Thursday, August 30, 2012

Teaching Strategy 2: Organization

For so many students with autism, it seems that everything needs to have order and follow the rules.  Having an organized classroom may not feel like a "teaching strategy," but it sets up our students' learning environment.  And in our classrooms, since students struggle so much with communication/language, our room and most of our activities need to be set up so students know exactly what is expected of them (without needing to be told through spoken directions).  For instance, I have several stations/centers in my classroom that are independent.  When setting up these stations, I think through several questions.

  1.  When my students arrive at the station, how will they know what work to do?
  2. How will my students know were to find their work?
  3. How will my students know they are finished?
  4. How will my students know where to put their work when they are finished?
  5. (This one isn't related to the kids, but I also think through the adult responsibilities involved in each station for myself and my assistants…i.e. how will this work be cleaned up? when will we have time to do it? and who will be responsible?
For instance, I am just beginning a new math center in my room using this fabulous storage cart from Lakeshore! 
To answer the above questions:
1.  My students will have a schedule posted above the storage cart with their name and what task they are assigned to do.

2.  Each drawer will be labeled with a number.  The students' schedules will indicate which number task they are assigned to and that number will correspond to the drawer their task is in.

3. My students will know they are finished when all of the pieces have been used up/their activity sheet is full.

4.  There will be finished crate (labeled with a "finished picture") where my students are supposed to put their finished work.

5.  A finished bin/crate is a great way to keep adults up to date on what work needs to be done in the classroom.  Instead of the finished work being put in the drawer (out of sight) anyone who is walking past the station can see a pile of work that needs to be undone/cleaned up/re-set and placed back into the drawers for the next student.

Other important aspects of organization:
1.   Make sure that your room has minimal distractions (some posters are ok, but don't go overboard.)

2.  Label all your materials, and make sure everything has a place to be stored.  For instance, I label the container that holds the markers as well as label the place on the shelf where the markers should go.  This not only allows everyone in the room to be able to find materials easily, but it also helps students with autism become responsible around the classroom.

3.  Defined areas of the classroom.  Each area of your classroom (as much as possible) should be used for different activities.  In my classroom we have: a morning group area, independent work station area, science area, one-on-one instruction area, language area,  break area, computer area, spelling area, and reading/math centers area.  It may be impossible for each activity to have its own area. In my room, we have a couple places that are multi-purpose.  We have a small-group table which we use for reading groups, cooking, art, speech, and parties.  I use furniture as much as possible to create defined areas in my classroom. I also put labels up on the wall or on a piece of furniture to label the area.

4.  Predictability.  All of the above strategies will help make your classroom predicable.  You can increase predictability by using schedules/calendars (see my upcoming post), following similar daily routines, and give students warning for any changes that come up.

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