Sunday, April 30, 2017

Tips for Running Morning Meeting

I have favorite part of my day and in my classroom this year it is done two times a day. I love teaching morning meeting.And if you haven't read it, I did a post a while ago with some of the concepts I teach and you can read that here. At the secondary level I try to be mindful that my students are older and need to start focusing that way. Morning meeting does focus on life skills like reading a calendar and looking up the weather but, some teachers feel that it is something that should only be done at the elementary level. I say, as long as it is kept age appropriate there is nothing wrong with working on these skills. So in this post I have 5 tips that has made my morning meeting more functional and purposeful for my students.

1. Break Up Morning Meeting into Focused Groups

It was one of the best things I did this year. I have students who are non-verbal and use communication devices who need a lot of functional skills. They are perfect candidates for Core Vocabulary instruction and the other half of my class is very verbal to the point that they can move beyond the functional basics and have more responsibility. So I have 2 morning meetings and split them this way. That means that I have differentiated everything that I do to meet the needs of these two groups. I have been able to really work with these two groups on the specific needs they have and because of this I have students that have made leaps and bounds in terms of understanding basic and more complex concepts involved with morning meeting.

2. Use Interactive Materials to Keep Students Engaged

This is super important. I have created binders that have interactive materials for every student in both groups that I teach to follow along with while we do it up on the board in the classroom. These binders do not look the same but, both have similar concepts in them.
Adapted Calendar Activities
Materials in Photo from The Autism Helper 

The students all do:
-days of the week
-the date
-weather/ clothes that should be worn

After that there are different concepts that I change for the students. My non-verbal group works on Core Vocabulary both interactively and hands on with materials and toys that they find exciting. My verbal students work on answering questions, constructing sentences, and having conversations with one another. But, with both groups are interactive materials that keep them accountable for paying attention and engaged in the lesson of what we are doing. It also allows students that are both verbal and non-verbal to answer questions and show what they know.

3. Involve the Students in Lesson

Now we just talked about the interactive materials I use but, I also have part of my morning meeting on my smart board that the students can also come up to the board and help complete. This comes from News2You. News2You is a curriculum that has many different resources to it but, one thing I like is that it has a piece in it called "Joey's Locker" and within that is "Club Roo" and then there is a picture of a map called "Today's Weather" piece.

 Click on the map to get in! 

 It works on the date, weather, and clothing that should be worn.

It allows the students to manipulate the slides with an ending page that looks like this:

Then the students can read it to the class to summarize everything we just talked about.

4. Teach Specific Functional Skills

Like I said before I differentiate my two morning meetings but, I get specific in what I teach here is what I do with each group to fit those students' needs.

Non-Verbal Group                                                    Verbal Group
Calendar                                                                    Calendar
Weather                                                                     Weather
Clothing (with materials)                                          Clothing
Core Vocabulary                                                        Daily Question
                                                                                   Wh- Question Answering
                                                                                   Lunch Menu

With these set up I have actual pictures of clothes for the non-verbal group and they dress "themselves" based on the decisions we made about the weather. So they have a picture of them selves and if we decided they need sunglasses on they take the sunglasses piece and place it on the face over their eyes. We talk about what sunglasses are used for and what part of the body we wear them on. I got those clothing materials here. With my verbal group we just circle this sheet with a dry erase marker.

5. Utilize Paraprofessionals

This might be the hardest thing I have done in my classroom. I have my paraprofessionals using least to most prompting to guide my students in building independence in these lessons. This took a while to teach my paras to understand this and what it meant for different parts of the morning meeting lesson, but now that they understand it has been great! I use this visual from The Autism Helper a lot!

 For my verbal group, there isn't much assistance needed at all at this point of the year and that is great but, in the beginning of the year they needed someone behind them to stay on task, write something down, or help with spelling. With my non-verbal group they have gone from needing full physical prompts to pick up interactive pieces to gestures or verbal prompts. PROGRESS!! It is great to see!

With all that said, I love Morning Meeting and I think that every classroom could have one, keep it age appropriate, make it functional and help their students make progress.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Differentiating Independent Work Stations

I dI don't know about you all, but I love independent work! I don't know what teacher wouldn't. A student is completely engaged in an academic or functional task and you are able to work with others knowing that the other student is just fine and accomplishing something.


In my classroom we consider independent work just that, the student can complete the task independently with no prompting (except maybe an on-task prompt here or there). So it must be a task that a student has already mastered. You cannot expect Johnny to do an independent task with clothespins and subtraction task cards if he hasn't mastered addition yet. Or if he hasn't mastered how to open a clothespin! You cannot expect Sarah to match colors on a file folder if she hasn't shown that she knows that the picture of the apple you are holding up is red. Or if she can't take the red picture off the velcro strip from the file folder. 

