Thursday, June 23, 2016

Spice and Seasoning Sorting Tasks

Today I cleaned out the spice cabinet at school and home and found some expired containers to make these gems!!  

I made a black and white sort using old salt and pepper containers.



NOTE:  A cut a slit in the bottom of the salt container so I can get the white pipe cleaners out after the students sort.  



Then I made a color sort with three different colored spice containers.  



NOTE:  It is an assemble task!  The students put all the pipe cleaners in then screw the lids on each container.  

Next I made a size sort using small, medium, and large pipe cleaners.  



A huge thank you to Teri Berkgren for inspiring me to make some new work tasks!  Stay tune for more!

Until next time, best wishes!
Lindy

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Staff Planning Meetings That Build Relationships!

I was at a training a few months back in which Marceta Flemming Riley, the co-author of Coaching Conversations shared research that a student can make 2 years' progress in 1 year's time, when teams collaborate effectively!

This research got me thinking, as I step back into the classroom next fall, how do I nurture staff relationships, and build trust in such a way that we all work as a team to meet the goals of our students.  I think the first step to teaming, goes back to this quote by James Comer.




Before we develop significant relationships with our students, we must build significant relationships with our staff.  This can be a tough challenge to concur, in situations like mine, in which you are receiving staff from the previous teacher and you only get one staff work day before the kids roll in the next day!  

Yikes!  I get anxious just thinking about it.  But never fear, I have devised a plan!  When I went to observe my future classroom last spring, I gave each paraprofessional as well as the supporting staff (SLPs, OTs, PTs, and School Psychologists) one of these cards.  



On the card, I wrote my name and phone number so each person could text, or call me to set up a time for us to get to know each other and plan for next school year.  



Today is my first meet up with a paraprofessional, I am super excited to see how it goes!  In effort, to support the conversation and ensure that our meet up is beneficial, I have created a list of planning questions that will follow the general 'get to know each other conversation' that we will have at the beginning of our meet up.    

Planning Questions:

  1. What do you find most rewarding about the work that you do?
  2. What do you find most challenging about the work that you do?
  3. Tell me about your role in the classroom.  What talents and strengths do you bring to the classroom?
  4. What activities/subjects do you think you are most effective teaching and supporting (for example: social, leisure and technology or academic subjects such as reading, writing, math and science)?
  5. What grade/cognitive level do you feel most comfortable, capable and effective teaching and supporting (for example: specific grade levels,verbal or non-verbal, mobile or immobile, etc)?
  6. Tell me about three routines, strategies, and/or structures that worked really well in the classroom last year and one that you feel needs  to be restructured or revamped?
Notice, how I have three positives and one negative.  This helps open the conversation without dwelling on what is not working or what we don't have!  By focusing on what we like versus what we don't like, we stay in the positive and can make significant impact on the students we serve.  


As shared by Marceta Flemming Riley,  we all want what is best for kids.  If we keep this perspective in the for front as special education teachers, leaders and case managers, we are able to communicate effectively and work together as a team because we have a common goal in mind!   


In order to save some money on a my tight teacher budget, this year I decide to go with the coffee invites instead of the lunch invites.  Although the staff coffee meet ups are going to cost me one coffee per staff person, I think the benefit of each meet up well outweigh the cost of a cup of coffee!  Each meet up gives my staff and I an opportunity to get to know one another for who we are as individuals before we hit the ground running with students in the fall!  It also gives me an opportunity to learn about their strengths, desires and preferences.  By knowing these characteristics, I will be able to prepare more appropriately for the fall.  

Want to give this staff meet up idea a try for yourself?  Click here to get invites for coffee or lunch with paraprofessionals and other co-workers!


Until Next Time Best Wishes, 

Lindy


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Making Summer Count!

As the school year came to a close, we begin to make lists, plans, and piles of stuff we hope to get done over the summer.  As the lists and piles grow large both at home and school, we begin to feel so overwhelmed we don't know where to start!  



Don't let summer just happen, as you binge watch Netflix, pin other teachers' great ideas and scroll through your newsfeed on Facebook... CREATE A PLAN!  The reality is without a plan life sort of just happens!  Then before you know it, August rolls around and you have more regret, heartache, and resistance to starting the school year than ever before as you feel unprepared and under motivated.  (I have totally been there and believe me it is the worst!)

