I want to talk about some easy set-up independent centers for an autism classroom!
In any autism classroom, independent skills are essential to teach and practice. My classroom has four independent centers and I absolutely love watching my primary-aged students work at these centers! Three of my centers are super easy to set up and low cost, too!
Why Independent Centers?
It is my goal for my students to live up to their potential, have fulfilling lives, and maybe even live independently and have a job. In order to do that, they need to be able to have independent skills. I know, it’s crazy that I’m thinking about their adult life while they are in kindergarten, but NOW is the time to teach them so many skills, especially independence.
Lately, I have been short-staffed in my classroom. This is hard because my students have so much to learn and I just can’t spend the time I need to with them but I make up for it by teaching them independent skills. To off-set the short staffing, I have to have four independent centers in my classroom:
- Digital e-books or books (easy set-up)
- Digital Boom Cards – done on a Chromebook or iPad (easy set-up)
- Play/leisure center (easy set-up)
- Task box center (not easy set-up initially but amazing)
Digital E-books or Books
This is a super easy set-up independent center that I use every day in my classroom. For this center, I utilize epic books website and app. For this center, students use the iPad. Some students do not like the e-book option so I set out a few bins of books and rotate those weekly so students have the option to look at books as well.
The epic app is free for teachers and allows me to create an account for each of my students. I am able to set their reading level and check their comprehension rate as well. In addition, I love that this app has a “Read to Me” option for my students who are not reading yet.
Finally, there is a “Videos” area of this app and I turn this off so that my students are actually looking at books rather than videos.
Another super easy set-up independent center is Boom Cards. I first discovered Boom Cards during distance learning when I was teaching remotely. These are amazing and while I admittedly spent A LOT of my own money on them, I didn’t just want these to be forgotten or go to waste, so I created an independent center with them.
If you’ve been following me for a while now, you know I love TAH Easy Matching Weekly Workbooks. Thanks to The Autism Helper, they have also made these digital, which are perfect for my learners. Some of my students use a Chromebook and others use an iPad for this center. All of my students have a mini schedule and Boom Cards visual for this center. You can read more about this amazing center in my blog post, How to Use Digital Easy Matching Weekly Workbooks.
Having a play/leisure center in my classroom is essential. This center is very easy to set up as an independent center. I collected some used toys from my son as well as anyone getting rid of their child’s toys. Then, I covered the area using a flat sheet and some magnets stuck to metal bookshelves and added some puck lights to create a calming space that wasn’t too overstimulating. The purpose of the area was to be comfortable and calming, so I also purchased a rug from Target and added some comfy seating and sensory items in my play area.
Some students choose to play or draw on an easel while others choose to just relax and calm themselves. The key to this center is to only put out a few choices at a time and add play expectation visuals. Since this is also a leisure center, if I have students who are reluctant to stay in the center, I let them play on an iPad.
Here are some of my favorite items for my play center:
Task Box Center
My final independent center is my task box center. This is not one of my easy-setup independent centers as it does take a bit of initial prep however, once set up, it’s pretty easy to keep going! You can read more about this center in my blog post, Michelle’s Classroom Tour: Task Box Center.
What are your thoughts on independent centers? Do you utilize them in your classroom? I would love to hear about your independent centers! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about my independent centers and I will get back to you.
Thanks for reading!