Organizing your Special Education Library

Books, books, books! What does your special education library look like? How do you keep your books organized? I asked these questions on instagram this week and these awesome special education teachers showed us their libraries and I absolutely love all of their great ideas and organization!!
How to Organize your Special Education Books

Check out how many purposes this area serves! I love how the bookshelves on the left have pictures to organize the books too!

The struggle of trying to be organized! I feel you Miss Mini Mills (but I have to admit, you look quite organized. The labels and the book bins are awesome!).
Not only do we need to create all of the awesome book labels...but our job isn't over there, we actually need to try to get our students to put them back where they belong! I know some teachers have worked with their students on this by putting a label on the books as well, so they just have to match them up. But then you have to be pretty sure you won't ever want to switch up your labels...
Cheers to finding a student who can keep the books where they belong (And good luck!)

I love the laundry basket seating idea! I think it's important for kids to have comfy (and cool) places to read. In my classroom, the kids thought it was fun to just sit on a rug instead of in a desk. Whatever works!

This is a great space-saving idea as well. If you kids can't handle a bookshelf (or if you don't have room for one), put your books in bins and take them out as needed. So smart!

I loved seeing all of these great ideas! I love using adapted books in my classroom. Read about how I adapt books and grab free downloads here. What does your classroom library look like? I'd love to hear about it (or see it).

Career Exploration: Vocational Daily Questions, Job Posters, Interest Inventories and more!

As a life skill teacher, one of our responsibilities is to expose our students to different jobs and try to help them figure out what they are interested in doing after they complete school. Career exploration is especially important in secondary education, but is an important part (and becoming mandatory in some states) of elementary life skills too!
These fun job posters and daily questions will help you do just that!

Posters or Cards: Each job (there are 64 of them in this packet) is described on a poster with a simple two sentence description. These can be printed full size, two to a page, or even 4 to a page. I showed some of the full page and four-to-a-page printed above. I think it would be so cool to have the full size posters in the classroom, and the smaller sized cards given to students when they say they are interested in that job. I also like the card size option, as these would be great to print and put on a ring so you can use if you are giving this vocational assessment one-on-one with a student.

Errorless Questions: Many students with special needs are concerned with answering questions correctly. These daily questions are designed for students to get exposure to a wide range of jobs/vocations, to start thinking about what they might be interested in, and to practice answering questions errorlessly. Two different types of questions are available, allowing you to choose what will work best for your students.
  • What do you want to be? Given 2 picture choices. These are all opinion questions and students should learn that it is okay if their answer is different than their classmates’ answers. We graph our answers (by putting pictures underneath) so we can compare and see our similarities and differences. Gender neutral terms are used, but the picture may be of either a male or a female. Explain to students that just because a girl (or boy) is pictured, doesn’t mean it’s a girl (or boy) job, and anyone can do it! Since there are only two choices, some students might (rightfully) say that they don’t want to do either. I would respond, that’s okay, you don’t have to, but if you had to choose which one would it be? 
  •  Do you want to be a ____? Yes/No questions. For many students, answering Yes/No questions can be difficult. Many students are conditioned to always say “yes” (or “no”). It is important for these opinion question, that staff responds positively to all choices as not to make a student think they answered incorrectly.
Interest Inventories: Each student also gets the vocational interest inventory (available in ink-saving black and white or color) to fill out each day with their response (or over a couple days if you are going through this at a different pace). When completed this can be used for data to include in the IEP (great for transition plans!)

Journaling: Various journals are also available to help students record their responses. Journal levels include drawing, writing a word, writing a sentence, or writing a sentence and including why. This is great for work at the beginning of class or to keep those students who finish everything quickly busy! Also is great for students to compile their answers and include in an assessment to present at an IEP meeting.

There are so many things you can do with this product!

What fellow teachers have to say about this product:

  • Chris chimed in on Facebook saying, "I use the vocational question of the day as part of my morning work. We have already discussed careers. It exposes them to ones they haven't even thought about. It's great!"
  • Welcome to Spedland commented on TpT and said, "This pack is great! My high school severe-profound students love sharing why they would or would not like a job, and my nonverbal students are able to communicate their opinions too! Thank you!"

Grab this pack of Vocational Questions and Resources in my TpT store!

