Hi friends! I've been invited to participate in Pre-K Partner's Learning Centers Blog Hop Series! The series will run through November and will highlight unique learning center ideas...the first topic we will talk about is the blocks center! The blocks center is a very busy place in an early childhood classroom! Ideas are being brought to life and a child's imagination is on display. Students are practicing a variety of skills through exploratory and constructive play!
I've had many different setups of block centers in my teaching career but I like this one the best! (pictured above and below)
This learning area provides plenty of space for students to build, construct, create, and PLAY! It is welcoming, organized, and has plenty of different blocks and "loose parts" to build with. I've always liked to set up my learning centers as an invitation to play. Once, when I was in elementary school, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I replied, "I want to be a teacher so that I will get to set up the blocks center!" Don't you just love those students who (out of the kindness of their hearts) like to voluntarily help to clean the blocks center?
I can't imagine an early childhood without a blocks center or construction area! This learning center allows children to propose questions like what happens if? ..how tall can I build it? ..which is larger/smaller/shorter/taller? ...what changes can be made to make this structure better? Math and science connections are being formed by doing instead of watching.
Imaginary and/or realistic plans are then carried out and experimented with. Pretend play usually occurs, stories are invented, and props are described to one another. Verbal and social skills are being practiced in a playful environment. Children are learning how to share, cooperate, and take turns.
The blocks center is also important because it allows creativity to bloom and transform! I posted vocabulary picture cards and cool around the world building photos in our blocks centers. We also had clipboards in the center for the past couple of years. Students can get inspired (if needed), draw their "plan," and build! We also followed the construction of a hobby farm throughout the year! Photos were posted in the blocks learning area.
I've always themed my block learning area to whatever we were studying about as a class. Blocks centers do not have to have a theme at all. I feel it themes give extra emphasis into the learning topic and helps get students more inspired to play as well! Plus, my little friends have always been excited with I switch out the manipulatives and toys in the centers!
These are the items I like to include in my blocks area:
A variety of blocks - Different sizes and shapes..wooden and soft blocks.
Baskets - I like them because students can take them out of the shelves and carry the baskets around with them to clean up. I also think it helps organize and keep the center looking tidy.
Real pictures of buildings - Sometimes students need a little help getting inspired!
Vocabulary cards - I've had many students who like to label their projects! I also believe in posting environmental print. Students get excited to see familiar signs, logos, and store names and therefore get excited about reading!
Clipboards, paper, and pencils - To draw out plans and ideas..to make "Construction in Progress" signs...and to label their creations!
Books - Books about construction, vehicles, the theme we are studying, and construction ABC/number books. Students also like to use maps, diagrams, and real estate magazines as references!
Vehicles and people - Children will turn anything into a truck or superhero...but toy matchbox cars and character people are fun too! I painted "clothespin people" (and superheros) to add to the fun in our blocks center! (used acrylic paints!)
Other items to consider:
Stuffed animals, Beanie Babies, and puppets...
Interesting and recycled parts like egg crates, pvc pipes, boxes, and toilet paper rolls.
A "loose parts" basket. For example, during our spring theme our "loose parts" basket contained small plastic insects and fake flowers. Students could use the loose parts as an addition to their constructions.
I believe the teacher's role during block play is to act as a guide or facilitator. Instead of simply asking, "What is it?" when coming across a construction in progress...say, "Tell me about it" or "How did you think of that?" Teachers can ask as motivators and ask students what their next plans are and what materials do they think they might need.
Teachers can use time in the learning centers to ask questions and encourage students to problem solve! Teachers also can use center time to document, take photos, and record student learning with anecdotal notes.
I hope you enjoyed this little sneak peek into the blocks learning area of our classroom. Be sure to stay tuned for all the amazing classroom ideas to come during the Pre-K Partner's Learning Centers Blog Hop Series!
Now hop on over to Fun in ECSE for more blocks learning center ideas!