Growing up in a developing country, I don’t remember my nursery school as anything like the preschool today. As a matter of fact, I don’t know if the concept called Learning through Play has already been developed then. Now as a teacher of VPK students (pre-kindergarten) here in Florida, I am gaining a lot of insights.
One thing I’ve learned from teaching young children is the importance of setting an encouraging, inspiring, and yet safe physical environment. Meaning, the classroom must be lively, colorful, and completely centered upon children and their active learning. For our VPK classroom this school year, my co-teacher and I borrowed the movie title “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” for our classroom’s theme.
Every activity in our VPK class is set within specific focus and intent. We have set different Interest Learning Centers within the classroom to allow our children to learn in the way they learn best: THROUGH PLAY. As teachers, our goal is to encourage our students to manipulate the different materials we have made available for them, explore them at their own pace, and become acquainted with them – all of which lead to their learning. Here are our different Interest Learning Centers in our classroom and their specific benefits.
We use this large carpeted corner for our Circle Time to discuss our lessons, read story, storytell, show and tell, and have a day-to-day conversation with our young students.
Children learn how to communicate their ideas through drawing and print. From print association, they eventually understand the concept of reading. Since VPK focuses on preparing our young children for Kindergaten, my co-teacher and I specifically allocate a one-on-one time with each of our students in this center to practice their writing of the alphabet and numbers, as well as drawing different shapes.
Block Center teaches children basic geometry. They learn to build structures by putting blocks and legos together. Not only they learn different shapes in doing so, but they also get to understand how these different structures work.
Children learn to improve their language and literacy skills not only through reading or being read to, but also in the use of their imagination. In this center, children learn to portray roles and use the language they hear from important people in their lives. They also develop their social skills in this center by playing with their friends.
Teaching young children how to use computer helps them to interact with the technology that surrounds us in our lives. It also improves eye-hand coordination. Playing computer games helps develop decision-making skills and teaches children how to think on their feet. Computer games also helps children to solve problems, set goals, and other important cognitive skills.
We also designated specific centers for science exploration, manipulative/math counts, and arts and crafts.
Science Discovery Center is an interest learning center that is all about observing, questioning, and problem solving in a very real and hands-on way. Activities in this center help children to explore and describe items from their environment.
Manipulative Center aims to develop children’s small muscles. They can manipulate items to count, puzzles to make, and crayons to draw.
Art Center helps children’s development in many areas. It can assist them to: 1) express feelings through manipulation of materials (such as clay, finger paint, etc.); 2) express creativity and individuality; 3) learn about cause and effect; 4) develop the skills to plan; and 5) develop fine or small muscles, as well as eye-hand coordination.
As a teacher, I strongly believe that Interest Learning Centers become more effective when they are set and arranged in such a way that they are inspiring and encouraging to the eye of our young learners. While others may perceive it only for aesthetic design, it serves a more important purpose than that. An enhanced environment not only make learning enjoyable for our young learners, but indeed it also makes it more meaningful for them.
“The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.” -Plato
Some information are borrowed from the following sources:
Voluntary Prekindergarten or VPK is a program of the Florida Department of Early Learning Coalition which gives children a jump start by preparing them for school and enhancing their pre-reading, pre-math, language and social skills. By developing the skills children need to become strong readers and students at an early age, children are more likely to be successful in school. VPK classrooms offer high-quality programs that include high literacy standards, developmentally appropriate curricula, manageable class sizes, and qualified teachers. For more information, please visit: http://www.vpkhelp.org/