Classroom Centers and Activities for Older Students
Active Learning is an approach that can be used with learners of any age, if they are functioning under a 4-year-old developmental level (48 months). Many activities are suitable for learners of all ages, using materials from the environment and familiar objects.
For ideas on setting up centers for older students (13-22 years), see Suzanne Becker’s article Developing My Classroom for Secondary-Aged Students Who Aren’t Actively Engaging with People or Objects. The classroom centers she describes are listed below, with video examples of students doing activities in various parts of the classroom.
A calendar center can include an area with each student’s communication system located nearest to the door, where they can communicate about past, present and/or future events. It is important to have any objects symbols or tactile symbols the student might use in an area where they can access them at any time to use in expressive communication. So for example, the student might go on their own to the Calendar Center to get an object to request a specific activity.
Kitchen or Cooking Center
A vocational center might include a paper shredder, can crusher, cans, trash receptacle on wheels, plastic bags, a broom, watering cans, smooth stones, planters, shovels, scoops, water hoses, paint rollers, dusters, mop heads and containers with lids. You might have bins that contain items associated with a specific job or task such as gardening tools, cleaning tools, animal care items, and so forth. The student may want to explore these and share about them with an adult before or after completing the activity.
Think of using some of these materials in different ways. For example, use a tub of water with mops and paint brushes to “paint” the sidewalks or walls of buildings outside. Use rakes to play in the sand or gardening tools to unearth “fossils” in a sand table.
Gross Motor Center
The gross motor center may include equipment such as a swing, mats, tricycles, scooter boards, roller skates, and rocking chair. If your classroom is too small for these materials, consider using a physical therapy space or an area of the gym where these items can be enjoyed. You might include items like ping pong paddles, badminton and tennis rackets that might be used to swing at items hung overhead. For more ideas watch this adapted PE video from Dr. Elina Mullen.
A throwing center can include items such as balls of various shapes, sizes, colors and weights, plastic bottles with different materials on the inside and textures glued to the outside. You can have many of these items attached to an Activity Wall or Position Board with elastic. You can also create a space to throw into metal bins or buckets so they make a sound. Using a soccer net to contain flying objects or a hanging curtain might be needed in some instances.
Video Examples of Active Learning Activities for Older Students
Co-Active Movement in Hygiene Center
Description: A teenage boy and his teacher gently twisting side-to-side while exploring hand lotion.
Description: A teenage boy and his teacher explore different hairbrushes.
Active Learning Calming Materials In the Sensory Center
Drum Interaction in Sensory Center