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!
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
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
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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