When using Read, Play, and Learn!® you will want to arrange your room in centers and areas that you modify as the weeks progress and as the stories change. Depending on the size of the room, the number of children in the class, and the individual needs of the children, the number and type of centers may vary. All of the centers will need to include the appropriate adaptive devices to enable children with disabilities to participate. Toys, games, and materials in each area will change depending on the story.
One of the best aspects of using Read, Play, and Learn!® is that the classroom areas take on the personality of the children as the activities progress with each week and story module! As children create drawings, murals, crafts and other objects, the centers can be decorated with their work, allowing teachers to devote their prep time to preparing activities and assessing each childs progress, instead of decorating.
Areas and Centers
Areas are usually more flexibly interpreted and designed around the classroom. Centers are usually localized to a table or specifically delineated space.
You will want to have both an easel and a flat table surface available to allow for adaptations for children's different ability levels. Besides allowing for painting on various surfaces, the Art Area can be used for various art projects with three-dimensional materials, such as clay. Provide an art cart or storage area adjoining this area. Additional areas, such as floor space, wall space, or chalkboards, can also be considered to be part of the Art Area.
Dramatic Play Area
Most days, especially in the first week of a module, after reading the story, you and your class will want to reenact the story. The Dramatic Play: Theme Area will be one of the most active spots in your classroom, as the story will be reenacted in numerous ways.
In the beginning, when the story is still new to the children, you and the other team members provide a model for an action sequence of three or four events, along with a short script to act out. The events should be simple, offer an opportunity to use both story and literacy props, and consist of a short series of actions. In this way, all children in the class can be involved in an action, a sequence of actions, or a sequence of events in the story. As you progress with the module, the children will begin to embellish and change the reenactment.
The Floor Play area gives children the chance to play on the floor with blocks, miniature dramatic play scenarios, manipulatives, puzzles, and other items for a particular story. Floor play, more so than table play, encourages social interaction among children. Some children will prefer to play on the floor rather than at a table, and some children may need to be positioned on the floor (e.g., in a sidelying position) to enable them to interact with toys and materials.
This area needs to be at the side or in a corner of the room to minimize the traffic caused when children move from one area to another and to prevent children from tripping over toys or each other. The children will add to the miniature scenario, which usually contains small figures, characters, toys, and other items related to the story, throughout most of the modules.
Motor activities are typically integrated into the Dramatic Play Area; therefore, the Motor Area should be located nearby. For example, a climbing structure could be incorporated into the airport as a control tower for the module based on First Flight. Outdoor Play is a perfect extension of the Motor Area as slides, swings, and climbing equipment enhance motor skills.
The Sensory Area is included to ensure that children experience a variety of sensory experiences. Some of these sensory materials may include:
- sand and water table for exploring various tactile materials
- small tubs filled with beans, rice, or other items to provide diverse textures
- numerous noisemaking devices, including a tape recorder, record or CD player
- musical instruments to give children opportunities to experiment with sounds
Snack is viewed not just as a time to feed the children but also as an important time for integrating thematic concepts, self-help skills, oral-motor skills, and conversation into the classroom. The area must be located near the sink and kitchen appliances for convenience in serving and cleaning up. A separate area is not needed for snack, as snack typically follows play in centers and the Table Play and Art Area tables may be cleaned for the snack.
Just as some children will interact best on the floor, others will be able to play more easily seated in a stable position with their feet on the floor so that their hands can be free to manipulate objects. Table Play can incorporate the same type of activities as the Floor Play area, with the exception of large block play, and may also include some art activities or craft projects.
Children need time to explore books repeatedly by themselves, and a Literacy Center is an ideal place for this. This center will provide children with important opportunities to study the pictures, turn the pages, notice the print on the pages, and perhaps see a recurring picture or sequence. The Literacy Center should include a table that will seat up to four children. Locate it near the area for reading the story.
You will want a storage cart or storage space for literacy materials, including pencils, markers, a stapler, letter tiles, stamps and stamp pads, magazines with pictures and large print, paper for experience charts, storyboards, books, and frequently asked-for words or words related to the story written on large cards. The Literacy Center can overlap with the Reading area so that a larger, quiet area is also available that contains pillows, puppets, and a flannel board, providing the children a comfortable area on the floor to "reread" or retell the story.
Science and Math Center
The Science and Math Center should contain a space for measuring, writing, and concocting. It also needs storage for materials, such as math manipulatives, counters, rulers, string and fasteners, containers for sorting, and magnifying glasses, as well as space for growing plants and nurturing live animals. It is helpful to have a computer in the Science and Math Center.