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The Learning Centers in Preschools

The Learning Centers in Preschools-Shilpa Potnis

Posted by Ms.Shilpa Potnis Friday, 08 September 2017

Young children learn best by experimenting with their environment through hands-on activities and play, which is why learning centers are such a vital part of the preschool classroom. Using learning centers to give children the hands-on experiences and play opportunities they need is important. However, there are a variety of factors that influence which learning centers would work best for your space, how you should set them up, and the materials you should include in each.

Through this blog, I shall try and assist you to identify these factors and make the process of setting up your preschool centers a little easier. We shall take one centre at a time and work towards setting up the same.

Art Center

art center

Having an art station as one of the learning centers in the classroom is important, because art helps children learn about self-expression and creativity. Being involved in art is a good way for children to develop fine motor skills and improve their hand-eye coordination.

Here are five steps that detail how to set up a preschool art learning center that's just right for your classroom:

1. Size and Location of Your Art Center

The first step in setting up your art center is to determine its size and location. Base your decision on how big the room is, how many other learning centers you're planning, and the number of children in your care. How many children you want to be in the learning center at one time will also influence your decision. Keep in mind that learning centers should accommodate at least two children at a time, but space for 3-4 children is better.

Place your art learning center near a water body if possible - this will make hand washing and clean up more convenient. An art learning center can be quiet or noisy depending on the activity. Always place this learning center next to other learning centers that vary in noise level, such as the literacy learning center, exploration learning center, or math and manipulatives learning center. These all are what we call the 'quite' centers.

2. Appropriate Furniture for Your Space

Easels and/or tables and chairs are needed in your art learning center to help children work comfortably. Whether you choose to use one or both types of furniture will depend on the size of the art center. Tables should have easy-to-clean work surfaces and chairs should be height appropriate for the children in your care. Double-sided easels are a great choice for small art centers, but tabletop easels are easy solutions if you'd like to have a more multi-functional space.

Be sure to leave room for storage cabinets to safely store paints and other materials children should not be able to easily access. A drying rack is another good furniture addition to your art space or better still tying a string in one corner of the room to place the art material for drying with clothes pins. You can also use a bulletin board room divider to display children's art work at a height level they can easily see.

3. Easy Clean Up with Mats and Aprons

No one wants to spend time trying to clean glitter, glue, or paint off of the classroom floor. Always have a designated area for arts and crafts with mats and/or art trays in place can help prevent a major mess. Use mats under easels and other furniture or place it on top of tables to better protect surfaces.

Aprons are another major necessity for art learning centers. Be sure to choose aprons that are easy to clean and are the correct size for the children in your care. Guide children to put these aprons on and remove on own so that they feel really independent!

4. Convenient storage space

There are a variety of art supplies available, so it's important that the materials you choose for your art center are organized and placed in appropriate storage containers. Art caddies, scissor racks, and art tubs are great storage solutions for materials that children need to easily access.

If your art center is small or you have to share art supplies between classrooms, a rolling art trolley can give you extra storage and help you keep everything organized and mobile. A paper center with a child-safe cutter can help you keep paper in one area of the center and will also enable you to have a variety of paper lengths available for children to use. Make use of waste paper as much as possible – newspapers, one side printed papers from offices, etc.

4. Convenient storage space

There are a variety of art supplies available, so it's important that the materials you choose for your art center are organized and placed in appropriate storage containers. Art caddies, scissor racks, and art tubs are great storage solutions for materials that children need to easily access.

If your art center is small or you have to share art supplies between classrooms, a rolling art trolley can give you extra storage and help you keep everything organized and mobile. A paper center with a child-safe cutter can help you keep paper in one area of the center and will also enable you to have a variety of paper lengths available for children to use. Make use of waste paper as much as possible – newspapers, one side printed papers from offices, etc.

5. Variety of Art Materials and Tools for Children to Use

Offer a variety of diverse art materials based on different levels of ability in your classroom's art center. Also, try and place materials that relate to other topics or experiences happening in class e.g. shells – while doing topics on ocean/ sea creatures. etc. Whether children are making a craft, drawing, or painting, the following suggested art materials and tools will help you supply your art center:

Suggested Art Materials for the center

Brushes, Crayons and Markers - Brushes, crayons and markers are important materials to have in any art center. I prefer using large easy-grip paint brushes as these are easier for younger children to grasp and use.

