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!