Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!!

So much for working out today after work.  I am exhausted!   21 kids, 12 adults, 7 stations, all in one classroom for an hour and a half! But the day went fabulously. We trick or treated in the morning and had our party in the afternoon.  The kids all participated in everything and I am so proud of them.  I wish I could post pictures and videos of how cute they were all day!  But these pictures of what we made will have to do. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Fading From Picture Schedules to Word Schedules

Have your students been on a picture schedule for too long?  Are they able to follow their schedule with complete independence?  Can they match some words to pictures?  If you answered yes to the previous questions, it may be time to get your students off the picture schedule and onto a word schedule.  Word schedules are more functional, age appropriate, and will allow for increased independence.   I fade my students into a word schedule using  a variety of activities.  First of all, I test my students ability to match words to pictures for schedule words.  That way, I know which words they already know and which words I will need to target.  I actually just did this assessment for one of my new students (who has been on a picture schedule for the first 2 months of school), and he could correctly match ALL of the words to the pictures.  So, now I'm on a mission to switch him off of his picture schedule (these kiddos always keep me on my toes!).

Monday, October 29, 2012

Teaching Emotions

 For students with autism, identifying the emotions for themselves and/or others can be VERY CHALLENGING.  
During my first year of teaching, I realized that teaching emotions needed to be a key part of my instruction.  I started targeting emotions in a weekly Drama Time where we played structured drama games related to emotions. Currently, we not only utilize drama time, but try to intertwine teaching emotions into everything we do.  And can I tell has made a difference.  I used to have a student who would scream, cry, throw is body on the floor, and completely shut down to the outside world anytime something didn't go his way.  When we started working on identifying emotions, these behaviors reduced drastically.  I still remember one day this student sitting up and crying in the cafeteria.  I asked him what was wrong and he said "I am sad no playground today." (It was raining).  This would usually have been something that would cause a full blown tantrum.  I was thrilled!  This student had never used language about emotions before except during our structured drama games.  Once he had been taught the words for what he was feeling, he was able to generalize those skills and express his emotions through words instead of dangerous behaviors.  This was definitely a proud teacher moment for me :-)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Green Ghost, Green Ghost What Do You See?

 I printed this book from the website PreKindergarten...The Right Beginning a few years ago and when I decided to post about it today, I was so happy to find that it is still available.  My kids have loved reading this book each year leading up to Halloween!  The book is free, but you may need Boardmaker in order to download it.  If you need help downloading it, let me know because I can turn it into a PDF and email it to you.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sound Bingo

Today, I wanted to share a game with you that my students can't seem to get enough of!  My parents bought  Sound Bingo  for us last year, but I found it today on amazon for $11.50.  This game is a great way to work on vocabulary, while at the same time targeting listening skills and social skills.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Data Collection on Schedule Following

For teachers in autism classrooms, we pretty much all have one thing in common: SCHEDULES!!  Object schedules, picture schedules, word schedules, etc.  For students with autism, schedules are very beneficial (SEE MY POST on Schedules), but learning how to utilize them does not come naturally to all of our students.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Trick Or Treating

 Most of my students don't get the opportunity to go trick-or-treating for Halloween for a variety of reasons.  Some students live in bad neighborhoods, others are afraid of all the decorations, and others struggle with behavior in the community.  Regardless, as I have expressed earlier this week, my students are OBSESSED with HALLOWEEN.  Working on our Halloween worksheets this week has been a real hit!  My kids get so excited every time we turn the page to the next worksheet.  And since they are so happy and engaged, time has been flying by for me as well!  And, after our week getting off to a rocky start, we have had a fabulous last couple days!

Now, onto Trick-Or-Treating.  Regardless of if our students are able to go in their neighborhoods with their families or not, we like to include a mock trick-or-treating around our school to give our students the life experience and/or practice.  Since my school has 4 autism classrooms, we go trick-or-treating to each of the other classrooms as well as our speech therapists' room, the office, and the case managers office.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How to Plan for your Halloween Party

I have tried every type of set-up for parties on my classroom (whole group, small group), and most left me leaving work frustrated and vowing I would never have another party again.  Finally, I have found a set-up that works!  It works so well, actually, that we use it for every holiday party we have.  Basically, we split up our kids into small groups and have stations set up around the classroom with different types of activities (art, cooking, games, etc.)  During parties, we combine with another autism classroom.  This allows us to have at least 6 adults running stations (usually some of our therapists help run a station as well).

