Hi all, I’m Jen and I’m thrilled to be a new blogger for The Autism Helper! I run a K-2 self-contained autism classroom. I currently have nine students and five assistants in my classroom. Centers can be tough to manage, especially in special education classrooms. Trying to meet a variety of student needs and levels is difficult. Rotating between centers can be just as tricky. This year I have three centers that my students rotate through daily and it can be tough! Each center typically has two adults and three students. Here are some quick tip that help make center rotations a breeze.
Train your staff. Centers are full of action and move quickly. Your staff needs to know their role and have directions before they start. If they have to stop what they are doing and ask you a question, your students lose valuable instructional time. I write out a list each week of what each center will be doing on each day for staff to follow.
Train your students. This takes time and lots of effort, but it’s always worth it. To start, keep yourself out of rotations for at least two weeks. Take on the responsibility of walking your students from center to center, teaching them the expectations as you go. Have your staff follow through and carry the same expectations. Do this until rotations are fluid. If your expectations are not being met, go back and reteach them until they are.
Invest in a transition tool like a wireless doorbell. They are around $12 on Amazon and you’ll find it to be one of the best tools for transitions. I use the chime to signal transitions within my classroom. I wear the remote on a lanyard so I have it when I need. My students know when they hear the chime, they freeze and look for their next center. Looking for a silent transition tool or something for students who are deaf? Try LED color-changing lightbulbs that you can control from an app on your phone or tablet.
Create signals so your students can transition quietly and independently. My students are all assigned a color. My staff holds up a laminated sheet of colored paper to signal which students are going to come to them next. After teaching the expectation, the simple visual cue of a colored sheet of paper is enough for students to know where to go next. Don’t love to color code? Try using a whiteboard with names written on it or assign each student a shape and hold the shape up to signal where to go next. Whatever you pick, create the visual so no other communication is needed. This keeps volume down and learning high.
Prep. I know it goes without saying, but a well-run center will have everything it needs. Your staff shouldn’t have to go hunting for items they need. Make sure to prep so everything you need for centers is at your fingertips so everyone stays focused on learning and smooth transitions. I use bins and trays to hold everything each center needs, even when the center is as easy as a file folder game.
Don’t be afraid to change it up and challenge your students. These Halloween fine motor and sorting activities were just what my students needed after a long week. As soon as they saw centers were fun and different their excitement increased. It gave us a chance to practice self control as we moved from one exciting center to another. Many students found one center to be preferred, so they got the opportunity to practice transitioning from a preferred task to a non-preferred task. Giving your students these opportunities in your classroom is key to their success outside your classroom.