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Don't Let Your Student's Struggle Become Their Identity

As special education teachers, we have students with LOTS of struggles. They struggle with multiple domains and skills. Our students can easily become "that student" if we aren't careful.


Three easy tips for helping our students be seen in a positive light. Don't let them be identified by their struggle! While these tips can apply to any student in any classroom, they especially apply to students in special education classrooms.



Have you ever been in school talking to another teacher and they ask you if you know so and so? The name sounds familiar but you can't place it. Then they label the student by a struggle... you know the runner, biter, etc. and you suddenly know exactly who they are talking about. Yup... that student has been identified by their struggle.

No one should be identified by their struggle. There are so many AMAZING qualities about our students and we need to be highlighting them. Here are some things to keep in mind....


  • Confidentiality.... Don't vent, complain or share a negative story with people outside of your classroom. We all need to be able to talk through things, but do this with the staff that already knows and loves your student.  Be respectful of your student's rights to privacy.



  • When staff ask how it is going, highlight something positive. Our students deserve a positive reputation.



  • When talking about a student, watch your phrasing. Instead of, "Timmy bites, be on guard." say, "Timmy needs concepts broken down with visual supports in order to regulate his behavior." 


If we tweak OUR behavior, we can help prevent our students from being identified by their struggles. This is just another way we can make a difference in their lives!



Three easy tips for helping our students be seen in a positive light. Don't let them be identified by their struggle! While these tips can apply to any student in any classroom, they especially apply to students in special education classrooms.


Tips For Creating A Schedule For The Self-Contained Classroom

Creating a schedule that works in a self-contained classroom can feel a little like swimming with a weighted backpack on... It is HARD! Today I am sharing some ideas that have worked very well in my classroom.


Here are tips for creating a schedule to reduce behaviors, increase on task behaviors and schedule therapies. These tips are designed for teachers who work in a self-contained special education program.

Design For Less Behaviors

Research has shown the benefits for adding movement into our classrooms. Adding in movement helps students self-regulate, improve learning and decrease off task behaviors. Put this research into practice by designing a schedule where students aren't at a "sitting" task for more than an hour. Make a list of the groups, lessons or tasks that you do in your classroom that involve some sort of movement. Here are a few examples from my schedule:

Morning Meeting

Write The Room

Walking Club

Count The Room

Recess

PT Group

P.E. Class

Once you have your list, you are going to sprinkle them through your daily schedule. Here is an example of what one of our days looks like:

Here are tips for creating a schedule to reduce behaviors, increase on task behaviors and schedule therapies. These tips are designed for teachers who work in a self-contained special education program.

In this example, we alternate sitting and moving based learning activities. Our morning work is mostly play based tasks such as legos, lincoln logs, linking people, watercolors, coloring, etc.

We also build tons of movement into morning meeting. Read more about our morning meeting tasks by clicking a post title below:








I don't really count snack as either movement or sitting, but you could add movement into a snack activity. For example, you could have students get up to request snack items (cup, utensil, snack, etc.) from a peer or have them prepare their own snack. 


I count our quick writing time as movement because we spend parts of it out of our seat. For example, students are coming up to do Question Of The Day or we are sitting on the floor taking turns writing about our theme words on the dry erase board.


Read more about how we do this writing activity: Instruction In Mixed Level Groups.


Most of the time, we aren't moving a lot during our life skills group. I run this group with our social worker. It was a time when we focused on community skills, kindness, self-regulating behavior management, etc. Since we aren't doing a lot of movement, I sandwiched it between  2 times that we are: writing and P.E.

After P.E. we have 2 half hour time slots devoted to direct instruction. We do take a 3 minute break at in the middle for reinforcement, but I do not consider that enough "movement" time. You can read more about direct instruction/work centers by clicking the picture below:




Since math groups are after work centers, a "sitting" activity on Tuesdays, I make it a movement group. A HUGE favorite in my classroom is count the room. For this activity, students have to search the room or area to find picture cards that match their sheet. Once they are found, they have to count the number of items on the card and record it on their sheet.


We use the count the room activities that are included in our theme units. Each set comes in 2 levels, so all of my students can participate. It gets them moving and learning without me having to do extra work... WIN!!

Scheduling Therapies

If your students are like mine, then they have a lot of people who want to pull them from your room throughout the day. All of my students receive speech therapy and many also receive OT, PT, SW, Music Therapy, TVI, etc. While my students need these services, it can be challenging to get all of it in and still have them in the classroom for all of the things I need to teach them. 

Before meeting with a therapist to schedule students' therapies, decide which times you need to block out. For example, I don't allow students to be pulled during our work centers because it is a time when we do direct instruction and specifically work on IEP goals. To make sure I don't accidentally schedule a therapy during this time, I highlight the time on my scheduling grid. Here is an example:


Here are tips for creating a schedule to reduce behaviors, increase on task behaviors and schedule therapies. These tips are designed for teachers who work in a self-contained special education program.


Tip: teach your paras how to read your schedule and therapy grid, so you don't have to be interrupted when a therapist needs to reschedule.

I hope these ideas have been helpful!!

