Saturday, September 16, 2017

Successful Home Visits with Your Elem. Students - General Ed and Special Ed

I started doing home visits when I taught elem. students, both general ed and when I was a self-contained special ed teacher (mild/moderate special day class - mostly learning and speech disabilities). I found it was a great way to get to know the student, and let the family how much you cared about them. 

If you are considering doing home visits, first, you need to determine your purpose. My purpose was to spend time with the child doing whatever he/she wanted... to give them my undivided attention... to build a relationship with them. I tried to avoid talking to parents too much while there. Of course you will have some small talk, but I worked hard to keep it from becoming a parent conference.  If other siblings/cousins, etc. wanted to play, too, I made it clear my student was in charge.

You will need to decide what time of year is best for your home visits. Is it best to spread them out over the year, or cluster them together?  Should you do them at the beginning of the year, or in the springtime near the end? I decided to do them earlier in the year. Then, if a situation came up with behavior or anything else, there was a foundation of trust that really helped.  Also, both kids and parents knew I truly cared about them because I took the time to invest in them. An additional benefit is that after the home visit, you will know what the child is talking about when she keeps referring to her siblings, pets... that shared experience is a great memory!

More specifically regarding time frame, I found that doing home visits after the first quarter parent conferences worked great. That was better than the first few weeks of school, because by then the kids are more comfortable around me, and not so shy. Parents also knew me a little better. But most of all, I found it was best for me to introduce the idea in person at the first quarter parent conference itself.  I could explain why I wanted to come and to not worry about cleaning the house, etc. (My house was probably messier than theirs). Plus, I only wanted to spend time with their child.  Going over it at parent conferences also ensured the paper didn’t get lost going home. On the paper, I listed days/times I could go. See English sample below.  

At our school, school was dismissed at 1:00 during parent conference week. I used this to my advantage when I figured out that if I scheduled all the parent conferences for early in the week, then I would have more time each day to do home visits later that same week. However, I also told parent if the days I listed on the paper don’t work, they could just contact me with another date/time. If parents don’t show up to conference, I did send home papers, and have another to give out at the IEP meeting.

I always told kids I would do anything they wanted when I came, except go swimming (that took more time than the 20-30 minutes, plus I’d be wet for the next home visit). So think through what you are willing to do and not do ahead of time.  In addition, I dressed more casual on home visit days, or at least remembered to bring tennis shoes and something to change into. (The last thing you want is a bummed out student who wants you to play soccer but you have a dress and heels on.) Usually I’d see their pets, their bedroom, watch them play their favorite video game, meet their siblings, read or color.  One time we stayed in the front yard and played basketball the whole time. Another time, my student (third grade) drove me around their farm on their old golf cart! If the parents gave permission I would take some photos/video clips to show the class the next day. I would also put a photo in the class video at the end of the year.

The only time I had an awkward visit was when my student got super shy and didn't want to do anything.  I think he was shocked that I came to his house (I had to follow the school bus in order to get there). All he wanted to do was sit with his little brother on the couch. I couldn't get a word or yes/no out of him. After much coaxing on his mother's part, it ended up that with my student's permission, his little brother showed me around and answered all my questions about their pets (a dog and chicken). My student followed us around. The next day, the student was so excited that I came to his house, you would have never know he didn't really participate much.

 Overall, the kids and families loved my visits.  Once a parent told me my student was up by 7:00am looking out the window expecting me to come. Then as soon as she got home from school she waited for me by the window again! (Yep, some of our kids have no concept of time, even when we review it with visual schedules, etc!). Some kids even expected me to come every week (or at least every time they got a new bed, TV, pet, etc.). LOL!  Other families never had me come, even if I had the child in my class for 4 years in a row… and that was okay. I never pressured parents about it.  

However, if a child really wanted me to come, but was disappointed that it didn’t work out for the parents (or was jealous of me going to other homes) then there were a couple of things I would do.  First, if the child was involved in an after school activity like a sports team, I would ask for the schedule, then go!  I haven't been to a dance recital yet, but I have been to a baptism/catechism. Second, if an outside activity wasn't an option, then in the spring time I would tell him/her we could have a “home visit” at school. We would pick a day when we would spend the whole lunch period together.  Usually we would eat in my class and afterward we would do whatever he/she wanted, inside the class or outside on the playground. 

I’m sure there are many ways of doing home visits, but this is what worked for me for over the years. I hope they give some some good ideas you can run with!  I must say, that when I run across former students or parents, they always remember that I came to their house!

