Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Group Behavior Contingencies

If you've been reading my blog or following my social media accounts for any length of time, you know that behavior plans are my jam! There is really nothing that is more powerful than a well done Functional Behavior Assessment/Analysis that transforms into a meaningful Behavior Intervention Plan! Giving our kiddos personalized plans to help shape their behavior IS EVERYTHING! They can REALLY help create positive experiences for our students to succeed individually, but what happens when your class is falling apart as a whole group?! Enter... whole group contingencies!

I LOVE using these behavior contingencies SO much that I literally always, always, always have something brewing! Once one contingency is met, we start a new one right up!

There are SO many ways to try this out! How to start?

1.) Brainstorm
Student buy-in is huge! Have the class brainstorm a list of whole group rewards that they would like to earn. Popcorn party? Extra recess? Cooking activity? iPad time? Figure out a list of what the students request and work from there. This is not only easier than you coming up with ideas on the fly, but it WILL allow for more buy-in, you know exactly what they're motivated by!

2.) Behavior Targets
Maybe the kids know they're working for a pizza party, what do they need to exhibit to earn it? Tips: make it insanely clear and simple, working on ONE behavior at a time, and keep it positive. Want to clean up language? Behavior target should be "using expected words", not "no cursing". Keeps it positive and strengths based, showing students what they SHOULD be showing.

3.) Execution
There are so many ways to execute a whole group contingency. You can do it based on a time frame, or just "until you earn it", it can be done with spelling the word their earning, or filling a container. Here are a few that I've done!

This is for extra buy-in - a mystery! They were able to uncover a letter of the mystery surprise every time that they were all participating in a lesson. 

The class got a pom-pom every time that they showed the expected target behavior, working to fill it up to the top line.

Have you done whole group contingencies with your class? Right now, my kids are working towards a slime making party! 


Friday, February 23, 2018

Trauma Informed Schools

Let's get down to the real stuff from the beginning, teachers: According to the ACES Studya child with four or more “adverse childhood experiences” was 32 times more likely to be labeled with a learning or behavior disorder than a child with no adverse childhood experiences. And plain and simple, an adverse childhood experience means a child who has experienced trauma.

Our students have often faced situations that feel insurmountable and virtually impossible to tackle. But - with the right support and resources, a school team can become trauma informed - able to recognize signs of trauma, and respond to the effects of trauma, in a way that is empirically validated and backed by behavior science.

Often as special educators, we are on the front lines of assisting children with challenging behaviors.  When trauma is the culprit, what do we do? 

First off - LEARN. 
There is now tons of research and resources surrounding the treatment of children who have experienced trauma. Some of my favorite resources that have really helped me feel equipped and to learn and grow are below.

Psychological First Aid - This was originally practiced by first responders when they responded to a crisis. It's been found that these practices can really help educators respond to their students, too! The foundations of PFA are:

  • Listen — Let your students know you are available to listen to their concerns and talk about the event. Listen attentively and pay attention to what students say.
  • Protect — Help students feel protected by continuing to listen to their concerns. Talk to them about what is being done in the school and community to keep them safe.
  • Connect — Reach out to your students regularly. Communciate with other people involved in your students' lives, such as parents, grandparents, or other teachers. 
  • Model — Be mindful of your verbal and non-verbal cues. Commit to your own self-care. Acknowledge the difficulty of the situation.
  • Teach — Help your students reach and achieve small goals and applaud these achievements. Remind students that time will help.

Attachment and Trauma Network - This network of supports is very teacher-friendly but also offers lots of parenting resouces so we can best support our students caregivers. This group has also started offering a yearly national conference that is solely dedicated to becoming trauma-informed!

Support for Students Exposed to Trauma - Signing up on this website gives you a host of resources to implement an intervention program for late elementary through early high school aged students. The entire program is evidenced-based too - woo hoo! :)

Then Learn Some More!

When I first began exploring the concepts of childhood trauma, I went to my favorite resource - BOOKS! Personally, these two books, still, have given me the most tangible and applicable information. 

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk is a unique take on trauma, and what it does to your body. It has given me so much insight of how adverse experiences don't just create fear and anxiety, but so many other physical effects. Having this knowledge has helped me hugely in meeting my students where they're at. 

Lost at School by Dr. Ross Greene is the first book I had ever read about children with significant behavioral challenges and trauma. Greene coined the phrase, "Kids do well if they can", which has truly become the mantra of my current school! Greene has written many other books, all worth reading, but I have found this one is the most explicitly related to us as special education teachers.

 As a special educator working in a residential treatment center, all of my students have experienced extreme situations of trauma. Personally, I have found that the best things I can do are to give space, validate feelings, problem solve, and listen more than I talk. These resources have helped me grow in my ability to support the unique social emotional and behavioral needs of my students that need me most. How do you connect and support your students who have experienced trauma?