Here are tips for creating a schedule to reduce behaviors, increase on task behaviors and schedule therapies. These tips are designed for teachers who work in a self-contained special education program.


5 Tips For Setting Up Your Special Education Classroom

While there are many different elements that go into setting up a special education program, there are 5 main areas that should be a priority. Here are the 5 areas that take I work on first....

Here are 5 concepts to plan for before you begin to set up your special education classroom. These tips are for self-contained classes, life skills programs, autism classrooms and general special education programs.


Physical Layout

The first thing to focus on is the physical set up of the classroom. Consider these 3 things when figuring out the physical lay out:


       1. The flow of the day... Do you want students to go from center to center? Then make sure that the furniture is arranged in a way that make that easy to do.

       2. Arrange furniture so that you can see students easily. For example, don't have students working alone at a table behind a tall divider or bookshelf. Instead, use a shorter bookshelf to give the area a boundary without interfering with line of sight.

      3. What areas of the classroom will be distracting for students? Plan for a way to prevent distractions before they happen. For example, have students seated with their backs to the computer center or window to the playground.

Click the picture below to read more tips for setting up the physical space:



Training Staff

You won't have any time to teach if you don't create and train your staff on the different systems in your classroom. If you have ALL the answers to everyone's questions, then you are going to be interrupted ALL day long to help them. Instead, set up your classroom to run as if you won't be there. Click the picture below for tips on how to do just that...


Visual Supports

Study your students' IEPs before working on this element. Use the PLEPs and modifications sections of the IEPs to determine which visual supports your students need in order to be successful in school. Next, think about how and where to add those visual supports.

Visual supports aren't just for students! Be sure to use visual supports for the staff in your classroom. Click the picture below for more details on adding visual supports for paras:


Specialized Curriculum

Sadly, many special education teachers don't have access to curriculum that is designed for students with disabilities. If that is true for your classroom, you are going to need to have a plan in place for supplementing the curriculum to give your students the supports they will need in order to truly learn the material. Think about what visual supports they will need, do they need hands on tasks, do they need opportunities for a lot of review and targeted generalization?

My students needed more visuals to breakdown abstract concepts in a way that they could understand. They need larger skills broken down into small segments. They need LOTS of hands on practice in order to master and generalize their skills. Knowing all of this, I had to find a way to adapt the curriculum I was given to support my students. Here are some examples of how we do it... Click the pictures for more details. 

It is very challenging for my kiddos to learn and generalize number concepts, so here are some ways we adapt the curriculum:



My kiddos need to be immersed in vocabulary in order to really understand the words, so here are some of the theme unit activities that we do to support their understanding:



My kiddos need vocabulary explained and concepts taught to them step by step like in the picture below. The math support is from the Subtraction Unit and the interactive book is from the Scientific Tools unit.


Age Appropriate Materials/Setting

When gathering reinforcers, visuals and instructional materials, keep in mind the age of your students. We are tasked with finding items for our classrooms that meet the developmental needs of our students while being somewhat age appropriate. For example, if you teach high school then you wouldn't choose a resource highlighting Dora The Explorer even if the skill level is correct. 

I hope these tips have helped you get a clearer picture in your mind of how you want to set-up your classroom. 

Here are 5 concepts to plan for before you begin to set up your special education classroom. These tips are for self-contained classes, life skills programs, autism classrooms and general special education programs.



Setting Up Student Jobs Inside The Special Ed. Classroom

Setting up classroom jobs for our students is a great way to build a sense of community and ownership in the class as well as teaching about responsibility. Here are some ideas for getting you started:

Setting up classroom jobs for our students is a great way to build a sense of community and ownership in the class as well as teaching about responsibility. Here are some ideas for getting you started:



We assign our daily jobs during morning meeting group. Every morning we combine WH question practice, identifying peers and job chart. We use pictures of students instead of names on our job chart because my kiddos have a harder time with learning faces. Here's what our chart looked like last year....



Setting up classroom jobs for our students is a great way to build a sense of community and ownership in the class as well as teaching about responsibility. Here are some ideas for getting you started:



When choosing your jobs, keep these things in mind:

Classroom needs

Age group

Goals of jobs... becoming social, independent, teaching life skills, etc. 




Next, choose your jobs. Here's some ideas to get you started...


Taking a Care Of The Classroom

Lights on/off
Door holder
Water the plants
Feed the class pet
Handout papers
Snack helper
Put chairs up/down
Sharpen pencils
Return library books
Attendance helper



Building Life Skills

Table washer
Sweeper
Wash snack or lunch dishes
Put clean dishes away
Package snack into baggies
Delivering mail or putting communication books in mailboxes
Take the garbage out
Make first aid kits for the nurse
Wash and fold clothing/towels if you have a washer and dryer 
Mop floors





Next, decide how are you going to assign the jobs.... will they change daily? Using pictures of students or names, etc.  Finally, create a visual system for students to be able to check what their job is easily.


Setting up classroom jobs for our students is a great way to build a sense of community and ownership in the class as well as teaching about responsibility. Here are some ideas for getting you started:




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