Writing Center: Up and Running! Finally!

Categories: Language Arts | Resources

Woohoo I finally got my writing center all setup. I shouldn’t be toooo proud of myself since my goal was to have this done the first week of school. But for some reason this was something that kept getting pushed down to the end of my ever-growing to do list.

I totally revamped the way I will be teaching writing this year. Last year we did a very adapted version of Writer’s Workshop – which I loved – but I felt like my kids needed more structure. So I created these centers. They are absolutely not independent but I’m hoping some of them will eventually get there. These will be adult guided but I’d like them to try and be as independent as possible!

My main tidbits about teaching writing to children with autism:

  1. It’s so hard. Ugh.
  2. It gets better! I used to dread doing journaling with my kids and now I love it.
  3. Practice, practice, practice, practice… you get it. And I know that it’s this way with all kids, but I think because of how difficult the language piece is for our students it can take that much longer.
  4. Almost everything needs to individualized and one on one. It’s probably not this way for all kids with autism – but the group I had last year really needed the individualized support.
  5. Some kids excel at imaginative writing and others just can’t seem to get it. I wonder if it’s because our kids are so visual and routine based. I had the saddest moment last year where I got one of my kids to write this really awesome story about going to carnival with all his friends and eating purple ice cream and all other crazy things. I thought we had made this huge breakthrough on using our imaginations. I was getting all ready to pat myself on the back for being the world’s best teacher, when my student brought me over his calendar and wanted me to show him exactly what day we’d be doing this purple ice cream eating carnival trip. Ugh.
  6. You have got to DRILL those component skills. We do tons of work on answer wh- questions (who, what, where, when, why), sentence building, and real vs. make believe to in turn, build writing skills.

Okay so the idea behind the writing center is that students will pick a center to work on each day to practice a variety of writing skills including target descriptive writing, narrative writing, sentence building, sequencing, making inferences, vocabulary building, imaginative writing, and more. But since the structure will stay the same – ie. the centers – it will provide the routine my kids need. I plan on keeping the centers the same throughout the year and just making them more complicated/complex as we more on. So now for some pictures 🙂

  • Best part of this: It only takes up a shelf and a half!!! (The yellow binders are part of the language center.) The colored binders, 2 gray bin, and finished bin – that’s it 🙂

  • Students check in:
  • Each center starts out with a simple direction page with visual cues.

  • Some of the center materials:

  • All centers have matching labels (duh…)
Ugh I’m kind of in love with how cute it turned out. Here is a video tutorial. This goes somewhat into what’s in all the centers. I’ll be doing some posts within the next few weeks more in depth on what’s in each center.

These 10 centers are available on TpT. The packet includes labels and visual directions for all 10 centers, prompts/worksheets/printables for the content of each center, photos and directions for setup, the clothing pin schedule, and the following 2 anchor charts (which I post in the front and back of each center).

Click on the pic below to see this product on TpT 🙂


  1. Amazing just got word I will be teaching a 6th grade autism class I love your stuff

  2. Thanks Linda 🙂

  3. I really really love this idea of Writing centers and want to buy it, but how do you use it with your lowest functioning kids who can’t necessarily write at all? Next year, I’ll have a few who have such fine motor problems that they don’t write – I guess they could use their Alpha Smart or iPad? Just wanted to hear what you did – thanks for all the help!

  4. Hi Sasha,
    I saw that you wrote that you are constantly drilling the kids with wh- questions. What supports/activities do you use to do work on this?
    I always love looking at your blog and I’m so impressed with everything you do!

  5. Thanks for reading, Sofia! Yes – we are ALWAYS asking questions. Start with concrete ones – “Where are we walking to? “Who is in your group?” “What do you need to write on this paper?” “When do we eat lunch?” etc – Exposing children to a variety of naturalistic wh- questions will enable them to differentiate between the types of questions (who, what, where, etc.). This is often the biggest area of difficulty! Check out this intervention I love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8rsc8__EVI

  6. Does the student only do one writing notebook a day? How long do your students have at each center?

  7. Yes, the typically just do one notebook. They have about 15 minutes at each center. But by the time they transition in and get settled it’s a little less.

