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Your teacher planning days are almost over. You have your class list and the pile of IEPs sitting in front of you. You know what each student needs to work on and your room is all set up! Congratulations! Now what are you going to do on the very first day of school? 
In special education it's very common to have the same kids year after year with perhaps 1 or 2 new ones thrown in. How do you meld these groups together into 1 awesome classroom. 
With a class like this it will be very important to work on making the new kids feel welcome and part of the group while acknowledging the kids from the previous year(s) as experienced. 
What can you do ? 
Here's an idea I have used for many years, adapting it as the technology changed from drawing pictures to taking pictures to taking selfies.

On orientation day spend a few moments one on one time with each student and help them take a selfie with your camera phone. They LOVE being part of one of those special moments you put on your phone. You can use these to complete this Getting Acquainted First day activity.
Once the selfies have been taken,  print them out in a format that works best for you. Here is one that worked for me.
You can print one: 5 in. X 5 in.  at the top and multiple smaller ones on the bottom of the paper. 1 inch X 1 inch worked for me.
Print these on adhesive paper.
Cut the big picture off and  have the kids peel the paper from the backs and attach theirs in their big square at the top of the page.
Cut the little pictures apart and put each child's pictures in a separate container. I have used zip bags, envelopes and even plastic screw-top containers.
To play this Activity- each student should have:
1. Selfie activity page with their selfie affixed to the big square located at the top of the page.
2. One container of the small  selfies with their picture on them.

Here's how to play!

Object of the activity: Collect as many mini selfie pics of other students that have likenesses similiar to their own.

  1. Students use the picture clues in the mini selfie squares to approach another classmate and see if  they have the specific item in common with the classmate their approach. 
  2. If the specific items (i.e eyes, hair etc) match, then the classmates exchange mini selfie stamps and place them on their selfie papers on top of the item they have in common. Example: If Brad approaches a classmate because they have the same color pants on, they exchange mini-selfie stamps and fasten them to one of the pants squares on their papers.
  3. Student continue approaching different students and exchanging mini selfie stamps with those having matching items with them.
  4. First student to fill up (or have the most) the mini-selfie stamps correctly "wins". You can also eliminate the "winner" portion of this activity and use the time instead for a conversation about what makes each "friends" similar to them. 

With an activity such as this, you have provided an opportunity for new and old students to open new pathways of communication about their similarities and given them common factors to start great new friendships on.
This activity is available in my TPT store free for a limited time. You can find it here:

This is a repost from a blog post I did several years ago. 
There are so many things to look at when we consider reading materials for kids. Do you stay with the reading materials approved by the state or move onto something else.
This is a view how I felt after using PCI Reading Program after implementing in my classroom for several years. I LOVE it then and still love it!

PCI Reading - LOVE IT!!  What about you?
How many of you out there use this program?
I was a firm believer in Edmark Reading and the "miracles"
I had seen it do with students who once believed they couldn't
A few years ago I was introduced to PCI when our county
switched to using it for our students with intellectual disabilities on Alternate Assessment.
I was amazed at how it has helped my students.
It has the basic of what Edmark does and then adds to it.
I love the repetition of the presentation of the words it teaches as well as the
activity sheets it provides for practice.

I have found that some of my students need a little bit more word practice.
In order to provide this additional practice, I developed some worksheets
to give them practice in recognizing, reading and writing the words
learned. You can find those sets in my TPT store.  Worksheets Level 1 and  Worksheets Level 2. These worksheets also work well for students learning sight words and needing extra practice since the words taught in PCI are also basic sight words.

My students have really benefited from the worksheets so I decided to take it one step further and create some review pages and group the words together.  I just finished uploading this new set of worksheets to TPT . Please remember, these are NOT to be used without the complete PCI program. 
Check here for the new product on TPT

I LOVE this tidbit I came across recently while reading blogs here and there. I'm  always on the lookout for great ideas of materials to use to teach kids and I am never as excited as when I come across gems like this one at Thanks Primary Graffiti Resources. Click to visit her blog.

