A DAY IN AU {Morning Routines - Student Pick-up}

Friday, February 28, 2014 / Leave a Comment

The first morning bell rings. Teachers start scrambling around as the floodgates of the parent pick-up line doors open up and students of all ages start rushing in. This is one of the busiest and most stressful times of the school day for most teachers.

In our little classroom.. it's the best start to a school day you could imagine! 

If you teach students with special needs, you know how. stinkin. excited. those kiddos are to see you in the morning! It warms my heart just thinking about their smiles and hugs (and handshakes - for our older ones). We are lucky enough to have our own pick up line on the opposite side of the craziness, where our students are dropped off and we wait at our very own picnic table for every student to arrive.

Problem is..... we wait... we wait... we wait... with students that DO NOT LIKE TO WAIT. at all.

Insert schedules, splitting up the class, social stories, etc. etc.

1. Use your TA's - At first, we had all students go to breakfast. We quickly learned that half of our small class did not eat breakfast, so that entailed more waiting in the lunchroom and ALOT of wasted time. Your class does not need to be together all the time. I have two amazing TA's that do pick up with me, so we split the class up into 3 groups - breakfast, heavy work, late arrivals. When all our breakfast kids come, they go to breakfast right away with TA1. When students that need heavy work to start the day (there will be a later post about this), they go in. Finally, all the late arrivals go in together as a group. This way, there is no wasted time and no fidgeting, annoyed little guys and gals. 

2. Social Stories - Sometimes our students do not understand why they need to wait and you spend 10 minutes in a tug-of-war battle (usually losing) into the building. I am fully guilty of giving in and taking these students into the building early to prevent a tantrum, but overall, that's teaching them that they can do that every morning and I'll always give in. With social stories, you can use pictures of the student getting out of the car, waiting at the picnic table, etc. Send these home so parents can read it over with them daily before they arrive at school. 

Example (Add general pictures or pictures of students)

My name is _____.
I ride to school in the car with my mom.
When I get to school, I get out of the car and sit with my friends.
Sometimes I have to wait for my friends to get to school.
I can look at a book.
I can play with a ball.
I can do a puzzle.
I try not to leave the picnic table.
This makes my teachers happy.
When all my friends get to school, we go inside.

Page from a Social Story

3. Have materials ready & delegate responsibilities - At the beginning of the year, I designated who needed to bring what outside. I knew that I would forget everything because I always have a million things running in my mind at the beginning of the day. Some of these things were so essential until we got into the swing of things.

-Visual Necklaces: Sit, Quiet, Wait, Walk, and Bathroom visuals were all put on a ring and attached to our ID badges. At the beginning of the year, we really struggled with communicating with some of our guys with speech issues, so these helped. Now we don't need them too much for pick up, but you never know when the day will come that you will. 

-Bag of Activities: Books, puzzles, fidget balls, and so on were MUCH needed for those first few weeks when transportation was a nightmare (too early, too late). These kept students busy for 5-10 minutes while they had to wait.

-Hold-A-Ring Walking Rope: If you have a class that struggles with walking on the right side of the hallway, runs, or simply can't figure out how to walk in a straight line, this rope can really give your kids the structure they need to learn how to correctly walk in a line. After reinforcing this for the entire year, our line looks great and we can sometimes go without using it. 

-Data Clipboard: We had to track the times for drop off and pick up for students that got county provided transportation. With all the events of the morning, there would have been no way to remember the time to the minute each student arrived. 

-Student Schedules: Some students require a schedule as soon as they leave the vehicle to see where they're headed. 

-Student materials: I have a few students that go out into regular education classrooms throughout the school day. They have binders with behavior charts, social stories, and their schedules that they have to carry with them to their classrooms. On some days, these students really don't wait to go into these classrooms. If I forget the binder and they have to go into our classroom prior to going to their rooms, it can be a disaster and a terrible start to their day.

-Breakfast basket: Data sheets (lunchroom IEP goals), wipes, plastic silverware, straws, etc. to bring to breakfast daily.

Sticking to the same routine every morning has worked wonders for our class. There has been such an improvement in how our students go through the motions and stick to what they are expected to do.

Tomorrow I will be discussing the rest of our morning & unpacking routines!

Happy Friday! :)

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A Day in AU Mini-Series :)

Thursday, February 27, 2014 / 3 comments

On day one of this school year, I had a schedule in place. Our schedule today looks TOTALLY different and is so much more functional that those first few weeks when we were still getting to know each other. My students work hard ALL. DAY. LONG. We just intersperse short, frequent breaks to keep us motivated! 

To give you all some ideas about what we do in my elementary AU combo class (grades K-3), I will be doing a rundown of our daily schedule & what we do during each time - even pick-up, lunch, recess, etc. because you all know how much teaching we still have to do during these times!

Here's what I have planned:

Morning Routines
Morning Work
Circle Time
Sensory Breaks 
Indoor Recess 
Letter of the Week/Literacy
Work Rotations: Teacher Time, Fluency, Computer, Independent Workboxes
Kitchen Work
Science/Social Studies
Storytime/Literacy Instruction
Math Instruction
Dismissal Circle Time
Social Skills
Pick-up/Drop-off Routines
Daily Parent Communication

PHEEEW -- I have a lot to do. I love making myself checklists!

If you look over this list and want to hear about something not listed, please send me a message here and I'll add it in to the series. My first post will be tomorrow -- MORNING ROUTINES! YAY!

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Writing Center Activities

Thursday, February 13, 2014 / 2 comments
I struggle with writing instruction in my classroom. Even my highest leveled students cannot come up with their own sentences. It is just so difficult to get them to come up with something on their own. They don't struggle with the mechanics of writing (punctuation), they just have trouble writing for the simple sake of writing. Coming up with the words to write might as well be neuroscience for us (some of my guys would probably ROCK neuroscience). For my younger students that still struggle with holding a pencil, writing can be a huge challenge they will try to avoid altogether. After searching and searching for different things to use in my writing center that can meet the needs, I finally started making my own sheets and finally found time to put them into a pack.

I use these sheets daily in my writing center and I also send them home weekly for homework. For my lower students, I stick to level 1 for their instruction and use the sheets for receptive language fluency and errorless writing opportunities. For my higher students, I like to scaffold the levels (using the same picture pages and sentences, but different levels) during the week to build up their sentence structure and ability to independently create complete sentences

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February Valentine's Basic Skills Pack {Giveaway & Flash SALE}

Sunday, February 2, 2014 / 6 comments
Just dropping in to show you my newest basic skills packet for February.

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