Monday, February 9, 2015

Communication Considerations with a Special Education Blog Hop Freebie!

Welcome to day 9 of the Special Education Bloggers Sweet Treats!

With it being the month of friendship, I figured what better sweet treat than aided language boards for 10 of 20 of Our Favorite Games and Toys so friends and classmates of all abilities can join in the fun!


If you are new to the Considerate Classroom blog and are not familiar with aided language boards, you may want to visit these two past posts:  Improving Communication Skills for Non-Verbal Children Through the Use of Aided Language Boards and Personalizing Communication Supports for Individual Success.

You will be amazed at the social communication that aided language boards can facilitate.  I began using aided language boards after attending a wonderful training by Linda Burkhart in regarding to Gayle Porter's Pragmatic Organizational Dynamic Display (PODD) system.  From day one, I have found that aided language boards give students, who are nonverbal the ability to participate and express their needs, wants and opinions more effectively with less behavior.  They have also been helpful for students with limited verbal communication for a variety of reasons: lack of exposure, communication and/or social deficits and disabilities or because English is their second language.  

One of the most important things to remember about using aided language boards or any communication system is INPUT BEFORE OUTPUT! In the words of Linda Burkhart, "How long do we speak to baby's before they give us anything back? We speak for 11 to 12 months of before they say the smallest approximations of words like Bye-Bye or Dada-Dada.  We must model aided language boards and other communication supports for just as long or longer with students who have significant disabilities and delays.  They need to see the form of communication we are expecting them to use in practice consistently and with fidelity. 

Here is a sample aided language board:  

Below is a video example of my three year old son and I using the board.  Given Payton has language but notice how I use the aided language board to facilitate and expand language. Also note that I strategically put all the swords in a fabric bag labeled take one so I had more opportunities to model language and Payton had more opportunities to communicate.  

For example if we each just picked a color of sword to be at the beginning, we would have only had one opportunity to request, "I want to be the blue swords."  Instead by putting the swords in the fabric bag and drawing one out on each turn, we had the opportunity to label several colors throughout the game.  

It feels a little awkward at first but I encourage you to give it a try!  What better valentine to give your students than the gift of a VOICE:) 

One final tip before I sign off, a great way to keep yourself organized and always have your aided language boards available for those who need them is to laminate or slide them into page protectors and tape them to the box of the game. . .

or the inside lid of the storage tub the game is stored in. . .  

Voila'! You have language at your fingertips and your students'!

That is it for now, stayed tuned by liking Considerate Classroom on Facebook, as I have some great aided language boards and visual supports for facilitating communication between home and school in the works!

Happy Communicating!  Best wishes, Lindy

PS- Don't forget to come back tomorrow for a freebie from You AUT- a Know.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Valentines Blog Hop! 28 Days of Ideas, Tips, and Freebies from 28 Special Education Bloggers!

Happy Heart Month Considerate Classroom Friends!

Throughout the month of February, I am excited to give you 28 days of sweet treats (tips, ideas, and freebies) with the help of 27 amazing special education bloggers.

Starting tomorrow there will be a clickable image with 28 envelopes at the top of my blog. Each day one more special education blogger will have something wonderfully sweet to share.  You can simply click the envelope for that day to get your sweet treat.  Be sure to check back often as some of the blogs will be offering sales and freebies on their special day ONLY!  

NOTE: Considerate Classroom's special day is February 9th. I will be following the sweetness too and plan to send a reminder here and there throughout the month via Facebook. 

A special thank you to Traci Bender over at The Bender Bunch for organizing this sweet Valentine blog hop!

Happy Valentines!  With Love,


Monday, January 12, 2015

Learning the Pronouns: His and Her

Looking for a way to teach your students appropriate pronoun usage? Check out this leveled his/her activity:

All you need to do is collect boy and girl clothing and accessories such as watches, hats, necklaces, barrettes, bracelets, gloves, mittens and shoes.  (Tip: Collect baby clothing items so they fit nicely in your workbox.)

Then make a tub labeled his, him, he with a picture of a boy on it and a tub labeled hers, her, she with a picture of a girl on it.  If you would like you can download this version from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Then have your students take turns picking the accessories out of a fabric bag or tote.  I use one of my “take one” fabric bags. "Take one" fabric bag you might ask... It is simply a fabric bag that I labeled "take one" with a permanent marker.

