Academic Skills



My New Years Resolution

Holy Cow! Can you believe it! Another year is about to be in the books....2016 was a lot of different things for me and the world in general. As always there were some bad and many good thing that happened in my life both personally and professionally! 

I tend to have MANY new years resolutions for different aspects in my life ranging from being healthy to managing my finances and overall working on daily happiness. This year I plan on adding my classroom into the mix.

This blog post won't have anything fancy to give a ways or sparkly pictures just words that I want to get out on paper so I make sure that I make it a priority in the year to come. I hope it will help inspire you as well....ok here it goes. 

I want to have MORE FUN with my students! 

I'm not talking about making my lessons more fun or participating in field trips and community events. I am talking about every day fun, even if it is only for 10 minutes. I do not know about you, but whenever my kids earn some choice or unstructured time I head over to my desk and check e-mails, write notes to parents, or prep the next lessons activities. I basically multi task if you will.....well my resolution is to STOP! Sit down on the floor and do a puzzle with you students, break out the moon sand or other sensory materials and watch them discover something new. 


I PROMISE the e-mails can wait, the parents would rather you bond and have their children LOVE the attention they get from their teachers, and the lessons will still happen if you hold off on setting up for 10 minutes. 

I really believe that sometimes we expect so much of our kids in the classroom. They have to behave in a perfect "Behavioral Therapist" approved way that I can sometimes forget they are 
They will still make progress on their goals and objectives they will still learn and it is okay to drop the dreamy pinterest perfect lesson you so badly want to accomplish. So I plan on making sure that every day for at least 10 minutes my students and I connect on a different level, past their IEP goals and objectives and have some FUN doing things that every 8 year old would like to do and dare I say it....STOP TAKING DATA! 



Trust me-----the e-mails will still be there, but you won't have these students next year! 

Happy New Year Everyone! Be Safe and see you in 2017! 



Extended Standards Report Cards

Hi Friends! If you are like you then you are KNEE DEEP in end of the trimester (or  quarter) grades, IEP progress reports, and report cards. There is SO much to get done in such a short amount of time! I don't know about you, but I really struggle with showing the parents what exactly we do all day long! I mean since I am in a life skills classroom the common core standards based report card isn't exactly fitting for my students and their curriculum. However, by law, I have to give the same report card that the general education classrooms give. 

So my first few years of teaching I tried writing narratives and then I just gave up completely and used the regular old report card. But I wasn't satisfied with the parent/teacher communication so I went back to the drawing table. 

In Ohio we do have extended standards, based on the CC. BUT most of my parents don't know what they are and don't have access to them as easily as the CC standards that are everywhere! 

I decided to make an "unofficial" (I say unofficial because I am doing this by my choice and my district does not make the other intensive needs teachers give additional information--which is totally cool--to each their own). report card with OUR standards that will help the parents understand how many amazing topics their child is learning all year in my classroom. 

I really like it because the parents have less questions at conferences and it really does help bridge that gap between a self contained special ed classroom and the general education. 

I teach 2nd and 3rd grade and of course the standards are split into grade bands k-2 and 3-5 so I have both versions. I made this product editable to insert your own scores in but you can not not change the format. If you have any special requests after your purchase it you can always send me an e-mail and I will make some magic happen for you :) 

Check out some pictures of the report card below! You can get it in my TPT store here


Back to School Block Party week 4: Best TPT resources for a successful year!

Hi everyone! This is the FINAL week in our back to school Block party! I hope you all enjoyed learning from the myself and my three blogger friends :) 

This week we are chatting about MUST have TPT items to have in your classroom. These are all things that I have bought, prepped, and couldn't live without! 

Lets Start off with Mrs. D's Corner I just love her stuff for a self contained classroom. The two products I can not live without is her Back to school Parent Flip Book 

This is SO easy to prep and it is also FREE! She has some paid ones too that are amazing, but this year I do not have any new students so I didn't have a ton of information to put in--but next year I will be upgrading to the paid ones that hold much more information! 

 The second MUST have from Mrs. D is her calendar writing! My kids will use these everyday as part of their morning work and it is a life saver! 

My next MUST have is from Especially Education  She is a newer TPT seller, but her stuff is ALL ON MY WISH LIST---I want everything in her store! I just HAD to buy her whole body listening bulletin board back! WOW is all I have to say! It is such a great classroom management tool! 

Next up is Kayla from My Special Learners  Her Basic Skills file folders are a daily activity in our independent center. Each month the adorable clip art changes, but the skills stay the same and my students are able to increase their ability to work independently! HIGHLY recommend! Plus they are super cute! 

