Centers in the preschool classroom

When children enter this classroom, they will discover plenty of things to do and the freedom to explore because each center in this classroom was designed just for them.  At this table the children are creating paintings with the dot painters.

At the block center, a couple of boys have decided to pull out the legos. As they play with the legos, they also communicate with each other and discover how to cooperate and collaborate.

These children have decided they would enjoy coloring a cow the teacher set out. It is farm week and the teacher has made available a variety of farm type activities in each center. This class loves to color so the teacher always provides a variety of coloring tools and materials.

The two girls decided they wanted to explore the blocks and woodworking tools. That’s right – girls like blocks and tools too!

In the two year old classroom next door, this child is exploring the water table. The water stimulates her senses as she pours, drips, and splashes about.

This two year old reaches up high to paint on the easel.  Easel painting is offered everyday to these two year olds and one can see that they are quite skilled at holding the brush, dipping it in the paint, and using the entire paper to create their masterpiece of the day.

These children enjoy time with play dough. The teachers provide a variety of tools to go along with the play dough each day. As you can see here, the children each have a tray to identify their own work space.

And this child decided he would like to just sit back and enjoy looking through this book.

The use of centers in preschool is a valuable way to keep children engaged in positive and constructive activities. Centers promote independence, social skills, creativity, interests, and more. As preschoolers are given opportunities to explore a variety of centers each day, they enjoy their experience in your classroom.

Providing centers is also a useful way to manage your classroom. When a variety of interesting and age appropriate activities are available, you will find children become less bored and stay more engaged in productive, positive participation.

Organizing art supplies in preschool

I thought I would share some of the ways teachers organize their student art supplies. Above is a caddy that holds markers, scissors, a stapler, crayons, and glue.

This little caddy also has a side pocket where crayons are kept. The caddy would be placed in the center of the table and the supplies shared by a small group of students. This is also a good way for children to store their supplies at home.

In this classroom, each child is given a plastic baggy to store their own set of supplies. Each baggy contains a glue stick, crayons, and the child’s name card. The baggies are kept in a basket on the shelf and the children find their baggy with their name inside then take it to the table to participate in structured activities the teacher has planned.

There are additional art supplies kept in the art center as well such as scissors, paint, play dough, and so on.

The name cards are always included in each baggy.

The name cards are available for children to practice printing their own name and for promoting name recognition.

The children in the Kindergarten room each have a school box that they keep their basic art supplies in.

The children have glue, scissors, pencils, crayons, erasers, and rulers in their boxes.

The kindergarten children have name cards to but they are mounted to the tables.

Each child has their own space during structured classroom activities.

Keep in mind that the supplies kept in individual containers are used for specific learning activities. There are always many other types of supplies available to the children throughout the day in the writing, creative art, science, and other centers.

Check out this art box from Tired, Need Sleep!

And to see some wonderful photos and ideas for designing a creative art center – See PreKinders Pre-K Art Center!

Potato alphabet activity in preschool

It was farm week in this two year old classroom. Laying in the center of this table was a set of mixed up construction paper potatoes with one letter of the alphabet on each one.

There are several centers open throughout the classroom including a sand table, water table, easel, gluing activity, blocks, and so on. The teacher waits to see which children would like to participate in the game with her. It doesn’t take long before a handful of twos come to her table to play the game.

Each of the children are given several potatoes and then the teacher asks the children to look and see if they have the letter A.  This group of twos are very familiar with the letters of the alphabet so this is more of a review for them and not an introduction to the letters.

The children search through their potatoes as the teacher asks them to help her find the next letter. Then the children say the names of the letters they have found so far with the teacher. The game continues until all of the letters are found.  Today’s game reviews the letters A through J.

After all the letters are found, some of the children want to play the game again so the teacher mixes the potatoes all up and they play again.

By | April 28th, 2010|Categories: Letter Recognition|Tags: , |2 Comments

T is for triangle colors and patterns

The two year olds in this class are exploring triangles. Each child reaches into a bag and selects different colors of triangles they would like to glue to their paper.

While the children work with the glue, the teacher converses with the child. “What color would you like to glue next?” “I see you are creating a pattern – blue, green, blue, green.”  “What shape are you holding in your hand?”

The child uses his hands to brush on the glue, turn over the triangles, and tap the triangle down in place. This is a simple process but the objective is to not only present a process that child can enjoy but to also open the door to new learning about shapes, colors, and patterns.

