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First Year Special Education Teacher

Compiled By: luvinlife

The following collection contains strategies and advice for teachers that are new to teaching special education.

First Year SpEd. Teacher
Posted by: fiver326

One of the biggest obstacles is keeping everything organized. Here are a few things that I do:

Your hanging folder for each student is great. I do the same. Within each hanging folder I place 3 file folders. One labeled "Work Samples" (for samples, annecdotal records, etc.), one "Paperwork" (IEP documents, meeting preparations, quarterly progress reports), one "Communication" (for all forms of communication with family--a copy of all notes to/from me, and a log of any phone calls and what was discussed)

On my desk I have a notecard with all of the IEP due dates. I generally just have each student labeled with a first initial and the date it is due. It's starred if I am the case manager (some student I work with but do not manage so the IEP paperwork process isn't as involved from my end), and highlighted blue if they are due for a reeval this year. To anyone else it looks like a card of letters and dates since I don't have anything labeled as "IEP" so it's confidential if anyone sees it.

At the beginning of each year, after I've looked over the IEPs I fill out "IEP At a Glance" forms to keep in my sub folder. It's a cheat sheet on everything that NEEDS to be known about the student.

I've created a template for checking things off with timelines of when they need to be completed (as far as IEP prep). This helps me keep organized if several IEPs come due at the same time I know exactly where I am with each one.
I have a clipboard with packets of goals. For example, everyone with a reading goal gets a page with their goal and benchmarks at the top, first initial in top right corner so I know who it is but I don't need to lock it away because no one else would know, and then just a table to make anecdotal notes on. When reading time comes around, I put the reading packet on top so the goals are always visually accessible. I have packets for Reading, writing, math, organization, social skills (sometimes others as needed). Set goals for yourself of a certain number of anecdotal records for each goal (like one per week) so you don't forget to write things down. Documentation is HUGE.
For the beginning of the year I typically sit down with all the IEPs and make notecards for each accommodation. For example, I might make a notecard that says "Testing in small group" and then list who it is that needs that, or "Sensory breaks every 2 hours" and list the students who need that. This just gives me a quick overview because I'm very visual. All of this becomes second nature a few weeks into the school year and you just know who needs what but this is a tool that helps me keep focused in those first few weeks.

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Progress Monitoring
Posted by: Speced9

I highly recommend ongoing progress monitoring with your students. If your district is only using DIBELS three times a year, you won't get much out of that with your students. Progress monitoring each student on a weekly, or bi-weekly basis will show those little steps that they take during the course of the year in reading skills. My progress monitoring is a separate entity from the DIBELS monitoring the whole school does in October, January and May.

I set up a progress monitoring notebook with each DIBELS subtest as a section (Letter Identification Fluency, Initial Sound Fluency, Phoneme Segmentation Fluency, Nonsense Word Fluency, Word Usage Fluency and Oral Reading Fluency). Depending on where they are at, I have individual student progress graphs for each student in those sections.

Remember that you are progress monitoring skills that each student has at the time according to his/her instructional level. In other words, it makes no sense to progress monitor a child for ORF when they are at a level where they are picking up letter names and sounds.

I use the graphs in a number of different ways- at parent conferences, included in with their quarterly report cards and in their IEPs when we do annual reviews at the end of the year. We actually use the progress monitoring as IEP goals (i.e. will increase ISF to 25 etc.). I also keep track of a class average for each skill and graph that too. I put it in the hallway to show everyone how special needs students CAN attain those skills even though they go at a slower rate.

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special ed management
Posted by: ritateach

Is your class going to be self-contained? My first experience was in a Mild Cognitve Impairment class. I ranged from 8-10 students most of the time. I set up an excel sheet where I listed all of their goals. When I am assessing each child's goal I list the results on this sheet. I keep this sheet in a notebook. In this notebook I have pockets dividers for each child so I put their individual IEP goals on separate Excel sheet. In the dividers I put in the assessments that I have used.

My lesson plans I wrote in Microsoft Word in order to meet each of the child's needs. We did some things together in the classroom, but I had such a range of academic strengths I made sure to group accordingly and work on special needs. My parapro would help me work with the various groups as well.

