Blogging with Dr. Susan

 

Blogging with Dr. Susan

Learning Centers in the Classroom

 

Learning Centers in the Classroom

A developmentally appropriate classroom enables the connecting of learning to positive emotions, allowing students to make better, more reflective decisions and choices. Emotions are biological functions of the nervous system, and they strongly influence attention and memory. Children engaged in interesting activities at the beginning of the day will have a more positive disposition toward the day’s activities as a whole. Additionally, they will retain more information when learning is associated with positive emotions. However, emotions can be a double-edged sword. A balance of emotions is needed for learning to take place. Jensen states that “a little to a moderate amount of stress is good for learning. Lasting high stress or threat, however, is disruptive. It reduces our brain’s capacity for understanding and can interfere with our higher-order thinking skills” (1998, 93).

Because individual differences occur among children, not all classroom situations are going to elicit the same response from children. Extroverted children may enjoy public speaking, while introverted children may find it frightening. Some children enjoy the security of daily routine, while others enjoy opportunities for more varied activities. 

Learning centers provide children with the autonomy to explore their interests with positive emotions. Some students release emotional tension by playing at the sand table, petting an animal, or working with their hands-on projects. Others may begin the day by reading in a cozy beanbag chair up in the reading loft. Still others enjoy listening to music and eating a snack. Several centers located around the room allow children to participate as individuals or as members of small groups. Centers may focus on carpentry, cut-and-paste activities, science, publishing, pets, chess, reading and writing, and sand and water play.

A learning environment with a variety of centers fosters self-esteem and decision making ability by creating opportunities for the learner to make their own decisions and choices. Taking personal responsibility for their learning helps children learn to focus their attention. As a primary school teacher, I provided each child with a tracking sheet to help him monitor the number of times, he visited the various learning centers during the week. Tracking sheets also allow the teacher to individualize the curriculum to children’s specific needs. I encouraged the children to be responsible for their actions and learning during the day—to hold conversations and discussions as they interacted, played, and learned together.