I have several of them, and we use them for a variety of activities.  It gives my staff and I the reminder to use the same prompt "take one" as the students put their hand inside.  Many kids who are impulsive will take a handful out of the bag so it is a learning process if needed I only put one thing in the bag at a time for errorless learning.  NOTE: By using a solid colored fabric bag versus a plastic ziploc bag the students have to pick out an item randomly as they can't see inside the bag and the bag is quiet when students pick an item out.  
After the students pick out an item, I have the students tell me if it is for him or her and put it in the corresponding his or her tub.  To make the activity fun and to facilitate more language I added this simple aided language board

The language board provides the students with a way to say “that is his” or “that is hers” and they can also make comments such as “I like that” or “I don’t like that” we are working on core vocabulary (this, that, his, her, me, you, mine) while at the same time facilitating language.  By having the pictures available for students to point to, they have another means to make sense of language and/or communicate. Click on the video below to see this strategy in  action (NOTE: The video is with my own children, who both have language, but hopefully it will still give you an idea of how the language board works.)  You can also access the language board on teachers pay teachers.  

Another great thing about the his/her game is that I put it in tubs that match the tubs I use for my workbox storage:

This way I can store it with my other work boxes.  

And one more great thing about the task is that it can be used in a variety of ways as a fun small group activity, a direct instruction activity with a teacher, para, or speech pathologist or as an independent work activity.

NOTE: Above is an example of a very concrete activity.  The students are actually feeling, seeing and try on boy and girl accessories.  If your students are ready for a more abstract version of this activity you can access this his/her card sorting activity on teachers pay teachers.  

Print, cut out, and laminate the cards. Then simply have your students sort them into a container with two parts.  (My favorite is a Lean Cuisine dinner tray.)  

I considerate this to be level two of his or her sorting, next I give you level three, two worksheet versions of the same concept.

NOTE: You can use these worksheets with a dry erase marker and page protector as a direct instruction or independent work activity so students can practice the concept several time without making multiple copies. 

Or you could even slide it into the cover of a binder as a slant board.  

Well, that is it for now!  Until next time, happy concept building! She and He will learn a lot:) 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Ringing in the New Year with Effective Classroom Strategies

Happy New Year, Everyone! 

As I support and help others, I find myself referring to these posts time and time again, so I figured what better way to start a new year, then to share them in one collaborative post to support effective learning and teaching in 2015!


Physical structure is the foundation of an effective classroom.  A functional learning environment lends itself to smooth transitions, independence and efficient traffic patterns in turn creating optimal learning and teaching time for students and teachers.  

But physical structure does not stand alone, in the world of Early Childhood Education and Special Education we have a lot of stuff.  Stuff that needs to be organized in a systematic manner that provides easy access to teachers and staff but limited access to students, so with that I give you organizational tips from one of my favorite posts: THE NIGHTMARE THAT IS CLASSROOM ORGANIZATION

Next up,  positive and specific CLASSROOM RULES:

Classroom rules help staff be specific and consistent about teaching appropriate classroom behaviors.  But along with them we must develop classroom expectations.  I like to think of classroom expectations as a way for us to systematically teach our students how the classroom rules apply to a variety of centers, activities, routines and situations.  Click CLASSROOM EXPECTATIONS for more details. 

Which leads me to the next stop on our tour of effective classroom strategies, a systematic classroom schedule.  As stated by Kathleen Lane, "The best behavior plan is a good lesson plan." The more planned our routines and schedule are, the more learning we can embedded throughout the day, in turn limiting wait time and increasing quality teach time.  It is definitely a involved process so below you will find links to a series of six posts related to classroom schedules and routines. . .

And finally before I sign off I must, hop on my soapbox, no significant learning can happen without the ability to communicate.  All students must have a means to communicate what they know, as well as their opinion and what they want and need.  In the world of special education and early childhood education this can be a challenging feat as children come to us with the inability to communicate verbally.  It is our responsibility to find them a way to express themselves in whatever means possible.  Visual communication boards are often just the ticket for this, so without further ado I give you, IMPROVING COMMUNICATION THROUGH AIDED LANGUAGE BOARDS and one final favorite, to remind you of all the possibilities:  PERSONALIZING COMMUNICATION FOR INDIVIDUAL SUCCESS.

