organization, Paperwork, Special Education Classroom, Tips

Your Organization Doesn’t Need to Be Pretty, It Just Needs to Work!

After drooling over Aly from Just a Primary Girl’s classroom, I impulsively bought the Trofast from Ikea. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but I just needed to have one.

Cue 6 weeks later. The storage system is sitting in the front of my classroom, begging to be used. When I was trying to figure out how to store all the different pretty workbooks my kids have, it clicked! There are 9 drawers on the Trofast. I have 8 students. I assigned one student to a bin and now we store their workbooks and any other uncompleted work in their drawer.IMG_3019.JPG

I use Aly’s Spelling Activities for Any List, so we pop those workbooks in the drawers. I also put my Fall Writing Journals in the bins, and Delightfully Dedicated Special Education workbooks. Some of the bins have leftover work in them as well. I had a student out for a week, so all the work he missed is in his bin.

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Everyone in my classroom is color coded. I bought a roll of duct tape in each color (such a great investment). Instead of trying to make pretty labels and printing them in color and finding a way to attach them, I stuck a piece of colored duct tape on each bin. Not the prettiest, but everyone knows which bin is theirs and staff can easily pull work.

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Look how easy this is! When my paraprofessional has an extra 10 minutes with a student because his inclusion ended early, she can pull out his orange bin and have work appropriate for him at her fingertips. The silver drawer is filled with generic extras (basic math, cut and paste worksheets, writing journals) that work for several students. If a student bin is empty, my para will know to go to the silver bin to find work.

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Your color coding or labeling does not have to be pretty-it just has to work! How else do you use a Trofast bin in your classroom?

organization, Special Education Classroom, sub plans, Tips

Sub Plans in a Self-Contained Classroom

We all want our classrooms to run smoothly, but it becomes even more important to me when I am not there. It is always hard when you a missing a team member, so I try and do a lot before hand to ensure everything runs well.

The first thing I do is write a schedule. When I’m out, I don’t usually have my sub do my job in it’s entirety. There are some things that are easier to have one of my paraprofessionals do. For example, I opted to have my sub take two students to Adaptive PE on Thursday and I had my paraprofessional run my reading group instead.

Once I have the schedule written out, I create sub plans for each person. Even though my paraprofessionals know the routine, I write out what they are doing that day specifically just to help them

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I did something new this time around. I pulled together all the materials needed and left them in bins. I didn’t want them running around trying to find the materials needed for math. Each bin was labeled with the student names during that group, which day the materials were for (Thursday, Friday or both days) and the time. For example, a bin might say “Nicole Math Thursday and Friday 8:30 am). This was they could just walk over, grab the bin and be ready for that lesson.

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Once I had the bins set up, I printed off a copy of the sub plans. I read through each sub plan to ensure they had all they needed. Once I confirmed a box was done (i.e. all the materials for music class were in the bin) I crossed it off. If I found something I had forgotten (like printing the cut and paste books) I highlighted it. This helped me make sure everything was accounted for.

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I stocked up on some independent work to do during some of the centers. I prepped the Fall Cut and Paste books from Especially Education and the Camping Math and Camping ELA books from Delightfully Dedicated Special Education. I also left copies of the Fall Sentences with Visuals and Fall Comprehension Sheets from School Bells N Whistles and Phonics Based Writing Journal from Teaching is a Royal Adventure.

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I also always leave a fun activity for the substitute to do with my class. This time I left a moon sand experiment. The visual directions came from Mrs. D’s Corner Visual Sensory Experiments. I got pictures of my class completing the activity, it looks like they had a lot of fun!

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It takes a while to get sub plans like this set up, but it was completely worth it to me. I was able to relax on my vacation because I knew everyone knew what to do and where to find the materials to do it. Here’s to taking back our personal days, using them and enjoying every second that we have!

Monthly Plans, organization, Personal, Tips, Work Life Balance

Keeping that Home Work Balance with a Journal

I hesitate to call this a bullet journal, because bullet journal uses some features (like an index) that I don’t use. Instead, I just call it journaling. The key to journaling is making it functional for you. I change up layouts, themes and spreads every month. I’m not a good artist. I have horrible hand-writing. I just use bright flair pens for design and you know what? I love it. As long as your journal meets your needs, you are good to go.

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There are 2 basic supplies you need: something to write with and something to write in. i do suggest sketching out what you want on a page before you select a journal. I find that some standard journals are too small to fit everything I wanted on a page. I also don’t like when pages have a design on them that cuts into space. I found the perfect journal for my needs at Target. Its 10.5 inch by 8inch and gives me a lot of room to write. I use flair pens in mine, but any writing tool is fine!

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This is the left side of my monthly spread. This lists my October goals. As you can see, not everything is lined up. I don’t really care about that! Again, you do you. Rotating colors is about as fancy as I get. My goal here is to make sure I’m staying on pace for everything I have planned. You will see one part covered up; I’ll mention that below.