And in the end, the child has a bright, colorful shape picture to display on the wall. Once the picture is displayed, the teachers can again review the beautiful colors, patterns, and shapes.

By | April 27th, 2010|Categories: Cognitive Development|Tags: , |0 Comments

Fine motor development in preschool with play dough and straws

Play dough is such a wonderful resource for building fine motor skills. Wy and I sat down to play with some play dough recently.

I cut the straws down so they were a little shorter then showed Wy how to make a ball of play dough and then stick the straws into the play dough.

The play dough wasn’t as soft as I had hoped so it made it more difficult for Wy to poke the straws in. But in the end he did get a nice little fine motor work out:)

Oh, and our dog, Benji, enjoyed the show!

One voice in the preschool classroom

The thing about working with preschoolers is you are always having to either talk over lots of little voices or find creative ways to capture their attention. Lots of little voices all going at once is to be expected but lots of teacher voices all going at once should not be part of the plan.

Working together to create one voice!

Too many teacher voices

If there are two or more teachers in the classroom and each are talking equally loud to get the attention of the entire class – the result is often more chaotic then helpful. The children need to know who to focus on and for a few moments – there should be only one voice.

Not so helpful

I have observed many classrooms where one teacher is in the front speaking to the children and the other teacher will call out across the room telling the children to listen. Each time one teacher raises the volume of his or her voice to help the other teacher it creates a conflict as to who the children should look at and listen to at that specific moment.

Who is in charge?

The lead teacher would normally be the main voice in the classroom. While the lead teacher is gaining the attention of students, all other teachers should use softer voices or even body language to support the lead teacher’s efforts. If a student continues to be disruptive – the most helpful thing the assistant teacher can do at that moment is to discretely walk over and quietly address that child individually by reminding or encouraging the child to listen to what the lead teacher has to say.

Ultimately, every teacher should have a voice in the classroom but the goal is to use each voice effectively so that the children are not confused by who is in charge at a given moment. When one teacher is in the lead – then let that voice be the dominant voice.

One Voice

The next time you are in the classroom and you see another teacher ask for the children’s attention, read a story, sing a song, or call for clean-up time; consider being the supportive voice that works behind the scenes helping to discretely guide children towards the main voice at that moment.

Remember…more than one dominating teacher voice along with lots of little voices does not lead to effective classroom management and communication.

Ideally, every teacher in the classroom needs to work together to create ONE focal point and ONE voice.

By | April 25th, 2010|Categories: Professional Development|Tags: |11 Comments

Morning greeting and calendar and weather time in preschool

Attention!  THIS POST IS SOOO OLD! Please see the way I have modified our morning as time as gone by : Ten Tips for Circle Time in the Preschool Classroom

What I used to do in 2010

I always start my day in preschool off with a morning greeting time which includes exploring the calendar, weather, seasons, and a brief review of basic concepts. Let me show you some of the ideas that can be included in a simple morning greeting time.

Sing the Hello Song!

I love to sing the Hello Song every morning. It lets the children know we are ready to begin the “learning” part of our day.

Who is here today!

Next I take “attendance” by letting the children move their name to the “I am here today” chart!

Attendance posters!


Then we talk about the day, date, and year!  I break it down to very basic terms such as having the children say: “Today is Monday”   and “The date is April 20, 2010

I also have the children count the number of days that we have had so far in the month  and tell me what number will go next. If there is a special day coming up, such as a birthday or holiday, then that day is noted on the chart in advance and we count how many more days until it will be that special day.

Then we say (or sing) the days of the week in order.

Calendar and symbols


Next we choose a weather helper to look out the window and tell us what the weather is. We sing the song:

Weather, weather,

Weather, weather,

What will the weather be today?

(sunny and warm)

(sunny and warm)

That’s what the weather will be today.

I then have the weather helper draw a weather symbol on a square of paper and we place it up on the bulletin board. The older children print the word of the symbol on the square as well. Each day a new weather symbol square is added and we look for patterns in the weather.  We then count the number of rainy days in the month, sunny days, and so forth. For each new month we start a new set of weather symbol squares.


We then sing the Four Seasons Song and identify each of the seasons on a chart. Sometimes we will spend more time on this by reading a book about seasons or talking about a particular season. For this month, we would talk about the signs of spring.

