Fire Drills-Another look from past posts

Do you have one of these your Special education classroom?  I did! One in the main classroom, One in my office, one in the bathroom, the storage room...well they are everywhere and continually are frightening our kiddos. What can you do to help your students with fire drills. Here are ideas from posts of yesterday.

When I was a kid, fire drills were a welcomed interruption to the day. However, fire drills  can be a very difficult thing to students with disabilities.
Fire drills, especially for those on the Autism Spectrum or those with auditory sensory disabilities, can be a frightening event that is dreaded sometimes for days in advance and whose effects last way beyond the 15 or 20 minutes a routine fire drill lasts in schools.
Some of the most common behaviors I had in my classroom, were  screaming, crying, hiding under furniture and even escaping the situation entirely by running away. I had one student that could anticipate when the fire drills would occur and would start crying, attempting to run away and scream prior to the drill.
For some children its the loud sound of the fire drill, for others its the disruption of their normal schedule that frightens them. Some children don't know what to do or what is expected of them during a fire drill.
Behaviors such as these whether  they occur before, during and after a fire drill  can be a major strain on the teacher, the classmates and staff and of course the student.

Other students in the class are often negatively affected by the behaviors and staff is diverted from you what you need them to do in order to tend to the screaming, yelling, hiding or escaping. It takes a toll on everyone.  Fires drills are an important part of safety awareness and preparedness. They are not something we can abandon.

What can we as teachers do to help children when this happens to them?

One thing that can be important in the classroom is for the teacher to work with administration.

  •  See if  you can be informed about the fire drill ahead of time. The administration at my school puts it in our weekly teacher bulletin and calls me 15 minutes prior to the drill. This gave me some time to put some calming strategies into place with the students.
  • Go over the rules of a fire drill. Walk the class through the process of a fire drill, step-by-step.
  •  Role play what will happen during a fire drill.
  • Desensitize the student to loud sounds such as the fire alarm. Try using an app on your smart phone or tablet that has loud sounds on it. There are even some apps that have examples of fire drill alarms. Start off with the sound soft, introduce it to the student. 
  • Try doing mock drills with a lowered fire drill sound. As the student becomes more acclimated to the lowered sound, raise the sound level up and continue mock drills. Continue doing this until the sound is at full level.
  • Purchase an alarm such as a smoke detector, and follow the same procedure as above for desensitization. Muffle the sound, then progress as the student gets used to the sound.
  • Take the student outside prior to the alarm going off. Doing this could alleviate the behaviors that occur during the fire drill as the alarm may not be as close or loud, as it would be in the classroom. This option should really only be a stopgap solution. We need to be teaching the students what to do and how to be safe in emergency situations.

One thing that has worked in my classroom and in many other classrooms is to use Social Stories. Social Stories were created by Carol Gray  in 1991 to help teach social skills to people with autism. They are stories with short descriptions of situations with statements about what is expected of the student or what the student can expect.

Here are a few suggestions for using Social Stories for situations such as fire drills in the classroom.

Use of Social Stories

1.   Prior to implementation of a new social story, be sure to communicate the new task beintaught to all the people involved in your student’s programProvide a copy or share the steps of the task being taught in the story to those professionals working with the  student so everyone is approaching the task in the same manner.
2.   Introduce the book to the student as you would other literary selections (i.e. look at the cover, discuss it, look at the pictures. Adapt as necessary for your student. 
3.   Read the story aloud. Reread the story on a regular basis so you can review the steps and the student(s) become very familiar with what is expected. 
4. After the student becomes familiar with the book and its content, send a copy of the book home with the student. Integrate the parents into the teaching process as well by sharing the book with them.
5. If you do practice fire drills as I  have done, also review the book immediately prior to the fire drill practice as well as on other days to make sure the information presented in the book becomes second nature.  Review the book as necessary to keep the steps fresh and supplement the teaching with the visual schedules and step poster.

 Check out the revised social narrative.
Click the pictures to visit my store.


GRAB A FEW READING IDEAS.....from Halloween pasts

How do you deal with Halloween in special education classroom? You might have 6 students or 7 or 8. Perhaps you have more with 12, 13 , 14? And with each one of those students often comes multiple  special needs; many of them have allergies, some are on special diets such as a gluten free diet, or sugar-free diet. What do you do for Halloween when you have so many different needs to meet?

I had multiple students on different diets, other students that had food allergies, yet we still wanted to have fun at Halloween in Ms Reeve's classroom. How can you have the typical party with all these special requests and needs?

This happened to me for several years so I partnered up with parents so that we could give the kids a great experience. First, I asked each parent to submit a short list of 5 things their child could and would eat. Items they were not allergic to, enjoy. It could be a Halloween treat or another item if they preferred. I ok'd all the other items with each parent for their child and from there I began to "build" my Halloween party.

