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This time of year is so hectic and jammed full of activities both personal and work.

At school, you are wrapping up the current year, assessing your students, analyzing all the assessment data and having end of the year IEPs and packing up your room. It's absolutely chaotic and you are downright exhausted at this time of year. Right? Well take a moment...right now and just breathe! You DESERVE it!




Even with any of those factors and ending up the school year, one of the most important things to do is to think ahead!

Here are some ways you can THINK AHEAD, ACT NOW and save yourself lots of time later.

Here are some ideas for for getting organized and jump starting your new year.

1. Get organized for the beginning of next year as much as possible. 

Before you walk away for the summer. This will save you so much time when the new year rolls around. 

2. Supply and materials storage. 

When you are packing away all your materials from this year, be sure and weed them out. One of the best things I started doing as I was cleaning up at the end of the year, was to start a FREEBIE box. As I was cleaning out, I would toss items into this bin if I knew I wouldn't be using it or if they were materials for an age of students I was no longer teaching. Then I put this bin outside my door with a Big FREEBIES on it. You should see my colleagues flock to it. I even send out email to fellow teachers letting them know where the FREEBIES box would. This all helped to make room for new materials for the coming year and gave some of the materials to other teachers that needed it.

3. Next year's materials go in front. 

Get all your name tags, get acquainted materials, classroom rules, and first week ideas organized and set up in one place. Put these materials at the front on the shelves or in the drawers. This way you can pull them out easily when you return. 

4. Returning students' materials easy access

If you teach special education, you know you are going to have some of your students returning to you the following year. Be sure to keep their portfolios, assessment information and work samples handy and easy to grab first thing in the year.

5. Organize your student files by color. 

In a special education classroom, you are always working with a multitude of grades and even more ability levels. I love organizing by color because its visually pleasing and an easy to use way to tell one set apart from another. Organize each grade level as a different color notebook. Use actual grade level or functioning level, which ever works best for you. I'm a firm believer in using 3 ring binders with the slip in sleeves on the front and back. This way I can color code any way I want and they are easy to change out. You can also use file folders or pocket folders. 

6. Before you leave 

Update each students information. Make sure they have a current IEP in the notebook, current assessment information and where you left off in instruction. Its amazing what might slip your mind over the summer. Keeping information about where instruction stopped makes a nice smooth transition when starting up the next year.

7. Determine First Day Activities

Determine some get-acquainted / Day 1 and Day 2 activities you would like to do with your class the first day/week of the new year. Prepare the number of activities and materials you need plus a few more in case you get new students. Gather all the materials you need. I like to put all those materials together in a plastic tub and store them at the front of all the supplies so they are the first things I get out when I return. 

8. Ready Theme Materials

I also found a good idea was to decide what theme I wanted to use in the classroom and put all the name tags and things in the tub . As you put things away in storage, put on the labels you want to be using next year. 

9. Take Pictures

If you aren't sure what theme or decor you want to use for next year, be sure and take pictures of your room before you leave. This will help you in planning over the summer and help your purchasing of item be more productive. 

10. MOST IMPORTANT 

Leaving your room in tip-top organization will make the beginning of next year so much easier.
Take a few minutes now and it will pay off later.


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It's that time of year again! Time to assess the kids and see what progress has been made since the last progress monitoring.

Well- isn't it ALWAYS that time of year in the world of SPED?

Assessments are crucial to knowing where students are functioning, their strengths/weaknesses and the areas in which they have progressed since the last assessment.
Doing assessments in the beginning of the year was always easy for me; I wanted to get an idea of where to start each student.  I found keeping up with the assessment during the year a harder task for me when I was trying to intertwine assessment administration with ongoing instruction.

HOW FREQUENTLY DO YOU TEST?
I found it best to assess frequently throughout the year. I usually assessed several types of assessments each grading period. This gave me a good basis for progress report parent conferences and reassessment of instructional skills for each grading period.
The assessments were short easy to administer tests. This made it easy to have my paraprofessionals run the the normal schedule helped as much of a regular schedule as possible since disruptions and deviations from the norm were often difficult to handle for some students.
I assessed one student at a time while the remainder of the class worked as normal a schedule as possible.

WHAT TO ASSESS? 
I usually gave a basic sight word assessment depending on what was being worked on. Sometimes it was a Dolch sight word test or  Fry words and phrases test. Other times it was a recognition test based on sight words from our county lists. Even when teaching SPED self contained classes, I tried to stay as close to what general education is doing as possible.
Keep in mind your student's abilities, however and as always make sure your your assessments match what you are teaching.
In Math I usually used basic skills test as benchmark assessments or post tests from the math curriculum. Key Math, an individual assessment tool, was a common test I used, but often I also used a self made math skills test.
Make sure the assessment fits the student, adheres to your school system's directives and that you use the same assessment  to accurately track beginning and ending data.


