Sunday, September 30, 2012

Other Field Trip Visuals

Here are some more visuals we use on field trips.  Like I said before, most of our trips are for food :-)  Since this is so motivating for our kids, it has been helpful in reducing our kids' anxiety and enabling them to be more independent in the community.   We have even heard many stories from parents on how their children are more willing to go into the community and that their behavior has improved in the community with their parents as well.

This is the menu we use at the mexican restaurant.                         Here is the menu we use at the local diner.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Subway Field Trip Visuals

Another fast food place we like to take the kids to is Subway.  Here, kids get the chance to order a lot of different things and make a lot of choices from meat, to veggies, cheese, toppings, chips, and a drink.  Since there are so many choices, we created a little portable book to bring with us.  For each page, kids make their choice, put the pictures on the sentence strip and read/hand the sentence strip to the cashier (we sometimes help more with this since handing the sentence strip for every choice can be a bit much).

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Community Trips to McDonalds

Now that we are getting into the swing of things around the school, I am starting to think about community based instruction (and my kids keep asking about it every day as well!).   We choose one destination each month to take the kids to.  Today, I wanted to show you the ordering board we use for our non-verbal students at McDonalds to order a Happy Meal..  Some of our other regular field trip destinations throughout the year include:  

Grocery Store
Sit down restaurant
Dunkin Donuts
Trip Downtown

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Classroom Tour: Quiet Reading

This is our independent reading station which we call "Quiet Reading."  I use this as a station for almost all of my students (readers and non-readers).  As you can see on the bookshelf, each bin is labeled with a letter (reading levels).   For students who are reading at a guided reading level, their levels are posted on the right hand side of the book shelf.  The kids are responsible for picking a book at their level and reading it quietly to themselves.  There is a table right across from the shelf where students sit to read their books.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Work Task Tuesday- Sorting Tasks

Sorting tasks can be some of the easiest to put together in a short amount of time.  All you have to do is have items to sort, labels, and the container.  You can pretty much use anything laying around your room to sort. For sorting items, I have used everything from beads, to pipe cleaners, markers, dice,  pens/pencils, paperclips, math manipulatives, blocks, pattern blocks, and more.  You can find containers to sort in all over the place... at the dollar store, target's dollar spot, or around your school (I found the ones pictured here in old science kits my school no longer uses).  I have also purchased ice cube trays and disposable muffin tins at the dollar store for sorting containers!    

I found these little animals at the dollar tree.  They are great for this sorting task.

I have also used simple things like pom-poms for sorting.  The labels for this task specify a number and color to be sorted by.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Classroom Tour: Language Station

At this station, my students work on their fluency skills related to a variety of topics with an assistant.  I take skills each student has "mastered" and turn them into flashcards.  At this station, students work on getting faster at these skills. As I have said before, it is speed and accuracy which makes a skill functional.  If it takes a child 2 minutes to tell you the value of a quarter, the skill is not functional.  The most common sets of flashcards my students have are related to money (identifying coins, identifying value, value of coin combinations), telling time (to the hour, half hour, quarter hour, 5 minutes, 1 minute), sight words, labeling pictures (animals, foods, people, transportation, clothes, school items, etc), and labeling numbers/letters.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Classroom Tour: Teacher Time

Today, I will show you my "Teacher Time" station.  Here, my students work one-on-one with me on material related to their IEP goals.  We especially focus on IEP goals which are not covered at other stations.  We work on everything from reading to math, communication, behavior, time, money, measurement, social skills, and more.   In an ideal world, I would only ever work with one student at a time.  However, as my classroom class size continues to grow, I have to be creative in splitting my time between two students at this station.   I have my bulletin board set up to post examples of each student's work.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Classroom Tour: Science

I change the theme of my science station every month.  I have created a variety of materials for each month.  From vocabulary activities, to games, books, experiments, and conceptual worksheets.
This is the storage shelf for my science station.  I have a bin for each theme which goes on the top shelf, as well as some general science bins (magnets, sounds, etc.) to occupy busy hands when the kids finish all their work.  On the bottom shelf is a "do not touch" bin which my assistant uses to store reinforcers and any additional materials.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Classroom Tour: Reading/Math Centers

These are two other independent stations which focus specifically on reading/math skills.  Again, students complete these independently and the work they complete at these stations are meant to focus on skills in which they require additional practice (but they do not work on learning new skills at this station).  I have these two stations set up to be completed at the same table.  Math tasks/schedules are on the left and Reading tasks/schedules are on the right.  My kids complete reading in the AM as a part of a rotation and math in the PM as part of a rotation.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Classroom Tour: Work Station

So, the strike is OVER!!  And I finally get to go back in my classroom and teach my lovely students again.  Our first day back went pretty well (I feel like we started up almost exactly where we left off a week and a half ago...not too shabby!).  Now that I am able to work again, I wanted to give you a tour of my classroom.  It is still a work in progress...but over the next couple days, I will go station by station around my classroom to give you some ideas of activities that work well for kids with autism.  A couple weeks ago, I showed you my morning group area. (click here).  Other areas in my room I will show you are:

Work Station
Reading Centers/Math Centers
Teacher Time
Quiet Reading

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Work Task Tuesday- Counting

Unfortunately, due to the Chicago Public School strike, I have not been able to get into my classroom for over a week now.  I am going stir crazy and want to go back to work sooooooooooo bad!  Due to this, I don't have an actual photo of the work task for today, but have screen shots of the materials. This week's work tasks both have to do with counting.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Listening Game

Do you have problems with your students communicating with one another?  So often, I feel like a translator between my students "Johnny…Billy said he wants the markers."  I get so frustrated that my students will not listen to one another on their own!

