Sunday, November 1, 2015

Creating Writing Portfolios for Students with Severe Disabilities

Throughout my school and district, there has been a big push to increase writing skills and scores...Working with students with severe-disabilities (and often kiddos with physical disabilities) writing is something that is REALLY hard for me... I constantly wonder, "How am I supposed to teach writing to a student who can barely hold a pencil/ writing utensil?!" I know we have to be creative as special education teachers and I wanted to move past considering putting picture symbols/ words in order to form a sentence as "writing."

So, I reluctantly started these writing portfolios at the beginning of this year... and have actually seen A LOT of progress with my kiddos (and it's only the 10th week of school)! Each student has a writing portfolio/ binder that has a tab for each day of the week. Everyday students do 1 worksheet under the corresponding tab and then complete a hands on activity.

The tracing worksheets include: tracing letters, names, numbers, shapes and pictures.

Hands on activities include: stamping letters/their names, touching texturized letters, texturizing the first letter of their name, building the first letter of their name with wood pieces

The portfolios have been fun to show parents during IEP meetings and conferences and are great progress monitoring tools! Do you have any ideas about using writing portfolios in self-contained classrooms?
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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Adapted science and literacy lessons for students with multiple/ severe disabilities

This year I've put a big emphasis on trying to work on different subjects (like math, science, and social studies) during literacy time. Science and social studies books often have to be modified/ adapted SO much for my students that it's really overwhelming. Instead, I've been making my own books to use during literacy. It's a lot of work, but they're really individualized and perfect for my kiddos. Each book is full of colorful pages, includes comprehension questions and picture cards for matching.

I adapt all of my books by:
-including picture cards with Velcro to work on matching
-having real objects to work on matching and identifying
-having texturized pages
-including comprehension questions

You can click on the links to buy the books from my TPT. Here are a few examples!
Many Mammals adapted book
Marine/ Ocean Mammals adapted book

Reptiles adapted book
Reptiles (simpler) adapted book

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Visual supports for kiddos with disabilities

Visuals are HUGE for kids with moderate to severe disabilities. They're are awesome for helping to manage behaviors as well as working on academic skills. Check out some of the newest visuals I added to our classroom.

Visual boundaries:
I love to use colored duct tape (from the Dollar Tree) to create visual boundaries.
Tape off areas in the classroom where you don't want students to go. (I taped my desk in because I had an issue with students wanting to play with our service dog when they should've been working).  
Create a line to visually show students where to line up at the door. 
Schedule and Rules:
Use Boardmaker or clipart pictures to adapt your schedule, rules, and core values.
Visual schedule 
Class rules with pictures.
School core values with pictures.

Color coding:
For students who aren't able to read their name yet, use a color coded system to label student materials like desks, cubbies, lockers, art supplies, etc. At the beginning of the year, I "assign" each student a colored shape and label all of their materials with that shape. Students begin to identify their name/shape pretty quickly.

Table, locker, and task box areas with color codes.
I also use a color coded system in my read aloud library. I use this picture exchange book so students can request what story they want to read. The book is color coded into two colors (red and yellows) based on fiction and fairy tales and then I have color coded bins.
Here's how it works:
-A student opens the binder to pick a story.
-If the student picks a book off a yellow page, then he knows to go to the bin with a yellow label to find the specific book.

I hope these pictures help you to implement more visual supports into your classroom!
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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Another year, another circle time...

I update and modify my circle time lesson a few times a year. Since I have kids multiple years in a row, I try to really mix it up at the beginning of every school year. I'm also trying to move past the typically circle time tasks (like focusing on the months, days of the week, etc.) and challenging my students with more meaningful functional and academic skills.

I'm keeping the layout of our circle time the same.
-I use a Powerpoint presentation with music videos displayed on our interactive white board.
-The Powerpoint has music videos that correspond to work tasks. Students watch 1-2 videos about a specific topic and then complete a task on the board, and then repeat that process multiple times.
-I have found that alternating the educational videos with work tasks helps my students attention span and ability to stay on task during the task part of circle time.
-We let students dance, stand up, or sit down during the songs/videos.

Students take turns saying good morning to a peer (verbally, with sign language or with a voice output device).

Here are examples of the work tasks and videos that I am using:

Calendar Work:
I have reduced the amount of work and time we spend on the actual calendar. We used to spend a good amount of time completing tasks like "Today is ___," "Yesterday was ___," "Tomorrow will be___," "The month is___," etc. This year, we are focusing on using the calendar in a way many people use planners and calendars. We will cross off each day and write important dates like birthdays, holidays, and field trips. Of course we will still talk about the date and count the numbers on the calendar, but that won't be the focus of our calendar time.


Map work/ Social Studies:
Students will learn about the city and state that they live in. This task allows students to identify the state they live in and then match the state.


This map activity will have students identify the continents. During circle time, we will talk about the country that our service dog, Ike, "traveled" to. We will spend time identifying the country on the map, and learning about the language and culture of that country.

Weather/ Math Work:
Instead of just simply identifying what the weather is, students will graph the weather for the week. At the end of the week, we will talk about what weather we had the most and the least.

I made attendance a little more rigorous by adding last names to some of the students' name cards. I also made a section for students to complete a sentence about how many students are at school.

Please send me any ideas or suggestions you have to make circle time more academic and meaningful!

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Creating a "Communication Corner" in a self-contained classroom

As a severe-needs teacher, I have a lot of kiddos who use alternative modes of communication. I am normally a little disorganized and scattered with where communication materials are throughout the classroom. I created a communication corner as a "home base" for most of the communication goodies in our classroom.

Some things to add to your "communication corner":

-PECs/ Any picture exchange systems
I added the communication book that one of my students uses daily. It's attached via a hook so the student can easily take it off and put it back on. 
-Feelings/ emotions cards
The bag includes cards with pictures of a variety of emotions so kiddos can identify how they're feeling.
-Visuals for making requests
A student uses these pictures to request position changes. 
-Communication Matrices 
We made a communication matrices poster that includes a small envelope for each student. Each small envelope has the student's communication IEP goals and a card for staff to write notes on. There is also a large folder on the poster that has the completed matrix for each student.

*If you haven't heard about a communication matrix, check it out here. It's basically a survey/assessment for teachers, speech therapists, and parents to identify what level of communication a specific student is at. It's a great way to help professionals find "next-steps" in terms of communication. Trust me, it isn't one of those useless assessments!!

-Choice boards

Can you think of anything else that would be important to have in a "communication corner"? I love getting new ideas about ways to encourage communication in the classroom!
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Adapted International Cookbook

I teach at an international school where we focus on promoting global competence for all students. As a severe special education teacher, I've had to get very creative in the ways I include the international aspects into my classroom. One of my favorite ways to teach my students about other countries, cultures, and ways of living is through cooking. My students are so motivated by cooking activities, so it's a great time to work on geography, communication and math skills.

We cook about 2-3 times a month and try to cook an international dish at least 1 time a month. We created a cookbook to share with other special education classrooms!

Check out our finished product! You can purchase the entire cookbook that includes 12 international recipes here. 

Recipes include:
Tzakiti, Guacamole, Hummus, Gurkensalat, Mango Lassi, Sangria, Strawberries Romanoff, Hanoi Bananas, Kartoffelpuffer, Grilled Cheese, and Ataklit Wat