centers

Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom Part 3 – Use Unexpected Items in Unexpected Ways!

I have a confession to make – I love manipulatives! I have only a few, though, from using points from the Scholastic book sales from my classroom. I’ve been pretty picky choosing the sets I get – fall acorns and squirrels, frogs, and there’s even a set of puppies. But really, for the most part, I’ve never had the budget to buy the many I’d love to own.

Instead, I’ve found unexpected items to use for the centers I plan in my classroom. It’s pretty creative and fun to think of different things that my preschoolers and PreKers will find interesting and maybe even weird or funny. There’s been a giggle or two and lots of smiles from kids when they see what’s out for them at center work when they come into their classroom.

I’ve heard, “Why are there so many shoes and socks, Mrs. Weide?” Yep – you read that right. Shoes and socks! But more about that later.

The very best feedback, though, has been when parents tell me they’ve used unexpected items of their own at home at the request of the preschoolers and PreKers. All that learning and sharing going on at home – I love it!

Look Around Your School for the Unexpected!

What can you find at your school that your student would think was different or something maybe they haven’t seen before? Look from a different angle in your supply room – skooch down and look up or to the side. Do items look different from that angle? What would your students think about those things? Look in cabinets – what would kids find interesting? Is there at kitchen at your school? I’ve been lucky to have a full kitchen and a full size gym at the my school. How about different kids of spoons from the kitchen – wooden spoons, slotted spoons, large, small, plastic . . . you get the idea. How about things that don’t go together to put out for patterning or color sorting – trucks and tea cups from your kitchen center?

Use spoons from your kitchen at home or at school for classroom centers in preschool or PreK. Honeycomb Printable Preschool

Paper Die Cut Shapes

For a few years in our supply room there was a box with about 200 large envelopes inside, and they came in six bright, cheerful colors. I’d used some for Mother’s Day gifts, but it seemed nobody else ever used them. On a particularly dreary, rainy day in Oregon, those cheerful envelopes called out to me. I grabbed a few of each color, took them into my room with no idea how to use them.

Then it hit me – right there, on a back table, was a shape center all ready to go. That table was calling out for these cheerful envelopes! I placed a few colored envelopes on the table, left only paper die cut shapes with the same matching envelope colors on the table, and there was the shape and color center for the day! Not only did kids match up the colors, I modeled putting the paper die cut shapes inside the envelopes. Shapes, colors AND muscle strengthening for writing while placing the shapes inside the envelopes!

Here’s another hint for center setup with the die cut paper shapes: Hide the shapes around your classroom, and as kids are arriving ask each student to find a colored shape. For instance, “Cassie, can you find an orange rectangle?” Not only can you use this as an assessment for colors and shapes, kids can place the shapes on a table, and they’re helping to set up the center work for the day.

What’s At Home To Use In Centers?

Did you know there’s a treasure trove of center supplies right in your own home? Lids from energy drinks, juice lids, twist lids from salad dressing, ketchup, mayo, BBQ sauce, and even milk containers.

Use bottle caps for color recognition and color sorting in classroom centers for preschool and PreK. Honeycomb Printable Preschool

Not only can you use the lids for counter manipulatives, color matching, sorting sizes of lids, patterning, you can add a small piece of blue tape to each lid and draw shapes, letters, or numbers on them. Use these for different letter and number recognition centers, matching, sorting, and patterning center work in your classroom. Remember to use blue tape so you can peel it off, and you’ll be able use the lids for another center.

There’s letters and numbers to cut out from any box of cereal or mac & cheese. There’s letters on labels from any can of soup, green beans or corn. Use these letters and numbers for recognition, matching uppercase and lowercase letters, practice with spelling names, placing numbers 1-10 and backwards from 10-1.

Use tumblers or wood blocks to teach kids advanced shapes. Classroom center activities. Honeycomb Printable Preschool

How about using plastic tumblers (cylinders) from home and wood blocks (cubes) from your classroom block center for a 3-D shape center. So easy, and early learners can totally pick up on these advanced shapes. Another idea – use an empty egg carton, and kids count twist tops from applesauce pouches as they put them in each space.

