Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Centers: Games, Magnets, Play-doh and Alphabet Work

Yesterday I started a series of posts on how I conduct my centers.  (Click HERE if you haven't read it yet.)  Two questions were asked from readers and I'll answer them quickly here before I talk about the subject of this post.

Question #1:  How many centers a day do I do?  Answer:  I do 1 center a day.  I used to do 2 but we recently started RtI (small reading groups) in my school and that took up 1 of my center times.  Very, very worth it!  I love RtI and how it helps ALL my students.

Question #2:  Do I take groups during centers?  Answer:  No.  Not in a tradition sense (like I did when I taught 1st grade).  I strongly believe that kindergartners are still learning how to organize their materials, time and bodies during centers.  If I took traditional groups I wouldn't be as available to "guide" them, give suggestions, and even referee squabbles that occur during centers.  I will, however, take individual kids for testing or sit down with groups who I know are working on a more difficult task.  I found myself frustrated when I tried to take small groups.  There were constant interruptions, kids not on task and real issues they needed my help with but I wasn't free to help them with.  Once I gave up on taking "formal" groups I found my centers went much better and I was more available to ALL my student's who needed my ASAP!  = )
 However, I greatly admire people who can take groups and keep centers running smoothly! 

Ok, on to today's topic:  Games, Magnets, Play-doh and Alphabet Work

I use purchased games for this center.  At the beginning of the year I'll put simple games out like Operation, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders and sometimes puzzles, etc.  As the year progresses I'll start adding educational games I've purchased through the years. Most of my games are Lakeshore games because they are super simple for kids to understand, sturdy, and work on important skills. 
Again, I believe kindergartners are still learning how to work in centers and how to cooperate with others.  This center lets them practice these important skills!  I don't ever assume kids know how to work with others so I give them lots of opportunities to practice!

Activities at this center vary but I only change it out 3-4 times a year.  Sometimes I will simply put a bucket of magnetic letters out and tell the kids to them in ABC order.
  Above you see kids working on matching kids pictures with names and writing their friends names.  This is my first magnet center and will last at least the first 9 weeks of school (or more).

This is a picture of Letter Recognition Magic Squares with magnets attached to the back.  HoJo makes tons of Magic Squares with a myriad of skills and my kids LOVE them. Click HERE to see a previous post about this topic.

The thing I try to keep in mind during any center is that it is OK for kids to work on the same center several times before I change it out.  Repetition is important to Kinders!  Don't get rid of a center too fast just because you think you should!  They don't get "bored" as easily as they think!  I keep an eye on my centers and switch them out when they can do it quickly and with little effort. . . that's when I know they are ready for a new challenge!

Super easy center!  Set out play-doh, put work mats in protective sleeves or laminate and you're done! 
 At the beginning of the year we work on building the alphabet with play-doh.  You can either make your own alphabet mats or you can find GREAT free ones all over the web.  Here's one from Home School Creations that is listed for FREE!
Of course TPT is full of great mats like these:
CVC Short Vowel Play-doh pack from Primary Possibilities
And even fun seasonal ones like this:  Halloween Fun Play-doh Mats by Over the Moonbow

The point is this center can last ALL year and you will never run out of skills for the kids to work on!

Alphabet Work
For this center, literally, anything concerning the alphabet works.  It's the one center I change out often.  Some of the activities include alphabet puzzles, memory, stamps, and of course all the myriad of activities offered on blogs and TPT!  Anything that involves the alphabet is fair game!  You can't be a kindergarten teacher without having tons of these activities!

Thanks for reading and congratulations on surviving another LONG post!  
Tomorrow I'll start posting about my center books!


  1. Love your information. I teach 1st but still get so much from your posts.

  2. Love "seeing" how your centers work! Maybe someday I'll get to do something similar... :) I'll be coming your way in mid-July. We'll have to plan something! And thank you for the shout out!

  3. Hello Michelle- I love your ideas. I was wondering if you can tell me what TPT stands for I am seeing it all over and don't know what it means.
    Happy Summer Vacation!

    1. TPT is the Teacher's Pay Teachers website with lots of great resources made by teachers for teachers to purchase.