 Once we had all the edible items straighten out, the rest was easy. First I set up the Halloween story area. Our school had strict rules about what we could do for Halloween so I had to adhere to those. A few of the books I used was How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow by Wendell Minor

Another book I loved to use was
Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann
My all-time favorite book is, was and perhaps always will be:

It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
by Charles M. Schulz

All three of these books and many more lend themselves to quick, fun reading in a group and then you can use them for comprehension activities or acting out activities...perfect for a party.
The next activity was taking the story we read and putting it into sequencing order with pre-drawn pictures. The kids loved coloring and putting the pictures together on the back of an orange paper plate. 
On the front of the plate we made a pumpkin/jack o' lantern face. 

For eating, most of the time, we were able to work it out so everyone had their own item to eat and a choice of one other item.  The kids loved all the activities so much. All the activities were spaced out around the classroom at different center tables. 


4 Unconventional Data Taking Methods - Make Data Work for YOU!

Keeping track of data - thats what we need to do as special education teachers. Finding the way that works for you, your system, your students, school and administration is what matters so this is part 2 in exploring some ways to record data in special education classrooms.

Last time we touched base on a few classroom methods that could be used when doing 1 on 1 work or small group. Today lets look at some different types of collection.

Have you ever made a bulletin board that records students results? My kiddos just adore it. In my class we usually used color codes to represent the students, so no information is given away.

Here is an example of data collection for word families. Each student would have one of these on the wall or bulletin board. You could even put them in a student data book or portfolio.

The color of the grapes could be color codes per student and affixed to the the vines as the student learns the words. In this case this student was working on -AT word family words.
This also works well when you are teaching Aesop fables since you can integrate the Aesop fables, word families and data collection all in one.

When its time to collect data - all your information is located on your bulletin board or in a data book. Easy and convenient.

2. Here's an example of data collection in which everyone's results are on the same board. Here everyone is working on learning addition of 4's. You make one racetrack and each student has a car emblem. This car can have their name on it or it can be color coded to match the coding system in your classroom. You can choose how to divide the racetrack up to denote learning all the facts in the 4 addition tables. As the students learn them, they can move their car further on the race track.
If they learn they learn them all, their car gets put off the track at the bottom of the board or note book page. 
Easy to manage and helps decorate the room as well.

3. Paper Clip Collections
Here is an easy way to collect data. Using just two colors of paper clips (could also use 2 sizes of clips) I have often used this method by keeping the paper clips on a table near me. When the skill is  achieved or mastered, I can pick up the appropriate color paper clip and move it to a different pile or fasten it on a paper. When the answer is given incorrectly, I can use the alternate color. 
This will immediately give me the percentage to record by quickly looking at the paper clips. 

4. One way I used to collect data was giving each student a behavior ticket. I focused on specific  character skills (be honest, be kind etc) each week. Each day the students were required to share with me in the their way, how they did that. For some students they need to point to someone they were kind to, or write down what they did. How they answered for this depended on their individual skills but if they mastered the skill, they received a pre-determined number of hole punches in their ticket. We called it "Ticket Out the Door" as we did it right before dismissal as a way summarize the day. 

Counting the holes punched at the end of the day or week, you can quickly and easily see how the student is doing. These are available in my store at Data Collection Hole Punch Cards .

What types of data collection tricks do you use to make the data collecting easier?


5 Favorite Ways to Organize Data

One of the most important concepts in teaching my special education classroom  is organization.
Why is it important ?Organization leads to orderliness. Keeping a classroom in an orderly, organized manner is our job as teachers.
It leads to smooth implementation of other classroom implementation components.  It helps students focus.
Yes, I know.....Blah, blah,  blah,  blah! We know all of these are true, but in my classroom of  12 children  with a variety of disabilities, personalities and strengths, it was MANDATORY!Data is a large part of being a teacher these days. Keeping it organized during recording and storage is imperative.Today let's talk about 5 ways to take and/or organize data to make it easier to manage.Now I have been around for awhile so lets start with some simple ways to take the data.

