Thursday, August 14, 2014

Our ECSE Classroom's Schedule: Part Two - Centers (8:15 am - 9:40 am)

I am back!  It is 8:15 and time for centers or what we like to call "Learning Rotations".  I stole the term from two amazing educators doing wonderful work here in western Kansas, Teri Berkgren & Dixie Teeter.  They use the term for their older students whom are involved in structured teaching rotations within an inclusive setting. However, I stole the term for our classroom to help parents and staff recognize that although our centers revolve around play activities, they are very much learning opportunities!

Following arrival time, the students begin their 80 to 100 minutes of learning rotations.  Depending on if we get to go outdoors for recess and how many peers and staff groups there are, each rotation is 10 to 15 minutes.  Staff members know which center they will supervise with which student(s) by looking at this magnetic marker board chart. 

It is perfect for staff as the center photos and student pictures are on magnetic dots so we can change the chart as needed when peers or staff are absent. We can write little reminders to staff using a dry erase marker.   

The students know where they are starting learning rotations by the icon or object they are presented through their individual schedules.  I am not going to get into the centers themselves as you can go to each centers link below to see more details.

However I will share a few logistical details about learning rotations.  We have four staff people in the classroom (and sometimes an extra volunteer).  Each person is in charge of two centers.  The students rotate around the room in a clockwise motion. 

Staff have the flexibility to rotate each group through their centers in a way that works for the group.  For example if we are switching adults every 20 minutes, the staff person can choose to have her group at her first center for 12 minutes and then do the other center for 8 minutes.  The whole idea is that we work with the students’ interests and abilities in mind.  Some students even leave the classroom with their paired adult between centers to do a functional errand or two. (I will share more about that later).   
I provide my staff with the tools and flexibility to support the kids however is best for each group. The only stipulation is that the group must work in both centers and complete their work for both centers before the 20 minutes is up and it is time for students to switch adults.  
At which time, we try to sing this song.  It is to the tune of Clementine. Originally I got it from Miss Joelene, an amazing preschool teacher here in Hays, who got it from Mailbox Magazine.  We changed the words a bit so we could work on the transition piece as well as saying goodbye and hello to staff.   
Changing centers, changing centers,
It is time for something new,
Changing centers, changing centers,
It is time to say goodbye to YOU!
Note: When I first started teaching in the special education preschool classroom, my staff and I were each assigned to a student or group of students per day.  We would go with our group to every center with our student or group of students.  We did so simply because I couldn’t wrap my mind around how the kids could possibly transition by themselves.  

With individual schedules and intentional teaching, you would be surprised how quickly the kids picked up on the transitions.  It is also a much better fit for staff.  We don’t all have to learn how to run each center instead we can focus on our expert center.  It also benefits the students as they learn to work with every staff person, every day.  It has also made my job a whole lot easier.  I teach direct instruction for each student so I have the ability to touch base with them every day and really work on their individual IEP goals in a one on one format. 
So there you have it.  It is 10:00 and Learning Rotations are over and it is time for Large Group!  Join me next time for more details.



  1. I just found your blog! So exciting! I'm an ECSE in FL! I'm amazed you have so many staff in your room. I only have me and my assistant! I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around how you do the centers! How many students does each staff get and how do you teach them to rotate? My students don't seem capable enough. I have hard enough time just keeping them from wandering around from center to center and knocking everything down.

    1. So glad you enjoy my blog. It takes sometime for students to learn the rotation but it is well worth it in the end. We have 1 to 4 kids per group and we use individual schedules to help students become independent at rotations. Depending on the students' level they transition from center to center by matching picture icons or objects. I am hoping to get a post out about these schedules soon. Best wishes with your kiddos. Let me know if I can help in anyway!

  2. I have the same situation - only 2 adults and 15 (yes 15!)students per session. We also have PT equipment and service providers pulling kids out at random times! Implementing 15 visuals can be wild at times - creative planning is needed!

    1. Wow that is a busy classroom! Best wishes with your planning!

  3. Hi, can you tell me how many rotations you do? In the picture of the magnet board you show 4 rotations, but then you list 9 different centers. Would you mind giving more detail on how you run this portion of your schedule? Thanks!