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

Monday, April 13, 2015

Another Circle Time/ Morning Meeting Revamp!

I have some of my students for a total of 6 years (yes, that's an incredibly long time), so I'm constantly trying to mix up my lessons and methods of teaching. I revamped my morning meeting yet again! I hope you enjoy the new pieces! You can read about my previous circle time posts here and here.

-I added a task where students identify where we live on the map. Students also watch two fun videos about the states in the US.
Here are the videos we watch:
Learning Station 50 States in ABC order
50 States Songs

-I added a new voice output device (VOD) for students to say "good morning" to their peers by activating a GoTalk9 with students' pictures and names on it. The switch allows my students who are non-verbal to pick a specific peer to say "good morning" to.

-I added a Current Events/World News section. I use the News2You curriculum for my weekly adapted newspaper. I record the newspaper on a VOD and students activate the switch to "read" the news. If your district/school won't buy you a News2You subscriptoin, check out this free website that has newspapers for kids. The newspapers aren't adapted with picture symbols, but they easily could be!

The Big Mac switch students use to "read" the news.
-I added a task where students can practice identifying and matching letters. Each week we add a letter to the folder. The letters are adapted/texturized with pipe cleaners for students who have vision impairments. Each page has two letters at the bottom for students to practice matching letters.

(Students point to the letter at the bottom that matches the letter on the page.)

-I created a communication book for one of my kiddos to complete all of the activities in.
Communication book has the day, month, weather, and date.
The book also has a place for the student to match the letters. 

Do you do something different during your circle time/ morning meeting? I love to mix ours up, so please send me ideas!
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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tips for Task Boxes/ Independent Work Time

It's really important for all students to be able to work independently, regardless of disability! Independent work time/ task boxes are frequently used in classrooms designed for kids with Autism (think TEACCH and ABA). Since my students have severe/multiple disabilities (some of them have Autism), I have implemented some traditional strategies but don't 100% stick to them! I want to share some easy to implement tips to make task boxes more meaningful.

-Label each task with a simple "I can statement" or SLO (student learning objective). This helps the student, anyone possibly working with the student, and anyone in the classroom who is observing to better understand the goal the student is working on.

-Label boxes with students names (and possibly color coded or with a shape) so that students can identify their boxes and independently retrieve them for work time. (I change the activities in the boxes daily.)

-Move past the boring alphabet matching activities... Make letter matching more meaningful by having them match the letters in their names, places in the community, or one of their parent's names!

-For students who are working on matching pictures, picture symbols or words, have students match words/pictures in specific content areas linked to the Common Core (like words about Earth's materials, Solar System, landmarks, United States Presidents, bodies of waters, etc. The list is really never ending, but stop having kids just match basic pictures of food, toys, and body parts!

-Have the students match numbers on rulers, number lines, meter sticks, thermometers, etc.

-Have students match numbers that are in a pattern (counting by 2s, 5s, 10s, etc.)

-Have students match numbers in fractions
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Workbasket Wednesday at Autism Classroom News