Centers Help for Back to School!

We are busy preparing for the new school year as many of you are.  We’ve ordered new classroom supplies, printed newsletters for parents, and are getting semester lesson plans in order.  It’s hard to believe that in less than a month, our children will arrive for a new school year!

The first few days of school are often overwhelming for both teachers and children.  Here are a few suggestions to help keep the learning environment from becoming too stimulating, too fast.

*Set up centers and shelves the way you would like them to be all year.   Materials and activities will change, but the LOCATION should remain the same.  It is less confusing for the children when they KNOW where to find each center or shelf.

*In the first few weeks, set out a LIMITED number of items that the children have access to until they are familiar with the daily routines and safety rules for the classroom/materials.  We introduce each center and the materials that are available.  Re-introduce the center when you add different materials along with instructions on how to properly care for and use the different materials.  Below is a list of materials that are good  for the beginning of the year because they need minimal explanations and are often more familiar to the children.

ART CENTER – Set out paper, crayons/markers, glue sticks, and some basic collage materials.

SCIENCE – Have magnifying glasses and basic items out that the children could explore. Some suggestions:  fruits, leaves, pine cones, large sponges, or other textured items.

READING – Too many books are overwhelming.  Set out a few books that most children will be familiar with.  We usually begin the year with ERIC CARLE as many children will find those books familiar.  Board books are also great to begin school with as they are study and can withstand a lot of use!

WRITING/LITERACY – Keep it basic in the beginning:   paper, markers, pencils, Alphabet Stamps and NAME writing/stamping sheets (*free printables below) are the only items we set out for the first few weeks.

MATH –   We have large and small dominoes, basic counting games with only one bin of manipulatives for the children to begin playing with, sorting, or counting.

HOUSEKEEPING – We have this center well equipped for the first few days.  The children will get to know each other and it is a center usually liked by all the children.  Some basic items we use are play food, simple kitchen utensils, baby dolls, strollers, changing table, etc.  Save dress-up clothes and accessories for later.

BLOCKS – Keep it simple with basic blocks for building in the first week or two.  No cars, trucks, or other accessories are needed for now.

Here are some free printables to help get started:

Pencil_Template:  Yellow_Pencil_Template (use for name tags or have the children make a bookmark and decorate at the Art center with stickers/markers/crayons – laminate them for the kids after decorating.)

Number Writing Practice Sheets 1_9:  Numbers_Practice_1_9

Blank Name Strips –  Blank_Name_Strips – Cut apart and set out in the Writing Center. Let the children stamp or practice writing their names in the early days of school.

Daily Parent/Child Communication Sheet – What I did today!  Daily_Student_Communications – Have the child stamp or write their name and the date.  Circle the weather for the day and all activities that the child participated in.  Circle a feeling or make another face that shows how the child felt during the day.

For Parents and Teachers, the first day of Preschool or Kindergarten is always filled with many emotions.  We love the poem below, written by Jamie Solley, as it reflects how so many parents feel leaving their child for the first time.    It might serve as a good one to hand to parents as they leave their child in your capable hands for the first time!  Good luck to all of you on a great beginning to this school year!

The First Day 

I gave you a little wink and smile
As you entered my room today.
For I know how hard it is to leave
And know your child must stay.
You’ve been with him for five years now
And have been a loving guide,
But now, alas, the time has come
To leave him at my side.
Just know that as you drive away
And tears down your cheeks may flow
I’ll love him as I would my own
And help him learn and grow.
For as a parent, I too know
How quickly the years do pass
And that one day soon it will be my turn
To take my child to class.
So please put your mind at ease
And cry those tears no more
For I will love him and take him in
When you leave him at my door.

~Jamie Solley

For more ideas see The Preschool Toolbox Blog’s Preschool and Kindergarten Themes for Active Learning and Play!