What do I want to do right now—read, solve puzzles, build something, play with bubbles, or create a craft? Do I want to play alone or with a friend? These are the questions our Early Learning (PreK-1 through kindergarten) students are asking and answering for themselves every day during Choice Time. This time revolves around centers that connect to various lessons from the week, often around a World Discovery theme.
By making the choice of how they want to learn, our youngest learners are getting to know more about themselves and what they enjoy. They start making choices about what subjects they like and what they want to know more about.
“Choice Time is more than just play. BASIS Independent McLean gives students ownership and autonomy in their learning so it’s important for students have time to make their own choices,” says Director of Student Affairs for PreK-Grade 3 Cassie Korik.
Centers include the sensory table, light table, library, dramatic play, math table, literacy table, and arts table. For example, while studying maps and globes in kindergarten, students had the opportunity to read a story about continents and oceans, use the sensory bin filled with water and green foam to mimic what the earth is made of, design a compass rose, use real compasses to explore north, south, east, and west, and explore a map of the United States to see where they went over break.
“School readiness involves students feeling inspired to want to learn more and Choice Time lets them practice those inquiry skills and self-initiate the learning process,” says Colleen Crable, Dean of PreK-grade 4.
Early Learning students learn best by exploring and Choice Time turns playing into a learning opportunity. This opportunity for open-ended exploration deepens their curiosity and wonder about the topics they are learning.
“Centers help the kids experience lessons in a different way,” says Golbarg Zafari, PreK-2 teacher. “The learning is more fun because they are choosing what they want to do.”
In each grade, Early Learning Expert Teachers design centers to be developmentally appropriate, yet accessible for students in different stages of discovery with different interests. Teachers might assist an art project, lead a math game, or pretend to be dinner guests in the dramatic play house with their students, among other ways they engage with and assist the students.
“It’s structured unstructured time, and a great way for students to be comfortable with their peers and grow their communication skills. They are learning to be a good friend, share, and take turns,” says Ciera Johnson, PreK-1 teacher.
As students move throughout our Early Learning Program, they learn how to come up with a plan for their play, and they further execute that plan as they grow. Students might play with blocks, decide to build a tower out of the blocks, or even build a zoo with a fence out of blocks.
Choice time is important socially, too. Some centers foster a student’s independence and others are expanding their social skills. Having to choose helps students get to know their classmates, understand personal space, and increases their social awareness.
“The kids love it,” says Kindergarten Expert Teacher Amy Kimbrough. “Choice Time gives them an opportunity to develop new ideas as well as an opportunity to talk about the content we’re learning about.”
At BASIS Independent McLean, we love watching our students grow and find their passions, and our Early Learning Program is the foundation for lifelong curiosity, which starts with Choice Time.