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This portion is a mix of personal and work/life goals. I want to read 6 books or magazines (I have a thing for food magazines and currently get Food Network, Rachael Ray and The Pioneer Woman but I am bad about sitting down and reading them). This is so I can stay on track with the overall goal to read more. The category refers to meeting one of the categories in my 2017 reading challenge.

Posting 5 new TPT products is to help encourage me to finally finish some of those things sitting in my “work in progress” folder, as well as bringing you a halloween themed weekly pack. MSB is magic school bus. I want to add 10 episode worksheets to the pack this month.

 

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This next section is my main personal section. I want to return to reading every night, but I know that’s not realistic. The nights that I have night class, for example, I tend to fall asleep as soon as I get home. So, out of 31 days, I want to carve out time to read on 20 of those days. I’ll monitor that here. I love to cook (hence the cooking magazines) so I want to make sure I try 10 new recipes. I’ll log those here.

It is also super important to me to “Date Your Spouse”. Dates can be anything. It can be going out to dinner or for a glass of wine. It can be walking the dog for an hour together. It can be putting our laptops away and enjoying the SNL we DVRed (because we can’t stay up past midnight on Saturdays, haha!)

It’s a reminder that 10 different times throughout the month, Corey and I need to find a way to put each other first. It is one of the best things we have ever done in our relationship, and I highly suggest trying it. I would recommend this method to everyone, regardless of relationship status! Maybe see or talk to a friend 10 times this month. Run 10 times. Take 10 bubble baths. Whatever! Find something important to you, do it 10 times and make that commitment to yourself.

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The last 2 monthly goals are more of a work/life basis. I have so many ideas for blog posts, so I an going to try and commit to getting 4 to you this month (this is number 1!). The last thing is a financial goal. I didn’t want to share this part, but I wanted you to get an idea. I LOVE coloring in blocks. Whether you are saving up for something, or chiseling away at some debt, I find it super motivating to pick a dollar amount, break it into smaller chunks and color it in as I make progress.

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On the right side of my notebook is my monthly outlook. It’s hard to balance a small business with a full time job, so I keep my TPT goals up here to remember them. This section could be for anything! If you are a student, maybe break a big end of semester project into chunks here. Maybe you are doing a deep clean/organization of your house and want to break it into sections here. Again, journals are versatile! Do whatever works for you.

I have an important dates to remember section too. I list any IEPs, trainings, due dates for grad school papers and the like here. It helps me quickly look and remember. The monthly chart below gives me more detail. I also put social engagements on here. Again, I want to be able to flip to this page and quickly see what is going on for the month.

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I absolutely love using my journal. It has helped me become so much more organized and productive. If you have seen those beautiful journals on Pinterest but you have been too overwhelmed to start one yourself, I hope this gives you some inspiration/ It doesn’t have to be pretty. It just has to work!

Sped Prep, Teachers Pay Teachers, Tips

3 Tips to Prep the Big Items

How many of you have at least one BIG product sitting in your purchases on TPT because you are too overwhelmed to download it and start working? I have been there and I’m still there! I’m bad about buying too many things on sales and then getting overwhelmed by how much there is to prep.

I’ve made it my mission this year to start utilizing more of the resources I have purchased. Here are three simple tips to help you get started, too!

Just print what you need right now

Go in and download just the pieces you need right now. I use this trick for Stephanie from Mrs. D’s Corner‘s Adapted Work Binders. I have a mini obsession with her work binders and I tend to buy pretty much each one she posts. I still have a bunch sitting in my purchases unopened because I can’t find the time to prep the whole thing. Instead of picking one binder and doing all of it, I decide to look through them all and choose certain activities.

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I have her Adapted Music Binder, but I’m not going to be teaching all of the concepts in the binder right away. We are starting with our percussion unit, so I just went in and printed the materials that align to that concept. When I change topics, I’ll go in and print the next set.

 

Create a prep flow that works for you

I use this trick when prepping Michaela from Especially Education‘s task boxes. (Okay, I’ll confess, my husband came up with this work flow). For this one, I do print off everything in the file and laminate it right away. I take one “task box” material at a time and cut it on my paper-cutter, then I organize it in a tub. I keep cutting one box worth of items at a time and adding it to the tub.

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Once everything is cut, I put away the laminator and paper-cutter and move on to Velcro. Again, I just pull out one box of material at a time, Velcro it, and add it to a beautiful rainbow container. This method is not always going to work for you or for the product you are prepping. Especially if you buy any sort of growing bundle, figure out the prep routine that works best for that product and stick to it!

 

 Make a running list

It can be really hard to prep when you don’t even know what is in your purchases. I keep a running Google Doc that lists the product name, seller, and how many pages are in the document. I don’t necessarily print all the pages. For example, I am only going to print one level of the “-wh” question flip books from Simply Special Ed, so I won’t be prepping all 177 pages. I still list 177 pages because it will take me time to go through and pin down what I need.

