I love centers! I start them within the first couple of days of school to introduce my students to the routine and expectations of center work. Eventually, this will become a time when I do Guided Reading. But, early on in the year, I use centers to rotate around the room and make observations about my students and their various learning styles. Because language is definitely a barrier within a Grade 1 French Immersion classroom, keeping centers simple and familiar is key to seeing success. For this reason, my first set of literacy centers revolves around the alphabet and letter formation.
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My goal in the first couple of weeks of school is to set up routines and expectations, to immerse my students in the language and to spend a lot of time with oral activities. However, those first few days of Grade 1 are incredibly intense and I believe that it is important to break up oral language activities with hands on, meaningful tasks. One of the ways that I reduce the language barrier is by choosing tasks that are similar activities to what my students may have done in kindergarten. While my students do not yet know the sounds of the letters in French, they do know all about letter formation and these 5 centers focus on that.
1. Play Dough Alphabet Center
I do not think I have met a child who didn’t like play dough! Our first center is the play dough center. When introducing the center, I show them how to roll the dough like a snake and then form the letters. This set of play dough cards from my TPT store includes a recording sheet, so I show my students how to trace the letter once they have completed it and move on to the next! The play dough alphabet cards also include the anchor images that I teach for each letter.
2. Drive Through Alphabet Center
The dollar store is a wonderful place! I picked up a pack of little cars from there and together with my “Rue d’alphabet” pack, we have another center! Like the play dough cards, this center also includes a recording sheet. While my students think that they are just recording the letters that they complete, you and I know that they are also practicing proper letter formation.
3. Alphabet Building Center
I picked up the Learning Resources Letter Construction Activity Set for my son a few years ago but now use it in my classroom. The students absolutely love it. The kit include all the shapes you need for constructing the alphabet. Each card shows what shapes are needed and students can piece them together to make a variety of capital and lower case letters! I often have one or two students who make it their mission to complete the whole alphabet!
4. Alphabet Activity Mats
One of my newest creations is the Alphabet Activity Mat. With one for each letter, these are great to laminate and have students complete with dry erase markers. While students will not be able to read all of the activities on each card, they are pretty self-explanatory. Students need to complete the connect the dots (one for upper case and one for lower case). They also can fill in the missing letters, circle all the letters in the letter find section and finally practice tracing each letter on the printing lines! These mats also make a great activity for bell work in the early stages of Grade 1.
5. Pattern Block Alphabet Center
This center offers both pattern blocks and the alphabet at the same time! I downloaded this wonderful set of pattern block alphabet cards from the blog www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com. The best part of this set is that she offers them for free! Set out your pattern blocks and these cards and students can use the pattern blocks to form a variety of letters.
These are just a few of the many ideas for early alphabet centers. I would love to hear about how you introduce centers in your classroom! Comment below or visit me on facebook to share your ideas.