Learning Centers -
a Real Learning Enviroment
What is Learning Centers?
Learning center is a method for organize a classroom. Learning center also facilitate active learning by children. A learning center can be an area in your classroom, such as :
There are 8-10 learning centers, some centers are useful for whole year, but some are for short term. You have not to use it all, you may switch it in particular time. It depends on you as the teacher. It will correlate to skill that you are working on or sometimes the space of your classroom.
If your classroom is not big enough, let’s say you have 4 learning centers only; you can put library and language art in the same area or language art and art, since language art is part of art, right? But remember, you still have to consider some factor.
Why Use Learning Centre?
It allows the children to make choices by themselves. Learning centers allow children to learn theory, but in the same time children learn a real experience.
- Children will develop their social skills. The children interact with others. They will start conversation with other friends. They will learn how to share the material. And you know? They will teach each other! I found it many times in my classes.
- Children will move and more active, not just sit down on the desk. Remember, they are kids, kid likes to move around.
- The centre will provide a lot diversity and flexibility in materials and learning activity.
- As a teacher you are allowed put many correlate materials in the center.
- Encourage children to learn in their ways, not adult’s ways, not teacher’s ways.
- Train children to be independent, make decision and then they will learn how to solve the problem.
- Children likes repeat the activity that they like. Learning center allow children to do that.
- Children will develop their senses.
- Children learn how to be responsible. Responsible to the materials, responsible with what they had done.
- Makes children more creative, and likes to explore.
Children will develop their social skills. The children interact cooperatively with others. They will start conversation with other friends. They will learn how to share the material. And you know? They will teach each other! I found it many times in my classes.
How to Use Learning Centers?
As the teacher you should explain and demonstrated what is to be done. Show to the children how to taking care the materials and clean up after using the material. Teacher should provide rules that limit the number of children in each center.
The idea how to manage the centre
Make 3 or 4 necklace. For example you decide maximum 4 children for math center, 3 children for science center, 4 children for block center and so on. Hang the necklace to the appropriate center. Ask the children to put on the necklace when they wish to play on the particular center.
When they are finished, they should hang the necklace back so the other children can have a chance. If there is no more necklace its mean the particular center is fully occupied and they can not play at that center for the moment, they have to wait until they have turn.
- Name Tag
Give children a card with her/his name on it. Put 3 or 4 hooks at every learning center. The children will hang their name on the hooks every time they want to play on the particular learning center. No more hooks? They have to wait until their turn.
How to Design a Learning Center
Children learn by interacting with their environment, the material and equipment. Then you should organize and arrange the classroom well, it will powerful impact on children, their behavior and their learning.
The arrangement of the classroom consider many factor , such as how big is your classroom, children’s age, the number of children, children needs and interests. There are some suggestions to create a safe, attractive and pleasant learning centre for children.
- You may sketch a floor plan of your room. Think how to divide areas and material will used, sketch the location for each centre. For example: eating area better on washable flooring, block should be on carpeting area etc.
- Arrange the flow of traffic. For example provide the path to toilet.
- Separation of spaces. Use play units, storage container, shelves, divider screens or partition to break down spaces. Minimize large, open space because it will cause children to run. Small space will minimize conflicts, children will be less distracted with other areas. Use a mark with tape or area rug on the floor so children will know where to play for particular centre.
- Create space for large group, small group and individual learning. Don’t forget to provide one open space where you can have circle time, sing together, tell stories and another large group activity.
- Provide spaces that you can display children’s work. Children will like it !
- The teacher should can keep eye and supervise the children all the time, arrange the furniture well.
- Use child-sized furniture, rounded corner and should be made of non-toxic materials. Choose safe and durable equipment.
- Think about the rules that limit the number of children in each centre, how to use the materials and how to take turn etc.
- Find materials that fit your goals and purpose. Can materials adapted for another purpose? Will children like them?
- Put enough material to stimulate and challenge children, but do not overwhelmed them with too many toys at once. To keep children interested, you may rotate materials and toys. Sometimes you can provide more for some toys, like dolls for the girls or cars for boys. This will prevent fighting and children will learn how to interaction with their friends.
- Put similar toys together. Put sewing card and manipulative in the same place, writing materials in the same area etc.
- Store material as high as children so they can reach and put them back. Teach children how to clean up, take care and how to return toys where they got them when are finished playing with materials.
Help children to be responsible with the materials?
Put the label on the storage container, shelves and interest area. You can use symbols, illustrations, words, pictures or photographs. I use the last one, since digital camera is more common now. Take toy’s picture, print and paste it on the storage container or shelves. Children will return the material back to its place by themselves!
- Put teacher’s supplies and anything you do not want the children play with on the high self, locked closet or in the storage room. Store everything what is not being used in a storage room other out-of-sight-area. Clean your room periodically, throws useless things. At least once a week check your centers, clean up and rearrange.
- Consider the beauty in the environment too. Paint soft for background color and bright color for some area. Put some plants or aquarium makes your room alive. Add curtain or cushion makes your room homier.
Ask children opinion. Ask them in making decision about how the room is arranged. Try to see the room looks like from children’s perspective. Walk around your room until you get a suitable arrangement, that suitable for you and your children.
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