Recently I attended a conference called "Simple and Effective Centers in a Snap." It was great. Donna Whyte, the conference leader, gave us lots of great ideas that can be adapted into centers for a variety of activities and topics. (We also got a bag of "stuff," and what teacher doesn't love that?)
One thing that Donna advocated--centers that have simple instructions. She said to develop center activities that can easily be repeated with different activities; then kids always know what to do in the centers and the teacher doesn't spend a lot of time explaining what to do or how to complete the activity. One way she does this is through simple envelopes. She had envelopes with one word each: SORT; SEQUENCE; FIND; MATCH. She puts cards, objects, pictures, or activities inside a folder and lays that folder on a table or tray to be a center.
I decided to try this type of activity this week. I made a SORT envelope. (The labels on Donna's folders were much more colorful than the one I made!) Then I put some cards inside. The cards were pictures of birds, flowers, and food.
I told the children that the word was SORT and they were to sort the cards. But I didn't say how. I watched as the kids decided categories and sorted the cards into what they determined.
One pair of children sorted the cards into color groups.
We also did this activity during our group time, as a group. In that sorting activity, we put all the birds in one category, all items that "grow in the ground" in another one, and a few of the food items in a third. It was interesting to see how they experimented and divided the cards until they decided on these three groups.
I told them that the envelope would be out again next week, but with different cards to sort. I liked this idea and will definitely be using these envelopes more in the future. This makes me more interested in trying other of Donna's ideas for centers.
(Donna Whyte's Web site is The Smartie Zone. It has ideas for teachers from pre-K through second grade.)