Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Choice is Yours

In my last post I admitted to having Choice Time most days. This happens after lunch and it is a beloved time. Research shows that young children develop socially and emotionally during classroom activities that are NOT teacher directed. They need time to interact without me telling them what to think or do. They need autonomy and a feeling of environmental control and we gain these all these things during Choice Time.

This chart is about 300 years old and some of these labels date to my first years of teaching. I have many many more and depending on the class I use about a third each year. Not pictured: things like sand, rice table, water, beads, take apart, magnetic letters, science, art center, junk art, music center and every kind of block known to man. The children simply put their name cards next to the choice they prefer and are held accountable for being there. The rule is four people per choice unless otherwise indicated. Sometimes for very popular choices I ring the bell halfway and declare "time to switch"; I was recently reminded of the all - important Waiting List which I have also tried in the distant past (a clipboard nearby the choice for people to sign up if they are waiting for a turn). There is no such thing as "no choice" and I encourage the languishers to choose Library so they can just have some nice chilled out down time with a book and a big pillow.

I got this Ryan's World dollhouse from our annual fundraising auction about six years ago. I was always a lover of dollhouses and I wanted Small Cowgirl to be also. I spent several hundred dollars on all the furniture, accessories, people, pets, even the barn and a couple horses. About one hundred dollars for every two minutes she played with it. So I brought it to school and it is lovingly trashed enjoyed by both boys and girls. Small Cowgirl, it seems, prefers to play in the dirt.

A parent last year gave me this ginormous box of Legos. It is beyond a doubt the best assortment I have ever seen. Does anyone remember Legos when you just got a box of pieces and had to use your imagination to assemble things you thought of yourself? Ahem. Anyway there are sooooo many Legos that after cleanup time and the Little Darlin's have left if I find any Lego pieces on the floor I throw them away. Yes you read that right. And I actually told my students that I do that, and guess what? They clean up MUCH better now. This also prevents hiding special projects that they don't want to destroy by throwing into the box with all the rest of the pieces. Because, heartless as I am, I throw away those too. Its enough to give a five year old Lego addict nightmares I tell you. Best to just toss it in, son.

I didn't really know if my buckaroos would "get" Lincoln Logs but as the Kindergarten Cowgirl they are dear to my heart, so I threw them in the mix this year. They love them! However they do like them best if I allow them to have the animal basket alongside. Makes perfect sense I suppose, what's a barn without animals? Regardless of the fact there are not a lot of pieces left in this box (see the Lego section above) they still have a good old timey time with these.

And just in case you think I'm off my developmental rocker my principal is reading this, I have recently introduced journal writing BEFORE we go to Choice each day. This gives the Little Darlin's an incentive after they've shed blood, sweat and tears to get something somewhat decodable down under their sweet little pictures. And then we can have our choice, guilt free.


  1. Choice Time is a wonderful time in my room too! I wish the day was longer so I could have it every day, but I try to have it 3 times per week. Motor, library and computer lab are on the other days. It is such an important time for the kids to play and socialize and share and all of that good stuff! One of the favorites in my classroom is the car garage from my son when he was 5-7 years old. He is 19 now! We also have cars, Legos, a dollhouse, Lincoln Logs, Mr. Potato Head and more from my own kids. The playhouse/kitchen is full of things from my kids. It is a great way to reuse old toys! Thanks for this great post. I will send you a ppic of my Free Choice board this year. I made it new this summer and I am loving it! It is similar to yours. Thanks for the fun post!

  2. Kat, I love reading your posts! I am learning a lot from you so thank you! I am running my K/1 more like a first grade than a kinder, so am putting away your ideas for next year.

    Question: Is that Handwriting Without Tears paper that your students write on? If so, do you use the HWT program?

    An Open Door