Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Back To School Tips For The Special Education Classroom

Special Education Back To School Tips

It's that time of year again! Transitioning from the relaxing summertime freedom to the busy school year can be stressful.  I have put together a few tips and tricks that I use in my classroom, and I want to share them with you.  I wish you all a wonderful school year!

 Review and Understand Your Student's Individualized Education Plan

The IEP is the essential element in the special education classroom.  When reviewing your the IEP's for your students:

  • Make sure the IEP is current
  • Check for accuracy
  • Look for special needs that may be important in order for the child to be successful.
  • Understand accommodations and modifications
  • Take note of important meeting dates
  • Review your students level of performance 
Establish Rules

I am a fan of Fred Jones and his classroom management techniques.  Through experience I have found that having a few rules in the classroom is really all you need.  In my classroom, I have two rules.

1.  Be Responsible - This rule includes things like:  completing assignments, cleaning up work area, having supplies ready for class, etc.

For example, if I have a child who did not complete his assignments, I can ask him, "Are you being responsible?"

2.  Be Respectful - This rule includes thinks like:  How you treat others, how you treat yourself, how you treat adults etc.

For example, if I have a student who is not sharing, I can ask him,"Are you being respectful?"

Believe it or not, this has worked for me throughout my many years of teaching.

Establish Routines

I spend the first week or two of school focusing on my classroom expectations and routines.  I have routines for everything.  The students know what to do the minute they walk into my classroom.

I have a work-box waiting on them in the same spot everyday.  They walk over to the shelf, grab their box, and begin working on their assignment.  This allows me time to take care of anything that I may need to handle before I start focusing on my daily objective.  It also keeps the students focused and on task.  Therefore, behavior issues rarely occur.

Another routine I use in my classroom is an attention grabber.  If I am ready to teach a lesson and the children are working independently, on the computer, or in a center, I simply state, "Hands on shoulders, eyes on me."

As simple and silly as this may sound, you have the children's attention immediately and they are not fidgeting and playing.  They are listening.  It works.  I promise.


Communication is so important as a special education teacher.  It is important to communicate with parents to understand their expectations for the school year.

One way I communicate with parents at the first of every school year is by using parent surveys.  I send a survey home with the student.  It is important to know and understand the parent's view of the child.  We are teaching the thing that is most important in their life.  If we take time to build positive relationships with parents it really does help the child.

Communication with the general education teacher is also critical.  It is important that the general education teachers and special education teachers work together.  We quickly learn in our line of work that we have to be flexible and understanding.  It really does take a team to make each child successful.

Communication with students is also very important.  Children need to clear understanding of the teacher's expectations.

Provide Students Choices

In my classroom, I allow students to have choices.  I have a reward system called "Activity of Choice."  When a student completes an assignment or has earned a positive incentive I allow them to choose an activity.  They can choose to get on the computer, play an educational game, read a book, etc.  This is a FREE reward system that students will work very hard to earn.

I hope these tips and tricks will help you this year!  I admire each and everyone of you for the job you do!