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I do this to use my time more effectively. When I have six hours and a great Netflix lined up on Friday night? I want to use that time to tackle a big project like the Pumpkin Independent Work Binder System from Autism Adventures. If I pop a lasagna in the oven and have just an hour until it’s ready? Maybe I’ll choose a smaller project like the Sight Word Laminate Velcro and Go tasks from You Aut-A-Know to get started.

I hope these three tips help you start to conquer some of those big items sitting in your purchases! What other tips do you have?

 

 

Special Education Classroom

And you thought it was just a bag of cookies.

I’m lucky to work at an amazing school with a staff that cares deeply about my students. When I first came around and pitched the idea of a treat cart to them, they didn’t hesitate to jump in. Over the course of a year, I had over 60 different staff members participate! That’s unbelievable to me!

I don’t always explain the background of my classroom initiatives well. In my self-contained program, we participate in Community Based Instruction (CBI). This allows my students to take the skills they are learning in the classroom and apply them in a hand-on skills. In my four years of teaching, the treat cart was hands down the best project I ever implemented.

It’s one thing for my students to role play in my classroom. It’s a complete different story when they get to run a snack shop themselves. It wasn’t boring Ms. Morris who wanted the fake cookies. It was the real music teacher who wanted a ginger ale and their beloved 5th grade general education teacher who asked for cookies each week. My kids had the food, and everyone wanted it. They became the suppliers and everything became real.

As the person buying from the treat cart, you see a cute kid offering you cookies. I see so much more. I watched children who couldn’t count mixed coins count more than $100 in bills. I watched children who couldn’t use one-to-one correspondence count 20 bags of chips to put on the cart. I watched children go from one word phrases to asking a question in a complete sentence.  I watched the confidence grow and shine through each of the students. And you thought it was just a bag of cookies 🙂

If you don’t know what a treat cart is, check back next week. I’ll post a lot of pictures to show it in action. If you work at a school where a special needs class runs any sort of store, just know they aren’t looking to make money. They are looking for so much more.

 

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organization, Special Education Classroom

Color Coding Independent Tasks in a Self Contained Classroom!

If you have been around my Instagram this summer, then you know that both of my paraprofessionals have left my classroom and I have been really stressed about training new staff. One huge benefit, however, is that I know all of my students. The new challenge was helping my paraprofessionals get to know them as well. My solution? Color coding!

I found these color coding stickers on Amazon. The pack had all 8 colors I am using in my classroom. I loved that the company supports Ability First, which employs adults with disabilities and special needs. Win-Win!

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The first thing I decided to use this color-coding set with was Especially Education‘s Language Arts Task Boxes. I keep Level 1 in the Iris Photo Boxes, and Level 2 in Sterlite containers. I made a template in Powerpoint that listed all of her task boxes on the left and had space on the right. Each child is assigned a color. If the task is appropriate for the child, I out a sticker with his or her color next to the task

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I did this with file folders as well. I used the Adhesive Label Squares from the Target Dollar Spot and place one on the back of each file folder. I slipped a small square of cardstock with the corresponding stickers into the pocket.

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What I love about these pockets is that I can easily switch out the slips each year to update with each new group of students!FullSizeRender-7.jpg

I am so excited about this new color coding system. Now my paraprofessionals will know which tasks are appropriate for which students, which will help them be successful in the classroom from day 1!

This post contains affiliate links for Amazon. By purchasing an item on the Amazon site using these links, I will receive a small commission on your purchase, at no cost to you!

organization, Special Education Classroom

Back to School Finds at Walmart

I love Target as much as the next teacher, but sometimes Walmart does not get the credit it deserves. I found some incredible deals when I went shopping today, and I wanted to share!

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Seriously, I’m loving the mint green theme Walmart has going on this year!

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The first thing I found were these mainstay latch lid boxes. Let me start by saying I LOVE Sterlite (clearly, majority of my purchases were Sterlite brand) but I know that sometimes we need cheaper options. The mainstay bins were roughly $3.50 in store, which was $1.50 less then Sterlite. They seemed to be sturdy and will be perfect for sensory bins. FullSizeRender-4.jpg

I also got rainbow book bins similar to these. The ones I found in the store were about $10 for a set of 5. I will be using these to organize file folders on my bookshelf.

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I love these Sterlite shoe boxes with the colorful lids. I found these value packs of 10 for $7.98 at my Walmart! Cheaper than anywhere else I saw. I will be using these to set up my new work task system, store task cards, hold toys and more. In fact, I might go buy some more tomorrow!

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I bought one of these mini crates from Sterlite because it was cute and cheap (under $1). I ended up loving it and getting 2 more. I grabbed 4 additional mini crates today. I got rid of my teacher desk so these will be perfect for storing supplies on a table in the back of my classroom.

Don’t be afraid to shop around! Pinterest pretty classroom are fun to look at, but it’s okay to save money and get other materials. Whatever helps you stay organized!