I can not live without Autism Adventures  Home work pack. They are no prep and are super functional for a self contained classroom. The students and the parents LOVE these! 

Circle time is my favorite part of the day. We work on SO many skills and my kids love the songs and stories. My circle time could not be complete without Teaching Special Thinkers  NO PREP interactive story time books OK they can be prepped and used along with the book OR you can download the interactive PDF to your IPAD and the kids can answer the questions on there. They love it and it keeps my students so engaged. She does include a great story map which I have displayed to go over as we are reading/reviewing the story through out the week 

Lastly, I have a few must haves that I have created and are available in MY TPT STORE
For back to school we work on making green choices and the difference between red and green choices. I created a mini unit to help my students learn these choices! Check it out here

I also could not live without my extended standards report card. I love this because in OHIO we follow extended standards. The parents love getting a report card catered to their students curriculum and I also print off a blank copy and use it as a check list through out the year so I make sure I hit all the standards! 

Make sure to check out all these great resources and see if they fit into your classroom! 

AND head over to instagram and enter in our last give-a-way for the block party! $20.00 TPT gift card to spend in ANY store you wish! Just make sure you like, follow, and answer our question! 

LASTLY! Tomorrow I will be going on FB LIVE! AH I am so nervous, it is my first time ever! I am going to be sharing how I use my Erin Condren Planner as a special ed teacher! 

Head on over to Especially Education to see her favorite TPT products and I hope everyone has an AMAZING Back to School Season! 


Back to School Block Party: Week 3 Communicating with Parents

Hey everyone! Welcome to the third week of the back to school block party! This week we will all be chatting about communicating with parents. In a self contained special ed classroom, my students are not always able to go home and tell their parents all about their day. Parents are so desperately craving this type of communication at home so I want to do my part to help them along the way! 

I don't know about you, but I LOVE SHARK TANK! I mean it is some great tv on a Friday night after a long week in the classroom. Well last year I was watching this show (and maybe drinking some wine :)) and THE BEST  APP EVER showed up in the tank. It is called Brightwheel. 

This amazing app was designed for students in a day care that can't go home and tell their parents about their day and a light bulb went off in my head that this will be PERFECT to implement in the 2016-2017 school year. 

I highly suggest that you check out this app if you have parents with smart phones. It is like DOJO, but it doesn't require any incentive---I feel like I have so much incentive going on in my classroom I don't need DOJO points (but that is JUST ME--I know dojo can be super successful many classrooms. 

Here are some of my favorite features of Brightwheel: 

You can send pictures of the students to the parents! I love this because I do not give out my personal number so the parents can have instant pictures without e-mailing them which can prompt some conversations at home between parent and child. 

Calendar: I can update the parents on class/school events 

Food/Bathroom Data: My para will have access as a teacher as well so when they are at lunch and the child isn't eating or seems to still be hungry she can give a quick note...these are the types of things that tend to be forgotten at the end of a busy day. Bathroom data, to help with potty training from school to home!

Learning/Assessments: I am able to click on different topics such as fine motor, cognitive, social and give a little report about successes and struggles though out the day. 

Now the only con I see to this is there is not a feature for the parents to write a note to me. I am hoping this is in the works. They have updates all the time! 

If you are curious about bright wheel check out this video from their web site here

Hop on over and check out how Especially Education communicates with parents!


Back to School Block Party Week 2: Planning the first two weeks (when you don't have a curriculum)!

Welcome to the second week of the back to school block party I am hosting along side some of my favorite SPED bloggers out there! I am currently writing to you from a beach house in Ohio (yes we have beaches in Ohio and they are pretty awesome!), but I am already thinking about how I am going to plan the first few weeks of school. As many of you know teaching in a self contained special education classroom can come with MANY pro's and cons....the biggest con for me and we have NO curriculum. This is not by the fault of my school district it is just that the students in my classroom's needs change from year to year and I have many students for multiple years so the curriculum can't be the same every year. 

Lets start with the basics....I don't actually write formal lesson plan....#sorrynotsorry. I did buy a beautiful Erin Condrin Lesson planner this year ( which will be arriving this week) and I plan on using it ---actually I am going to force myself to use it. HOWEVER I don't write too much in my lesson plan books. I am a full believer in the bullet point lesson plans...I will get into this more in a blog post scheduled for the end of August when I can show you HOW I use my Erin Condren Planner...But basically I just bullet point what I want to accomplish in each big park of my day. 

