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Help Students Learn With These Multi-Sensory Activities

Do you have students who have limited experiences to draw from when they are learning something new? Most of my students don't have the needed background knowledge to easily learn new material. Here are 2 ways we made concepts in the polar unit come to life for my kiddos.

These multi-sensory learning activities help give students the needed background knowledge to better understand polar unit concepts.


Most of my students have been exposed to many different animals over the years. What they don't understand is how those animals compare to them. To help give them a better sense of comparison, we made polar bear paw prints and placed our foot print on top of them. For this part, students had to request the needed materials to assemble the polar bear paw while talking about and labeling the parts of the paw (toes, claws, etc.). We got to sneak in some extra math as they counted out the toes and claws. Finally, students predicted who would have the bigger foot- the polar bear or the students. Guess what.... none of them thought their foot would be smaller!

These multi-sensory learning activities help give students the needed background knowledge to better understand polar unit concepts.

Once students had finished assembling their paws, they had to take off their socks and shoes and get their foot painted. 

These multi-sensory learning activities help give students the needed background knowledge to better understand polar unit concepts.

They were shocked to see that the polar bear foot was bigger than theirs!

These multi-sensory learning activities help give students the needed background knowledge to better understand polar unit concepts.


The other activity we did to build background knowledge was to mock up ice fishing. We talked about how you would get through the ice, how cold it would be staying out there waiting for fish to bite, etc. Then we went "fishing" for math facts. 

These multi-sensory learning activities help give students the needed background knowledge to better understand polar unit concepts.

Some of them had a really hard time maneuvering the pole to get a fish and bring it up through the hole. We worked on using two hands together to make the pole more steady and straight. It was harder than I expected!!

These multi-sensory learning activities help give students the needed background knowledge to better understand polar unit concepts.

Once they got their fish out, they had to write the problem on the white board and figure out the answer. These fish are a freebie over at Marsh McGuire's TPT store. There are addition and subtraction fish, so the students had to decide which type of problem it was and write it in the correct column.


These multi-sensory learning activities help give students the needed background knowledge to better understand polar unit concepts.

They had a ball and when it was over, they had practiced a lot of math! Win!!

These multi-sensory learning activities help give students the needed background knowledge to better understand polar unit concepts.

To make these activities more manageable, we split the class in half so there was a small group at each activity. It worked really well. Students were able to get multiple turns and hands on opportunities and we were able to have more staff at the polar bear table. I would definitely recommend extra hands when you paint the bottoms of their feet!!

Get more materials and ideas for your polar unit by clicking the picture. It includes TONS of visuals and leveled activities to help all of our students learn. 




These multi-sensory learning activities help give students the needed background knowledge to better understand polar unit concepts.


Combine Math and Writing For Extra Practice With Question Of The Day


It can be difficult to fit in all of the different skills and topics that students in our special education classroom need. We need to be sneaky and clever in order to do it! We need to find a way to avoid behaviors that math and writing might trigger. We also need be clever about how to fit it all in. Here is a way to combine math and writing for quick practice.

Combine math and writing practice with question of the day tasks. This quick and simple activity reaps a lot of benefits and it takes no prep! This idea is perfect for busy special education classrooms.


In my last post, I talked about ways to sneak in extra writing practice. One of the ways we sneak extra practice in to our day is through question on the day. Here is an example of one of the questions we have done.


You can extend a simple this or that question of the day by having the students tally the responses.

Combine math and writing practice with question of the day tasks. This quick and simple activity reaps a lot of benefits and it takes no prep! This idea is perfect for busy special education classrooms.

Next, we graphed the responses from our tally marks.

Combine math and writing practice with question of the day tasks. This quick and simple activity reaps a lot of benefits and it takes no prep! This idea is perfect for busy special education classrooms.

It was great practice for representing responses different ways, counting, number identification and making and counting tally marks. Once our graph was complete, we discussed which activity got more votes, which color was least, etc. Have students both generate statements comparing the graph data as well as answer questions based on the graph data. 

Need more practice at comparing numbers? Check out these ideas by clicking the pictures. 






Combine math and writing practice with question of the day tasks. This quick and simple activity reaps a lot of benefits and it takes no prep! This idea is perfect for busy special education classrooms.




How To Fit Extra Writing Practice Into Your Special Ed. Program

Do you have students who hate to practice writing? Over the past 20 years of teaching, almost every student I have had in my special education class has disliked writing. It is challenging and often a very difficult task for my students. Sometimes just hearing about a writing task can send my students over the edge. Here are 3 different ways I "sneak" extra writing practice into our school day.

