Sunday, September 25, 2016

Don't have a Smartboard?! No problem, create one for less than $5!

Everyone in education knows that technology is an amazing way to get kiddos engaged in class  activities. Although many classrooms already have SmartBoards or some other interactive white board, there are still so many teachers who don't have the luxury of having fancy technology in their classrooms. The good news is that there is a very cheap alternative if you already have an iPad, computer and a basic projector. It's an app called Splashtop and it's AMAZING. The app allows you to connect your iPad to your computer wirelessly and to control your computer via the iPad. So you can connect your computer to the projector, and then you can control the computer screen/what students see on the white board by using the iPad while you walk around the classroom (or students could have control of the screen using the iPad at their desks) . Let me tell you, this app is life changing!

What you need:
-an iPad, a computer & a basic projector
--Splashtop 2 Remote Desktop-Personal App (download from app store for $4.99)



Steps/ How to Do it:
-Download the free Splashtop Streamer on your computer. (Click the link and then click the orange "download streamer" at the top right of the screen)

-Download the Splashtop App on your iPad.

-Create a Splashtop account. Then sign into the account on your computer and iPad (before you can sign on, you'll have to authenticate the account via your email).

-Once you're signed in, you'll see the name of your computer pop up on your iPad. Click on it and then go through the settings choices.

-Once you finish the settings, your iPad will be connected to your computer and you can control the computer using your iPad as a "remote."

You can connect your computer to the projector and then use the iPad to play games, read books online, and SO much more! Enjoy :) Let me know if you have any questions or issues and I'll do my best to help!

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Dollar Store Task Boxes!

I've been a little MIA, but I wanted to share the latest task boxes we made in our classroom! The cool thing about these is they are all made with cheap supplies from the Dollar Tree! We are focusing on increasing our supply of "put in"  or level 1 task boxes because we have a lot of younger kiddos this year who need them.

Golf balls as a "put in" task. The basket came in a package of 3 for $1.

These are checkers pieces from a checkers game.  
Cute smiley face pencil sharpeners! Tip: hot glue the pencil sharpeners shut so you don't have any mishaps ;)


All of this silverware came in 1 package and makes a great functional sorting task!

These animal letter cards make a great letting matching activity! 

More silverware, but instead as a "put in" task instead of sorting.
Okay, this is the only task that isn't made out of Dollar Tree supplies. Those are paint swatches from Home Depot, so this is totally free to make! 

I'm linking up with Autism Classroom Resources here!


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Monday, September 5, 2016

Tips for creating a classroom environment that PROMOTES communication {freebie}

Anyone in the special education world knows that it can sometimes be tough to motivate our kids to work and communicate. As sped, teachers, it's our job to create an environment that promotes communication for ALL of our kiddos (verbal and non-verbal).

1) Find something that each kid likes and run with it.
It might be the iPad, computer, stickers, helping with recycling, but whatever it is, use it as a reward and make students WORK FOR IT! I use a "I'm working for ____" board in my classroom. Students choose what they are working for and earn stars (you can use tokens, pennies, stickers, etc.) to earn the desired item. Some students have to earn 3-5 stars to earn the item, and others just need to earn 1 star. You can give students stars for following directions, completing a task, using the bathroom, or anything else the student is working on. The point of the board is for the student to be choosing what they're working for AND for them to have to work for that desired item. Students don't want to communicate to tell the teacher the day of the week or that the sky is blue. They want to communicate to tell their teacher that they want a snack, toy, or to go for a walk. Before you expect your students to communicate about academics, encourage them to communicate to obtain a desired object. This choice board is a great way for students to tell you what they want.

This is the "I want ____" or choice board that I use with a lot of my students. You can download it for free here, the download includes the board and two pages of choices kids can pick from. Just make sure you don't give them a choice that isn't an option in your classroom!

2) Keep the toys/ reinforcers out of sight/ put away so kids have to communicate to get them!
The light table is super exciting for our kiddos. Instead of leaving the tubs of materials out and letting the kiddos just grab the tubs, I made a clipboard with pictures of the options and hung it by the light table. If students want to play with a specific light table tub, they have to communicate with staff (by pointing at a card, bringing the card to a staff member or verbally saying it).


This is another free-time area in our classroom. All of the super motivating toys (trains, cars, pins, puzzles) are put away in a cabinet and there are picture cards velcroed on the bookshelf for students to make requests.

Note: For some students, it can turn into a problem to have pictures of reinforcers everywhere... I had a kiddo last year who wanted to request trains all day long so we would have to remove the picture card from the bookshelf anytime trains weren't an option.

3) Make sure you have a procedure in place for students to request functional things like drinks, bathroom, and taking a walk. 
Put communication cards by the door so students can make requests like bathroom and going for a walk. I use the "go" card with a kiddo to request going for a walk to reduce his running/ eloping behaviors. It's been a huge help! The Ike (dog) card is used by another kiddo who requests taking the dog outside to go to the bathroom as her break.

We add picture cards to our classroom fridge so students can request drinks (juice, water, milk). *Make sure you only have drink options on the fridge if they are actually available! For example, if you are out of juice, take the juice card down because if a kiddo requests it and you don't have it, it could cause a big issue.