How to Make Morning Meeting/Circle Time Work in Self-Contained Multi-Grade Special Ed Class

This is how I incorporated circle time/morning meeting into my self-contained class with 12-20 students grades K-5 mild/moderate disabilities (on a general ed TK-6 public school campus). First of all, whole class circle/calendar times did not work for my kids when I had more than 3 grade levels in my class. The big kids would get bored and not want to do "baby stuff," and the little kids couldn't sit still, and there were always behavior problems with those seeking attention. I really struggled with this over the years because I felt it was really beneficial for my younger students. However, eventually I settle upon this, which worked really well.

Basically, I put the traditional calendar time into a center with one of my paras. We rotated through stations/groups from about 8:30-1:00. Calendar, days of week/months of year, weather, counting, etc. were on the wall behind this station. I could help my para differentiate lessons for calendar, day of week, weather, etc. Then they had different activities to work on. Some kids wrote out everything, and younger ones just wrote their name, letters and numbers, then had velcro file folder type activities for phone number, calendar, weather, etc. When I started this I got some activities from The Autism Helper (see photo below), and later modified them to work my different age levels.

This group with the para did not have songs during that group time because it would have been very distracting to other kids in the class. So we did songs later in the day during GoNoodle/indoor PE time. It was easier to do this whole group because different grades took turns going to inclusion classes. So only about half the kids were in class. We would start off GoNoodle doing calendar/weather, days of week, skip counting, etc. song/dance videos that were provided or that I added. Then we would do seasonal song/dances depending on the holiday. Finally kids could take turns choosing the next video if they had earned a coupon (part of my behavior management system).

Friday, September 15, 2017

Ideas to Help Kids Learn to Spell Their Names

Tired of making file folder name activities for each student to practice spelling their name? While it is good to have manipulatives right in front of the student (and keep reading to see a list of ideas), here is a way to help them get more practice and for you to progress monitor and see if they are actually spelling their name correctly.  Using the internet, students are presented with a variety of tasks to help them practice. The first three activities have the name at the top in case students need that support. The next three activities do NOT have the name shown.

1. Click on their name everywhere it appears in a group of names. (Capital/lower case)
2. Drag the letters in name to arrange them in the correct order. (Capitals only)
3. Practice typing name four time (Capital/lower case)
4. Identify name in a larger group of names. (Capital/lower case)
5. Drag letters into correct order again, except there are extra letters that won't be used. (Capitals only)
6. Practice typing name even more times. (Capital/lower case)

See video above showing each activity (not sure why the screenshot is blurry but video should work fine).   Students get instant feedback and go back and fix errors. Teachers can view report showing exactly what students did, with automatic grading. Teachers can even send home student logins so students can practice for homework!

Young children get practice using a mouse/track pad if using a computer and well as practice using a keyboard (letters, backspace, and enter/return keys). If using a tablet or smartphone, hold the spot where you need to type to bring up the virtual keyboard. It also works on interactive whiteboards and smartphones (although print might be too small if the phone is small).

So far I have made activities for the following names:  Aiden, Angel, Avery, Chloe, Ethan, Isabella, Jayden, Jesus, Madison, Mason, Maria, Madison, Sophia.

Coming soon: Abigail, Addison, Aubrey, Bryan, Emily, Isaiah, Jackson, Jacob, Madelyn, Olivia, Michael, Randy, William

Go here to see current list of names available.  To request other names (or a different spelling) go to my TpT Store and click on the tab "Ask a Question."

Go here to play a free playable preview (but do it in "Full-sized Preview" to get sound).

Below are some other ideas I've done to help kids when I was a classroom teacher.

  • Cut out pieces of paper for each letter in the name. Kids put them in the right order in a matching or memory game. 
  • Have students identify their name in a list of names, for example classmates or family member names. Sometimes teachers make this into a bulletin board. Or if names are on desks or cubbies, student can go find their own name.
  • Kids practice tracing and writing letters in their name - on paper, sandpaper, the carpet, jello, salt, etc.  There are websites that will generate tracing and writing worksheets for free, this one is my favorite.
  • Write letters on milk caps, bottle caps, foam, unifix cubes, clothespins or purchase foam letters. Students pick out the letters in their name and practice spelling their name.
Now I am an itinerant teacher (traveling to different schools and districts) so I don't provide all the hands on practice. However, in extreme cases I will sometimes make a "kit" with some of the above ideas and leave in the classroom for the child to practice. Having the internet option is great because there is less stuff I have to haul around my car!! Hope these ideas help you as you help kids learn how to spell their names!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

What to Cover in an IEP Meeting

There is a lot of work that goes into the IEP meeting.  But what you do and say once you are at the meeting?  Don't become speechless. Find out if your school, district or SELPA has a standard meeting agenda you can use.  I once worked at a school which had it framed on the wall in the conference room so everyone could see it. If there already isn't an official one to use, then make a check list that you bring.  Ask other team members to jump in if there is something that hasn't been covered.  Ask someone else to take notes for you, especially if you are also running the meeting. 

