Be Proactive: Getting to know your students {before you actually meet them}

Tuesday, May 28, 2013 / 8 comments

When you are first hired as a special ed teacher at a school, whether it is at the beginning of the school year or the day before school starts, there are so many logistical things that are necessary to do to ensure you have a successful school year. Since I have my multi-categorical sped certification (LD, BD, ID) as well as my autism certification, I always feel like I should be able to answer a lot of the questions that come my way from the general ed teachers, administrators, and most importantly, parents. In order to make sure that I feel confident enough to be ready to answer questions about my students or their disabilities on the fly, I do a little prep work before the school year starts off (or at the very beginning of school). This prep work helps me stay organized and also helps me get to know the students I am about to have for the year.
Although reading IEP’s is not the most entertaining, it is a necessity in learning about the students I will be working with throughout the year. Before worrying about making my schedule or getting accommodation checklists off to the general ed. teachers, I look at what each student is qualified under for services. I definitely do not consider myself a know-it-all about the far range of disability categories, and if I have a student that has something I am not knowledgeable about, I go to google to find out all I can about that specific disability.
Here are a few of my favorite websites:
Learning Disability:
Intellectually Disabled:
I know that “IEP cheat sheets” have been floating around Pinterest for quite some time and I cannot stress how much this can help during the year. These can be as fancy as you want, but I prefer a simple notecard size with the basic info I need to start of the year. I keep the template saved and just fill in the info as I get it, print on cardstock, and I keep all of them on a metal ring and in my clipboard that goes with me everywhere I go. This way I can add to it as the school year progresses and students come and go. It’s also easy to distribute copies of these to specialists and general ed teachers along with a copy of the IEP. They are more likely to read over an index card sized document of info versus a 17 page document. I would also suggest laminating these for durability throughout the year.

I keep these in the clipboard I carry EVERYWHERE!
Here is a pic of the template I use:

 Here is an example of one completed {not a real student - of course!}
As sped teachers, we are legally bound to so many due dates and deadlines. It helps to make a calendar at the beginning of the year to write down all annual, reeval, and triannual eligibility due dates that will occur during the school year. Keep this calendar visible at all times so you are constantly reminded of these dates as they will catch up to you faster than you think. I even input the info on my phone calendar with reminders set for 2-3 weeks in advances so I know I have time to contact the parents and send the meeting notice out. Also, be sure to put in student birthday reminders – they love when you notice!
This can be a tricky one, because sometimes past teachers want to give you all the negatives about the students versus the positives. I would recommend creating a sheet for teachers to fill out about the student, but only have them identify the student’s academic strengths & weaknesses, strategies to help that student learn best, parent involvement, interests, etc. If you ask them face to face, they will most likely begin complaining or telling you a story about the student that might give you a negative preconceived opinion about the student before you have even met. Using a sheet to fill out or even a google doc form you can send via e-mail would be your best bet at getting only the information you need, without all the extra fluff you don’t need to know.
Here is a form you can download to use at the beginning of the year that will get you some basic info on your student:
Unless you are at a school that you have the same students year after year, it is always nice to send out a letter to your students and their parents introducing yourself. Include pictures and tell them about yourself, your interests, and a few fun things you have planned for the year. For some students, this can help alleviate some stress about starting the school year and get them excited to meet you in person. If you are able to, you can even include a pre-stamped envelope addressed to the school so they can tell you a little about themselves.

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Five for Friday!

Friday, May 24, 2013 / 11 comments

Every week I have full intentions on doing this, and then Friday comes and goes and it doesn't happen!
For some reason, I have been able to be totally caught up on blogging {4x in one week?!}
Here we go...

My fourth graders are about to leave me! Middle School is a whole different ball game, and they have lockers with old school locks!
We've been practicing on different locks to get used to the process.

The constant circulation of sweets around my school is killing me!
I swear I will melt weight away during the summer because I won't be munching on junk
We had cupcakes for my coworker's birthday.
I had not one, but two of these suckers.
Our fourth grade classes got to visit West Virginia University on Wednesday!
We got to play on WVU's football field, sit in a real college classroom, and eat in the same place all the students eat.
 We also got to take a tour of the downtown campus, which is full of history.
This was one of my favorite buildings when I was a student there.

We have started making Hope King's adorable memory books!
My student's are very excited about them & can't wait to show them off.

This week, I began the process of making my own little deck garden.
I have tried to have plants in the past, but they never seem to last very long.
I am really trying hard to have a green thumb like my grandma and at some point have a real garden.
They sure do look pretty right now!
Only 5 more days of school!
I am going camping all weekend with friends & family.
Have a fantastic Memorial Day Weekend!
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Be Proactive: 10 ways to use Google Docs to collect and store data!

Thursday, May 23, 2013 / 16 comments
As I mentioned on my post here, Google Drive is a beautiful thing for special educators and regular ed teachers alike! If you need some help setting it up, check out this post.

For those of us that are blessed to have Ipads, it gets even better.
Google Drive has its own app to download -- Just search {Google Drive} in the APP Store.
Download, sign in and have access to all your docs in a sec at your fingertips!
It's perfect for us special educator "movers" that are in 15 different classrooms everyday.

Create them at the beginning of the year for your general ed teachers to fill out, or when an IEP is coming up, it is much more persuasive to get busy teachers to fill out a form online than to write out information by hand. I can remember chasing after teachers when I taught high school  - not fun! Just copy the code into e-mail and send it there way!