Simple weather and season chart


I also choose our helpers during the morning greeting. I have used helpers that include:

  • Weather helper
  • Door holder
  • Line Leader
  • Caboose
  • Snack Helper
  • Lunch Helper
  • Plant and Fish Helper

I have also just assigned one Helper of the Day. It all depends on the age of the children and what they can handle.

Review of basic concepts

We then review many of the basic concepts. I simply point to the letters or numbers or shapes on the chart and we all say them together. Not a lot of time is spent on this – just a quick daily review and over time the children get better and better at their recognition of each letter, color, or shape.  Since we use the numbers on the calendar, we do not repeat numbers again.

Morning Exercises

Finally we choose some music and movement activities for the children to stretch, run in place, and  so forth as our morning exercise routine.

By | April 20th, 2010|Categories: Cognitive Development|Tags: , |5 Comments

Pro-social sharing and negotiation skills in preschool

I was asked by Noah of The People Garden to drum up some activities that promote pro-social sharing and negotiation skills for young children. I wanted to share this article so you could see the ideas as well. You will have to scroll down just a bit (past the very nice comments about me:) to see the activities.

There were four activities in all including…

#1 Sensory Play: Pepperoni Pizzas

#2 Music and Movement: Circle of Friends

#3 Creative Arts – Creating a rainbow

#4 Setting the Table

Click here to view each of these activities…

Using all those great ideas in your preschool classroom

I love to search out new preschool ideas and activities on other blogs. New ideas keep me motivated and inspired. However, once I find a cute idea, I visualize how I will do the activity with my students.

Lose the recipe

Often times teachers look at an idea they find online or in books as they would a recipe for baking a cake. Following the idea one step at a time. Following step one, step two, step three, and so forth, teachers feel they should not deviate from the recipe. But you need to understand that the outcome and process of the project should be based on the development of the children in your classroom.

Visualize what the children will actually do

As you plan to use an idea, ask yourself: “What will my children actually do?”  If you are doing all of the cutting, tearing, arranging, folding, gluing, and so forth then what part of the process is left over for the children to actually do?  Remember – it is in the doing that children begin to develop their skills, abilities, and confidence!

When I plan an activity I actually visualize my students taking part in the process. If there just doesn’t seem like there will be enough for them to do then I change the idea up to make sure that the activity is something they can do all by themselves.

Creating flowers

Over the past few weeks I have found a ton of amazing ideas for flowers. I just love them all so at my first opportunity, I brought some of those ideas with me and presented them to a group of young children. However, I modified those ideas to fit what I felt would be best for the ages and stages of this particular group of young children.

Since I would only have one opportunity with this group of children, I decided to let them use a variety of materials to make their flowers. I first had the children brainstorm with me what ways we could use the materials to make flowers. We decided to try the following….

Colorful paint, colorful paper towel squares with seeds, straws, tape, yarn, and one child wanted me use letters to spell the word “HA”.

Then the children were given time to make their own flowers.

The children started by snipping the edges of green paper to make some grass.

The children added some glue – all by themselves!

Then the children flipped the grass over and glued it to their paper.

Most of the children did the grass exactly the same way I did even though they were told they can put the grass any where they want.

Then stems were cut out by the children and then they glued the stems to their paper.

Some of the children preferred long stems and others wanted short. One little girl only wanted one really tall stem.

This little girl decided she only wanted to use paint to create her flowers. Oh, and her white flower is actually just a glob of glue since we didn’t have any white paint!

Product and Process

In the end, we had a beautiful set of flowers to display in the room but we also enjoyed the process. The children were able to make decisions, use a variety of materials, and do the work without my help. I did provide guidance at first so the children could visualize the process but once the process was started, it was time to encourage their own creativity and skills.

If I were to be teaching these children on a regular basis, I would probably not have put out every type of material and instead had them try a different type of flower each day. I say this to let you know that I took a combination of ideas and adjusted them (or in this case – combined them) to make them work for my situation.

By | April 18th, 2010|Categories: Messages from Deborah|Tags: |8 Comments

Presenting simple songs and fingerplays to young children

I wrote this article for Teaching Tiny Tots a few months ago on teaching simple songs to preschoolers.  In this article, I talk about using the S-I-M-P-L-E method when introducing simple songs and fingerplays to young children.

Singing and Chanting the Itsy Bitsy Spider!