One of my districts has the administrator be the facilitator and signature counter. This works wonderfully, because the case manager already has a lot to think about during the meeting. This way the administrator is actively involved, keeps track of who is there, who needs to sign, and can keep the meeting flowing and not getting stuck too long. 

If you don't have a specific agenda to follow, here are some ideas.
1. I know of a district that break all parts of the IEP into "Strengths, Concerns and outcomes."  Everything gets covered as they stick to that format. 

2. Just go through the IEP page by page in order.

3. Here is a general format that may be used, that is a little more detailed than above:

  • Introduce everyone. 
  • Go over any excusals.
  • Give and explain parent rights.  
  • Verify or update parent/guardian contact information (address, phone, cell, email)
  • State purpose of the meeting (i.e. annual, triennnial, transition, etc.)
  • Always start positive by brainstorming strengths of the student (academics, likes, hobbies, talents, etc.)
  • Concerns/questions of parent to be addressed, other input parent wants to give, concerns of other team members.
  • Present levels: All team members discuss present levels of the student in their area of service, including whether goals have been met.
  • Team develops new goals for the student. Discuss accommodations needs to achieve goals.
  • Determine services and placement.
  • Remember to cover other parts of IEP that haven't been discussed above. For example: statewide assessments, accommodations, transportation, extended school year (ESY), written input from anyone excused from the meeting, 
  • Review or determine any follow up needed and who will be responsible for doing it. 
  • Ask if anyone can think of anything else to discuss and review if parent concerns were addressed.
  • Sign all paperwork. Double check if everyone signed (including interpreters, advocates, etc.) before people leave the meeting.
  • Adjourn meeting.

By the end of the year, you will probably be more comfortable with leading an IEP meeting. Just know that others there are nervous, too.  If another team member mentions that something needs to be talked about, don't feel embarrassed. We have all been in situations where we forgot a signature or to bring up an important topic.  But that person cared enough to help you out and save you time later if you would have had to go back and redo something or track the parent/guardian down to fix an error. 

Suggestion:  Have a colleague review the IEP before the meeting looking for typos, date errors, etc.  One year when the state was coming to do a review, our sped director mandated that everyone have someone look at the IEP before the meeting. It was amazing how many careless mistakes we all made, even by the seasoned teachers.  It does happen to everyone, but remember to double and triple-check since the IEP is a legal document.   Good luck!


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Save Time with "Office in a Box"

Have you gone to the office to make copies only to find that the office stapler is out of staplers, or you can't find a paper clip or sticky note?   As a special ed teacher, I am forever copying IEPs, reports and putting together paperwork and hate running back to my class for supplies that office was out of. So I got smart one day and came up with my "Office in a Box" kit that I keep in my teacher mailbox in the office.  It has everything I need! 

Easy to make: Purchase a shallow clipboard box, which is a little larger than an 8 1/2 x 11 paper. It is about 1 inch tall, so it doesn't fill up your whole mailbox. Next put a small desk drawer organizer in it (you might use adhere it to the box with a glue gun so it doesn't move around). Put your name on it. Then add your essentials such as pens, pencils. small stapler, staples, staple remover, eraser, paper clips, scissors, and sticky notes.

Speaking of sticky notes, I have some blank ones in my "office in a box," but also some pre-printed ones I made such as "Sign and return" which I just print out and stack on the inside cover).  It has make my life so much easier when I need to send home meeting notices for parents to sign.

An "Office in a Box" can also be very useful to keep in your car (because you can only stuff so much in your vehicle's storage containers and pouches)!  It might come in handy when your child needs a paper clip or pencil on the way to school in the morning. Itinerant teachers who travel from school site to school site will love it, too!  

If you are an IEP case manager (speech, special ed, related services provider, etc.) and would like more time saving tips like this, check out my "IEP Case Manager Time Saving Tools" in my TeachersPayTeachers store.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Back To School: Minecraft ABC Flashcards - FREEBIE ALERT!