You can make teaching letters and numbers so much more engaging using these tips.

 Pasta ABC's. 
Just think of all the possibilities in the classroom. 
I always had students needing to work on letter recognition and I was always looking for different and new ways to work on this goal. Worksheets of course sometimes work but when you work on letter recognition year after year, you need something to JAZZ things up!

You can use so many things to teach letters and sounds but one thing this has going for it is how different it is. Kids will get a kick out of using these to practice letter sounds. Now that you have the letters...JAZZ it up and color the pasta. If you have kids like mine you will want to make certain you color it in such a way that they are safe in case they end up in someone's mouth. 

 Use a vinegar solution such as is used with coloring eggs and food color.
  1. Use containers with lids that can stay on during shaking. Perhaps the disposable type of container might work well. Place your dry pasta in the container. Pour 1 teaspoon of white vinegar and ample food coloring onto the pasta. You may also want to try icing coloring.                                                                
  2. Close the lid tightly and shake, shake, shake. Lay them out to dry and you are ready for your next color.
Here is one using water and food coloring.
  1. Cook the pasta.
  2. Combine 2 T of water and approximately 20 drops of your preferred food coloring in a zipper type bag.
  3. When the pasta is cooked al dante, transfer it to a colander and rinse with cold water. Seal the bag.
  4. Use your hands  on the outside of the bag to mix the pasta and thoroughly infuse the color into the pasta. Let each bag sit for a few minutes.
  5. Transfer the cooked, colored pasta back into the colander and rinse with cold water. Then put it into a pot or dish.
  6. Repeat steps 1 through 5 for each color of pasta.
You can let them dry or use them and eat them.

One thing I like about this pasta is the size of it. I have used cereal letters before but for kids that often have fine motor issues, cereal letters are quite small. Also, when kids get to work with pasta, they often think its fun so they aren't sure they are learning. Check out the picture above from

One of the things my kids absolutely ADORED was having their own belongings. They loved pencil containers they could call their own, adored their backpacks and they were really attached to their letter boxes. 
I purchased blank, white metal mini lunch boxes from Oriental Trading. The only ones they have currently, are a bit larger than the ones I purchased I decorated the boxes with stickers, their names and pictures of the them,  then put things such as magnet letters, peel and stick letters, sand paper letters and even tracing letters inside. Inside the boxes I selected the items that were appropriate for each student. They were able to keep the lunch bins in their desks or cubbies and they even transported back and forth to school easily. These boxes were used over and over again.  The decorations came off easily so I was able to reuse them several times that year before I sent them home with the kids for summer with summer work to keep their skills up.

Another great way to practice letters whether its individually or if you are just working one to one with a student, use some tracing letters. Below you will see numbers that have a groove routed out in the appropriate shape.This makes the perfect place for kids to use their fingers and trace along the path of the letter or number. 
Another idea I love to use is colored sand. Color your own sand or purchase sand already in beautiful colors such as this one
Coloring Sand There are many ways to color sand. You can use food coloring. 1. Put sand in a jar with a lid that can close securely. 2. Cover the sand completely with water. 3. Add 1-2 drops of food coloring and stir completely. 4. You add more food coloring for more intense colors or mix food coloring together to achieve new colors. 5. Use cheesecloth to strain the the liquid from the sand mixture. 6. Spread the sand out on paper towels or old towels. Take precautions such as putting plastic under the towels to avoid stains from the coloring coming through to the table of counter space. 7. Let dry completely then store in a closed container.

Put a little bit of water in the sand and you have a fantastic way for kids to trace their letters or even write words

All of these ideas can be adapted to be used either as independent work stations, one to one teacher and student work, small group work or even assessment methods. We have so much assessing to do, why not make it fun for the kiddos? What ideas have you used? Head on over to Special Ed Spot  and  share your ideas about what you use.

More next time.

I have used many curricula for teaching social studies in  special education and have found but just a few that really work for the students with significantly disabilities. So today I wanted to share some of the good ones I have used and then some other ideas from around the web. 

