Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Setting up independent work stations

It's important to give students opportunities to work completely independently, it increases their self-esteem and allows classroom staff to have a chance to work with other students who have higher needs.
Independent work time should be highly structured and students should only be working on tasks that they have 100% mastered. Here are links to task examples that my students typically work on during this time.
Task Book Ideas
Task Box Ideas
Task Box Ideas Continued
Task Boxes 2
Math Task Boxes

I love independent work time, because when some students are working independently, my paras and I have time to work 1:1 with our students who have more severe disabilities. During this time, we re-position students in wheelchairs, provide sensory stimulation, give them switch toys to play with, or anything else they might need.

"We can statements" are displayed for people who come to our room to visit. The chart explains how the boxes are labelled. Pieces are in bags to easily change the labels on boxes and tasks on student's cards. 
The shapes indicate the subject (math, literacy, and fine motor) of the box. The color indicates the level of the box (I did a level 1, 2, and 3).
Student work space. The tasks cards change daily. Students are expected to find the boxes that match their task cards. 

Note: The work stations in my classroom will likely look VERY different than one set up in a classroom only for kids with Autism. I have students in my classroom with a variety of levels and disabilities, so the structure may look different. 

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Fun and Meaningful Circle Time Tips- Part 2

My students absolutely LOVE circle time, they don't even realize they're working on academic skills because they're having so much fun singing and dancing to songs. Circle time is a great time to for us to work on a variety of skills, including math, literacy, and communication.
Since most of my students from last year will be in my class again, it was important for me to switch things up to ensure they learn different things and in a variety of ways. I wrote this post about how I did circle time last year. Here are the changes I made for this school year.

Calendar (math, literacy, and fine motor skills):
Math: Students identify numbers on the calendar, count the numbers on the calendar (by 1s, 2s, 5s, etc.), students continue an ABA pattern (can also do a more difficult pattern) with the number cards
Fine motor: Students cut out the numbers for the calendar and glue the number on the appropriate square.

LiteracyStudents complete sentences about the calendar and identify words and picture symbols.

Weather (math and literacy skills):
Literacy: Students complete a sentence about the weather and identify words and picture symbols.
Math: Students graph the weather for the day. At the end of the month we discuss what weather we had the most and which we had the least. Students can complete the graph by coloring the squares, using Bingo stampers, or stickers.
Here are some great free weather graphs:
Graph 1
Graph 2
Graph 3

Attendance (literacy skills):
Literacy: Students identify their name in print. (Note: In the past, I had some students' names paired with their picture, however, now I am color coding students' names.)

Communication (Sign Language, and voice output devices):
Sign Language: Students learn Sign Language for the weather and days of the week
Voice Output Devices: I record a few songs on a variety of Big Mack switches, students are able to play the song by activating the switch. I put the days of the week and months on a Twin Talk for students to communicate about the calendar questions. I have a GoTalk9 with a picture of each of my students on it, students are able to choose a peer who will complete the next activity.

What activities do you do during circle time/ morning meeting? I am always looking for ways to spruce up this time!

You can get the printables I use for circle time from my TPT site.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Task Boxes 2

Since my students stay in my classroom for multiple years, I thought it was time to make a few new task boxes to start out the new school year. Here are just a few examples!

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Workbasket Wednesday at Autism Classroom News

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Schedules, schedules, and more schedules

Schedules, structure and predictably help special education classrooms run smoothly. There are so many different varieties of schedules out there, but it's important to find a schedule that works for each student developmentally. Here are some schedule ideas and tips for figuring out what schedule might be best for some of your kiddos.

Object schedules-
Object schedules should be used with kiddos who aren't effectively communicating with photos or picture symbols yet. If a kid can't request an item with a picture symbol or discriminate between picture symbols, then his schedule shouldn't be in picture symbols, because might not be making the connection between the object in the picture and the real thing.

Photo schedules-
Once a kid can use objects to communicate and to follow a schedule, move on to a photo schedule. Use actual pictures to create the schedule cards.


Picture symbols schedules-
Once a student has mastered using schedules with objects and photos, move on to a picture symbol schedule. These can be made on Boardmaker or any other program for creating picture symbols. Picture symbols are typically line drawings or cartoon type pictures.

Tip: Once each part of the schedule is completed, have students remove the picture symbol from the schedule and place it in a basket that says "all done".

You can make any of these schedules simple by only using 2-3 pictures/objects at a time, or you can use man pictures/objects to create a schedule for the entire day.

Please post pictures of schedules you use in your classroom or other resources in the comments that may be helpful to me or others!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Four things to NEVER say to a special education teacher

As a special education teacher, I hear a lot of ridiculous (and rude) comments and questions from other teachers and sadly, the general public. I realize that as a sped. teacher, part of my job is educating others about individuals with disabilities, but some people are just down-right disrespectful!

I want to share (and hopefully make my fellow sped. teachers laugh) the 4 top questions/comments that make me want to claw my face off.

1. "What do you even teach 'those kids' all day?" 

First, don't call them "those kids". Second, the same stuff you're teaching your class (or the same stuff your child is learning in school). You know... reading, how to train a dragon, math, how to build forts, science, the usual....

2. "You're pretty much just a babysitter."

I haven't met a babysitter before who spends hours a day teaching math, social skills, writing, reading, and science, or one who spends her nights and weekends writing IEPs, FBAs, and BIPs... but if a babysitter like that exists, sign me up for when I have kids!

3. "What's wrong with him?"

One response, "What's wrong with YOU?"

4."Why do 'those kids' even go to school?"

Again, don't call them "those kids". First, it's every single child's right to go to school in the U.S. Second, just because a kid has a disability doesn't mean that he can't learn or shouldn't have the opportunity to learn.

I hope this gave you a little comic relief. Now it's your turn- tell me the questions and comments you've heard that make you think "WTF?!"

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Circus Themed Lesson Ideas and Freebies

I have changed the way I set up my weekly lesson plans about 6 times already this school year. My latest kick is teaching to themes. The last few weeks I have been trying to stick to one theme for reading, math, cooking, science, writing, etc. throughout the whole week.

This week, our theme is the circus. We decorated our room a little bit, did a ton of fun lessons and activities, and even held a mini-circus in our classroom on Friday!

Coloring sorting clown with M&Ms (download for free here.)

Matching game (download for free here.)

This cute adapted Counting at the Circus book works on literacy skills as well as counting and recognizing numbers. Download it for free here.

Adapted The Circus Train book and activity
Front Cover

Carnival Games/Activities:
Pin the Face on the Clown

Bean Bag Toss

We played circus bingo. I found this great printable for free on TeachersPayTeachers.

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