Monday, February 27, 2017

How to Differentiate Your Centers Easily

I've written about my center rotation system a couple of times, but never in isolation or with details of how I often have to differentiate my centers within one group to meet my already differentiated groups and all of my students' needs. 

To start with the basics....and I must add, at this time, I am working with moderate to high functioning students. I teach grades 3-5, but do have a 2nd grader this year. I have students with Autism, Downs, MI, HI, and am mostly consumed with EBD students this year and this is how I differentiate centers in our classroom. 

Back to the basics. With three grade levels, I find that I can easily break my students into 3 to 4 groups that fit nicely. One group is my very low-non-readers/non-verbal students that are on more of a functional curriculum, one group is my beginning readers, one group is my students that are reading but are 2-4 years below their grade level, and one group is my high functioning group that are at or near grade level, but are in my room due to severe and extreme behaviors. 

I color code my groups into 3-4 colors; so I have a pink, blue, green, and yellow group and these colors remain consistent throughout my centers. This is ONE center in my reading rotations; the "Word Work Center." 

One of my aides works this center and knows exactly what to to with each group of students depending on what I have placed in that groups' basket. 

I also use this same system for my Math Centers. When I took these photos last week, I only had 3 groups for math, but that has since changed with our school-wide schedule change and I now have a "yellow" group included here too. This is my "Number Work" Center that one of my aides also runs.

These colors also correspond with the same colors at the "Teacher Table" center. Reading is kept in their color-coded basket, while math is kept under their basket keeping it easy for them to manage during reading and math centers.

Again, my groups are organized based on the criteria I mentioned above and here is my visual center rotation chart. I always have my students rotate counter-clockwise so this is easy for them to learn and follow. My centers are on the walls around the room, so they are not bouncy back and forth. Having them rotate counter-clockwise provides a nice, easy rotation flow for them that they can easily follow after a few days of practice. 
This year, I have only one student that requires an individualized step-by-step schedule, and this is his schedule. 
Note that his daily schedule matches the pictures on the class rotation schedule. 

Each time the timer goes off and it is time to rotate, he checks his schedule by grabbing his next visual and then matches it to the corresponding visual located in his next center.

Like this! 
This is his number work station, so he matches the visual from his schedule to the corner of this poster and knows he is in this center until the timer goes off again! 

Here is an example of his Word Work Station Visual that he will independently rotate to.

This looks like our Whole Group Station, but it is actually a picture of whole group posted on our whole group board where he will match this visual to. 

Here he will match his technology visual schedule piece when he rotates to computers. 

Here he will match his "At Your Seat" visual schedule icon when it is time for him to rotate to this center. This is taped at his seat and where we do IEP Tubs. Some of these are a little worn, but it just shows how much they are being used and what it really looks like.

Although my centers are pretty differentiated in themselves with my four groups, I still find that I still sometimes need to differentiate even further within each center. Here are some ways I differentiated Math in my classroom last week in each center. 

This is such an easy one to differentiate! On this game in my "Number Work" station, students typically would roll two die, make an addition problem, solve it, and then remove that heart. For my lower functioning students I use it as counting practice for them. They simply count the dots on each die and remove that number. Students on different levels can still play together. :)

Here we were working on "10 more, 10 less" and "1 more, 1 less." Some students needed a hundreds chart while some students didn't. 

By the way, this little guy aced this activity with his hundreds chart. I was so proud of him!

I love these math fact task cards from TouchMath! Some of my students will complete these using touchpoints, while some of my students don't need them. Some of my students may need a numberline or manipulatives to complete these. It's all about differentiating for what EACH of your students need!

I love this math curriculum from Angie Neal! I differentiate it by using my flair pen to make touchpoints on the numbers for this student. 

I created these Money Mats to be differentiated for 3 levels in my classroom (Level One not shown). Students just learning money and to count by 5's can complete Level 2, while more advanced students can complete Level 3 where they actually count out the coins.  

This is another center I differentiated last week in my centers. Some students were required to simply add the next sequence to the pattern, while higher functioning students were required to add the next 3 sequences without a box, plus discriminate between big, small, and medium. 

Yes, my students are doing this! Some do only ones, some do tens and ones, and some can do hundreds, tens, and ones. I actually have a new student that can do thousands! :) Again, I differentiate depending upon student needs and levels.

Differentiating money is super easy! Who doesn't love money! Some of my students can tell me the name of the coin, while some can tell me the value of the coin, some may tell me how many quarters make up a dollar, and then I have a couple that can actually count dimes and nickels.

Another easy one to differentiate! TIME! All of my students can tell time to the hour, so this is what they practice. Some can tell time to the hour and some can tell time the quarter hour, and I'm even teaching my high group to tell time to the minute. These clock matching puzzles and other clock activities are so easy to differentiate with all of these unique learners. 

When it comes to reading and phonics, look how easy this activity was to differentiate. Four students working on four different skills. One student was working middle sounds, one on ending sounds, one on building the whole word and one was learning to write the whole word. Differentiation at its best!

My students ALL love these, and while they are perfect for my beginning readers, my readers want to play them too! So how I differentiate for them while still letting them participate and play these games is I challenge them to give me the long vowel word for the short vowel word, give me a rhyming word for each word, or for higher functioning students, they have to write a sentence with their word. 

Writing is probably the most needed differentiated task in my classroom! While we all write on the same topic, I have students that write on this paper and copy modeled sentences and some that write paragraphs in regular lined papered journals.

I have students that write in beginner writer journals, and some that write on raised line paper to practice letter formation and staying on the baseline. 

This is another BIG part of differentiating in my classroom! My IEP Tubs! One of my popular posts to can read it here....and one of my most favorite centers in my classroom that is always differentiation at its best! I won't go into detail here, but you can certainly learn more about my IEP Tubs here

I really hope you take away some ideas for how to better set up and differentiate centers in your classroom to better meet your students' needs! You can read more details about my center setup and how I manage them and my paras' time here. Feel free to post questions if you have them and I will be happy to answer!

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