Paint & Paint Materials - Stock your art center with a variety of paints, including tempera paint, finger paint, glitter paint, and watercolor paint among others. Sponges, paint pots, and paint markers are also necessary paint supplies for art centers. Using spill proof paint bowls are an excellent way to keep the mess away.

Clay, Dough and Modeling Materials - Children will have fun using their hands to make creative statues and models with dough and modeling clay. Be sure to facilitate their creativity with rolling pins, shape cutters, beads or other decorative material.

Collage & Craft Materials - Offer a variety of art supplies for any collage or craft projects, including craft sticks, feathers, pipe cleaners, yarn, glitter, stencils, pom poms, googly eyes and more. Teachers may collect any knick knacks and decorations that come with packings during Diwali/ Navratri/ Christmas time.

Glue, Tape and Adhesives - Help children keep their art work together with tape, glue, and other adhesives. You can also reduce the chance of a mess occurring by using easy-to-use glue sticks.

Paper and Scissors - Stimulate children's senses by giving them the chance to use paper in different textures, colors, and sizes. Teacher must try and use waste paper as much as possible of varying textures. Also make sure the scissors available in your art center are safety scissors/ child friendly scissors. Variety can be added by placing zig-zag scissors also only once the children are proficient in the use of regular scissors.

Stampers and Stamp Pads - Stampers and stamp pads are a quick and easy way to create art projects for kids. A variety of stampers, including emotions, family, animals, letters, and numbers stampers, help make stamp projects fun and versatile. Teachers may also create their own stampers, e.g. pasting textured cloth/ jute to old stampers, collecting leaves and barks from trees, used bottle caps of different sizes and shapes, etc.

Chalk Materials - Take art activities outside with fun chalk materials or use chalk on chalkboards indoors. Children will love using sidewalk chalk and paint to create colorful works of art. Also, using the regular chalk, skate and a small duster will encourage the children to use the material more freely.

With these materials and ideas in place, you are all set to make your art centre into an educational fun experience where children will come willingly and create master pieces!

five-steps

Ask yourself the following 5 questions while doing up this learning centre and find solutions to your answers!

  1. Is there scope for communication?
  2. Have I given scope for negotiation?
  3. Have I provided with material that shall challenge their problem solving skills?
  4. Have I provided appropriate material to enhance abstract thinking skills?
  5. How am I enhancing awareness of the world through this centre?
Here are my answers coming from my experience as a Preschool educator…

communication Communication - One of the most effective communication techniques is derived from the following phrase. . .

All behavior is communication!

The learning centre needs to be designed in such a way that has space to accommodate minimum 4 to 5 children at one time. This will ensure that they get to share the space and materials here. And for sharing, they must communicate with each other! This communication may be verbal or non verbal and each child learns to comprehend and betters herself/ himself day after day by simply observing each other.
There could be times when a child may display behavior/s in the centre that are 'disruptive' or what we say as 'not socially acceptable'. Well, this is also communication as the child is trying to communicate her/ his excitement/ frustration and this is what a trained teacher must be able to identify and assist the child appropriately!

negotiation Negotiation - This word also means 'cooperation' and this is exactly what the centre design must focus upon. This skill is extremely crucial for formation of harmonious relations between peers.

This can easily be achieved by ensuring that material placed must not be in abundance. The minute the child knows that she/ he has to 'share' the material, the child will learn the skill of negotiation and getting what he so wishes to 'play' with.

Problem solving skills Problem solving skills - This is a skill that defines an individual's ability to work out problems in a positive manner.

Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.– Henry Kaiser

Children can be taught problem-solving skills during the regular course of each day through modeling, coaching and adult assistance. Before beginning a problem-solving process, it is important for the child to know that there is a problem.

Moving on, you can involve the child in a brain storming session for possible solutions and put a 'what if' question. This will encourage the child to think beyond the easy solution! Now finally, allow the child to try the solution. All these steps can easily be executed in the Dramatic Centre with various props and material.

Abstract Thinking Skills Abstract Thinking Skills - The development of abstract or symbolic thought is characteristic of the kindergarten years. We can see children doing this almost every day in the dramatic play area as they use objects to represent other things or make movements to represent a more complex action such as driving. When children are doing this, they are using symbols. Developing an understanding of symbols is essential to reading and math because it enables children to recognize that letters and numbers represent something. . In the kindergarten years, children's ability to pretend is taken to a high level of abstraction.

