Saturday, July 29, 2017

Centers in a Pre-K Classroom

When I moved to Pre-K, I completely changed how I ran my classroom. I went to a more center based, student led system, as opposed to a teacher led classroom. The biggest thing I had to adjust to, was I let the STUDENTS CHOOSE what center they go to, I let STUDENTS CHOOSE when they change centers. And do you know what? It was NOT mad chaos like I expected! Once we set expectations and taught them the appropriate social skills to communicate, it was so easy! This post does contain links, both affiliate and regular. Use them to find some great centers for your classroom, and help keep this blog running J

Center Management

Each of my centers has a card on it with two Velcro dots, and each of my children has a name tag, with a Velcro dot on the back.  When my kids aren’t at centers, on the wall is a list of all our names and another Velcro dot. So, if we transition to centers after a whole group lesson, it is easy to call names and they go get their names and pick a center. If we are working in small groups, half of my kids can go grab their names. Another way I managed changing centers, was using clothes pins. If there were two dots open, that meant there is room for two kids. If both dots are full, the kiddos must wait until someone leaves.

At first there were lots of tears and begging to get into a specific center (usually it was Magnatiles!) But all we had to do what teach them Social Skills. Being patient is a big skill we must learn. I also, don’t make friends leave a center because they have been there too long. Once we get past the bumps that come along with any center time, it is smooth sailing.

Center Options

So, a big question I get asked frequently is “What center options do you have in your classroom?” So, a quick reminder, I teach Pre-K, so my centers are free play centers.

The first set of centers, that are a must have in our room, are building centers. Our number one pick, that is always full is our block center. They love seeing how tall of a wall they can build! They also love using these houses and cars from Lakeshore Learning. When they are by my desk I can hear them making sirens and pretending to be Officer Hofficer! (In which he is usually arresting someone for some silly crime, like not picking up their mess!)

Another one of their favorite building centers is Legos. They LOVE to make things with Legos. I am adding little Legos this year to our centers. I really want them working those fine motor skills. I just love this table I made! I asked on my Facebook if anyone had an old two leveled side table, and a wonderful friend just happened to be getting rid of TWO! So, she gave them to me, I painted them, and added a Lego brick plate. This gives them a place to be stationed. A place for our Legos to live, so they aren’t spread all out across the classroom!

Right now, our Magnetic Center is looking a little weak. Since it is the beginning of the year, they are exploring our center. We have magnetic letters, name with their picture, and those cute magnetic numbers and shapes that I found at the Target Dollar Spot! Eventually I put STEM activities in the magnetic center! They love playing with gears and funnels!

Another one of the centers that is always full, is my train table! This table is the best thing since sliced bread let me tell you! Again, it gives the center a place to live. The train tracks are not running all around the room. However; it does give it a better ramp for them to go flying across the room (no matter how many times I tell the kiddos that trains stay on tracks and airplanes fly through the air!) I bought the train tracks and trains from Ikea, and they are super durable!
                  I inherited this big sturdy storage system (again, from Ikea!) I use as our main center storage system. I bought these great containers from Sterilite, you can get a 6 pack for about $31 from Amazon, and they fit perfect in them. In these center tubs, they put their name on the center cards, pull the tubs out, and find a place in the room to work. In these tubs I have Pattern Blocks, Lite Brites, Bristle Blocks, Unifix Cubes, Mr. Potato Head, and Mega Blocks. Also in this station, I have all my puzzles. The puzzle center card is on the side of the storage system. You can read about what I use to store my puzzles HERE. I also got tired of searching for the “lost pieces”. As a result, I bought ANOTHER Sterilite container with a snap lid, added some vinyl, and the kids now know if they find an extra piece to put in the lost pieces container. Also, if they are missing a piece, they know exactly where to look.

                One of my favorite centers in my classroom, is our library. I store my books thematically. I put only a few books out at a time. They also have a tub of puppets to act out what they are “reading”. You can read HERE all about my classroom library.

                       Another popular center is the Art Center. Yes. There is paint. We are going to try something new this year! But our art center typically has construction paper, crayons, stickers, markers, daubers, and pencils. We also added composition books to our Art Center this year. They will be labeled with a name, so each child has an art portfolio to take home at the end of the year.
                We are testing out a type of light table this year. I found an old overhead projector in our surplus pile. I took off the arm, and will be placing some contact paper over the screen to dim the light just a little bit. Now we have a light table, that didn’t cost me an arm and a leg. This is also one of my found treasures. The same table as my Lego center. Underneath the second level, is a basket of light table goodies. They will change as the year progresses. Right now, they have stacking cups, refreezeable ice cubs, and our Magnatiles.

             And last but certainly not least, is our dramatic play center. Right now, it is set up as a kitchen. We have baby dolls, baby beds, vests, community helper hats, pots and pans, food, plates, silver wear, and most important of all, the actual kitchen. This is right next to our sensory table. As the year progresses it will turn into an auto shop, grocery store, doctors office, and flower shop!

              I hope you found something that can help you with your classroom and centers! Make sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram, where I share ideas all the time!

           You can make the center cards yourself, but to save you the time and energy, I have these listen at TpT. They are editable too! So you can call the centers whatever you want.

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