A vocational station is something that I have had in some form in my classroom since the very beginning. This space has evolved and taken shape in many different forms since then. I find incredible value in doing real tasks with real world items. While I have always been future focused, it has taken on a whole new sense of urgency when I became a high school teacher. The skills for work were suddenly going to be needed very soon in my students’ lives and I have loved taking on that challenge. I’m going to show you how to take every day items and turn them into a favorite and functional station (or center) in your classroom.
Gather Materials from Everywhere
If you are a special education teacher and you are not already a bit of a hoarder, you soon will be. While I love my spaces to be organized and clean, I also always have a closet or container accumulating materials that I plan to turn into vocational tasks. I never turn down hand me down items from friends or relatives and I am always on the lookout for something free or low cost that I could turn into a real world task. A great place to find materials is through your office staff as they clean out files or supply closets. You could also find many of these materials in your own home!
In my vocational station, my first task is my mail sorting station that I created from a shoe storage bin. I color coded single digits, area codes, and zip codes for different complexity levels and pasted them on envelopes.
Organize the Space
After you gather materials and some desks/shelving, you can start to build your station and make it as simple or complex as your classroom dictates. This station started out with about 5 shoebox tasks and has grown each time I inherited another bit of treasure to add to it. To keep things organized and predictable for my students, I always like to move from left to right or top to bottom as a rule. I have my students move from #1 to #4 and all of the tasks are left to right or top to bottom as well.
My second task in my vocational station is a color sorting activity where students match a colored file folder to the same color of hanging file. My third task is the shredder which is a big time fave. Paper from the box on the left is ready to be shredded and the students love the sound it makes and the visual of the paper “disappearing”.
Structure the Tasks
As I stated before, the tasks within the station should be structured and The Autism Helper has done a lot of the work for you on that front. I cannot say enough how much I love Work Task Mega Pack . This resources has been incredible when setting up my vocational station. I have been able to set up most of these tasks with minimal purchases and things that were purchased were from the Dollar Tree. TAH has taken the hard work out of this process by structuring 40 tasks and including the visuals for you. This is just a great purchase in my opinion.
In my fourth stop of my vocational station, I have several of the bins from the Work Task Mega Pack and a few more that I created from found items. One particularly beloved task is my bottle cap task that I created from caps that I saved from being thrown away after a community event. This task has stood the test of time and students of all ages have enjoyed and benefited from it.
Add Visual Cues
Make sure that you make it clear how you want students to move through the work as they will hopefully be doing so independently without too much delay. This may mean color coding, numbering, or adding arrows (my big arrow I got from Ikea). In a real world job setting, your students will not typically have the luxury of a person there to prompt them or move them through the expected tasks. More so than almost anywhere else, it is important that they are independent in their vocational station work. If possible, add supports that could be naturally emulated in a work setting.
I hope I have been able to get your gears turning as to how you can get a vocational station started in your classroom. If you would like more info on my classroom and how I incorporate vocational work into our every day routines, follow me on Instagram @ausometeaching.