School will be starting before we know it!!!  So here is a fun freebie! I have posted Minecraft ABC Flashcards in my TeachersPayTeachers Store.  Get a free set of letter flashcards with a picture of a something with that letter on it.  My older students who are still at a kinder level academically love these to work on alphabet letter names and sounds!!! They especially like to practice spelling their names (so you might print some extra letters in case they need more than one of a letter). High Interest/low level product!  General ed kids could use them to practice spelling words and more. Enjoy!!!  Please leave a comment below telling how you used them! And I also would appreciate a positive rating in my store!! Thanks!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Easy and Cheap Water and Ice Games for Back-To-School

It is summertime, but school will be back before we know it. Why not start off the year with some fun water games?!! Even though it gets to be 100 degrees or more during August when school starts our school always saves water days for the end of the year. Well, why wait?!! Having water games now could be a great incentive to have great behavior while learning new procedures and routines!   The games described below I did while I taught Extended School Year (summer school for kids with special needs) but they would be just as fun at the beginning of the year!

I sent a note home saying kids could bring kids brought a towel, flip flops and clothes to get wet in on Friday. Here are the cheap and super easy water games we played. At first all we could think of was water balloon toss, but soon we came up with other games.  Note: there's a drought going on here in California so we didn't just turn on the sprinklers and let them go crazy.  And we did everything on the grass (not blacktop) so all spilled water would not be wasted.

These games were done with kids going into grades 2-5 (special ed). The goal was to have and fun and get wet, so we didn't stress the competition part of any game.  Plus, any child that did not want to do a particular game could just watch!

Water version of DUCK, DUCK, GOOSE, called DRY, DRY, WET.  Materials: small bowl, tub of water. Dunk a small bowl in the tub of water to fill it up.  The child with cup walks around the circle and holds the cup over each person's head and said DRY instead of saying DUCK. Then instead of saying GOOSE, he says WET and dumps the water on the child's head or back of neck, then runs around the circle.  (Some kids didn't want to get water in their ears, so consider only dumping water on the back of the neck.). The way we played was that regardless of whether the child got tagged or not, they sat down and the person who got wet went next. We didn't play with a mushpot.

GAMES WITH ICE.   Our cafeteria has an ice machine so it was really easy to get a large tub of ice for different games listed below.

Ice grab.  Materials: a chair, plastic shoe box size tub and small bowl for each station, water, ice cubes.   Fill a couple of tubs 1/3 full with water.  Each kid sits in a chair and puts their foot in the tub of water. You add ice cubes. Then they need to remove as many ice cubes as they can with their toes and put in small bowl next to them.  I gave them a time limit like 30 seconds or a minute.

Sit on it.  Materials: chair and ice cubes.  We didn't have large blocks of ice for kids to sit on, so I just dumped some ice cubes in the seat of some chairs, and kids took turns sitting on the ice as long as they could (or you could give a time limit like 2 minutes and see who can last the longest).

For kids waiting their turn to do Ice grab or Sit on it: 

  • Give each kids a piece of ice hold in their hands - see how long they can hold it.   
  • I also put ice down their backs if they wanted me to.
  • Ice spitting: Kids are probably already in a line waiting for above games, so just give each one a piece of ice. They put it in their mouths and try to spit it as far as they can. If they aren't in a line, then have them start on the edge of the grass, and spit out into the grass.

If you want to spend a little money, get some water balloons at a dollar store.  I blew up about 30 water balloons the day before in the janitor's closet, where there was a faucet higher up (better than bending down at an outside faucet), plus there was a special nozzle so you could turn the water on a off really easy to fill them up.  After each water balloon game, kids had to pick up all the little balloon pieces from the grass and throw away before beginning the next game!

Sit on it Relay Race
Materials: Each team needs a chair and water balloon for each person (put in tubs next to each team).
Put kids in teams. When it is their turn, each person will grab a water balloon and run to chair. Put the water balloon in the chair, then sit on it until they pop it. If after a few times they couldn't do it we told them to break the water balloon over their head.  Then run back and tag the next person to take their turn. Go to back of line and sit down.

Water Balloon Launch
Materials: 2 people, beach towel, water balloons. We did this at the end each day with any leftover water balloons. Two people hold ends of a beach towel.  Kids stand 20 feet away.  Put 1 water balloon in the middle of the towel. On the count of three launch the balloon up in the air for kids to try to catch! We started with just one balloon at at time, then later started adding 2 or 3 at a time. If a water balloon didn't break, then the kid that got it could break it over their own head!

Conclusion. The kids absolutely loved the games and I loved it because it didn't cost a lot of money!!!!! I did bring a few extra towels for anyone who forgot theirs.  Be sure to send notes home so kids remember to bring a towel and flip flops as a minimum and a change of clothes if they want. Also, be sure the check the bathrooms to be sure no one left anything in there.