Sunday, June 30, 2013

Behavior Freebies

What a great group of bloggers we have here at A Special Sparkle.  I am so glad to be working with these wonderful educators.

As a teacher that works with behaviors daily, I cannot emphasize how important it is that we teach students good vs bad behaviors.  It is so easy to assume that they should already know what is expected of them, but that is not always the case.  I like to use lots of visuals with my kids.  I wanted to share a freebie with you of my Behavior Battles game.  This is a quick and easy game that is played like War.  The good behavior picture always wins.

Once kids know the expectations and what behaviors are not allowed, we need to teach ways to self-calm and provide a Safe Spot for students to go to do this.  I like to have an area with lots of resources and visuals in it to help students calm themselves.  This is one of the Safe Spots in my district that I love and modeled mine after.

You can pick up my Safe Spot sign and Calming Strategies poster for free here:

Enjoy the freebies and I will be back soon!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Getting to Know Your Students (freebie)

I know I'm supposed to be on summer break, but I'm starting to think about next school year.  Seriously, these days of summer break are going by WAY too fast.

I know once school starts all teachers take the time to get to know their students.  One thing I always want to know, and find out quickly, is what do my students like/enjoy and how can I help use this as a reinforcer.  Some students with disabilities may need additional reinforcers to help them complete their day/work successfully.

Who better to get this info from than the student's parents?  Parents know their child the best, and they often have value input that you can use to your advantage.  I've created this Reinforcement Survey for parents to complete and return to you. Click on the picture below to download your copy.

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and not worrying about school too much.

Friday, June 28, 2013

My Autism Day: App Review!

All you people out there who like to read blogs while you're standing in line (me), you may want to sit down for this app. If you've never used My Autism Day, you don't know what you're missing!

I'm obsessed with this app. It truly is a high quality app that is a lifesaver when it comes to data collection on your children or students with autism. I am "that teacher" with crates and binders full of data when I walk into a CSE meeting. This app contains all of that information in one place.

Here is a snapshot of the features, but since it is free, you should just download it and play around with it until you fall in love!

Daily Log
Broken down in to six puzzle pieces, the daily log allows you to track:
1. School: Meetings, phone calls, emails
2. Eye Contact: Frequency per minute and second
3. Behavior: Exclusive and repetitive behaviors, possible ways to join, areas of motivation and interest, moods, happiness and stress levels, sensory (broken down by auditory, visual, seek vestibular, seek proprioceptive, tactile sensitivity, sensory processing, tantrums, general behaviors
4. Activities: Play, sessions, free time, academic
5. Health: Appetite, medications, sleep patterns, sickness, treatments, diets
6. Goals: Personal goals, school/IEP goals, track time engaged, progress monitor, add notes

Care Givers
Pediatricians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, aides, teachers, nurses- you name it. Here you can track the whole team, the amount that they met with the child and the notes from the session.

Charts and Analysis
Here you can view all of the data that you have inputted in chart and analysis form. It is charted and ready to bring to parent meetings and CSE meetings.

Now for a little criticism:
This app doesn't have a feature that allows you to export all of this information and print it. 
This app doesn't have a feature for emailing data and information out of it.
This app has two typos in it! I emailed the creator and made them aware.

BUT for a completely free app, it really is user friendly and it does the job of getting all of your information all in one place. It also would be a good app to recommend to parents for their own notes and daily record keeping. 

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Apps for Organization

Organization is always one of my biggest challenges in the classroom and as special educator there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be completed and kept track of. I am also constantly thinking about or finding new things I want to try out in my classroom. In the past, I have had sticky notes everywhere to help me with this, but now I find that I have been depending on my iPadBaby using ipad more and more in helping me keep all this information straight.  The iPad is so user friendly (Even a baby can do it!!) that I feel most educators can benefit from having one in their classroom.  The following is a list of apps that I have found very useful in this task and best off all, they are all free.

CloudOn: This app allows me to connect to my Dropbox account, Google account and other types of accounts and edit files on my iPad. I am actually using it to type up this article. I am able to use word, excel, and PowerPoint. Not all of the features are available, but there is enough that I can easily work on a document.

DropBox: Speaking of DropBox, I use the Dropbox app daily. I have it installed on my iPad, school computer, home computer and iPhone. It enables me to easily move my files among computers without having to remember a USB drive or emailing it to myself. Dropbox also allows me to share folders and documents with others. If you would Like to try out Dropbox, I created a tutorial that may help you get started. You can view it by clicking here.

CamScanner:  I use this app to save my students work. For example, when my student completes a worksheet I want to save I used to have to make a copy of it and then add it to my data folder. Now with this app I can take a picture and then save it to my student’s folder. I can even zoom in on a particular part, add comments, the date, etc. I can then view it on my iPad when I am working on IEP progress notes or conferencing with a
parent. I also use this map to save print magazine or journal articles that I want to save for later.

Notes: This is an app that comes with the iPad and I use it all the time. I find it most helpful when I am observing a student and want to take notes. It dates things for me and I can email the notes to myself or print them out. I can also use it during meetings to
take notes and then email those notes to all of the participants.

Pinterest: I am sure I don't even need to mention this one, but I love it for keeping all of those ideas I find on the Internet organized. I also find a lot of new ideas just by searching within the app. I am able to view what I have saved on my iPad, school computer or home computer.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Organizing Important Student Information.

If you are like me you need a place to organize all the information you need about your students. I am always worrying I will miss an important due date, trying to find contact information for parents, or trying to dig up what accommodations a specific student gets when testing. I have files for IEPs and I can go get one out if I need to, but having everything in one easy to use file saves me a lot of time. I came up with a student information sheet to put in my teacher binder that helps me keep each students information handy for those times I need to quickly look it up!
These have been a huge time saver for me. It has a place to record personal information such as birth date, age, and grade, parent contact information, and important dates from the IEP. I also left some room for extra notes I might want to add such as "has a behavior plan", "alternate schedule", or "Dr. contact information" since those are things I commonly need to know about but every student does not need them.
On the back I listed the accommodations we are allowed to give for our state testing in a checklist format so I can check off the specific one each student will receive. We use this list for all of our testing throughout the year. Last year I had such a hard time remembering who got to use a calculator, who got to read aloud to me, and who I could read to! I had to keep digging out IEPs and searching them to find the accommodations. I don't know what your IEPs look like but ours are not always user friendly, finding the accommodation page should be easy, but it's not!! This will make it so much easier to look up and keep track of.
I had these printed front to back on a flyer from Vistaprint, you could print them front to back yourself or get them printed at Staples or Office Max. I like the "flyer" paper because it is thicker and lasts all year without tearing. I put them in the student information section of my teacher binder and use post-it tabs to label a sheet for each student. I love how easy it was for me to find everything I need right in one place. Then I could also place anything else I need for that particular student behind their information sheet and each students has their own section. This was a life saver for me last year and I am excited to have added the accommodations this year.

I hope some of you will find this useful in keeping organized this school year. You can download it free right here!

Student Information Sheet

Thanks for Reading,
The Resource(ful) Room!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Watermelon Literacy {Freebie}

What an exciting launch! Now that you've met everyone I thought I'd share this early literacy FREEBIE with you! It was on my blog a few weeks back, but since we're all making new friends here you might not have seen it!

This summer I'm co-leading a summer literacy group for students 5-8. Our group is a mixed bag of pre-readers and readers. We have children with Down syndrome, Autism and language disorders. Our focus this summer is mostly skills such as segmenting syllables, rhyming and letter ID.

To make that work, I'm playing with watermelons! This freebie is a group activity where the group can chant the Watermelon rhyme. Then let the kiddos take turns grabbing watermelons from a bag and determining how many syllable parts are included. Clap it, tap it or heck 'chomp it' to give your students the multisensory experience!

You can grab my Watermlon Syllable Counting Activity for free on TpT. 

We followed up with Raffi's  Down By The Bay. I have it in my iTunes account, which is only a little bit embarrassing when it comes on over the Bluetooth in my car. After we sing this a few times, we will make our own class book with this TpT freebie I found"Down by the Bay Book Freebie". With a focus on segmenting and rhyme throughout the first week we should have a better idea where our students are starting from!

My co-worker Meghan even made up these adorable watermelon crafts! I bet you can't guess what we had for snack! 

Enjoy the freebie and make sure you leave feedback if you take it! What are you up to this summer?!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Five Ways to Keep Reinforcement Effective in Your Classroom {Freebies!}

Reinforcement is a key component of effective instruction for students in special education as well as general education settings.  When I say reinforcement, though, I don't necessarily mean treats.  Reinforcement is anything that increases a behavior or a skill that it follows. Consequently giving an M&M for a right answer might increase correct responding, but if it doesn't, then it isn't really a reinforcer.  On the other hand, some students will increase their correct responses for a teacher's smile.  And ultimately we want the students to improve performance for the grade and sense of satisfaction they receive.  I typically work with students with autism and students who have behavioral challenges of other kinds.  For those students, reinforcement is sometimes a bit more complex and complicated.  For many students it is difficult to determine what might be a reinforcer.  For others, they get bored easily.  So to meet that challenge I thought I would highlight 5 ways that you can keep reinforcement effective in your classroom and give you a couple of freebies to help with that too!

  1. Make sure to only reinforce specific behaviors or skills.  Remember to point out the behavior/skill you are reinforcing with specific praise (e.g., I like the way you walked quietly in the hall!).  In most cases, it will be most effective to make sure that you only reinforce specific skills or behaviors that you are targeting and don't reinforce if the behavior / skill isn't right.
  2. Individualize your reinforcement.  For general education classrooms a classroom management system might be effective with group consequences.  However, those can also lead to students who struggle with behavior being singled out by the rest of the class because they cost them the reward. For students in special education especially, make sure that you have a system that can be individualized to him or her so that he wins more than he loses.  Don't tie performance to other students that he or she doesn't have control over.  Most students with behavioral issues also have social skills issues that make it difficult to negotiate team work.  They also tend to focus on how things are out of their control when they fail to behave appropriately or do well on an academic task; so if they lose out on a positive consequence because of someone else's behavior (real or perceived) it ceases to have meaning for them.  They can't control it, so why try.  And remember, just because I like sushi and would eat it all day long, doesn't mean it would be a good reinforcer for you.  You may hate it and it may actually keep you from doing your best because it is a negative consequence for you.  Find reinforcers that work for the individual.
  3. Cast a wide net to find reinforcers.  If you are having difficulty finding activities or items for reinforcers for students, think outside the box.  Observe the student; look for what he or she does with free time.  Check out these sites for tools to ask students, teachers and parents about what might be a reinforcer for a student:  Jackpot Reinforcement Survey; Forced Choice Reinforcer Assessment;  For more complex students, this form might be helpful: Reinforcer Survey.  This procedure for assessing reinforcers might be helpful too.  For older students consider making a contract and negotiating for what they want to work for.  Also look outside giving an item or treat to looking at activities.  Many children really like having responsibility and being a helper--even those you think would shun it the most.  It gives them an opportunity to be the center of attention for appropriate behavior.  
  4. Reinforcement is about selling and keeping it fresh.  Half of the appeal of reinforcement for all of us is how we sell it and present it.  Part of it is about being excited for young children and cool for older students.  But part of it is making it interesting in the way it is delivered.  Give choices, use surprises and use special interests of the students to get them excited about reinforcers.  In one classroom that I worked in we had students who had lots of challenging behavior to get people's reaction.  So we turned it around.  For their token system, whenever they got all their tokens, we stopped the class (it was a resource class) and sang, "For he's [or she's] a jolly good fellow" and everyone in the room clapped and cheered for the student.  Then they got to pick a prize from the treasure chest or the reinforcement menu of activities.  In other words, we made the appropriate behaviors get a big reaction from the whole class--and it worked.  
  5. Develop systems to fade reinforcers over time.  You don't want to fade out reinforcement systems too quickly and have the student lose his or her progress, but you also don't want to use high levels of reinforcement forever if you don't have to.  Token systems are a great way to fade out reinforcers by spacing them out.  You can start with a 5-token board and move to 10 and then 20.  You can increase how much is required to earn the token.  Just always remember to keep the system so that the students get the reinforcer more often than they don't or they will stop buying into the system.



And that brings me to the freebies I have  to help with reinforcement in the classroom.  The first is a set of cards with QR codes of helper jobs that can be used as reinforcers.  The students choose a card and then use a tablet or smart phone to scan it to find out what job they get to do.  They have been a real hit with some students I work with who are struggling with challenging behavior and love to be the center of attention as well as another who has difficulty attending to his work (it helps him stay on task).  This keeps it fresh and new, sells it with surprise and the excitement of technology, and uses helper roles as a reinforcer for the student.  You can download them for free from my TPT store.

The second freebie is a set of token boards that include a set of visuals of common reinforcers and incorporate special interests of princesses and trains--both are big with my kids with autism.  

We all use reinforcers; our reinforcers just become more complex as we get older.  
I hope this has given you some fresh ideas or brought up some things to think about with reinforcers. 

Autism Classroom News

Conversation Chart FREEBIE!!

Hey Guys! It's Lisa!

I've been working with kids who have autism for the last few years and holding a conversation is one of their biggest challenges. They often jump into a conversation without warning, then suddenly disappear in the middle of it without ever really ending the conversation. Sometimes their friends are in the middle of a sentence when they just walk away.

One thing I've learned is that structure is the key to their success! They love having some sort of format to follow for what is "expected." I've learned my students are capable of a whole lot when I just give them a pattern to follow. While no conversation is exactly the same, I created this little chart to help them see the basic pattern of a conversation.

It's copied twice on the same page to save paper and it is small enough that it could be taped on a wall or table as a reference poster. Included is a second version with an extra column so students can receive points (tally marks) for performing the behaviors on the chart. This helps as positive reinforcement for the desired social behaviors. Enjoy!!


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hey there, it's Kristin!

Hello sparklers! 
I wanted to take the chance to introduce myself. My name is Kristin Cummings. I am a speech language pathologist from St. Petersburg, FL. I grew up here and I am pretty sure I will always call this home. I went to school at The University of Central Florida (where I was an Alpha Delta Pi!<>) and completed graduate school at The University of South Florida. Most of my professional experience has been in the school based and private therapy settings. I love working with little ones and helping them be little communicators! Speaking of little people, I have a little one of my own. This is Kenzie, my 13 month old!

In addition to working and being mommy, I love to blog. I am the author of the Simply Speech blog and contribute to other blogs. I am very excited to be a part of this blogging family as well!


Getting to Know Sarah

Hi sweet friends!

I'm so thankful to be part of this wonderful collaboration of special education resources. Aside from authoring my own posts, I am looking forward to using this blog just as much as you to learn new tips and tricks about our amazing profession.

Meet Miss Eager

Where Do I Live?

I blog from inside of beautiful Buffalo, NY. I live closer to Niagara Falls and Cleveland than Manhattan, just so we're clear. I don't live a glamorous NYC teaching lifestyle! I grew up in this area and I plan to stay here forever.

Why Did I Start Blogging?

I live in an area of the country where teaching jobs are nearly impossible to land. The combination of the present economy and five major colleges and universities in Buffalo makes for a lot of young, unemployed teachers (or as I call them, waitresses). I started my own blog, The Eager Teacher, as a release of my creativity and passion for teaching when I didn't have a classroom of my own. I've been blogging for two and a half years now and it has become my absolute favorite hobby.

What Do I Love to Blog About?

My favorite things to blog about are technology, reading and classroom organization. I think my actual "dream job" would be a classroom interior designer. Wouldn't it be great if schools could afford to bring in professional designers and then foot the bill? I'd change my room every year! I also love telling stories about my students, sharing their successes and my lesson learned while teaching.

What is My Special-ty?

I am a certified reading specialist, special education teacher and general education teacher. I am a consultant special education teacher, so I work with a variety of learners and grade levels in a K-6 setting. I push in, I pull out, I basically wear roller skates most of the day. The area I teach the most is reading and it is my favorite thing to teach. I love, love, love introducing a child to a great book and watching them fall in love with it.

Thanks for reading and for finding A Special Sparkle! I can't wait to see where this blog takes us!

Hello from Chris

Autism Classroom News
Hi there!  I'm Chris Reeve and I am super-excited to be joining the collaboration at A Special Sparkle!  I love collaboration of all kinds and truly believe it takes a team of professionals, family and caregivers from different perspectives to create a quality program for a student with special needs.  I want to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about myself.

I have been a consultant working with individuals with all types of developmental disabilities and behavioral issues and their schools for almost 20 years. I spend most of my consulting time working directly with students and teachers in classrooms and try to assure that anything I suggest is practical to all those involved.   I love my job and one of the things I love the most is the opportunity to share innovations and ideas from one teacher or staff member to another when they may never meet. I started my blog, Autism Classroom News and my Facebook fan page, to share ideas and information about working with individuals on the autism spectrum, and many other disabilities, in the classroom.  I work with both high and lower functioning students, but I find that there are few set curriculum materials for most of them.  So, in addition to the blog, I opened my Teachers Pay Teachers store in January to share some of the materials I've developed over the years for working with students on the spectrum.

So, that's me in a nutshell.  Here are some quick facts to round out the picture.

Personal:  I come from a family of educators and, like many of us, I'm inspired by my sister who has autism.  I live in Florida but consult to many states across the US.  I am a self-professed clip art addict/ junkie and I truly can't get enough. I really think I started making materials just to have an excuse to buy more clip art.  But at least the clip art doesn't take up as much space in my house as my addiction to scrapbooking materials does!  I also love to ride my bicycle whenever I am home and it's not sweltering hot!

Professional:  I have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and am a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral (BCBA-D).  I was appointed to the Panel of Professional Advisors of the Autism Society of America in 2012.  I run Reeve Autism Consulting and teach graduate courses in autism and applied behavior analysis as adjunct faculty at Nova Southeastern University.  I also have co-authored books for teachers and developed vocabulary building books for children and adolescents and adults with disabilities.

I am looking forward to this collaborative experience and getting to learn and share ideas with a whole new group!

Hello From Heather!

Hi!  I am Heather! I blog over at Teaching Through Turbulence. I am very excited about this collaborative blog and having so many great ideas and resources from a lot of amazing bloggers right here in one place!

Teaching Through Turbulence

Blogging Experience:
I started my blogging experience at the beginning of June last year and I have loved every minute of it!  You see.. I had a problem...  I was a teaching blog stalker ummm... constant follower.  I always had my IPAD in my hands or my computer in my lap reading lots of amazing blogs.  I just didn't see many blogs about behavior.. and my husband was always telling me to find a hobby (LOL!).. so I decided I would try this blogging thing and try to help others with behaviors, classroom management, and differentiation in the classroom.

Since taking off on this experience, I have started a Facebook Fan Page, Twitter Account (@teachthrough), and a TPT Store.  The TPT Store will hopefully be growing this summer.

That is my blogging experiences in a nutshell, so here is professional and then personal.


I am currently a Special Education Teacher for students in Kindergarten through 6th Grade with Emotional Disabilities and other students with behaviors in Indianapolis, IN.  I have also had experience as a Developmental Preschool teacher and a Kindergarten Teacher, both with many special needs students.  Through my practicum experiences and student teaching at Indiana State University and my jobs, I have experience with all grade levels preschool through high school and many eligibility areas.


This is me:

This is me and my wonderful husband at our wedding in 2010:

And our 2 wonderful dogs, Mia and Kodak:

I am looking forward to getting to know all of you and learning from each other!

Hi Y'all, It's Andrea

Hi y'all!  Welcome to A Special Sparkle!  I am so excited to be a part of this fun collaborative blog!  I am coming over from Reading Toward the Stars.
Here is a little of my background.

I am a Southern girl who was born in Louisiana and moved to Virginia as a teenager.  I loved the beautiful mountains so much that I decided to stay while in college when my family moved back!  I also love the history Virginia has to offer!
I have been teaching in the same school for 16 years where I started as a long term sub in a fourth grade classroom.  It is a small rural Title I school with a large group of high needs students.  I taught fourth grade for 6 years and third grade for 8 years before moving to my current position as the Title I Reading Specialist.  It is a rewarding job where every moment of my day is different! 

I received my Bachelor's of Arts from Longwood College (now University) in 1997 and my Master's of Education with a concentration in Reading from the University of Virginia in 2010.  That led me to my current position, which is my dream job!

I believe that children learn best when they are able to use their own talents.  My lessons revolve around small groups with a great emphasis on hands-on learning.  The students in my little room are always busy in their thirty minute sessions.  Reading and "playing" are the keys to learning!

I have a wonderful family who stands behind me no matter what!  My marvelous husband of almost 12 years may think I am crazy with what I do, but he knows that I love it and supports me!  {And, yes, that is Thomas Jefferson in the back!  We have been to his houses enough that he is almost part of our family!}

I have two wonderful children, who are six and a half years apart and full of life!  They keep me busy, but I would have it no other way.

I began blogging in April 2012 as a way of helping me reflect on my own teaching practices and help others gain new ideas.  It is a journey that has made me a better teacher and led me to new friendships along the way!

Aloha from Angelia!

I have everyone!  I'm so excited to be posting here at A Special Sparkle.  I'm Angelia and you may know me from my blog, Extra Special Teaching.

I've been teaching special education for the last 3 years.  I've taught resource and self-contained special education students in grades K-3.  I've worked with students diagnosed with Autism, Specific Learning Disability, Traumatic Brain Injury, Other Health Impairment, Intellectual Disability, and Emotional/Behavior Disorder.

My family just moved to Hawaii in December 2012.

We get the privilege of living here, because my husband is a Marine. 

I also spent 10 years in the Marine Corps but got out when I got pregnant with triplets!  These awesome kiddos are now 7-years-old and will be in 2nd grade this coming school year.  

Not only do I have this great trio of kids, I have two older girls.  My oldest just graduated high school this June.  She's off living in her own apartment and about to start school this fall.  Unbelievable how fast she has grown up.

And last but not least, this 14-year-old keeps me on my toes.

And if you haven't noticed, I like to wear stripes!  :)

I look forward to collaborating here with some other great teachers of students with special needs!
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