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Working with paraprofessionals is a gift! There is no way around that! I have had years where I have had NO paraprofessionals or teaching assistants as they are often called. No matter who the person is and what their skills and talents are, they are a gift in the special education classroom. It can be extremely difficult to manage a SPED classroom without these special people.
How well the special relationship between you and the paraprofessional evolves takes communication, teaching, feedback and compromise to make it work well. And just like any relationship, it requires constant attention and care.

So you are new to special education or perhaps you are getting new paraprofessionals because you have changed jobs.

 Where do you start?
One of the most important things in working with adults in the special education classroom is establishing a relationship. Here are a few ideas on how to make the most of YOUR paraprofessionals/teaching assistants in YOUR classroom.

One of the first places I decided to start  was to start was the same place I start for students.
 I knew I wanted to establish a good relationship with them and a safe and friendly environment for everyone to be in.  I wanted them to feel comfortable in the classroom. I wanted them to have a stake in how are kids performed.

Establish a relationship. Get to know the person.

Share your story with them. What makes YOU tick? What goals do you have for the classroom and the kids? Sometimes I did this in a casual way with just chatting with them in getting to know them other times I did this in a more formal way with a kind of get to know you form.

  1. Often I would set up times outside of school where we could meet, have coffee and chat. This usually worked best for me because I could focus on getting acquainted with this new person with whom I was going to work closely.
  2. Set aside time during the school day to get acquainted. Sometimes impromptu chats ended up being interrupted. I found it worked best if we set aside a time to chat. I liked to have the opportunity to share my classroom goals, a little about myself such as likes, dislikes, and expectations. 
  3.  Sometimes its just impossible to get a moment before you and your paraprofessional are working side by side in your classroom. In those circumstances, I occasionally used  a Get Acquainted form. While it sounds stuffy and formal, I found when I had to use it, it gave my parapro time to sit down at their convenience and reflect and give thoughtful answers. This usually gave me a lot of useful information  it gave me information about how they saw themselves, what they felt their strengths and weaknesses were.  I also share an expectations list of things that are expected in their job, not only by me but in our Special Education department and school. If you would like a copy of the form and the expectations I used, you can get yours HERE.

    Introducing students
    This is one of the most important things to do. I liked to have a student information sheet ready to share with the paraprofessional.
    Start with their strengths.  Everybody has strengths and weaknesses and paras are no different. When assigning tasks,  I selected an activity or task I knew would be an area of strength for them. Perhaps it would be something they shared with me they liked to do. The next thing I do is to look at where they think they are weak whether that is in things such as discipline, recording data,  in managing children with severe behavior issues, or changing diapers/pull ups. This might be something I observed or something they had shared with me was weakness.

    STRESS Confidentiality
    One of the first areas I always share with paras, to begin training is the importance of confidentiality. Who we share information with and who we do NOT. The other important area to get to immediately is how to take data. Utilize all your resources at hand whether that is webinars videos one the one teaching training or even on the job training use your resources to give the information you need them to have.

    Share Share Share
    Share your knowledge. Talk out loud. That may sound so funny to say, but how many teachers do so much  of their work mentally?
    Share your kids IEPs with the paras. Explain the goals and objectives. Share  the prompting levels, behavior plans, tokens systems because they are an integral part of your success and the success of your students.
    Another way to share information about your students with teaching assistants is with a STUDENT INFO form. I design a short information form that I complete on each student. It includes things such as a picture of the student, their likes & dislikes, Their medical needs and behavioral issue and reinforcers and techniques that work best for that specific student. I have a few examples of ones I have used in my store FREE. Check them out. Check back often for new additions.

    Assess, reteach, adjust and GIVE FEEDBACK!
    Give positive and constructive feedback to your teaching assistance. Set a time aside to give feedback and guidance to the paraprofessionals. Always be open to hear what they are saying. What is working for them?
    We all like to hear whats going well. Share the good things you see. Share and reteach what isn't going as well.

    ABOVE ALL
    Adjust, modify and BE FLEXIBLE!  Of course, we know FLEXIBILITY is key in Special Education!












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    Word Families




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    BACK TO SCHOOL SALE!


    The Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School Sale is here! 
    Wednesday Aug 1st and Thursday Aug. 2nd

    I am so excited to share with you,  all the new products that I have completed recently and NOW...they are on sale! Lots of reading and math activities, worksheets and interactive books. 

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    If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. 

    Mary Ann

    Sometimes I've had kiddos that just "hate" math. For students such as these the beginning of the school week becomes even harder  because they hate coming back to school and then to have to face their dreaded math assignments is more than they can handle. No matter the reason behind their dreaded subject, I was thrilled when I found something that ease their frustrations a bit.  
    Monday Math Marvels was one thing I came up to help with these issues.  I wanted it to be predictable so the kids would know what they would be doing in math that day in hopes of easing their fear of what they would need to do.
    Monday Math Marvels was a little activity package I put together comprised of activity based math games and activities that reinforced skills previously learned.
    Each Monday I selected 6 or 7 math activities. The activities I selected were spread across as many of the different standards domains as possible.
    MONSTERS
    I wanted to take the "fear" the students had about math and turn it into a time they were practicing the needed skills and perhaps wouldn't recognize they were doing their math assignments.  So I incorporated a Make-A-Monster worksheet. For each math activity they completed in Monday Math Marvels, they could add one design element to their Make-A Monster worksheet. For example, at completion of station 1, they could add eyes, for station 3 they got to glue on some hair. They were totally free to use the material of their choice, from the selection laid out for whatever part of the monster they were making. At the end of the math session, each student had a completed monster face!
    Here's How it went
    The scheduled math time was set up with 6 or 7 different stations for the students to rotate through. When the students completed each station, they got their work checked, then were able to go to the MONSTER STATION! At the Monster Station, each student had a monster face template. Each monster face element was assigned a number on the die. They then rolled the die to determine what part of the monster to add to their worksheet. Click on the picture below to pick up my 6 monster face templates FREE.


    ACTIVITIES
    The activities I chose were based on the skill needs of the students involved so what you might choose would be different from mine just as the activities I chose varied from year to year with what the students needs were.

    Here are some activities I included in my MMM and some  new ideas that I thought I would also share with you.
    1. COLORED SAND FACTS
    The student have assigned worksheets with about 10 math problems. They write the problems in the colored sand pan. I use the different colored to visually cue them that one component of the equation goes in a different color. This image is of an older set I used where the colors of the sand were all in one pan BUT, how long do think those colors stayed separated? ...Yes, you are right. So I switch to using
     2. Roll and Answer
    I used both standard dice with dots and dice such as the ones below.  The students used the dice to write out the problem using "fancy" shaped dice. They loved it! What I liked about dice such as these was the different shapes and they have dice with numbers over 6 on them.
    3. Here is a great idea that Pam from Mrs P's Specialties shared. HERE. And its FREE.
    These graphic organizers solving math computations would be an excellent addition to a Monday Math Marvels center. You can pick these up in her store at
    4. Roll and Add
    This cute math wheel is magnetic and can be used for a multitude of math facts from basic 1 -10 through multiplication and division. Given a set of math equations, the students rotate the wheels to complete the problems.


    5. Word Problem Wonders
    Solving written word problems can be really difficult to master for students. Finding the information in the story to construct the problem, deciding what operation to  use and then completing the equation can be overwhelming. I like to include Word Problems in each Monday Math Marvels to get lots of practice in. Here is one such activity I include. 

    The list is really endless as to what you could include in a center time like this but these are just a few. 
    I found the best thing was to have fun with putting it together. Adding the monster component was the best thing I did as the students really loved the creativity of building their  own monsters. 


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