So we decided to target the skill of listening in my classroom last year.  We introduced the unit with having the students sort pictures of people who look like they are listening versus people who are not listening.  We focused on people making eye contact with the other person.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Grocery Shopping Visuals and Strategies

 We take our students to the grocery store for community based instruction throughout the school year.  I created this grocery list for my classroom, but also send it home for parents to use.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Helping Out at Home- Free Visuals

 Over the past couple years, I have begun to offer home visits for my students on report card pick-up day (instead of having the parents come to the school).  I was surprised at how excited most of the parents seemed about this.  So often we bring the parents into school and act as the experts telling them about THEIR kids.  This is a great way to let the parents show off all they know about their own child in an environment they are comfortable in.  I have learned so much about my kids and their families from doing these home visits.   One issue a lot of the parents seemed concerned about was how to get their child to help out around the house and have chores just like their other children.  So, I created a list of chores (with visual pictures) that most of my students could do.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Preference Assessment- Step by Step

Whether you know a variety of items your student enjoys or if you have no clue, using a preference assessment can help you determine a rank order of preferred items that you can use as reinforcers for each student.

Choosing your items:
*Use items you notice the student interacting with during the day (toys, foods, activities).
*Ask parents which items their child prefers.
*I like to include a combination of edibles and toys for my students.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lunch Choice Board

 Lunch time may be a break for most teachers, but for me it is one of the most important times of the day to work with students.  From socialization with peers to good manners, fine motor skills, and communication skills, lunch time keeps us very busy.  Over the last couple years, I have had many students who struggle with problem behavior at lunch time when their favorite foods aren't an option.  I created this lunch choice board so that I could visually show my students what their choices were BEFORE lunch.  We go over this during our morning meeting and again, right before we leave the classroom.  I have students practice their communication skills by identifying what they want each day for lunch.  This has been very successful in helping decrease problem behaviors at lunch time!

Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store to get this lunch choice board along with pictures of 30 common lunch foods.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Work Task Tuesday!

Today's work tasks target teaching beginning spelling skills while at the same time working on fine motor skills.  Not only that, but these were easy and cheap to create!  I typed up some flash cards according to different categories (I started with shapes, colors, and numbers).  Then I wrote letters on clothespins, threw everything in a tupperware, and VOILA! another work task complete!


Monday, September 10, 2012

How to Organize PECS Pictures

For so many of our students with Autism, picture exchange communication systems (PECS) are how our students communicate.  This program has been very successful for a lot of kids with autism in learning how to communicate their wants/needs. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012


This is my first link-up!  If you want to join in, just click on over to Farley's Blog, Oh boy, 4th Grade and link-up.  

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Creating my schedule has pretty much taken over my school life this past week!  Every year, I create many schedules for my classroom.  And, although it is a pain, I keep doing it year after year, because it really does help the classroom run more smoothly.

I create a spreadsheet of schedules for all of my students for every day of the week.  I break my schedule down into 15 minute long activities (unless it is specials or an activity I know my students can handle for a longer period of time).  This is usually what it looks like.  I color-code different activities (makes it easier to keep track of even if it is a little OCD).  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Math Facts Graphing!

I have been so busy this week working on my classroom, that I am going to apologize right now for this being a short post!  But, I am EXHAUSTED!!  I have spent a majority of my time creating my class schedule which incorporates schedules for each student and each adult for every day of the week.  More to come on that tomorrow!  For today, I wanted to share a math fact activity we have been doing in my classroom.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Morning Group for Kids with Autism

Day 2 went a lot smoother than our first day of school and my kids are starting to settle in to their routines.  The only downside of today was the fact that someone broke into our school and stole laptops and iPads out of 10 classes (mine included!).  But back to the topic at hand...many elementary grades start their day with a morning meeting or circle time, and my class is no exception.  However, a class targeting students with autism may need to do things a little differently.  Here are some pictures of my morning group board and supports I put in place to help aid in my students' learning.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Great Calendars for Kids with Autism

So yesterday was the first day of school, and I don't know about you, but I am feeling a bit overwhelmed!  I am super excited to see my kids, but feel like I don't have anything 100% finished in my room!  I keep finding more things to do everywhere I turn in my classroom.   One thing we all know our students need to start the school year off on the right foot are schedules and calendars.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Work Task Tuesday!

Time for my second Work Task Tuesday.  This week, I am going to focus on Money Activities.

This activity is matching coins to the coin pictures on the cards.  To make this activity more interesting, I tried to use pictures of reinforcing items for my students!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Question Words

With such high language deficits, so many students with autism struggle with answering/asking questions.  We have been working on teaching students the difference between a sentence and a question during one of our small reading groups.  We use this visual in the classroom to help them distinguish between the two as well as to help them come up with their own questions.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Teaching Strategy 5: Behavior Management Tools

When trying to determine which behavior management tool you want to use, you first need to consider the function of the problem behaviors.  Behavior usually occurs when students want attention, access to a tangible item (toy/food), they want to escape or avoid a non preferred activity/person, or there is something automatically reinforcing (a behavior that is not socially mediated) their behavior.  A lot of times, we think we know what the function of a behavior is right away, but we can be wrong.  

This is my favorite "bad behavior" visual...haha. ------------------------------->

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Teaching Strategy 4: Schedules

Schedules are so important in an autism classroom.  They help make the day predictable and organized for our students.  You can and should use schedules for everything!  

In my class, we have a class-wide daily schedule...