Working with Paraprofessionals: Team Communication Binder + Freebie

One of the downsides of working in special education is the high turnover rate. It's a challenging field and we lose good people because of that. I started last school year with a team of 5 new paraprofessionals in my classroom, and it was tough. When you are constantly working with new people, it takes time to get good systems in place. They have to learn how you run things, you have to learn their strengths and you all have to figure out how to work well as a team.

Enter the communication binder. I needed a way to make sure we were all on the same page. And it was a huge help!

Let’s face it, we are busy and there’s never enough time in the day. I had paras starting at different times throughout the day and I was constantly forgetting to share info they needed. They also felt bad interrupting me when I was teaching to ask a quick question or talk about a day off. 

The team communication binder is just a hub for all classroom staff members. I wanted to make sure that whatever system I used would actually help increase communication between us and not just become "another thing to do."

In the front of the binder is our daily communication log. I would jot down notes in the morning when I got to work. This could be anything from a schedule change to a text that I got from a parent that I needed to make sure everyone was aware of, etc. Then I asked my paras to read any notes when they arrived at work and to make sure to check it again or write their own notes before they left for the day. 

The next section is for copy requests. I do use a master data sheet binder in my classroom, so my paras know where to go to get data sheets, but sometimes a peer tutor needs copies, or we need copies of certain program data sheets that are not in the master data sheet binder. So we use this section to check for copies needed when there is downtime. Or if someone is already going to make copies and they have an extra minute, they can make copies for whoever needs them.

The next section is for Program or Visual Requests. This could be for specific requests for visual supports or buttons to be added to a communication device. It's also where we would jot down requests for program materials. I also added a pocket folder to this section so that once the visuals were made, they had a place to go until they were put away.

The next section was basically anything that anyone needed from me, which could be a conversation to a training request. 

The final section is for Prep Requests. I don't prep at home, only at school, and my team helps a ton with prepping. I added a list for projects that need to be prepped as well as a folder for materials. We had a prep station in my classroom so this helped keep everyone organized and busy.

After implementing this for the last half of the school year, I loved it! It was a great way to keep us all on the same page and have a hub for everything. And of course, I want to share it with you! You can grab your free Team Communication Binder here & let me know how you're planning to use it!

If you’re wanting more info about working with paras and creating a classroom team, check out this post about our weekly staff focus.

Teaching Functional Skills with Sign of the Week

Looking for a way to start teaching functional skills in your special education classroom?

I use Sign of the Week as a whole class instructional activity. We do it during our Power Up time, which is a school-wide intervention period. My students are all in my classroom during this time, so it works out well. This is also when we work on functional skills for our Community Based Instruction units for the month.

Sign of the Week interactive bulletin board display

Getting Started with Functional Skills in the Special Education Classroom

One thing that I love doing is helping teachers find a good balance between functional skills and academics. I think that my elementary education training makes the academics side easier for me to understand, and then my master's degree in transition to adulthood really helped me understand the importance of starting functional and vocational skills at an early age, so I’ve really become passionate about merging the two and finding a good balance. I’m a big believer that you can do both together, it’s not a switch from academics to functional skills, but it’s taken me some time to figure out how to do both meaningfully. I’m going to share a few tips with you today about how I’ve gotten to this point. 

Girl pushing button on the microwave: get started with functional skills in special education

Teaching Matching Skills in Special Education

Teaching students to match is an essential language skill. It builds vocabulary and comprehension and is a prerequisite to many higher-order math skills like classification and sorting. It's especially important for emergent communication skills. Students using alternative and assistive communication devices (AAC) need to understand that the picture they are pointing to represents an actual object.

Matching Skills in Special Education with rainbow colored paint swatches

5 Things You Can Do Now to Prepare for Next School Year

 The end of the school year is upon us, and I know that we are all excited for summer! I also know that many of you have already started thinking about next year. I get so excited to start planning for the next school year. All the changes that need to be made are fresh in my mind. I get excited to try new schedules, new activities and routines, and work with new students. But I don’t like to spend a big chunk of my summer planning for the school year, so I try to get as much ready now as possible. Here are a few things teachers can do now to prepare for the next school year!

5 things you can do to prepare for next school year with colored paper and glue

5 Special Education Classroom Resources that I Use Every Day

Ok, I spend a lot of money on Teachers Pay Teachers. Anyone else? 🙋 As special education teachers, we are always on the lookout for curriculum and supplemental materials for our students with disabilities. Here are five resources that I use (almost) every day that have become a staple in my special education classroom.

As a special education teacher, I am always looking for more materials. Here are 5 special education classroom resources that I use everyday.

10 Ways to Use Punch Pass Cards

I’m here to share about one of my favorite, versatile classroom management tools: punch cards! But how can you use punch cards in the classroom? Here are ten ways.

10 ways to use punch pass cards with colorful punch cards on a desk
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