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September 26, 2017

A Special Education Classroom You Need to See

By Shari Carter
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    I’m not a special education teacher, but just like every general education teacher, I know firsthand the value of having an exceptional special needs program in a school. Our PBI (Positive Behavior Intervention) and ERR (Extended Resource Room) teachers have created some of the very best classrooms in our school. It is a privilege to partner with these two amazing ladies, and I am always awestruck by the incredible things going on in their classrooms. I am so excited to share some tips, tricks, and activities these two teachers use to bring out the very best in their special needs students.

    Classroom Setting

    Exceptional children can often be in a special education classroom for up to five years, so it’s critical that their classroom feels like home. Students work best in a warm and welcoming environment — an environment that will make them feel safe and secure. Our special needs classrooms provide just that.

    There are small and large group spaces where children are learning and working with some of the most dedicated staff members I have ever seen. When you walk in, you can quickly see that there are many different learning tasks taking place at the same time, and even though they are each doing different things, they are working together just like a beautiful symphony.

    The PBI and ERR staff members are devoted, caring, and fiercely loyal to their students. The leadership provided by our special education teachers has made these team members feel appreciated. As a result, most of our special education staff members have been a part of this community for many, many years. The team building efforts of these fabulous teachers have created an extremely tight-knit group. It’s obvious for all to see that these women love what they do and their care and professionalism comes shining through every day!

    Flexible Seating

    Flexible seating is a wonderful thing — especially in the special ed classroom. It allows students to move around the classroom to do their work and communicate in a comfortable setting. Flexible seating options are abundant in these classrooms. They have both high seating and low seating for engagement and reward. If you look around, you will also find seating options such as yoga balls, floor pillows, stools, and beanbags. Mrs. Lewis even has a standing desk — she loves it and it is amazing!  

    Cooking Lessons

    One of the best parts of the special education classroom is that they get to cook! Cooking is such an important life skill for these students to have. They cook every Friday — in fact, they call it Fun Friday! I have had the privilege of watching a cooking lesson firsthand, and let me tell you I.Was.Blown.Away! The kids were totally engaged and there was so much learning going on!

    Initially cooking lessons are taught from a curriculum book with writing, reading, and comprehension pieces. Math is embedded throughout the cooking lesson with measuring tools and different math concepts taught. The curriculum is differentiated with pictures and/or text. Throughout the year individualized lessons plans are designed from regular cookbooks to generalize the skill.

    Lessons and cooking recipes are also created from the produce harvested from our very own school garden. The students really enjoy making spaghetti squash and salsa, but their favorite is cooked green beans. The children start the seeds in their classroom, transfer and plant them in the garden, and harvest and cook the veggies. The kids learn and discover so much about the life cycle of plants through this seed-to-table progression.

    School Store

    Many of the Common Core State Standard objectives are taught through a school store. The students learn to save money, make purchases, and even balance a checkbook. Additionally, many math concepts using the Base 10 numbering system are taught.

    During school store, students rote count by 1s, 5s, and 10s as they purchase goods, but beyond the math, are the countless social skills learned through this highly engaging activity. Waiting, taking turns, and celebrating one another are just a few of the social skills these children practice and learn during school store.

     

    Classroom Wallets

    Classroom wallets are a behavior monitoring tool. The money students use to make purchases at the school store is earned throughout the week. To earn money, the students must remain engaged in the activities and demonstrate appropriate behavior to earn a star on the back of the wallet. For every five stars, the children earn one dollar. Dollars are converted to fives and tens. Currency exchange is reinforced through this activity. The kids LOVE school store — it is another part of the Fun Friday!

    Students design their own wallets, which makes it easier to find them, and their names are printed on the front. The checkbooks log how much money is earned throughout the week, and they use the register to keep track of the items they purchase at school store and their ending balances. A local bank donated the checkbooks and registers to our special education classrooms.

