Thursday, May 18, 2017

May Put-in & Sorting Task Boxes

Surprisingly, I've  been slacking a little with making new materials. Spring IEPs & re-evavls, closing out the year, progress reports have me sooo overwhelmed! I found some time to knock out a few more sorting and put-in task boxes, check them out!

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Making Sensory Play ACADEMIC

I believe that sensory play is VERY important for our kiddos with autism and severe-needs. However, I also realize that academics are important and that there is a huge push for special ed teachers to be aligning all instruction to the common core. I started trying to implement more academic tasks into our sensory play and want to share some of my ideas. It's been really fun to give my kiddos more rigor through hands-on play!

Color sorting activities
Hide a variety of manipulatives (sticks, bugs, dogs, dinosaurs, etc.) in sensory tubs and pair with sorting trays for quick and easy color sorting activities! I try to change the manipulatives weekly so kiddos don't get bored.

Letters/ phonics:
Hide letters in sand and have students build CVC words or match letters as they pull the letters out. Have students string letter beads on pipe cleaners to build CVC words.

Shapes/ patterns
Put blocks or manipulatives in sensory bins and have students extend or build patterns! Just remember, that you can add visuals to support students! You can also put shapes in sensory bins and have kiddos match the shapes to a simple shape board.

Puzzles/ Fine Motor
Put puzzles and fine motor activities in the sensory bin for kiddos! This is great for working on fine motor skills and for kids to generalize their independent work/ put-in skills.

Counting/ Numbers
Have students take numbers out of sensory bins and sequence the numbers or give kiddos 10s frames and have them count manipulatives as they take them out of the bin. I like to color-code my 10s frames so kids can use them a little more independently.

I'd love it if you'd share any ideas you have about making sensory play more academic!

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Cheap & Easy DIY Funnel for Sensory Play

I love a good sensory activity so when I saw this funnel activity from FrugalFun4Boys on Pinterest, I knew I had to make a version of the toy! Thankfully, the supplies were pretty cheap and I was able to make 2 funnel toys in less than 30 minutes!

Materials you'll need:
-Funnel (I got a pack of 3 for $3.50 at Home Depot)
-PVC pipe (I used 3/4 inch) ($2.93 for 10 feet at Home Depot)
-2 PVC 90 degree elbows ($0.42 each at Home Depot)
-2 PVC tees ($0.96 each at Home Depot)
-1 PVC cross ($2.55 each at Home Depot)
-PVC pipe cutters (these will make the project SO much easier and are so worth it if you don't already have them. You can get them for less than $20.)
-hot glue
-measuring tape and Sharpie
-spray paint (optional)
-PVC cement (optional)
Note: make sure that you get the same size PVC pipe/ fittings fore very piece! I did 3/4 in. and like the size.

Cut your pieces and assemble!
Use a measuring tape and Sharpie to mark the length of all of your pieces. Then start cutting away!
Lengths of piping you'll need:
-5 pieces cut to 3 inches
-2 pieces cut to 4 inches
-2 pieces cut to 8-10  inches (based on preference, this will be the height of the toy)

Here's a closer look at what pieces/ sizes go where.
After the toy was assembled, I spray painted it to make it a little prettier. I used hot glue to attach the funnel to the PVC pipe. If you have kiddos who are rough on toys, you can use PVC cement to attach all of the pieces together, I didn't do this but I might do it later down the road.


We have used numerous materials in our funnel toys including water, rice, popcorn and sand! They're definitely a class favorite already!

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

3 things you should do within a week of every IEP meeting!

Prepping for IEP meetings is important and can be stressful and time consuming... but I really think that what happens shortly AFTER IEP meetings is way more crucial. I've found that it's really important to do a few things within a week of having an IEP meeting to ensure that you hit the ground running implementing the new IEP.

1) Make and/ or gather any new materials you will need to work on new goals. 

This is likely one of the most time consuming steps after an IEP meeting. I like to use TpT to my advantage for getting activities to work on new IEP goals but I also try to use materials that I already have in my classroom. During this step, I typically update activities/work for kiddos throughout our day (I update circle time lessons/ materials, direct instruction/ 1:1 materials, and literacy and math group activities). I basically look at our schedule and try to figure out what specific times of days the kiddo can work on the goals and then put new goal materials with the corresponding lesson supplies.

2) Make new data sheets!

The data freak in me loves this step!! I know that everyone doesn't have this strange data love, but it's still really important to get new data sheets knocked out quickly so you can track progress and adapt instruction as needed. Make sure that you make data sheets as quick and simple as possible so taking data seems like less of a chore!

3) Train any paras or support staff on new goals, modifications, accommodations, etc.

After every IEP meeting, I have a quick de-brief with all of my paras. We go over all the kiddo's new IEP goals and any changes to modifications, accommodations, behavior plans, etc. I also update our goal wall which is a great way to communicate/ remind paras and support staff about what each kiddo should be working on. We also discuss methods and techniques for new IEP goal instruction and look at the data sheets together to make sure we are all clear on how to take the new data.

