Saturday, November 5, 2016

An Inside Look at My Classroom Centers

I often get asked how I keep up with it all!  Sometimes I actually wonder this myself, but I will say one of my key timesavers is the way I organize my classroom centers. 

Each week we focus on a letter and a number.  Each day, we do fifteen to twenty minute rotations at the literacy center, math center, and art center to work on concepts related to the letter and number of the week. 

As you can see in the photos each center is also detailed with a color. Red is literacy, orange is art, and blue is math.  This helps our students know where to go for each activity as the colors are used on the schedules of students who are not yet readers.  

At the literacy center the students practice writing the letter of the week (with the help of Heidi Songs and Handwriting Without Tears concepts).  Then they make and read a story about the letter (with the help of The Printable Princess). Then they identify words that start with the letter (with the help of Crystal McGinnis' I Know My Alphabet Sounds).  These three steps are done using a three drawer worksystem so students know how much work, what work, and when the work is finished as suggested by the TEACCH model.  

Students know that their work is done when they have completed the work in drawers A, B, and C.  For most the drawers themselves are enough for them to understand how much work but for some we add a picture frame to mark off each activity or a match to match icon system for those that need movement, as they stand up and match the icons to the drawers, then bring the contents of the drawer back to table and sit down to work.

Notice that each drawer also has a detailed description of what to do with the contents of the drawer this so staff can support students at each center in a consistent manner.  

But how did we make it simple to switch out materials at the end of the week?  By filing them in a Letter of the Week Bin that is stored on top of the metal cabinet at the literacy center that doubles as a magnetic letter wall and storage for other letter and literacy materials.  

Also inside the bin are letter of the week interactive letter books by Gabriella Dixon from Teaching Special Thinkers for the library center and art projects that are made at the art center each day.   In order to have the materials for the art projects ready for each week, I put them in my staffs' to do tube to work on during free moments a week or two before each letter is the letter of the week.  Then they go in drawer three (the STOP THIS IS FOR TEACHERS drawer) at the art center for future use. 

In drawer one, we have each day's art project and in drawer two we have art choices for the week that  students can play with after they finish each day's art project.  Note on Mondays the students do not have a daily art project as they simply learn how to use and play with the art choices of the week.  Then on Tuesday they do an art project with the capital letter, on Wednesday they do an art project with the lowercase letter and on Friday they make an alphabet zoo letter to add to their alphabet book.  
(On Thursday's our students have the privilege of doing adaptive art with our building's art teacher!)

Note the Friday art projects are stored in a small file system on the cabinet by the art center so we can simply begin alphabetizing each students' book as we complete it page.

That's all I have time for today, but stay tune for how I organize the math center and other classroom areas!

Happy Organizing, 


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