Wednesday, August 20, 2014

7 Tips for Scheduling IEP Meetings

As I scheduled my first IEP of the new school year,  I thought I should share some tips for any new Special Ed teachers out there.  Your first IEP meeting can be really nerve-wracking!  

1.  Make sure you're aware of your IEP and ReEval due dates.  I always try to schedule my meetings at least 2 weeks out prior to the due date.  You don't want to schedule your meeting the day before the IEP is due and then have the parents cancel on you.  If you give yourself a little leeway, you still have time to hold the meeting if there is a cancellation.

I use this little calendar to help me keep on track.  You can download your own editable version by clicking on the picture below.

2.  Speak to the gen ed teachers, admin, SLPS, OTs, PTs, etc. before you call the parents.  Are there days that are just off limits for one of the team members?  Maybe they can't stay after school for a meeting on Thursdays, because they have to get their child from school early.  The team members will appreciate if you speak to them beforehand about possible dates.

3.  Before you call the parents have several possible dates/times in mind for the meeting.  You never want to call the parents and tell them that they have to come in on a specific date for a meeting.  I try to be very  conscious of parents' time.  Many of them work or have transportation issues so they may need to plan ahead to attend a meeting.

4.  Have the school's phone number in eyesight.  Every time I need to leave a message for a parent to call me back, my mind goes blank and I forget our school's phone number.  So silly but I need to have it written down in front of me.

5.  Log in your contact with the parent or any messages you leave.  This will be especially useful if you have trouble getting the parent in for a meeting.

6.  Send your parents a reminder a day or two before the meeting.  We're all busy and a quick reminder is always helpful.  I also like to send a friendly email reminder to the IEP team members a day before reminding them of the meeting.

7.  I like to hold my meetings in my classroom.  This way my parents can see the room, and I can easily access all of the student's work and data.  However if you know the parent will be bringing the student or younger child and will not make them behave, schedule your meeting in a neutral place like the office conference room.  You do not want kids running around destroying your room while the parent just sits there.  

I hope this is helpful!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Keeping Resource Students on Schedule

I'm joining up with some other fabulous bloggers for the monthly Bright Ideas Blog Hop!  I always get such great ideas from other teachers.

As a resource teacher, I'm servicing students from 6 different gen ed classrooms.  That means I have students with 6 different special schedules.  I always joke that my classroom feels like kids are getting on and off a merry-go-round all day long.

But really does feel like that and make teaching rather difficult when you have a schedule like this, for example.

This is a sample schedule since our special schedule hasn't really started yet.  Some days are WAY worse than this with nonstop kids in and out at different times all day long.  It drives me crazy.

My first few years of teaching I put a big schedule on the board and would spend all day trying to remember to send Johnny to PE at 9:30 and then remember to send Henry to Music at 9:45.  My poor kids missed so many specials, because I would forget.  Or I would just be so wrapped up in teaching or a behavior problem that I wouldn't even realize that Susie needed to be a Speech right this second.

Last year, I thought of this super easy way to keep my kids on track.

I still keep my big schedule on the board.  But I also plugged all the times and days of the week into my phone's alarm.  This saved me so much heartache!  It did take 16 alarms set in the phone last year, but it was ok.  My kids never missed a specials class.  

I set the alarm for 5 minutes before the special time.  That way they have time to quickly clean up their area or activity and head out the door.  I was worried it would be disruptive to the class, but it's really not a big deal.  The alarm goes off, everyone looks at the schedule, and someone leaves.  Then I keep on teaching.  I even taught my kids how to turn off the alarm in case they were closer to my phone than me.

This was a lifesaver to me and I hope it will help you out, too!

If you enjoyed this bright idea, please consider joining me on Facebook or Instagram for more great ideas.

For more bright ideas from more than 100 different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

8 First Day of School Tips for Special Education

Last Friday was the first day of school here in Hawaii.  Even though I didn't start pull out services on Friday, I wanted to make sure my students and general education teachers had a smooth day.  Here's some tips on how you can support those students right from the start!

1.  Make sure you give the general education teachers copies of any behavior plans, accommodations, etc. BEFORE the first day of school.   Do students need to be seated near the teacher?  Are there any special plans for behavior that people need to know?

2.  Do any of your students need to be met at the bus that provides transportation for special education students?  If so, make sure someone is there to meet them and walk them to their class.  The bus is likely to be late the first few days of school.  Be prepared to wait.  Will these students need to eat breakfast?  Have a plan in place before the first day!

3.  Think about supporting the general education classrooms.  The first day is so hectic and teachers have so much to get done.  Can you or your aide go into the classrooms and help?  If you have several teachers you support, make a schedule and rotate around.

4.  Take time to at least briefly speak to each student and welcome them back to school.  Your relationship with the students can really make or break your year.  Let them know that you care right from the start.

5.  Let the general education teachers know that you are available during the day to help.  Some students might have some behavior concerns due to transition issues.  These students might need a place they can go to take a break from the hectic classroom.

6.  If students have transition concerns, try to give them support during the most stressful parts of the day such as first thing in the morning, lunch time and at the end of the day.

7.  If you are going into the classrooms to support students, be helpful!  The general education teachers have so much to do that day.  Help other students that need assistance if you can.  

