Choice Time by Renee Dinnerstein. How to Deepen Learning Through Inquiry
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Choice Time
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Choice Time

How to Deepen Learning Through Inquiry and Play, PreK-2

By Renee Dinnerstein
Foreword by Kathy Collins

In Choice Time, Renée gives you everything you need to set up choice-time centers that promote inquiry-based, guided play in your classroom. Give your students choice time, and watch them engage in joyful, important, playful, age-appropriate work that will empower them to become lifelong learners.

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Full Description

 "In her inspirational, well-researched book, Renée describes the kinds of learning opportunities that all parents want for their own children. Her accessible writing style makes it easy to envision the environment, teaching, and community she describes with such clarity you’ll want to get started on her ideas tomorrow." —Jennifer Serravallo

"How refreshing it is in a test-driven climate to read a book stressing the nurturing of imagination and empathy that comes from inquiry, play and children making choices." —Deborah Meier

"The bottom line is when children are at play, they’re not just playing––they’re learning machines, and play is the engine that drives them.” —Renée Dinnerstein

How do you define play and choice time in early childhood classrooms? According to Renée Dinnerstein,“During choice time, children choose to play in a variety of centers that have been carefully designed and equipped to scaffold children’s natural instinct for play.”

In Choice Time, Renée gives you everything you need to set up choice-time centers that promote inquiry-based, guided play in your classroom. Renée summarizes the research, describing the different kinds of play and why they are important. Then she dives into the nitty gritty, providing:

  • blueprints for six proven choice-time centers, with variations
  • a guide to arranging your classroom space to maximize play’s value and support the child's growing independence
  • scheduling suggestions for different grade levels
  • ideas to connect centers to the curriculum, giving children greater agency in designing and planning centers.

Renée reveals what can happen when you embrace a culture of inquiry, providing opportunities for children to be explorative and creative in their thinking. She believes that, “A child’s engagement is the most powerful asset we have for teaching and learning.” Give your students choice time, and watch them engage in joyful, important, playful, age-appropriate work that will empower them to become lifelong learners.

Contents

How to Use This Book vi

Foreword by Kathy Collins vii

Chapter 1 - Why Choice Time and Play Are Important 1

Chapter 2 - The Classroom Speaks 21

Chapter 3 - A Classroom Where Centers Thrive 36

Chapter 4 - Block Center 50

Chapter 5 - Science Center 66

Chapter 6 - Reading Nook 85

Chapter 7 - Dramatic Play Center 101

Chapter 8 - Math Center 117

Chapter 9 - Art Center 136

Conclusion 151

Appendix A Planning Tools for Centers 153

Appendix B Observation and Reflection Form for Centers 154

Acknowledgements 155

Works Cited 160

In Depth

I wrote this book with two major goals in mind: I want to show what a powerful, authentic, inquiry-based choice time could achieve when placed at the heart of an early childhood classroom. In addition, I want to give teachers everything they would need to implement choice time centers.

The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 begins with “Why Choice Time and Play Are Important.” This chapter presents the research on why play is important and what children can achieve through play as well as a description of the different types of play. The second chapter, “The Classroom Speaks,” gives practical ideas for classroom arrangement, lists important materials, and offers suggestions for scheduling choice time in grades preK through 2. The last chapter in Part 1, “A Classroom Where Centers Thrive,” focuses on the management of choice time—how to plan for centers, implement predictable routines, and use the workshop model. I also answer some questions that teachers frequently ask.

Part 2 focuses on what I might often call the meat and potatoes of choice time. It includes six chapters that present centers that will most likely be regular centers in your classroom. I describe the reasoning behind each center, show how to set it up, and list materials you’ll need to begin. I also give ideas for introducing the center, provide some helpful minilessons, and suggest useful changes to keep things fresh across the year. This section of the book provides a practical template that can be used for observing, reflecting, and planning next steps in each center.

If you are a teacher new to choice time, you might want to use the centers just as I’ve described them and eventually take off on your own. If you’ve been using choice time already, I hope that this book gives you some new ideas for variations on your existing centers. In either case, I hope that you will heed the central lesson of this book, which is to tailor the centers to the interests of the children in your classroom. A child’s engagement is the most powerful asset we have for teaching and learning.

— From 'How to use this book'

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