According to research, the advantages of learning centers early childhood education classrooms (ages 2-5) are a huge factor in children’s learning. Classrooms are usually set-up so that children can be engaged with exploratory activities. The materials should be purposefully planned with changes made often. The schedule should allow for large blocks of time. I recommend an hour in the morning and the afternoon. The classroom teacher should move from one center to the other encouraging the children and making notes for their files. The site from the NC Division of Child Development provides a plethora of information that will help the parents understand the importance of the classroom centers. Learning takes place when children are engaged in play.
The learning centers in an ideal early childhood education classroom may include some of the following: blocks, computer, manipulative/math, books, writing, art, music, science, dramatic play, and large motor. For children to know and understand how to direct themselves they need to be able to recognize what is available to them. From the picture above, you can get an idea of the how to use shelves or dividers to space the learning centers.
Teachers should not assign children to the learning centers. Children learn best when they are interacting with items that interest them. The items at the center should meet all the developmental levels in the classroom including special needs and multicultural. According to the author of Preschool Appropriate Practices by Janice Beaty, the child must be able to trust their environment by experiencing the following: 1. awareness of the choices available; 2. an interest in the materials (change items, often); 3. Freedom to explore; and 4. time to get deeply involved.
A typical schedule is below:
7:00-9:00 AM – Arrival, greetings, and a limited number of learning centers open.
9:00-9:15 AM – Morning Snack
9:15-9:30 AM – Teacher Directed Activity or Circle
9:30-10:30 AM – Learning
10:30-10:45 AM– Clean-up, Bathrooms, Preparation for Outdoor Play
10:45-11:45 AM – Outdoor Play
11:45-12:00 AM – Preparation for lunch
12:00 -12:30 PM –Lunch (The classroom teacher should sit with the children and model good table manners.
12:30-2:00 – PM Nap time for children that need a map. All children do not need naps. The schedule should be individualized for the non-napping children. The space should include an area for quiet activities during this time.
2:00-2:15 PM – Snack
2:15-2:30 PM – Teacher Directed Activity
2:30-3:30 PM – Free Choice Activity Centers
3:30-4:30 PM – Outdoor Play
4:30 – 6:00 PM – Departure and Limited Centers Open for Play