Free Choice. Free Play. Centers. Whatever we call these times, children in early care and education programs spend a large part of their day in them. They are classroom routines when children are free to choose from multiple "centers" and direct their own play and actions. Free choice time has been guided in the past be a common belief that young children learn best when activities are more child-directed and play-based.
Recent work on children's learning and effective early education practices present major implications for how we design and implement free choice times. It may be necessary for us to rethink how fre choice time based on research on effective teaching strategies, the importance of intentional teaching, and an examination of Indiana kindergartens and beginning expectations for children.
This workshop introduces research-based strategies for improving free choice time to maximize children's learning and better prepare your children for kindergarten. During this workshop we will:
- Review both national research on effective early education practices and Early Childhood Center research on Indiana kindergarten and prekindergarten classroom practices,
- Examine and evaluate the physical, social and learning designs of your current free choice time,
- Outline your purpose and broad educational goals for free choice time that will guide your planning,
- Define the roles and expectations you have for yourselves and your staff during free choice time,
- Design individual free choice centers and activities that are developmentally and educationally sound,
- Learn about effective teaching strategies that will shape your interactions with children to build on their play and teach important skills, and
- Differentiate your plans and teaching strategies to accommodate children's individual needs and different developmental levels.