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.
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!)