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20 Ideas For Keeping Organized In Special Education

Special education teachers have to be like ninjas in the classroom! We have to be able to differentiate, simplify, teach, reteach, supervise... the list is endless! These organization ideas can help make it all possible.

Having an organized classroom or a system that you love is important in special ed. BUT just like our students, one system doesn't work for all of us. Here are 20 ideas to help you find the one(s) that fit you...

1.) Don't try to do it all!! I can't say this one enough. When we hold all of the answers, then we set ourselves up to be interrupted a million times a day with all of the questions. In the post, Set Up Your Room As If You Won't Be There, I break down all of the ways you can delegate to free yourselves up for instruction.

2.) Have a system to manage all of your IEPs and the paperwork that goes along with students. Erin from You Aut-a Know has great tips for making over your filing cabinet. Her system gives you a place for the IEPs and data. Read Conquer The Clutter: How My IEP Cabinet Got A Full On Makeover for more details. 

3.) Use technology to help manage students' schedules. Shawn from AUsome Adolescents recommends setting up a Google calendar for each student. She types in all of their therapies and their classes for each day. This allows her to see the blank spaces that she can designate for direct instruction on IEP goals. The calendars can be shared with staff and posted in the classroom for reference. 

4.) Traci from The Bender Bunch has found a great system for organizing all of our center materials! Read about her awesome discovery in her post, Best Every TPT Center Storage

5.) Create systems for the students that provide you with information when your mind is going in a million directions. Here is an easy system for students when they come and go from the classroom for therapies or mainstreaming opportunities. This gives me a quick visual reminder where the student went. Read the details: Easiest Organization Tip For The Special Ed. Teacher.

6.) Allie from Miss Behavior recommends creating labels that are student centered. This will help the students develop independence and responsibilty while creating expectation in your classroom. You can make labels student centered by color coding, adding visuals, using kid friendly fonts, etc.  

7.) Holidays naturally snag the attention of our kiddos, so we end up with lots of resoures and materials. Traci at the Bender Bunch has finally found a storage system that works for her. Read more about it: Solution To Holiday Themed Organization/Storage

8.) Natasha form The Resource Teacher has some fantastic ideas on how to keep track of all of the pieces that come with hands on materials. Read how she manages the pieces: Velcro Piece Organization.

9.) Jenn from Teach Love Autism shares a tip to set yourself up for a great year. She says to make sure you have a container, bin or shelf for everything and to label it! It will help staff and students keep the classroom in top top shape. 

10.) Have a system for lesson planning! It may look different than in general education classrooms, but it is just as important for us. Having plans written out helps during unplanned absences and to keep the classroom moving along while you are dealing with behaviors. Read about my lesson planning system here: Lesson Planning In Special Education

11.) Kelsey over at Tools For Busy Hands uses washi tape or colored masking tape to color code different levels of leveled readers. Love how this would give teachers info without students knowing which level is which. 

12.) One of my favorite tips comes from Linda over at Looks Like Language. She marks her originals with a yellow highlighter so they don't get used or cut. Did you know you can make copies of the sheet and the yellow highlighter mark doesn't show up on the copy? Love it!

13.) I love the prep counter that Nicole from Adventures In The ATC set up in her classroom. Read more about her classroom: Classroom Reveal & Organization Tips.

14.) Laura from Miss Lulu has some great hacks for your on how to store PECS, task box materials, math manipulatives, etc. I especially like her idea about storing puzzles. I started it a few years ago and it freed up so much space! Read  more about it:Storage & Organization Hacks For Sped.

15.) Do you have a ton of sensory bin materials? I hate when they end up all over the place!! Read 5 Tips For Sensory Bin Organization from Supports For Special Students for ideas on corralling it all!

16.) Have you seen this tip from Autism Educators on how to organize your classroom to teach students how to be organized?! Debbie has a tip on how our organization strategy can create a strategy for students. Check it out: Take That Desk and Clean It!