I found that to keep the kids in their chairs, do the work assigned to them and help them learn to raise their hands for help (otherwise they would get out of their chairs unnecesarily) to put a small grid on their table and give them stickers to collect for the day. At the end of the day, I would count how many stickers and give them "play money" to use at the "classroom store" on Fridays. This worked extremely well with these kids as they could see their progress on their desk. They would remind us to give them their sticker if we forgot to do it.

This year I'm working with young fours and fives in an Early Childhood Developmentally delayed classroom. I will have to get to know what variety of cognitive development I will be working with before I can decide how I manage the classroom.

I hope you have a great year! Special education is so rewarding!

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I used a scanner
Posted by: Narrative C

to scan all my IEP's onto a flash drive. That way I always had all IEP info available to me, instead of looking up info or making copies, copies, copies. When I was at a meeting, or a parent had a question, I could just look up the info on my flash drive. I used a flash drive so I wouldn't have confidentiality problems--I always had the flash drive. I just kept it with me and stuck it into my laptop when needed. So much easier than paper files, and I could look things up at home if I needed to. (I always had back up paper files, of course!)

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First Few Weeks of School
Posted by: heart4sped

We spend tons of time during the first few weeks going over every little aspect of the day and how we "behave" in each environment throughout the day (hallway, bathroom, cafeteria, etc.) I approach the behaviors in a logical way with the children--giving them a reason for each behavior. We practice (literally practice) doing these things until the children understand and can do it successfully. And yes, I have been known to sit in my chair incorrectly (and fall out), just to illustrate the REASON for sitting with your feet on the floor. They absolutely LOVE it when I fall!

During morning circle time, we review behavior expectations using a question/answer format. This sets the tone for the day. I'll ask "how do we sit in our chairs? on the carpet?, etc". I use a note card flip chart with pictures from Boardmaker, to illustrate the appropriate behaviors and also add hand signs/gestures as needed for additional reinforcement. After the first week, the children are usually able to respond verbally, with pictures or with a device and also imitate the gestures. By Christmas, one student could go through the entire routine--my part and hers--word for word.

Once they really "get" the behaviors, it's very easy to prompt them if needed during the day. If a student isn't standing in line appropriately, I can either verbally praise a student who IS standing appropriately, or just ask "How do we stand in line?" It's amazing to see them "perform" the behavior. Of course then they get lots of praise, etc.

You will hear this a zillion times, (and you may think "yeah, yeah, right)but it is so important to teach them the appropriate routines and behaviors for school FIRST. Establish the expectations, give them lots of chances to practice, praise them whenever they are successful and then be consistent with your expectations and consequences, etc. It's just like teaching them to write their name or recognize the alphabet. If you don't teach it, they won't know it--and you'll spend every day for the rest of the year "managing" behaviors instead of enjoying your students. Now, there will always be one or two (sometimes more) students who may need a different approach. I've had several very challenging students, though, who really responded better than I'd expected. I hope that you have a fantastic first year! It's great to be a teacher, but it's a real blessing to be a special needs teacher.

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No title
Posted by: PPCDTeacher

My aide and I model the classroom rules, such as acting out how to line up, how to sit at the table, how to listen to a story, how to use the computer, etc. To make it fun, we also act out how NOT to do those things in really silly ways because it makes the kids laugh to see me act silly (for some reason, my kids love to watch me do things like walk backwards or fall down or cry or scream!:rolleyes:) . LOTS of modeling. We also go over the classroom rules every day together and go over the schedule. We also read together a lot and play together a lot, just to get to know each other.

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"In school" field trip
Posted by: bis4betsy

I work with moderate/severe Kindergardeners and we take a "field trip" around the school to meet people who work there. We also visit the principal, the library, the custodian, the office ladies, the cafeteria workers, etc. and especially the nurse, because unlike the rest of the school population my students have been to a Dr. multiple times and get very anxious going to the nurse! We try to make sure they know her and where the office is, what's in there, etc.
We visit ALL the bathrooms and drinking fountains as well as the other classrooms they might visit for mainstreaming. Then I take pictures of these people and put them in an album to help the students get familiar with them and look at during reading time. It helps get them more comfortable with their environment and builds some vocabulary and social skills as well.

