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SPED Teacher Essentials: Beyond the Basics

It's Back to School time! I don't know about you, but the school supply section of every store is like a magnet to me. I just can't stay away. I do a lot of stocking up for the year during August, so I'm here to share my essentials with you. Don't worry, this isn't another post about buying lamination and Velcro. But if you still need the basics, you can check out Part 1 here.

Running a Peer Tutor Program

Do you have a peer tutor program at your school? I cannot recommend it enough! Working with peer tutors is one of my favorite parts of my job.  There are so many benefits for everyone involved!If you don't and are wanting to get started, check out this great Q&A post, then come back and finish reading these tips. If you're ready to start, or you want some tips about improving your program, then you're in the right spot! Let me tell you about how I run my Peer Tutor program.

{Tips for Special Educators} Communicating with Parents

In order to develop a true educational team for our students with special needs, parent communication is essential. Here are my favorite tips and tricks for simplifying parent communication in the SPED classroom.

1. Communication folders: I like to put myself in my student's parents shoes from time to time. If I had a student who was nonverbal, or had limited communication skills, I think it would be extremely frustrating not to know what my child did on a daily basis. This is the main reason I send home communication folders. Also, it's a quick and easy way to let parents know that they need to send in items or to send home completed work. I always have some parents who do not take the folders out of the student's backpack, but I still send them, in case they ever want to!  For these parents, it's important to have another method of communication for important notifications and messages. 

I use the plastic pocket folders that you can get at any office supply store. They (usually) last me the whole year, aren't bulky and are super inexpensive. Walmart always has them on sale during Back to School. You will want to decide if you will be the person filling out the folders, or if you want your students to fill out their own folders.  I have done this both ways. If you'd rather fill it out yourself, you can create a quick and easy sheet that works for your schedule or you can use these editable ones.
Last year, I used these amazing communication sheets from Brie at Breezy Special Ed and Dab and Dot markers from Amazon.

2. Newsletters: I love sending home newsletters. It's an easy way to share what we are doing in class and to provide information and training to my student's families. I send home a monthly newsletter because I don't want to bombard my parents with papers and notes. In each newsletter, I include info about our Core Vocabulary words for the month, our community based instruction focus, donation requests and a blurb with advice about transitioning to adulthood (this is something that I am really passionate about and believe needs to begin in middle school!) I send home a paper copy in the students communication folders and an email copy. Tip: Put all your parent email addresses in your BCC address box to keep them confidential.

3. Google Voice: Guys, this has been a lifesaver! I use text messages as a main form of communication with many of my student's parents and I used to give them my personal cell phone number. Not anymore! Google Voice is free and super easy. You create a phone number, install the app, sync it to your personal number and voila, you are all set! I give this number to my parents and they can call and text it. The best part is that all of my phone records, text messages and voicemails are logged and sent to my email. Boom- instant communication log! Seriously, go check it out! (I'm not getting anything for telling you about this, I just love it and want to make your life easier.)

What's your preferred way to communicate with parents? Leave me a comment below!

Teaching Math When They Just "Don't Get It"

I have a love/hate relationship with math.  I hate doing it, but I love teaching it.  I think I love teaching it because I want my students to learn it differently than I did.  Teaching math in special education, specifically for students with significant disabilities, is like throwing darts while blindfolded and hoping that you hit the board.  There is very little curriculum available and most instruction and IEP goals focus on functional skills, like telling time and counting money.  Additionally, most special educators do not take any instructional math courses. On the opposite end, regular education teachers have very specific curriculum, time blocks, and standards for teaching math.  But how can you use what you are required to use to help the students that just aren’t “getting it”?  Here are some of my go-to strategies for struggling mathematicians.  The great thing about these strategies are that they can be adapted regardless of the curriculum you are using and can be used for any mathematical concept or skill.

Teacher Appreciation

It's Teacher Appreciation week and to celebrate, I've teamed up with my favorite SPED sellers for this amazing giveaway! Enter to win a 2018 Eric Condren life planner AND a $130 Teachers Pay Teachers gift card (which you can use to splurge during the TpT sale May 9th-10th).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In addition, I'm rolling out product giveaways all day tomorrow, May 9th on my Facebook page, and giving away a $10 TpT giftcard on Instagram. Make sure you are following both so you don't miss out!

Finally, just a reminder that you rock. Being a teacher is a hard job. Thank you for all that you do!

Inside My Classroom: Independent Work Tasks Station

I love my independent work task station! I think it's so important for our students to be able to complete a task independently!!! Disclaimer: I call my station TEACCH tasks, although I haven't been officially trained on the TEACCH program (it's on my bucket list 😊). If you are unfamiliar with TEACCH, you can read more about it here.

Resources for Working with Paraeducators

Working with and managing paraeducators is one of the toughest parts of being a special educator.  I am constantly hearing SPED teachers begging for help with their paraeducators.  The fact is we couldn't run our classrooms without our paras.  Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of time or resources to put into training and teaching them, but luckily, there are some wonderful people who created resources for us.

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