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

More Halloween Worksheets

Today, I have a few more Halloween worksheet ideas to share with you.  This worksheet can be used year round, but I like to use it in the month of October when the color orange is so prevalent every where you look.  For this worksheet, I have students circle pictures of the items that are usually orange.  If the worksheet is in black and white, I have them color the pictures orange.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween Activities

Whew!  Today was one of those days...  After being out all last week on jury duty, my class really let me have it today.  I had one student who had a 2-hour temper tantrum where he kept telling me "I want to have bad behavior" and refused to do anything I asked of him.  Meanwhile, another student let loose blood curdling screams for 30 minutes straight after he was asked to do 3 puzzles (a very normal and easy task for him).  I think the screaming was an attention seeking behavior, but it is SO HARD to get the other 18 students in the room to ignore him!  They did pretty well ignoring (as they tried very hard to stay focused on their work) and eventually the screaming stopped (and my headache set in!).  Luckily, my normal trouble makers turned into perfect little angels today!  Thanks for letting me onto some Halloween activities we are going to be working on this week!  Since all my students LOVE Halloween, maybe these activities will help me get back in their good graces!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Doing My Civic Duty and Trying to Keep My Students Calm!

Have you ever had a student who cries, whines, or throws a fit every time you leave the room?   A couple years ago, I had a student who did all of the above!  Every year, I also always seem to have a few students who become anxious when I leave the classroom and constantly want to know where I am going, what I am doing, and when I will be back.  Although this is fabulous practice for asking questions(!), it can also get a bit tiresome and distracting for those left in the classroom when I am gone (my poor assistants!).  

I created this little social story and posted it on the door (facing into the classroom) when I had the student who got very upset whenever I left.  This ended up helping my whole classroom of students to reduce their anxiety and be reassured that I would be coming back.  By the end of last year, all I had to say was "I have a meeting," and none of them would bat an eyelash.  

Now, I have a whole new bunch of students who become anxious when I leave the classroom.  I have been out on Jury Duty all week (don't lawyers and the courts realize how much my students need me!), and have been thinking about how much I needed to find this visual for my students.  This will be posted as soon as I get back to work! Some of the issues that have happened while I was out on Jury Duty:

-A student refused to get out of bed and his mom had to drag him to school.
-A student cried and told me I couldn't leave because I am his best friend.
-One of my students hit another in the face.
-One student said to the second substitute "Please don't try and teach me solitaire" (which the first sub had tried to do).

These issues definitely make me feel loved and missed, but most of all, I just CAN'T WAIT to get back to my classroom!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Science Unit on Body Parts

Well, we just finished up our unit on body parts, and I thought I would share it with you.  The whole unit is based around 9 vocabulary words: 

*Eyes  *Hands  *Arms  *Lips  *Feet  *Leg  *Teeth 
*Ear     *Nose

I created assessments (for receptive/expressive vocabulary) as well as worksheets addressing a variety of skills (from writing, to coloring, graphing, counting, matching, categorizing, left vs. right, word search, measurement, as well as cut and glue activities).  This unit addresses my students' science IEP goals as well as a variety of other goals (language arts, math, speech, and occupational therapy).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Beginning Charting/Graphing Skills Worksheets

Today, I wanted to post some more FREE printables.  These worksheets help students work on charting/graphing skills by filling in a chart based on shape and color.  They are very simple, but you would be surprised how some of our students can struggle with this skill.  This is a basic starting point which can eventually help students read graphs and answer comprehension questions related to graphs.  We use these during math time to start, but then they make great worksheets for homework or an independent work station.  Click HERE to get your FREE printables.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Work Task Tuesday: Sorting by Category

This will be my last week of sorting tasks for awhile!  This week, I will show you some file folders for sorting items by category.

Sorting People vs. Plants

Sorting Vehicles that go in the sky, water, and on land.
I created a printable version of this task for you to print and use for FREE.  Click Here to download.