17.) Never run out of staples or office supplies again with this tip from Lisa over at Ur 1 In A Billion. When she was a classroom teacher she kept this box in her classroom, now she keeps it in her trunk as a traveling itinerant teacher. Read about the box: Office In A Box. Another option for itinerant teachers (or traveling therapists) is to use file folder pockets to keep your files organized in your car as you travel from school to school. You could even color code the files for different schools or classrooms. Once you get to your school, simply grab that file and only take the needed files in with you. 

18.) I LOVE Autism Classroom News' tips on getting organized even when you don't feel like you have it in you! Read her post, 5 Principles To Organizing Classroom Materials Even When You Feel Like A Hot Mess, for some down to earth tips. Who couldn't use tips like that?!?!

19.) Looking for more info on how to set up your whole sped classroom? Autism Adventures has you covered! Read about her tips here: How To Set Up A Special Education Program.

20.) One of my best tips is to limit visual clutter while you are setting up and organizing you classroom. Our students are easily distraractable, so if they can see items they may want to explore or have they aren't attending to instruction. This post, Ideas For Limiting Visual Distractions, will help you figure out ways to limit that extra distraction... bonus... it makes your room look cleaner! Win!!

BONUS TIP: Set up your classroom with visuals for your staff to save you time! Read all about it: Cue Staff With Visuals!

Do you have a tip that we missed? Please leave it in the comments so we can share it!

Easiest Organization Tip For The Special Ed. Teacher

Sometimes it can feel like our special education classrooms have revolving doors! Often times, our students receive a lot of therapy and are pulled from the classroom multiple times a day. It can be overwhelming to try to keep track of all of the comings and goings on top of the millions of other hings we have to do in a day! Here is a super simple system to help you keep track...

No matter how organized I am, it is difficult to keep track of where everyone is going while trying to teach. A few years ago, I started using a system that gives me a quick visual if someone is out of the room. 
       On the back of my classroom door I hang this...

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Every student in my classroom has a clothespin with their name written on it with a sharpie marker. When a student leaves the classroom, he has to move his clothespin from the bottom to the correct card. We call this "check out."

Tip: If you have a visually impaired student, use a different colored or textured clothespin for that student. The same goes for a student with severe fine motor delays... use an over-sized clothespin.

Not only is this a great tool for me it also works on...
  • Discriminating your name in an array
  • Gives extra fine motor practice
  • Works on reading 

Looking for more tips for classroom organization? Click on the picture to see more:

Got an easy organizational tip you want to share?? Leave it in the comments so we can all learn!

How To Use Interactive Books To Target Math Skills

When you think of interactive or adapted books, math might not be the first thing you think of. When we think of these books we often think of all of the language opportunities, but these books are great for teaching and reinforcing math skills too. Through interactive books we can teach numbers, sequencing, counting, coins and more! Here are some of the ways I use interactive books to support my math units.

Interactive books are perfect for teaching math skills to students who needs hands on opportunities to learn and master skills. These ideas are perfect for students with autism, special education classrooms, life skills programs and preschool classes.
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Counting & Making Sets

When we practice counting and making sets with our interactive books, I like to add a sensory component. Here is an example of what one of the books look like. This book is from our weather interactive book set.

Students have to move the number of pictures listed on the page to complete the page. Normally, the pieces are at the bottom of the book attached with Velcro. For this activity, I take all of the movable pieces and hide them in the sensory bucket. My kiddos LOVE it... even the ones that really don't like working on sets. TIP: Don't bind the pages in sequential order! 


We work a lot on sequencing numbers in my classroom, so I am always looking for ways to make it a little different or more exciting to keep my kiddos engaged. That's what brought me to this sequencing set: These books have been have been great for task boxes and centers to reinforce direct instruction. My class is seriously in love with adapted books!!


