Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Leah's Voice: A Picture Book About Autism

One of the best ways to teach young children about life is through the use of picture books and stories. When I first started teaching students with autism 4 years ago, I was in shock that I could only find one picture book about autism!

This week I was lucky enough to be contacted by an author who wrote a book to teach acceptance and understanding about autism in a way children can easily understand. The book is Leah's Voice by Lori DeMonia. She ever so kindly sent me a copy of the book and I absolutely love it! It's a sweet story with adorable illustrations!

I've only had the book a week and I've already recommended it to a friend of mine! I play soccer with her and the day we met to play in our first game together, we realized I had actually worked with her son for a day when he visited my school last year. He's a sweet boy, but needs a lot of help some days. On Sunday, she was telling me how hard of a time she was having trying to explain things to other kids who come over for playdates with his siblings. This book is perfect for that! She was so excited to find a new book that can help make her life a little easier.

CLICK HERE to read my full interview with the author Lori DeMonia!

You can also read about her daughter who inspired the book and her talented art work HERE.

If you'd like to see the other picture book about autism (the only one I could find 4 years ago!), click the image below.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Win a Free Educational Game: Labor Day Contest

There are a lot of ready made products on the market today that can really help to make the teaching process easier.  However, the problem is that many teachers are not given a budget, and it can be difficult to afford these tools.   

Enter today to win one of the following educational products. All you have to do is follow the links to the product pages and pick the product you like the most.  Next, leave a comment below this blog with the name of your favorite product, as well as some way for me to contact you - if you win.  I will randomly select the winner from the names below this post over the Labor Day weekend.  I will also be having a similar contest on my blog from a different selection of educational games.  So be sure to enter that contest too: http://learningspecialistmaterials.blogspot.com/

You can only enter once, but you can also get your friends and family to enter for you. Find your favorite amongst the following:

Reversing Reversals: 

Making Inferences: 

Planning, Time Management and Organization for Success: http://goodsensorylearning.com/planning---organizing.html

Following Directions the Fun and Easy Way - Intermediate

Good Luck and Cheers, 

Keeping it Organized

As a Title I reading specialist, I have to keep good records on my students to show progress.  This is imperative as we meet about students who are going through any types of intervention through RtI.  I wanted to share a little about how I keep it all organized on a day to day basis.

I have never had a teacher binder but had several binders with all I needed.  As I started delving into the world of teacher blogs and Pinterest, I saw them all over the place!  It made total sense to keep everything in one place instead of 5.  So, I made one to fit my needs.  Here is what it looks like and what is in it.

I found a freebie binder at the beginning of the year when everyone was cleaning out their rooms.  It was in perfect condition and big enough for what I needed.  I made a cute cover to match my theme with graphics from Michelle at The 3AM Teacher.

Here are the sections I included.
I have to keep my lesson plans for five years, so they are here for the year.
Keeping a record of everyone's attendance is very important for data collection!
I keep all of the testing data for each student here.  There is a tab for each grade level.  I change it out after each testing.
This is where I keep all of the data for each class after they complete their testing.  This helps me to compare students in an entire class throughout the year.  It is amazing how home life changes the learning at school!

I keep notes on every meeting I attend here or in the students' files.

I have to save "everything" we do throughout the year, but I find it hard to not let the kids take some of their hard work home.  I have a filing system to store the most important things in and file as we work. This way I can take students samples and assessments I administer to meetings.  Then at end of the year, I file it all away and get ready for the next year.

So, how do you keep life organized? 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Keeping up with related services

One of the more confusing things for me is figuring out and remembering who has which related service (OT, PT, speech, Vision, etc.) when.  I also have a few students who go to services outside of school so I need to remember when they might be leaving early or come in late.

To combat all of this confusion I made this chart.   On the left are the days of the week and on the top are the different services.  Each student is assigned a different color sticky note.  We put the students initials and the time of the the service on the sticky note and then just stick it to the chart. 
This provides a quick reference for me when setting up for the day.  This chart also allows for related services to come in and see if they could work with a student during another time to make up a service or rearrange the schedule. 

To protect confidentialty this chart does not hang out when it is visible by anyone.  It is in my desk area cubby hole (hopefully pictures will be up over at Learning Ahoy soon) .

Thursday, August 22, 2013

How to Set Up a Technology Center with Visuals!

It is NO secret that I like to use a lot of visuals in my classroom.  I did not hold back the use of visuals when creating my technology center.  The first thing I considered was how to arrange the table so that students had "cubbies."  I found that by creating individual space, the distractions and behaviors are greatly reduced.  I decided to arrange my large 6 ft table and an extra student desk in the shape of a "T." I also have to keep in my wheelchair access to make sure each "slot" is wheelchair assessable for my little lovelies!

I only have one computer, and I wanted it in the place that would allow for me to easily set it up and hide the cords.  I also used my Language Master on the same table so that I could easily use duck tape to hide the cords from the kiddo's.

