Saturday, November 19, 2016

Play Based Learning with Centers

Center time is every preschoolers favorite time of the day.  I am going to share with you a peek into my classroom center time.  We try to incorporate a lot of open ended centers for my pre-kinders to engage in along with a sprinkling of games. Students learn to take turns, share, build vocabulary as well as practice skills taught during small groups in an open ended way!

The alphabet center consists of all things language.  We play games like Roll and Cover, write on the magic boards and use LOTS of alphabet manipulatives!  Some days there is an adult stationed there to help facilitate a game and other days the children work and play independently with alphabet materials and writing instruments.  

Roll and Cover

Magic Boards and Picture Name Tags


Alphabet Matches

In the Sensory Tub, there are a variety of materials throughout the year.  Our rule of thumb is to change it out every two weeks and it can revolve around our theme at times.  There is often fine motor and science activities incorporated into this center.  

Pom Poms and Tweezers

Water Table  

Water Marbles from Lakeshore

The Art Center has a balanced approach of process and product driven activities.  We try to offer both types of projects and some projects have a combination of the two.  Watercolor paints, mosaic art, and collage projects are a few of our process driven activities.  The children are able to be creative as they like.  Some projects are product driven like the patterning plates that will be the frame for our Turkey Handprints.  Some students thrive with explicit directions and others with the freedom to create.  

Feather Painting

Felt Pattern Frame

The Math Center offers a variety of maniplatives that are often open ended and games that might need some teacher direction.  Some days students ask us to leave the materials out from our Small Groups (read more HERE) to explore further.  I do have a plan for what materials will be set out each day, but the students often take the lead and embrace our choice or change it quickly.

Snap Cubes

Linking People

Turkey Clothes Pins

The Block Area is limited to four students as it makes sense for the amount of blocks available.  There are several types of blocks such as Legos, colored blocks and Bristle Blocks in addition to the large wooden blocks so more than one type of block is allowed out if there is enough space on the large carpet.  Manipulatives such as cars and animals are often added after building structures and roads.

Making connections from our math lesson

Princesses and Super Heros added during October

Colored blocks and animals

Dramatic Play is a favorite with my boys and girls.  We change it out every two weeks onto something other than home living area and then return to the home living center for two weeks.  The key of any area is to label it and model activities as you visit this area during transitions to new areas. Many of my ELL (English Language Learners) students look for this direction as they build their vocabulary as well as all students as some of the areas are new experiences for all of them.

Home Living Center

The Vet  

The Pumpkin Patch

I will be doing a follow up post on the ins and outs of center time 
and I would love to hear your thoughts.
Please comment below with any questions you have about center time!

Feel free to pin this post and follow me on Pinterest.

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Incorporating Fine Motor Activities

So many preschoolers and kindergarten friends come to school 
with little fine motor practice.  
The first thought when fine motor comes up is pencil, paper activities, 
but the reality is there are so many ways to build fine motor BEFORE
children are ready for pencil, paper activities.

Clothes pins and larger tweezers offer children practice with the pincer grasp.  
We practice using pop poms and small objects 
as they are grabbed and moved from one place to another.  
Alphabet Mats and sensory tables provide a place for integration with these skills.

Art activities provide fine motor experiences such as paper tearing, 
painting and gluing. While painting, we remind our friends 
to use their "pinching" fingers as they hold the brush. 
 Twirling the paint brush is a circular motion 
also takes practice at the beginning of the year.

Paper tearing also provides additional experiences 
and the scraps are saved for the art center.

Fine motor experience can also be incorporated while teaching math concepts.  
We use pony beads for counting and patterning.  
One to one correspondence can be modeled and practiced 
using pom poms and recycles marker caps.
Play dough is always a go to with counting and tens frames.  
Rolling the dough in itself takes a LOT of practice!

There so so many commercial games and materials for sale 
that lend themselves to fine motor practice.
Gumball Grab and Magic Boards are two favorites
 in our room from Lakeshore Learning.

Scissor practice is another fine motor skill that takes a great deal of practice.
We cut paper and play dough as they offer different resistances.  

Last week I added straws and scissors to our sensory table 
for additional fine motor practice.
We were then going to add string for threading once the straws were all cut.


This was found under the table at the end of  day one.
No one claimed it, no parent complained.

Feel free to pin the image below onto your Pinterest boards for easy reference. 
For more fine motor inspiration, follow my Fine Motor Pinterest Board.

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Sunday, October 2, 2016

5 Fun and Engaging Alphabet Activities

Learning the alphabet in pre-k is front and center in our classrooms.
The KEY is making it fun and meaningful for our kids!

Children learn better when they have connections to things.
What better way to learn the alphabet than to start with students' names?
The excitement becomes contagious and as they learn their own names 
they want to learn to learn their friends names too!
Bottle Cap Letters is a FREE download on TpT. 

My pre-kinders love anything with texture.
Salt trays are a busy place in our room.
Learning is at an optimum when I set up one tray 
and call students over for some one on one time to practice writing their name. 
EVERYONE wants a turn!
When we do set it up as a center, 
a teacher is sure to be sitting at that table to supervise.  

Alphabet Mats are a FUN way to practice letters and sounds 
with some fine motor practice!
We roll play dough to form the letters, use tweezers 
and small objects like pom poms to cover the letters 
as well as just picking up objects like glass gems with our little fingers too.  
The alphabet mats that I use have two matching pictures 
for sound and vocabulary development.  
This is especially important for my English Language Learners.

Alphabet games and puzzles are sure to be a crowd pleaser!
A few of our favorites include alphabet fishing, matching spoons and puzzles.
 I found several versions of alphabet spoons on Pinterst and then made my own
with Target Dollar Spot stickers. You can follow me on Pinterest HERE.
We offer lots of practice in small group before moving these activities 
to the alphabet center for independent play.

We use LOTS of songs, nursery rhymes and poems 
to build on oral language, vocabulary and phonological awareness.
One of our daily activities during story time is to learn a new poem.
The rebus pictures help my pre-kinders connect to the text and build vocabulary.
We are working on beginning letters and sounds now, 
will move onto medial sounds and 
ending sounds as well as sight words later in the year.

On Fridays, my students add the poem to their Poetry Journal and we work on 
letters and vocabulary during small groups.
Starting in October, we will send home the Poetry Journals once a month 
for students to share with their families.  
It becomes one additional way to build that home-school connection.
October Poetry Journals with Rebus Pictures is available HERE.  

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