Making All of The Classroom Space Meaningful- Part 2

Once we have centers set up and decided as a team, the next step would be implementation. Meeting with the team to come up with a plan helps with buy-in. When an idea is voiced and listened to, you take ownership and pride. Following Jen’s suggestion about not going overboard is also important! Remember that each lesson or activity within each center doesn’t have to be Pinterest worthy. In this post I will share my second part of making each center meaningful.

In the beginning of the year, we may need to minimize the amount of items and toys available within each center. Once our learners get a hang of the rules and routines, more options can be added. I also use supports in order to increase the independence within each center as materials and toys increase.

  • Picture of each toy on the shelves where they need to be put
  • Pictures of the toys that go inside each bin
  • Some learners may also be ready for a mini clean-up schedule

Within each center, I also use different sized clear locking bins to hold materials. This way, learners an see what is inside, and they get natural opportunities to practice requesting using their communication modality. Scripts and ideas posted in each center help when there are substitutes or volunteers in the classroom, or when the classroom team feels they are stuck in the same routine. These can be laminated packets that are rotated with the unit themes! Throughout the year as time and our learners progress, we keep in mind the reasoning behind each center in order not to lose its functionality.

As I listed in part 1 of meaningful centers, there are many centers and areas of the classroom to be used in the classroom. As students get older and progress to being more available for learning, more academic based centers should be implemented. Some ideas on expanding academic based centers would be fluency center, guided reading centers, math centers, literacy center, discrete trial center, and also having a break center for students to get away and take a needed break.

Things to remember:

  • Use timed rotations: Using timed rotations at points in the day will lead to easier transitions for students and teachers. Timed rotations and clear schedules set up the environment for predictability. Each center can be different amounts of time as needed, as long as all in the classroom know how much time that is.
  • Stations versus centers: Center-based learning does not need to be done throughout the entire day. It does add structure and consistency to the day. It also is best practices because it gives the teachers and related service team members time for 1:1 and small groups that is scheduled and embedded throughout the days.
  • Schedule of the day: Using a schedule that is color coded with where each learner is going, who they are working with, and what they are working on sets the day for success. Everyone will be planned and prepped and ready to go.
  • Snack and rest time: Including time for learners to get their needs met will benefit our learners by giving them stability and safety.
  • Rotate materials: The classroom team can choose how often to rotate toys. There are natural times to switch out toys and materials, for example, when the unit themes change, or if you have a large amount of toys and materials for one unit. When unit themes last longer than 4 weeks or if I have a lot of toys and materials, I rotate each week.


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