Play Based Centers is a chance for me to really notice my students. Not only do I gain valuable insights into their academic, social and emotional skills, but also who they are as individuals. Their concerns and fears, their interests and preferences . . .
I grab a clipboard and do a quick Ch.E.C.K.-in at the Whiteboard Center. Two students are there. Talia and Kedra are drawing what appears to be potatoes but turns out to be volcanos. I say, “You’re working well together! Tell me about your drawings.” Talia beams and responds eagerly, pointing to various parts of his picture. He concludes by pointing out a volcano vent. I smile and nod supportively as he labels the vent with a large “V.” We had a mini-lesson about labeling in writer’s workshop last week, and I’m glad to see Talia independently putting the skill into practice. I make a note and then turn to Kedra, a quiet ELL, who is intently watching his friend. Kedra is a BICS learner who has mostly been silent since the start of the year. I ask, “Are you also drawing a volcano, Kedra?” He nods, and then points to his own picture, chirping “Vent!” He labels his picture as well. “Awesome job, guys!” I say.
There are high fives all around, then I retrieve my red dry erase markers so they can make lava. I recognize that I’m taking a chance by allowing them to use certain materials. However, almost always, the kids rise to the occasion and take responsibility for the materials. It is well worth an occasional dried out marker to build responsibility and independence skills. I remind the boys to close the lids tightly when they’re done so that the markers won’t dry out. Talia and Kedra beam at each other and continue their pictures. I smile at the growing friendship and make a note to seat Kedra next to Talia when I change the seating chart next week. PBC gives me valuable perspectives into my students’ ever-changing social preferences and skills. It is enormously useful to have these insights when I am considering student groupings, or in this case, when wanting to use peer-partnering as a strategy for a specific student. I turn back to see the young friends hard at work on their pictures, which now look like bleeding potatoes.