1. START WITH FREE PLAY
I talked about how you should be starting with centres that your students already know in this post. Play doh is great for this! In the beginning, I just put out a few containers of play doh and let them play how they want while I teach expectations. It is important to take the time to teach them exactly what you expect out of them - we talk about why we don't mix the colours, and how it should look after being cleaned up. I also take the time to teach them different techniques. I show them how to make balls, roll the doh into snakes, flatten it like a pancake, etc. This helps inspire them to practice the techniques they will use later to make letters and words during their free play.
You can also add toys if you like - rolling pins, plastic cutlery, play dough stampers, and so on work great. I purchased a fire house set inexpensively during Amazon Prime day this past summer and it was a big hit!
2. INTRODUCE NEW IDEAS GRADUALLY
After I have taught all behaviour/clean up expectations and made sure that they are being followed, I gradually show them more things that they can make with play doh. I start with letters! I get really pumped and excited about it, and really sell them on the idea that it's AMAZING that we can make letters out of play doh. We can make all the letters in our name!! So cool!!! I start with these alphabet play doh cards.
I show them how to roll the play doh into a snake shape and start on the green dot. I make a big deal about choosing an A to make (for Andrea), and then I pick another letter that is the first letter of a student's name. I show them how, if I run out of play doh, it is no big deal - I can squish the letters I already made and then make some more!
After each group has a few centres with the play doh cards, I show them my alphabet cookie cutters. They are just normal ABC cookie cutters that I bought through Scholastic, from their Teachers Essentials catalogue. I mention how it is hard to make my whole name with the play doh cards, because I don't have enough dough! The cookie cutters are smaller, so it is possible to make lots more letters all at once. I show them how to make their whole name, or just make a whole bunch of alphabet "cookies". Again, get excited!! Pump them up!
3. PUSH THEM FARTHER...
Once they can make their names, invite them to make their friends' names or sight words you have practiced. I have a word wall on my white board, and students are welcome to pull words from the wall to try and make. I remind them how to use the cookie cutters, but I also show them how they can flatten the dough into one long strip, and stamp names and sight words using stampers! Madame Agnel has some awesome activity mats in her store that work perfectly for this skill, like these ones for la rentrée. Speaking of...
4. MAKE IT SEASONAL
Different seasons and holidays make it easy to keep your play doh centre exciting. Madame Angel has activity mats for practicing vocabulary words for lots different seasons and holidays, but you can also find lots of FREE play doh mats that are seasonal and that are just for fun. I like to mix those into our routine throughout the year. Here are some of my favourites. I found them all via Pinterest. If there are English words on them, I will often just cut that part off before I laminate them! Just click on each picture to be taken to where you can download them.
(In the winter, I also love to supply them with white play dough and pompoms, buttons, twigs, pipe cleaners, beads, etc. and have a snowman building centre!)
And here are some that are fun for any time of year!
Do you have a play dough centre? What other activities do you get your students to do to keep them engaged? Let me know in the comments below!