Wednesday, July 29, 2015

#Spedchat Back to School Countdown!

I am so super excited that it's back to school time! I absolutely cannot wait to see my kids!!  I thought I would link up with #SpedChatSaturday (yes, I know it's Wednesday...don't judge) ;-) for a back-to-school countdown. Here we go!!

My classroom library is so overwhelming to me! I have so many books and need a good system for rotating them and being able to quickly access them when a topic comes up. 

I look so forward to our back to school bowling party! We'll have it about three weeks before school starts for students. It occurred to me last year that my students don't usually have the opportunity to get together with one another like other high schoolers do. I had planned to schedule a couple activities this summer, but the summer has just really gotten away from me!!

Never underestimate the value of an organizational tool.  Binders, totes, and containers make it easy to access everything. Schedules are the best way for my parapros and I to be sure everything gets accomplished daily. Check out my earlier post regarding how I create our schedule .

I so badly want a wheelchair swing for my kiddos! I think several of them would get such great vestibular feedback from it! Let the fundraising begin...those slabs of metal are expensive!! 

More than that, I so wish that the general public would understand that my class is not a babysitting class and I do not babysit! Once people come into my class, they see it, but I think there are too many people that just assume not much goes on in a self-contained classroom. So, I invite folks in anytime they're willing/able!

Visual timers are great for students as well as for me! Here is the link to the timer we use:

I think it is so easy to get caught up in things that do not matter. I want my students, when they leave my school, to be as ready as possible for what is ahead. I refuse to settle!

Check out Lattes, Lesson Plan, & IEP's to get the templates so that you can link up with your countdown too!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Scheduling: Nightmare or Daydream?

Physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, inclusion classes, lunches, feedings, electives, data collection, sensory diet, academics, functional skills, independent living, transition activities, and at some point these kids have to go potty! How in the world can we possibly fit it all into one day?!?!

Each class is different and your scheduling needs may be completely different from mine, but I'd love to share with you what works for my current self-contained class and the steps I take each year when building a schedule. Hopefully you'll learn something and leave a comment teaching me something! Warning: this one is LOOOOONG!

Several years ago, my class size grew and the ability level differences among my students were extremely varied. The whole-class approach to teaching just didn't seem to work for us anymore! So, we adopted a rotation system and I've never looked back! We still have portions of our day that are whole group, but not for the majority of the day. Initially, we rotated for 20 minutes each station, but my current students are more successful with 10-12 minute rotations. Because I am at the high school and our class periods are 50 minutes, our morning block consists of 10-minute stations with 5-minute brain/restroom breaks during class changes. It just logistically works for us! Take a look at your students and their levels. Figure out what would help them be most successful and what works with your time frame and go with it! Okay, let's get down to business!

  1. Open Excel.  No, it's not time to fold that laundry that's been in the basket for two days. Put down the remote! You did NOT hear the doorbell. Haha!  Seriously, though, isn't getting started the hardest part?!
  2. Decide how you will divide your students. Will you have groups of students that rotate together or will they rotate individually? Put the student/group names across the top of the spreadsheet, beginning in column B.
  3. How will you divide your time? I start my schedule from the moment my students enter rather than from the school start time (but that's because this year my students began arriving about an hour and a half before school started). Figure out what breakdown works for you and put the times down in column A, beginning with row 2. You'll end up with a spreadsheet that looks a little something like this:
    School 'starts' at 8:15. I made note here of class changes and such.
  4. Start with the constants: arrival, departure, lunch times, feedings, toiletings, daily inclusion classes/electives. Add in therapists IF they come at a consistent time. I usually do not put mine into the schedule because they don't have a specific time that they necessarily come each time and I don't want to be stuck with a time slot wherein the therapist isn't there yet and the student has nothing to do! 
    • This year, I managed to make one schedule work for all 5 days by putting in things like "Social/APE" because my students did social story work on Mondays and Fridays during that time slot and adapted P.E. on Tuesday-Thursday. However, in years past, I have made separate schedules for different days if there were major differences between the days. I know it seems like a lot of work, but you'll be SO grateful that you took the time ahead of time to work out the logistics of the room.
    • Color-code these sections. Choose a different color for you and for each of your parapros. Then decide who will be responsible for making sure these things (such as toileting/feeding) happen. We are a team in my room and we definitely help each other out by sharing responsibilities as needed, but I like to be sure that I account for staffing for each thing that needs to be done (because I also have to account for others to be in the room supervising and watching for seizure activity). I like planning it ahead of time because I can also then be sure that I even out the workload, minimizing the risk of someone feeling like they are always changing/feeding/etc...
  5. Now, take a look at your IEP goals/transition activities. How will they be monitored? By whom? When? Where? Account for these goals by adding time for them into the schedule. Color-code as needed to be sure that the appropriate staffpersons are monitoring goals. I usually have each student rotate to each of the adults throughout the day. I just say "Mrs. Debbie's table", but she may monitor three of their goals throughout the week while they are at her table. 
  6. Once the constants and the goals are added and accounted for, brainstorm things that will be beneficial for individual students that are not necessarily IEP goals. As you know, we do far beyond what is stated in that little packet of papers! Make each moment that you have with your students count by selecting activities that allow for increased independence and have meaning and purpose. But, remember that brain breaks and choice leisure time have purpose! Add in these activities and color-code as needed for activities that cannot be completed with independence. This is where it starts to get a little hairy because there are only so many adult bodies in your room to provide direct assistance and overall supervision. Take a break, go ahead and fold that laundry! Watch some Netflix and try again tomorrow:-) 
Your completed schedule may look a little something like this!

I truly hope that this super-long post has helped someone out there tackle the craziness that is scheduling for a special education classroom! Scheduling doesn't have to be a nightmare!  Stay tuned for a future post regarding how I make this schedule easier for us to use on a daily basis and how I ensure (prove) that each goal is accounted for in our daily schedule! I would greatly appreciate your feedback!! Leave your thoughts in the comments and happy scheduling!!

If you'd like to learn more from other special educators about scheduling, follow this picture to a link-up by Delightfully Dedicated!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Morning Meeting (for HS/Adults)

Ah, the morning meeting! I read about their success at younger grades and was curious as to how I could effectively implement a morning meeting with high schoolers (and adults at my summer job) with disabilities. The above picture is what I came up with! As you can see, there is a section for attendance (names blurred), picture communication symbols for each part of the date, a weather report, local (Atlanta area and local high school) sports teams playing that day, and an area for me to write in or post a current event to discuss. We have used it for several days at the center and the participants have done so well and enjoyed it!! Based on her vocalizations, I was able to determine that one person really enjoyed the Braves! Well, hello there reinforcer, motivator, and communication point!! ;-)

Pictured with the board is the rationale that I created so that I would be prepared to prove that the activity is age-appropriate, including the difference between a cartoon and a picture communication symbol. So far it has not been needed, but it gave me the opportunity to be sure I was intentional with each section. I'm working hard on being intentional, but that's for another post;-) 

I made a symbol storage book for the symbols not in use on a given day. I used dollar store vellum folders put into a 3-ring binder and organized the symbols by section. This has made it very easy to flip to a section and allow participants to select the needed symbol without fumbling through bags of symbols. The only downside?

Uneven Velcro use! Grrrr... ;-) haha! But, a sweet Instagram friend introduced me to a company that sells velcro for cheaper (! And you can purchase just one side of it so that I can even out my supply! Man, I love this teacher community!

So tell me, do you do a morning meeting? What else do/would you include? I know that this is in its puppy stages for me and I look forward to it growing!!