    Lockers

    Teaching size capacity is an important skill in the special needs classroom and the lockers are a great way to help students understand this concept. Students begin with key locks to build independence, and move on to combination locks to prepare for middle school. Knowing how to open a locker enables these students to be with their general education peers. Locker privileges are only given to the fifth graders who get to personalize them. Personalization creates more student buy in. These lockers came out of a local high school and were donated to our special needs classroom. Mrs. Lewis sanded them down and repainted them in a bright and cheery yellow.

    Magnetic Marble Run

    One of the things these kids like best is the marble run! The marble run is magnetic and can be used on almost any metal surface. In our special needs room, the run is on the side of a filing cabinet. It is a sensory play item where the students learn about cause and effect, but it also provides students an area to decompress. STEM science skills are embedded in the activity and the marble run also helps children to make predictions.  

    Closing Thoughts From a Very SPECIAL Special Education Teacher

    Sometimes we choose our path and sometimes the path chooses us. Elizabeth Byrnes Egesdahl states it quite simply, “I teach because it’s what I’m meant to do.”  I changed careers after 20 years in a business setting and nothing fit me quite like teaching — it is my passion. There is excitement, joy, and suspense in the journey of being both a teacher and a parent of a special needs child. I have three beautiful girls, with my oldest having a significant cognitive disability. My road to teaching is a personal one. I entrust the safety and education of one of my most precious gifts to those who love teaching special learners as much as I do. When others ask about my favorite part of the day, I say all of it! I love the sincere and meaningful relationships that I build with my students’ families, my amazing special education team, and those special students — it is magic every day in my classroom.

    My students further benefit from a unique and special blended model at our school. Our special education teams can successfully work together towards common goals for all students with the benefit of an Individual Education Plan (IEP). The blended model is a pilot program designed by our elementary school to support students with behavioral needs, resource room students, and extended resource room students. 

    My child and my students have taught me so much more than any university I have attended. I arrive every day to a job I love and look forward to.

    Thank you for following my blogging journey, and here’s to discovering and making magic in your own classroom!

    xo-Shari

     

    I’m not a special education teacher, but just like every general education teacher, I know firsthand the value of having an exceptional special needs program in a school. Our PBI (Positive Behavior Intervention) and ERR (Extended Resource Room) teachers have created some of the very best classrooms in our school. It is a privilege to partner with these two amazing ladies, and I am always awestruck by the incredible things going on in their classrooms. I am so excited to share some tips, tricks, and activities these two teachers use to bring out the very best in their special needs students.

    Classroom Setting

    Exceptional children can often be in a special education classroom for up to five years, so it’s critical that their classroom feels like home. Students work best in a warm and welcoming environment — an environment that will make them feel safe and secure. Our special needs classrooms provide just that.

    There are small and large group spaces where children are learning and working with some of the most dedicated staff members I have ever seen. When you walk in, you can quickly see that there are many different learning tasks taking place at the same time, and even though they are each doing different things, they are working together just like a beautiful symphony.

    The PBI and ERR staff members are devoted, caring, and fiercely loyal to their students. The leadership provided by our special education teachers has made these team members feel appreciated. As a result, most of our special education staff members have been a part of this community for many, many years. The team building efforts of these fabulous teachers have created an extremely tight-knit group. It’s obvious for all to see that these women love what they do and their care and professionalism comes shining through every day!

    Flexible Seating

    Flexible seating is a wonderful thing — especially in the special ed classroom. It allows students to move around the classroom to do their work and communicate in a comfortable setting. Flexible seating options are abundant in these classrooms. They have both high seating and low seating for engagement and reward. If you look around, you will also find seating options such as yoga balls, floor pillows, stools, and beanbags. Mrs. Lewis even has a standing desk — she loves it and it is amazing!  

    Cooking Lessons

    One of the best parts of the special education classroom is that they get to cook! Cooking is such an important life skill for these students to have. They cook every Friday — in fact, they call it Fun Friday! I have had the privilege of watching a cooking lesson firsthand, and let me tell you I.Was.Blown.Away! The kids were totally engaged and there was so much learning going on!

