Thursday, October 20, 2016

Learning Centers Blog Hop Series: Dramatic Play Center

We are continuing this week with the Pre-K Partner's Learning Centers Blog Hop Series! So far we have taken a look at the math, writing, art, blocks, and science centers. This week we will learn about setting up the dramatic play center!

Here are a few photos of years past in the pretend/dramatic play center. I've always set it up to go along with what we are learning, seasons, or themes. I've also had students plan and set up their own dramatic play center such as a clothing store. Click here to see a list of my classroom themes. Sometimes it would change based on the students' interests as well. In the past I have changed the center fully every month. I added little things to it during the month. For example, January was set up as a winter theme with scarves, mittens, hot chocolate cups. We studied The Three Bears story one week so I added in bear stuffed animals, three of everything, and a few bear storybooks. When the drama center is changed over we have sat as a class in/around the center and have practiced with the items. Students learn where things go and how to clean it up. Students are learning life skills and organizational skills! 

Fall theme...Click HERE to see more fall center ideas!

Farmer's market theme... could go along with fall or spring theme...Pots, buckets, and baskets for sorting by size and color...

Baking theme... for November...lots of breads, cookies, pies, baking utensils, and cookbooks

Winter holiday theme...we read and compared several gingerbread stories around the time after Thanksgiving until winter break so the center is set up with gingerbread cookies and baking supplies..and some costumes. Search garage sales..they always have lots of holiday items!

January through February leads into studying winter animals, winter seasonal stories, and fairy tales...This photo shows the center set up in a three bears theme.. Notice how the chocolate chip cookies are different sizes...I asked my mother in law to make them that way for a reason..students can put the sizes in graduated order!  I have always loved to get as much skills into the centers as I can! 

Here is a Dr. Seuss "house"...I put in a mix of silly foods like felt green eggs & ham, variety of colored vegetables and fruits, and cupcakes...also a teapot! There was a bucket of silly hats and a mirror later!

Click HERE to see more Seuss center ideas! 

In this set up students planned what type of store they wanted, created their own wishlist of items, brought in items from home, set it up themselves, and labeled the store! See more of this idea HERE...

Spring is probably my most favorite themes! During the spring we learned about Eric Carle stories, gardening, and vegetables! This center was set up as a spring garden market or spring farmer's market. 

See more spring ideas HERE! 

The library as tons of great informational texts to add to your pretend/dramatic play center!

Students are not only learning social skills (sharing, taking turns, communicating) through dramatic play! The dramatic play center can be enriched with a wide variety of tools, manipulatives, books, toys, add-ons to help students practice literacy skills, math skills, and more! 

During our baking unit students are practicing sequencing recipes, ordering, retelling, and measuring with cups/spoons. They are also practicing cooking and life skills! Incorporate familiar stories like The Little Red Hen as well as cookbooks/nonfiction. 
Incorporate picture/word vocabulary in all of your centers with paper, clipboards, and pencils! Students will draw out their ideas and students who are interested and ready to write, will! Many, many of my students loved to write the vocabulary in the centers! The more picture/word connections they see, the more they will become familiar with those words!

Here is a photo of our hardware store! The kids had so much fun exploring familiar and unfamiliar new tools! So much measuring, counting, and comparing went on in this center! Students also sorted the colored paint chips and created mosaics with the tiles. Home depot donated aprons, carpet, and tile samples for free! See more of our construction study HERE.

I also like to have students explore their creativity in some way in the center. For example, the tile designs in the hardware store. In the garden show students can buy/sell items and design their own flower arrangements! See more spring theme HERE!

The most important thing to recognize about the pretend/dramatic play center is that it is for play and pretend! I can put as many skills (to be practiced) into the center as I want but they ultimate goal is to provide a place for students to be creative, make their own decisions, role play, have conversations, and just play! If they want to take the forks and pretend they are hairbrushes in a beauty parlor (while in your beautifully arranged "bakery store")...let them. Let them play.

I do love themes and providing play inspiration for students. If you see the students interested more in another theme or topic than you suggest...then go with it! Two students take the pretend chairs and fly off into the unknown in a "spaceship." Take that as an opportunity into peeking into their interests.  Go grab a spaceship book or pull up a kids NASA video on the Smartboard. You might find them grabbing the clipboards to draw or write a space story, telling each other their plans, getting their verbal skills going! You might end up doing a two week or more project approach study on space shuttles. It's okay to switch it up..go with the flow.. Some of our best in the moment creative learning classroom experiences came from doing the unexpected and going with student led decisions! 

