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{Tips for Special Educators} Data Collection

It's #SPEDchatSaturday and I want to talk to you about data collection. I love data. It's one of my favorite things about being a special educator. I love being able to see exactly where my students are at, the progress they have made, and what I need to change to help them learn. Not only is data a requirement for any teacher, I take data on pretty much every program that is run in my classroom, regardless of whether it aligns to an IEP goal. One of the main reasons I do this is because I am not the only person teaching in my classroom. My paraprofessionals and my peer tutors provide instruction. However, I am still the teacher, so I am responsible for each program and each student's learning. Without data, I don't know how my students are doing. There are tons of ways to take data and to streamline your data collection. Here are a few tips & tricks!


Mail Delivery Program

A mail delivery program is a perfect way to practice and generalize social skills, pre-vocational skills and even sorting! My students LOVE delivering mail, and it provides the opportunity for our faculty to get to know them better.

Organizing Materials by Level for Easy Access

Hi friends! I'm here to share a super easy trick for organizing your classroom materials. Most often, our special education classrooms are full of students whose instructional levels vary greatly. I like to have materials and activities that are easy for students to access independently and for my paras to assist with, but I want my students completing tasks that are at their level.

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.
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