    Initially cooking lessons are taught from a curriculum book with writing, reading, and comprehension pieces. Math is embedded throughout the cooking lesson with measuring tools and different math concepts taught. The curriculum is differentiated with pictures and/or text. Throughout the year individualized lessons plans are designed from regular cookbooks to generalize the skill.

    Lessons and cooking recipes are also created from the produce harvested from our very own school garden. The students really enjoy making spaghetti squash and salsa, but their favorite is cooked green beans. The children start the seeds in their classroom, transfer and plant them in the garden, and harvest and cook the veggies. The kids learn and discover so much about the life cycle of plants through this seed-to-table progression.

    School Store

    Many of the Common Core State Standard objectives are taught through a school store. The students learn to save money, make purchases, and even balance a checkbook. Additionally, many math concepts using the Base 10 numbering system are taught.

    During school store, students rote count by 1s, 5s, and 10s as they purchase goods, but beyond the math, are the countless social skills learned through this highly engaging activity. Waiting, taking turns, and celebrating one another are just a few of the social skills these children practice and learn during school store.

     

    Classroom Wallets

    Classroom wallets are a behavior monitoring tool. The money students use to make purchases at the school store is earned throughout the week. To earn money, the students must remain engaged in the activities and demonstrate appropriate behavior to earn a star on the back of the wallet. For every five stars, the children earn one dollar. Dollars are converted to fives and tens. Currency exchange is reinforced through this activity. The kids LOVE school store — it is another part of the Fun Friday!

    Students design their own wallets, which makes it easier to find them, and their names are printed on the front. The checkbooks log how much money is earned throughout the week, and they use the register to keep track of the items they purchase at school store and their ending balances. A local bank donated the checkbooks and registers to our special education classrooms.

    Lockers

    Teaching size capacity is an important skill in the special needs classroom and the lockers are a great way to help students understand this concept. Students begin with key locks to build independence, and move on to combination locks to prepare for middle school. Knowing how to open a locker enables these students to be with their general education peers. Locker privileges are only given to the fifth graders who get to personalize them. Personalization creates more student buy in. These lockers came out of a local high school and were donated to our special needs classroom. Mrs. Lewis sanded them down and repainted them in a bright and cheery yellow.

    Magnetic Marble Run

    One of the things these kids like best is the marble run! The marble run is magnetic and can be used on almost any metal surface. In our special needs room, the run is on the side of a filing cabinet. It is a sensory play item where the students learn about cause and effect, but it also provides students an area to decompress. STEM science skills are embedded in the activity and the marble run also helps children to make predictions.  

    Closing Thoughts From a Very SPECIAL Special Education Teacher

    Sometimes we choose our path and sometimes the path chooses us. Elizabeth Byrnes Egesdahl states it quite simply, “I teach because it’s what I’m meant to do.”  I changed careers after 20 years in a business setting and nothing fit me quite like teaching — it is my passion. There is excitement, joy, and suspense in the journey of being both a teacher and a parent of a special needs child. I have three beautiful girls, with my oldest having a significant cognitive disability. My road to teaching is a personal one. I entrust the safety and education of one of my most precious gifts to those who love teaching special learners as much as I do. When others ask about my favorite part of the day, I say all of it! I love the sincere and meaningful relationships that I build with my students’ families, my amazing special education team, and those special students — it is magic every day in my classroom.

    My students further benefit from a unique and special blended model at our school. Our special education teams can successfully work together towards common goals for all students with the benefit of an Individual Education Plan (IEP). The blended model is a pilot program designed by our elementary school to support students with behavioral needs, resource room students, and extended resource room students. 

    My child and my students have taught me so much more than any university I have attended. I arrive every day to a job I love and look forward to.

    Thank you for following my blogging journey, and here’s to discovering and making magic in your own classroom!

    xo-Shari

     

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