Recording Data

When I first started taking data, there were no apps, no iPhones and it was challenging to keep up with data on the fly. Let's face it, We take data in so many different situations and with so many different behaviors, we have to be prepared for just about use, do and experience anything and still keep recording data through it. Here are a  few ideas to keep data organized and in one place during recording keeping. Masking Tape - a few strips of masking tape on my pant leg worked well. Each strip served very well for making tally marks for frequency behaviors. Usually I had a code on each piece of tape so I could keep each child's information private.Sticky Notes - Ohhhh do I LOVE sticky notes. I love them for a myriad of things but...we're talking about data here. When sticky notes came along, they were a godsend. They stuck to things as easily as tape, but provided more room for the prompting level or frequency tally. They are easy to stack at the end of a class or day and then unstick to transfer to a formal behavior sheet. Better yet, sticky notes fantastic because you can create a behavior sheet in which all you have to do is unstick the note from your pants or table and place it on the behavior sheet. Take things one step further with sticky notes and color categorize them according to student or behavior. This could make organizing them later much easier, if all the math data was on one color note or all of Sam's information was on green stickies.  Easy to sort!Clipboards - I use many different sizes of clipboards as a way to keep data. Clipboards can be grouped according to class for which you are taking the data, by the student, or by the location in the classroom. I liked keeping clipboards in the math area for data keeping. This way all the adults needed to record data had access to them. Sometimes I decorated the clipboards with contact paper or put stickers on them to Notebooks - There are many different types of "notebooks" that you can use to gather and record  data. You can use mini 3 ringer binders, notebooks of index cards or one notebook for a set of students. Data Forms Of course there are all sorts of forms out there for collecting and recording data. ABC check off forms,  and tally frequency forms are some of my favorite.
Data Recording Apps Once the App store became a reality, behavior and data apps have been growing by leaps and bounds. I have used Behavior Tracker Pro app through the App Store. It is a $29.99 paid app for the pro version, but it is worth it. You can use it with multiple students but you can also set it up for multiple observers, too. These are just a few ways to organize and keep data together. What are ways that you use?Have a great week!

Quiet on the classroom floor....heaven!

Having some technical issues today so I'm reposting a great idea from a past year regarding
quiet chair socks for my classroom chairs. 

Its the little things sometimes that get noticed and work so well in a classroom of special education students. Don't get me wrong, general education classrooms need to work well also, and the little things count there too, but in special education, the littlest things can make or break a day sometimes.  Sometimes its colors of chairs, pencils, who touches your lunch box or moves your chair.

This summer I found a  simple, but cool pin on Pinterest. It was one of those things that seemed so simple, it was like "How did I not think of this before?"

When school rolled around and my tennis ball solution for my chair and table legs scraping on the tile floors began to be a problem because the balls were falling off the legs when the chairs were moved, I remembered this pin. While I cannot claim this as an original idea, I have modified it and wanted to share it with all of you.

An idea of putting felt booties or socks as we call them in my room has been the BEST thing since sliced bread.
They are quiet, easy to install, economical and easy to replace if they get too dirty. My tennis balls were so dirty. I had tried to dress them up by drawing faces on them but it really didn't help. The cuts in them were expanding and I needed something different.

Here's how I did them.
1. Materials:
  • 1- 9" x 12" piece of felt cut into 4 equal pieces. 
  • 1 zip tie at least 7 inches long (length helps in ease of fastening) Mine would work with a 4 inch zip tie, but it took longer to get it fastened and secured. Depends on your chair leg circumference also.
  • Pair of scissors to cut felt.
chair socks

2. Turn the chair upside down and cover one leg glider with one piece of felt.
3. Use a zip-tie and fasten it around the felt and pulled tightly to secure.
4. Cut off any loose end of the zip-tie.
5. Spread out the felt as seen with the yellow sock on the right in the picture above. You can choose to leave it gathered like the purple sock on the left.

The possibilities are endless I think as to what you could do with these. I did several color variations in my classroom just to add pizazz and to satisfy certain color preferences of a couple of my students.
We have a couple of chairs with football team colors, one chair with all pink feet and chair socks coordinated according to the location in the room to which they belong such as the reading table, computer center or individual centers.
Coordinated Center Chair socks
I have several center areas specified by color. You can see by the picture to the right how I color coordinated the center colors with the chair socks. This red center table has red tape around the edges. The chairs have red tape on the back to designate the chair belongs at that particular center and NOW, the chair at the red center has red chair socks. All color coordinated!!!

Over the years I've tried many things on chair legs but so far this is my favorite. Sometimes simple is the best!

Last week I showed you a preview of a product I was working on for my students to improve reading comprehension. It has simple 1 sentence text with basic WH questions. This activity has limited clip art so as not to distract from the content and includes answer prompts that can be cut out and placed in the answer square or they can left intact on the card and used as a worksheet. They can even be laminated and then you can use wipe off markers for students to draw a line from the answer space to the correct answer.
So as promised, just for you, my blog readers, here is a FREE sample of this new product.

Until next time!

Get Your Students Interacting on the 1st day of School

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:


Reading in the Special Ed Classroom

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


Tremendous Ideas to JAZZ up your Numbers and Letter Recognition Lessons

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.