8.  Remember to take care of you, too!  Don't forget to drink water, eat lunch, and go to the bathroom during the day.

I hope you all have a great year!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Meet and Greet for Special Education Teachers (freebie)

My school just had our Meet and Greet before school started.  This is an opportunity for students to come in, meet their new teachers, see their new classrooms, and bring in supplies.  Does your school do something like this before the first day?  

I love this opportunity, but special education teachers (especially if you do pull-out/resource) are often waiting in their classrooms with little to no students showing up.  I realized that most parents probably just don't think about coming by to see the special education teacher or they don't even know where to go!

Every year, I place a card on my students' desks in their gen ed rooms.  

Then I got my room already for parents and students to come by!

And sure enough, it works!  Out of 10 students on my caseload (more will be added I'm sure), I had 7 come see me and all were holding their cards. 

Meet and Greet is a great opportunity to talk to your parents in a low-stress setting.  Oftentimes, IEPs can be really stressful.  I like to be able to talk to parents in other settings.  I really do feel like this helps build those relationships with parents that are so important and lets them know you care.

If you're interested in using these cards, I have an updated set here as a freebie.  You'll just need to print, fill in your room number, and add your name.  I've added 3 different versions that have slightly different wording to suit different situations.  Just click on the picture below to download yours!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

First Week of School Activities (freebies)

Last Friday was actually the first day of school here in Hawaii.  But I'm a special education teacher and don't start pulling kids until Monday.  Even though I'm only teaching core academics to my pull-out students, I have most of them the majority of the day.  The first few weeks of school are so important for setting the ton for the rest of the year, and I will be working hard on behavior and community building this year.

I just love these beginning of the year activities by A Year of Many Firsties and can't wait to use them with my students.

As part of our community building, we'll be using these Find Someone Who activity that I made.  I'll be doing a lot of modeling how to approach our classmates and ask them a question.  And I'll be modeling how to use the pictures to help us if we can't read the words.  You can download it {here}.

I bought this Take a Break unit from Teaching in Progress and can't wait to use it with my students.  I'll be doing a lot of practicing and teaching my kiddos how to take a break, hopefully before they need a break.

I have several students with behavior plans and we will be focusing a lot on how to handle our anger. We'll be talking about how we feel and what we can do to help us make smart choices by using some of the activities found in my Making Smart Choices unit.

We can't just focus on behavior though.  My school will be using Reading Wonders for the first time this year.  I made this Smart Start freebie to help us get started.

Best of all, there's a sale starting tomorrow!  You can get 28% off everything in my store by using code BTS14 when you check out.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Starting the Year Off Right for Special Education Teachers

I can't believe my summer is over, and I'm back to work already!  

As a special education teacher, I've learned that there's so much collaboration we have to do!  We're often seeing students from several different general education classrooms (I have 6 gen ed teachers I work with so far), plus working with speech therapists, OT/PTs, behavior interventionists, etc.  So many people to work with and coordinate things!

And since there's so many people to work with, I've learned that your relationship with the gen ed teachers can make a HUGE difference.  You really want to start the year off on a positive note and start facilitating those relationships.

I know the first day you return back to work is stressful.  You need to set up your classroom, read IEPs, lesson plan, decorate bulletin boards, the list is never ending!  But I really think it's important to make contact with those gen ed teachers the 1st or 2nd day you're back to work.

I took time my first day back to work to quickly go through my IEPs and fill out these IEP SnapShots.

Then I printed off my IEP accommodation pages, Behavior Support Plans, and any other relevant information for the gen ed teachers.  

I had my list of students but I didn't have a list of which gen ed teacher they were assigned.
No big deal though, I just went class to class and asked which kids were on that teacher's classroom roster.  I gave the gen ed teacher the IEP Snapshot and other relevant papers and chatted for a quick minute about the students.  

I always try to make sure my gen ed teachers know that I'm also there to support THEM!  Sometimes it can be really intimidating for a gen ed teacher to have special education students in their classrooms.  Sometimes they've heard lots of scary things about students.  By making contact right away, I hope I can make them feel a little better and let them know that we're in this together!  

You can download this IEP Snapshot as a freebie from All that Chit by clicking on the picture below.

How do you start the year off with your gen ed teachers?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Covering Up the Ugly! - Shelf Makeover

Last year, I took over a classroom mid-year.  I didn't have much time to decorate, so I did a quick rearrange and change bulletin boards on a weekend.  I purged the rest of the year (read about the moldy play dough here) so that I could start off this year FRESH!

I'm linking up with 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It to show how I covered up my ugly shelves.

I decided that there was NO way I could look at these ugly shelves in my room anymore!

This one actually had wood grain contact paper on top of the ugly shelf.  :/

I didn't want to take the time to repaint them, so I made a quick trip to Target.  I bought contact paper (not my favorite pattern but beggars can't be choosers), duct tape, and a sheet.

I covered the shelves in contact paper.

To make sure the contact paper sticks, I applied duct tape along all the seams and corners.

I have a TON of velcro in my room, so I ran a strip of velcro across the front.

Then I cut the sheet to fit, hemmed the edges, and applied a strip of velcro to the sheet.

Now my shelves look better, the stuff in the shelves are hidden from sight, and it looks way better!

Best of all, I can easily take this off if I decide I don't like it anymore (or find a better contact paper pattern).  It was cheap.  I only used a little more than 1 roll of contact paper, less than a roll of duct tape, and 1 flat sheet.  And it was quick to do, took a couple of hours to do 3 shelves.