So let's get started!  Write down your long term summer goals and day to day short term objectives.  (Like how I threw in a little IEP action, once a special education teacher always a special education teacher:) 


To support success, have your short term objectives coincide with your long term goals.  By connecting small daily to do's to larger overarching goals, you can gradually work toward the end result without feeling overwhelmed or becoming paralyzed by huge projects looming overhead.  

Be sure to include home and family goals as well as school and professional goals.  Ain't nobody happy, if home life isn't happy, organized and stress free!  Taking time to renew family relationships, and organize life around the house has a huge impact on your quality of life and ability to be the best teacher you can be.  


As you accomplish small daily to dos for home and school, you get little hits of mastery that boost your confidence and self-worth, which keep you in a productive pattern of using the lazy days of summer wisely.   Which leads me to one final point, don't forget to find some time for yourself to be lazy!  Include work and play in your daily to-do's!



Remember we can only be good for others if we are first good to ourselves!  By taking time to rejuvenate the soul, we can prepare ourselves for the best school year yet!!   Alright, let's not get ahead of ourselves summer has just begun!  Go out their get your long and short, home and school, and work and play goals going!

Best Wishes Until Next Time, 
Lindy

PS- I am hoping next time will be sooner rather than later one of my summer goals it to get back into blogging on a regular basis!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Tips for Home Visits

Whether you do home visits as a way to initially get to know a student and build rapport with their family or as an ongoing way to supporting programming and student and family goals, the benefits of home visits are irreplaceable.  



By being in the home, you get an inside look at what life is like for your students and their families.  There have been many occasions where I thought I knew what it was like, but when I went to the home my perspective changed.  I saw the student differently which brought up new conversations, ideas and possible goals for the student.  The reality is that we only see 6 to 7 hours of our students day at school.  There is so much that goes on outside of school. By seeing the full picture, we can support the student more effectively in regard to social, leisure, adaptive, and communication goals.  

So what might a home visit look like? Well if I am doing a visit as a way to initially meet the student and the family, it looks different than if I am visiting to support programming on a regular basis.  I have done both versions of home visiting, both with their own benefits.  In my experience it really depends on the families needs and comfortable level as to which version of home visiting will be most effective for each individual family.


If I am going out as a way to get to know the family, I have very little agenda as I have found it helpful to let the student/family lead the visit.  I truly take the time to understand the family, and the student.  Some families absolutely run with this idea sharing everything from birth to the present about their child, however other families are a little more reluctant to share, in which case I have these questions stored away in my head to support the visit.  



In the beginning, I used these questions like an interview but as I became more comfortable with home visiting, I began to be more flexible with there use.  Over the years, I have come to realize that many families want to share their story. By being an active listener with just a few simple questions in mind, I gain more information and rapport from the conversation.  That being said, each family is unique! Their culture and experiences make them who they are so I try not to go in with any preconceived notions. 

If the family has less to share or seems a little uncomfortable to share, I start by sharing our classroom handbook (click here to see a sample) and introduce the family to my staff with a flyer that shares photos of the important people that will be working with their child.  




I might also start playing and interacting with their child, this seems to loosen the visit up, as the family begins to see me as someone that cares for and 'gets' their child.  I usually do this by following the students lead. For example, if the student is spinning the wheels of his big monster truck, I join him by doing the same with another truck or vehicle.   This interaction can also lead to conversation with the family. As I play, I can ask questions like "Johnny seems to really enjoy monster trucks, what else does he play with around the house?"  This question can then lead to the families thoughts about play and how to support Johnny during leisure and social activities.  

So what does it look like if I am going into the home for regular sessions to support programming and student goals?  The answer depends on the student and the family.  Sometimes the sessions are very specific to the needs that the family has for the home, for example I have helped families organize their children's play spaces, helped with feeding, potty training, sleep patterns, playing with siblings and communication.  In whatever way the family needs help, I try my best to support them with resources, ideas, strategies and visuals.  For example if the family is working on potty training, I might offer them books from my resource library (my favorite toilet training book is 'Toilet Training for Individuals with Autism or Other Developmental Issues by Maria Wheeler')  or links via email to sites like TEACCH Autism Program.  (NOTE: If the family doesn't have internet I print these types of resources.) Then together we might come up with visuals to support bathroom time and/or have conversations about ways to make bathroom routines doable at home.  




