Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Classroom Labels

Last year, the office where my mom works went out of business. They had tons of office supplies to donate and my classroom was luckily one of the luck recipients. The best find in all of the donations were clear, plastic self-adhesive business card holders.

These are an awesome reuseable option for labeling cabinets, shelves, and bins throughout my classroom. I love my classroom labels to be pretty and I hated having to reprint and laminate them every time I reorganized my storage or group bins. With the adhesive card holders all I had to do was print, cut, and slide them in.

I was also thrilled to discover that they came off of my cabinets fairly easily when I had to move to my new room and it seems like I will still be able to reuse them!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sorting and Packaging Taskboxes

As adults, many of my students may have jobs in a factory or workshop setting. After visiting several of these facilities, I realized that it would be very important for these students to be able to sort objects and match them to a grid in order to package them.

Here are several examples of taskboxes addressing these skills:

Link Sort by Color: Separate the link from the chain (great fine motor task), sort by color, and "package" in correct bag

Poker Chip Packaging: Place poker chip on matching color. Once one row is complete, package in  bag and repeat

Plasticware Sort: Sort plasticware into bag

Matching Taskboxes

After students have begun to master some of the simple Fine Motor Taskboxes I begin to introduce some of these matching taskboxes.

Egg Carton Color Match: Match the block to the corresponding color

Shape Sequence Match: Velcro the shape to the correct sequence

Lid Match: Match the lid to the corresponding container. This is also a great fine motor and life skills activity.

Environmental Print Match: Slide environmental print card into matching slot

Calendar Picture Match: Use small pictures typically found on back of calendar. Laminate and bind calendar and attach velcro to smaller picture. Match small picture to larger picture. I LOVE this one because you can make them of varying difficulty based on picture detail and it's a great way to recycle last year's calendar!

Fine Motor Taskboxes

When first preparing a student for the TEACCH structured work system, we first start with simple fine motor taskboxes. Most of the time, students at this level are working on fine motor goals anyway so this is a great starting point.

In my classroom, the purpose for the structured work system is primarily INDEPENDENT task completion. Therefore, we always introduce each of our taskboxes during an isolated one-on-one session and continue working on it until the student can complete it independently in isolation. During this time we may begin introducing the TEACCH structured work system through using VERY simple tasks such as lacing one bead on a string or putting three pegs in a pegboard.

This goes back to a very fundamental part of special education especially in the MD classroom which is focusing on one goal at a time and typically performing a task analysis of each goal to see what the steps to reaching that goal would be. This is exactly what I do when planning student IEPs and even though a student may not have a goal for the TEACCH center, it is a routine in my classroom and each routine needs to be broken down just like each IEP goal to ensure my students' success.

Therefore, I would not put a child at the TEACCH work system center with for the first time with three taskboxes they are also seeing for the first time. This is just asking for a meltdown! It would be the equivalent to expecting a student to complete an addition with regrouping worksheet when they haven't even begun addition yet.

Here are some examples of where we would start:

Pegs: place pegs in hole (for some students you may need to remove the lid if this is too hard)

Pom-Pom Tweezers: use tweezers to move pom-poms from one cup to the other. This is a tricky one!  Variations could include using beginner's chopsticks or tongs and/or bigger pom-poms or cotton balls. To make it tricker add a lid to the second cup.

Clothespins: pinch the clothespins to get them off the box, then push them through X slot on canister (remove lid to make it easier)

Some wonderful other ideas can be found in these awesome books:

Math Taskboxes

In my classroom, I use the TEACCH structured work system  approach for my students' independent work area. The structured work system area is a system of typically 3 tasks (usually "taskboxes" or work bins) which are set up on the left (in the picture they are in the clear bins on the table) and completed at a surface in front of the student, and then placed in a "finished" area (in the picture they are placed in the white laundry basket). The structure of the TEACCH work system and of taskboxes is especially helpful when working with students with autism because they have a clear beginning, middle, and end, therefore the student is aware when they will be done. In my classroom, once all three tasks are completed the student with have a break to complete an activity of their choice.

