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Discussing Strengths and Needs Through Student Led Discussions

Daily student led discussions are an essential part of the early transition planning process in my classroom. In Utah, we are required to begin transition planning at age 14 but I like to start as soon as I get new 7th graders. My students need a lot of repetition and practice with new skills and I believe middle school is an ideal time to start working on self- advocacy and self- determination. 

One way that we address these skills is through our end of the class period routine. At the end of every class period, staff and/or peer tutors have a discussion with each student about something they did well and something they can improve on. It takes us several months of practicing this before my students really learn to specifically identify their strengths and needs. Being able to identify their own strengths and needs is an essential skill for the rest of their lives. In order to advocate for yourself, you need to know what you need help with and learn to ask. It's also helpful for goal setting and managing their own behavior. 

I love watching my students grow over the year and generate their own ideas. But it takes time. This is a critical thinking skill; it requires them to recall specific details, analyze what went well and what didn't and then express their thoughts. It can be tough at first, so with some students I provide visual supports in addition to the sentence starters. We also spend a lot of time modeling and giving students choices during our discussions.

Here is what their daily planner looks like and the prompts we use for our discussions.

If you want to grab a copy, you can download it here. It's fully editable, so you can change it to fit your students needs. If you start this in your classroom, I'd love to hear how it goes!

Fun & Easy Fine Motor Tasks

5 Tips for Setting Boundaries

This is an area I'm still working on, but I wanted to share 5 things I have done to help maintain work boundaries. Burnout is real and it's important to remember that it's okay to have a personal life and you don't have to work yourself so hard be a good teacher. Allowing myself to take breaks and be okay with letting things go is something that's really difficult for me so I've set a few guidelines. This is something I've asked my husband to help me with so I have someone to help hold me accountable. I'll admit, it's hard but I know it helps me to be a better teacher when I am taking care of myself and setting healthy boundaries.

Adapted Task Cards for Students with Multiple Disabilities

I know how challenging and time consuming it can be to find or create materials for students with significant or multiple disabilities. My students with limited mobility, speech delays and severe cognitive disabilities are quite a challenge in the classroom in that it is difficult to find meaningful, academic activities and experiences for them to engage in. I've created a few sets of adapted task cards that have the all the modifications built in. I love these because they are perfect for my students who use eye gaze or who need their answer choices presented further apart to be accurate.

I've included two sizes in each set. The larger size is perfect for students who have vision impairments. These task cards are great for emergent level learners who are working on basic skills but may not be able to read or write.

For students with limited mobility, students who need an alternative presentation or students who need an alternative way to respond to a task, print two sets of the task cards you are using. Cut up the answer choices from the second set and add hook Velcro to the backs. Present the task card and then present the answer choices on a separate board. This way, you can place the answer options further apart. Students can use eye gaze to select their answer or reach to touch the answer.
For students with more severe cognitive disabilities, I like to use task cards in this instructional sequence.

First, I use errorless instruction. After I've printed two sets of the task cards, I present the task card and the correct answer card. The student then just matches the correct answer to the card. 

Next, present the answer card and a blank card. This allows the student to discriminate between two choices. 

After this is mastered, you can present the answer card and an obvious distractor. For example, if you are doing shapes task cards, present one shape and one number. Next, I move to an array of 2 answers, one correct and another possible answer from the task card set. Finally, I would move to an array of 3 or greater, as the student is able.

I have my paras or peer tutors work with students using these task cards. First, they present the task card and ask the question. Next, they present the answer choices, depending on the student's level, as described in the instructional sequence above. I like to present the answer choices on a black felt board, like this. Students can touch their answer, look at their answer, or if able, can grab their answer and hand it to the teacher. I've also included smaller cards for direct matching.

You can grab the Adapted Task Cards Basics Bundle here or by clicking on the cover image below. Are there other skills you'd like to see? Leave me a comment or shoot me an email and let me know!

Math Centers in Special Education: The 3 Folder System

For math instruction in my self contained classroom, I have used several programs over the years. The last 3 years, I've been using Go Math with the majority of my students. You can read a little more about how I use it in this blog post. This post is going to go into detail about how I use rotations and centers during math instruction. 
*This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.*

I group my students and I split the class period so that I can work with 2 groups per class period. This allows me time to provide instruction to each student, each day. As I'm working with one group, my other group is working independently or with para/peer tutor support on their math centers. I've tried several systems for centers and I'm loving this 3 folder system.

Modern Marble Classroom Theme: Inspiration & Decor

If you're going for a clean and crisp modern vibe in your classroom this year, check out these accents and decor items. These are all available on Amazon and go perfectly with the Modern Marble Classroom Decor line in my TpT store. Check out my favorites! This post contains affiliate links.

Data Sheet Master Binder

Data, data, data. I’ve tried many data organization systems in the past 6 years and I’m loving this new trick! Let me share my new favorite data organization tip with you! 

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