On my second table I set it up as the "iPod" table.  I used green duck tape (It is apart of my work center system... this is the Green table) to corner off three sections for three different iPods.  This year I am doing it a little different.  Each spot has a label for which iPod is to be used in this spot.  This is a little neurotic and overly structured, but last year the kids would "fight" for the pink iPod.  I struggled with it because they could not understand that they were EXACTLY the same.. same app's and everything.

WIth this.. I created a technology "check-in" system.  

I will add student wallet size pictures to the mix after the first day.  Student's pictures will be laminated and attached to the group sheet with velcro.  When they rotate to the green table, they will take their picture and pick what they will be working on.  (With the supervision of the aide managing this center) They will then find the assigned spot for what they picked! This is all conveniently taped (using shipping tape) to the brown cabinet by my "green" center!


 I added the visual supports at each spot to each kiddo knows where to report to!

Click here to grab your OWN technology visuals for a low price for the month of August :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

CanPlan App Review: Easy, Personalized Method for Step-by-Step Directions

Hello everyone, it's Lisa! Last week I got an email about an app designed specifically for people with special needs by the University of Victoria in Canada. I must preface this by saying that I've started to receive many emails from various people/companies, but I only want to bring you the best there is to offer and things that will actually make your lives easier! This app made me instantly impressed! Within minutes I thought of dozens of ways to use CanPlan!!

Below is a set of images from the getting started section of the app. I thought about writing it all out for you, but they phrased it all so perfectly to explain the functions, that I just took screenshots of my phone for you.

While the app describes things such as making coffee in the examples, there is so much potential for other uses at all age levels. I teach younger students and many have auditory processing delays. It is great to know I can make a set of instructions once for things that are part of our routine, and let the student follow the steps on the app to complete the task.

There are so many uses for items with multi-step directions. Everything from the morning routine, to packing up at the end of the day, and how to complete centers activities independently. I love that you can take the pictures yourself so that it is identical to the task the student is doing, not just a generic representation of an item.

The voice recording allows for verbal cues the student is used to hearing as prompts, without needing the teacher to give them every time. The student simply taps the green speak button at the bottom of the screen.

One topic that comes to mind is writing! This is a huge area of difficulty for many students, but this app can really help break down the steps of the writing process. I did this version really quickly at home to see just what the app can do. For the classroom, I'd go into more detailed writing process steps. I really like that you can use any combination of pictures, words, and voice recordings to explain the steps.

The free version of the app allows you to create 3 tasks and the paid version allows for an unlimited number of tasks to be created. While it is on the more expensive side for paid apps ($14.99), I think it is one of those items that would be an investment to anyone working with students who have any sort of cognitive impairments.

The fact that CanPlan has an unlimited number of tasks allows you to use this app in infinite ways! For teachers in life skills classes, you can teach students the steps for doing laundry or dishes. For students with high functioning autism, you can generate the steps for social situations where the student struggles.

The app is very easy to use! I was able to create each step in 30 seconds or less!

I highly recommend CanPlan to any teacher or parent of students with cognitive struggles!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Managing Staff (Zoning) in a Secondary Life Skills Class

 Back in July I wrote a post on setting up a secondary life skills class.  In that post I talked about the schedule and the needs of the physical environment.  I thought I would take a moment to share with you the way we manage staff in this type of classroom. I always find it amazing that folks who don't teach in self-contained environments (or resource environments) think that having lots of staff in the classroom is such a blessing.  And then I talk with the teachers in those classes and they find it to be more of a burden.  Most teachers went to school to learn to teach and became teachers to work with the students; they often didn't plan to be a personnel manager.  A self-contained or resource classroom is a unique environment because much of what the teacher has to do is organize and work with the staff.  The teacher needs to give direction but also needs to work with the staff members as a team.  Caitlin did an awesome post for teachers on working with paraprofessionals and working as a team, so I'm not going to repeat that here.  But I did want to share a strategy that has been shown to increase organization in the classroom, promote engagement of students, and that I have found to reduce strife in a classroom environment that sometimes feels like an isolation chamber with only a few adults.

Part of a classroom that promotes high levels of engagement is limiting the amount of time that the staff has to spend talking about what they are doing and lessening the time that a teacher has to spend directing the staff.  A staff zoning plan is the answer to that problem.  Here are a few things to know about a zoning plan.