These simple steps are helpful to make sure everyone in the classroom is implementing the new IEP promptly and with fidelity! Do you have any steps/ tasks you complete after you have IEP meetings? I'd love to hear your ideas!

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Teaching Typing/ Keyboarding in a Special Ed Classroom

A lot of the teachers at my school are teaching kiddos typing/ keyboarding skills... I loved the idea of having my students type because it's such an important life skill and some of my kiddos struggle with the fine motor skills involved with using a pen/pencil... but I had NO idea how I was going to teach my students with moderate to severe disabilities how to type when some of them don't know all of the letters yet. So, I did a good ole google search and ended up finding some color-coded keyboards like this one. The color-coded keyboards already out there are okay, but they definitely aren't going to give my kiddos the visual prompts they really need to type... so I decided to just make my own adapted keyboard!

First, I ordered a keyboard with larger keys that already had some color-coding. Then I made a template using Powerpoint to color-code each letter on the keyboard. I printed the little letter pieces out, laminated & cut them out and then hot glued them to the keyboard. Then I used the template to create little color-coded word strips that are a visual prompt for kiddos to type their names and basic CVC words.

I was super excited to try the keyboard out with my class, but I had no idea how well it would actually go! I have a few kiddos who can type their name and a few CVC words independently with the fancy keyboard and word strips!

I found my keyboard on Ebay for $20, so make sure you shop around a bit before you buy one! I just looked around Amazon, eBay, etc. and searched "large adapted keyboard." Here are some pretty reasonably priced keyboards:
Amazon $30
Office Depot $38
Walmart $29

You can download the template for free here! With the template, you can print out the letters for the keyboard and you can also use it to make visuals for kiddos with their names, words, etc.  Do you have any tips or tricks for modifying computer/ iPad equipment so students with moderate to severe disabilities can type?

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Starting a Classroom Business in a Special Education Classroom

It's a fact, many classrooms are underfunded and it's EXPENSIVE to run a classroom! So, why not start a classroom business? A classroom business is a great way to teach students important functional AND academic skills that will help them for the rest of their lives and can also avoid taking money out of your own pocket for your classroom. 

I have numerous teacher friends who run coffee shops in their classrooms, but I just wasn't super interested in opening a coffee shop in our classroom... Mostly because there's a coffee shop right across the street from our school and I didn't want to have to commit to opening up shop to sell coffee at the same time every day/ once a week. 

Our story:
In December 2013, our class made a piñata to celebrate Las Posadas. Since I always seem to have super creative paraprofessionals, our piñata turned out beautifully! When teachers at our school saw how pretty our piñata turned out, they started asking us to make one for their classrooms. After a few requests by staff and parents in our school, our classroom team had the idea to try to turn it into a business... and that's how Exceptional Piñatas was created! Along the way, we kind of go through busy and slow spurts... we will make 10 piñatas one month and then 1 the next month, and we are okay with that! If kids or staff are feeling a little burned out (it's happened, trust me) of making piñatas, then we take a break and slow the business down for a few weeks. Typically, we make piñatas based on the season or an upcoming holiday, and then parents, teachers, or community members can buy the piñatas we have created. However, we will also take special orders and are always willing to create something specific for a customer. 

A few tips for starting a classroom business:
1) Think about demand in your school and/ or community
Is there a cheap coffee shop right across the street from your school? Then don't open a coffee shop. Is there a weekly student store ran by the PTA that sells popcorn? Then don't open a classroom store selling popcorn. Think about about the goods/ services that people at your school might want and try to cater to that! It's also important to think about the time/ money you will need to put into the goods versus how much money you will make. Thankfully piñatas are just newspaper (free), watered-down glue and tissue paper (both pretty cheap) and don't take too much time/ work, so we make a pretty good profit. 

2) Talk to your principal
It's super important to talk to your principal about your business plan before getting started. Make sure your principal is on board with t he idea and talk about the incoming money before you start! A few questions to ask: Can the income go directly to your classroom funds/account? Do you need to open a bank account just for your business? Do you need to submit the money to your school secretary or can you just keep the money in a save place? What about tax info? 

There are some AMAZING things about having a classroom business. It gives you money to spend in your classroom! So you can stop opening your wallet to buy glue sticks, Velcro and food for cooking lessons. It can give you the freedom to cook more in your classroom, to go on more field trips, to hire special speakers to come to your classroom and SO much more! A classroom business is also a great opportunity to teach kiddos about money math, budgeting and giving back to the community! Students get paid for working for the company and then get to spend their money when we go to gas stations or the grocery store. We also teach our students the importance of donating money. We have donated money to our PE teacher to raise money for a 5k she was putting together. We have also used our money to purchase and then sell breast cancer awareness bracelets to raise money for a teacher at our school fighting breast cancer. 

If you want to see and hear more, click the picture to check out our Facebook page ;)

Do you run a classroom business that is out of the ordinary? I'd love to hear more about how other classroom businesses are run! Let me know if you have any questions about our business! I left a lot of info out of this post about our business, but I'm more than happy to write more about it.

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