  8. If all your kids are working on a different center, how do you manage since they are not independent? I love this idea but wanted to know how you are able to control multiple centers at once. ( I understand using paras) what does it look like during that time?

  9. If they aren’t independent than an aide runs the center. With the writing centers – I monitored and taught it for a while and than phased it into being run independently. This year some of my kids now do this center independently. I check all of their work on Friday and give points for work that is done well. This gives a delayed contingency for complete work!

  10. Awww thanks so much!

  11. Awesome! That’s a lot of work but I am sure it will pay dividends in the long run! Got a beginning reader/writer autistic child in my class. Looking forward to trying some of this out.

  12. Hope it goes well! Thanks for reading 🙂

  13. Thank you for your very careful explanations and links on this. The school my son attends isn’t doing anything really to help him with his writing, so it’s going to be up to me. Not being a teacher, I have been searching for helpful ideas and I’m so grateful to have stumbled upon your blog. Thank you.

  14. So glad this has been helpful for you! Let me know how it goes with your son!

  15. This is awesome. I have a special needs class in Australia, 6 students, varied ages and needs. I will be using this for sure! (just bought it on TPT) Thanks so much for sharing!!

  16. Great! So happy you like it!

  17. my son is entering kindergarten and is autistic. The principal refuses my request that he work on writing his name on a line. He says research shows that autistic children in kindergarten learn how to write better if they do not have to write on a line. He has not provided me where to find this research. Is this unreasonable for me to expect the school to work on writing on a line rather than letters all over his paper? Help me to have research to support my request

  18. Hi Sue! That is so interesting. I haven’t heard of such a strict position on the topic. What about suggesting to them using other prompts like highlighted boundaries, small boxes, etc. Does you child receive Occupational Therapy? The OT will be your best resource on evidence based practices and developmental needs. Hope this helps! Good luck!

  19. I’m currently hunting for ways to help him with writing, and your blog is such a great resource, as usual! My son (first grade) hates literacy stations/writing. (They are using Writer’s Workshop.) Almost every day he has some sort of incident, non-compliance or disruptive behavior, etc, during these subjects. It breaks my heart b/c I know he’s acting out of frustration, and if we could find a way for him to connect with what’s being asked of him, he’d flourish! I just need to figure out how he needs to have these tasks presented, I guess. His aide says he does fine when he can fill in worksheets using a reference book but he shuts down when he has to write his own ideas. He also dislikes handwriting, which I’m not surprised watching him form letters. He appears to stop and think about how to form every other letter or so. I’m not sure if the formation is ingrained bad habit or if visual-motor issues are also a factor. It all adds up to a very frustrating hour and twenty minute session for him.

    This morning, I wanted to try different strategies for testing his comprehension and retelling skills, so I asked him to tell his dad about the Minecraft book, (Diary of an 8-bit Warrior highly recommended for MC enthusiasts!) we read last night. (I read a chapter each night, sometimes more if it’s good!) First, I simply said “Retell the chapter to dad using your own words.” He couldn’t come up with much at all. Then I started giving him prompts, wh- type questions, and darned if he didn’t begin practically reciting the book word for word!! I said things like: “What was significant about the way the mobs were fighting?” “Why was it particularly noteworthy that they used leather armor?” “How is this different than the real world game of Minecraft?”, “Why was Runt (the main character) surprised by_____”, etc. I threw in a couple “how do you think you’d react in that situation?” inquiries. He even began to add things on his own.

    Is this a good example of how to get the ideas flowing for kids like him? If I can find a couple things he connects with, I thought I’d try passing them along to his teacher and aide. I think he’ll eventually internalize these types of things, as long as we can help him succeed before he burns out, if that makes sense.

  20. Yes definitely! I think you are going in the right direction. Start switching up how comprehension is assessed. Maybe he draws a picture from the book, tells someone about it, or verbally answers questions. If he is really struggling with handwriting – could he type the answers or use some interactive component on the iPad. If he is so focused on handwriting, it may be hard for him to focus on the literacy task. Hope this helps!


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