Centers or “Play centers” are centers that are intentionally planned; with a purpose in mind. A lot of my play based centers are planned around IEP goals and or functional skills. I’ve used centers to address IEP Goals as a Life Skills Special Education Teacher and in my Early Childhood Special Education Co-Teach classroom. Keep reading to learn how I set my centers up and to see examples of centers.
What skills do I target?
My go to as a special education teacher are the IEP goals. My 3-5 year olds usually have play based, social or functional goals. A lot of which can be addressed through play. If your child or student does not have IEP goals I would recommend looking at a developmental check list and choosing target skills from there. Some skills I target are turn taking, imitating, sequencing, language, cause and effect and staying on task with a preferred activity. There are many more skills that can be target during play. Below you will find a developmental checklist I found for free on the CDC website.
How do I set up?
Once you have your target skills you will purposely plan when you will address these goals. This should be on our lesson plan. For example:
Once you know when you will address the goal, you will begin to collect materials. To target imitating for Cindy*, I might use a doll and visuals for feeding, changing clothes and bottle. The goal would be for her to demonstrate she can play with a doll according to its purpose. All the materials should be within your own classroom with the exception of visuals or other accommodations such as timers and reinforcers. Pictured above you see four cause and effect toys. They were set up at a table to grab the students attention. Once students are at the table I join them for a couple of minutes to model and teach. Check out my blog on cause and effect here.
Depending on the student, I might set up several centers throughout the room, just a couple or pull 1:1 Usually during my blended morning class, I join them at the center of their choice. In my P.M self contained class, I set up only two table or sometime just one table with toys that were intentionally chosen for that student.
Visuals, Visuals, Visuals
I love, love , love this new play center visual from Simply Special Ed. This is a great source that helps fade teacher supports as it provides opportunities for students to be independent. The visuals lets everyone in the room know (para’s included), what is expected of the student. This also addressed the needs of my ESL students. I ‘m frequently referring to the visual and exposing to the student to new language all while student puts together the potato head.
Bins are my favorite thing ever! I keep my visuals and the corresponding toy (if it’s not too big), in drawers or bins. This helps me stay organized and I can easily remember where I put a specific toy that I may need.
The Play Center Visual comes with its own data sheet. This is awesome because I love anything that is pre made and makes my life easier. I also really recommend these Data Sheets because they are easy to edit and help me stay organized. Along with my developmental checklist, my data sheets and lesson plans, I can easily keep track and monitor growth. How do you track play based learning? I hope you were able to take away some tips. Until next time!