Monday, October 15, 2012

New Student Label Template

I don't know about you, but I have so many labels in my classroom to help keep things organized.  In addition to labeling materials and stations, I also have my students' names posted on something at every station (whether it be a desk, binder, folder, drawer, plastic bin, etc.).  And of course, being a bit OCD, I want all of my labels (size and font) to match one another.  There is nothing worse than having one label that looks completely different than the rest!  So, last week when I got a new student, I was so happy I had kept a template of all my labels on my computer.  It was so easy to just type in her name, print, laminate, cut-out, and post her name all around my room.  The harder part is now creating materials for her IEP goals at each station :-).  That, I hope to get done this week!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fall Coloring Page

Happy Sunday!  I have been busy this weekend relaxing and loving it!  Last Friday at school, we finally had a great injuries, no temper tantrums, and lots of work accomplished!  And now tomorrow, of course, I have jury duty  so my poor students have to deal with a substitute!  On Friday, when I told my class I wouldn't be at school on Monday, one of my students started sobbing and saying he didn't want to come to school if I wasn't there because I am his best friend (so sweet).  I'm hoping this jury duty thing doesn't last too long so I can get back to my kids and so we don't lose all the progress we have made over the last week!  Anyways, today I am posting a FREE Fall Coloring Page.  This is good for kids who can read colors to help practice following directions as well as work on coloring in the lines.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Visual Necklaces

In the past, I have used a visual necklace to help my students with autism understand what is being requested of them as well as to help minimize the talking from adults in the classroom.  Some of the regular education teachers have even started using some of these visuals in the hallways with their classes so they don't have to constantly shout their rules/expectations.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What to Store by your Door??

As we all know, being a Special Education teacher is different than a typical classroom.  For one, you are constantly juggling all of your students' and assistants' schedules.  And on top of that, lesson planning looks a whole lot different when you are creating and running a different curriculum for each student.  Luckily, my principal is very supportive and has let me come up with my own templates for both schedules and lesson plans.  I keep copies of my schedules (see my earlier post on creating these), my general lesson plan, as well as my evacuation plans posted by my door for easy access for administrators, classroom visitors, and parents to see.  I store them in top loading sheets which I velcro to the wall.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Phew!  What a week...definitely glad it's half way over and that today is a half day.  My class has been doing so much better, but it is taking a lot of my energy all day, every day to keep it that way.  However, despite doing better, we are still having our fair share of meltdowns this week (at least mine take place after school!).  I am working on collecting data on my most disruptive behaviors and have been introducing token economies all over the place.  Anyways, today, I will post my Currently for the month of October (Link up with Farley's Oh Boy 4th Grade).  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Work Task Tuesdays- Sorting by Color

Today, I have some pictures of color sorting tasks to share.  I also included the FREE materials for one of the tasks (see below)!

This task involves sorting green items vs orange items.  I have this one in a couple different versions. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Resource for Thematic Worksheets

I use the website 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 to find some good thematic worksheet packets for different units we are doing in the classroom.  Click here to go directly to the list of preschool packs. The different themes range in topics from favorite characters (like Mickey Mouse and Cars)  to holidays, animals (baby animals, birds, bugs, cats, dogs), fairy tale characters (knights, princesses), community workers, and favorite children's books (Brown Bear, Hungry Caterpillar).   Since these copy a variety of motivating topics for our kids, these can be used as a more motivating and exciting to way to work on some basic skills.  Most of the packets are at least 15 pages, and some have twice that amount.  The worksheets cover everything from flashcards, to tracing, pattern, graphing, color/shape/letter identification, cutting, and spelling.

Last year,  I used the Ocean worksheets to prep my kids on vocabulary before we went to a play about the ocean last year.  Here are some of my favorite worksheets from that pack.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pinterest Inspiration!

We took this picture last week.  It's not quite as perfect as the one I saw on Pinterest...but I think it turned out pretty cute anyways.  It only took 3 tries and 5 adults to help...haha.  I am hoping to use this as our Thank You card this year for any donations or field trips we go on.

Here is the Pinterest version.  I don't know how many tries I would have needed to get ours to look this nice!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Morning Binder--Beginner Level

Over the last couple days, I have shown you my mid-level and advanced level morning binders.  Today I will show you pictures of what one of my beginner-level binders looks like.  Again, it covers the same topics...just involves more matching and less answering of questions.

