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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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Classroom Food Cart

Have you heard of classrooms having food carts or coffee businesses but don't know how to get one started? Here is how we run the food cart at our school.

We start off every school year with free samples...this is how we get everyone hooked. We set up a station in the front office and send out an email letting everyone know. We also put out a food donation sign up sheet in case anyone wants to donate store bought or homemade goodies.
This is what our food cart looks like today but this is not where we started :). When we first started we had our local grocery store donate coffee, teachers donated snacks and we had a tiny cart. After a few years, grants and donations I can say we have a pretty awesome little business.
The purpose of the food cart is for our students to develop and practice skills in the following areas: social norms, communication, money and team building.

We take the cart out every Wednesday and Friday. I work in a pretty large school (800 students) so we have 6 special education teachers in my building. Out of that, 4 of us manage the food cart. We have a group of students who price and stock it, we have a group that works with a teacher on ordering, I make the coffee (which is funny because I am the only one who doesn't drink it) and another teacher handles all of the money.

We are so fortunate to have had this awesome coffee maker and carafes donated. It's super easy. I my amazing paras plug it in and wait for it to heat up. Once it's ready we pop the coffee in, put the carafe under and pour in the pitcher of water. In about 3 minutes we have perfectly brewed coffee.
I store all of the coffee next to the maker on my counter. They are usually large bags so I make sure to secure them with binder clips so the coffee doesn't taste stale.....had that complaint once 😁. We also got a HUGE thing of coffee filters 2 years ago and we haven't purchased any since. I honestly think we will be set for 3-4 more years lol.

I change out the labels for the carafes when needed. We don't do anything fancy here, just computer paper, marker and masking tape. I am sure you could get a little more creative here if you wanted to :)
We also have all of these yummy snacks and drinks on the cart. We price everything for $1.00 (coffee is $0.75) to make the change making process easier. If you have students with higher level math skills play around with the prices to make it more challenging for your kids.

This cash register is a new addition this year. It has been great to store money in it (we used to put it in a coffee cup) and use the calculator portion.
Now that the coffee is made and the cart is stocked we are ready to take it out. I have a few students who need walkers to get around. The cart is PERFECT for them to push :) The students take the cart from classroom to classroom. This is where the magic happens!!! 
All of my students who take the cart out are non-verbal. They have gained so many skills through this process. They knock on the door and use the pre-made communication device. Check it out here. 
We used GoTalk Lite to create these. That is why we have a British accent for our boys...if you pay for it there are many voice options. 

The teachers then come out and tell the kids what they would like. Depending on what the kids are working on they will take over the order (getting coffee, making change, finding the items, talking with the staff member etc.).

The coffee cart has been AWESOME!!! for the students and staff at my school. Here are a few testimonials from staff members at my school. 

"I love having the food cart come by, not because of the food ( though it's  good) the best part is seeing students learn how to work with money and help others. The staff that works with these students are so patient."

"I love the food cart for various reasons. Not only do we get a nice little surprise visit for a delicious snack, but it's so nice to see our students leading within this initiative. Whether asking if we are interested or handling money and selling items, students are in charge of the sales and exhibit leadership qualities and handle the responsibilities wonderfully. My students also enjoy having them stop by. It gives us a brief moment to stop, visit, extend our hellos, and share in a brief, yet kind moment of interaction that we normally don't get to share within the hectic school day. It's a moment where students get to see how we can support one another and help each other's causes just by purchasing a small item. I love it."

"I love the food cart because I like seeing my former students and interacting with them. It's fun to see their social progress."

"I love the interactions and real-life application these students receive when working/learning with the food cart."

"It is a very positive learning tool for everyone!"

We use the money that we earn from the coffee cart to purchase more items. It is all self funded. If we have money at the end of the year we put enough aside to place the first order for the next year and then all of the left over money we use to put into other projects at our school (kids needing coats, Christmas gifts, toiletries for students etc.). 

I have found that running the cart the way we do is super simple. There isn't much that goes into it (once you have it up and running). At the end of the year we also have a MONSTER SALE to get ride of everything. The teachers LOVE this.
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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Hands on Math Activities

Do you have students who struggle to complete paper/pencil tasks? Do you have kids who need hands on materials? Check out some of the tasks I have set up for our March math centers.

Color Matching Tasks
Here I use the same sorting bin but switch out the items to sort. This makes it somewhat of a routine task for my students but enough change to generalize the task.
 These are super fun, especially for March! I love themes so this is a perfect way to carry our literacy theme of the week/month over into other subjects.

This is a color matching task set up in a T.E.A.C.C.H bin style. The students can still work on color matching but have the opportunity to work on a variety of tasks throughout.

Incorporating Core Vocabulary in Math

Fine Motor

These are parmesan cheese containers. You could make them way cuter but I change them regularly and haven't eaten enough parmesan cheese to have an abundance of containers :). So I just wrapped them with computer paper and wrote what I wanted in each container.

You can differentiate these tasks by offering varying levels of fine motor.
While this may typically not be considered a fine motor task, adapted books offer tons of fine motor practice. The students have to turn the pages, hold the book with one hand and detach and attach the icons with the other hand. All of which can be done while learning new math concepts. You can check out these Read It: Number Series books here.

Number Tasks

Students can practice counting while learning where the Touch Dots go. These are perfect for all of my students (even my pencil/paper math students). You can check out these Monthly Themed Touch Dot Mats here.
 Students can do direct number matching on the tens frame. They can also add monthly themed items like hearts, gold coins or mini apples.

I love using these puzzles. I store them in baggies by number sets to make it easy to grab. I have students who are working on numbers 1-2 while I have others who may be working on numbers 18-20. Organizing it like this allows for quick center changes and differentiation.

You can work on a variety of skills here. Students can sequence the numerals, count the objects and read the number words. You can have this be a completely independent task or provide support for certain parts.

These cards are great for introducing addition. My students love to match the dots and then use the calculator to check their work.

Need Kids to Move Task?

Here is one activity I have set up in my room. The students have the main mat on the desk but the answer cards are on a board across the room. This not only offers the students movement while working but it also works on their recall skills. They are forced to look at the mat, walk across the room and then remember what they were looking for.

I would love to know what kinds of hands on math tasks you have in your classroom!

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