers03 directing their own learning. In my Computers Center, students are playing learning games.

     

     

     

    Writing01 Learning centers allow children to be self-motivated by concentrating on things Writing05 that interest them intensely. In my Writing Center, students are writing stories and studying print. Writing04

     

     

     

     

     

     

    ABC02 ABC05 Learning centers allow children to freely choose and experiment with materials that they find interesting. In my ABC Center, students are playing with tangrams and magnetic boards to recognize letters and learn their shapes.

     

     

    Learning centers allow children to investigate, explore, and discover things that are new to them and make connections with things that they already know. In my Science Center, students are growing plants and observing animals and insects.  Science07 Science04 Science03

     

     

     

     

    DramaticPlay02 Learning centers allow children to role play in order to understand and make sense of the real world and their personal experiences in it. In my Dramatic Play Center, students are playing house. DramaticPlay03

     

     

     

     

    Learning centers allow children to understand the social world, develop communication skills, and build relationships. In my Games and Puzzles Center, students are interacting while they are playing.


    Games04 Games05

     

    Learning centers allow children to see things through another person's point of view by working together Blocks04 to create, construct, and build. In my Blocks Center, students are making cities using blocks and Legos. Blocks05

     

     

     

     

    Listening02 Learning centers allow children to be independent. In my Listening Center, students are silently enjoying a book on tape.

     

     

     

    Math02 Learning centers allow children to face positive challenges and gain self-esteem Math06through success. In my Math Center, students are sorting, sequencing, and counting.


    Math07

     

     

    Learning centers allow children to feel satisfied by completing purposeful activities. In my Names Center, students are practicing writing their names.

    Names01 Names03
     

     

    In sum, learning centers allow children to develop appropriately. Since mature, well-rounded growth must include the whole self, children should be encouraged to play and explore their environment for selfish and social reasons as well as academic ones. When used for all of these purposes, learning centers are an important part of a balanced kindergarten.

    Do you use learning centers in your classroom? Why do you feel they are important?

    Have a playful weekend!

    ~Allie

     

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