Do 1st graders still play in centers? How much different is it than kindergarten?

Question:I have taught pre-k and kindergarten and might be teaching 1st grade this year. What are some basics I should know beforehand? I know there will be more reading ability from the students and some spelling and handwriting, but what does a day's schedule look like?

Well... I have taught both 1st and Kindergarten. I know that my first graders liked to think that center time was play time, but they were actually working on review of the things they had learned. My centers were a lot of file folder games and hand made games, but I made a sheet that had to be completed for each game so that they were held accountable while they were there. They got to "play" while they were reviewing or learning in their centers.

My schedule looked like this (without times), but keep in mind that we are a Reading First school and have a lot of time invested.

Morning -
Reading Block (whole group, centers, reading, etc) 135 mins
Lang Arts (writing, mini-lessons, etc) 45 mins
Math (lesson, practice, centers) 60 mins
Science/social studies/health

If you have any questions, email me at
I'm a 1st grade teacher. My students don't play at all during the except when they are outside at recess. We have a very strict curriculum. We have reading/language arts in the morning, recess, lunch, math, eld, and whatever time is left over is for science, art, social studies or p.e. In the mornings, my students go to "centers" but they doing learning activities...never playing.
What children consider as "play time" is really a lesson. For example, my school district uses the "breakthrough to literacy" program which is all about English and Language Arts. During centers, students can "play" on the computer but they are actually learning. You need to develop a rotation system for centers. Some do it with time intervals while others, like me, prefer to have them move along as they complete the assigned work. This avoids the "what do I do now?" and the blank stares as they sit at the desks for the time to end. But, if you do choose to use time intervals, have them "buddy read" a book while they wait just in case they finish early.
I believe that students in first grade need to think they are playing for most of the day. Learning should be fun or who would want to do it? Centers are great at any grade level. Just switch up what they are doing at their centers. Rather than playing in the "kitchen area," they are doing a simple science activity. They can have fun while you fulfill curriculum requirements. Hope this helps.
You really want to visit what your school and state requires. I would also ask some other first grade teachers, I am sure you have access in your line of work.

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