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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Celebrating Self-Love for Valentine's Day

Last year, I had enough. Not only were my 2-3 grade students obsessed with dating one another and getting themselves into awkward love triangles, but their lack of self-esteem was exhausting to witness. I decided to take a non-traditional spin on Valentine's Day to distract from the romance and focus on a much needed concept - and I'll never go back!

Read alouds

I like to set up the day with a clear focus on how we are celebrating the holiday - all the amazing strengths we have, and reasons why we love ourselves. Here are three books I read last year, and will be staples on Valentine's Day in our classroom this year, too. 

Interactive Activity

Have you ever read the book The Best Part of Me by Wendy Ewald? It's a BEAUTIFUL book with photographs of real kids sharing their favorite parts about themselves. It is such a perfect way to highlight our strengths, the important features of our bodies, and to highlight self-love. It's also a fun way to talk about writers craft! I will be using this template, available as a *freebie* in my TPT store, to guide us through the process!

I also love this idea, that I'll be incorporating this year - a heart map. Students brainstorm the things, people, and concepts that take up the most "room" in their heart and make them tick, and share it through words or pictures. 

I love this freebie I found on TPT...
Heart Map | Introduction to Writing

and this sweet picture from The Silver Lining in Teaching!
I really like this as maybe a beginning of the year activity to get to know students ~

Will we still eat chocolates and pass out Valentine cards? Yes! As a teacher, I feel this is a perfect time to begin developing and focusing on the importance of self-esteem on a holiday that so many ADULTS feel like can only be celebrated if you are coupled up. 

True story: last year, I had a 3rd grade boy who was inconsolable for the majority of Valentine's Day because he was single! AHH!

May your Valentine's Day be filled with sweetness and limited child-romance drama!


This post contains affiliate links to get you right to the product. Any purchases you make using these links helps to support my blog so I can continue sharing and collaborating with you.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Winter Olympics in the Special Education Setting

So, admittedly, I can't miss teaching my class about the Winter Olympics because I am obsessed with watching them. I figure skated for 10 years and I watch competitive skating like other people watch football (yes, complete with yelling at the TV!). But selfishness aside, the Olympics is a seriously awesome event to teach during! It's a world-wide event that our students should know a little something about. Plus, you can add in so many academic skills to make it such a fun unit of mini-lessons!

Read Alouds
Some Olympic sports are a little more common than others... (think skiing vs. luge!), so creating exposure and background knowledge is hugely important!

I love to read one per morning, discussing the sport, any questions, and during an afternoon transition time, watch a few videos of the sport in action. If you're doing this unit during the actual Olympics, you can time each book to be when these athletes are competing, and show gold-medal performances on the Olympics YouTube channel!

Here are some of my favorite books - including a new one that is just about the 2018 Winter Olympics!

A mix of fiction and nonfiction is good, but this is a real event! It's a great time to focus on non-fiction text and non-fiction text features, which in some of our classrooms may not always take the forefront. Great time for exposure!!

I know crafts can sometimes get a bad name, like they're a waste of time. No way! If you really strategically plan out a craft, you can add in language practice, direction following, 1:1 correspondence, turn taking, sequencing, social skills, attending to task, frustration tolerance, and even STEM! I LOVE these ideas from Activity Village! 

Blow Skiing... so cute.
Blow Skiing

Curling game - great for explaining a sport they will likely not know exists.
Curling Game

Make a ski-collage - would love to do this with pictures of actual skiiers in the games!
An intrepid skier in our ski collage!

Medal Count
My favorite activity to do with my students is to complete a morning medal count. We will be tracking the medals of Team USA each morning and watching videos of their performances/games. This is an awesome way to reinforce graphing, data collection, tally marks, and reading a table. And, I came prepared! Check out this freebie from my Teachers Pay Teachers store to keep track of 10 Olympic sports!

Olympics Medal Count - Freebie!

And an extra fun thing? MadLibs! These are great if you're working on parts of speech and have a few extra minutes during a transition time.

What are your favorite Olympic themed activities? Comment below!


This post contains affiliate links to get you right to the product. Any purchases you make using these links helps to support my blog so I can continue sharing and collaborating with you.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Tech Tips for Special Education

Hey! I'm here with 4 tech tips to help engage your students and keep technology accessible for all of your learners.

1.) Guided Access

Here's the scenario... you finally get iPads in your classroom. You put your students on selected apps and start doing direct instruction with a student at the back table. 10 minutes later, you have 3000 selfies and two kids trying to buy animal crackers on Amazon. UGH! So much for the iPads? Not exactly. If you don't know about the Guided Access feature, consider your teacher life changed.

