Making All Of The Classroom Space Meaningful- Part 1

Center based learning is so much more than having different options. When using the evidence-based center-based learning in the classroom, all centers are meaningful. Each one has an intentional teaching strategy that focuses on the acquisition or maintenance of each learner. Utilizing centers in the classroom allows for independence, choice making, exposure to peers, and learning an individual schedule. In part 1 of making all of the classroom spaces meaningful, I will explain why center-based learning is beneficial, and which areas of learning correlate with each center that we use. 

There are a plethora of options for centers and what the topic of each one can be. Center based learning refers to the groups or topics within each designated space of the classroom. One classroom may have separate centers for pretend play, reading, art, science and blocks, etc. As grades get older, the centers may change to more academic based such as, math, literacy, and writing. Centers help the classroom team utilize 1:1 and small group teaching to help support all of the learner’s individual development. Throughout the school year, my team and I review the centers that we have. We look at if they are functioning as we intended, should any be put on hold, are any centers able to be introduced, and is the layout of the centers working? Not all classrooms will have the same centers. In fact, not all centers need to be labeled the same thing.

Center Ideas

  • Dramatic play: This is a center that includes dress-up and pretend play. I like to rotate through a kitchen setting, dress-up as community helpers, and dress up as fantasy characters such as princesses.
  • Blocks: This area will always contain some sort of blocks. I rotate with wooden blocks, colored blocks, large cardboard blocks, legos, duplos, cars and car mats, train tracks, etc.
  • Computers: This center is also called the “technology” center. This center can include a radio and headphones for a listening center, computers, ipads, or smartboards.
  • Sensory table: Children learn at this center by having access to many different types of materials. I include all types of sensory opportunities within this center.
  • Discrete trial: This center is where we run programming for the individual learners. We work on introducing new skills and use it as a space for 1:1 work with teacher.
  • Art: All types of writing instruments are offered, and they are often rotated as not to overstimulate the center. Learners are encouraged to work on copying, tracing, and independently write and use drawings to convey meaning. 
  • Table toys: Smaller toys that require the use of fine motor skills are great for this center!  This is a center that we use toys to help work on visual motor skills such as puzzles, bristle blocks, and pop beads. 
  • Independent work: This center is a must for all learners! There are so many independent work tasks available on The Autism Helper TPT. She has also shared many hands on work tasks for leaners who may need real objects. This center is a wonderful opportunity to work on pre-vocational skills with our younger learners, and vocational skills for older learners.
  • Reading/library: Literacy development takes place every day throughout the class, but also enforced in the library center. in the class book center. Children should have the opportunity to explore all types of print. 
  • Science: All science topics are exposed to the children through experiments and exploration. 
  • Large groups: We count large groups as a center. This can include a “larger” reading group, match group, art group, etc.

Why is this important?

Play at the early childhood level has been researched a lot. In my last blog post, I discussed why I believe that play is important in all grade levels. Centers can include academic based activities as well as play based. Using center based learning incorporates making choices, working with peers, interacting with teachers, being involved in team activities, and opportunities to become fully engaged in all day learning. Centers and timed rotations help keep a structured day for everyone on the team. With a specific focus in each center, students have clear expectations which will increase positive behaviors!


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