The things that go on in our preschool classroom

Because most of my articles only focus on one activity at a time, it may look like there is nothing else going on in the classroom. So today, I wanted to show you how there are lots of things going on all at the same time…

Each day, our teachers follow a lesson plan that includes a set of structured activities – these activities are often the ones I share with you. But through out the classroom environment we have shelves/centers that are filled with a variety of things for children to do.

Each class runs a little differently. In most of our classes, the teachers will set up a lesson plan activity at one or two of the classroom tables and then invite the children to participate. Those who are not participating in the planned activity are off playing in the centers throughout the classroom.

Every day, the children are given the opportunity to paint at the easel or select writing tools from the writing center to draw or color or trace or stamp…

Sometimes a child will go off alone to color or read a book…

And at other times, the children will all want to be together…

Everyday, the sand and water table are open for the children to explore…

Some children play quietly…

And others get so loud that your ears start to feel like they are going to fall off…

The children also spend time playing with the materials from the thematic work boxes we set out each week…

These are just a few examples of activities that are happening everyday throughout the classroom day but I hope it let’s you see that although I may only share one activity at a time here on my blog, that there is much more going on around me…

I’d love to hear a little bit about how you manage your classroom…

By |2011-01-12T02:38:28+00:00January 12th, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Sarah January 12, 2011 at 3:21 am - Reply

    We have center time first, then music and movement, then small group time where we have 2-3 mall groups (depending on how many adults I have that day) doing the structured activities. I do it this way so I do not have to interrupt their center play to pull them to do the activity and so I am assured that every child tries the activities.

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 12, 2011 at 9:15 am - Reply

      Hi Sarah,
      How great that you make sure your students have ample, uninterrupted time in center play!

  2. Gail P January 12, 2011 at 8:46 am - Reply

    It wasn’t long ago that this post could have been written about kindergarten. I miss those days. (And I know my students do too.) No matter how hard I work to make the learning fun, they wish they had more than 20 minutes a day of the above.

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 12, 2011 at 9:13 am - Reply

      Oh yes, 20 minutes is just too short of time – once you start to really get into the play then it is time to clean up and go. It can be very disappointing. Kindergarteners are the very best at this type of approach – I wish they had more time too!

  3. Scott January 12, 2011 at 8:48 am - Reply

    Now that looks like a busy classroom – so much learning going on at one time. Thanks for the “snapshot” of the classroom.

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 12, 2011 at 9:11 am - Reply

      It is very busy – we have been doing things this way as long as I can remember.

  4. Teacher Tom January 12, 2011 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Well, you know we’re a co-op, Deborah, so we have enough adult bodies to have one at all of our stations. Our standard stations are blocks, art, sensory, table toys, drama and snack, although we usually have several other things going on like a do-it-yourself art area, books, storytelling, etc. I think it’s so important for young children to have the opportunity to freely chose among the kinds of activities you describe here (quiet, loud, alone, together, full-body, fine motor, etc.) so they have ample opportunity to find their passion and develop mastery. This is an important post. I hope a lot of people read it! =)

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 13, 2011 at 12:11 am - Reply

      Some of our teachers are super about letting their students have the freedom to choose – others still tend to hold back a bit on the idea. I think that teachers fear that it is going to lead to disaster and so they want to control kids choices. But in the classrooms where there are lots of opportunity for a variety of activities and the ability to make decisions and lots of choices – the kids do very, very well and it is a pleasure to observe them:)

  5. Anna January 12, 2011 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    This is what a typical day looks like in my classroom too! So much going on!

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 13, 2011 at 12:08 am - Reply

      It sure can keep make the day go fast!

  6. Katherine January 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    After our morning meeting we have small groups – one group goes with a special teacher (music, art, library, gym) while the other two groups are divided between me and the paraprofessional. Halfway through (after about 20/25 mins) we usually switch groups, unless we are working on something huge. This is when most of our project work happens. Then the children have about 45 mins for play in centers – computer, library, dramatic play, table toys, sand, art studio, construction, light table, etc. Sometimes teachers are facilitating play, sometimes continuing a project, and sometimes we are invited to play along 🙂

    How does movement between centers during center time work for you (as far as children switching centers? Most of our students don’t want to leave the center they are in because they are so busy, but some want to switch sometimes. Do you have limitations on how many people visit a specific center, or do the children determine that?

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 13, 2011 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      Hi Katherine,
      Each of our classes run a little differently but for the most part, the children just naturally migrate from center to center as they want. We do have some children who will choose the same center every day over all others but the rule is – as long as they participate in one other activity (usually the planned activity of the day) then the children can choose to do whatever they want after that – even if it is the same every day. One thing we also do is change up the center the child loves – so let’s say a child prefers the water table everyday – we change it to ice, colored water, snow, and so forth and change up what goes in the table as well. So essentially the child is getting different experiences but through an activity that he or she prefers.

      As far as limits on how many can visit a center – we do have limits for some centers. The children are taught to count how many children are at a center first – if their are four children, then he or she must let the teacher know that he or she wants a turn and then find something else to do. The teacher will then keep a watch on the center and in a little bit ask the children to stop and do something else so new children can have a turn. But I have to say that these children have been playing in centers for so long that they are experts in it. We rarely have to redirect or make children stop and move. They just seem to migrate naturally. Occasionally we will end up with an extra child at the sand table or at the easel – but if no one is complaining, we will let it slide. If it becomes a problem, we remind the children of the number rule and make a change. Now at the art table or writing center or play dough table – there are no limits in the number of children. Sometimes children will even go across the room and bring over another chair so they can participate. There are days when the entire class ends up at a table and this is fine. If they want to be together and they are being cooperative and kind and having fun – we are not going to interfere.

      • Katherine January 13, 2011 at 8:52 pm

        awesome, thanks for sharing 🙂

      • Deborah J. Stewart January 14, 2011 at 12:18 am

        I am happy to do so:)

  7. Arti Ohri January 14, 2011 at 2:35 am - Reply

    Dear Debroah,
    The kindergarten classrooms at my school are very much like yours.The only difference that i see is that at my school its more structured ,number of children per class are more too. Children move from one activity to another together-there aren’t as many choice options provided as yours.But yes certainly two planned activities for each day.Play time too is scheduled every day for 20 minutes.

    • Deborah J. Stewart January 14, 2011 at 7:23 am - Reply

      It is fun to see the similarities in all our programs:)

  8. Kierna May 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm - Reply

    Thanks for a little snapshot of life in your classroom – think we preschool people are the nosiest, I love seeing other people’s set ups. I am fortunate to be able to offer the children in my class (26 3&4 year olds) free time outside for the first hour, then free choice inside for 1.5 hours. During this time we also have an adult led art activity on some days. Then we have a 30 minute story, then lunch and then have about 45 minutes of more free play either in or out before home time. Once a week we stay outside until storytime & once a month we go to a local forest until 12.00 (Our school hours are 9.00 – 1.45 5 days a week)

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