Break centers actually happened by accident in my classroom…I intended to have end-of-day rotations to help students get ready to pack up, but since I have a lot (9!) of new students who are on the younger end of the grade band I teach (third grade), I switched up the plan and meet my students where they are at. I decided to implement break rotations to offer students a structured break time during the day, to explore different leisure activities and socialize within a small group setting. What had previously been happening was break was too long for my students to do one activity and they would often move from one activity or area to another. It became disorganized and a little chaotic (which are two things that don’t fly in my classroom). Here are five things I considered when setting up my break rotations/stations…
As teachers know, when you create groups for any rotation, there are many things to consider. I decided to create groups based on functioning levels and behaviors, to ensure that students would get along with their classmates in the group. I split up the high-energy students and the lower-energy students to achieve more balanced groupings. I also decided to have a higher functioning group who are all trained on their classroom jobs so I could eventually transition all students in each group to have a classroom job.
Since this rotation involved the break area, I put the centers close to the break area. I used center tables that are used in the morning for academics, but I tell students what activity is going to be at the tables so they are able to make the distinction between the break rotations and the morning rotations. I also kept a table by the break area empty to give students the option to draw instead of playing in the break area. I decided to use my fluency center because it is right next to the break area and I could supervise both if we were short staffed. I chose the reading table to the other break center because it is more centrally located and I eventually want the reading table to be where students meet to get their classroom jobs, which occur at various locations throughout the classroom.
In addition to using the break area as free time active play with toys or a sensory curtain (pieces of fabric tied to a stand), I have two stations where there are different materials or activities. This is a good opportunity to expose students to a variety of age-appropriate leisure activities and help students practice social skills in small groups. Using mini-whiteboards has been a big hit in my classroom, as well as Lego. Other materials/activities I have used at the other two stations include Play-Dough, iPads, puzzles, coloring sheets, drawing, board games and bingo.
This is an essential part of creating new centers or rotations in your classroom! I put the first break center that my students go to in their schedule (for the picture schedules, it’s #9, for the written/picture schedules, it is the second to last item) and then each student has a mini-schedule of their break rotation. I decided to do a mini schedule (pictured below) because the break rotations are shorter than my academic rotations and I wanted the rotations to flow smoothly without having students go back to their desk to check their schedules. When break rotations are finished, I make sure to stand in the doorway of the coatroom to collect their mini-schedules.
I am hoping to transition these centers into end-of-the day activities such as classroom jobs, organizing their take-home folders and completing a home-school communication log appropriate to their level. In this transition, the reading table would have staff member training and/or making sure students completed classroom jobs. Currently, I have one group who is doing classroom jobs when they come to the reading table, before they do the break activity (I use The Autism Helper’s visuals from Classroom Jobs Visual Directions Set 1 and Set 2). At the fluency table, I hope to transition all groups by the end of the school year to get their papers from their mailbox, put them in their folders and fill out a home-school communication log sheet on their level (I’ve already printed them and laminated them for easy daily use). I am using The Autism Helper’s Home School Communication Packet.
I hope this was helpful if your students need a more structured break time. Share your most successful systems for implementing break time(s) in your classroom!