  1. It's called a zoning plan because it was based on a zone defense in basketball (the only sport I actually watch!) when the research was first conducted.  The original researchers found that in a day care environment, students were more engaged if staff was zoned to an area of the room rather than to a group of students.  Students would come and go but the staff would stay in the same place.  For instance, someone manned the bathroom, someone manned the snack table and students went back and forth between the 2 activities.  Then the staff was responsible for who was in their zone.
  2. We use the term zoning even when we "zone" man-to-man --meaning staff is responsible for a set of students or just one student depending on the situation because each person is zoned into his or her responsibilities.
  3. Hopefully everyone has the chance to teach with staff who could be their right arm and anticipates their every need.  However, most teams don't start out that way.  A zoning plan lets everyone know their jobs are.  I've seen contentious classrooms suddenly be much calmer when you just give someone a written schedule of what they need to do with details about who to work with and where to be.
  4. Zoning plans make sure that everything gets done.  You write in data collection, which students to prompt during morning meeting, who is cleaning up the activity, who is setting up the next activity, and who is watching which students when you are walking to the lunch room.  You even include things like who carries the walkie talkie when the class goes on a walk (because otherwise, I thought you had it!).
  5. Zoning plans should be developed by teams collaboratively and responsibilities can be rotated out on a scheduled basis.  This is important because if I had to run art every day all year, I might not be a happy resident of the classroom.
  6. Zoning plans mean that you schedule in lunch and breaks.  I know that teachers frequently emulate Wonder Woman, but really everyone is better off if each person gets to take a break.  I've found over the years that those who don't have breaks scheduled into their day, take them mentally without meaning to while still woring with students. That you do not want. So schedule lunch and schedule breaks according to your policy, but make sure everyone has a chance to go to the bathroom and get out of the room for at least a bit.  And then make sure that they know when to come back and that other's breaks and duties are counting on them being in their place on time.
  7. And finally (yes I do like lists of 7), zoning plans can change and will change as duties change, needs of staff and students change, and as the team evolves.  There is benefit to writing it down and not expecting that everyone in the class knows what you need and it can avoid a lot of conflict when it is clear that the staff schedule exists to support the engagement of the students.

So, below is the zoning plan that goes the schedule I included in the secondary classrooms post.  You'll see the purple blocks are when people are out of the room--everyone likes to be able to see that.  Jenny (not her real name) was the teacher and the other 2 staff were paraprofessionals.  You can see where we wrote in who is taking data in each activity and who is responsible for which students at which time.  Look it over and share any thoughts you have in the comments.  I'll be writing more about zoning plans in my series on setting up classrooms over at Autism Classroom News if you want to look at more examples.  In the meantime, how do you schedule your staff and what has worked for you?

Want to know more about zoning plans?  Check out these resources:
TTAC Newsletter
A presentation out of the Siskin Institute (includes research on zoning)
An article in Young Exceptional Children

Until next time,
Autism Classroom News

Monday, August 19, 2013

Get It Together!

Organizing. The way I organize seems to be something that I update all the time. Using binders seems to be a method that works best for me. I have binders for everything:
Student Data
Lesson Plans
etc, etc, etc
I have copies of my binder cover sheets for for the 2013-2014 school year in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Being a speech-language pathologist, my lesson plans are written a little different than classroom teachers. In our district, we are not required to write lesson plans, however, I feel that they keep me organized and focused. Below is a sample screen shot of what my lesson plans look like. 
The very top has a section to jot down meetings, upcoming events, and notes. For the actual lesson plan, I use a 3 column table. The first column has my students' names and scheduled time. The second column has my lesson plan and the third has their IEP goals. The way I use this, only the middle column changes (that is until you update IEP goals.) I have found this to be an incredibly helpful way to stay focused un my planning. When the goals are right there, I can always make a conscious effort to include activities and lessons that incorporate their goals. If you want to be an over achiever, add a 4th column to list the common core standards that will be addressed in  your lesson as well. Talk about brownie points with the principal!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Don't Limit Me

This is a great message from Megan, a student with Down Syndrome, to teachers about working with special children.  Don't limit me.. such a powerful story and message! If you are a teacher that ever has any special needs students in your classroom, this video is a must watch!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Special Education Stores on TPT

TeachersPayTeachers  - Lesson Plans,Teaching Materials and Other Teacher-Created Resources

It is no secret that special education comes with it's own bag of tricks! Every year is completely different, and what worked last year just might not work this year! Every kid in special education is unique and learns in a different way. It may be years until you see a kid that is similar to another that you have taught before.

With this in mind, it's really hard to "reinvent the wheel" every year when you get a new batch of unique learners. This is where Teachers Pay Teachers comes in VERY HANDY! There are many special education teachers on TPT and we can often get great resources from each other. It's nice to know these products were made by teachers and used in real classrooms! I know for a fact that my authors on A Special Sparkle have some great resources! I have bought from and swapped teaching materials with the amazing girls who collaborate to create A Special Sparkle.

If you don't know about Teachers Pay Teachers...you should! It's a great way to get all sorts of resources! you can find your favorite teacher-sellers and "follow them" to see when they add new items to their stores. I know I have some favorites that somehow every thing they create is just amazing! I spend so much time working and planning, but sometimes I need something right now! And that's where TPT comes in!

Browse around and find a seller that you enjoy. Here is a screen shot of my page. You'll see at the top is the red phrase Follow Me and after you click there, you'll receive updates when your favorite sellers add new things, have sales, or post freebies!
One of my favorite parts of TPT is the categories side bar! I know some of my favorite sellers have both clip art and teaching materials and I don't always need both. Or some sellers are like me and teach multiple grade levels, so I can select just the age range I'm looking for that day. Some days I want first grade, other days I may just want 2nd grade stuff. The categories really help me find just what I'm looking for!

Here are the stores for our Sparklers!
Dr. Erica

Yesterday I put the word out on our Facebook page to find out some of the other great special education authors! Here they are!
Special Ed Pro
Mrs. P
A Tender Teacher
Autism Helper

Thank you so much for stopping by! What are your favorite things to look for on TPT??
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