I know I know, you are thinking... DUH!!! But in all actuality I have even caught myself making that very same mistake. You think that a student has something mastered because you have worked with them, and then you transfer that skill to be done in their independent work and they couldn't do it as well as you thought, or you realized that there was a step that you had assisted them with when working in a direct instruction setting that now in independent work that student is unable to do and is struggling. And everyone knows that when a student cannot do the independent work that is suppose to be independent what happens?!?! BEHAVIORS! 

I am definitely not trying to say as teachers we don't know what we are doing, we are all humans we make mistakes and realize that sometimes our students may not quite have the concept the way we thought, no biggie, we just keep working on it until they do. 

So in learning all this I have found that the best way to make independent work areas of my classroom work I have to differentiate everything! I know it is crazy to think of all that work that has to be done, but in my classroom it is a necessity. My students need it in order to be successful. So I wanted to share another one of the independent work stations I have in my classroom. I have three independent work areas in my room. You can read about my Work Tasks here. You can read about my Life Skills Area here. 

Binderwork Independent Work Station

I know the name is super creative, but it works! So in this station I have two parts to it that makes it easy for almost any student in my classroom to complete independently so that my paras and I can work with other students. Of course we all keep our eyes scanning to be sure that no one gets off task, but for the most part my students can do this on their own. 

Yes, we did go over how to do this station for about a week at the beginning of the school year to model how to work at this station. I even had paras do some of the skills in 1-1 sessions with the students to be sure they were independent with these skills before having them go to the station. This helped to ensure that the expectations weren't set too high and it allowed for my students to find success. 

So the first thing I did was collect materials that could be kept in binders for my students that varied in skill levels so that everyone could have something. What did I use?? Well here are some ideas:

-file folders that didn't get put in a file folder and just were laminated pages that were interactive
-binder tasks made by some awesome SPED TPTers

Where did I get this stuff?? From my own store and from these other awesome TPT Sellers! I am sure there is others, but I just named a few of my all time go to ones. You can really use ANY interactive work for this! 

Life Skills Independent Binders - Teach Love Autism
Independent Work Binders - Autism Adventures
Basic Skills File Folders - Simply Special Ed
Matching Real Life Vocab File Folders - Autism Classroom News

Once I had a bunch of stuff  I used my color coding system to create a 1" binder for each student in the classroom. I put their name on the spine so they can find it easily and then inside is all their personally differentiated independent work. All the work inside is things that I knew my students already knew how to do. Let's take a look at the inside of some of their binders!
Color Coded outside of binder

Then I knew that I needed something that was fun and more open to choice for my students. Sometimes us scheduling out every part of their day gets some friends a little crazy so I decided to use Autism Adventures Monthly Independent Work Binders (link is to her blog post about her binders) to provide options for my students that finish their binder but, still have a perimeter on what they can do. I cannot take all the credit for this. She inspired creating this station by having these binders. So when they are done they are told that until our classroom timer goes off (they have 15 minutes in each work area) that they can pick from any of these monthly binders to work in. 
(Picture from Autism Adventures)

This system has worked so well in my room for providing another option for independent work and filling in my students' schedules with meaningful and engaging work. Here is a post from a fellow We Teach Sped Blogger... 

So in order to get you started, because we all know that is the struggle, getting started. I have created a sneak peek sample of my GINORMOUS binder set that I am currently creating.This is free for you to check out all the cool types of activities I put inside my students' binders. Click HERE for the FREEBIE!!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Work Tasks Part 5

Hey There!

I know it's been a while since I have gotten any good stuff on here and I apologize. The good news is that I am adding to one of my all-time most viewed groupings of posts! You got it, the work task ones! For some reason there are just tons of you that are as nuts and crazy about work tasks as I am so I thought I'd share some of the ones that I have come up with lately!

If you haven't checked out my other posts look here!!
Work Tasks 1
Work Tasks 2
Work Tasks 3
Work Tasks 4

Let's get looking into some of the newest work tasks I have incorporated in my room!

Sorting canned items and perishable items. This is a task that you can find in my store called Grocery Store Sorts. It is part of a bunch of sorts of different types of categories of items you'd find in a grocery store. 

This involves placing pony beads into a drinking cup with a small hole at the top that a straw is suppose to go into. This is an awesome put-in task! It was so easy to make. I just took the straw out of the cup and added the beads. It is a great fine motor task. 

