Monday, August 14, 2017

Student Schedules

Schedules! Hearing the word just makes me anxious. So many things go into making the perfect schedule. I know everyone's classrooms run differently but I can tell you that I do not have a self contained room. All of my students are assigned to a general education classroom and then come to me for reading, writing and math.....some do end up staying with me all day with the exception of specials and recess. So... that means I have to build my schedule around 4-5 general education teachers schedules. It can be a nightmare. However, once I figure it out I really do enjoy creating the physical schedules for my students. Keep reading to see the different types of schedules I have in my classroom.

When making schedules keep your students in mind. While there may be some super cute schedules at Target or on TPT but ask yourself, "Is this really appropriate for my students?" Not all students have to have the same type of schedule. For instance, this year in my classroom I am going to have 8 students (the lowest I have ever had!) and 4 different types of schedules.

The first schedule is for my highest functioning students. They struggle with reading but are able to follow routines. I made an outline of their day on a single page. There is a picture to help with reading the schedule and a place for them to check off with a pencil when they have finished the task. They are also working on telling time so I made sure to add that to their schedule as well. I will print these in black and white, hole punch them and add a stack in their binder (that they will carry with them to and from classes). On the back side I have left a space for notes home and notes to school. This will serve as the daily communication component for these students. If you didn't need the daily communication part you could print the schedule in color, laminate or slip in a page protector and have the students check off with a dry erase marker.
The second schedule I have is for my middle group. This schedule will include a little more prep but is the best for this group of students. This group is able to read and/or understand what the next subject is but needs a little more visual supports when knowing that the task is over and what is coming up next. I have made enough pages to include all of their schedule icons for the day. Some students have more pages than others depending on how much they are doing throughout the day. For this I printed in color, laminated and then added velcro. The student will check their schedule (located in a binder) and complete the task. Once finished the student will pull off the icon and put it on the back of the page (I added velcro there too) or put it in a finished bin/pouch. They will then look at their schedule and move onto the next item. For this schedule book I decided to only have a few schedule components on each page so that it isn't too overwhelming for this group of students. 

The third and fourth schedule I have made are similar in concept but stored in different ways, it is for my most complex learners. I made a color coded schedule (below you can see the color template) that will be housed in a binder or on the way (depending on student need/level). Each student has their own color and will check their schedule, pull off the task, locate the matching large schedule piece in the classroom and attach the little schedule piece to the big piece. This allows the students to not only know what is coming next but is concrete enough for them to understand that where they put the piece is the location in which they will be completing the task. Since I have a few students using this model and have a color coded system I decided to have the main schedule piece in white and then have the student corresponding colors on the bottom. That way they each have their own dedicated space at the center.

**Hint: make a schedule guide so you, your paras or even your students can reset the schedule at the end of the day if needed.
There are many other types of schedules you could set up. For example you could have a google calendar with alarms, write it out on post-its, have an entire page filled with a weeks worth of tasks for the students to check off when completed. You could also use actual objects for a schedule, first then schedule (very basic and limited visual stimulation). These are just a few examples. Do you have any different types of schedules you use in your classroom?

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Core Vocabulary Ideas

Giving students access to language is one of the biggest things we can do as special educators. Even though we are not speech and language pathologist so much of what our students need revolves around communication. Can you imagine not being able to communicate basic wants and needs? Can you imagine not being able to tell someone who may be annoying you to go away lol? Well....consider teaching core vocabulary in your classroom and provide access in a variety of ways.

Here are a few ways to embed core vocabulary into your day.

1) Shared reading- take what you are already doing and put focus on core vocabulary. I use Unique Learning System in my classroom and use this approach when reading the monthly stories. The kids love it and it allows all of my students to participate and be exposed to a wide range of language. Here is an awesome video (from that explains how to use big core during shared reading. If you haven't ever visited their website I strongly encourage you to. It is filled with tons of information!


