How to See Summaries of Data Collected Through Google Drive

Saturday, February 27, 2016 / Leave a Comment
Last week, I posted on Using Google Drive to Create A-B-C Data Collection Forms and received a lot of questions on how to see summaries of the data collected through Google. Asked and answered, friends! It's amazing how easy Google has made data collection for us, as long as we know how to use it to our benefit. If you haven't already, be sure to watch this video first, so you can see how to create a form that you will use to collect the data used to create the graphs.

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St. Patrick's Day SALE!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 / Leave a Comment

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Using Structured Work Systems To Build Independence in the Elementary Classroom

Monday, February 22, 2016 / 1 comment

Last week, I wrote a post on Using Structured Work Systems to Foster Student Independence. Work systems are structured sequences that provide students opportunities to practice mastered skills through the use of organized materials, including containers, bins, drawers, checklists, folders/binders, among many other materials. Adult support can still be used to guide students when using work systems; however, their purpose is to promote independence in students.

Structured work systems are perfect for helping a disorganized student stay focused in the classroom. Although originally developed through Division TEAACH for individuals with autism, structured work systems can be used with all types of leaners, in a variety of elementary school settings, to help improve their independence throughout the day. Much like learners with autism, a lot of students thrive off routine and structure. By using this left to right type of system, students are able to see how much work they must do, how long it will take, and when they are finished. For a lot of learners in today’s early elementary classrooms, these 4 guidelines can go a long way in helping ease student distress about working independently and can cut down on behaviors that tend to arise when students are off task.

To piggyback my post from last week, I got together with a website called Bloomboard to create a collection of resources that are helpful when starting structured work systems in the classroom. BloomBoard is a place where educators can learn, share, and discuss the best teaching ideas to solve everyday classroom challenges and improve their practice. I'm so excited to start using this site to create more collections on topics to share with you! It kind of reminds me of gathering info for a research paper, but you never have to actually write the paper. It's awesome!

Be sure to check out tomorrow's blogger on BloomBoard, Nardi at Classroom Strategies and Things. Below is a little bit about her!

Beginning her eighteenth year of teaching, Nardi Routten is a fourth grade teacher at Frances K. Sweet Elementary School in Fort Pierce, Florida.  After being recognized as a Teacher Leader for her school and District, she has been invited to be part of The Florida Teacher Leader Fellowship.  In the classroom, Mrs. Routten typically has students with a wide range of abilities, including special education students. Even with this challenge, Mrs. Routten’s classes routinely score among the highest in her school and district.  Last January (January 9, 2015), Mrs. Routten received the Milken Educator Award, the highlight of her career."

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St. Patrick's Day Book List

Saturday, February 20, 2016 / Leave a Comment

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016 / Leave a Comment

A few weeks ago, I posted the image below of our clipboard charts on Instagram and a lot of you commented asking about them and our classroom behavior system. I've always had a behavior system in place, but never fine tuned and "pretty" enough to share with others. Since I had such an interest in the charts, I decided to make them TPT appropriate so I could share them with you!

After a determined number of warnings (varies by student), if the student does not choose to change the behavior at all, he loses the reward completely and I replace it with “sit and wait.” I generally don’t give time out, as it can end up serving as an escape from work.
If you are in need of a new behavior system, I would definitely try to use more visuals and less verbal cues to see if that helps de-escalate the problem behavior. Sometimes, our students just aren't able to grasp the verbal cues as quickly as a familiar picture.
I have a classroom behavior visuals pack available in my TPT that has all the printables in this post. The rainbow visuals ring freebies in from that pack.

A photo posted by Mrs. Dixon (@teachingspecialthinkers) on

With behavior management, what will work in your classroom will vary from student to student. Some students will do ANYTHING to earn just a simple star on a chart, while others will take a lot longer to grasp that certain actions have consequences, and will continuously (whether intentionally or unintentionally) push your buttons.