This task involves taking the cylinders of the same color (all the reds, blues, or greens) and put them into a test tube. Then set the test tube into the correct color holder that matches the cylinders. This is an assembly task that involves a lot of steps. I only give this to my students that have more advanced independence skills.

I love tasks with clothespins! They are super easy to assemble. I use them with task cards a lot and they are awesome for students that need more fine motor skills. I owe clothespins of all sizes! These are being used with clip strips that have items you would find in the kitchen and clipping the corresponding picture. 

This task uses a muffin tin and shower curtain hooks. The student has to sort the hooks by color into the muffin tin following the example in this picture.

This is another task like the one above except hair ties are being sorted in the tin. This is another great way to help students have a vessel to sort things that is easy, commonly found, and cheap! 

If you can't tell I love sorting! This is another tray I have found (at the Dollar Tree) and the erasers are from the Target dollar spot. So this task cost me $2! I did provide visuals for which colors to sort where because sometimes the students need that in order to be independent in completing the task. 

If you really want to be a junkie like me, check out my Pinterest Work Task Board!

It is loaded with tons of ideas from not just me but, lots of other great teachers that have really found some awesome ideas!

 If you are sitting here wondering how to get this all started you can check out my Work Task Starter Kit.
TEACCH Independent Work Task Starter Kit
 It has all the visuals, choice boards, and schedules to help you set up this in your classroom.

Please feel free to contact me if you want to know more about how I set up this in my classroom! It really is one of the most successful systems in my room and it makes it so I have time to work with students 1:1 but, I know that my other students are productive and on task! Thanks for checking in with me!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Most Important Station in my Classroom

I am a big believer that keeping the schedule filled and busy for my students is the key to having them stay on task, reduce behaviors, and maximizing the learning of new skills and the maintenance of old ones. So, I have a lot going on in my classroom. You can read posts about my schedules in my classroom here. 

In having a packed schedule you have to have things to put in it. So, I have created centers, stations, whatever you want to call them that my students work at everyday that are either taught 1:1 by myself or my paraprofessionals or they are independent areas that my students work at. One of those is my Life Skills Station. 

This has the students work schedules on them and then some of the drawers and cabinets have tasks inside them such as hanging and folding clothes, putting shoes away in an organizer by matching the pair. And in the corner you can see our vacuum. 

This cabinet is new this year and I am super pumped about it because not only does it store a lot of items for the students to work with but, it has this great work top space where students have room to fold clothes and work! 

Students work here everyday. I have created a schedule so that students work on different tasks on different days but, the key to getting the students to be independent here is that they can independently do the tasks prior to having them work on them at that station. This means that we have either tested to see if the students had these skills prior or we have taught them in a teaching session with an adult. 

Here is a look at some of the activities and skills that we have the students work on in this station:

These are my clothespin cards that I have for every room in the house to work on matching popular items that you would find in each room.

These are puzzles the students can put together by looking at the numbers at the bottom and putting them together with the same vocabulary for different rooms of the house. 

This is a pill organizer that my students use to follow the schedule with the colors on it to place pony beads in the right section of the pill sorter. 

This skill is not only something that a students may do as a job one day but, it works on their fine motor skills as well! 

Where did you get all those materials?? Well just like with my work tasks I have accumulated things over the years. I got this Vocational Task set from eNasco.

I have gotten some things from the Dollar Store, Target, and Five Below. 

And I have even made some things myself that you can get in my TPT store like these:

The biggest thing about this station is that it provides students a chance to practice skills that they will very likely need most of their lives. I might argue that it is one of the most important parts of my students days. So, if you haven't thought about implementing something like this in your classroom you definitely should!! 

Lastly, if you didn't know there is a HUGE TPT Sale today! So head over and get all my products and other TPT authors products for 28% off! 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Rules on the First Weeks of School: BTS Giveaway

You must think I'm joking right?!? Well I'm not two blog posts in one week! And it is during school! WHAT?!?! LOL

I'm just a little impressed with myself. I decided to team up with some awesome fellow special education bloggers to bring you a Back to School Blog Hop and Giveaway! There is a rafflecopter giveaway below so please keep reading. It will go on starting today until September 8th.

I wanted to really focus on rules in the classroom. I have seen a ton of pictures on Instgram, Pinterest, and Facebook of teachers posting their classrooms ready for the new year. Of course something that is in probably every room (if not you are crazy and love adventure!) is a set of classroom rules. Some teachers like to let the students come up with them but, in my classroom that might be a little off. I think my rules might be something like this:

1. Students are allowed on the computer and iPads whenever they want.

2. Students can have snack whenever they want.

3. Students can have breaks ALL DAY.

4. Teachers should not teach or discipline any students.

5. Students are basically allowed to do whatever they wanted and teachers can't stop us!!:)

Let me preface first by saying my students are wonderful but, if they had the chance to do whatever they wanted all day instead of working their butts off like we do, I could totally see these being the rules in our classroom.

