Sunday, April 20, 2014

What I Have Learned from My Students

As a special education teacher who loves my job, I get so annoyed with people when they make comments like "Wow, that must be so hard", "I could never do what you do", or my all-time favorite "You must have so much patience." I'm sure we've all heard them. I think part of the reason I get so frustrated with these comments is these people don't understand how awesome, exciting, and rewarding my job can be, despite it's challenges. That's what makes it all worth it.

I have learned so much from my special education students. Granted, sometimes I joke that I am becoming more OCD and have adapted sensory-type ways of coping with difficult situations...but that just makes me smile and reminds me how much I love my job.

My students have taught me not to judge others by their appearances. My students don't judge by appearances. They don't care if someone's clothes are stylish. They don't think less of someone if they have messy hair or smell badly. In fact! I have to teach them to notice these things on themselves to learn hygiene skills. But when it comes to others, they are able to look past all of that and see people for what really matters.

Not only do not student not judge others by their appearances but they typically don't judge others for their actions or odd quirks either. My students know to ignore their classmate when he is swearing. They don't mind that one of their classmates sings "hello" instead of saying it. They understand more than others that we all have bad days sometimes and they don't hold it against us. They don't call things weird as some might, but accept that we are all different.

How often do I judge people by the appearances or the "odd" way I think they act? Way too often. My students remind me that that other things matter more than that. With my students, we laugh. We have a blast. And we don't care what others are thinking. My students teach me to live life more carefree.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Grocery Store File Folders

I am so excited to add these grocery store file folders to our collection. They work on a variety of skills with a fun real life application of shopping or working at a grocery store!

There are a couple category sorting, such as this fruit and vegetable sort as well as a meat and dairy sort! Students can practice "stocking the shelves" with these folders.

Similar to these two, there is also a file folders that distinguishs between half and whole gallons of milk.

And I love this size sort between small an large food items.

There are also file folders that work on stocking shelves, this time working on matching rather than sorting skills. These include matching cans and matching a variety of different food items.

Two different file folders work on money values. One matches the amount to the dollar. The next requires the student to match the money to a bill that is larger and can pay for the total.

Then there is also a file folder with the theme of finding the items on a shopping list. One has picture supports, the other just has the word that the students has to match the picture too.

I love sneaking in teaching life skills in fun file folders! Head over to my TpT store to get the materials to make these file folders for your own classroom!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

How to work successfully with paraprofessionals

One of the biggest changes I have dealt with this year was going from a classroom with 2 classroom paraprofessionals to 5 one-to-one paraprofessionals. It's great to have support...but I had (and still have) a lot to learn about managing so many adults in my classroom. Here's some things that I have learned and am working on with my classroom aides that I hope might also help you in your paraprofessional relationships!

1. Give positive feedback - This is important to do as early as you can so that you can establish a good rapport with your staff. Find something that they do well, and let them know! And better yet, let your principal/district chair/supervisor/their boss know as well. I have sent emails to my district chair and then she forwards them onto the aides with a message like "keep up the good work!" People in general like to be recognized and it's important that we do this for our staff members as well. After sending these emails, I have noticed these staff members work even harder, which has been awesome!

2. Schedule meetings - I have planned very informal meetings to meet with each staff member individually for a few minutes after the students leave every other week. Our students leave at 3:00 and the staff stays until 3:15. This is really the only time we have without students and they usually use this time to check their emails and such, so I was a little nervous to ask them for this time. However, they were totally on board and I try to make these meetings very positive and give them time to ask questions and brainstorm ideas about their individual student. We also review IEP goals to remind the staff why we work on the skills that we work on.

3. Give directions and Explain yourself - Your classroom aides are not mind-readers. Plus, they likely don't have the experience and education that you have had. As the teacher, you know what your students need and the strategies to use to help them learn. Show your staff members how to work with their student and then watch them in order to provide feedback. Make sure you are working together. Then when you have time (maybe in your bi-weekly meetings) explain why you are using the strategies you are using and why you are asking the staff to respond in that way. While not always necessary, explaining why you are asking staff to do something a certain way sometimes helps them realize the important of doing it your way and not how they think it should be done.

4. Discuss and Document - Unfortunately, there will be situations where you have to correct staff due to inappropriate classroom behavior or even just minor student programming. Enter this eCard I posted on my facebook page a couple of weeks ago...
If you have established a positive relationship with your staff members, hopefully they will listen and it will be an easy conversation to have. Honestly, I never thought it would be easy to have conversations where I tell staff they need to change what they are doing, but with some of my staff we have that relationship where they actually appreciate the feedback I give! However, I have staff where the conversation is a lot harder to have, but the conversations need to take place because it's in the best interest of the student to get those situations corrected. Before I have a conversation, I find it's good to have specific examples of what I am talking about. I usually write them down so I can refer to them if I get nervous and if staff becomes confrontational. After the discussion, send an email with the reminders so they can refer to it and you also have written documentation that the conversation took place. If issues continue to happen, make sure your aide's boss knows what's going on and what you can done to try to correct the situation.

5. Show your appreciation - Write occasional thank you notes. (I have that on my to-do list for this week!) I've given my aides packs of gum as a simple "I appreciate you" gift. If your school does anything to celebrate administrative professionals day (April 23) be sure to contribute, or do something yourself! It can be a simple box of doughnut holes. It really is the thought that counts.

6. Keep it Positive - Don't vent to your aides about problems going on in the classroom, whether it be administration, other staff, students, or parents. Your attitude has a huge impact on your classroom's aides attitude. So, just like we all do with our students, sometimes we have to fake it until we make it! Or at least just keep our mouth shut :) You want to keep their morale up and negativity doesn't help this situation.

What else would you add to this list?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Texture Painting

As we were learning about textures, we had some fun making texture paintings. My students thought this was WAY cooler than regular painting. We mixed our paint with a variety of materials that we had on hand such as sand, baking soda, shaving cream and glue (important to do these together or the shaving cream doesn't dry), sead beads, and glitter. FYI - we also tried salt but learned that salt and paint don't mix.

Each student picked and texture and a color. We mixed them together in yogurt cups and applied to cardboard using Popsicle sticks. Since the paint is thicker it's good to use something heavier like cardboard to paint on, and the Popsicle sticks worked great for applying the textured paints. Students traded colors with friends so that we didn't have to mix a trillion colors and could still use different colors on each piece of art.

I love how the close up pictures look!

Do you have any other idea of what we could have added to our paints?

Monday, April 7, 2014

7 Work Task Boxes

And here's yet another work task post! I hope you guys aren't getting sick of them, but I just have so many and didn't want to bore you by putting them all in one post! :) So here's the next section of work tasks that we use in my classroom.

I feel like this task is a common one, and it's a great one! I drew rectangles around the clothespins on the index cards and then colored them in so students can match the color to the clothespin.

I had these shape Bingo-ish boards from who knows where. They were pretty old. I cut them up into strips of 3 and add Velcro. Insta-shape matching task!

Medicine 1:1 correspondence task. At the beginning of the year I created visuals for one color for Morning, another for Noon, etc...but none of my current students could get that. So 1:1 correspondence it is!

Would you call this task collating? The student has to put an apple of each color together and then secure with a paper clip.

Color match and 1:1 correspondence. I colored in spaces in an ice cube tray and used these little circles I had in a math manipulative kit.

This task is just to put a highlighter in each bag and seal it.

More medicine containers! (I found them at an estate sale this summer) I printed out pictures of suns and moons and students put the correct picture in the AM / PM spot.

For more work task box ideas, check out:
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