Now a constant THREE Times a year (beginning, middle, and during the student's IEP time) I take some very important data. My school purchases for the Intensive Needs Teachers the ABLLS (Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills) workbook. I was SUPER intimidated of ABLLS when I was handed it two years ago and I will be 100% honest with you that I did nothing but read the manual the first year. The second year I purchased the an amazing resource from the Autism helper called The ABLLS Resource Kit. Now this product requires A TON of prep, but it is well worth it when I was finished because I have my binders ready to go each time I want to assess my students. This assessment gives me a great baseline on what they know/need to accomplish in the school year so I can design their curriculum. You then fill in these beautiful graphs that I attach to every IEP and then pass on to the next teacher so they don't have to begin the test from scratch they can just assess where the skills left off. It is amazing and if you have more questions about ABLLS let me know, because I see a future blog post solely about ABLLS in the very near future! 

Ok, so WHAT in the heck is everyone is in the room doing while I am working on ABLLS assessment with my students 1:1----well we are working on MASTERED TASKS People! My students (and all students with severe needs) struggles with change....and the change from summer break to back to school is stressful on everyone. I want to make sure that they understand the rules in my classroom, the structure of the classroom, and have a smooth transition into a new school year. So how do I do this? WELL I put together a bunch of back to school resources that will keep my kids busy in the classroom while getting back into the swing of things as opposed to being stressed out about a new routine/classmates/teachers. You need to build rapport in the classroom with staff and students and I for one do not like to stress my kids out with learning things that can be hard for them such as new skills. You can check out my Back to school pack, which includes Math activities, fine motor actives, reading comprehension activities/adaptive book, and making green vs. red choices, here This bundle is a great $$$ saver and includes 5 products for a discounted price! Here are some pictures of these products in this bundle!

LASTLY, know that what happens in the first twos weeks is a whirl wind of chaos....hopfully organized chaos, but as long as everyone goes home with a smile on their face (staff included) I consider that a WIN for the day! 

Let me know how you spend your first two weeks in the your classroom in the comments below and make sure you hop on over to the wonderful Especially Education to see what she does to prep for the first two weeks...and don't forget to hop thru every blog :) 

OHHHH and the BEST PART---check out INSTAGRAM we are giving away a Blog Hop Give-A-Way of a 1 year personal use license to Smarty Symbols! 

Have a Great time Prepping everyone!!! 


Mastering 'WH' Questions in a Special Education Classroom

Reading goals are SO incredibly common when writing IEP's for students especially in a self contained classroom. Every since one of my students is working on answering 'WH' questions of some sort. Some of them are working on just one 'WH' question at a time and others are advanced enough to be working on literal vs inferential questions. 

Because I teach a 2-3 grade classroom my students work on basic literal 'WH' questions on a daily basis. We love to read stories and answer basic questions but it is also important to know how to answer one sentence 'Wh' questions. 

IN order to do this I created flash cards to help my students (and myself with a low prep printable) answer their questions and get great data for their IEP goals. 

These flash cards are so great because they are easy to print (and laminate so they do not get ruined) to take data on all year long. When I print them I choose the setting front to back in order to have the answers on the back of the question. Check out this resource here!

Another great interactive way to work on 'WH' questions in the classroom is flip books. I LOVE FLIP BOOKS  because the students think they are playing a game as opposed to working on a skill. 

I have the questions isolated into who, what, where, when, and why and the kids LOVE them. I also have two levels in order to help the students who are not readers accomplish the task (with pictures) and the students who are readers accomplish the task (with words). 

Check out these fun flip books here!

Lastly! I don't know if you heard but Teachers Pay Teachers LOVES back to school! They are having an AMAZING Sale! They want everyone to HAVE THE BEST YEAR EVER & so do I! I am giving away $10.00 to TPT so you can fill your cart with back to school goodies! Make sure you enter below!

Happy back to school shopping everyone!


Back to School Block Party: Week 1- Scheduling for a Special Education Classroom

Hi Everyone! It is the last week in July and this summer just flew by! I can't believe that it is back to school time already! I am SO excited to be teaming up with 3 other AMAZING bloggers (and friends!) to bring you a Back to School Block Party! We will be blogging on great topics to help YOU prepare for a successful school year! ALSO during the 4 weeks we will be having some Block party door prizes on weeks 2 and 4! Make sure you click thru to each blog and see how we all prep for the school year! 

We are kicking off our Block Party series with Scheduling for a Special Education Classroom. When you are a special education teacher it can be so tedious to come up with a final schedule. You have SO much to consider such as student therapies (OT, PT, Speech), inclusion, specials, and you have to make sure that your students needs are being met as well as giving you and the staff in your classroom a break/lunch! It can be SO overwhelming and let's face it, you may have many many drafts until you come up with one that works. Everyone has their own style to scheduling so I am going to walk you thru how I create a schedule to meet all of these needs

First, I begin with making a simple chart in a Word Document for each day of the week. I do this so that I can easily share it with other members of the team. I try to always keep one thing in mind: Simplicity! I use to do crazy color coded, each student has their own column and every second of their day is mapped out. That made my head spin and was very hard for other adults on the team to follow. 

