Read an Excerpt
Welcome to the world of Old Testament Bible heroes-heroes whose stories will capture the attention and imagination of your wiggliest and giggliest preschoolers. Wiggly, Giggly Bible Learning Centers for Preschoolers will bring the Old Testament heroes to life as children interact with the stories through four fresh and creative centers for each character.
Wiggly, Giggly Bible Stories From the Old Testament begins your preschoolers' adventure with stories and activities to teach about twenty-five characters of epic proportions. This book of learning centers, a companion volume to Wiggly, Giggly Bible Stories From the Old Testament, can expand and extend those stories or augment stories from another source. Each group of centers is perfect for following up the lessons with extended opportunities for play and learning. You'll enhance your children's church, midweek program, vacation Bible school, or after-school program with these easy-to-use ideas to help your preschoolers fully experience and apply the principles taught in the stories.
At the beginning of each learning center, you will find a "To Do and To Notice" section that contains a simple explanation of the activity and explorative questions. Consider writing these explanations and questions on paper and posting them at the centers to assist the helpers as they move from center to center, encouraging children in their independent explorations.
A Look at the Learning Center Model
Here are some helpful pointers that will guide you to an exciting and successful experience using learning centers in your Christian education setting.
What exactly are learning centers?
Quite simply, learningcenters are extended opportunities for children to explore the concepts you want them to learn through independent or small-group interaction. In a learning center approach, children...
*develop problem-solving skills,
*make decisions and choices about their own learning,
*experience cooperative learning with their peers,
*follow simple directions with little teacher assistance,
*learn through a hands-on, multi-sensory approach,
*stretch their imaginations to relate Bible stories to their experiences, and
*apply what they're learning from Bible stories to their lives.
Why should we use learning centers?
Have you ever had someone look in on your preschool classroom and ask, "Do they just play all the time? When are they going to learn something?"
Young children learn through play. Play allows children to explore the world around them and reveals children's interests as they are exposed to a variety of materials, selecting what they want to do. Play helps children develop emotionally, intellectually, physically, socially, and spiritually.
God made preschool children to learn best through hands-on, interactive experiences rather than through long times of listening to someone talk. Kids like to be given choices within an organized classroom. Learning centers can provide children with a variety of ways to explore a topic using all five senses and their burgeoning cooperative social skills. Learning centers match your children's need for play with your call to teach.
Who benefits from learning centers?
The children benefit because they have the opportunity to learn within the context of play...at their own pace...in small groups...with a hands-on approach.
You, the teacher, benefit because no matter how many children attend your class, you can create smaller, more manageable groups by providing learning centers. Divide + conquer = greater potential for learning.
Young children need to know that they are important and special individuals. Often we herd young children like sheep in a large flock. Some get lost in the shuffle. By creating smaller groups, we have the opportunity to focus on specific children. Learning centers allow children to interact and learn from their peers, while adults who participate with children in their play experiences gently help children stay focused.
How can learning centers be set up?
Almost any area can be set up for learning centers. The ideal area is spacious enough to allow all four centers to be set up. Some of the centers need more space than others. If all the centers are in one large room, low shelves or stacking bins make excellent dividers between centers. They can also be used to store the supplies needed in the center. Use cardboard screens made from refrigerator or dryer boxes, or mark off center areas with masking tape on the floor. You can also define a center using area rugs or neatly arranged tables.
Each center should accommodate four to six preschoolers at a time. A center doesn't have to be full, but it should not be overcrowded. The four centers in each chapter will accommodate up to twenty-four children. If you have more children, set up identical centers, or add some centers that can be used from week to week, such as a cutting center, a stamping center, or a doll-play center. If you have too many centers, children may become worried about how to get to them all in the allotted time. If you have too few centers, the centers may get overcrowded.
You may want to use the centers in conjunction with a circle time in which the whole group meets together for a Bible story summary and an introduction to the centers. The use of the circle along with the learning centers may take an entire class session, or it may be used for only a portion of the class time.
During the circle time, you may explain how each center ties in to the topic, you're studying. Allow the children to select a center and to decide independently how long they will stay there, or assign children to small groups. These groups can then be assigned to specific centers where they remain until a signal is given for the groups to rotate to the next center. You'll need to establish signals for cleanup times and travel time.
If you have an hour with the children, you can offer centers in three twenty-minute blocks, four fifteen-minute blocks, or six ten-minute blocks. Try to allow time for children to visit at least half of the centers you have set up.
Some teachers use a different color to mark each center. The children are each given a ticket or nametag with the colors listed in a particular order, and the children go to the centers as indicated by the order of the colors.