In our classroom, as a students moves throughout the day, he is typically working for some type of reward. Usually it’s “first work, then ___;” however, some students may be able to do a few tasks before getting a reward, so we might use the "first, next, then" chart. Before the student begins a new work activity, he chooses what to work for (i.e reward). I usually have about 4 reward options on the bottom of the chart for the student to select from. 

Before the student begins working, I go over the visual reminders on the top row of the chart (stay in seat, be quiet, hands down/to self, wait your turn) or using my visual ring with larger pictures of the same images to remind student(s) of the expectations (hint hint - there's a freebie of this ring at the end of the post). 

If a student is showing poor behavior during the activity, I don’t give any verbal reminders, I just point to the picture once as a warning (i.e. sit). If the student continues the poor behavior, I use a dry/erase marker and put an X on the image on the top row of the chart (i.e. I would X out "sit" if the student is not sitting) and I remove the reward image (i.eiPad) and I do not put it back on until the student complies. 

Once again, I am just showing visuals and not giving any verbal cues or attention to the behavior. If the student does not choose to change the behavior at all, he loses the reward completely and I replace it with “sit and wait.” I generally don’t give time out, as it can end up serving as an escape from work.

For some students, a "working for" chart is also beneficial, as it can show how they are earning the reward in increments. Some students require different amounts during an activity, although it's a good idea to start with small achievable steps (earn 3 stars), throughout the year you can increase the amount of stars they must earn to get the reward (increase to 10). 

You can tie in star "working for" charts with the clipboard chart. Students might start off with full stars, but can lose a star if they can an X on an image on their clipboard and then they will have to earn it back. Or you could use a timer and for every 2 minutes a student shows good behavior, they earn a star, until they earn all 10 stars, and then are finished with the activity. 

Another thing we have in our classroom is a cool down area. This area is NOT time out. It is a place for students to utilize when they become overwhelmed or upset and need some time to calm down before returning to work. 

This area has a large (non-breakable) mirror, comfy beanbags, and visuals that have been introduced and modeled several times with the students. My favorite resource in this area are the visuals for taking breaths from Melissa's calm down kit. They truly help my little guys when they become upset during the day. 

If you want more info on my classroom behavior visuals, click on a picture below!

Click below to grab your freebie!

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Using Google Drive to Create A-B-C Data Collection Forms

Monday, February 15, 2016 / 2 comments

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post on Using Google Docs to Collect Data for IEP Goals. Since then, I have been using Google Drive to create lots of forms to collect information quickly and help me stay organized. Click below to view the original post on using Google to collect data for IEP goals.

Today I want to share a tutorial on how to create a form to collect A-B-C data. In a special education classroom, we tend to deal with a lot of behaviors that seem to mysteriously appear out of thin air. We all know too well that this isn't the case, and their is always a reason, and typically a pattern that behavior occurs. ABC forms are great for taking in lots of detailed information about a student throughout his day, and then pin-pointing what the antecedents or consequences are that may be causing that behavior to continue occurring. Instead of typing a tutorial, I decided a video tutorial might be easier to follow. Click below to check it out!

If you prefer more paper/pencil data collection before inputting information into the form, click below to download a free A-B-C collection form. 

I plan to create more tutorials while I am still on maternity leave, so please comment below if you would like to me focus on any topic in particular!

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Valentine's Day SALE!

Sunday, February 14, 2016 / Leave a Comment

A little thank you for all your support! Enjoy 20% off in my TPT shop today!

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6 Unconventional Classroom Centers

Friday, February 12, 2016 / Leave a Comment

This year, I decided to make some unused classroom spaces into small interactive centers that could serve as the perfect little transition activities or warm-ups. Instead of hanging pictures or decorations in these spaces, I wanted them to have a purpose. Below are some examples of how you can turn those unused spaces into workspaces, while still creating fun, eye-catching decorations for your classroom.

Interactive books are all the rage right now, and why wouldn't they be - they.are.fabulous!

