free choice centers kindergarten: Incorporate self-regulation skills into your classroom with free choice centers for kindergarten. Tips for making it successful with your students.
I use free choice centers in my kindergarten classroom, and they work so well for me. It might take some time to get students used to it, but once they ‘get’ it, free choice centers will make your life so much easier.
I spoke about this topic on my Creative Kindergarten podcast, so if you want to listen to what I have to say, go listen to the Free Choice Centers episode.
The first month of school is all about learning how to do free choice centers. It does not happen automatically. It takes teaching, and repetition for my students to understand what is expected of them.
What Are Free Choice Centers?
Students being able to self-regulate and pick centers based on their interests. I set up activities, explain what they are, and then students get to go where they want.
They spend as much time as they need or want at a center, and then move on to the next one.
Why Free Choice Centers?
Here are just a few reasons why I choose to use free choice centers in my classroom:
- students will learn self-regulation skills. These will help them in future grades, and is a critical life sill.
- you don’t run into the problem of some students finishing a task faster than another. Since they get to come and go to centers as they want, they get to work at their own pace.
- there is nothing to keep track of– no timers, rotations, groups.
There are so many benefits to it, and will make other aspects of your classroom so much easier (like Small Groups).
How It Set Up
In My Ultimate Guide to Kindergarten Centers, I outline what my classroom looks like, and how I use activities in my room.
For free choice centers, I set up the tables with all the materials that they may need to complete the activity. Then, I clearly explain the expectations to them before they get started. I will even do examples with the class before they begin.
I also have Classroom Tools that I have available for students to use any time that they need to. I teach them how to use them, and when to use them.
I sometimes have ‘must-do’ centers. These are ones that I need students to complete at some point (writing center, special activity, math center, etc). I will let my students know about that center so that they can decide when they do it, and they know that they will have to go there.
No matter how much explaining I do, sometimes students will get off task. If I see that a child is not using materials appropriately, I will step in. I will ask them what the goal is at that center, and I will go over the expectations again.
If they continue to act inappropriately, then I ask them to pick a different center. It does not happen that often after the first month of school.
When Free Choice Centers Just Don’t Work
Sometimes self-regulated centers are not the best option for all our students. They may need extra support, more structure or direct instruction.
Here are a few other options that I have used with some students:
- Work Bins: There are a few selected activities set aside at a work station for a student to complete. They go through those materials at their own pace, usually in their own space.
- Schedules: If self-regulating through centers does not work for a student, a picture schedule may be helpful. Having a sequence of centers to go to may be more manageable than leaving all choices open.
- Limiting Choices: Another option is to give a few options (for example, “You can do 2 tables, then use the iPad”).
There are so many options, you just have to find the one that best suits the needs of your students.
I hope that this post was useful to helping you understand why and how free choice centers work in kindergarten. If you have any questions, leave a comment below!
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I am wondering if your free choice centres are similar to literacy and math but just students get to choose during this time? Our free choice centres are more like play workshop with drama centre, block/building centre, art centre etc so they have open ended play or self directed play where they begin to use their math and literacy skills authentically.
Yes, free choice centers also involve choices for dramatic play, sensory bin, small world play, building, art, fine motor. There are a range of different activities and centers available for students to choose from, some are child-directed and some are teacher-directed. I discuss a little more about this in my Play-Based Literacy blog post: https://creativekindergartenblog.com/play-based-literacy/