Saturday, February 19, 2011

The tip that changed my life...

or at least changed the way I approach my pre-k and kindergarten classes!

I started teaching pre-K for the first time this year, but not only that, I had the same pre-K class EVERY day. I would plan a lesson for each day, and most days, there was always so much time left over. I felt like I was just "filling time" in many lessons.

I tried art centers some days, but it was so KAH-RAZY those days that I didn't even consider having them everyday. Then I read this, and the way the "Little Art Teacher" used centers seemed SO much simpler, so much better. Before, I would have one table cutting and another gluing or painting, while a third did something simple. (Cutting and gluing might seem simple, but they are 4! Learning to cut paper and only use a small amount of glue are major skills.) It makes a lot more sense to have kids do more centers that they can basically do on their own. I started with the pre-K in my last school, and it was so much calmer. Now, at my new school, I have centers with my Kindergarten classes, too.

At this point, I have two centers that have not changed. We have blocks each time. I bought a lego type block on clearance. Then, the pre-k aide at my other school, told me that she had pulled a few different things out of the trash that we could use. In came another set of legos, though they don't work with my other set, a set of wooden blocks, and a bucket of plastic shapes that are generally used as math manipulatives.

Playdough is another center that we've kept each class. At this point, I've just let the students do as they wished, but I will start having them work on skills as well.

The last table is the main lesson table. This is where I teach the lesson that I would normally have tried to stretch to fit the whole time. Sometimes this means we spend more days on lessons, but, for the most part, I am much more relaxed about this class.

I have a few kinks to work out. Our transitions aren't great, but at least I don't have students finished with their drawing in 10 minutes where I am trying to get them to work on it longer or have them do a "free time" procedure for the rest of the class.

I have also started using these different blocks and playdough for my older classes to use when they finish a lesson. So far, I am happier with how that is working as well.

If you are struggling with  "filling time" for your younger students, I do suggest giving art centers a try.

(And thank you for the idea!)


  1. Awe you are so welcome for the idea! Glad I could help. The only time I ever taught PreK and K without centers was when I was student teaching. It didn't even go over well with the teacher that had been there for 15 years. She said she always dreads when K comes in. Centers are the best way (for me) to teach them. Plus the kids love changing centers. So much that our good behavior parties include centers! So happy for you!

  2. I'm so appreciative of this tip and am looking forward to kindergarten art so I can try this right away. Thanks so much. I'm adding your blog to my blog roll :)

  3. Wow. Kindergarten and preschool are a hot topic on the blogs this week! And for good reason! They can be the toughest. Here's a blog I started just for that reason:

  4. I've been teaching for 20 years and I have to admit have always dreaded the little ones. I think I am going to step out of my box and give centers a try. I use three large cafeteria tables. I will put center work at two tables and at the third have the "project of the day". One question that might seem simple to you, but how do you transition? I have about 28 kids per class with no aide. I can just see going willy nilly to any old table if I try to move them. So do I move the materials? Hmmm Ideas? Suggestions?

  5. I'll suggest my post on centers. I wouldn't teach Kinders without them.

  6. Mary,
    My classes rotate the same way each time. They picked up on where they should go within a couple of classes. I have tried moving the materials, but it seemed a bit more confusing. I give them a few minutes to clean up their current center, then have one table at a time move groups, that way I can keep track of any stray kids who don't quite have the rotation figured out. I'm at a new school this year, and I will have VERY large Kindergarten classes. I think centers will be the only way to teach these large groups. I have smaller classes of pre-K for only 30 minutes, so I am not planning to use centers for them this year. We'll see how that goes...

  7. I use blocks too. Funny when students are done they have the option of building. Even 5th and 6th graders asked "Can we build with the blocks!"
    (I have the architectural ones)

  8. I am definitely going to give this a try. Thanks for all of the suggestions!

  9. I guess this is as good a place as any to inquire about centers since it is being discussed here. I don't really understand the concept. How does it work? Is it not more work for the teacher? I would think it is. Even if it is as simple as one lesson, you have 2 other centers. So, while you are "teaching", you have to make sure play doh is not being eaten, and blocks are not being used as weapons. With all that going on, you have to what, teach the lesson 3 times during class??? I am interested in centers because someone insisted that its easier that way. Can someone give me some insight here or give me a good website. I have not had much luck researching. Thanks! :)

  10. Hey Amanda, I'm Becca with That Little Art Teacher. Angie got the idea from me. Here are my posts that she sited and
    It really isn't hard to do. The centers are not tough to set up especially if two are always the same or rotated. The kids get out all my stuff. I teach them exactly where they are stored and such. The classroom management of it isn't hard either. I simply give them my expectations and am consistent in my discipline. The key is to place yourself where you are facing the other groups while you are teaching at the other center. Ex: If I'm teaching the center on the far right side of the room I stay on the right side of that center so I can see the rest of the room while I teach. That alone stops most unwanted behavior. The other thing is to keep things simple in the beginning so you can walk around the room and monitor. In the beginning you are teaching them how to behave and work in the centers. Ask any general ed teacher that uses centers (most k-1 do) and they will tell you good ways of doing it to.

  11. Amanda, you can also introduce the whole lesson to all groups at once, then move on to centers. I admit that I LOVED centers the year I wrote this, and the next year. This past year, not so much. I had two students, specifically, who made it entirely too difficult. These kids(twins) were possibly unidentified as autistic. They would scream after the first center, and run all over my room, from one end to the other, and I have a very large room. While, I could ignore those two, the other students would get louder and rowdy. After the first 4-6 weeks of school, I called it quits on centers. From that point, I still broke down the lesson, started my students on the carpet, moved them to their seats, where they worked on one step of a project, and then, they still had "center time" after they completed that step. It just worked better for my students that year. I'm not sure if I will do centers next year or not. I'm leaning towards not.

  12. Wow Angie,
    I actually struggled with it this past year too. I think it depends on the classroom dynamics. By the end of the year I switched out of centers and did the system you described. I think I may start my year with them and then break out. We'll see. Happy soon to be new school year!!


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