Over the past few years we have made TONS of "taskboxes" or work bins for students to complete at this area. Here are a few of my math taskboxes:

Count out sets: put given number of erasers in egg carton

Coin "Counting": put coins needed for snack in bag by matching to picture

Number Words: Match word to numeral and slide notecard in pocket

Quarter Counting: Sequence quarters to $1.00

Coin Sorting: Sort coins and place in slot (index card dividers on the inside are used to check accuracy)

Which Shape Doesn't Belong?: Place red X (using sticky tack on back) on shape that does not belong in sequence

Using Choice Boards to Increase Independence

There are several times in the day that are especially difficult for my students on the autism spectrum and these are the times where they are expected to "play" independently or when at an independent center such as listening center or reading center. I ran into two main problems with these parts of the day. First, students had NO idea what to do when presented with an entire shelf full of toys. Second, sometimes students have zero desire to listen to a book on tape especially if they don't know when to turn the page and/or they cannot read.

To solve both of these problems I developed choice boards for these parts of the day. A choice board consists of several pictures symbolizing activities and student name cards. When asked to make a choice, a student finds their name card and places it next to the picture symbol of their choice. In my room, I don't have a limit on how many people can pick one particular activity but this could be an option as well. Right now we have a literacy center choice board, indoor recess choice board, and choice time choice board.

Literacy Center Choice Board: This has been wonderful! Instead of "assigning" listening center to a student, they have options that will keep them more engaged and therefore more independent. Some options include:
  • acting out stories with puppets/stuffed animals
  • playing with a leap pad
  • spelling sight words with magnetic letters
  • listening to music and/or taking a break with sensory fidgets
  • reading/looking through thematic books
  • using a felt board to reenact a previously read story 
Indoor Recess Choice Board: This board can really have any activity you want to offer during indoor recess. I typically offer more interactive choices during this time. It is great too because if there is something you don't want students to do during this time then you just dont put it on the board. Some choices I offer include:
  • puzzles
  • board game
  • kitchen set
  • blocks/legos
  • dolls
  • cars/trains

Choice Time Choice Board: In the past, I have tried using busy bags or busy bins for students to use when they have finished an assignment early. I didn't feel like the busy bins/bags were very motivating for students and it was sometimes hard to find a variety of personalized free time activities for each student. A colleague of mine introduced me to using a choice board which provides quick activities which are easy for students to initiate and clean up. Additionally, they are activities that can be done independently and are not disruptive because many times there are still students in the room working when another student earns "choice time" Some examples of choice time activities in my room include:
  • Theraputty (a class favorite!)
  • drawing/coloring
  • dry erase markers
  • reading
  • Mr. Potato Head
  • sensory table

Saturday, June 23, 2012

PECS Cheatsheets and Progress Monitoring--FREEBIES

Last year, one of my kiddos has a speech evaluation and it was determined that we should try to use PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) with him. I am not sure how many readers have used PECS in their classrooms but I find it to be very complicated! PECS training is only provided locally 1-2 times per year and it is expensive. There was no training available until after school was out therefore in order to get some information on the system, my paras and I used the OCALI (Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence) Autism Internet Modules. The modules were very informative (I have used them for other topics as well and I really think they are a wonderful resource). In fact, they contained so much information that I started to worry about being able to remember all of the steps to this very complex system. To help my aides and I remember, I created cheatsheets (I only have Phases I and II...not really sure why?! It did not work for the particular student so maybe we gave up after Phase II). Additionally, PECS has some specific procedures for providing prompting and correcting incorrect responses which can also get a bit confusing so I have cheatsheets for these too! I really like the 4-Step Error Correction Procedure. I frequently use this throughout the day whenever my kids provide and incorrect response. 

I also created progress monitoring sheets so that our tracking was consistent. This was especially important because as part of PECS you need to switch roles and therefore I was not always keeping the data nor was I even involved in the training on a particular day. PECS requires a certain degree of mastery of each step before allowing the student to progress in the system so we needed good data!

