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NYC Helpline: How To: Teach Literacy

Learning Centers in the Early Childhood Classroom by Julia Millin

Learning centers are used in the classroom to help develop or enhance students’ skills and concepts. Students use instructional materials to explore different subject areas. Generally, learning centers are designed for students to work without teacher assistance. But before the students can do that, the teacher should first introduce each center and its function to the entire class as a group activity.

The centers can be created for students to work alone or in small groups on various subject matters. Students can work individually on the same task or the work can be designed for the students’ individual needs.

The teacher is responsible for updating and changing the task in each center based on students’ needs. Many teachers have centers operational each day during the independent reading workshop. While a teacher directs a guided reading group, the rest of the class is assigned to different learning centers.

Types of Centers 
Math Centers – These can have a variety of manipulatives with task cards for the students to explore. Some task could be taken from units previously taught or to differentiate, you could use specific task for specific students’ needs.

Science Center- This center could include animals and books related to those animals, paper and writing tools for students to record observations about the animals or whatever science topic you are currently exploring in the classroom.

Reading Center- This center could include books of various levels, published works of other students, big books for buddy reading, as well as cushions and pillows to make it a comfortable area.

Writing Center- This center could consist of a computer or two, various kinds of paper, pencils, markers, crayons, glue sticks, and tape.

Word Study Center – This center could consist of a magnetic white board with magnetic alphabet letters. Students can create words from the word wall, or word families.

Listening Center – This center could consist of tape recorders, headphones, and books on tape. You can use books that the students are familiar with or slightly above their independent reading level.

Centers can be used in a variety of ways, depending upon a teacher’s reason for creating them. They can be used to organize and deliver all or part of the curriculum. They can be established for students to go to when they have extra time after completing an assignment. They can help develop decision-making skills if you allow your students to choose which center they want to work in.

However you choose to use centers in your classroom, organization is the key to successful student-centered small group activities. Teachers must first work with the whole group to guide them into creating a cooperative classroom community.

Do you have a question or comment about this article? E-mail Julia.

See also: Making Center Learning Meaningful for ELL/ESL Students by Tobey Bassoff.


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