Shoes and Socks!

Remember the shoes and socks I mentioned earlier? Well, here’s the story: We were learning about the nursery rhyme There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe, so I brought in 16 pairs of shoes and socks from my home! We used these in centers for patterning, counting, sorting colors, sorting sizes, and measuring “how many shoes are you long?” learning. Those centers were So. Much. Fun!

Fun Centers In Your Classroom

Even though cute, bright, cheerful manipulatives are out there to purchase, there’s no need to spend your classroom funds for these. I’m betting your students, and you as their teacher, will actually have more fun together using just “stuff” from around your school or home. Your students won’t learn any better or more quickly, or be less engaged, using unexpected items in unexpected ways in your classroom centers!

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Please add your email on the homepage to be notified when Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom – Part 4 is posted. In the fourth post in this six-part series, you’ll find out how to use holiday theme center work to keep your students engaged in learning.

Holiday and Seasons Center Activities for Early Learning, Preschool, PreK and Kindergarten. Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Click the image to visit Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers pay Teachers
Classroom Forms for Preschool and PreK Centers and Assessments. Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Click the image to visit Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers pay Teachers
centers

Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom – Part 2 Centers As Assessment Tools

My affection for using centers in my classroom grew even more when I realized the centers I had planned and set up could also be used as assessment tools! Not only was I getting more mileage out of the centers, but my students were familiar with these centers so it wasn’t something new and different which made the assessment process more comfortable for everyone.

Planning and setting up centers for skills like letter and number recognition, color recognition and matching, and shape recognition are skills every preschooler or PreKer needs anyway, and teachers need to assess these skills for each student periodically. So, it makes sense to use the already-set-up-centers to your advantage for assessments, too.

Preschool and PreK Assessment Recording Sheets Honeycomb Printable Preschool
Assessment Recording Sheets from Honeycomb Printable Preschool

Setting Up Centers to Use for Assessments

How I rearrange the center a bit for an assessment is to prepare the center, bring my assessment recording page, and find something to write with. Not much different than just getting up the center to begin with. In my classroom, there’s just me with 10 students. So, getting the other 9 students engaged with activities is a must before I start the assessments we’re doing that day.

Easy Center Assessment Recording Sheets

Rather than having just one recording assessment sheet for each skill for everyone in the classroom, I’ve found it easier to have one recording sheet with multiple assessments for each individual student. This is great for an overview of where each student is in their learning altogether in one set of assessment sheets.

Another tip is to use one portion of the recording sheet for multiple assessments. For instance, set up a center for color recognition and color matching to assess those two skills at the same time. On the recording sheet, use a check mark for each color recognized by your student. Then also ask them to place a color item on the same color paper, and you’ll use an “M” for matching on the color portion of your assessment recording sheet.

Preschool and PreK Assessment Recording Sheets Honeycomb Printable Preschool
Assessment Recording Sheets from Honeycomb Printable Preschool

As an example, when I set up this center to begin with, I placed out colored items like Legos, cars, paint brushes with colored handles, etc. I also placed out half sheets of construction paper with the same colors. So, part of the learning of this center is color recognition, and the added skill is matching – that a red Lego would go on a half sheet of red construction paper.

Take the Assessment Recording Sheet a Step Further

If you want to take the assessment further using the same recording sheet, assess for patterning using colors. On the recording sheet, use a “P” for a correct pattern your students make. Or write the pattern, such as “ABC ABC” for a correct pattern created by your students. Remember to start early learners off with the pattern – do one set of the pattern and see if they can repeat it one or two times more.

Save Money – Save Time – Save Energy

By using the center already set up in your classroom, assessments will go smoothly and will be done in a shorter amount of time. Plus, since these centers have been up for a while, or off and on a few times, before the assessments, your students will be familiar with the tasks of the assessments. So, nothing new or out of the ordinary to bring on stress or a sense of being uncomfortable. Another plus – you’re saving yourself time and energy and possibly even some funds to use elsewhere in your classroom!

