Thursday, November 9, 2017

Win a Free Paper Cutter and More!

I can still remember how excited I was when I got a paper cutter for Christmas my first year of teaching. I still get happy thinking about it. I know, it's wasn't the typical Christmas gift of clothes, jewelry, etc.!  But most teachers will agree that having one close by whenever you need it is so incredibly helpful! My paper cutter has followed me to every school and class I've taught in. I've had the blade sharpened a couple of times* over the almost 30 years I've had it, and it still works great!! So I thought a paper cutter would be a great prize for this give-a-way!!! The paper cutter I chose is a 12 inch guillotine type paper cutter from Amazon. Keep reading to find out what you need to do to enter. But note that if you win, you need to give me your address within 48 hours. Then I will purchase it on Amazon and have it shipped directly to you.

Just remember there is an important rule to follow with this type of paper trimmer:   Don't leave it sitting out where kids have access to it. Put it in a closet or cupboard when it isn't in use. Even if you teach older kids... who knows what could happen if kids were just messing around one day when you weren't there.  So don't take that chance. Put it away when you are done using it.

Giveaway Details:
To show how grateful, thankful and blessed I am for all of you, I'm teaming up with some of my teacher buddies to bring you a "block party" giveaway! All 7 of us are offering a giveaway on our IG pages to give back to you! Enter all 7 giveaways or just the ones you want. One winner from each account will be chosen and announced on Nov. 12, 2017.  (Winner must respond within 48 hours or I will choose another winner.

How to enter:
1. Go to my Instagram page:  @Lisagoodellequip
2. Like my giveaway post.
3. Follow me on Instagram.
4. Comment on my giveaway post by naming a teacher and/or teaching tool you are thankful for.
5. Tap the photo on my Instagram post to see the next giveaway.

*When the blade of any paper cutter needs to be sharpened, take it in to the local fabric store whenever their next scissor and knife sharpening event happens. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What is an Orthopedic Impairment (OI) Teacher/Specialist?

Whenever I explain my job as an itinerant orthopedic impairment teacher people think it I am an occupational therapist. While the duties of orthopedic impairment (OI) specialists/teachers and occupational therapists (OT) do overlap a little, there are some important differences. One the main differences is that occupational therapists come from the medical/therapy field. They know a lot more about the physical body. OI teachers come from education and are credentialed teachers so they know a lot more about curriculum. Often they have a background as a special ed teacher.

Below are some more things to consider. However, I am certain that both services will vary differently between districts and states, so be sure to find out what the services are in your area. I'm pretty sure occupational therapists are in all states, however OI teachers are not. Some OI teachers have their own classroom which contains students with orthopedic impairments. For this blog post, I am referring to OI teachers/specialists who are out of the classroom, meaning those who work in an itinerant capacity in order to serve students of all ages in different school settings.

Ways OI and OT duties may overlap some:
kids in all gen ed and special ed settings
Handwriting and cutting skills (academic fine motor)
Contracted by districts
Might use the same fine motor assessments (i.e. BOT-2)
Can serve the same student
Might be itinerant
Serve kids birth to 21

How OI is different:
OI can be a stand-alone service (which means that OI teachers can be IEP case managers)
Focuses on access to general ed curriculum (accommodations, equipment, etc.)
Only serves students who have  a medical diagnosis of OI
Can provide adaptive equipment/materials via low incidence funding
Supportive seating for academics
Teaches keyboarding skills
Evaluate/implements communication output (AAC) for academic success

How OT is different:
Provides therapy (fine motor and gross motor)
Is not a stand along service (OTs are not IEP case managers)
Focuses on functional fine motor and ADLs (activities of daily living)
Medical/developmental model
Toileting services
Serves all students with physical, cognitive and mental health disabilities
Works on concentration, staying on task, organization skills
Works on sensory, visual and perception issues
Typically doesn't have a budget to buy equipment (i.e. slant boards, supportive seating)

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," the little kids couldn't sit still, and there were always behavior problems with those seeking attention. I struggled with this over the years because I felt it was really beneficial for my younger students. However, eventually I settled upon this system, 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 posted on the wall behind this station. I helped 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 system I got some activities from The Autism Helper (see photo below), and later added some of my own activities for my different age levels and abilities.

This group with the para did not have songs during that group time because it would have been very distracting to kids at other centers in the class. So we did songs later in the day during GoNoodle/indoor PE time. It was easier to do the songs in a whole group format because different grades took turns going to inclusion classes. So only about half the kids were in class during this time. We would start off GoNoodle with calendar/weather, days of week, skip counting, etc. song/dance videos that were provided or that I added using the YouTube channel. 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.