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Alphabet of Thankfulness – C is for Custodian

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A Special Thank You to our Custodians

Custodian Appreciation Day was October 2nd, but we didn’t know about it until the middle of the month. So, the Special Education Department joined together to create a way to recognize the custodial staff at NRES. Without them we could not effectively do our jobs; they are the core of our campus. They keep our building running, keep our floors shining, and make sure every detail is taken care of in the appearance  and maintenance of our campus. They don’t get enough recognition and typically work behind the scenes before and after school when others are not around to witness their hard work. When we walk into our building each day we just expect things to be in their place and don’t consider how that occurred. I am thankful for our custodial staff and helped my department to show our appreciation in the bulletin board depicted in the attached pictures. I hope you also take the time to thank them for everything they do or at a minimum, learn their names and treat them with the respect that they deserve.

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We love our Custodians at NRES!

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Alphabet of Thankfulness – A is for Alphabet

alphabet-video-01I am going to write 26 days of thankfulness based on the letters of the alphabet. So, obviously letter A goes first. Follow me the rest of the month as this unfolds! Here we go.

As a teacher, I am thankful for the alphabet. It is one of the first things my students learn and takes some of them from non-verbal to asking questions and getting answers in the span of one school year. I have one student who started the school year with very little verbal capacity, even though he had been in school since he was 3 years old. From August until December this student spoke in his own language, refused to sit in a chair or write, bit me and other students who kept him from getting his way, and seemed to be headed down a very long road of problematic school years. We did everything we could to get him to learn his alphabet in hopes that this would open him up to a world of language he had not known before. Using a video system for our morning circle time, we introduced him to letters, sounds, colors, numbers, and songs. Finally, after almost 18 weeks of school this student began to sing along. He could watch the video without sound and name the letters from the sight of them. He could sing every word! Eventually, he was saying Mommy and Daddy to the excitement of his parents. As his language began to develop, his biting and hitting were reduced. After one full school year he is now sitting in a chair and doing work for 30-45 minutes at a time. He is writing his alphabet and his name from memory. He is saying things in class like. “What happened to Optimus, Mrs. Hardisty?” and “Help! She can’t climb up there”. It just thrills my heart o hear his little voice, which did not exist a year ago. I give the credit to a bit of maturity and a lot of time spent working on memorizing an alphabet song on Vimeo or YouTube!

Students Say the Funniest Things

Today as I sat with my back to a student I heard him call my name. Without turning around I asked him what he needed. He said, “I need Mrs. Hardisty.”  I said, I am Mrs. Hardisty. ” His response is priceless when you realize I have lost 52 pounds since March. He said, “No. Mrs. Hardisty is bigger!” I turned around to look at him, to which he responded “Oh.” As if to realize it was me afterall. I then smiled and whispered, “I used to be bigger.” Lol. #out of the mouth’s of babes

Teacher Area # 1

Notice I didn’t say, “teacher desk“. That’s because I don’t have one. I started the 12-13 school year with a desk, in fact I finished over half of that school year with a desk, but in the Spring a new student moved into our room who liked to hide under our desks when avoiding work. Actually, this student hid under anything low enough to the ground to effectively conseal him. For some students this is a sensory issue. For example, the light in the room may be too bright for them so they want to put their face or their whole body under something. For others it may just be an avoidance mechanism. Either way, by removing the desk(s) and other items of interest from our room, I was able to assist this student with his ability to make more appropriate choices. What teacher spends much time sitting at a desk anyway? Certainly not one in a self-contained special education classroom.

My little corner of the room

I used to think of my desk as the place where I worked, but I actually work all over the room, not at a specific desk. Getting rid of my desk showed this to me very clearly. Other than the initial discomfort of finding all the things that were originally in my desk drawers that were moved to the filing cabinet, I have not missed having a desk. Honestly, I kind of enjoy not having one. It just took up space that I could better use for student needs. I have played around with different tables; straight, round, and horseshoe. When I moved to this new room, jackpot! There were two horseshoe tables which enabled me to place one in an area that is set up for language arts and one in the math-science area. Both are key spaces for working with multiple students and both areas need this kind of functional table.

There are several key items in the above photo which I would like to point out:

      • Filing cabinets – there are actually two of them back to back which serve a few purposes; separating my area from students at the computer tables, providing an additional place to post items I need to have at an arms reach.
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My filing cabinet wall. I saw it on Pinterest!

  • Narrow computer table – I love this table. It just happened to be in my room when I moved to this campus last year and I brought it with me to my new room this year. It is just the right size to hold my computer, phone, binder, etc. and yet narrow enough that a student would not benefit much from crawling under it. Perfect!
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My computer desk

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Lesson Planning Binder

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Substitute Binder

  • Personal effects on the wall and not on tables and shelves – It helps to feel at home in my classroom, especially on days or weeks when I feel like I live there! I recommend putting things up high so that students do not accidentally break or misplace them. Some students would be very sad to have hurt you in that manner, and you too would be sad if you lost something of importance.
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My bulletin board filled with mementos and certificates.

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Self Crafted sign for the wall – Decorated acrylic letters

It’s important to have your own teacher area, but it’s not important that it looks the way you remember a teachers area from your own childhood. Do what’s best for your students and make it your own!

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Morning Meeting/ Circle

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Calendar & Weather center

There are so many great skills to practice each day in a calendar and weather activity. We call it our morning meeting, but at this point we are not all meeting together in one spot. We have found that it helps to separate our students into centers allowing each to work to their strengths and learning styles. The following activity has been put into a folder or bound as a book for each student. It used to supplement and create repetition as well as offer support for other skills including data collection, graphing, writing name, writing numbers, and support many other important skills!

