Visual discrimination is huge for young developing and emergent readers! One of the literacy centers I first developed was our puzzle center. It does feature puzzles of all varieties: floor, wooden, regular. But it also features alphabet building and word building puzzles. I have enough puzzles that each of the nine weeks, we rotate out puzzles.
I begin with the most simple and we increase the difficulty as the year goes on... building on the visual discrimination foundational skill that some kinders don't come in with is key in order to grow their reading skills.
Here are a few tips on having a puzzle center: our puzzles that didn't come with a box worth the cardboard I bought it in, gets put into a tupperware container and I use clear book tape or packing tape to adhere the picture (cut from the lid) onto the inside of the lid facing outwards.
You'll also see that we have a little clear jar labeled, "lost!" for those pieces that seem to have made their way onto the floor. That is bound to happen, but now students can be independent in looking for a missing piece or have a place to put the random piece they find.
Rules and Standards
1) get learning,
2) have quiet voices and to
3) ask three other students before asking me.
This also applies to our puzzle center. Most often students will work in pairs, but they will sometimes opt to work independently. I see this most frequently when they choose one of the skill building puzzle/games in pink tote baskets. We use these to also hold sets of puzzles that go together (like word family or rhyming puzzles).When I developed the core of my literacy centers my first year of teaching, like this one, I worked to create them based on standards. I still do that today whenever I tweak one, and I post the standards on my center posters. My admins never asked me to do this, but I figured if someone didn't understand what appeared as 'play' had value... I am prepared!
My centers are based around a choice of activities to do at one center, or open-ended activities after they've finished a must-do activity. This center just has a variety of choices for my kinders, all accomplishing the specific goals I have. We have one basket that features a syllable clapping game and the magic gloves (that magically quiet your clap so you can follow rule #2). Students use our name cards in addition to a variety of object cards that they can choose. Later in the year, they can challenge themselves to sort the cards by number of syllables.