Best wishes in 2015, as always let me know if you have questions or if I can help in anyway.  The world of Early Childhood Special Education can be a lonely one but together we can make a big difference for our littlest learners!

Happy New Year, Lindy

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Fun Freebie to Ring in the New Year!

Greetings, Considerate Classroom Friends!

I finally bit the bullet. I am on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Thanks to the encouragement of Cathy Stevens and a few friends.  I am totally in awe of what is out there.  Cathy, as well as so many others, have so many great products.  

So here goes my first Teachers Pay Teachers Product: Toot your horn to review and learn new concepts!

All you need is some party blowersvelcro coins, an empty oatmeal or peanut canister, two pieces of construction paper, scissors, ziploc baggies and this printable

Print a set of cards for each student.  In my classroom, I print concepts that each student is currently working on. For instance for a student who is at the beginning stages of learning numbers with a number recognition IEP goal, I might print numbers 1 through 5 and then print a few color cards for them as a review so they can be successful with some cards automatically.  

Next I put a velcro dot on the back of each card and put it in a baggy with a party horn that has the opposite type of velcro dot.  

Normally I put rough velcro on the card and soft on the surface to prevent kids from rubbing up on the surface of a cabinet, shelf, etc and getting scratched.  But in this case, I change it up to maximize my velcro usage.  For example, for one student's review card set I will do rough velcro on the cards and soft on the horn and then for the next student's set I will do the opposite so I don't run out of one type of velcro before the other.  

Next I put together a canister for sorting correct and incorrect answers.  Mine is an oatmeal canister but any large canister will do.  

One side says, "Yay! You did it." 
The other says, "Maybe next time."
The inside of the container has a piece of folded card stock to separate correct answers from incorrect answers for data collection and for a try again method.  

Below is a video of how to play and the method of trying again in a nonjudgemental way to support errorless learning.  The idea is to play in a fun way and help students not feel badly about their incorrect answers but rather re-answer with the correct response before finishing the activity.  

Okay, so I know what you might be thinking... I am suppose to make a set of cards for each student?!?  How do I have the time or materials I need for that?  Well, I will give you a little motivation. By having a set for each student you can send them home as a homework activity.  Speaking from a mom's perspective, it is nice to have 'fun' homework. The kids and the parents will appreciate it.  Send it home in a baggy with this note so parents know how to play the game.

Another option is to store the set for students to do during one on one direct instruction with a para or teacher.   Note: You can really review any concepts in this manner: math facts, sight words, spelling words, thematic vocabulary, the list is endless.  It could be great in a speech or ot session as well!  You can use it to review concepts and work on strengthening oral motor control.  

So there you have it a New Year's Freebie and my first Teachers Pay Teachers product.  Be on the look out for others.  Hang on tight folks, it could be a bumpy ride. Remember I have the tech skills of a preschooler.  (Okay, so maybe that is giving me too much credit! I think my three year-old son has actually surpassed my technology skills.)  

Best wishes, 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Holiday Gift Idea: Pre-K Hand Print Calendar (Plus, Tips for Desensitizing Students with Special Needs to Finger Painting)

My last post on creative Christmas gift ideas was received so well, I thought I would follow up with one more homemade Christmas gift idea.  The idea is not new at all but our students' parents loved it as an end of the year gift last year. It would also be a great Christmas gift idea for your students' parents or your own children's gift to grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

A special thank you to Jessica Normandin and Good Beginnings Daycare for inspiring the idea as well as numerous internet and Pinterest finds along the way!

So without further ado, I give you the Buddy Bear's version of a Hand Print Calendar.

The Cover

January: A Beautiful Snowflake

February: A Handprint Valentine

March: A Silly Leprechaun

April: A Funny Bunny

May: A Pretty Tulip 

June: A Fun Fish

July: A Patriotic Flag

August:  Cool Crayons for Back-to-School

September: A Delicious Apple

 (Note: This was a prototype my boys made as a sample. The students' middle finger
was not painted all the way to the tip so the stem was shorter on the actual gifts.)

October: A Black Spider 
(Inspired by: Conscious Discipline's
 I Love You Rituals:  Little Miss Muffet

November: A Colorful Turkey

December: A Slender Santa 
(Note: Again, this was a prototype on the real ones 
we painted the tip of the thumb peach to make a flesh colored face.) 