It is so important that our kiddos are able to quickly and correctly identify coins and be able to add it up. Many of my students have a very hard time learning to quickly distinguish between the silver coins, so these money interactive books gives them another opportunity to practice it. Since my students love how hands on these interactive books are, they are better focused. 

This set includes 4 books total to practice time and money.  I use the When Will We Do It? book to work on time awareness with students. Many of my students come to me not being able to identify the time of day an activity happens. For example, we eat dinner at night.

Ordinal Numbers

Another concept my class struggles with is ordinal position. The only positions they learn easily is first and last.... because they all want to be first and no one wants to be last!!! We started using these ordinal position flip books during work centers, task bins and for direct instruction and they have really been helpful. 

Here are the materials I use to assemble all of my interactive books:


Do you use interactive books to teach math? Any other ideas on how to do it? Share in the comments!!

Interactive books are perfect for teaching math skills to students who needs hands on opportunities to learn and master skills. These ideas are perfect for students with autism, special education classrooms, life skills programs and preschool classes.

Small Group Math Instruction In The Special Education Classroom

Welcome to the first post of Smashing Strategies for Guided Math, a monthly-link up between 9 teacher bloggers! Each of us will share a guided math strategies, tips and resources.

Small group math instruction is possible for students in the special education classroom! Here are some tips to help you make it work in your classroom.

Guided math is a way of structuring math instruction in a small group. I know what you are thinking... My kiddos don't learn well in a group setting!  Don't worry! I thought the same thing at first, but this year has changed that thinking!! It takes a bit of adjusting, but it is so worth it! Do our students learn best in 1:1 settings? Yes.... BUT that doesn't mean we shouldn't work towards small group instruction. Here are some tips on making it work in the special ed. setting. 

Small group math instruction is possible for students in the special education classroom! Here are some tips to help you make it work in your classroom.

My kiddos are hands on learners. They need TONS of practice over and over and help generalizing across materials, settings and people. I use these math units because of all of the visual supports and hands on practice. Once we have finished using the materials during instruction, we move the materials to math centers and task boxes. 

Once you have the materials you will be using, it is time to decide on your groupings. For my class, I like to do groups of 3. If your students don't have any experience with small group instruction, then you might want to start with a group of 2. I also have a para support the group because my students need that extra support and high level of feedback. 

Right now, we are working on learning different subtraction strategies. We have been using these posters to introduce the strategies and then practice it as a group. 

We then use the worksheets to practice together... going step by step. We read it aloud as a group. This helps me hear what the students are labeling the parts of the equation. For example, as we read out the first problem I noticed that one of my students was calling the minus sign McDonalds!! Guess what... that didn't make sense to him and either did subtraction! Once I corrected it and told him it was the "take away" symbol, he began understanding the concept of subtraction. Even though we are instructing in small groups, I still have the ability to give feedback right away to students. 

Next, we do each problem together step by step.

Once we have finished the worksheet as a group, we go through and read the completed subtraction problems as a group. This step has helped my students with fluency of reading the problems and with remembering the math facts. To be truly functional in subtraction, students need to know subtraction facts quickly. Watch the video below to see how we do it.


The next step is to give students an opportunity to practice what we did on their own. We stay in the group and each student is given a new worksheet that follows the same format & told to complete it. This is a great time for the para and I to assess if the students understood the lesson and can apply it. This format is perfect because it allows us to give the students immediate feedback and support.

Small group math instruction is possible for students in the special education classroom! Here are some tips to help you make it work in your classroom.

Our students easily fall in to routines and can be inflexible. It is imperative that our students have access to correction and 1:1 support if they aren't understanding, have something wrong or can't apply the lesson. Having 3 students and 2 staff during this time allows us the ability to do the correction and give a high level of feedback. For us, this is also the perfect ratio for helping students move from 1:1 instruction to small group instruction.

Small group math instruction is possible for students in the special education classroom! Here are some tips to help you make it work in your classroom.

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