Issue 54: Ways to Survive ASD Parenting and Stay Thankful
Issue 58: Winning Ways to Share the Love with All of Your Children
Issue 81: When Special Education Fails to Be Special
I started this series last week. It will have many parts to it in hopes to pull together everything I have learned about setting up an ESE classroom for our children's ministry at church. Last week was an overview. This week is about centers.
I love centers. I think every classroom needs them. They break up the monotony of the room and provide different areas for different activities as well as different kids. Obviously, being at church, I wanted my centers to be Bible themed. Here is what I came up with. Mind you, these are just my centers. In a future post, I will outline everything in those centers in greater detail.
Storytime with Sarah is our center where the kids can re-create or retell our Bible story from the day with our felt boards, story sticks, dress-up clothes, blocks (for building tabernacles and cities), and our light table. It is also where our memory verse is kept visible, as well as the individual reward charts for the kids learning those verses. Our day's visual schedule is on this wall too since it is the first thing the kids see when they enter our classroom. I got the star cutouts for the wall here. Storytime with Sarah actually shares the wall with our next center.
Music with Martha & Mary is our music station. As you can see, because it shares a wall with Storytime with Sarah, the shelf hosts more felt boards and pieces, as well as provides a place for our dress-up clothes to be stored. But mostly, this is where we keep our CD player and a huge assortment of CD's (everything from previous year's VBS music to Scripture songs to good old-fashioned praise and worship). I printed out a picture of Psalm 105:2 and even put a bin of children's instruments for the kids to use to play their own music. I got those cute music note cutouts here.
Noah's Nook is a place for the kids to go and sit and look at books, all Bible story related. The rainbow is simply colored tablecloths from Dollar Tree cut into one-foot lengths and glued together. Glue did not like the material of the tablecloths so we had to use clear packaging tape on the seams on the reverse side as well. I have a table with a castle and a bucket of knights and dragons nearby so they can make their own stories. I also have a cute finger puppet theater and bin of Bible finger puppets here as well.
And what about those clouds? They are looking a little worse for wear after a year now, but considering they are in front of the air conditioner vent blowing on them constantly, they have withstood the test of time nonetheless. I found the tutorial here. It's basically paper lanterns with polyfill hot glued around the outside. Before the polyfill goes on though, thread clear glass crystal beads through fishing line and tie them to the shaping wire inside the lantern. Make sure the beads hang at different lengths to give the appearance of raindrops. You can use different sized paper lanterns for different sized clouds too.
Daniel's Drive-In is where our video time happens. I also scored a great big lot of Veggie Tales movies on eBay to add to our movie library! The idea for the lion's head came from this Pin. As with all of my large paper decorations, I use sheets of poster paper cut from rolls at our local teacher supply store.
Jesus Calms the Storm is a place with some soft fuzzy chairs for kids who need to just go and sit and diffuse. It has an Inside Out inspired feelings board to help them identify what they are feeling, why they are feeling that way, and how to handle those feelings in a positive way. I bought poster boards in various shades of blue and just cut wave shapes from them. Using brown and white poster board and a small dowel rod, I made a ship. With gray and silver poster boards, I made some clouds and lightning. The decorations were inspired by this Pin. John 14:27 is on this wall as well.
Caleb's Craft Crossing is where we keep our craft supplies, as well as a table for crafting if the kids would like. I got those cute red and blue bins for glue, crayons, markers, and pencils at Dollar Tree. I am a bit OCD and so I label absolutely everything, even the obvious. I figure it doesn't hurt to have those printed words associated with objects everywhere as some of our kids are not reading yet and so they will learn to match the written words with what they are seeing. Some of the labels I simply make in Word, print out, and tape in place. Others I actually use my labeler for. I'm in love with my labeler!
Again, a plastic tablecloth from Dollar Tree to add color to the table and protect it from the markers and glue. The Sterilite 3-drawer bin on wheels houses craft supplies and stickers, paper, and coloring books.
The giant grapes on the wall were inspired by this Pin. It is basically green cardstock leaves, a twisted length of brown packaging paper, and purple paper plates from Dollar Tree.
Prayer is so important and, the earlier kids learn how to pray, the better. Paul's Prayer Place is all about prayer. The idea for the center came from some coloring sheets about Paul and Silas in prison. We have a prayer request bucket, which is really just a recycled large snack container. I keep a Dollar Tree basket of scraps of construction paper and a pen nearby. We discuss prayer requests before we pray and I write the requests on the slips of paper and put them in our container.
Every month, we take our prayer requests out, figure out which ones God has already answered, and then roll them up and put them into our toilet paper tube answered prayers cross inspired by this site.
I also have a Lego prayer board for the kids who are more tactile and like to "feel." They can press a Lego piece into the cross for each prayer requests they give me. I keep another of those Dollar Tree bins filled with different colored Lego bricks nearby for this. The idea came from this post.
I also created a poster outlining the A.C.T.S. prayer for the kids (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication). I even assigned a different colored Lego brick to each piece of the prayer so the kids can use the Lego cross to help them to remember to pray every aspect of the A.C.T.S. prayer.
Philippians 4:6 is printed out on our prayer wall too!
Solomon's Sensory Center is all about those sensory-seekers, be they for touch, hearing, or sight. I will have a whole blog post on sensory items in the classroom since this is such a biggie. Suffice it to say, it gets its own dedicated center.
Peter's Play Patch is the last of our centers. The idea for Peter's fishing boat was inspired by this Pin. I will detail what exactly is in Peter's Play Patch in a future post on toys, but I will tell you that our toys have to serve some greater purpose to be in the classroom. They are fun, but they have to teach a life skill or work on fine motor skills or social skills. And yes, that is a large freezer you see in the picture. We currently share a part of our classroom with our women's resource center and so we have a fridge and freezer in our room. But as you can see, I just incorporated them into our classroom and gave them their own purpose and function.
And there you have it! That's post #2 in this series and it's all about centers. Be creative and come up with ideas of your own or feel free to use mine. We're all in this together and I am more than happy to share.
I am a Christian. I am a wife. I am a mom. I am an author. In that order.