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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Thursday, April 7, 2016

4 Tips for Effective Whole Group Activities

I have heard so many self-contained special education teachers say their kiddos just "can't handle" whole group lessons or activities... I enjoy small groups and working 1:1 with students, but I really LOVE whole group activities and have found strategies that make whole group lessons successful and fun!
Photo credit
Before I share a few tips, I want to give a brief description of what whole group lessons in our classroom look like- All whole group lessons are done at a kidney table that faces our interactive whiteboard. Students and staff sit around the kidney table. Students complete tasks for 4-7 minutes and then watch an educational music video on the smart board. This sequence repeats for 30-40 minutes.
Short example:
-Students sort, match, or verbally identify colors for 4 minutes
-Students watch 3 minutes of videos about colors
-Students sort, match, or identify shapes for 5 minutes
-Students watch 4 minutes of videos about shapes
-Students match numbers, sequence numbers or count objects for 3 minutes
-Students watch a 2 minute video about counting

Are ya getting the gist? Okay, now on to a few tips!

Have materials ready and prepped
This seems like common sense, but developing a system to organize and prep all the supplies is important and can be tricky. Most of our kids won't wait 2.3 seconds for me to get stuff together, so I had to find ways that I could easily whip out each part of the lesson.
All of our circle time/ morning meeting materials are prepped and ready to go in this little ottoman. It contains all of the materials we need for circle time including vocabulary/ Core 40 work, communication items, materials for when we work on letters and phonics, and of course some Minnie Mouse and Frozen stickers as reinforcers.

All of our math whole group materials are organized in this bucket. I keep the bucket in a cabinet and just grab it when it's time for math group. There is a big ziplock bag for each math topic (colors, shapes, numbers/ counting, etc.). Every morning, I put new materials in the corresponding bag. During math group, when it's time to do colors, I just grab the color bag and start handing activities/ materials to students.

This might seem like another "duh" tip, but lessons that are too easy or too difficult for students can lead to challenging behaviors and lack of progress.
Here of a few examples of how I differentiate when we work on letter identification during circle time:

Here are examples of our differentiation around weather work:

A few ways I differentiate attendance/ name identification:

Use paraprofessionals effectively
Even though it's a whole group activity, paras can (and should) still be working with 1-3 students throughout the lesson. This ensures that you're using all the adults in the classroom AND it makes it easier on you because you aren't the only one doing instruction. Make sure paras know exactly what each student should be working on throughout whole group lessons.  I post very specific and simple objectives for paras to reference during the lesson.

Include time for movement
My students always get the chance to dance, move and/or sing throughout whole group lessons. This process is briefly described above, but I have found that this really helps my active kiddos and also gives me a chance to get the next activity prepped! It's also helped me to increase the length of lessons and to increase the work stamina of my kiddos. 

Do you guys have any strategies or tips for running a whole group lesson in a self-contained sped. classroom? It can be tough at times, but I love the sense of community :) Please comment with any ideas or questions!!

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