One of the most important things to remember is to have a variety of ways for kiddos to communicate (verbally, with pictures or objects, or with voice output devices). The most students communicate, the less problem behaviors you will see in your classroom!
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Saturday, September 3, 2016

3 {more} tips for effectively working with paraprofessionals

If you work with multiple paraprofessionals, it can be very difficult to make sure you're all on the same page. I work with 3 paras, and it's normal for at least 1 of them to be out of the classroom at a time (either in specials, in general ed, in the bathroom, etc.), so I often find it hard to tell all of my paras something important at the same time. I've written a few posts about working with paras effectively and supporting them so you can be a great classroom team. First, make sure you start the year off right with paras by using these these 3 tips for starting the year off right with paras here. Then, support paras by providing them with visuals (this post has some examples and freebies).

1) Have communication boards/ areas for communicating with paraprofessionals
This board is posted on the cabinet that my paras lock their personal items in. It's bare now, but normally I post the weekly school bulletin, any updates from parents, and staff shout outs.

Our SLP made this board to make sure paras know what kiddos are working on in regards to communication. Each little envelope has a card with students' communication goals and then a card for staff to write notes on. For example, if Billy independently and spontaneously requested juice with his VOD, then the staff could note it on the card for the SLP to see later.

I use this board to fill paras in on any schedule relating things that are different/ out of the ordinary for the week (like IEP meetings, field trips, observations, etc.)


2) Create some kind of questionnaire or inventory to find out how paras want you to communicate with them.
I use this brief little questionnaire to get an idea of my paras' individual preferences. Although you can't always handle situations in the manner that paras prefer, you can almost always take their preferences into account.

3) Use a variety of schedules to make expectations and duties clear. 
I use a variety of different visuals/ schedules to make sure my paras know exactly what they should be doing at different times of the day and to keep us all on track.
This schedule shows the daily tasks that need to be completed for each part of our day:

This schedule shows where staff should be for student lunches and times for staff lunches. Staff rotate staff and student lunches weekly, so it keeps us organized and in the correct spot!

This shows the bathroom schedule for kiddos:

I hope these tips help you to create an awesome relationship and team with your paraprofessionals this school year! Please comment with any tips you have to help other teachers work with paras!!

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Monday, August 29, 2016

2016-2017 classroom reveal

I've wanted to share our classroom since kids returned to school last week, but I just couldn't find the time to do it! I'm pretty lucky because our room is pretty big and we have a ton of natural light and storage space! Our room is more open than it has been in the past. I got rid of a lot of furniture because we just didn't have the space to have so many bookshelves/ cabinets dividing the room into smaller spaces. We have more kiddos with wheelchairs this year, so we really need the space to be able to maneuver our kiddos throughout the room easily. Check it out!

The front of our room.
The back of our room
Student areas:
Student reading and schedule area
This is the area were students can read, play with trains/cards and/or blocks. All of the student choices are displayed on cards at the top of the bookshelf and the items are hidden/stored in the cabinets.
This is the area were students can read, play with trains/cards and/or blocks. All of the student choices are displayed on cards at the top of the bookshelf and the items are hidden/stored in the cabinets.
Area where students can use the light table and use magnets on the magnetic USA board.
Organizational areas:
This is where our Vision teacher keeps all of her supplies for kiddos with visual impairments.
All of our task boxes/ independent work activities
All our supplies for making adapted books/ materials (velcro, lamination, book binding, texturizing materials, etc.)
Staff areas:
My desk/work area
Communication board between paras and me
Our data wall!
Paraprofessional work space
Lastly, this is our sensory room. We share a small office with the OT and PT. It's a small space, but it's still a wonderful area! It's awesome because we can keep the really distracting items (like the ball pit) out of the classroom but still accessible for our kiddos.



Hope you've enjoyed it ;)

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Literacy Groups in a Special Ed. Classroom {freebie!}

I've had a few people ask how I running literacy/ reading groups in my severe-needs classroom, so I decided to share how we do them!


First, I split students into groups based on needs and similar IEP goals. For example, my kiddos who are working on identifying letters and beginning letter sounds are grouped together, my students with Vision impairments who are working on Braille are grouped together, and my students working on matching pictures and letters are paired together. I make as many groups as I have staff (I normally have 3 paras but during literacy the vision para is in our room, so I get to have an extra group, YAY!). I make a tub for each group with students' names on them. The tubs are great because I can update them daily/ weekly (depending on the kiddos) and then staff can just grab the tub for whatever group they're working with.


Each tub contains the 3 things:
1) A simple "literacy plan" that shows what students should be working on and what supports they might need
2) A phonics/ letter activity, depending on students' needs
3) An interactive story and possibly a comprehension activity




A few ideas for the phonics/ letter activities:
-I love the old school Lakeshore Learning letter tubs. They're great for hands-on learning about letters and letter sounds. Check out the letter tubs I made here.
-Differentiate the activities with visual prompts, Braille or real objects.
-Use interactive beginning letter sound books. You can get this beginning consonant printable for free here. It's great because there are two versions- one with a visual prompt and one without visuals.

This a super basic example of our reading groups, but hopefully it helps you to get an idea of how they work for our room.

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