Research has shown that students with special needs will have an increased benefit of comprehension and encouragement when placed in classrooms with separate learning stations. This allows for natural exploration and usually a more hands on learning experience for the student. The concept of workstations (also known as centers or mini-environments) in an early learning classroom is not new. In fact, many successful preschools, kindergartens, and elementary (primary) grades design their classrooms around this idea because there is a consensus that young children learn by exploring and playing.
For students to have the freedom to engage in the activities that interest them and learn at their own pace promotes positive attitudes toward education and also elicits better behavior. As it turns out, including workstations in the early classroom environment also supports the learning efforts of students with special needs. Here are a few benefits of the workstation environment for special needs kids.
1. As with all children, workstations will help foster a love of education by allowing a special needs child to learn at his or her own level and pace. 2. Focused learning centers can encourage student’s at all academic skill levels to interact socially and work together. 3. Stations can meet special sensory needs and challenges. 4. Learning centers can help to ease the sometimes-intimidating transition from a home environment to a school environment because this method of education is similar to the way children learn at home. 5. Workstation classroom design doesn’t require kids with ADHD or other impulse control issues to sit still for too long. 6. Mini environments allow teachers to spend quality time with each student individually throughout the day. 7. Centers in the classroom encourage students to explore their interests and subsequently bolster confidence in anxious or shy children. So, one might ask “What does an effective classroom design look like? ”
This is answer is easy and doesn’t require too much thought. In order for a work station-type of classroom environment to be successful, work centers should be set up so that only a limited number of children can work there at one time. Toys and materials should be organized and easy to reach. Instructions on how to complete a workstation task should be clear, simple, and intuitive.
Finally, students should be required to replace all items once a workstation task is completed before they are allowed to move on to something else. Mini environments in the classroom can take on many different forms and teach a multitude of important skills. This allows teachers to really get creative with them and even modify them on a regular basis so that their students continuously acquire a fresh educational perspective. Listed below are some of the ideas that I would like to see with regard to workstations in my classroom that are complimentary to the special needs student. A dress up or pretend play corner will encourage imagination, dress up skills, and verbal/performance abilities.
* A math center may use items such as big and little blocks, heavy and light balls, or containers partially and totally filled with clay. Make a scale available to weigh items. * A center for reading may include colorful and engaging stories as well as books that appeal to the senses with textures or smells. * Language arts workstations may provide an activity for matching little toys with letter cards or a simple letter tracing activity with colored crayons and pencils. Music workstations could contain musical instruments or a CD player with selections of various types of music to enhance auditory skills. Coloring and a simple arts and craft activity could accompany the music.
* Motor skills centers can encourage fine motor skills development by requiring students to pour small amounts of liquid, transfer small items from one bowl to another with tongs, or cut paper with safety scissors. * Other sensory workstations can contain warm and cold items, squishy balls or slimy clay, sand tables, or rough and smooth toys. Try sandpaper art. * Obstacle courses can provide students with an opportunity to improve coordination.
* Healthy snack stations will give special needs children a chance to reenergize and use their oral senses. Ultimately, classrooms designed with workstations allow special needs children to learn at their own developmental stage. These type classrooms also encourage all students to work together, help each other, and enhance their academic abilities in preparation for the tougher learning requirements to come.