This ability to pretend with objects and use them symbolically assists children in all areas of the curriculum. For example, kindergartners learn that the numeral six stands for six things and begin to learn how to add and subtract these symbols. This abstract mathematical skill eventually grows into the very abstract understandings of algebra and calculus.

Children can be taught these abstract thinking skills by optimizing the use of dramatic play area. By adding abstract props, e.g. different size boxes, pipes and joints, scarves, etc to the play area is an excellent way of enhancing this thinking process. The children may initially require a slight push and cue on use of these, once the teacher does that thoughts of children shall get their own wings and fly in all possible directions.

Inviting children to create their own symbol system is also proven to be another innovative method to enhance the abstract thinking skills. For this teacher can place some writing and drawing material in this area and display posters of symbols that were used in earlier times.

Taking children for field trips and then asking them to enact the same in the dramatic lay are with all the props also shows the abstract thinking skills in children.

Awareness of the world Awareness of the world - Making children aware about the word that exists beyond the four walls of their homes and then the schools is an essential lesson that teachers must include in their plans. Bringing the outside world into the classrooms through objects, pictures, food, clothes, etc helps the child to learn about the outside world while being in a safe and secure environment.

In order to ensure that this is done in a systematic manner, it always helps to have a theme for the learning centre so that the teachers are better prepared and the centre is organized in a more planned manner.

Having answered these 5 basic questions, I am all set to set up my Dramatic Centre for my preschoolers!

Five important skills learnt at the Preschool Reading Centre

preschool-reading-center Preschool Reading Center - A cozy spot set up in the classroom, with a variety of books available for the children to read. Books related to the theme, class-made books, big books, reading cards, picture cards, interactive writing charts and pocket chart poems are just some of the things that can be included in the reading center. This area of the classroom must also have a comfortable seating and abundance of natural light! Locate the reading center in a quiet corner, away from the block or other noisy areas.




There is no substitute for books in the life of a child. – Mary Ellen Chase

Excellent reading habits begin in the early years. Introducing children to literature in preschool promotes early literacy, supports a love of language and reading and supports kindergarten readiness. A well stocked reading centre assists in promoting critical thinking skills and enhances creative and social development.

Early Literacy Skills Early Literacy Skills - Providing a variety of educational books in a preschool reading centre helps in promoting early literacy skills. Alphabet books help children learn the names of the letters and the sounds that each letter represents. Counting books help children learn how to count and to recognize numbers. Provide poetry or rhyming books to teach children phonological awareness. Stock the preschool reading centre with oversized books as a tool to teach preschoolers how to handle books and to point out letters, words and other features of the book.

Love for language and reading Love for language and reading - A reading centre in a preschool works as a centre of language building! While children may aimlessly flip the pages of the books here, they at the same time understand the beauty of the printed material. They learn to appreciate this with the help of their peers and facilitators. They also gradually develop the understanding that these 'print' words give knowledge. The love for this language soon becomes evident in the vocabulary enhancement of these young children.

Critical Thinking Skills Critical Thinking Skills - A reading centre helps the preschool teacher foster critical thinking skills. Read both fiction and nonfiction books to preschool children and then allows both free and focused discussion. Ask questions that help children relate the story to their own lives. Help them compare the book with familiar books. Encourage children to predict what might happen next. These activities also help children use words to express themselves and their preferences.

creative-and-social-development Creative and Social Development - Having a reading centre in your preschool provides a place for exposure to group reading activities. This helps preschoolers acquire social skills. Read books to groups of preschool children to help them learn to pay attention in a large group. Group reading activities also help children learn to share and take turns with peers. Encourage children to share books and take turns reading stories to each other. Sharing books leads to brainstorming amongst the children which in turn produces creative thoughts and gives wings to their imagination.

kindergarten-readiness Kindergarten Readiness - A reading centre supports school readiness by improving literacy and listening skills. When children enter kindergarten they are expected to know concepts related to books such as how to hold and turn the pages of a book and that the pictures are related to the story. They must know some nursery rhymes which are found in preschool books. Preschoolers entering kindergarten must also have the ability to identify letters visually. Exposure to books in a preschool reading centre enhances these skills.

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