Friday, June 10, 2016

3 Tips for Starting the Year Strong with Paraprofessionals {freebie!}

Starting the school year off with paraprofessionals can be tricky... especially if you're working with paras who are new to your classroom (or new to the career all together). It's so important to start the year off by creating a team mentality, promoting collaboration and being clear about expectations and responsibilities. Here a few tips that have helped me to start the year off on a good note with my paras:
1. Do work styles and skills inventories with paras before the first day of school. 
This will help you to see at how you and your paras are similar and different in work style and preferences. After you complete them, you can then talk with your para(s) about the similarities/ differences of your scores and about possible road blocks or solutions to your differences. The skills inventory checklist will help you to identify where your paras will need more training and guidance. This is my favorite free work style inventory (page 1-3). This is a good free paraprofessional skills survey.

2. Complete a little "get to know you" questionnaire and then STOCK UP on goodies. 
Knowing your paras' favorite little snacks and treats is important so you can give them small pick-me-ups and tokens of appreciation throughout the school year. After you know what your paras like, stock up on some of their favorite treats and goodies and keep them hidden in your classroom somewhere so you have them on hand. I normally buy some stuff for my paras in bulk and keep it in my filing cabinet so that I have stuff on hand to cheer them up on a tough day or to quickly/easily say "thank you". I know we aren't rolling in money as teachers, but even spending a few dollars a month to show your paras you appreciate them will go a long way! Here is the questionnaire I use with my paras. You can easily find free questionnaires online by searching key words like "secret friend questionnaire" or "secret santa questionnaire".

3. Give them a handbook! 
I started making a handbook for my paras my 2nd year of teaching and it has been a HUGE asset for starting the year off right and something that we can reference throughout the year, if needed. It's a great way to communicate information like clocking in/out, expectations, classroom rules, the schedule, information about disabilities and confidentiality, info. about coping machines, lunch time routines, dress code, etc.
One last thing I do in regards to the handbook is I have my paras sign a paper saying they got a copy of the handbook and that they reviewed it.

You can download a FREE and editable handbook from my TpT store here.

Do you have any tips or ideas for starting the year off strong with paras or other teammates?

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Thursday, April 21, 2016


Did that get your attention? Don't worry, I don't think we should throw away all the fun stuff in classrooms, but I have 2 reasons why removing these things from your bookshelves and counters can be beneficial to you and your students!
1- It will increase student communication!
Replace books, toys and desired objects on shelves with picture symbols or photos. If a student wants a specific toy or book, he can communicate that by touching the picture symbol or removing the picture and taking it to a staff member (instead of just grabbing the toy). Although having to get the toys/books makes extra work for the staff, it encourages meaningful communication with kiddos who might not communicate otherwise!

2- It will minimize distractions and problem behaviors. 
When there are toys, books, and blocks on the shelves, a few of my students will often want to walk away from instruction to play interact with whatever is on the shelf... What kid would want to work when there is a SpongeBob book on the bookshelf?! Removing distracting toys/ items from students' eye sight is a super easy antecedent intervention to prevent distractions and problem behaviors.

How to do it:
1) Store supplies in another safe way- a few options:
  • Store stuff inside locked cabinets
  • Store stuff in the storage bins with the locking lids (my students aren't able to open these)
  • Or you can store toys on the top of shelves (if you don't have any kiddos who will climb the furniture to try to get the items)
2) Give your students a way to request the items. Put photos, picture symbols, or voice output devices in the place of the toys/items. Students can point to the pictures or remove the picture from and take it to a staff member to request the items.
Note: If you have students who don't take "no" well, make sure you remove the photos/ picture symbols when the student can't have access to the item. For example, we remove the iPad symbol for most of the day and only put it out when it's a time that the students are able to have access to the iPad (free choice time).

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Visual prompts... more than just schedules and classroom management! {& a FREEBIE!}

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that visual are simply for schedules and classroom management, but that is FAR from the truth! Visuals are great for prompting kids with a variety of academic skills. The most frequent visual prompts I use during academic activities are: color coding, pictures, and letters/ numbers. Check them out!
Color coding:
Color coding is an amazing way to prompt kiddos. Here are a few ways you can use color coding to prompt students during sorting and matching activities.
Categories and cards are color coded so students are prompted about what category the cards go in.

Puzzles are color coded (using Sharpies) to prompt kiddos with matching the letters.
Numbers are color coded to make matching numbers easier. 
Numbers on clothes pins are color coded to match the corresponding section.
Letters are color coded to make matching simpler. 

Pictures are fabulous visuals!! It's common to see pictures used in schedules and for classroom management, but I love to use them during literacy and math activities!
Small picture is paired with letter on clothes pin to prompt student when matching letter to initial sound.
Picture is paired with letter to prompt student when placing the initial letter sound in the blank.
You can download the above beginning consonant sound activity with visuals for FREE from my TpT here.  
The dots are a visual to match the Micky mouse heads to prompt students. 
Numbers/ letters:
It's easy to use letters and numbers to prompt students during beginning consonant sound and math activities.
Letter is written in the blank to prompt student about what letter goes there. 

The correct answer is written in the box to prompt the student.

It's important to remember that you should take data consistently and fade prompts over time to ensure that the student is mastering the task/ goal. Below is an example of 1 way you could fade color coding visual prompts. Note: Some students might need fading to happen in smaller steps.

Happy prompting ;)
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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Sorting task boxes

Check out the latest sorting task boxes I made out of cheap and simple Dollar Tree items! The tasks were really cheap to make because I found items that were packaged in groups and contained a variety of colors. I made these four boxes for only $7 by purchasing 1 pack of forks and spoons, a pack of colored tupperware, a package of erasers, a pack of pencil grips, a pack of buttons, and an art pack that had markers and crayons.

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Minion Themed Math Centers {FREEBIE!}

I have quite a few kiddos who are crazy for minions. Check out some of the new Minion themed math activities and centers I made! Activities include addition, subtraction, and counting. I made sure to make 2 levels of every activity- level 1 doesn't have visual prompts and level 2 has visual prompts.

Counting with tens frames (in 2 levels):

Simple addition with pictures (in 2 levels):
Counting and circling the number (in 2 levels):

Single-digit subtraction with pictures (in 2 levels):

You can buy the entire pack for $3.50 from my TpT here.

You can also download the Minion themed counting activity for FREE from my TpT here.

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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Counting Books for Generalization {FREEBIE!}

Counting and number recognition is something that I continue to work on with my kiddos. I love to incorporate math into literacy lessons, so I started creating counting books for most of my weekly units to help students generalize their counting skills. Check them out and download a FREE counting book from my TpT  (below)!

Counting Plants in my TpT store here.

Counting at the Beach in my TpT store for FREE here.

Counting at the Circus In my TpT store here.

Fall Counting in my TpT store here.

Counting in Africa in my TpT store here.
Enjoy the freebie!

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