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- PAPERWORK TIPS FOR SPECIAL EDUCATORS
The last few months of the school year are always so busy. Transition meetings, ESY paperwork, progress reports...it feels like there is never enough time to get the paperwork done!!! Here are a few tips to stay on top of it all. 🖤 Set up a paperwork schedule. Set a designated time of the day and week you will focus on paperwork. I have a task list for each day of the week that I work on during my prep time. For example, reading group data on Fridays, peer tutor grades on Mondays, progress monitoring on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and so on. 🖤 Get a progress monitoring system in place. Stay on top of progress monitoring by completing monthly student averages every month and just plug the data into your progress report. I use this progress report to keep track of it all. 🖤 Plan for some extra prep time. If you know you have extra paperwork coming up (like ESY right now) plan a class period that your students can work independently or with a para so you can get it all done. Here are some low-prep seasonal activities that you can use for this! Spring Counting Boom Cards Spring Errorless Sentence Helpers Addition Uno (not seasonal but still fun!) 🖤 Reinforce yourself when you’re all caught up! Grab an iced coffee or sneak out a few minutes early on a Friday. You deserve it! Paperwork is a necessary part of the job, but it doesn’t have to take over your life! Comment below and let me know which of these tips you're going to try out this year.
- INCREASING INDEPENDENCE WITH WORK TASKS
Whenever I am called to help a teacher with a specific student or classroom management in general, one of my first questions is, "What can the student(s) do independently?" Why does this matter? Well, our number one goal as special education teachers is to increase student independence. We do this by explicitly teaching skills that our students need to increase access to the general education classroom and the community. Students with disabilities have so much potential, but too often and to no fault of their own, they are prompt-dependent and struggle with independent skills. With so many paraprofessionals and modifications built into our classrooms, sometimes we don't realize that we are doing students a disservice with our intensive support. So, how do we help our students increase their independence? One of the main strategies in my classroom was teaching students to work independently using work tasks. What are Work Tasks? Independent work tasks are what they sound like. Tasks that students can complete independently. Here's the key- these are skills that students have mastered. This is important because we need to ensure that we are not prompting or correcting, or it's not really independent, is it? There are many benefits to using independent work tasks, but I’ll dive into a few. First and foremost, our students need to learn independence. It’s essential for growth, challenging skills, and decreasing prompt dependency. Independent work tasks also give students the space to review previous skills and increase their confidence. Plus, since you have a student working independently, you can free up a paraprofessional and get extra help with other classroom tasks. How do I get started using Work Tasks? Instead of having every student work on centers or independent work at one time, select one or two students to complete independent work. Start by setting a timer for 5-10 minutes, and slowly increase the amount of time students spend working. You may have students that need to start with an adult next to them, but make sure to slowly fade the adult out as the student increases their ability to work independently. This can be as easy as moving the chair further away from the student. It's also important to set clear expectations for how independent work functions. Students should have a location to place the task when they are finished. It's also important NOT to reset the work in front of the student because it devalues their effort. To get started, identify which students you have that can work the most independently. Select the level of work tasks that you want them to use and prep them. Here are my must-have prep supplies. How often should I change out Work Tasks? I have done this in different ways, depending on the year. First, I change all the tasks out monthly. I store them in a large bin and transfer them to the task card cases when I put them out each month to save space. Some years, I just had students grab any task from the shelf that was an appropriate level for them. Other years, I used plastic shoe boxes and placed 4-5 tasks for the week inside. Students would grab their boxes and do the same tasks for the week, and then we would switch them out for the next week. Another option that I have used is a visual schedule of tasks, like I shared in this post. How you incorporate work tasks into your schedule will depend on what works for you and your students. How do I store Work Tasks? I love to use photo boxes and pencil pouches to store work tasks. You can also buy mesh zipper pouches in different sizes, which also works great. I was able to snag this bookshelf from the librarian for free, and I kept all of my work tasks for the month on it sorted by level. Inside each box or pouch, I placed the cards and a small baggie that contained the pieces. I didn't want students to waste time separating the pieces from the cards, so this was a good system for us. If you're ready to get started with work tasks, I have a free sample for you!
- WRITING THE PRESENT LEVELS SECTION OF AN IEP
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I attend a LOT of IEP meetings as part of my role as a special education coordinator. I am one of those weird special educators that love IEPs. Anyone else? Whether you like them or not, it's part of the job, and being able to put together a well-structured IEP and run a good meeting takes some practice. One of the most important and most often rejected parts of the IEP is the Present Levels section. You may call it a PLAAFP or a PLOP, or even a PLEP, but it all means the same thing. This is the guiding force behind the IEP. If I pick up your student's IEP and read the Present Levels, I should know exactly what the student can do and where the student is still struggling and clearly understand why you wrote these goals. A well-written Present Levels section of an IEP should explain exactly why a student receives special education services. It should guide the IEP goals and service pattern. The Present Levels section must include the following components: 1. Student strengths (current data) 2. Student weaknesses (current data) 3. The student's academic, developmental and functional needs 4. How the student's disability impacts their access to general education Here are a few quick tips for improving the Present Levels section of your IEPs. Make sure your PLAAFP is clear enough that if the student transferred to another school, there would be enough information to describe the student's needs just from reading the PLAAFP. Use measurable terms. There should be nothing subjective in your PLAAFP. Give me the data! Stay neutral. Make sure your statements about student weaknesses are stated in a neutral/positive way. Include current baseline data from multiple sources, including curriculum-based assessments, observations, parent concerns, and information from other educators that work directly with the student. Don't just change the numbers from the student's present levels last year. Remember, an IEP is to provide access to the general education curriculum, and those standards differ in each grade level. Address the whole student, not just their ability in one specific, narrow skill. For example, your PLAAFP should never just be one sentence on how a student can solve addition with 40% accuracy. How did you get here? The PLAAFP should address any areas of need that a student has. The next time you IEP and want to quickly throw together a PLAAFP so you can focus on the goals, I encourage you to pause and really think about the student's present levels. A poorly written PLAAFP will often cause you to set the starting point for a student to high or too low, but a well-written, thoroughly addressed PLAAFP will help you to develop appropriate goals and objectives.