This month’s theme at The Autism Helper is centers and October is the perfect time of year to establish the centers in your classroom. School has been in session for about a month, you have gotten to know your students and they know their schedules, so now it’s time to get to work! I will be explaining how I set up my content (science and social studies) center…
1. Decide Who, What & Where
Who will run the station?
When I created a content center, I knew I wanted a paraprofessional to run this station because I wanted to be able to run the reading and math stations.
What curriculum will be used? What is the purpose of the station?
The curriculum I am using at the content station is The Autism Helper’s Science Leveled Daily Curriculum and Social Studies Leveled Daily Curriculum. I wanted the students to get exposure to science and social studies concepts outside of their specific content area goals. I also wanted students to learn how to do a written assignment (write their name, read the directions).
Where is the station within the classroom?
This station requires that students pay attention to the direct instruction, so I chose to put this station at a table. Students will also need the worksheets, so I decided to keep them in binders for most students at the center. I made sure it was near a bookshelf so the binders could be stored there.
2. Test It Out
Something new I’m trying this year with all paraprofessional run stations is running it myself at first and then having a paraprofessional take over. This gives me as the teacher the opportunity to work out any issues before a paraprofessional runs the station. It also allows me to see what level of work to eventually have for each student at the station. I’m doing this for one week and found time when I had groups of students at speech to have my paraprofessional observe me running the station.
This year, I started all the students on Level 1 of the Science and Social Studies Daily Leveled Curriculum. I did this so the students could focus on learning how to do the station as opposed to the content. Once students know how to work at the station, then slowly get set up the appropriate level for each group.
When you test out a center beforehand, you as the teacher are able to determine the appropriate modifications and accommodations for each student. Foe example, I have some students who are not consistently writing or tracing without maximum prompting. For theses students, I am going to make the Level 1 Science Daily Curriculum File Folder Activities in order to include these students at the content station. The Level 1 Daily Curriculum File Folder Activities are also available for the Social Studies Curriculum. For my students with visual impairments, I have tactile items at the station for them to be able to understand the concepts. For example, I have items of different shapes and different sizes to teach the concept of same and different at the station. I also have a topographical globe to teach the Level 1 Social Studies vocabulary.
3. Establish a Routine
Once you have tried out the station, establish a routine that students can easily follow. This makes it easier for the paraprofessional to take over, especially if your students are rule followers! Students will know the correct way the station should run, making it easier for the paraprofessional to run it the way it was intended.
4. Find a Place for Everything
For any station, it is important to have designated places for student and staff materials. Items should be easily accessible for students and paraprofessionals so that the station can start right away when students come over. I have colored thin-tipped Expo makers at the station so that the paraprofessional can put a copy of the student worksheet into a clear, top-loading sheet in order to demonstrate. Having the students binders in an easily accessible place is also helpful for students to gain independence and take responsibility for their learning materials.
Also make sure to keep reference sheets for students in an easily accessible place. I put mine in a magnetic pouch on the side of a cabinet near the station and the students’ content binders.
5. Make a Cheat Sheet
Making short, simple one-page guide to any station is helpful for you and the paraprofessional running the station. It can prevent a lot of talking across the classroom, extensive training where you and the paraprofessional are both at the station and you leaving your teacher run station to clarify procedures. Also making a “cheat sheet” helps if there is a substitute or if you have to change paras in the middle of the school year. My cheat sheet includes the following:
- Purpose of the station (very important to clarify if your intention for the station is to be independent)
- Steps of the procedure/routine of the station
- Schedule-includes times, student groups and any accommodations or modifications specific students may need
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