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Tuesday 19 January 2016

Running Centers in a SPED Classroom

Hi Everyone!  Wow!  I can't believe it's been 2 months since I wrote a blog post!!!  December and January were crazy for me!  December is always busy getting ready for Christmas, as I am sure it is for everyone, but this December was extra stressful as my classroom moved to a new school.  In my town, student enrolment has been steadily declining over the years, with the smaller rural schools in my county closing.  To avoid closing more schools and also deal with their current deficit, my board is closing classrooms in schools across the county in an effort to cut back on operating costs.  One of the classrooms to be closed was a Kindergarten classroom, MY old Kindergarten classroom to be exact, with a washroom, sink and air conditioning.  Three things that my other classroom did not have.  It is also bigger, which is great for my high energy students.  So, the decision was made to move...and moving day was planned for the day before Christmas break!!!  (Obviously, this decision was made by people who do not teach everyday in a SPED classroom).  I kept teaching until the Thursday before the we move.  Students left at 2:45, the movers showed up at 2:30. and I had to have my entire classroom packed up and ready to go by that time.  So needless, to say it was crazy  and not well thought out at all by my administration.  And since we are locked out of our schools over Christmas break, I have spent several late nights and weekends in January unpacking and setting up my new room, while teaching everyday.


With the start of a new year, in a new classroom, I have been revamping my math and literacy programs.  Most of you know that I use the Hawaii Early Learning Profile, which you can read about here, as my curriculum and use the Match, Select, Name program for teaching literacy, which you can read about here.  If any of you use these curriculums, you know that they do not come with teaching materials.  I have spent a lot of time researching resources that are appropriate for my students with severe autism (and some with MR as well-we use the clinical terminology of Mental Retardation as diagnosed by IQ and developmental assessments.  It is not used in a derogatory sense, just as a clinical term) and sometimes what I think will work, doesn't.  So, I have started making my own resources, with will be posted in my TPT store soon.  

Today, however, I want to share with you how I run centres in my classroom.  I have written about the independent work system I use in my room, but think it is just important to set up an efficient and effective way to run centres as well, especially when you are teaching primary grades.  It is even more important in my classroom as we prepare students to work in small groups, as they would in inclusive classroom settings.  (My classroom is a transitional classroom, meaning students are in my room for treatment for a short period and then transition into a regular classroom.)  As such, we try to use activities that are similar to what they will experience in their home schools, but that are still developmentally appropriate for them.

Learning Centers can be an important and fun part of your classroom, and can supplement and support the regular curriculum. They create opportunities for collaborative learning as well as differentiation of instruction.  In my classroom, we run centres as part of our math and literacy instruction.  For each subject, we start with whole group instruction at the SMART board.  For this lesson, I review the concepts we are working on for the day and we complete one of the activities (the newest one introduced) from our centre activities.  This gives the students a chance to complete the activity correctly and primes them for it.

We run three different centres during math and literacy.  I use the Work Centre Bundle from Autism Adventures to organize my students.  This kit provides all of the visuals you need to get your students moving between the centres independently.

We have three centres in our room during math and literacy.  The green table contains activities that the students are able to complete independently.  This requires some differentiation, as my students have differing abilities and haven't mastered all of the same skills.  This centre mostly contains matching tasks, clothespins tasks, or sorting tasks.  We also use iPads at this centre, as it is easier to differentiate within apps and all of my students LOVE using them!
Differentiated literacy tasks for green table

Sample math activity for green table
At the blue table, students complete tasks in which they require supervision and some prompting.  These tasks include completing worksheets or games, especially for math.  I like to use a lot of manipulative when teaching my students and math games are the perfect way to incorporate lots of hands on fun!

Differentiated literacy worksheets for blue table

Differentiated literacy worksheets for blue table

Sample math worksheet for blue table

Sample math task for blue table

The red table is reserved for teacher time.  This is where the students work one-on-one with either myself or an EA on acquisition level skills.  We run discrete trials at this table and work on those skills that the students are currently learning.  This table also requires differentiation and each student has their own folder which holds their target words, numbers, books, or counting materials.

Student's literacy folder

Sample of sight word flash cards

After the students complete all three centres, they receive the reinforcer they selected before starting their work.

Do you use centres in your classroom?  How do you run small group instruction in your room?  I'd love to hear from you!  Leave me a comment below and don't forget to check back with We Teach SPED tomorrow to see what we have in store for you!

And make sure you stop by TPT on the 20th and 21st for the site widesale!  I will have some new products posted, including Valentine's themed math centre activities and games and worksheets that you can use in during your centre times!


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