Article, Activities and Games
Quick Ideas Grades 1-2: Back-to-School Centers
Five centers that will help boost students' social and academic skills
- Grades: 1–2
1. Friendship Pledge
What it teaches: Friendship, creative expression, writing
What to do: At the art center, invite kids to draw a picture of themselves. Then ask them to think about different ways they can show friendship. Challenge them to make a “friendship promise,” such as “I promise to listen to my friends” or “I promise to share.” Have students write their promises on sticky notes and attach them to their self-portraits. Invite them to share their completed portraits and pledges with the others at the center. Finally, display them for the class to enjoy.
2. What's the Good Word?
What it teaches: Friendship, phonemic awareness, word recognition
What to do: Write simple phrases to describe acts of friendship on plain, large index cards. For example, “Play fair,” “Help others,” “Take turns,” “Be kind,” “Tell the truth,” and “Use nice words.” On the back of each card, write the phrase again, this time leaving out a key word. Write the letters for each missing word in random order above the incomplete phrase. Then stack the completed cards facedown. Place the cards and a basket of plastic letters in the center. Invite pairs to pick a card, find the plastic letters for the missing word, and then arrange the letters to create a word that completes the phrase. When the partners think they have discovered the correct word, have them turn the card over to check their answer.
3. Shared Critter Creations
What it teaches: Collaboration, sharing, creative expression
What to do: Place a pencil, a box of crayons, a large sheet of white paper, a ruler, scissors, a glue stick, and a length of yarn in a center. Have pairs visit the center to create a critter to represent the class, such as a “terrific tiger” or “busy bee.” Encourage the partners to decide together what kind of critter to make, to develop a plan for creating it, and then to share the materials as they complete it. When they’re finished, invite the pair to name their critter. Later, the partners can share their work with the class and explain why they chose that critter. To extend, ask partners to write a story about their mascot.
4. Manners Memory
What it teaches: Using manners, visual memory, word recognition
What to do: Create six sets of five index cards. Each card in the set should have one of the following phrases: “Please,” “Thank you,” “Excuse me,” “I’m sorry,” and “Let me help.” Place the cards in a center and invite small groups to play Memory. First, ask a child to shuffle the cards and place them facedown to form a grid. Then have children take turns flipping two cards at a time. If a match is found, the child reads the phrase and gives an example of how it might be used in the classroom (e.g., “Let me help you put away the books”). Children take turns until all matches have been found.
5. Cooperation Counts
What it teaches: Cooperation, turn-taking, counting
What to do: Sort four colors of plastic counters and place each set in a zippered sandwich bag (use the same number in each set). Put the bags in a basket and place in the math center. Invite small groups to the center and ask each child to choose one of the bags. Have children take turns counting off one counter at a time from their bags. For example, a child removes a counter and says, “One.” The next child removes a counter and says, “Two,” and so on until all the counters have been counted. Ask a child to record the final number on a sticky note, write each child’s name on it, and stick it to the bottom of the basket. Later, groups can compare their results to see if they agree. For a greater challenge, have children skip-count the counters by twos or fives.