2) Snack Time- Now, I will be the first person to say that I do not allow my students to earn food as a reinforcer throughout the day (if you do, no judgement, I just don't) but snack time is already built into our schedule. Who doesn't love snack time. Consider building core into this time by having visuals of common used words such as; more, please, eat, want, who, where, what, all done. Model using the cards/high tech AAC device/oral language so that your students start to understand. Here are some go to phrases (these can vary depending on the level of your students, the more language they acquire the more you should model);
        - Go get food
        -You want more?
        -What do you want?
        -That looks/tastes yummy!
        -Where is it?
        -You all done eat/drink?
        -You open
        -Help drink/eat
        -Want different?
        -I like/not like it

*Google image, I take no credit for this

3) Play/Choice time- Even though the students have already earned the choice make them ask for it. They can request items they have earned/want. Here are some phrases students/teachers can use.
      -I want toy
      -Here you go
      -I/you want to play?
      -Tell me
      -Help please
      -Open please
      -More time

*Google image, I take no credit for this

3) Fine Motor- Pull pieces from your big core board or make separate visuals and place them in a sensory fun bin. Some examples are rice, beads, pasta, sand and string. The kids can "fish" around for the pieces and either place them on a board, find the matching word on their AAC device or show understanding of the word by doing what it says. For example if the word is open, they can open a container. And then go "fishing" again. I have a student who is learning sign language so when she pulled these out she showed us the sign.

4) Math Instruction- A lot of my students are working on very basic math concepts. Pair core vocabulary cards with verbal directions. (Read more about hands on math activities here)

5) Videos- Use these for direct instruction or a quick transition. My students love videos so this is perfect. We (my SLP's always find the best videos!) used this video to help with teaching "no".

6) Adapted Books- Always one of my favorites. Put out some adapted/symbolated books that allow students to look at text and manipulate the symbols. Here is a FREE book from Teach.Love.Autism to get your collection started. You can also check out this website, they have a lot of free symbolated books. 

I hope this sparked your interest in incorporating core vocabulary into your day OR if you are already using core hopefully this gave you some more ideas. Do you have any additional ways that you incorporate core into your day?

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Monday, June 12, 2017

IEP Goals for Students with Significant Needs

Have you ever looked at IEP goals for a particular student and thought "how the heck are they going to achieve this?" or "What was I thinking when I wrote this?"

When it comes to working with students with significant needs these are questions you may find yourself asking over and over. No worries, I do too. Even when it comes to writing IEP goals I see so many things the student needs to work on but it doesn't align with the common core.

Today I am here to share with you some ideas for goals I have written for my students with significant needs. Most of these students are non-verbal, severely cognitive impaired and may have physical and/or behavioral needs.

*Disclaimer- Every district has different expectations for IEP goal and objective writing. Make sure to check with your team before implementing any of these goals.

Reading Goals:
For reading I focus a ton on core vocabulary. Let's face it, our students with significant needs need to work on functional communication. Why not have them read and comprehend functional words? Don't get me wrong, I think students need to be exposed to literature and have access to all types of books but for an actual goal lets make it functional!!!

Here is an example of a core vocabulary "phonics" goal and objectives.
Here is an example of a core vocabulary "comprehension" goal and objectives.
How do these fit into the common core? In Michigan we have Essential Elements and a range of complexity. Here is the Essential Element I chose for this goal. The gray area is the general education standard and then the white areas are broken down into high, medium and low.

Writing Goals:
Ahh!!! Writing, I dread it!! Come on now, how can writing be functional right? Is focusing on sentence structure, revising and editing really something that my students should be working on? Honestly, yes reality it is really difficult when our students should be learning how to hold a pencil correctly and making a signature mark.

I will be honest, for writing I mostly tag onto the OT goals for fine motor. But here is an example of a goal and objectives. (The students first and last name start with L).

CCSS is listed in gray and the essential element is listed in yellow. This particular strand doesn't offer a range of complexity like reading.

Math Goals:
Students can work on so many things during math instruction. A lot of my students continue to practice using core vocabulary during math by working on put on/put in tasks. But here is an example of a very functional goal I wrote. The student needed to practice using the microwave and becoming independent with heating up his food. So I added a color coded system to help support this.
Michigan Essential Element

The big thing with writing goals for our students with significant needs is that we need to think outside of the box. Write goals that are truly going to help them in their future. For example, while learning 2+2 is important how does that really help us in our lives?

What types of goals have you written?

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Unique Inclusion Opportunities

Do you love the idea of inclusion but your students struggle to go into the general education setting? Are you looking for more peer to peer interactions?

