6 Unconventional Classroom Centers

Friday, February 12, 2016 / Leave a Comment


This year, I decided to make some unused classroom spaces into small interactive centers that could serve as the perfect little transition activities or warm-ups. Instead of hanging pictures or decorations in these spaces, I wanted them to have a purpose. Below are some examples of how you can turn those unused spaces into workspaces, while still creating fun, eye-catching decorations for your classroom.



Interactive books are all the rage right now, and why wouldn't they be - they.are.fabulous!

Instead of keeping them in a bin so they never get touched, put them on display! Students will love looking through the different books during down time reading center, transitions. You could even make a choice board for students to request certain books that may be hung out of their reach. 


For the first two years I was in my classroom, I never touched the giant dry/erase board that took up an entire wall of my classroom. This year, I have used it to house all my sorting tasks. Shown above are from my shapes clothespin sorting task pack. I also use the numbers clothespin sorting task pack on the other side of this board. Use magnet letters and word strips and have students spell sight words or even practice spelling their names. There are so many options and all you need is some cheap magnet tape from Amazon (click below).



Oil drip pans are AMAZING giant magnet trays. I'm sure they serve a wonderful purpose with mechanics; however, they are pretty spectacular for teachers as well. We attached this baby to the back of a shelf and it is it's own little center. Right now, I have beginning sound sorts up on ours from my beginning sounds clothespin pack, but I change it all the time!



I'm all about hanging our artwork in the halls and on the walls and doors in our classroom. Although most people like to put their air on bulletin boards, in our classroom, our bulletin board is a center full of activities! Currently, I'm using tasks from Melissa's Interactive Bulletin Board Packs


Again, interactive books are super functional for our students to learn those basic print concepts and to get some extra basic skill practice. More importantly, THEY ARE ADORABLE. A lot of shelves in elementary schools have these holes in the backing (I have no clue what the name is but I know there is one). Grab some hooks from the hardware store and a bean bag and you have yourself a book nook. In this little area, I'm using my interactive alphabet books. I also have books for colors, shapes, and numbers.





We have a few of these lower shelves around our classroom. I put some of my sorting tasks out on them, covered with contact paper, and added some containers to make it a standing work station. Another perfect little transition activity for students. In the picture above, I am using the jar sort from my colors clothespin sorting activities.

Do you have any unconventional centers in your classroom? I'm always looking for more ideas!
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Using Structured Work Systems to Foster Student Independence

Thursday, February 4, 2016 / Leave a Comment

I remember when I first started teaching in my classroom, I literally had no clue what I was doing. I remember everyone kept talking about..

STRUCTURE
STRUCTURE
STRUCTURE

I shook off their advice and did things my way for the first few months, thinking my cute little classroom set-up was just the beez-neez with all my desks set up in rows, bright colorful baskets full of materials on every shelf, and large open concept floor plan (channeling my inner Joanna Gaines).

NOPE.

When I finally learned to follow the advice of others who had been in field much longer, I realized that classroom set-up is probably one of the most important things about a classroom.. especially one that serves young students with autism. Throughout that first year, the dynamics of my classroom evolved drastically. By the end of the year, my classroom looked like lots of little cubicles, and my students had become expert independent workers. 

Although there is no right or wrong way to setting up your classroom, if you serve students with autism and other disabilities, you do need to have some sort of structure to each area in your classroom. Here are a few guidelines I try to follow when I set-up my structured work systems.


Our students tend to struggle with staying in an area independently. At the beginning of the year, my TA's and I end up being human barriers to teach them that they must stay in the area on their schedule to work until they are finished. Set the boundaries of the area using furniture. It's a lot easier to monitor the small "entrance/exit" to a center than an open space. See below for some examples - the red arrows indicate where the entrance/exit to the area.







I have several different "independent" centers in our classroom. Even though the tasks will vary, I try to keep the actual student area consistent. Below is a visual to guide you and some examples.







Students are not going to walk in your classroom and know exactly what to do at each center. MODEL EVERYTHING over and over and over and over again.... and then some. 



At independent work stations, ONLY assign materials that the student is able to completely INDEPENDENTLY (without any prompting whatsoever). Once a student understands how to follow the left to right work system, he should be able to complete all tasks assigned without any adult assistance. This makes your life a lot easier because you'll actually have free time to work with other students.


Here are a few pictures from my favorite SPED ladies! 




 




How do you set-up your independent work system areas? 

Post a picture on Instagram and use the hashtag #teachingspecialthinkers to share. 

I will be posting a second part to this post within the next few weeks and will be sharing YOUR pictures!
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Please excuse the mess: Site under construction

Wednesday, February 3, 2016 / Leave a Comment


Please bear with me while I make LOTS of updates to the site to make it more pleasing for you!
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Groundhog Day Freebie!

Monday, February 1, 2016 / Leave a Comment
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Valentine's Day Work Tasks!

Sunday, January 31, 2016 / Leave a Comment


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New Year, New Workboxes

Wednesday, January 6, 2016 / Leave a Comment
If you are like me, you have students that are in different stages of the Independent Work Systems. Some students are beginners and put-in tasks are their thing right now, while others can complete other skills such as matching or sorting. Below are some ideas for workboxes with materials you probably already have on hand.

Here is a look at how our independent workbox station looks this year.



Put-in Tasks








Matching








Sorting Tasks








Make sure you are following me on Pinterest, as I will be continuing to add tasks I pin or make for our classroom to help you with ideas!! :)





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