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:

Friday, April 4, 2014

Free Emotions Apps for Special Education

I love these two emotion apps for my special education students, and you can't beat free!

Kidoko My Emotions is an interactive book with a cartoon boy face displaying a variety of emotions and explaining why/when he feels that way. There is also a matching memory game that my students enjoy. Definitely geared towards younger students but it's not too babyish, and it's perfect for my student's emotional level. There is no ads or in-app purchases which is SO nice! Also available on Google Play for those of you who have Androids!

Touch and Learn Emotions is a simple app to use. It shows 4 pictures on the screen at a time (picture range from babies to adults - appropriate for all ages) and asks the user to choose the appropriate emotion. This app is also highly customizable. You can choose what emotions to display, whether or not to display text, what noises to play (correct/incorrect sounds), and you can even add your own pictures!

Do you have any other favorite emotions apps? I have more downloaded on my iPad but these are the two that my students and I keep going back too.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Autism Awareness Day and April's Currently

Wear blue for autism awareness tomorrow April 2nd! My school has been doing awesome spreading awareness by things like posting posters around the school with facts, showing videos in advisory classes, collecting change for autism, and selling autism t-shirts. I'm excited to wear my shirt tomorrow (plus wearing a t-shirt means I can wear jeans too - bonus!) I also have my "autism" purse that I pulled out of my closet for this month. I don't think most people would think autism when they see it, but it's shades of blue and in shapes of puzzle pieces - so it's perfect! I'll try to post a picture tomorrow on my facebook page.

Chris from Autism Classroom News has some AWESOME things going on:
Holy moly, it is April already! I wish I had some rain boots :) dang, should have written that in my currently...oh well, too late! Here's what's going on currently:
Listening: We were watching How I Met Your Mother - the final episode! But that ended so then we just turned on the news. (FYI - "we" is my husband and I)

Loving: Okay, I seriously might be loving this library unit a little bit too much, but I just feel so prepared and I love having everything ready to go. Plus, I'm excited for my kids to use everything! And then, of course, there's our trip I'm excited for too. I love the library.

Thinking: I usually don't do much for April Fool's day, but put masking tape on the bottom of a co-workers mouse and it took him a while to figure out what was going on. Even plugged the computer into another outlet. And then one of my students thought he was so funny by placing a rubber mouse on my seat. Funny thing was, I didn't even notice and kept sitting down! I guess it was far enough back that I didn't even feel it. And then we took pictures of the mouse around the classroom and plan on making a book.  

Wanting: My little sister has spring break this week, so my family went to Florida. If my spring break had been just a week later, my husband and I would have been going along. But at least I got to see them on their way there and will see them on the way back too since we are dog-sitting for them.

Needing: Warmer weather - who doesn't?! I'm looking forward to going for walks with my dog again. I'm not good at exercising just for exercising, but enjoy walking with a purpose so I can't wait to do that again.

Hours and last day: Contractually our hours are 7:45-3:15. I usually get to school around 7:20-7:30 (Not really a morning person) and stay on average around 4:00. It's extremely rare that I will leave before 4:00
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