This is something I am always trying to do. Having general education peers involved in a special education students school day is extremely important. For the most part (there are always exceptions) general education students provide the perfect modeling example for students with special needs. Our students are able to see and hear typical language development and proper social interactions. They are forced to use the skills we have been working on in the classroom. Here are a few ways to get general education and special education students together throughout the school day.

1)Start a peer to peer program. These are awesome. At our school we call it STAR (Students Talking and Relating). General education students who are interested in learning more about disabilities are able to join. Each week we have a lunch group and the students learn about different situations that may arise and how to handle them. An example would be a non verbal student using an AAC device or sign language. How do you interact with them? What are some ways to include them in the group etc. Then the students get to practice these skills throughout the week.

2)Invite general education students into your classroom. Have weekly game time or dance parties. It doesn't have to be long or involve a lot of planning. This is just a way to get peer role models into an environment in which your students are comfortable.

3)Ask your specials teachers about starting adapted programs. At my school we started a program called Music Connections. Two times a week our music teacher, SLP and local college music student put on a class. Students from my classroom as well as select students from other general education classrooms (these change each class) come to the class. The class is geared towards our students with special needs and the general education peers are there to help, encourage and engage with our special education students. They get to dance, play instruments, sing and listen to stories with music incorporated. EVERYONE loves these classes (honestly I think the general education students love it more :)). The class is such a hit our P.E. teachers want to do something similar next year, since we don't have an adapted P.E. program.

4) Recess!! This is the perfect opportunity for kids to interact. Try purchasing some equipment that helps encourage peer interaction. Things like side walk chalk, adapted playground equipment, hula hoops, light weight balls, ribbon dancers, parachutes. bean bags (for tossing) etc. The biggest thing I can say here is let the kids explore.

5)Photo booth- Set up a photo booth in your classroom (again can be simple, put a sheet up for the background and have a few props). Invite some friends in to take pictures. Then show those pictures to your students. Talk about them throughout the week. If your students are able to, use the pictures for a writing assignment.

These are just a few was to incorporate more peer to peer interaction throughout the day. Do you have any more ideas? If so, share them in the comments.

**None of these photos are mine. They are all from Google.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

News-2-You on the iPad

News-2-You (N2Y) is something I use in my classroom regularly. If you haven't heard about it check out the website here. I like N2Y for a few different reasons but my favorite thing is that it available on the iPad. Yes!!! NO PRINTING :))))) Here is how I utilize this awesome feature in my classroom **Disclaimer-these pictures are horrible!!!.
Download the app for free in the app store. Once it is downloaded make sure to enter in all of your N2Y account information in the settings tab to be able to access the articles for free. The other cool thing about the app is that all of the previous articles are available to read, unlike online which only gives you access to 2 weeks at a time.
Once you are in you will have to download each article you want (once you download it, it's available forever). You click the cloud with the down arrow.
Once the article is downloaded you are able to select which level your students will read. This makes it easy to modify for all of your students.
After you have selected the level the article will open. This is the regular level. The students can read themselves, in a group or use the text to speech option by pushing the play button on the bottom (which will read the entire page). If you would prefer them to read but want to encourage them to continue going when they come to a tricky word they can select the word and it will read just that sentence.
After they are done reading they can even do the comprehension section on the iPad. Students select their answers. Once they are finished they can check their work by pushing the check at the bottom. It gives immediate feedback.
Now are you wondering how the heck you can get the tests off of the iPad? Hold you can export them. I personally haven't had luck with email BUT......I use SeeSaw in my class (check out more about that here) and these go directly to each students portfolio. AMAZING!!!! All the kids do is hit the export button.
Select the pages you want to export. I only have them export their assessment pages but I am sure you could do the entire thing if it's easier for you. Click export.....
Tell it where you want the pages to go. In my classroom we select SeeSaw.
It then generates the file and sends it over to SeeSaw. The "turn in" screen pops up and the kids select their name to turn it in.
Once it's turned in, the file is available for me to review in their personal portfolio. This makes collecting data and keeping evidence of work sooo easy!!!
Do you use N2Y in your classroom? Have you tried the iPad version? Do you know anymore cool tricks?

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