Learning centers consist of multiple stations for children to rotate through. Stations may contain activities from different subjects, such as math, science and reading, or different activities related to the same topic. The culture and dynamic of the preschool classroom, as well as the amount of supervision available, will help determine whether learning centers will work well in your classroom.
Learning centers allow you to appeal to multiple learning styles, particularly visual and kinesthetic learners. Instead of simply being given information, students have access to hands-on activities that allow them to learn by doing. If you set up learning centers related to the same topic, preschoolers may also choose to visit only the stations that interest them, making the learning more rewarding. You must make sure that each station has an interesting activity and design them with your students in mind; otherwise, you will end up with many preschoolers crowded at one station while other stations will sit empty.
Children in preschool have short attention spans, so stations allow them to engage with an activity and then move on to a new activity within 10 or 15 minutes. Instead of sitting on a rug reading a story or listening to a preschool teacher, students will be more engaged in the learning process by getting to experience a sense of self-discovery as they complete a process or conduct an experiment. Students with extremely short attention spans, however, may still need extra attention in order to keep them focused on finishing the activity at each station instead of trying to visit all of the learning centers at once.
Learning centers allow preschool children to receive more individualized instruction. If a teacher limits the number of children allowed at a station at each time, she may be able to work directly with three or four students at a time. Working with a smaller number of students will help her notice individual difficulties and have the time to help students with their problems.
Learning centers pose a challenge when it comes to supervising children. If a teacher wants to provide students with individualized attention and work with a small group, another teacher or volunteer must be able to supervise the other groups of children. In addition, while children are engaged at their stations, a teacher must work to re-direct students with short attention spans or resolve any disputes that will likely occur among the children. In order for learning centers to work, a teacher should be responsible for no more than five children at a time in order to give them the time and attention they need.
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images