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Please add your email on the homepage to be notified when Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom – Part 3 is posted! In the third post in this six-part series, you’ll get great ideas for centers and how and where to look for unexpected center supplies!

Center Resources from Honeycomb!

Holiday and Seasons Center Activities for Early Learning, Preschool, PreK and Kindergarten. Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Click the image to visit Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Classroom Forms for Centers and Assessments. Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Click the image to visit Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
centers

Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom – Part 1 Why I Love Centers!

Watching 3-year-old Emerson move from one center to another, to playing with cars, to the kitchen area, and back to another center one morning early in the school year made me very happy. I was about to dance a jig or break into song or something!

color matching and color recognition activities for preschool centers Honeycomb Printable Preschool
Color Matching and Recognition Activities for Preschool Centers!

Why Use Centers for the Hesitant or Shy Student

Walking into the classroom at open house, Emerson was animated, talkative, and full of energy. I had no expectation he would come to school the first few weeks hesitant and basically scared. He balked at everything once school started. And I do mean everything – painting, singing at music, playing in our full-size gym, sitting to hear a story and even eating snack. In 20 years of teaching, I’d never had a student not want to participate as much as Emerson.

So, just a couple weeks into the new school year, as usual, I started placing center work around the classroom. The centers I had set up are independent centers, even though this class was filled with 3 going on 4-year-olds. Centers are great for these early learners as much as any older age group. I was so thankful centers were out as it was this center work that finally helped Emerson forget he was scared and learn to embrace all the great fun-ness of preschool!

Not only was Emerson participating in the centers and catching all the learning there, he was – more importantly – interacting with his fellow classmates! There was laughing, talking about what they were seeing and doing, and even cooperation among these friends – with Emerson right there in the mix. I seriously attribute his about-face to those centers placed out around the classroom.

Why Use Centers for the Let’s Do This! Student

Color matching and recognition activities for preschool centers. Honeycomb Printable Preschool
Color Matching and Recognition Activities for Preschool Centers!

Switching gears for a minute and thinking about the kids who readily and excitedly come into the classroom – these kids absolutely need, and will power through, any independent centers you have out and available.

I’m thinking of Sabrina, who happened to be in Emerson’s class. She’d come in chomping at the bit to get going at school. Centers were perfect for her! She had an energetic and fun personality and, since she was an older 3-year-old, her fellow students would gravitate toward her while she was flowing from one center to another. They would all have fun working and learning together!

Sabrina would often pretend to be the teacher, with her friends as her students. She’d combine supplies from centers – color matching tiles, foam letters, write and wipe sheets – and she’d run her own version of circle time. So, the center supplies I’d put out had a second use for my students to come up with another way to use them. I remember, at the time, wondering if Sabrina would become teacher and use centers in her classroom herself!?!

Plan Center Work Before School Starts

classroom center work planner sheets for teachers. Honeycomb Printable Preschool
Classroom Center Work Planner Sheets for Teachers from Honeycomb Printable Preschool!

There’s no need to wait to see where your students are skill wise before you plan out and use certain centers in your classroom. Using centers that build skills around colors, shapes, letters, numbers, pencil grip, matching and patterning are universally skills kids ages 2-6 need to learn. Over summer and holiday breaks from school, plan centers around these skills. Write your ideas in your teacher planner, collect your supplies, set them up, and you’re ready to go.

Remember to get your centers going early in the school year. It’s a great tool to get kids – whether they’re shy or ready to go – comfortably moving around the classroom and meet and get to know their fellow classmates. They’ll soon come bounding into the classroom ready for fun and learning without even knowing they’re learning!

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Please add your email on the homepage to be notified when Why and How To Use Centers In Your Classroom Part 2 is posted. In the second post in this six-part series, you’ll get great ideas on how you will be able to use centers as assessment tools!

Center Resources from Honeycomb!

Holiday and Seasons Center Activities for Early Learning, Preschool, PreK and Kindergarten. Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Click on the image to visit Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Classroom Forms for Centers and Assessments. Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers
Click on the image to visit Honeycomb Printable Preschool on Teachers Pay Teachers