Center time in the classroom is when students are able to explore and learn by doing, They can practice skills such as, sharing, discussing, solving problems, and working together. They learn from one another, and are able to choose which centers are best suited for their learning and interest.
Tips on running Centers
1. Allow for enough time, at least an hour (depending on the activities prepared)
Children need enough time to really get into the activity, so that they can learn and utilize their problem solving skills. If children do not have enough time, they will work too quickly and with frustration, and the purpose of exploration will be defeated.
2. Let children lead.
Children should be able to choose the center that they will like to start in and stay in that center as long as they would like, or until they have completed the task at hand. This will allow them to have control over their learning and how much time and effort they want to spend.
3. Introduce centers effectively.
Before allowing children to go to their centers, take time to introduce and discuss each center. You can ask questions and make suggestions. Allow each child the opportunity to discuss what they may do there and brainstorm ideas and ways to use the center.
4. Allow no more than 5 students at one center,
One common technique used by teachers when doing centers is to give every student a card with their name and Velcro on it. When they are in a center, there card is put on the board so that other students know when one center is open and when it is full. Another option is to have children write their names on a chalkboard at the center when they are there and erase it when they are moving on. Make sure that children are aware that if they do not get a turn in a center they are interested in, that you will set it up again for them and they will be the first to try it out! If you have too many children in one center, it will be chaotic and stressful.
5. Keep centers centered.
It is best if all the centers are related to one common theme, yet offer an array of activities. Language arts, small motor (matching, sorting, etc.,) art, dramatic play, reading/audio, and math are all examples of ways to break down one theme into various centers.
6.Discuss the results.
After center time, it is important to meet together and discuss favorite activities and ways children used the centers. This may also motivate one child to try a new center next time because they heard how excited their classmate was about it. Children may also learn that others did the center differently, yet still correctly which will inspire new ways of thinking.
Center Time Example:
If your theme of the week is Pumpkins, then you could break up your centers like so:
Language Arts: Write or make up stories on picking pumpkins, or Halloween.
Math: Let children estimate and count how many seeds are inside a large pumpkin.
Dramatic Play: Recreate a pumpkin patch and farm and let children use their imaginations!
Reading/Audio: Let children listen to books about Pumpkins on an audio tape with head-phones.
Small Motor: Let children sort pumpkins by size,
Centers are a fun, basic way to let children guide their own learning. It allows children the ability to choose what activities they would like to participate in and creates a hands-on classroom environment.