The key is to LISTEN to the needs of the student and family and support them in a way that is doable in their everyday lives.  It is easy to make suggestions or offer books and resources to families but sometimes that is more than they can handle.  Sometimes they, like all of us, are just trying to survive. By adding one more thing we add undo stress which leads to feelings of overwhelmingness and limited progress!  


In some situations, the family doesn't have any specific home goals or they aren't sure what the next steps should be, in which case I bring items from the classroom and show them examples of what we are working on at school.  For example with a little guy that was working on engaging at classroom circle time, I brought in a towel, stuffed animal, and parachute language board to play 'parachute' with.   




A classroom parachute was in the plans for circle time the following week, so by bring in a smaller version of the same parachute game, the student could begin to experience the activity in the calm and comfortableness of his home.  As I modeled how to play and use the communication board, the family was able to see how they could engage their child and engage him ways that were similar to the engagement he would experience at school. Which in turn, supported his success with circle time the following week as I left the activity for the family to play with until I returned a few weeks later.  

To support families with next steps and help everyone involved be more accountable, prior to leaving each session we fill out this Home Visit form.  



I leave the form with the family as well as any resources, visuals, or activities we did together during the visit.  Before I leave I take a screenshot of it with my phone so I have it for reference and can put it in the student's school file.  

That is all for today!  Happy Home Visiting,
Lindy

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lego Work Tasks: for Early Building, Play and Sorting

The post I had planned for today is taking a bit longer to put together than I had anticipated, so I figured what better way to fill the We Teach Sped slot than with a simple work task post!  So here goes. . . Six Building Task!

1. Duplo Lego Build Sorting by Color-



2. Duplo Lego Build Sorting by Size-



NOTE: By attaching rough velcro to the bottom of one lego of each color and size and creating a lego tray with Sterilite Storage Trays, hot glue and soft velcro, you are able to make one task that has multiple ways to build and sort: by color, by size and by color and size!  



Also note by using Duplo Legos you can reach and teach learners who are in the early stages of play and /or have limited fine motor skills.  Duplos are much easier to hold and build with for little hands, however the same task can be made for more mature hands using traditional Legos.

3. Lego Build Sorting by Color


4. Lego Build Sorting by Size


5. Lego Build Sorting by Color and Size


Note for these tasks all you need is a one piece of cardboard, a large lego platform, a bowl or can to put the legos in and a hot glue gun to put them together.  By putting them together the task stays together making it easier for students to organize their work task space.

Also note with the help of the Dollar Bins at Target, the Duplo Lego sorting container can serve another purpose as a building block sort!  I purchased these blocks at the beginning of the school year, so if you can't find them you might check the Dollar Bins when it gets closer to next school year.  When all the back to school goodies are out:)

6. Building Block Sort by Color


That is all for today, 6 easy building tasks at various levels.  
Until Next Time, Happy Building!!
Lindy

Friday, April 8, 2016

'Tree'mendous Recycling Work Basket

I am so excited to share my latest Dollar Tree find a recycling sticker set!  Great for Earth Day!


To ensure that the stickers could be reused, I laminated them with laminate paper and packing tape.  (Most of the stickers fit on one laminate sheet, rather than waste another sheet of laminate I packing taped the remaining 5.)


I then cut an opening in each recycling container's lid and attached an envelope to the back of each for sorting.  



And there you have it a great recycling task with multiple levels ...

Level 1- A Simple Put In  (There is only one can and the items that go in that can so a student who doesn't have the ability to sort recycling items yet and can be successful as all they have to do is put the items in the recycling bin, a great fine motor task!)


Level 2- A Put in with Some Pictures that Do Not Belong (I mixed a few other recycling items that aren't plastic in the bowl, students put them in the don't belong container as they find them.  Depending on the students level the pictures that don't belong may need to be more different than just another recycling item for example star or animal stickers.)


Level 3- Sorting Two Types of Recycling


Level 4- Sorting More Recycling Items In the photo below, I am featuring sorting all four types (paper, compost, aluminum, and plastic) but you could easily sort three types too.


And then a bonus!  Some FREE printable checklists I created to support students who need visual supports to help them sort!  (There is a checklist for sorting one item (from items that don't belong), two items and four items.  I simply printed them and put them in page protectors for students to use with a dry erase marker.  