TRACKING
Keeping track of the data you get from your assessments is imperative. I use an easy Excel spreadsheet to track my results from the beginning of the school year to the end. Excel makes it easy to create graphs and charts to show strength and weaknesses to parents and colleagues



ORGANIZING THE DATA
Keeping track of the data you get from the assessments can be an overwhelming task. I found if I got it organized from the first of the year, it helped me greatly.
I like to use binders, one for each child. In the binders, I kept a copy of the IEP, personal information about the child,  charts and graphs of assessment results and work samples. This system helped to have everything in one place when meetings such IEPs or parent conferences came up suddenly.


Spring is the perfect time to get those assessments organized if you haven't done so already. It's nearing the end of the year and those  year end meetings are close by.
Already have yours organized?

How do you keep your assessments organized? Share your organization ideas in the comments below.











One of the most fun things I like to do in my classroom throughout the year is journals. Journals are a great way to include writing into an every day activity.Journals are also a great way to to work on written expression with kids that don't like to write because they are short easy to complete assignments and they can be modified to let the students write about topics they choose.I used several types of  journals in my classroom, depending on the level of the student. My main goals  in journal writing were:1) Get the students expressing themselves. It didn't matter if they weren't writers yet because of of the journal types I used was actually drawing. I wanted them to know that I valued what they would tell me of "write" about.2) Adhere to the basic framework of the writing process. A. PlanB. WriteC. Edit3) Let them know that what they are expressing is valued.Here are a few examples of ways I worked with journals on several different levels. This type of blank journaling page can be used for kids that have not reached the writing stage yet. 
I usually let them draw a picture in the rectangle at the top, an individual conference with them and have them tell me about the picture. The sentence they tell me about the picture is then written on the line beneath it. I like to use the handwriting lines in order to give them an example of exactly how it should be written.
For students that have progressed into the writing stages. They can use this sheet and write a sentence or words about their picture. 

I also have seen much success in fostering writing when giving students picture prompts to jump start the writing process. On the journal pages below, the picture can stimulate a multitude of reactions from kids. We spend some time talking about the picture to get the juices flowing for ideas about what to say or write. On the left hand page, the sentence is already provided for the student. This is used for the student to trace the sentence after the discussion.
The page on the right hand side can be used for sentences to be written for the child or you can model their sentence given to you verbally and let the students trace it. 


One of the key ideas in using journals with pictures already provided was to spark the students' interests and get them talking and thinking about what is in the picture. I also ask them questions about if they have done the activity in the picture such as in the bubbles picture below.

 High interest pictures are the key. Candy is a great idea for picture cues. Almost all kids LOVE candy! Then enjoy talking about what candy they like, a time they got candy, what their favorite candy is or even a story about a time they got the best Halloween candy. The possibilities are endless.
 Once they have given me the ideas verbally then those ideas can be transferred onto the paper.  As the student perfects their thinking process and has the writing process modeled for them then I begin to has them to think about what they have said or written. Would they change anything to make it better. We have a little mini-writing conference to pull out more detail about what they have expressed.
In our mini writing conference, I always want to make sure the student feels valued for what they have expressed. When they believe they can write, have a purpose for writing and can feel safe, there is no end to what they can achieve.


Ever try to rev up up excitement for math just to have some groans come back at you? I was that kid when I was in school. Just didn't get math! Don't know why - just didn't; especially in elementary.
I used that dislike for math ever day when teaching. What can I do to get my kids psyched about math? How can I reinforce the skills they need without the attitudes?  Well, here are a few ideas you may want to try !
My kids LOVE games! If I can engage them in a game - I swear they don't even think they are learning!
For those kids needing practice in multiplication
ZOOMTUBA
Zoomtuba has 2 great math games  for division and multiplication you may want to check out.
ASTEROID DEFENSE Multiplication  lets kids answer multiplication questions and shoot down asteroids.

ASTEROID DEFENSE
DIVIDE and CONQUER Monsters! lets kids answer division problems then prevent the monsters from filling the house.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER!


COOLMATH
Cool Math has many games at all different levels. There are way too many to list or even share. This one is for basic addition. Move the laser shooter left and right and press the space bar to shoot at the ship with the equation that matches the number on the laser.

ALIEN ADDITION

ADAPTEDMIND
This site has a multitude of grade levels and almost unlimited skill levels. You pick where you want to work and the site uses the students answers to adjust the level of the skill as they progress.


ADAPTED MIND

There are so many great sites and games out there to get our kids practicing their math skills. There's no limit to what we can do. Let's share our resources!
What do you use to get your kiddos practicing math?
Leave a comment below and I'll include it in a post update.

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