Within my schedule I break down the centers schedule for reading and math. These two subjects incorporate science and social studies in to our thematic units. Because of the needs of my classroom my students learn best when working 1:1 so I have structured work tasks, choice times, and time with paraprofessional as well as working with myself on their core curriculum. 

I tend to do whole group when my paraprofessional is out of the classroom on her break and lunch. During this time I focus on, social skills, fine motor tasks, Physical Therapy Tasks, cooking, and following directions activities. This is also a time that I let the therapist know is my NUMEBR 1 time for students to be pulled out for therapies which reduces my student to teacher ratio. 

This upcoming school year I have a smaller caseload (as of right now--but we can ALWAYS assume we will have a move in). Because of that I only have 1 Paraprofessional in my classroom, which is a first for me so I am assuming that we may have to change up the schedules based on therapies or lunches for the staff. 

Lastly, I use a a daily lesson planner as well as a monthly curriculum map (which I will blog about most closely next week so stay tuned) for a more detailed schedule for my classroom. 

Hope you were able to get some tips on scheduling for your special education classroom! Hop on over to Especially Education to see how she schedules for her students! And Make sure to check back next week to see how we plan the first two weeks of the school year even when we don't have a set curriculum! 

BTS Block Party


Person First Language

Hey all! I am coming to you today to talk about a personal pet peeve of mine, person first language. I first want to say I am not writing this post to "call anyone out" or anything, but I want to help people see the light on the "PC" way to address children and adults with disabilities. 

When I was working on my undergrad at Bowling Green State University, I had this professor who basically scared the living day lights out of me. He was the only teacher who taught the classes specific to teaching students with moderate to intensive needs and his class was HARD. By the end of my senior year I was so grateful for having him as a teacher because he taught me SO much. The lesson that he instilled in me the most was that disabilities are not adjectives. Autism, Down Syndrome, Learning Disabilities.....they are in no way shape or form a way to describe someone. A persons disability is a part of who they are, but it is not equal to being happy, mean, scared, ugly, beautiful or the millions of other adjectives in the English Language. A persons disability is a medical diagnosis. They are PEOPLE First not the disability that testing on an ETR or a doctor has deemed fitting.

 My professor I mentioned above trained me in not saying the disability first by taking points off papers and test essays if used it, but it stuck with me further than a grade in a class. He taught me that the students in my future classroom deserve the respect to not be defined by their disability and to look at life and the unique people in it from a different angle. This lesson is not in my daily life and I try to teach and advocate others on the best way to speak of my students with respect and dignity. 

 So now you are aware and making the change to incorporate this language into your daily life, but other people you encounter don't know...understand...or are aware of this language. Now what?!?! 

I hope this post has enlightened you to spread the awareness that our students are people with so many amazing qualities that make them who they are. Whatever their diagnosis is does not define them, but shapes them into incredible human beings! 


Morning Meeting!

Morning Meeting! In an Autism classroom Morning meeting is my FAVORITE part of the day. It is one of the few times that we get to sit together.....WHOLE GROUP! Whole group is such a hard thing for my little superheroes to complete. So many distractions, having to wait their turn, attention on other peers, paying attention...the list of challenges goes on an on. 

I attempted to design our morning meeting with a BUNCH of visuals, lots of music, and a routine that does not change so the students know what to expect and how long it will take place. 

Let's start with visuals. I just did a post on visuals in the classroom so Click here to learn about how I use visuals in the classroom! In morning meeting we have visuals to sign in and  the kids tell us how they are feeling, visuals to pick their job for the whole group (weather, days of the week, months of the year, etc), and a visual schedule of the songs and activities. 


All of the songs that we use at circle are from YouTube here are some links to a few of my favorites: 

My students LOVE the Shape Song and the student with the best behavior for the day gets to point to all the shapes on the wall! It is a great reinforcer! 

I got the shape posters from Special Teacher for Special Kids check it out in her TPT store! 

Another student favorite is the Word Family Song by Dr. Jean. I made a cute book to go along with the song and the kids each get a turn to come up and point to the words and pictures and sing to their friends. It is a FREEBIE! in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!


I also SPLURGED and bought this awesome calendar from Lakeshore. I know a lot of people like to use smart boards, but i think there is something special about doing it the old traditional way and allowing the kids to move and manipulate pieces on a BIG COLORFUL pocket chart! 

Here are some other pictures from our circle time area! 


What do you LOVE about Morning Meeting? Share in the comments below!