It's helpful to have other adults serving as guides at each learning center. These guides should be encouraged to play along with the children and not to view themselves as traditional teachers. Remember-in centers the children have tasks, but much of the learning occurs by deciding how to complete the tasks and by what happens in the process. Whether adult guides stay in one center or move through several, the questions in the "To Do and To Notice" sections can help direct the children's activity into meaningful Bible-centered experiences. The goal is for the children to discover and learn as much as they can on their own. The guides are to assist when needed, not to lead or control the play.
Before center time, be sure to have the necessary materials ready at each center. The "What" and "Where " sections of each center give specific directions for setting up the materials in a way that allows children to get busy as soon as they arrive at the center. You will also need to determine the appropriate cleanup supplies for your situation and haven them ready so that you can build responsibility by encouraging children to clean up at the end of their center time.
What kinds of learning centers can be offered?
As you plan learning centers, keep in mind that they are not just time fillers. The learning centers in this book are designed to tie in with the themes of the Bible stories, to reinforce the objectives of the lessons, and to allow children to practice developmentally appropriate skills.
Following is a list of some of the centers that can be offered.
*The Blocks and Construction Center allows children the opportunity to develop coordination as well as to express imagination in their play. Eye-hand coordination and spatial relationships are important to a child's overall development. Children often work together on block projects, so their social and cooperative skills are enhanced as well.
*The Dramatic and Imaginative Play Center helps children try on roles of people they hear about in stories. Children learn to express their imagination and socialize with their peers.
*The Home and Life Skills Center allows children to practice real-life applications of Bible themes and stories. Children connect Bible events to developmental skills such as dressing, cooking, or baby care.
*The Small Motor Skills Center gives children the opportunity to develop the muscles in their hands and fingers and to improve their eye-hand coordination. The children will use modeling dough, puzzles, beads, small blocks, and simple games at this center.
*The Readiness Center has activities that will connect to later academic skills, such as writing, counting, and classifying. At this center, children can also enhance their tactile discrimination as they learn to distinguish the difference between hard and soft, dull and sharp, or hot and cold.
*The Prayer and Worship Center provides an area for children to be quiet and to process what they're learning from the Bible and how their relationship with God is growing. Set out children's picture Bibles for kids to examine and enjoy. If a center leader is available, children can be guided to share what they're learning and to share prayer concerns they may have. This center can be enhanced with large pillows, beanbag chairs, or stuffed chairs to make a comfortable and cozy corner in your classroom.
*The Arts and Crafts Center allows children to express themselves creatively. Opportunities to improve tactile discrimination, visual memory, and small muscle control are also offered at this center. Ideally, children are encouraged to enjoy the process without the requirement of producing a perfect, finished product. Give children opportunities to express their creativity with a variety of art materials. Use small containers to store art supplies so they are readily available.
*The Wet and Dry Center provides children opportunities to experiment with pouring, measuring, mixing, and stirring. Children practice eye-hand coordination and spatial awareness. You can partially fill shallow containers such as cake pans or dishpans with wet or dry elements such as water, bubbles, rice, cornmeal, sand, and beans. Set out cups, measuring spoons, and funnels for children to use to scoop and pour. Be sure to have a broom and dustpan available for dry cleanup and a mop or heavy towel available for wet cleanup.
*The Games Center allows children to engage in activities that foster body awareness, coordination, and muscle strength. Games help children burn off energy and develop social interaction skills. This center should be in a large area of the classroom and will probably be one of the noisiest centers. Often this center requires the most adult supervision.
*The Listening and Music Center gives children the opportunity to listen and respond. Provide a tape player or CD player, music, and musical instruments, and watch more independent fun begin. A great addition to this center is a listening post where headphones can be plugged in so that several children may hear the recordings without disturbing children in the surrounding centers.
*The Science and Nature Center gives children the opportunity to use their senses to explore the exciting world God has made. In this center, children might touch or sort nature items, get involved in an experiment, or predict outcomes.
*The Cooking Center allows children to follow a recipe and prepare a snack. This center helps children learn to follow directions, measure and pour, and explore their environment using their senses.
*The Storytelling Center gives children the opportunity to don costumes and put on dramas or use puppets to re-enact Bible stories. Preschool children love to express their imagination through make-believe and by pretending to put themselves into stories they have heard. In this center, children may use old clothing for costumes, make puppets from socks, and construct a puppet stage from a large cardboard box.
When can I get started?
Go for it now! Keep learning centers set up all the time in your classroom. The centers in this book are all simple enough to set up tomorrow. You'll get your wiggly, giggly preschoolers connected to the greatest stories of all time and the great God who works through the ages. And the next time someone asks you if the children are learning anything in your classroom, invite them to join you and the children for a Wiggly, Giggly Bible Learning Center approach to exploring and applying God's Word.
May God bless you as you use these centers to meet your preschool children where they are in their development and to help them grow socially, emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually alongside these Bible heroes.