Puzzles and Games Center is the place where students are able to enjoy puzzles and/or games that help reinforce their learning and skills set. This center is usually very fun and students don’t even realize that learning is going on the whole time! It is important to have fun while learning, especially when reading foundational skills are reinforced. After all, as the year goes on, we don't spend AS MUCH time on those needed reading foundational skills; it is imperative that our students get regular practice with letters, sounds, rhyming, syllabication, etc.
What I use:
A specific puzzle or game activity related to a current skill from whole group
(I usually try to focus on a phonics or phonemic awareness skill, as these foundational skills are crucial.)
A response sheet to match the specific puzzle or game, if neeed
(I like to have something to assess the completeness and correctness of this center. However, sometimes I like to assess students orally instead.)
Extra review puzzles or games
(The extra puzzles provided are usually connected to another skill we are working on. Sometimes they may be matching letters, rhyming, opposites, adjectives, spelling color words, etc.)
In this center, I really try to find fun ways to access foundational skills and support students' ongoing learning of letters, letter sounds, letter formation, letter combinations and sequences of letters in words. This really helps students build their knowledge and fluency with letters which directly supports their reading and writing! Here is an example of a center where students work on Building Words with Word Shape Puzzles that shows how letters and words can be focused on together, and in a fun way!
What I do to set up the center:
- I make sure all of the materials specific for the puzzle and/or game needed are in the bucket.
- I make sure the puzzle or game provided is related to topic we have been working on in whole group. I most of the time try to have a response sheet attached to this as well.
- I include additional puzzles or games for extra practice for students who finish early.
* For the first few rounds of centers in the year, I typically have students complete alphabet puzzles and things that will help them use their fine motor skills while also reinforcing alphabetic principle. After an alphabet puzzle center or two, I like to move to CVC word puzzles or spelling puzzles with words that cover the phonics skills we are focusing on in whole group.
* I tend to have students do word work puzzles that deal with holidays and specific times of year as well. Students always love work that has to do with holidays and special events, so it keeps them engaged while their brains are also thinking and/or solving puzzles!
For example, in the fall, I have students complete a themed Letter Matching Game and Initial Sound Game!
*As the year goes on, I make sure that the activities in this center are aligned with what our current whole group skills.
For example: We may be working on color words, so I may provide puzzles where students spell out and write down color words. We may be working on words with sh, so they might search the room for hidden SH words and then circle the SH in each.
*This center is really easy to mold to many different skills and/or topics we are covering. I think it is important to connect this center to a specific skill so they know it's not just "fun and games" but it is indeed fun learning!
Directions for Students:
- Complete your puzzle or game, working alongside your partner.
- Talk your way through your puzzle or game.
- Complete the response sheet that is involved, while checking your work with you partner.
- Turn your work in with your partner.
- Find another puzzle or game to work on as a review.
I think one of the most important pieces to this center is having students work together and talk their way through their puzzle or game. When students are able to talk about their learning, even if it is something seemingly simple, they are able to create a connection and build a better foundation for learning more! I think the other important piece to this center is to have students complete a response sheet- this helps them be responsible for completion and for showing their learning. Finally, students need to have some extra materials to review previously learned skills- when students finish early, it's always good to get them accessing their prior knowledge!
As with all of my centers, I check students' work immediately after center time. I make sure to reinforce students' successful efforts while also correcting necessary mistakes. Also, I really try to talk to students at some point during this center. As you can see, in the attached video, I like to ask students why or how they are doing their work. Also, I make sure to have students leave out any puzzles they may complete so I can check them- this is a perfect summarizing point where I can quickly and strategically provide academic feedback.
The examples shown in this lesson are from centers that do not necessarily need a response sheet (since they are done closer to the beginning of the year). I really like to have students complete their work and orally explain it to me. Just like explaining it to their partner... they learn more when they justify and explain their work! As often as I can, I like to have students explain to me why and how they did what they did in this center.