Special Ed Exams - Frosted Christmas Trees

So last week was exam week at school and I had a lot of people ask me on how I give exams to my students (I was also asking the other teachers in our program trying to figure out the same question!) Even though we are a multi-needs special education program, we are still in a regular high school, so we still do things like exams...

The answer for how to do exams - rubrics. I didn't have all my student sit at their desks with a pencil and pages of a test - that wouldn't truly assess the abilities of my students. Instead I had my students complete a project and I would mark how well they performed on various activities.
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For Language Arts, I had the students make a Christmas card. I used a rubric to asses if they chose an appropriate greeting, if sentences started with capital letters, if sentences ended with periods, if they used an appropriate closing, and if they signed their first and last name.

For Math, I took each student aside individually (while the rest of the students were working on a Christmas activity with a paraprofessional in the room) and assessed (with a rubric again) their ability to count bills, count change, pay for items with the dollar over method, calculate change back with a calculator, know which item costs less, ect.

For my Resource Class I had some fun. I have such a wide range of abilities in this class and I wanted to make sure that each student felt like they could be successful and also enjoy the activity. One of the other teachers found this recipe, and we used it to make Christmas trees out of ice cream cones!
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Here's what we needed:
  • cone shaped ice cream cones
  • white frosting + green food coloring
  • m&ms
  • sprinkles
  • gum drops
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Here I assessed students on following directions, such as putting the cone upside down, putting frosting on cone (or telling someone where to put the frosting), putting on 5 M&Ms, ect. They were so proud of their creations! And thought they tasted pretty good too...
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I love my job! :) Seriously, how can you NOT have fun doing things like this! :)
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Super cool Velcro crossword puzzle

I can't believe I've been teaching for an entire quarter already! I really need to keep you all more updated on some fun things I've added to my special education classroom!

One of the most fun things I have added would be my changeable Velcro crossword puzzle. I could use this with any crossword puzzle, but have been doing it with weekly News-2-You articles. So are you ready to see how to make a reusable, moveable crossword puzzle? You better be because I'm going to show you anyway!
So, it's pretty awesome. What I did was made some squares the appropriate size for each crossword letter and printed them out on thick paper. Then I had them laminated. I love laminating things...it's like Christmas when I get them back.
Anyway, then enter my other best friend Velcro. Rough side on the back (to stick to the wall divider) and soft side on the front of each piece. My classrooms aides were a great help here - it took a while!
Next, rough side Velcro pieces were added to the back of the letters (so that they stick to the soft side on the front of each piece and also the wall). I also added some blank squares for when we might run out of a letter.
Then, all you need to do is find a crossword puzzle and arrange your squares likewise. I pinned my crossword hints above the puzzle and highlighted the parts in the story where students can look back and find However, crossword puzzles don't have to be used with stories, they can also be done with vocabulary words or anything else you are studying!
Isn't that awesome! I also put Velcro on the back of a dry erase marker in case letters ever need to be added. Extra crossword spaces are also stored right on the wall as well!
And, see, it's easy to change around. See two that I've done so far below!

Another nice thing is that I can have my higher students complete the puzzle and lower students practice fine motor and ABC order/recognition by putting the letters back in place.

You should try it! I think you'll love it! Can be used to practice spelling words too.

Update: Now available for purchase here in my TpT store!
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My Special Education Classroom

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I just finished my first full week of teaching!!! Woo Hoo!!

I'm so excited to share my classroom experience with all of you! I currently have 7 students, but will be getting another student soon (he had to prove residency first). Most of my students have autism as their primary disability and are pretty high functioning. On average my students are at about a first grade level just to give you an idea.

So, welcome to my classroom! I just (finally) added the student "mailboxes" (the orange boxes - yes, the free ones from Wal-mart). These are ESSENTIAL because otherwise I have student folders and communication notebooks all over the back counter... and I know one of my students will really appreciate this, as he was always going to the back of the room and straightening up the mess back there! :) Students can also keep their binders and "thunderbucks" (our school money - reward system) in their mailboxes. I love it. Also, you might notice that my bulletin boards are kind of empty - that is not because I'm lazy! I wanted to leave space so we can put up things that we are working on and so that students can display their work. I am also collaborating with our school's speech path for social language and we discussed putting conversation starters and the like up on that bulletin board!
I like feeling organized. Next, you will see all my lovely clipboards, one for each student, nicely tabbed (color coded, yes) for each one of their IEP goals. I feel so much better now knowing how I will collect data on their progress. And yes, there are only 6 clipboards...we have a MIA IEP from a student who transferred from CPS...(that was a lot of acronyms, haha, sorry!)
Want to see what some of my IEP sheets look like? 