If your student’s parents are well connected online, this can be a great way to get information QUICK and it files it for you. You can always send home the paper form to those that aren't and input the data yourself.
Most schools have a program to do this, but some teachers like to keep their own daily data. Also, if you have a million different “classes” in one day like me and you are never in the same room, it can be super easy to take attendance this way (and you have documentation that you are meeting your minutes designated on each student's IEP). You could also include a section for you to fill out what you covered for the day during that time period.

Click for the name, date, and the service so when that time of the month comes you aren’t scrambling for dates!
In West Virginia, teachers use Edline to submit grades. Unfortunately, I do not have an Edline account, so it is up to me to keep up with any grades I take for my students as well as the grades they receive on their general education classroom assignments. I strongly dislike paper gradebooks, and typing information into Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets myself gives me headaches, so this is my solution.
Create a form and have your students go on to submit. The sky is the limit with this option, especially if your school is well equipped with technology. I have serious teacher envy of schools that have their own Ipad lab. I need to take the plunge at grant writing so I can stop being so jelly. Anyways, you can create any kind of test possible with the options given on this program and the data you can get is amazing. You will be able to pinpoint exactly what the majority of your students are getting and what they are not getting, so you will know exactly what to re-teach.

Daily checklists, Logs, Office Referrals, Suspensions, Records for Functional Behavior Assessments, etc.
As I already described here, this program makes collecting data for IEP goal's way more manageable!

Put the domain in as the subject, and make each "question" one of the standards and the answer be in the "date" format, so you can document when you taught the standard.

Create one form to fill out anytime you have contact with a parent. You can do it on your Ipad while your on the phone!

If you would like me to go into more depth about how to set any of these up, just say the word!
I'm linking up with the "Optimum Organization" Linky and Miss Eager's Teachers Talking Tech on Thursday's Linky for this post! GO LINK UP!

 Enjoy your Thursday!
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Summer Bucket List Linky

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 / 2 comments

I’m linking up with A Cupcake for the Teacher with my Summer Bucket List!
{Professional Goals}
I have a lot of school related goals for this summer, but I am most excited about my Be Proactive summertime series and developing my blog and my TPT store more. I never have enough time during the school weeks!
One product I have already started working on for next year are my Student Common Core Growth Portfolios.
I will post more about them when they are lookin’ TPT fine and ready!
Another goal I have is organizing all my file folders into binders. I HATE FILE FOLDERS. They are flimsy and so unorganized.
{Personal Goals}
I want to work on my sewing skills on my new machine
Get back into shape – do more POWER YOGA (at my new fav place)

Work on my Pinterest DIY never ending list... this is how it makes me feel
What's on your summer bucket list?
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Be Proactive: Using Google Docs to Collect Data for IEP Goals!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 / 56 comments

As most of you know and maybe some of you are about to find out very soon, special educators have a daunting amount of paperwork to go along with all the other tasks we do on a daily basis. This paperwork is very important, tedious, and requires so so so much time that sometimes we don't have time to truly enjoy the joy we get from our jobs (the kids) because we are overworked and stressed.

I have tried several free trials of "IEP data collecting" apps and only find myself in awe that these companies think their product is worth the amount of money they charge underpaid teachers for their less than flexible product.

Then stepped in Google Docs - my true love (other than my husband, and my beloved Ipad, of course).

I use google docs for literally every ounce of data collection I have, I can create whatever kind of forms I want specific to each student and it spits out tons of graphs, spreadsheets, circle charts - I die!

First things first, you have to have a Gmail account. When you are signed into your account, click on the "Drive" option located at the top of the page.

When you get there, click on CREATE and then FORM from the drop down menu.

You will first have to choose a theme - my favorite is "Blue Birds," but you are certainly allowed to pick your own, then click OK. :-)

I usually title my forms specific to IEP goals. If a student has different goals for different subjects, I will separate them, unless the goals go together and I will be working on them at the same time.

In the description part, I write out the actual goal.

Here's the fun part - Google Docs literally allows you to create whatever question type you want.

First, I wanted to create a question that prompted for the date. Even though each submission has a time stamp, I like to do this just incase my Ipad died and I was away from a computer, so I could still input the data with the correct date.

For the question title, I simply typed "Date:"
and for the question type, I used the drop-down menu to select "date" which inputs another option, which includes the year and the time. For this purpose, I just selected "include year" but it would be up to you!

After I clicked down, here is what it looks like:

Here is another question I added:

Passage Reading Level question with a drop down menu, with three different choices to choose from (this can be as many as you want!)
When you are all finished creating your form, you will click SEND FORM and the box below will pop up.
Now, if you are sharing a student on your caseload, you may want to try to "Add collaborators" but they must have gmail as well to input information. You can also send them the "Link to share" and they can access the form anytime through this.

Here is what the form looks like when filling it out:

Isn't it lovely?!

Okay.. I know this is a long post, but hopefully informative.


Anytime you want to view your responses, you click on VIEW RESPONSES and a chart like this will pop up.

If you want to open your spreadsheet up into another program, such as Microsoft Excel (to create other data charts -- I WILL EXPLAIN THIS IN ANOTHER POST!)


If you want to see some pretty graphs and such, you can click on RESPONSES > SUMMARY OF RESPONSES.

I hope you found this post useful!
Please feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment if you have any questions!

Fonts credited to: Kimberly Geswain and Luckyfrog's Lillypad

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