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Posted by: Speced9

I teach K-2 (not sure what you're teaching), so I spend the first week modeling appropriate behavior/expectations for centers etc. The way I see it, I need them to be able to work independently when I start small group work. The best way to ensure they can do this is to practice the individual center activities/computer programs before sending them out on their own. So, that first week is a lot of centers work with me and my aide working with them, going over behavior expectations and routines. Since the first week usually isn't a full five days (We usually start on a Tuesday or Wednesday), it's a good way to start the year.

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setting up your classroom
Posted by: spedstar

With a lifeskills teacher already present in our K-2 building, I will be the "basic skills" special ed. class for K-2. I feel a bit of your anxiety as I'm brainstorming ways to set up my classroom also.

Have you thought about setting your classroom up with centers to focus on specific skills? I do agree a good amount of small group learning is important to have in a special ed. classroom to create a sense of teamwork and for you, as a teacher, to present important rules/expectations and social skills to the class. Also, you mentioned having 2 aides. Most often the aides maybe able to give you some perspectives on what went well in other classrooms they have worked in. They also may be familiar with some of your students already, so I would brainstorm with them first. They would be a good resource to you. Another good resource would be your related services staff, such as OT. PT, speech, autism, etc. as they go out to many classroom to consult. They will have numerous resources to pull from since they work with such a variety of children, teachers and schools. Also, on the first days of school, I consider those as times to teach the children about rules/expectations and structure of your classroom. Maybe if you choose center based learning, then going through all the centers and the rules of the centers would be a good start. Enjoy your children!

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New teacher
Posted by: RAD

I'm in the middle school. I also go over rules/expectations, make sure the students can open their lockers (combination locks). For the 6th graders who are new to the building, we do tours and introduce them to the secretaries, principal, nurse, counselor, media specialist, cafeteria staff, etc. Make sure they know all the "important" people in the school.

I also do informal testing to see where they are at in math, reading, writing, spelling, etc. Most students show some regression over the summer, so I want to know what skills need to be brought up to speed. I also have students make a "me" poster. On a 12x18 sheet of paper they write their name in big letters along the side of the paper. Then they need to come up with something that relates to them for each letter and draw or find pictures to illustrate it. For example, if a child's name is AMY, they might have ANIMALS (I love animals), MAY (birthday is in May), YELLOW (favorite color). When everyone is done, we share these in front of the class. I always make one too and model how to share. We hang these up. The students enjoy looking at them and sharing stories.
I read some stories to the class too and we practice listening skills. Anything you can do to teach/reinforce skills they will need to survive in your program during the school year.

Depending on the group, you may also want to do some activities related to respecting each other - respecting each other's space, materials, opinions, etc.
Hope this helps.

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Posted by: fiver326

Here are a few forms I have. They are very basic. There's nothing fancy about them but they get the job done for me. Hopefully they're helpful.
Apparently I can only attach one at a time. (This is my first attachment so I wasn't sure.) This first form is just a check-in/out form so I have documentation. Some of my students have goals about having all materials ready to go home independently so I have this sheet to use as documentation.
I will attach 2 other sheets. They are two different formats that I've found useful for documenting the progress toward a goal.
I use an anecdotal page also through the day to just make notes. I don't have that page saved on my home computer and I can't access PT at school. I basically have one page that has all of the students' initials going down the left side with box for each student to make notes for what I want to observe. An example might be one student who I watch to check how long it takes to respond to a teacher prompt and also how many times he has the appropriate materials out. I'd have two boxes drawn in for him--one labeled for each of those things and I can tally what I see. I'm not sure if that's making sense. It's very basic.

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Posted by: fiver326

This is a page with the goal and objectives. I use initials or sometimes just first initial up in the corner so I don't have to worry about confidentiality and locking my clipboard away all the time.
I have all the goals stapled together by subject. When it's reading class, I grab the reading packet and a clipboard and carry it with me so these are always in my mind as I'm circulating.

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Posted by: fiver326

This last one is another format for goal observation. It's organized by student instead of one page per goal. This form worked better for me last year but this year I prefer the other form I attached. I'll attach it in case you find it helpful. It's just another format.

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