For some of my students, the day begins with an interactive calendar or weather app on a classroom iPad. For one, it begins with physically updating the wall calendar and weather data center. For others it begins with a self-directed slide show at a student desktop computer in my Technology Center. Click on the bolded links below for some of what goes into my students self-directed PowerPoint:

Rise & Shine & Welcome to School Today

They can do this in their seat or standing up and joining the motions. My students love to be welcomed to school where they feel important.

Macarena Months

Singing this every morning not only helps them to learn the names of the months, but teaches them in order so they can use that knowledge to decide which one comes before and which one comes after another.

Days of the Week Song

Again, a catchy memorable song to learn their days in a fashion that allows them to answer yesterday, today and tomorrow questions in the future.

Seasons

My students love this rap which not only covers the seasons, but what the weather feels like in each season as well as how to spell each one.

Color Farm

Learning colors with a song and a visual helps students to remember them more clearly. I have another color song that I used last year, but it only introduced 4 colors. For half the year, one of my students could easily identify those 4 colors, but did not know the others and had trouble learning them until we added this video.

Alphabet Song

I have a student who was non-verbal for the first 14 weeks of Kindergarten, until he started singing along with the alphabet song. By winter break he was talking to his parents by calling them Momma and Papa for the first time in his life. By the second week of first grade he was talking in full sentences saying things like, “thank you Mrs. Hardisty” and “No. You can’t do that in here.” It’s so inspiring to see them come alive and change their behavior for the better as they learn to speak and advocate for themselves.

Count to 100

I have students who could not count past 32 the week before we implemented this set of video’s, and two weeks later they are counting to 97! The visual and auditory delivery functions together to create a counting pattern that the students can easily remember.

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Counting school days per month using tally marks

Students tally each day and then count their tally marks at the end of each month with this worksheet.

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Marking the date on the calendar

Students write the month in their best handwriting and write down the number for each day of the month on this worksheet. Often my students have dysgraphia or other issues with writing so we tend to use markers with students who need more support with their writing skills.

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Great exercise for counting and writing numbers in sequence

Students see how the numbers increase as the month moves forward.

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Calendar Data Sheet laminated for reuse

The above page can be laminated or placed in a page protector so students us the same page every day and paper can be saved.

Graphing daily weather for each month

Graphing daily weather for each month

Any time we can add graphing to our daily routine I welcome it. Students need to be able to chart and find trends in various ways to support their learning in science and math especially.

I found this freebie at Mama’s Learning Corner. It’s also posted on my Pinterest Science Board.

My New Classroom

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STACC stands for Structured Teaching and Alternative Communication Classroom. It is a self-contained classroom for students typically on the Autism Spectrum who need additional structure and behavior strategies as well as communication alternatives such as picture schedules and adaptive technology.

My second year in STACC and at the elementary level, my 5th year in Special Ed, and my 8th year to teach. Fortunately, that all adds up to one of the best classroom’s I have had to date. We moved into a larger classroom on the Kindergarten hall. I had all summer to plan it out in my head, but due to complications from a summer surgery, I had little time to implement my ideas. Still, I love this classroom from decor to strategies. I cannot wait to share every bit of it with you right here. Let’s start with a pictorial overview and then as time allows, I will give you more detail into each part on additional posts. Many of the items you will see here are available on My Pinterest Page

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This is where I post class schedules, co-curricular schedules, therapy schedules, our team calendar, the lunch menu, and other important information we might need at a quick glance.

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Color coded picture Schedules on the wall and line positions posted on the floor.

My students use picture schedules as an added support to help them visualize the order of events in their day. Each student has a color all their own which is also evident in the line of cars on the floor which note where the students stand when we line up to leave the room. I will go into more detail on my schedules in a later post.

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Weather and calendar centers

Our Morning Meeting consists of weather, calendar, counting to 100 and reciting the letters and sounds of the alphabet. I have several ways of presenting these lessons to my students, this set of bulletin boards is just one of those ways. For more detailed information see my post at Morning Meeting-Circle Time

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Behavior Reward/Incentive Station

Reward or incentive charts are a BIG deal in a STACC classroom. They help to keep kids moving in the right direction and making more appropriate choices. These are racetrack inspired charts to which students earn a checkered flag for each time they complete a defined set of expectations or tasks. Typically they earn up to 5 per day; 25 per week will earn them a choice from the treasure box.

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Technology Corner

My technology corner is where students spend time on audio-visual learning opportunities at various points of the day. They may also earn time on more fun academic sites by making good choices over the course of the day. I can’t wait to share some of my favorites in a later post!

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My classroom rules are posted and always stated in the positive

Classroom rules stated in the positive help staff to use appropriate phrasing when redirecting students. They are also helpful for students who have higher reading skills and can be directed to read for themselves and remember classroom expectations.

I also have a word wall for high frequency reading words and one for high frequency math and science words. I tried to post those pics, but they are not wanting to stick. They will be included in a later post regarding how they are used in the classroom.

Finally, I cannot wait to show you my desk and teacher areas of the room. That will probably be my very next post since they are important components of the set up of the room. When teaching students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it is important to have the run set up in a way that accommodates student needs more than teacher needs.

I hope you have enjoyed taking a peek into my classroom and I cannot wait to share it all with you in more detail, including freebie’s on my TpT page and links to other great freebies I use regularly.

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