MEville to WEville by AbleNet is an excellent product for teaching some basic social studies skills such as character education, roles in the home and community, relationship building and social skills. It begins with teaching about self, extends to working on relationships and then emphasizes concepts about a persons role in the school community. While teaching these concepts they are still focusing on reading, listening, writing and speaking skills so its all integrated together.

One advantage to MEville to WEville is how adaptations and modifications are built into the program and materials.
Here is quick video by AbleNet about MEville to WEville.

Another idea for Social Studies content is Unique Learning System by News-2-You. (n2Y). I have to say, I love love love these materials. I love them AFTER I get them organized and preferably after someone else has paid for them. Unique Learning System encompasses all the subject areas and is already leveled for ........
ULS is now technologically integrated and can be used on iPads, Smartboards and Prometheus Boards. ULS contains worksheets, and has all the lesson plans written when you download it. 
Here is a link to some free webinars on their materials coming up in July.

If you want more information on Unique Learning Systems, be sure to check out their website at 

Here are some other ideas from pinterest, blogs and stores you might like

Pam from Mrs. Ps Specialties has some great ideas about taking district curriculum and modifying and adapting it for our kids with special needs. She takes her materials and shows how to change them to work, but she explains it so well, you could do with yours easily. Take a look.


Here's an idea from Breezy Special Ed's Blog about U.S. History using Me on the Map project. She writes about working with high school kids but as an elementary teacher, I can see how this could be so easily adapted for lower grades and levels of functioning. 

 FREEBIE from Autism Classroom Resources

With July 4th coming up- if you are teaching ESY, this might be really helpful. This a Freebie from Christine at Autism Classroom Resources.

Here's a selection of country books that have very basic facts in them to acquaint students with the countries when working with geography. These books made teaching social studies for me so much easier as they condense the fact down to just simple information that I want my kids to know. 

Here is another set of adapted books that could work well for teaching information about people when want the kids to know about. Here's a great blog post from Alyssa at Simply Special Ed. 

Until Next Time....

Thanks for stopping by today as your week gets started. Today I thought we'd revisit Science in the special education classroom. I adore teaching science but struggled with finding appropriate materials to teach my kiddos in special education that didn't have an astronomical price attached to it.
Now that I'm retired, and having a ball creating materials for special education classrooms I wanted to make some some materials for teaching science.

A year ago when I was teaching and searching for science materials to use with my kids, I found plenty of great materials, but they either needed extensive adaptations to make them useable with my students or they didn't have enough differentiation in them. I struggled with which way to go. I worked with a class of 8 kids whose disabilities ranged from moderate to severe and their academic skills differed significantly from pre-kindergarten to 3rd grade. Some students were verbal and others had no verbal skills or very low communication skills. I struggled to find the materials that had enough options of different ways for my kids to interact and respond to the materials, yet also provide the range of skill levels I needed.

So recently I decided it was time to focus on developing some science materials that might be a better fit to the needs I had in my classroom. So I went looking to find what areas of science ARE available and perhaps what areas I could focus on that hadn't already been covered. When I went looking I found some great options! I was surprised how much was out there! Actually I was AMAZED! So many people had evidently been developing some great resources; whether it was ideas written about teaching science written in blog posts or creating materials they were selling on Teachers Pay Teachers. As I plowed through the ideas that came up in my searches, I thought I would share some of what I found with you. Below you will find a smattering of concepts, materials, ideas and experiments developed for students with special needs. They have been created by a many talented individuals, many of whom are special education teachers themselves or work in the field of special education. Take a look at the treasure of ideas I found in my journey. Each picture includes a link either to a Pinterest pin where you can find out more details, a link to a blog post that will provide you with further information about the topic or links to products on Teachers Pay Teachers.

I hope you enjoyed this small gathering of ideas I found about teaching science in the special education classroom.  Drop me a comment below and let me know what topics in Science you would like to see products about, to help you. 

Thank you for stopping by Special Ed Spot today.
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