Do you allow free choice centers?

Discussion in 'Preschool' started by TeacherCuriousExplore, Feb 17, 2017.

  1. TeacherCuriousExplore

    TeacherCuriousExplore Companion

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    Feb 17, 2017

    I am all for teaching responsibility and independence in the Pre-K classroom, however I do not allow children to choose centers freely and on their own because most of the kids choose the same center each time! This leaves all of the centers closed off from the other kids that want to play in a particular area.
    I once taught Georgia Pre-K, and a state rule was that children must choose their own centers and that there is no limit as to how many kids may occupy a center. So, if all 22 kids in the classroom wanted to visit the house area they could because it was a state rule. Now I am here in Florida, teaching Pre-K in my parent's facility and the rule here is to allow children free play but limit the number of kids in an area.

    Today I chose where the kids went. I placed them in groups of 3 and I also mixed the groups with students that I observed that does not play together normally. I like this concept because it less noisy and also less fussy. The children got along so good!. There was some kids that asked to switch areas and I allowed them to do so as long as their previous area was clean or if the center weren't occupied with other kids I am just not for free choice centers.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2017
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  3. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    Feb 17, 2017

    You can let them choose but limit the number in the group. If it is full, they have to choose something different. ;)

    Even with my high school SPE students, I have to GUIDE their free choices. We have work task boxes. They would pick THE SAME ONE ALL OF THE TIME if I didn't tweak their choosing abilities. They have a list of all of the boxes (categorized by labels with a letter or number). Pick a task, check it off. When your list is done, then you can get a new sheet and start over.
     
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  4. TeacherCuriousExplore

    TeacherCuriousExplore Companion

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    Feb 17, 2017

    I agree. The concept of free choice is allowing the children to learn how to take on responsibility and using their own brains for choices, but sometimes children do not need to make all of the choices in the classroom. They are kids.
     
  5. ChildWhisperer

    ChildWhisperer Habitué

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    Feb 17, 2017

    I limit the number of kids in each center (blocks - 4, dramatic play - 4, science - 3, etc.)
    I've never had a problem with the kids picking the same center every single day (lucky me??!)
    But once in awhile, I will pick the center for them to mix up WHO they play with, but I only do this maybe once a month.
     
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  6. Abcgirl

    Abcgirl Rookie

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    Feb 17, 2017

    I do free choice but only allow 4 at each center
     
  7. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Feb 18, 2017

    I'm having a hard time imagining that teachers wouldn't be allowed to responsibly limit numbers of students in centers. Sounds unsafe and chaotic. Here's a current Georgia early childhood ed standard that speaks to choice but doesn't limit teacher decision making:
    Indicator Detail:
    APL1.3b Makes choices and complete some independent activities.


    Rationale:
    With adult support, three-year-olds begin to make simple choices. These activities foster their growth toward independence.




    Examples:
    1. selects item when given a choice of two different types of puzzles
    2. makes a choice to play at the sand and water table rather than in the block area
    3. selects book that an adult has read many times rather than a new book that is offered
    4. shows a desire to play with new items added to the housekeeping center
     
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  8. TeacherCuriousExplore

    TeacherCuriousExplore Companion

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    Feb 19, 2017

    Yes, this is one of the GELDS(Georgia Early Learning Department Standards) for approaches to play and learning. Georgia's Early Childhood ed student achievement requirements are so confusing. I forgot to add that most of the standards states one thing, but the state of Georgia, and a company named Bright From The Start that written the GELDS both have different rules and regulations for Pre K

    The state says limit the number and Bright from the Start says free choice no limitations!.
    I am happy I am not a pre K teacher in Georgia anymore.
    Here in Florida we use Bright Beginnings VPK standards. Florida do not have two different entities confusing the teachers. The only thing the state cares about is teacher student capacity. Bright Beginnings is responsible for making sure teachers are teaching the standards, have adequate classroom materials, and if the teachers are certified for VPK(Voluntary Pre K)

    In Georgia, the state and some other entity both control the same things and that is what makes everything confusing because both have different rules. When it is time for inspection or observation pre K teachers are confused and dazed.

    The only thing good about GELDS are that they are well written with instructions and activities.
     
  9. Preschool0929

    Preschool0929 Comrade

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    Feb 20, 2017

    I think by structuring "free" play too much, you are missing out on valuable lessons to teach at this time. While I limit the number of students in each center, students are free to move around as they please. If a student stays in play dough all day, that's ok. If dramatic play is full and someone wants to go there, we problem solve solutions (set a timer, allow them to play if the center remains quiet, prompt them to ask someone to share the center, etc.) The ideology behind no limits during free play is so that preschoolers develop more advanced social skills and problem solving skills.