There you have it "The Buddy Bear Hand Print Calendar!"  You might ask how did we ever get this twelve month calendar accomplished with our little special needs Buddy Bears. Well, it was not without the loving patience and creativity of Miss Karlie, one of our master art table paras.  Each day the kids painted one page of the their calendar and then had a turn with the art choices of the day.  (For more info on art center, visit this previous post.)  

You might also ask how we accomplished this task with sensory sensitive kiddos.  There are always a few students in a special education classroom that resist getting their hands dirty and/or hate to paint! We are always honest with the kids and tell them what we are doing. We show them a sample of the page we are going to paint and the plate of paint. 

Then if they are up for it, we paint their hand.  Here is a video clip of just that. Given it is with my son, who is not sensitive to paint, but you get the idea that we keep it fun, and make it quick with all of our materials ready and a washcloth to clean up ASAP!

For kids who aren't quite ready for this quick fun painting, we take baby steps.  For some, we desensitize them by tracing their hand and just helping them color the hand print.  (Note: In our experience coloring with crayons is less invasive to students that are resistive to painting as marker has the potential to get on their hands. However, we will use whatever the child is interested in.)

For others, we trace their hand and help them paint the inside of the hand with a paint brush. . . getting them a little closer to painting their hand.   

For others, we paint a cut out of a hand print on a sponge and simply have them push the sponge down on the paper...getting them even closer to painting their own hand.  (TIP: if you do this method remember it is a mirrored image so plan accordingly unlike me who has a backward image.)  

Although painting is not a necessity for kids, it is something that they encounter on occasion so we try our best to desensitize them to the experience in a non-threatening way.  By experiencing 12 hand print paintings in a row, some of our students did make a little progress with painting.  One would go to the table without protest to watch her peers paint another painted most of the pages with her actual hand!! Remember it's baby steps! :)

You might ask what is the point?  If they hate it, why make them do it? Well, my thought is that it is something kids will experience in preschool and early elementary years so exposure in a friendly structured environment can be helpful and these little paintings mean the world to parents who know that their little one's hands will not be little forever.

Best wishes with your little painters!!   

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas for Teachers, Daycare Providers, & Friends

A while back I had the opportunity to meet two amazing moms, Holly Homer and Rachel Miller.

They are the authors of 101 Kids Activities That Are the Bestest, Funnest Ever!: The Entertainment Solution for Parents, Relatives & Babysitters!

My boys and I have just barely scratched the surface of all the activities in this book but we love what we have done so far! And it got me thinking...the best part of these activities is that they give us a chance to slow down and do things as a family.  

Lately, I have been struggling to be there for them both physically and emotionally.  I get caught up in the daily responsibilities of working, blogging, housekeeping, cooking. (Well... to be honest that last one is not my strong suit!)  Anyway, I tend to overcompensate for my physical and emotional absence by buying the boys things or taking them places when in reality all they want is to be with me.

In speaking with other educators throughout my career, I think most of us struggle with "mommy guilt" from time to time. It's part of our teaching nature to try to be enough for every child in our lives, both our kids and our students. 

Holly & Rachel’s book has given us the opportunity to do simple, fun, memorable activities together. As a result of them giving me a copy of their book, I thought I would pay it forward by giving another copy of the book to someone else. 

My son’s first grade teacher also has two small boys.  As part of her Christmas gift, I created this gift basket along with Rachel & Holly’s book.

Inside the book, I attached this special note:

I also shared this concept with our youngest son's daycare provider.  She doesn’t have any little ones herself but she does have many little daycare buddies that love doing little projects so I pulled together all sorts of seasonal crafts (with a little help from Hobby Lobby.)

And placed them in a santa gift bag with this special note.

We took the gift to daycare on the 1st of December so the kids would have the whole month to make their creations. Then at the end of the month, they can be sent home in a gift bag from my little Payton!

So fun and purposeful! Not just a trinket or two from the dollar store, but special decorations and memories from daycare. :)

Finally, one final special gift that will be given to friends and family this holiday.  Just a little something to remind everyone what really counts throughout the season...a wrapped box of chocolates! 

With a note on the outside that says ‘Wishing you Many Memories with Friends and Family this Holiday Season! From: The McDaniels' ".

And a photo of my boys glued to the wrapping of the chocolates that says "The best present you can give is the gift of presence."

I wish you all many holiday memories full of presence and love!

Merry Christmas,