Pre-K Learning Centers
NAEYC Article: Centering Your Classroom
What We Are Doing Center Signs
Printable Labels for Pre-K Learning Centers
Recommended Materials for Pre-K Learning Centers
What are learning centers?
Learning centers are clearly defined
areas in the classroom grouped by topic that offer materials and
opportunities for hands-on learning.
What is the purpose of learning
shows that young children learn best through engaging, hands-on
activities; learning centers offer these types of opportunities.
Why should I use learning
centers in my pre-k classroom?
Offering engaging learning activities at centers can actually make
teaching and learning more efficient and more engaging for children.
- G.M. Stuber, 2007
Learning centers are considered a best
practice in early childhood education. Arranging your room
into effective learning centers is also part of the TEA Pre-K Guidelines:
"Children learn effectively when working in
separate, set-apart learning areas. These are not places to go
for playtime activities after the “important” instruction. In
small-group learning areas, the children cement the instruction with
guided exploration and hands-on experience. With a little
creativity...[you] can have effective learning centers. Every
learning area should have:
Fun, playful and purposeful activities,
A literacy connection,
Writing materials, and
An opportunity for conversation (language) with
an adult or another child.
Developmentally appropriate programs... provide a
variety of firsthand experiences and help children acquire symbolic
knowledge by representing their experiences in a variety of media,
such as drawing, painting, dramatic play, and verbal and written
-TEA Pre-K Guidelines
What are the benefits of using
learning centers in pre-k?
Playful learning balanced by
purposeful activities means more engaged learning and fewer behavior
problems (Perlmutter & Burrell 1995).
No Limits to
Literacy for Preschool English Learners by Theresa A. Roberts
Oral language competencies at preschool and earlier
have a strong relationship with later language and literacy
Classroom Contexts for Language Development:
There are several contexts for language development
that can be capitalized on daily in order to maximize oral language
opportunities for preschool English learners:
Language Development during Center Time/Learning
Learning Centers specifically structured to promote
language and vocabulary development are more effective for
language development than others not so designed (Morrow,
Centers that will most effectively promote language
and vocabulary include a variety of materials and resources
designed to actively engage children in language development
It is imaginary or pretend play that is most
associated with language development and social skills (Fisher,
Characteristics of Learning Centers that Promote
Is clearly identifiable and “bounded”
Has specific purpose
Motivates children to use language (e.g., little
purses or telephones in dramatic play center)
Has activities specifically designed to promote
language use (e.g., menus and note pads for order taking in
dramatic play center)
Provides pictures of key vocabulary words with
What learning centers I should
have in my classroom?
Picture Examples of Learning Centers
- Science Center: The
science center is a very high interest area. The items in
this center encourage hands-on exploration.
- ABC Center: The ABC
center should provide children with opportunities to explore
literacy and letters.
- Writing Center: In the
writing center children are free to explore a wide variety of
writing materials independently. The materials are readily
available to the students and encourage creativity.
- Puzzles & Games Center:
Puzzles are important for developing critical thinking skills.
Games promote cooperative learning and problem solving.
- Playdough Center:
The playdough center promotes the development of fine motor
- Math Center: Materials in
the math center encourage exploration and discovery, they can also
promote the development of fine motor skills.
- Dramatic Play Center:
Important skills are learned in this center, such as
socialization, peer interactions, problem solving, sharing, and
oral language development.
- Block Center: The block
center promotes the development of fine and gross motor skills in
addition to sharing and problem solving.
- Listening Center: A
listening center promotes vocabulary development, pre-reading, and
- Computer Center: A
computer center promotes hand-eye coordination, math, and
pre-reading skills in addition to basic computer skills.
- Sand & Water Table: (can
be incorporated with the science center) A sand and water center
promotes the understanding of quantity, weight, and measurement in
addition to fine motor skills.
- Classroom Library Center:
Advances pre-reading skills and concepts of print.
- Flannel board: Promotes
oral language and re-telling of stories.
- Pocket Charts: Promotes
literacy, pre-reading, and math
- Dollhouse: Promotes oral
When should my students go to
The answer to this question will
depend on your schedule, full or half-day. There are many
opportunities for students to go to learning centers in a full-day
program. In a half-day program the opportunities must be
strategically worked into your schedule.