Every afternoon, I set aside 30-45 minutes for my students to explore items, activities, and experiences in my classroom. I’m sure many of you are thinking, I definitely DO NOT have time to add that into my day. However, I urge you to consider it. I promise it will be worth it. It is by far one of my favorite parts of our day and my students agree. They love it and can’t wait for the opportunity to explore and CHOOSE what they want to do each afternoon. What is also incredible is the hum of learning that goes on during these activities.
During exploration centers, my students have the opportunity to explore a multitude of choices. I alternate what I set out each day and my students get to be-bop from activity to activity as they so desire.
When thinking through activities, I make sure that I have an art activity, an engineering-type of activity, a math extension, a science extension, and a fine motor extension daily.
To give you some examples of things that I set out, I’ll take you on a picture walk of our last two weeks.
In Social Studies, we have been learning about the world that we live in. As an art extension, I let my students help me in hand-painting the earth. While this was happening, my other students were happily engaged in other activities of their choice. This made it easy for me to only have paint on the hands of 3 kids at a time. (This made painting during the first week of school a breeze!)
While working, my students and I discussed why we were using blue and green, what continent they were painting, what ocean they were painting, and I was able to answer/aid my students in answering many great questions.
I also have a few different “building/engineering” tools that I have been setting out. My students are loving building with our tree blocks.
They also are enjoying exploring the light table.
I also make sure that I set out a few different art opportunities for my students. They have really enjoyed working with the geometric cabinet.
Other super simple art activities that I have set out have been water colors and markers! It’s really neat to see which areas of the classroom my students are drawn to.
In addition to these activities, I also have included “loose part” play into our daily choices. For this, I set out a variety of materials and let my students explore and create. They have made some amazing things!!
My students have shown a strong interest in mixing and making other colors. Therefore, this week, I set out a color mixing activity. For this, I simply set out our test tubes, eye droppers, and two containers filled with primary colors. My students enjoyed making different colors.
Finally, the last center that has been a HUGE hit has been my sensory table. It currently is filled with sand, “treasure,” and flashlights. My students are loving using this.
During this time, I write down observational notes in my documentation notebook and scribe conversations that are occurring. I also take pictures to add them to my students’ portfolios and then have them tell me what they were doing and thinking. This 30-45 minutes has given me such insight into my student’s likes and dislikes and allowed me to really get to know them. (The first week of school I also used this time to assess my students on what they already knew. I was able to assess all of my students on their numbers, letters, and sounds in 3 days!) I love that it allows me to expand on my student’s interests and “ponderings” and allows them to explore things that might not have been in the curriculum.
Next week our focus is community helpers. During our exploration time my students are going to transform our classroom into a restaurant to learn about bakers and chefs, participate in dramatic play with a few community helper “dress up” items, and Friday we are creating a veterinarian office! Our whole day Friday will be filled with exploration, activities, and learning! (I can’t wait to blog about it!!) My students are BEYOND excited to do all of this! I can’t wait to see what they come up with and how they explore!
Remember, playing IS learning!