Functional Special Education Final Exams

Since I teach in a regular high school, I am expected to give semester exams to my students. I often get asked what do we actually do for exams. I often do a following directions activity and fill out a simple rubric for each student in order to get their exam "grade".

Language Arts and Math Final Exam ~ Classroom Restaurant
I asked for parents to volunteer to bring in breakfast items like donuts - and we got so much more than I asked for which was wonderful! We had orange juice, chocolate milk, yogurt, bagels, pancakes, strawberries, chocolate donuts, and glazed donuts. As a class we created a menu and I gave each student $7. Students were graded on appropriate behavior, naming prices, counting money, ordered food, being patient, and saying thank you. See the rubric here. Students were even able to make their own pancakes in the microwave. We had a ton of fun with this!

Fine Arts Final Exam ~ Following Directions + Christmas ornaments
I used this following directions worksheet and let students complete as independently as they could. I then graded it on their ability level. For example, many students received full points even though they didn't color the correct number of objects. For some students, I expected them to read the directions on their own, and for others the directions were read and broken down into simpler steps. I was so proud of many of my students!
I got wooden ornaments from JoAnn's on clearance for about 70 cents each, and students painted them on their own and then we added a favorite picture from the semester on the back.

One of my CP students, has begun to use a coloring cuff this year, so even though she can't hold onto a pencil, she could move the pen/marker around and draw on her own. This has been awesome this year, but even so I didn't expect her to be able to color in the correct areas - and did she prove me wrong! She found all of the items and colored them on her own! Ahh - so proud. I wish I had taken a picture to show you!

Resource Final Exam ~ Cookie in a Jar (measuring and following directions)
Our resource exam doubled as presents for parents. We followed this recipe for cookie-in-a-jar mix. Students had to work on measuring and pouring in the jar. (Use of a funnel is HIGHLY recommended!) The final exam rubric I used is here. It got super messy, but that just meant I had jobs of wiping down the tables and vaccuuming to give to students when we were done.

And M&Ms are more expensive than I we mixed them with some chocolate chips as well. The cute little snowman top is a cupcake liner underneath the jar lid.

Does anyone else have to give their students exams? A few years ago we made frosted Christmas trees for one of our exams.


  1. I love this! I teach in a high school Life Skills class, and we also have to give our students final exams. We volunteer for an hour with Toys for Tots, and have a rubric to determine a letter grade based on following directions from staff and completing the job correctly for our work experience and vocational studies classes. Students are given an individual recipe and their exam grade for cooking/daily living skills is based on the successful completion of their recipe (w/ accommodations for ability levels). On the final day, we have an end of the semester exam at the mall, where students are required to make a purchase, read a menu and purchase lunch in the food court, locate items in the mall through a scavenger hunt, and socialize appropriately with others. We use a rubric to determine grades for each area of the activity for each subject (math, language arts, reading, daily living, etc). I was very interested to read about what someone else does for final exams. We are encouraged to leave the building if possible, so as to not disrupt other students. It makes for an exciting last few days of school!

    1. I love your exam ideas! We also do a mall trip each year in December, but our school won't let us leave during exams so we do it earlier. It sounds like our classes are so very similar! That's exciting! :)

  2. I am speechless (and if you've read my blog you know that doesn't happen often!). I love this post so much! I have talked about teachers doing this for so long but the way you have formalized it with grading is a masterpiece! This is awesome! Thanks so much for sharing it!!

    Autism Classroom News

    1. O Chris, you're making me blush :) Thanks for the praise and encouragement! Honestly, I got the idea from the other teachers in my program, so I can't take credit for me, but I'm happy to pass the idea onto other special education teachers!

  3. This is amazing!! I have always struggled with what to do at finals time and have usually used it as a time make sure all work was done and have fun cooking things. I'm curious what you will do in the Spring when you have end of school year finals.

    1. Thanks Jamie! Hm, I'm curious about what I will do in the Spring too :) Last year I had higher level students for the majority of my teaching day so their exams were a little more exam-like. For one, I took each student aside and asked them questions based on a movie theater scenario (paying for movie, stating what the cheaper at concessions, etc). Spring finals this year will be similar, just without the Christmas theme obviously! I'll try to post them as soon as I can. We get out at the end of May, so that might just in time for some other teachers.

  4. Great ideas! I will be doing a new US History using Google maps and plotting 5 places of interest in Illinois. They will add pics, text, color, etc. and then share it with me. Students can present on the smart board as well. The amount of help depends on each student but we have a lot of fun with this. I will also use a rubric for grading. This year for English we will do a quiz on Elf the Musical which we just saw. Thanks for the great ideas.


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