Today we are wrapping up the special ed summer blog hop. Today is all about the first week of school which always brings mixed feelings....excitement for a new year and possibilities, sad the summer is over, then add in a little bit of nerves. Yikes!
Hopefully after hopping through you will be feeling more prepared to go back to school. I have three tips to share with you...
Plan time to be able to just talk with your students early on the first day. It can be structure or not- depending on your classroom. I tend to make it less structured. I have 1 or 2 centers set up for when students enter the classroom on the first day. The centers are usually a fun fine motor activity such as playdoh, legos or stamps. This gives me a chance to catch up with students one by one while still keeping the students I'm not talking to engaged. In my self-contained class, I can have students for up to 3 years. This chit chat time is a nice time to reconnect after a summer break and make the child feel special.
Teach routines! This sounds easy, but during the first week when everything is still crazy it is very important to start getting students into the routines that will be used the rest of the school year. For example, we do direct teaching for an hour every morning. An hour of direct teaching isn't going to happen the first day of school, but I want students to know this set up. Instead, I use this time to help all of the staff bond or reconnect with students. I set up rotations just like we use in direct teaching, only the activities are different. During these rotations we work off of the students' interests and slowly add in demands. For example, if I have a new student who likes cars I would play cars with him when he comes to my station which we would play together. This isn't free play for the student. It is a time to teach routines and start forming a bond and relationship with the student.
My third tip is to start establishing instructional control ASAP! Instructional control is when you teach the student that s/he needs to listen to and follow your lead. The scenario from tip #2 is the perfect time to start working on instructional control. The first thing you want to do is to teach the student that you hold the key to all of the "good stuff." You want that child to know that in your classroom the only way to access reinforcers, privileges, etc, is to do as you ask. To teach this in the scenario above you would start by giving "freebies". If the student's favorite toy is the yellow car then give it to him. If your student only has edible reinforcers, randomly give him the edible reinforcer. During this time you are working to teach the student that you are FUN and have AWESOME STUFF! With some students the bonding time only takes an hour, while other students are slow to form bonds and connections. Go at the student's pace.
Once you have a bond with the student, it is time to start adding in a few small demands. It can happen in any setting- even a play setting! In the example above, after giving the child a chance to play with the yellow car (his favorite), I would give him 3 or 4 more random cars. While he is distracted with the new cars I would slyly take the yellow car back. Next, make the yellow car visible to the student by playing with it. When he wants the yellow car back I'm going to ask him to do something before I give it back. ALWAYS start with easy known tasks. You don't want to set the student up for failure and kill the bond you are building. If you don't know what the student can do, try an imitation motor task ("Do this"). Reward the attempts or answer with the yellow car. You want to slowly build up to more difficult demands.
I hope your first week back goes smoothly and that you have gained some new tips. Be sure to hop over to Traci at The Bender Bunch.