The student used to match all the letters in his first and last name, but we were able to backwards fade out the letters, so he is now spelling his name mostly on his own.

Friday, October 5, 2012

More Morning Work Binders-Advanced Level

Today, I will show you an example of my most advanced binder.  This student has been with me for 3 years, and each year, her binder gets progressively more difficult.  If you saw yesterday's post, you will notice that this binder covers the same topics, just at a more advanced level.

This page is my student's schedule.  It is written, and covers the entire week (instead of just one day).  I have it in a top-loading sheet, so she uses the wet erase marker to cross off each item as she completes it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Morning Work Binders

I feel like I have mentioned in several posts about my morning binders and yet, I haven't elaborated on them or shown you examples.  These binders are what my students complete when we finish our morning group work on the board (covering topics of calendar, weather, social skills, emotions, lunch options, whether or not we have recess, attendance, etc.).  I originally made these to keep my students' little hands busy during my morning group (now, we try and get students to participate in the group, and when that is finished, complete their binders).  They are also useful to make sure each student is covering each topic (many which fit into IEP goals) every day.

Each child's binder is different, depending on level.  Today- I will show you a mid-level binder, tomorrow- a high-level binder, and Saturday- a lower level binder.

Here is what the binder looks like when you open it.  A finished envelope on the left (to put the schedule pieces in when each activity is completed), a copy of the weekly schedule in the pocket of the binder (to help aids/students set up the schedule each day), and the daily picture schedule on the right side of the page.  I also velcro in wet erase markers to the front of the binder (which the kids use on some of their laminated binder pages).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Parent Communication

Today I started thinking about home-school communication because last night, one of my students called me 5 times.  He got ahold of his mom's cell phone while she was busy and called me to ask about field trips, when I was coming for a home visit, and to let me know he missed me.  HILARIOUS! I was laughing so hard.  This very rarely happens, but when it does, it cracks me up!

Back when I was student teaching, I felt like parents communicated with special education teachers via home/school notebooks.  I was just wondering how many people still use these for parent communication?  My first year, I tried doing these, but they became so much work and took so much time to fill out!  Starting in my second year of teaching, I switched to text messaging parents.  When I tell my friends this, they are shocked that I text with parents, but it really makes all of our lives so much easier as texting is so much more convenient for both me and my parents.  I text parents quick updates (good and bad) about their child's day, send them pictures when their child goes on a field trip or does great work, or send quick reminders about picture day/assemblies, etc.  

Every once and awhile, I have a parent who calls too often or at inconvenient times of day.   When I do have problems with a parent and phone calls, I just set explicit boundaries ("I will only take phone calls between __am and __pm").  For the most part, I have no problems with my parents...and for the most part, I don't mind if they call me at any hour of the day (especially is they have an emergency!).

Speaking of emergencies, I once had a parent call me on a Saturday night over winter break because her child was threatening to run away from home to go back to school.  She didn't know what to do.  After I talked to my student for a couple minutes on the phone and reassured him how many days of winter break were left until we had school again, he calmed down and remained anxiety free the rest of the break.   It's times like that I am happy all my parents have my phone number! Who could deny helping out a kid/parent in that situation?! 

I have found this works super well for me...what works best for you guys?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Work Task Tuesday- Sorting by shape and size

This week, I thought I would show some more complex sorting tasks that I use at my independent workstation.  These one all have to do with sorting by shape and by size.

This task comes to the student completely blank (besides the prompt on top which says "sort by shape").  There are 3 different shapes in the baggy (star, triangle, and oval), but they come in a variety of colors so the students isn't sorting by color (but actually paying attention to the difference in shape).  Click here to get the materials (FREE) to make this task.

Click below to see many other task ideas for sorting by shape/size.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy October!!

Well, we survived September!!  I can't even tell you how excited my students are that it is October...I think this is one of their favorite months (due to Halloween).  We talked at length this morning about Halloween costumes, candy, and party activities...too bad they still basically have a month until Halloween actually arrives!  Anyways, on the first day of each month, I send home a newsletter and calendar to my students' parents.  Many of the parents have told me they post these at home to help their child with understanding days with school/no school as well as the concept of waiting for special events (field trips, holidays, etc.)