Students need a large area/space to play in the dramatic play center. They need plenty of room to explore, move, interact, and create!  The basics needed are of course a stove, sink, and a table w/ chairs. You can also include shelving, a bookcase, or a rug.  

At the very beginning of the year I have always had my pretend center very very basic. The items were familiar and similar to what students had at home. It's set up as a home since in August/September we learned about families and All About Me.

- old cell phones or pretend phone
- pots and pans
- butter, milk, eggs, bread, breakfast items
- pretend iron/ironing board
- empty food boxes and laundry soap/dish soap boxes
- sponge, gloves, dish scrubber
- plates, cups, and napkins
- regular large sized clothes for dress up & for ironing
- baby dolls and cribs/highchair
- vocabulary
- clipboards, paper, pencils

As the weeks/months go on you can change/add in more items that fit what you are learning about. 

Having different textures and sizes of pretend foods provide interest, variety, and are fun! My mother in law made tons of amigurumi crochet items for my classroom! I like to make items out of felt. See more HERE. I also used store bought plastic pretend food and empty food containers like cereal boxes. 

This was a setup from August. Students learned how to set the table. The dollar store has inexpensive non-breakable dishes!

Baskets and containers are great to have for storage and help students pick up items easily. In this picture you can see all the different foods. Students can put the pumpkins in size order!

Costumes and dress up clothes are always a fun addition to add to any theme in the pretend/dramatic play center. Students just love to play and pretend. This apron and hat was purchased at Walmart and then I used puff paint to write on it.

Always try to integrate literacy through posting vocabulary and providing related books in the center. It's such an easy addition to do and will enrich your learning center!

The teacher's role during the dramatic play is to act as a guide or facilitator. The teacher can ask questions about the character roles the students are playing or what their plans are. Center time is a great time to document and listen in on student learning and student conversations. The teacher's role is also to provide materials in the center to enrich creative thinking and curiosity in all learning areas. 

Hop on over to Fun in ECSE to learn more ideas for your dramatic play center!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Learning Centers Blog Hop Series: Science Center

Welcome back to the Pre-K Partner's Learning Centers Blog Hop Series! So far we have taken a look at the math, writing, art, and blocks centers. This week we will focus on the science center!  

In my classroom we have always called the the science center the "discovery area." Either way it is a center full of questioning, observing, and experimenting! This center is one of my most favorite learning areas for students to explore!

My discovery or science center has taken on many forms, sizes, and spaces! The first photo is a most recent example from last year. I like to have a table (for writing/sorting/examining) and a shelf to hold manipulatives and supplies. The center holds trays and baskets for storage and students learn and practice putting materials away. 

The science center in early childhood can help students to develop a wide variety of questioning, research, and investigative skills!  In addition, students can practice skills such as matching, sorting, counting, etc. Also, students are learning to communicate (their observations) with others and learning to share materials. Writing, alphabet, and vocab. skills can be enhanced by providing clipboards, pencils, related fiction/non fiction books, and a vocabulary chart in the center. Fine motor skills can be enhanced by providing tweezers and tongs for sorting/examining in the center. 

The following is an example of supplies and materials that can be put in your science center: 

- trays and ice cube trays for sorting games
- baskets for storage
- tweezers and tongs
- microscope, slides, & magnifying glasses
- binoculars
- goggles and even pretend lab coats
- nature items (drift wood, sticks, leaves, pine cones, sea shells, etc.)
- basket of different textures (sandpaper, fur, etc.)
- fiction and non fiction science related books
- books related to seasons and weather
- seasonal puzzles
- sound spa or sound machine
- a rain stick
- sensory bottles
- pencils, colored pencils, and clipboards w/ paper
- science notebooks or student journals
- Lakeshore sorting games
- vocabulary posters or vocab. cards
- anchor charts or class graphs
- ongoing science experiments for observation like color changing experiments, a rotting apple, or decaying pumpkin

The teacher's role is to provide materials that provoke curiosity! The teacher's role during science center time (and during other center play) is to monitor, engage, observe, and document behavior/learning.  Also, teachers can encourage students to develop higher level thinking by asking them questions such as: What happens if or when? How do you think it does that? What other ways can you think of to make it do that? 

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my discovery/science areas and I encourage you to create one in your own classroom!  

Stay tuned for more learning center fun during the Pre-K Partner's Learning Centers Blog Hop Series!

Hop on over to Fun in ECSE for more blocks learning center ideas!