Saturday, July 7, 2018

Morning Meeting in Special Education

Morning meeting has evolved over the years in my classrooms, but I have always found it to be the most important part of our day!

Morning meeting is NOT the same as morning circle, where you might check the weather and do a calendar based routine. Morning meeting focuses on centering the day and community building! There are many routines that teachers use for morning meeting based on specific formats, and all of them I'm sure have a very specific place and work for many teacher styles and classroom populations. Across my 9 years in the classroom, I have found a recipe of 5 steps that works for me
1.) Classroom Song
2.) Check-in
3.) Morning Message
4.) Greeting
5.) Share
6.) Read Aloud

1.) Classroom Song
At the beginning of the school year, I create a menu of songs for the class to vote on to determine what our classroom song will be. Some of our choices were Fight Song by Rachel Platten, The Power of Yet by Janelle Monet, Lean on Me by Bill Withers, Count on Me by Bruno Mars, and What I Am by Will.I.Am. Once the song was chosen, we listened to the song (and often watched the music video on the Smart Board) every morning. Music helps create a sense of community - all of the students know the same song, plus creates a special ritual that students can rely on everyday.

2.) Check-In
Next is checking in. Over the years I have had students check-in with feelings verbally, using pictures, using communication devices, or check in with their "zone" using the Zones of Regulation program. Regardless of communication style, I always gave students a menu of facial expressions that depict common emotions to help them determine how they're feeling. Many students like to talk a LOT about what they did that morning, how their night went, or why they're feeling a certain way. Your time constraints and classroom size will determine how much you want to do this, but you can also encourage students to write you a note about their feelings if you don't have the time for each child to have an extensive check in. This ritual helps your students understand that feelings are important, that you care, and builds empathy among the class. It's also a great way for you to have an idea of where each student is coming from each morning.

3.) Morning Message
This is a common practice in many classrooms, and I love it! There's many ways to run your morning message. Over the years I have had students copy our morning message into a notebook, use the information to fill in a daily page, or just simply listen to a classmate or me read it aloud. The morning message gives students some information about the day (like what's for lunch/snack, if they have a specials class that day, etc) and notifies of any changes. I have found that this routine really eases students with anxiety about the day. 

4.) Greeting
Greetings can be so fun, and help all students get comfortable speaking to each other. There are so many ways to facilitate greeting - from something simple ("Fist bump 3 people"), to something more complicated ("Look to the classmate on your right, say hello, and say an adjective that describes them that begins with the first letter of their name."). During this time, I have found it really important to stay away from gender-based greeting ideas (ex: "Find a girl in the classroom and give her a high five", "Say hello using manners by calling one another Mr and Miss"), as it may be exclusionary to students who are unsure of which pronouns and gender names they identify with. This can also be a great time to teach students how to say "Hello" or an informal greeting in a different language. I have had students that knew greetings in languages other than English that they want to share with the class!

5.) Share
This is always my favorite part of morning meeting! Share is when a question is posed and students get a chance to answer it. Depending on the size of your class, you can have students turn and talk to a classmate, or share their response out loud with the class. Questions can be things like, "What is your favorite pizza topping?", "What is one thing you would change if you were the President?", "What is your least favorite breakfast food?" On Mondays, I always have students share what they did over the weekend, and on Fridays we share our most memorable moment from the week. A fun idea would be to do "pow wows" on Fridays - a "pow" being a not so great moment from the week, a "wow" being a great moment from the week.

6.) Read Aloud
Once students are engaged and (hopefully) feeling settled, I love doing a read aloud! 

All of morning meeting steps can be modified to meet a wide range of learners - asking yes/no questions for share, recording the morning message on a Big Mac for students to press so the class can hear, having a student hit a switch to begin the classroom song, making the read aloud an opportunity for choice making, etc. 

How will you make morning meeting accessible in your classroom?


Monday, July 2, 2018

10 Unconventional Musts for the Special Education Classroom

Hey teachers! There are posts everywhere that share the "must-haves" for our classrooms, but I have a few "musts" that are more unconventional! Without these items, I simply could not survive day-to-day in my classroom. Shopping for your classroom is often the unfortunate reality for teachers. While these items have been hugely helpful in my classrooms over the years, never feel pressured that you MUST have these items to provide the best instruction to your students - all you need for that is YOU!

Essential Oils & Diffuser

Essential oils are said to promote productivity, boosted immune systems, relaxation, focus, and more. Why not try it out in the classroom? My students LOVE our diffuser, and I truly believe the benefits as I've watched oils transform my classroom before my very eyes!

Magic Eraser

Ever been looking at your small group table only to see some unidentified sticky substance? Ew. (And I know we've all been there.) Or how about spending HOURS laminating task cards, only to have it virtually impossible to get them clean from dry erase markers? Insert Magic Erasers! They literally are MAGIC. They take off everything from grime to PERMANENT marker!

Typing Stand

These are THE BEST solution for center instructions - or their true purpose - a typing stand! I use these every day to display instructions or guidelines that students need at small group tables. They are also great for rotations - displaying the "name" of the center (think: "Go to to the Math Center!" and having that displayed on the typing stand).

Industrial 3 Hole Punch

There's nothing worse than spending weeks writing a detailed IEP and BIP to print it out and spend 30 minutes hole punching it to add to a student binder. What about having copies of prompting guides or curriculum that you NEED condensed into a binder? These industrial 3 hole punches can take up to 40 sheets of paper - literally a time saver.

Non-Stick Scissors

These scissors are a little more mainstream for a "must have" list - but they really are just THAT revolutionary! These scissors will cut through anything, like stickers or sticky-back Velcro without getting that horrible gummy coating. Long are your days of reluctantly asking your para to use Goo Gone on your "Velcro scissors" - thank God!

Skin Tone Crayons

Between coloring goals and endless classroom crafts, we are always going through crayons like crazy! When coloring, we are often asking children to color pictures of people or create self-portraits, but what happens if you don't have the correct color to match every students unique skin color? Multicultural crayons are a great way to start the year off having every color available so every child feels included and ready to participate safely and comfortably.

Cordless Hot Glue Gun

Say it with me: cinderblock. Our worst nightmare! While I believe walls in the classroom should be fairly clear of distraction, there are some items that really must be hung, especially in the younger grades. Cinderblock walls tend to hate any kind of tape, and I have been in a fight with cinderblock since my first year of teaching while trying to hang up an alphabet line. Glue guns are the best - hot glue really does help items stick to evil cinderblock. Having a cordless hot glue gun is even a better perl - you're not limited to a short cord!

Plastic Tool Chest

Worried about losing picture icons? Need a place to store edible reinforcers? Trying to organize all of your themed mini-erasers? Want all of your desk/office supplies in their own spot? These plastic tool chests are amazing for organizing everything you need! On TeachersPayTeachers you can find labels that are perfect for sticking on each drawer for the common versions of these tool chests! Here and here are two of my favorites.

Painters Tape

This is one of the most used item in my classroom - who would have thought? Painters tape won't pull paint off of your classroom walls (every custodians worst nightmare), and it's great for adding lines to the floor for boundary boxes or visuals for lining up. It doesn't leave as much residue as using duct tape, and it's blue which makes it pretty easy for visually seeing it!

Wireless Doorbell

These were all the rage last school year, and once I tried it out, I understood why! This is such a simple way to notify your class of transition times like clean up, center rotations, line up, etc. Just clip the button portion to your pocket or lanyard, and you can choose from TONS (I'm talking around 50!) of chimes to notify your students. Saves your voice and makes attention-getting super simple!

What are your must-haves for the classroom that may not always get the limelight?


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