Sunday, February 11, 2018

8 Essentials for Special Education Teachers

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As a special education teacher my days are full of teaching, writing IEP's, collecting data, working on lesson plans, helping classroom teachers find new ways to implement accommodations for students, and pulling off the occasional prank on coworkers. 
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I work with students from preschool-2nd/3rd grade.  That means I'm simultaneously planning lessons on two digit subtraction with regrouping ("More on top? No need to stop. More on the floor? Go next door!") and some lessons on basic number identification ("Around the tree, around the tree, that's the way we make a 3!").


There are 8 must-have items that get me through each day.   

1. Astrobrights paper and cardstock
teacher must haves

I'm lucky that my school does not have 'copy codes'.  However, we don't have the school budget to supply reams of fun colored paper.  I buy my own astrobrights paper. Or ask for it as gifts.  
Every week I send home a newsletter for each student. Every month I send home a monthly update plus a game for the child to keep.  For each case conference, I have an article or info sheet for the parents along with a game or sight word list/etc that they can have at home.

I use a lot of paper.  Bright colors mean that the parents are more likely to see it.  If it is a game or worksheet the students are more likely to be engaged. Anything to spark interest!

2. Assorted Sand Timers
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I love this pack!  Each timer is a different amount of time. I've loaned some out to teachers to use in the classroom with students.  For a student who has executive functioning/ADHD challenges, they sometimes have task initiation and task completion issues.  Use the appropriate timer and have it on their desk.  "Joe, the expectation is to have your name on your paper.  When this timer runs out you should already have your name on the paper."  Flip the timer, walk away.  Or: "Sally, #7 should only take 2 or 3 minutes to complete.  I'm going go turn over this 5 minute timer.  I expect you to have #7 done by the time this runs out."


The sand timers are nice because they:

  • give a visual
  • don't beep and disrupt others
  • are way cheaper than the mini visual timers that sometimes get mysteriously broken and then you're out the thirty bucks. :-/



3. Post-it Notes
classroom supplies, teacher must haves

So here is where I'm going to sound like a snob.  I practically live inside the Dollar Tree.  But. Their sticky notes have been a major let down. They fall off.  The "sticky" leaves a lot to be desired.  In my trial and error, the best have been either Quill brand or Post-it brand.  They stick where I need them to stick.

For Christmas I got a huge stack of bright Post-it notes.  

Bright sticky notes make it more fun to jot a note to myself, a fellow teacher, a note to a student, a sticky note home to parents.  
Plus, the students use sticky notes too.  Like on my recent fractions interactive anchor chart. (Another post about that coming soon). 

4. Plastic Shoeboxes 
classroom storage, inexpensive teacher storage

These are my go-to for classroom storage and organization. I bought a couple 6-packs from Target.  At about a dollar each they are an inexpensive way to sort and organize! My scissors, extra glue sticks, prize box, cool down kit, crayons, and more all live in a labeled box.  They are inexpensive AND durable.  Two qualities highly prized in a special education classroom!

5. Velcro
velcro in the classroom, teacher supplies

My school does not provide velcro so I buy my own.  I prefer the sticky back dots variety.  These go on token systems and visual schedules, file folder games, stuck under a desk for a discreet sensory/fidget option, on the desk to hold a visual reminder, and more.


6. Sterilite Drawers
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Holy smokes.  I learned about these last year and spent hours over the summer making the labels and glue dotting them into the drawers.  Now everything is so tidy and organized!  It makes me happy to open a cabinet and see these staring back at me.  Store your colored cardstock, velcro, math manipulatives, money, mini erasers, and more!

*I thought I had photos of my storage drawers. I don't. :(  Here is the TeachersPayTeachers seller I bought the labels from, along with her photo of what the drawers look like once you label them.*

You can buy these drawers on Amazon however, I have had more luck finding them at Walmart.  Target, sadly, has not been carrying the ones I want.  Walmart has the small one for under $5.  That's the size I use for dice, Hot Wheels, mini markers, etc.  The large Sterilite drawers (pictured above) are around $12 and hold my Astrobrights cardstock, folders, sheet protectors, file and so on.


7. Kid Socks
dry erase erasers, socks

This is one that all the teachers will immediately know what I use these for and non-teachers will wonder what in the world I'm doing buying up bags of child sized socks.
Dry-erase erasers.  You need socks. They will erase tons of times and are cheaper than the special erasers you buy at the teacher supply store.
You could do the Pinterest trick of hot gluing a pompom to the end of a dry erase marker but I can tell you right now that will not fly in special ed.  My sweet children tend to pick at things.  Those pompoms wouldn't last 48 hours.  

But socks?  I started the year with socks and here we are in February and everyone still has their sock to erase with.


Parents: If you need a teacher gift idea: buy a bag of socks for your child's teacher.  They already have a mug. They need socks. ;)


8. Scented Markers
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Student hates writing?  Give that kid a Mr. Sketch marker!  Do we always have to practice writing numbers in pencil? No way!  Do we always have to try writing sight words with pencil? Nope!  Get out the smelly markers and go to town!  

Teachers can use them to check off papers or draw a smiley on the child's completed work.  It's simple but they love smelling their paper to see what scent you used.


Students get to use them during word work time, while solving a complicated math problem, and during intervention time to increase the excitement about writing numbers.



Mr. Sketch markers can even be an incentive.  In the world of special education we have a million and one incentive charts, first/then boards, and so on.  Work in the chance for a child to get to draw or do work with the markers as a special reward.  


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Phew!  Is this the longest blog post I've ever written??  Probably.  I hope it helped you out with some ideas for things to add to your classroom or new ways to think of things you already had.  Happy Teaching!


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