Rules are what give our students in any classroom boundaries. It lets them know what they can and cannot do but, as teachers we need to be sure that we are going over these rules thoroughly to make sure they understand what is expected of them.

During the first weeks of school I am like a broken record. I am constantly stating our classroom rules and I am giving lots of examples in different areas in the classroom. I explain how each rule can be interpreted in that part of our classroom whether it is the direct instruction area, work tasks, or sensory room. This allows the students to internalize that information.

In order to be able to do this and tackle different modes of learning for my students I created a product that could be used with multiple learners but, still was functional and appropriate for teaching rules during those first weeks of school.

Also, be sure to hop on over to The Autism Vault to stay on this blog hop and get a chance to win all these great resources!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Classroom Reveal 2016-2017

So, it is time to start another year of school. I can not believe it. I am going on year 8... REALLY?!? It feels like I was just in my first year of teaching like yesterday?!?

Anyways, I am in year 4 of being a special education teacher in a self contained middle school autistic support classroom. And I want to say that looking at my room you won't see changes, and yet, you will see changes. I have tried to make this room work for everyone. I have six students this year and 4 staff (2 one-on-one aides, and 2 paraprofessionals). It is an interesting group to say the least but I wouldn't ask for it any other way! Only time will tell and when the kiddos come on Monday we will get the true test!

I wanted to give you a reveal of all that I have worked on to create this wonderful classroom for my students. So here we go!!

When you first walk into my clasroom this is what you see, my students' schedules. There are clipboards for the students that have laminated dry erase schedules and then under the clock you see the schedules with pictures. It is kind of hard to see but actually there are flaps that have a red check and a green check and when a student completes that part of their schedule the turn the flap over so that it is green and means they have finished that and can go to the next part. 

This is one of my para run stations at the horse shoe table. This year I am calling it "Academy". The reason why is because it is going to be a complete mix-up of academic activities. 

This shows my lifeskills work area. There is a rectangular table to work at with some rubbermade drawers with tasks in them and then the counter with the tablecloth on it is my newest baby that houses all my tasks! 

Here is the front of the counter and as you can see I have pictures on the doors and drawers because when you open these up there are life skills tasks inside that the students have to complete. There is probably a post specifically on what is in here coming soon! 

These are the cabinets that house some of the other life skills materials. I have students hang clothes, hang shoes, fold shirts, and sort light and dark laundry. You can also see in this picture the schedules that the students have to follow with their names on it when they work in this area. 

On this cabinet you will find my work task schedule cheat sheets! These are life savers to help my staff and students to know what they are going to work on each day. These are part of my Work Task Starter Kit. This is my supply cabinet. also houses all my school materials and supplies.

This is the view of the entire cabinet. It took about 1/2 a day to organize it all, but it will save all of us so much time when the school year starts! 

A close up of the cabinet. You can see that I have everything in a basket and then the basket is labeled. LOVE IT! 

Another look at the cabinet organization! <3

This is my work task system. It consists of both the black and wood shelving. I couldn't tell you how many tasks I have here but, there are a lot. Which gives me a lot of options to mix it up for my students so they don't get bored and that is key! 

2 Computers for students to use. 

Binderwork area- independent work for the students. The students will use both binders with tasks in them and also cookie tray activities in this area. 

Classroom library

Classroom rules, hooks for hanging backpacks and coats, and a table for break times for drawing and doing puzzles. 

Bindershelf where we store Academy work, morning meeting binders, communication binders, lunch materials, and a place to put finished work. 

Direct instruction area with whiteboard, morning meeting board, teacher desk. 

Morning meeting board, whiteboard and technology station. 

Morning meeting bulletin board. My favorite stuff to teach! 

My teacher's desk, love how tiny it is! 

Unique vocabulary pocket chart and a computer for students to check their class dojo info! 

Left side of the room

Right outside of the sensory room, I added a few more items for an extension. And I added a core vocabulary word wall for students to reference! 

As you can see, I have a lot of stuff, and if I ever had to move all of this to a new classroom (which I don't intend to in the future!) I would probably go with a company like MakeSpaceMakeSpace. They provide easy options for anyone to move and store things. As a teacher, the service they provide is perfect. Check out their self-storage locations to see if there is one near you! 

I hope to take the time this year to go through each area of the classroom and give a more detailed blog post on what happens in each area of the classroom! Happy new school year to all of you whether you have started or not!! :)