Instead of keeping them in a bin so they never get touched, put them on display! Students will love looking through the different books during down time reading center, transitions. You could even make a choice board for students to request certain books that may be hung out of their reach. 

For the first two years I was in my classroom, I never touched the giant dry/erase board that took up an entire wall of my classroom. This year, I have used it to house all my sorting tasks. Shown above are from my shapes clothespin sorting task pack. I also use the numbers clothespin sorting task pack on the other side of this board. Use magnet letters and word strips and have students spell sight words or even practice spelling their names. There are so many options and all you need is some cheap magnet tape from Amazon (click below).

Oil drip pans are AMAZING giant magnet trays. I'm sure they serve a wonderful purpose with mechanics; however, they are pretty spectacular for teachers as well. We attached this baby to the back of a shelf and it is it's own little center. Right now, I have beginning sound sorts up on ours from my beginning sounds clothespin pack, but I change it all the time!

I'm all about hanging our artwork in the halls and on the walls and doors in our classroom. Although most people like to put their air on bulletin boards, in our classroom, our bulletin board is a center full of activities! Currently, I'm using tasks from Melissa's Interactive Bulletin Board Packs

Again, interactive books are super functional for our students to learn those basic print concepts and to get some extra basic skill practice. More importantly, THEY ARE ADORABLE. A lot of shelves in elementary schools have these holes in the backing (I have no clue what the name is but I know there is one). Grab some hooks from the hardware store and a bean bag and you have yourself a book nook. In this little area, I'm using my interactive alphabet books. I also have books for colors, shapes, and numbers.

We have a few of these lower shelves around our classroom. I put some of my sorting tasks out on them, covered with contact paper, and added some containers to make it a standing work station. Another perfect little transition activity for students. In the picture above, I am using the jar sort from my colors clothespin sorting activities.

Do you have any unconventional centers in your classroom? I'm always looking for more ideas!
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Using Structured Work Systems to Foster Student Independence

Thursday, February 4, 2016 / 1 comment

I remember when I first started teaching in my classroom, I literally had no clue what I was doing. I remember everyone kept talking about..


I shook off their advice and did things my way for the first few months, thinking my cute little classroom set-up was just the beez-neez with all my desks set up in rows, bright colorful baskets full of materials on every shelf, and large open concept floor plan (channeling my inner Joanna Gaines).


When I finally learned to follow the advice of others who had been in field much longer, I realized that classroom set-up is probably one of the most important things about a classroom.. especially one that serves young students with autism. Throughout that first year, the dynamics of my classroom evolved drastically. By the end of the year, my classroom looked like lots of little cubicles, and my students had become expert independent workers. 

Although there is no right or wrong way to setting up your classroom, if you serve students with autism and other disabilities, you do need to have some sort of structure to each area in your classroom. Here are a few guidelines I try to follow when I set-up my structured work systems.

Our students tend to struggle with staying in an area independently. At the beginning of the year, my TA's and I end up being human barriers to teach them that they must stay in the area on their schedule to work until they are finished. Set the boundaries of the area using furniture. It's a lot easier to monitor the small "entrance/exit" to a center than an open space. See below for some examples - the red arrows indicate where the entrance/exit to the area.

I have several different "independent" centers in our classroom. Even though the tasks will vary, I try to keep the actual student area consistent. Below is a visual to guide you and some examples.

Students are not going to walk in your classroom and know exactly what to do at each center. MODEL EVERYTHING over and over and over and over again.... and then some. 

At independent work stations, ONLY assign materials that the student is able to completely INDEPENDENTLY (without any prompting whatsoever). Once a student understands how to follow the left to right work system, he should be able to complete all tasks assigned without any adult assistance. This makes your life a lot easier because you'll actually have free time to work with other students.

Here are a few pictures from my favorite SPED ladies! 


How do you set-up your independent work system areas? 

Post a picture on Instagram and use the hashtag #teachingspecialthinkers to share. 

I will be posting a second part to this post within the next few weeks and will be sharing YOUR pictures!
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