Guided Access essentially locks your students into an app. They would need to be able to triple click the home button AND enter a 4 digit passcode to exit the app. Even our sneakiest kiddos would struggle with that! Here's the steps:

  • Launch the "settings" app on your iPad.
  • Tap "general"
  • Tap "accessibility"
  • Tap "guided access" under the "learning" header
  • Tap on "passcode settings"
  • Set passcode
  • Move "accessibility shortcut" to ON, which allows you to triple-click the home button and enter Guided Access at any time

2.) Gloves

Ever have a student who struggles with one finger isolation and consistently makes incorrect taps with her other fingers on the iPad? Try gloves! iPads won't work with gloved fingers, so adding a modified glove is a great way to help your student access technology effectively. 

3.) Google Keep

Have students with major executive functioning needs? I'm talking the student who's incredibly unorganized and no planner in the world could ever keep up with them. Try Google Keep! If this student always has a phone or tablet, this is a wonderful tech resource. You can create color coded reminders and lists to keep life organized, plus it has really cool search features to find exactly what you're looking for.

4.) Quizlet

Study skills are so hard to teach and maintain for our students. Quizlet won't solve all of these problems, but technology makes everything more fun, right? Students can make decks of flashcards using this app, or search for premade ones in the app. If you have students constantly losing items, like study guides and flashcards, this is a great way to engage in technology AND maybe pass the quiz!

What favorite tech resources do you use with your students in special education?


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Read Alouds to Support Positive Behaviors

Bibliotherapy, or the use of books as therapy, can be such a great addition to our special education classrooms! Where to begin? Here's a few of my favorites.

Julia Cook
I've mentioned her before, and I'll say it again, and again, and again... best author everrrrr! Her books are specific, engaging, and so effective for students with lagging social skills. Check out her website here, where you can search for books by topic. She gets as specific as books on stealing, handling feedback, digital footprints, and how to handle farting (seriously!!!!). 

I have a set of about 20 of her books and book companions, thanks to super generous donors. Check out my Donors Choose project if you want some inspiration on creating your own project to gain some of her amazing books!

First Book
Do you know about FirstBook? It's an incredible organization and store: a nonprofit, store and mission all in one! They have entire sets of Social - Emotional books, also sorted by skill type. The best part? HIGH QUALITY, FREE, downloadable resources to accompany many of the books! While of course nothing is one size fits all, isn't it great to have a start on some questions, discussion starters, and activities you could use for some of these books? 

In case your curious, here's some of our personal classroom favorites!


Sunday, November 26, 2017

6 Amazon Musts to Survive the Rest of the School Year

Guys... our jobs are really hard. I'm thanking my lucky stars on the daily that my job is also equally rewarding. I've taught in this high stress field for 8 years and have determined these 6 items to be my absolute necessities! A mix of teacher needs and student needs... go grab them on Amazon today!

Gone are the days of obnoxious callouses and embarassingly tired hands from endless cutting! This paper trimmer is an actual life saver. It also has a small lock on the blade in case your students get their hands on it - it's a little tricky to figure out so you'll have time to grab it out of their grip before chaos ensues :)

At one point I was pretty skeptical about essential oils, but I can now say I'm a true believer! This diffuser is so easy to use (all you need is water, electricity, and some essential oils!), and the results are honestly tangible. I love diffusing oils for MYSELF - the scents are so calming and honestly set the tone for a relaxed classroom! I also love it for my students. Not only does it mask the post-recess funk that inevitably takes over the room in warm months, but the benefits really help our kiddos unwind and focus. 

New to essential oils? This is exactly what you need to get started on diffusing in your classroom! What does lavender do? Promotes calmness, relaxation, and focus. Gee, I wonder who that could benefit? ;)

Don't skimp on a desk band by using an exercise band - they will break quickly if you have a major fidgeter! Stick with the real thing. These bouncy bands are a life saver in my classroom. My kids have so much more tolerance for sitting in their desks when these are available. Ever have a student who endlessly wants to go for walks as their break? I have seen a decrease in break-demanding in many of my students if they have the ability to move their legs purposefully and get some energy out WHILE they're seated. Give it a try...and, you're welcome in advance.

Ever tried to use chew tubes with your students to only have them tear them into small pieces within minutes? Ew, and, feels pointless. These - are the holy grail of chewables! Pros: hard to lose (always on the pencil!), easy to clean/sanitize, hard to destroy, fairly discreet. Cons: Covers the eraser. What are you waiting for?

Do you like your coffee hot and your water cold? Seems like a small delicacy to most teachers, right? Before I had a Yeti Rambler, I felt the same way. Now I have TWO - one for my coffee, one for my water! I can drink both at my leisure, stay hydrated and caffeinated, and not have to be grossed out when my non-iced coffee is cold at 11am. #bestmugever

So, what do you think? What are some teacher necessities that carry you through the school year?


This post contains affiliate links to get you right to the product. Any purchases you make using these links helps to support my blog so I can continue sharing and collaborating with you.