Next, my sensory toys, or fidgets. These are SO popular! They are great for students who need to do something (positive) with their hands. It can be very relaxing and calming for many students.

My calendar! I put the Zebra border up before I even found the Zebra numbers! I wasn't looking for Zebra numbers either, just typed "calendar numbers" into Google, and they popped right up! You can get Zebra numbers too thanks to Doodle Bugs Teaching! I have a student who faithfully updates the calendar for me each morning when he comes in...and if a number is ever crooked, he'll get up and fix that too. :)

All students have IDs to buy lunch and what not, and after some students kept forgetting their IDs at home, I decided to keep them at school. So here they are with the hooks from the dollar store and a sign explaining what to do. I have found if I put signs up, students are so much more likely to remember what to do than if I just tell them verbally.

Here's my classroom rules if you would be curious in that. I know they are nothing pretty. I quickly wrote them in about 5 minutes before the first day of school. They seem to cover all of the bases so far!

And...my desk. See my easy button? :) It's so fun! It was given to me from my college supervisor after my student teaching experience. And over on the left, the wooden box thing (it has a nice little apple decoration on the front) is from my very first teaching aiding experience when I was a sophomore!

Let's get a close up of my pen holder! It's my favorite. I have a wonderful mentor who made both the holder and the flower pens for me on my first day of school. LOVE!!!

Here's the book corner I showed you when I first started it out. I added some pictures to the boxes (I know some of them still need pictures...I'm working on it!) and also moved around the cubes. I like it better this way. Next to the cubes are puzzles and games that students play during homeroom and resource. I think everyone should organize their books this way! It's awesome because students first choose their category and then their book. They don't have to do as much looking around to find what they want. Arthur and Disney are currently the most popular, with Dr. Seuss coming up at a close second!

I hope you enjoyed my little classroom tour! :) I'll leave you with a white board drawing done by one of my students during resource. I was not expecting to have such a talented artist in the classroom! :)

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Organizing my Classrom

 So this morning I went on a mission to buy crates, ect. to help organize my books and other materials in my classroom. I hit the JACKPOT at Wal-mart!

They have tons of cardboard boxes from the school supplies that are PERFECT for what I was looking for! I talked to an employee, and she said yes, I could take any of the empty boxes, so I quickly set on filling up my cart! Then a manager walked by, I totally pretended like it was totally normal that I was filling my cart with all these empty boxes...and then he stopped to talk to me. Uh, I didn't quite know what he was going to say, but just started chatting with him and he told me that if I wanted any other boxes, I could empty anything that was in them! WHAT? What a nice man! I was very excited and it helped organize a lot of things...and the best part, I paid nothing! And if you wanted to, you could make these super cute with spray paint, scrapbook paper and other fun supplies but I'm just currently going for functional.

Here's them in my classroom so far. I was really excited to use them to organize my books...check it out!
Right now I have just labeled them with a sharpie, but I plan on adding pictures and making it look nicer. In case you're curious and can't see from the picture labels include "fables, Disney, science, plants and animals, arthur & more, seasons & holidays, Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss, and Other Good Ones" :)

Here's a view from the side. I like how you can pull out the box and flip through to see all the covers easily.

 
Here you can see a little bit of my classroom and how I used a few more boxes to organize! You can see some of the orange/yellow ones up in the shelves and two more holding all my books for Language Arts and Math. It makes it look a lot cleaner. (And yes, I know, it's still messy looking now, but I'm just starting)
Can you spot my "Vera Bradley Drawers"? Didn't design them like that for my classroom necessarily, but it will make me happy and the more organization I have, the better!

What do you think? Will you be heading to Wal-mart for your own super easy DIY organizers? Can you even call it DIY when you really don't have to "do" much?! :)
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