Here are 3 different ideas for fitting extra writing opportunities into your special education program. Many students with disabilities find writing to be very challenging and difficult. Our students don't want extra practice, but they need it. Here are 3 ideas to get you started.


First things first.... Do not label these activities as writing!! When you label the task for students as something else (ex: question of the day time), then students will think of it that way. Labeling it writing time automatically makes a student who hates writing bristle.

Question of the day

All of students have autism or another language based disability, so most of our day is made up of language based tasks and activities. I originally thought of adding a question of the day time to target answering questions with my students. Then, I realized that it could be even more beneficial by adding in a writing component. Best part... it is basically no prep! Win!! To make the poster, I just added a title and my students name to a lined chart paper and then laminated it. Every morning, I write a new question on the top of the poster. During snack time, I have students take turns coming up to write their answer. 

You can practice answering a variety of questions. We do yes or no questions.


This or that questions:

Here are 3 different ideas for fitting extra writing opportunities into your special education program. Many students with disabilities find writing to be very challenging and difficult. Our students don't want extra practice, but they need it. Here are 3 ideas to get you started.

Personal questions, etc. 

Here are 3 different ideas for fitting extra writing opportunities into your special education program. Many students with disabilities find writing to be very challenging and difficult. Our students don't want extra practice, but they need it. Here are 3 ideas to get you started.


Lunch Form

Another way to add in writing is have students help make the lunch list. Every morning my students order what they are going to eat for lunch as soon as they arrive. When they go to the cafeteria for lunch, students are required to tell the kitchen staff what they ordered. Guess what? They can't always remember what they ordered! To solve this problem, we make a list of what everyone ordered to take with us. Now, we have students make the list.





Signing In

My last tip is to have a place to write their names when the arrive at school to say they are here. now only is this great writing practice, but it is a needed life skill. How many times have you gone to an appointment and have been asked to sign in? Students need to know how to do it neatly and quickly. Here is what I use. Again, it was very simple to use and just needs to be wiped off daily.



To extend this activity a little, once everyone has arrived I ask a student to write the names of anyone absent on the not here list. 

Do you have any tips for sneaking in some extra writing practice? Please add them to the comment section so we can all learn!

Here are 3 different ideas for fitting extra writing opportunities into your special education program. Many students with disabilities find writing to be very challenging and difficult. Our students don't want extra practice, but they need it. Here are 3 ideas to get you started.



Winter Activities To Keep Students Engaged



Ideas for keeping students engaged and active during the winter months. Ideas are perfect for the special education classroom.



Winter can make for long and tiring days in the classroom. In NY, January and February typically bring very cold snowy days. This can limit how much we get to go outside for recess. My kiddos often become antsy and cranky from it all. That's why it becomes super important to get them up and moving and engage the class in some novel and fun activities while targeting their skills. 

I try to build in some type of movement in most of my lesson plans. It doesn't always have to be students running, hopping, etc. It can mean creating more opportunities for students to get up and put something on the board, adding a sensory component like shaving cream or hands on interactive books.

Add In Gross Motor Movement

For gross motor, I threw laminated snowflakes up into the air and had students collect as many as they could. They LOVED it!!

Ideas for keeping students engaged and active during the winter months. Ideas are perfect for the special education classroom.

The snowflakes were two different sizes. Once the students had found all of the snowflakes, we sorted them by size and graphed how many each student found. 

Add In A Sensory Component

We practice writing numbers in shaving cream....
Ideas for keeping students engaged and active during the winter months. Ideas are perfect for the special education classroom.

We bring snow inside and write about it after playing in it. Great opportunity to talk about the senses!

Ideas for keeping students engaged and active during the winter months. Ideas are perfect for the special education classroom.

Add In A Higher Rate Of Response

Interactive books create many opportunities for students to participate and get their hands on materials. This naturally encourages attending skills and participation while specifically targeting language and academic skills. You can cover TONS of different standards and skills! 
Click HERE to check out all of the different skills you can cover with interactive books. Here is a sampling of some of the books we will be using this winter.

Ideas for keeping students engaged and active during the winter months. Ideas are perfect for the special education classroom.



You can incorporate sensory:





You can incorporate gross motor:





I just LOVE how much I can cover with interactive books!!

I hope this post has sparked some new ideas for you. How do you keep students engaged throughout the winter?

Ideas for keeping students engaged and active during the winter months. Ideas are perfect for the special education classroom.

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