I hope you find these resources helpful! Since we did not have much success with the system I did not get to use them for very long. I would love any feedback from educators who use PECS!


Writing Modifications Chart...FREEBIE

My students have a lot of fine motor needs. All of them receive occupational therapy and have a boatload of writing modifications. Honestly, I developed this Writing Modifications chart last year because it was hard for me and my paras to remember what hand the kids used when writing let alone all of the other modifications.

I listed each students name, under hand I wrote left or right, and then I just placed an X in any of the other columns that applied. Then, I posted this handy chart on the whiteboard for quick reference during group activities. It is amazing how often I had to refer to it!


Writing Modifications

Special Apps for Special Kids

Special Apps for Special Kids

I was recently invited to give a presentation about iPad apps that I use in my classroom for another school district. My speech therapist was also a presenter and we compiled a list of apps to share. We separated the list into several key categories: Communication, Autism, Fine Motor/OT, Social, Sensory, Behavior, Fuctional Living Skills, Reading, and Math. I am really happy with the list we came up with. It has a lot of apps that can be used with general ed or special ed classes. Because I teach K-4, most of the apps are geared towards elementary kids but we did try to include some higher level apps as well. The list is extensive so I also want to include some of my favorites:

Top 20 Favorite iPad Apps

1. Proloquo2Go
2. Preschool Monkey Toolbox
3. Injini Lite
4. Visules
5. Time Timer
6. Touch and Write
7. Letter School
8. Super Duper Fun Deck: Following Directions
9. Koi Pond Lite
10. Tappy Tunes
11. MeMoves
12. Dance Party Zoo
13. iReward
14. iEarnedThat
15. Whizzy Kids
16. Lakeshore Sound Sorting
17. Measurement
18. KidCalc 7-in-1 Math Fun
19. Bob Books
20. McGraw-Hill Addition

Friday, June 22, 2012

Working with Students with Specials Needs FREEBIE

Next year we will have 6 paraprofessionals working with our students at the new building. Fortunately, most of them have prior experience with working with students with special needs. However, when preparing for a paraprofessional training I started to wonder how much I have really educated my paras about special needs in general.

I have created a guide titled Working with Students with Specials Needs for paras, substitutes, and volunteers to educate them on using "person-first" language, general information about disabilities and their characteristics and successful teaching strategies, and quick tips for providing modifications in the classroom.


Working with Students with Special Needs

Sensory Supports for the Classroom FREEBIE

Now that school is out I have been focusing my efforts on organizing my thumb drive. This is a HUGE task since my thumb drive holds pretty much every lesson, handout, and worksheet I have made over the past year. It is so important to me that I keep it attached to my school badge (this is mostly because I kept leaving it in my computer at home and my boyfriend was tired of dropping it off at school!). While organizing this summer, I plan to cute-ify a bunch of handouts and share them here. 

The first handout is Sensory Supports for the Classroom. This year I became super interested in understanding the sensory system. Initially, I was looking to better meet the needs of my students with autism. But, the more I learned the more I realized I could better meet the needs of all of my students through tapping into their senses. Additionally, I knew that the general ed teachers in my building would also benefit from learning a bit more about the sensory system. 

This handout is geared towards helping all educators better regulate their students sensory system whether a student needs alerting input or calming input. I broke the strategies up by senses since the sensory system is obviously impacted by our senses! 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Video Priming for Transitions

I was recently invited to a luncheon with the Miami Valley Autism Coaching Team (MV-ACT) A-LISTers. The A-LIST is a group of Region 10 educators who the ACT team has designated as being "best practice partners" when it comes to educating individuals with Autism. It was an honor to be invited and furthermore it was an awesome opportunity to see what other special needs teachers were doing in their classrooms. There were lots of awesome ideas.

One that stuck out was the video priming example they shared. Video priming is when you create a video for a child to help them prepare for something new, in this case returning to school and the introduction of a "home base" for that particular child. I think of it basically like a video social story.

Here is the video they shared:

I hope to implement this in the future. If I would have known about this strategy earlier perhaps I would have tried it for preparing my students for our move next year.