    In order to insure that my students still gain necessary skills, even without visiting all centers, I do a few things:
    1) math and literacy items in every single center
    2)rotating toys and adding new items in centers that are rarely visited
    3)playing in a center by myself to encourage students to come play
    4)small group activities that are differentiated to meet student needs

    Ultimately, I think you need to ask yourself:why is it important for a student to visit all of the centers? I think if you visit sites like teachprschool, prekinders, prekpages, etc. you'll find that most professionals in our field do not suggest structuring this time. Again, think of all the important and amazing social and problem solving skills you could be teaching by allowing this time to flow more freely. AND all the extra time you have to move around the classroom and encourage students to play with new and different friends.

    Just my thoughts.
     
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  10. TeacherCuriousExplore

    TeacherCuriousExplore Companion

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    Feb 20, 2017

    This much is true, but what if there are too many students for the kids to move around freely. I agree that children need to develop advanced social skills, but letting them run free in centers without any rules is not developing those advanced social skills. Children need rules. I allow them choices and limits.
     
  11. renard

    renard Companion

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    Feb 20, 2017

    They do need rules, but remember that testing and breaking rules among their peers is also a critical developmental skill. If you impose too many rules ("I will decide what center you visit"), they won't have the opportunity to make their own appropriate choice about socialization and play. They may bicker more or get upset if they make the wrong choice but that's the point - they need to confront conflict and try to resolve it themselves. Teachers get involved when there is a safety or a conflict that is escalating beyond a certain point - and even then, we use words to encourage them to resolve it themselves.
     
  12. renard

    renard Companion

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    Feb 20, 2017

    I'll give an example from a situation I've had. Pre-k (4 years old) head start program with about 25 children, most with mild/mod disabilities and a few severe. I had a 4 year old girl with moderate Autism get into the playhouse at free play and start thumping another kid because there were quite a few inside and she was probably overwhelmed. Took her by the hand, removed her, and said "Johnny says no hit! Johnny is hurt!". Then, she was given the choice to return to the house, OR, decide that it was too chaotic for her to handle and choose another center. She chose, wisely, to leave. I gave her a consequence (in a clear manner for her to try and understand), gave her a choice, and she made the right choice. On any other day, she may have gone back into the house and hit another child. However, that is a choice she needs to LEARN to make. Not for me to make it for her. It's an age-appropriate decision-making process that will serve her well, especially since she's autistic and will frequently encounter sensory overloads.

    I hope that makes sense as an example!
     
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  13. Preschool0929

    Preschool0929 Comrade

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    Feb 20, 2017

    Of course children need rules and limits, but it doesn't TEACH them how to develop those rules and limits independently just because you are imposing them. When you look at the hierarchy of social skill development, the lower skills are that children can 1:) follow rules and 2) approaches an adult for assistance (i.e. "Mrs. X, they won't share with me" Higher level social skills are 3) suggests solutions to problems and 4) resolves conflict through negotiation. If you never give them opportunities to practice those higher level skills, then how will they develop them?

    For example, in my classroom, I said that students have free choice but center numbers are limited. All year we practice being "problem solvers" and finding solutions to our own problems. By this point in the school year, even my 3 year olds (I teach 3-5) can get our solution cards (from http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/) and find a solution to their problem without teacher assistance. My older students have the ability to come up with solutions independently (i.e. "Mrs. X, can I have a timer? The dramatic play friends have been there for a long time and I think they get 5 more minutes so I can play there") If there are too many students playing in a center, they learn to self regulate (i.e. it gets too cramped, there are only enough materials for X number of students, etc.).

    Basically, you need to let problems arise so that they learn how to independently solve them. If students are playing with the same friends every day, your job is to teach them how to be a good friend and play with others, not to require that they play with a certain group. For me, it took a long time in my teaching career to learn this and to be confident enough in my classroom management to realize these things.
     
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  14. msaly

    msaly Comrade

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    Mar 31, 2017

    I allow my kids to choose their own centers. If I chose for them all they would do is complain and whine that its not where they want to play and try to go to another center and my day would be making sure they stayed where I told them to go. Obviously not every child would do this, but a good chunk of them. That is not how I want to spend center time. Choosing for them also doesn't really allow them to develop their social skills or decision making process.

    I only have 12 children in my class so if they all wanted to play in one center it would be okay BUT I limit the number allowed in each center- each child has a center tag with their name on it. They choose a center by putting their tag on a velcro dot in the center that they choose. Once all the spots are taken that center is closed and they have to pick another center. When they are done in a particular center they clean up, take their tag and find a new center. I have done this system for years and it has worked very well. I don't really have a problem with the kids choosing the same center all the time but I do make sure that all my centers have a literacy activity and most of them have a math activity as well! If a child were to stay in 1 center the whole time that's fine by me.
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2017

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