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Centers give children opportunities to make choices, explore at their own level, solve problems, work with friends, use oral language, practice skills, develop responsibility, and be creative. They are also a better use of materials, time, and space. There are many strategies for managing learning centers. Choose the one that works best for your schedule and learning outcomes.
Divide children into four groups based on skill level. Create four specific areas in the classroom that children will visit with their group within a large block of time. Number the centers: 1, 2, 3, 4. Explain what they are to do in each center when you have your large group time. Put 4 strips of paper with the numerals (1, 2, 3, 4) on them in a box, and then choose one child from each group to draw a number. That number will determine the center where their group starts. To help with time management, set a timer for 15-20 minutes. Children work in that area until the timer goes off.
Make a choice board with the different learning centers available in your classroom. Put dots to control the number of children who can play in each center at a given time. Write each child’s name on a clothespin and pass them out. Children take their clothespin and clip it by the center where they would like to play. If all the spaces are used, then they must make another choice. They may stay there as long as they want. Then they take their clothespin and attach it to another center that is open.
Create a contract with 5-10 tasks for children to complete at centers during the week. (You can download the one I used when I taught kindergarten. Adjust the icons to the centers you have in your room.) Hole punch children’s contracts as you check off their work at each center. You could also let them color in the icon or write what they did. Children may choose the order that they do activities and may stay as long as they want at each center. If they complete all designated tasks by the end of the week, then they get “Fabulous Friday.”