Then I created this quick reference sheet for students who are readers but don't yet have the concept of what recycling goes where.  They can simply read the color coded chart to see where items go.  


Click here to access these printables, and head out to Dollar Tree to get the Learning to Recycle sticker set so you can get this workbasket already for Earth Day!


Until next time, Best wishes!
Lindy


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Confessions of a Perfectionist

As some of you know, I had seizure a few weeks back that landed me in Cardiac ICU for a few days.  I am not telling you this to get your empathy or to have you worry about me but rather to send a message and remind you to slow down. Life is short!



As educators, we live in a world of helping and caring for others.  It can be easy to go and go and go as there are so many students to help and there is so little time to do it.  But the reality is if we don't take time to help and care for ourselves, we cannot be emotionally available to help others.  We can only be as good for others as we are to ourselves.  


For many years, I have been going and going without thinking about the toll it has put on my body.  My focus has been on being the BEST teacher, mother, wife and friend I could be and unfortunately in that order.  For years, I have let my job define me.  If I had an IEP due or a big presentation I needed to complete, those tasks took precedence, and in my mind they had to be done with 100% perfection. Whether that meant missing quality time with my children or ordering out instead of making supper for my family, I HAD to complete each task with perfect success. This only added to the stress of feeling imperfect because while giving all my energy to being ‘perfect’ professionally, I wasn’t being ‘perfect’ in my personal life as wife, mom and friend.  It is like I was juggling two balls at all times: a professional one, as teacher, co-worker, and colleague and a personal one as mom, wife, and friend. 




Leading up to the seizure, my TASN ATBS team and I were hosting day five of Kansas' Early Childhood Academy.  Things were going very well with my ‘professional ball’ when all of a sudden I stood up, let out a screech, and fell to the floor in a seizure, with no warning signs.  I personally don't remember the event itself. Instead I remember the disbelief, embarrassment, shame and sadness that followed the moments and days afterward.  


I had dropped a ball!  A ball I didn't even have in my possession!  The ball that encompassed taking care of myself.  Remember how I said there were no warning signs; well in hindsight, the warning signs were flashing loud and clear.  I had not been taking care of myself.  I wasn't sleeping, eating, exercising or finding joy in the little things in life, I was truly just going through the motions of 'being perfect'.


My whole life I have been striving for this image of 'perfect' that was in my head, which eventually took its toll.  At the ripe old age of 35, I had anxiety out the roof, feelings of not enough-ness, and depression so bad it hurt and that is when it hit, a seizure and a three-day stay in the hospital that changed how I think about everything.  


I am not perfect nor should I ever strive to be perfect.  The harder I tried to be perfect and good for others the more miserable I became.  The reality is, I can only be as good for others as I am to myself, which is a hard pill to swallow after years of thinking that taking time for myself was weak, selfish and unnecessary.  The reality is it is all about balance!  Balancing myself within my personal and professional life.


My job can no longer define me.  My mission is no longer to be ‘perfect’ but instead to be perfectly happy with being imperfect.  I don’t have to complete that IEP with extreme precision, or develop a presentation that is better than any I have done before.  Nor does my house have to be clean every moment or do I have to make the cutest holiday treats for the kids at home and school.  Instead I can spend the energy it takes to appear ‘perfect’ on the outside to find balance on the inside. 


A concept that is much easier said then done, but one I am willing to work on and one I hope you are willing to work on too BECAUSE YOU MATTER! Like I said at the beginning of this post, as educators we live in a world of helping others.  In the midst of the day-to-day tasks of teaching and support students it is easy to lose ourselves, as we strive to be perfect, when in reality perfection is not the goal. The goal is to be honorable human beings that model balance and a well-rounded life of joy to our students and those around us.  If we are always going and striving for the next best thing, then those around us will do the same, but if we strive for balance and the ability to be present with ourselves and those we care about, then our students and children will learn the life lesson that knocked me on the floor in a full out seizure. . . It is okay to be imperfect and it is okay to take time for yourself!


With that I encourage you to join me on a journey to find balance by taking care of ourselves and be perfectly okay with being imperfect in all aspects of life both personally and professionally.  


More to come . . .

Lindy