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Core​ in the Early Childhood Inclusive Classroom

Center time is a rich learning time where children explore and practice. The early childhood teacher invests significant time in developing a learning environment that promotes positive learning experiences within all areas of development.

Core Vocabulary starts with a Core Board and ends with social communication. This core board provides 50 basic words words in which adults and students can build language. 

Using these 50 words, we can deliver hundred of communcation ideas to interact with others. We can request, comment, direct, ask questions, protest, and form relationships. This article looks for how to embed core word activities throughout the early childhood classroom.

Here are ways to embed Core Vocabulary in common learning centers:






Blocks Center

Block play begins with infants dumping and filling and extends to children constructing elaborate castles and on through through adults building amazing lego structures or minature train scenes. It is so much fun!! This block center includes various blocks, with a focus on wood blocks. Other toys in this center include cars, trucks, play people, play tools, and train sets. This motivating center provides great opportunities to focus on blue core vocabulary prepositions such as in, on, over, and away.

Here are some ideas to play with core vocabulary in the blocks center

  • Place single core word picture cards on blocks to build phrases.
  • Make a sign on a stick. On one side it says “GO” and the other says “STOP”.
  • Include Bob the Builder tool toys and catchphrase: “Can we fix it? Yes we can!”

Here are some sharing Center Ideas to use in Blocks: 


Art Center

The art center has various art supplies and crafts for children to create works. This center promotes language and fine motor skills. It includes glue, markers, scissors, yarn, pompoms, crayons, paper, stencils, playdough, paint, etc.

Creativity flows and chidlren have opportunities to explore with various mediums and express their thoughts and feelings. Rich language opportunities are facilitated with core and themed vocabulary.

  • Host an Artist showcase
  • Make group collage focusing on the words "put" and "on"
  • Ask students to imitate otehr works and display on a bulleting board that says, "can you make it?" 

Here are some materials from the sharing center for art


Dramatic Play

This language-rich dramatic play center or Housekeeping center contains toys and play furniture used in role play, dress up, and storytelling. This often includes a kitchen area, baby dolls, dress up clothes, play foods, brooms, purses, hats, and a mirror. Here students can role play a restaurant with menus and pad and pencil. They may act out favorite stories like Goldilocks and the 3 Bears.

Here are some ways to embed core in the dramatic play center: 

  • Cooking with core: Print core symbols on magnet sheets.  Place core word on a cookie sheet to build phrases. For more fun, use Gingerbread Men (Under Themed Picture Cards Template) with Core words.
  • Label the Dramatic play area with Core words. For example – open (on refrigerator), look out (window), turn on /  turn off (play sink), eat (by play food), drink (by cups), look (on mirror)

Here are some materials from the sharing center for dramatic play: 


Science Center

This center can be one of the most versatile centers with items frequently changed based on thematic units and classroom lessons. Some standard items in the science center include scale, microscope, magazines, photo flash cards (animals, plants), magnets, shells, rocks, and sensory toys.

  • Use clear containers to fill with items. Label with descriptions: more, less, big, little, same, and different.
  • Science Experiment: Make a sorting mat to ask “What does it do?” “Go up” or “go down”? Use the mat while experimenting – does it float or sink? When tied to a balloon, does it rise or fall? Using a bucket scale with a weight on one side (ie rock) and place objects in other bucket to see if it stays up or ges down.
  • Attach the word “see” on a magnifying glass. Have the students look through a busy jungle poster, science book, or science magazine to point to what they see. (“I see a ….”) More fun - Place pictures of items in the busy picture in a fringe tab and have the students search for the picture.  

Here are some materials from the sharing center for science exploration:


Language / Literacy

This language-rich center focuses on reading, writing, and speaking. Items in this center should focus on alphabet knowledge, phonological awareness, storytelling, retelling, print knowledge, and literature. Toys may include books, puppet theater, puppets, alphabet puzzles, board games, and flannel board.

  • Velcro frequently used core words in a board book. For example: place word “eat” on the cover of “The Old Lady Who Swallowed A….” books.
  • Match the core words puzzle activity.
  • Play “Go Fish” with thematic fringe words and Core Symbols: “Do you have ….?”, “Yes I have it!”, “Here you go” or “No, Go Fish”.  
  • Core word Bingo Game: Students place tokens on a core board when the word is called.
  • Books for Targeting Core

Here are some materials from the sharing center for literacy activities:

Math Manipulatives / Table Toys

This math manipulatives center contains numerous toys that promote basic math skills such as counting, patterning, sorting, and geometry. It would include manipulatives such as unifix cubes, counting bears, pattern blocks, math mats, nesting cups, pegs, and pegboards. Legos, Board Games, and Puzzles also fit well into this center.

  • Play Hi-Ho-Cherry-Oh. Make playing cards to draw from a pile rather than using the spinner. The playing cards include core words: Take 2, Give 1 away, Put 2 on, etc.
  • Play dominoes using Core Words.
  • Make dice with Core words to use with a pegboard and pegs. Two students take turns rolling the dice. The dice will reveal how many pegs to put in or take out. The first to fill the board wins!

Here are some materials from the sharing center for math:

Hope this helps spur some great ideas!

For more information on Core, check out these other articles: