Sunday, July 7, 2013

Tips For New Special Education Teachers

Hello Everyone! We had a request from another one of our lovely readers, I love getting these by the way! Well, I had already planned on our authors doing a Back to School themed post in August, but this one is sneaking in right now! Be sure to look for more later this summer!
1) Always come to class with a plan... and a backup plan! I can't even count the number of times I had a plan for the day and within 5 minutes of school starting a kid had a meltdown that takes my whole plan and throws it out the window! Keep a stash of educational things the kids can do without you in case one kid is having a particularly rough day and you can't teach the lesson you planned.

The same goes for educational plans. Think of more than one way to teach a topic. Sometimes what works for one kid won't work for the other kid in the same group. For example, use a game and a work page or a visual activity. Think about different learning styles.

2) Have a place for kids to calm down
Kids in special ed. have big reactions to small problems. They are used to failure and it often have low self-confidence. This means when something gets hard, they get frustrated and may have big blowups. Have a "calm corner" or whatever you want to name it, where the kids have a teddy bear, a fidget, and a poster of ways to calm down for them to stare at while they sit there.

3) Keep your cool! They have no idea you're steaming inside!
As a special education teacher, there are so many things to get you riled up! Endless meetings, kids who still don't understand a concept after you've taught it 6 different (thoughtful) ways, the kid who enters your room screaming and doesn't stop for 30 minutes thanks to something completely out of your control...the list goes on. The wonders of kids, JUST SMILE! Fake it until you make it!! If you lose it, the kids do too! They feed off your energy, so make it happy energy! If a kid screams, smile as you take the deepest breath ever and give a complement to the other kid who is being good. Always look for the kid who will make you smile! Every group has at least one!

4) Keep a routine!
Students in special education like to know what's happening. They feel lost enough in the curriculum, they need to feel in control of something and know what's going on during the day. Keep a schedule that is always posted so the kids always know what is happening next. I suggest including pictures in case the students don't read well. If your student's are too obsessed with clocks and become upset if you are a minute late, then post the topics (including recess and lunch), but leave off the time. If the routine is going to change, bring it up in the beginning of the day. I can't even tell you the number of times a kid got upset when I switched math and writing because of an assembly or other school event.

5) Fidgets! You know those rules of don't play in class? Break 'Em!
There is an endless number of reasons for these! Anxiety, ADD, sensory seeking, etc. I LOVE gum in the classroom, but I have clear rules or they lose the privilege. Same goes for fidget toys. Have them in an easily accessible place where the kids don't have to ask for them. Set guidelines for when it is appropriate and when it isn't. I had a rule that they could have them as long as it didn't interrupt my teaching or stall them from doing work.  


6) Laminate EVERYTHING!
So you know how kids destroy stuff?? SPED kids do it 10 times faster! They fiddle and bend things. They put it in their mouth when they are orally sensory seeking (hence the gum suggestion in #5). Generally things get ruined faster. They sell crazy cheap laminators now. I have one at home and I can't even count the number of times I've used it! I have the version that is about $10 more than this, but this is the same brand if you are on a 1st year teacher budget. Amazon is the cheapest for the refill packs!



7) Have a behavior management system and stick to it!
 Everyone has their own system. Do what works best for you, but whatever you do stick to it! Don't let them get away with things or say "next time... will happen if you do that." Kids need to know when something is never okay. If you give them an inch, they'll take mile. As in, next time they'll try it again because nothing happened the last time. I have a behavior chart and they instantly drop a level so they know they did something wrong, but there is actually no consequence for the first level drop. You can read about my full system here on my blog. 
This year's behavior chart. Kids have Velcro name tags.

8) Track behaviors and their causes (antecedents)
Kids do things for a reason! It may not seem logical at first, but there is always a reason! One kid had fits every day during writing. For the longest time I thought it was because he hated writing. NOPE! Turns out writing is right before lunch and he was hungry! His fast metabolism made him need to eat sooner. I made the rule "A bite and a write" which meant he had to take a bite and write while he chews. The problem was solved all thanks to behavior tracking by time period in the day!

I hope this was helpful! Best of luck this school year!

32 comments:

  1. I would imagine that many of these things could be implemented in the general education classroom, but I think as SPED teachers, we just *look* for them, *expect* them, and *deal* with them. The need to think outside the box is why I became a SPED teacher. Next year is my first year - so very excited!

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  2. Great post, you hit on all the important things to know! I always have a tote with various activities that can be used with my students and any available adult if there is a meltdown and they need to get the other students out of the room for safety. I put in flash cards, deck of cards, fine motor sensory items, pencils, paper, crayons, gum and hard candy. I also love gum in the classroom- saves a lot from being chewed on!

    Mary
    Teaching Special Kids

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    Replies
    1. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing them with us!

      ~Lisa~

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  3. Thank you so much!! I taught gen ed, but next year is my first year in sped. This will definitely help!

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    Replies
    1. We have a whole set of posts to help new teachers coming your way! Be sure to check back soon for more tips!

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  4. Great post, Lisa! I found the same thing in tracking the causes of behaviors..so much of what we do is detective work to get to the bottom of things for our kids to make their lives easier!

    Sarah
    The Eager Teacher
    Miss Eager//Create & Inspire
    A Special Sparkle

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  5. This is a post that every teacher should read! I always take fidgets, headphones & visuals with me for assemblies, speakers, etc. A visual timer is also a must.

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  6. I love laminating! There is a big one in our school, and I actually used it for several things yesterday. I went back to my room and decided to take those home with me and I started cleaning things out. I found a (looked to be new) laminator in my closet!! I was going to buy one, but now I don't have to!

    I have never thought about using gum! I'll keep this in mind. I always wanted to read about your behavior management system. Where is the link for it? I am liking the monster theme a lot!

    ~Tasha
    A Tender Teacher for Special Needs

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. I meant also, not always! I just found the link. I was moving my mouse around and could not find it! Silly me!

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    3. Thanks to this response our link colors have been changed for easier access in the future :)

      Thanks!
      Lisa and the Sparklers!

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  7. Wow, it was like reading a day in the life of my own classroom, right down to the gum and the space corner! I had to smile about laminating everything, as I know about the destroying things 10 times faster! I have been a special ed. teacher at treatment facility for 7 years now... there's never a dull moment!! Can't wait to see more updates on your blog =) Your tips were right on.

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    Replies
    1. Too funny! It's amazing how similar the lives of SPED teachers are no matter where we are located! I'm glad you enjoyed this post! It was actually a really fun one to write!

      ~Lisa~

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  8. Hi! I'm a new SPED Resource teacher (I began this year)...I am currently working on getting my certificate via an Alt. Cert. program. I got hired for my teaching job 3 days before teachers were to report and 6 days before students...therefore, I am still trying to get my classroom in order and how I'd like it. I have most of it done but I have on thing in particular that I am having problems coming up with a way to do it. Our school requires us to post "I Can" statements for each day/week. I teach K-5 and have varying grades together at a time, how would I do this? I see the "I Can" posters and sheets in the Reg. Ed. teachers room and they cover what it is that they should be doing during the day in regards to the lesson, and what they should be able to do at the end of the day (after learning that days lesson). Any suggestions one what I can do for my students? It is difficult to post a list of "I can" objectives and expect the students to complete these objectives when I only have most of them for 30 minutes out of the day.

    Also, when my informal observation was done, they said that I should go over each of these "I Can" objectives so that the students fully understand what it is that is expected of them and what they should be able to do at the end of the class period (in my classroom). I can't figure out how to do this and still have enough time to teach/work on the things that are in their IEP, since most of the class periods consist of 2-3 students who are each at different levels and in different grades. On a side note, if I have a student that is one grade level above another student (in terms of school grades/year), yet both students are on the same reading level, can I have them work on the same things in my classroom...can I put the same "I Can" objectives for both of them?

    I'm sorry this is so long, and I don't know if this is the right kind of thing to put in a comment..I'm just so lost and don't know what to do.

    Thanks in advance and I love your blog!!!!

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    Replies
    1. Hey Heather! I'd love to help you with some ideas. Can you shoot me an email since it's a bit long for a comment response? I have your questions, I just need a quick email so I can reply to it :)
      Lisa
      teacherlisasclass@gmail.com

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  9. I just found your blog and I am sooooo happy! I am a new SpEd resource teacher. I am needing advice strategies that have been successful teaching students with learning disabilities how to read in a thirty minute a day block of time. Any streamlined suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I teach K-5 grade levels. I am feeling a little lost.

    Here is my email friends2@k12tn.net

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  10. I am a student studying BEDU in Australia, majoring in Special Education (mainly due to my work as a Teacher Aide in a Special Education unit). I am currently studying EDC3100 ICT & Pedagogy and as a part of this course, I have been introduced to blogs! I find your tips very interesting. I particularly like your tips for fidgets, behaviour management systems and tracking behaviours. Tracking behaviours and their causes can be extremely challenging. With regards to fidget toys, I have seen first hand how allowing students access to such items reduce anxiety, allowing for a much more focused and successful lesson. I have also seen a student denied of these toys and the corresponding meltdown because of it. I know these tips will prove very useful once I finish my degree and become a Teacher working in Special Education. Thanks so much for sharing these.

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  11. I really liked your idea of tracking student’s behaviors. I also believe by knowing the root cause of the behavior you can figure out the reason why as well as figure out a solution to eliminate the behavior. Do you have any suggestions to ways to track a student’s behavior that is not time consuming and will not take away from my teaching time but are still effective ways to track behaviors?

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  12. I really liked your idea of tracking student’s behaviors. I also believe by knowing the root cause of the behavior you can figure out the reason why as well as figure out a solution to eliminate the behavior. Do you have any suggestions to ways to track a student’s behavior that is not time consuming and will not take away from my teaching time but are still effective ways to track behaviors?

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