God's Love - Adapted and Interactive Books for Special Needs Ministry

If you follow me on Instagram, you know one of my new adventures is leading the special needs ministry at my church! For the month of February, we are talking about God's love for us.

Love can be such a tricky concept to grasp because it is so abstract but SUCH an important thing to learn about! See this post over HERE at Special Sunday School!

13 Things Every Special Education Teacher Needs in their Classroom

As a special education teacher, what gets you through the day? We all love our jobs, but will admit it can be challenging at times. We all have different essentials for our classrooms and things that get us through each day. So, special education teachers, what could you not live without in your classroom?
25+ teachers chimed in on Facebook and Instagram and we came up with this list. (Not in order of importance!) What would you add?

1. Laughter and Humor. You have to see the funny side of things. Laughter can get you through the day and those situations when you think, "this really can't be happening...but it is"!

2. Classroom management / Behavior system. Yes! Make sure you have a plan and clear expectations and find something that works great for you and your students.

3. Velcro. Sped teachers love their Velcro and lots of it! Get the Velcro coins - I love the price of these ones!* And the coins are so much easier!

4. Laminator and laminating sheets. Well, what were you going to use that Velcro on? ;) Plus your materials will last SO MUCH LONGER! I own this one*
(*amazon affiliates links)

@autismclassroomnews~Want the above visuals in your classroom? Get them from Autism Classroom News!

5. Visuals (created with the aforementioned supplies). Visuals for EVERYTHING! Essential for our visual learners and non-readers. I also love this simple and easy to access keychain visuals.

6. Caffeine! You name it, we need it! Coffee. Diet Dr. Pepper. Diet Coke....

7. Jesus. When you have no more strength or patience, pray, pray, pray! God comes through!

8. Sensory bins. Relaxing and fun while sneaking in some academics sometimes too :)


9. Computers. And Pinterest (follow my boards here)!
And TeachersPayTeachers! And so many educational websites!

10. Inspirational Quotes. Helps you remember what you're doing and why you're doing it. What you do in your classroom makes a difference!

11. Sticky Notes. SO. MANY. THINGS. TO. DO! Must Remember!!

12. Smart phone. Seriously. This has everything! Entertainment to distract kiddos during a drill. Timers. Camera. Texting parapros when they are out with a student. We could go on and on.


13. Paraprofessionals. Finally, we simply could not do it without our amazing classroom aides!

Thanks to everyone who joined in helping me create this list! Did we miss anything?

And be sure to follow the teachers' Instagram accounts linked above to see their great ideas each week.

5 Tips for Writing IEP Transition Plans and Outcomes

Are you lucky enough to be teaching teens? Then you are lucky enough to write a transition plan! In Illinois, all students must have a transition plan in their IEP by the time they are 14 and a half. So, unless you want to hold another meeting at the student's 14 and a 1/2 birthday, you will want to include the transition plan anytime in that year before it is required.
What to include in a transition plan in the IEP
For all transition plans, a student needs to have an education OR training goal (and they can have both), an employment goal, and an independent living goal. Also, we need to be thinking and writing about what this student will be doing AFTER high school (even if that's still 8 years away). Here's a few tips to make sure your transition plan is compliant.

1. Use "will" statements and be specific. 
"After completing high school, Becca will work in the community with support." 

First, when will this happen? Well that would be after high school, so every transition outcome should start with that phrase. You also want to make sure you are using will statements, this way it gives a clear picture of what we expect to happen and is easily measurable. 

You should not say something like, "Becca would like to work in the community with support." This is not a goal but rather a nice thought. It has no way of being measured and does not give a clear picture of where we expect Becca to be after high school. 

Finally,  be specific - what kind of job will it be? What kinds of supports will be needed? Let whoever is reading your transition plan get an idea of the needs and supports this student will need.

2. Include student and parent assessments. 

Transition questionnaire with pictures for non-readers
So, why are you stating Mark will work at an animal shelter after school? It better be because Mark told you he likes pets! I love using this symbol supported transition survey for students who may not be able to read or verbally tell me what they would like to do. Check this symbol survey out in the video below:

If you have higher level students who are good readers, there are a ton of various assessments and surveys. Check out this huge list here.
Keep a summary of all assessments in the IEP, so they can be compared to year from year.  In addition to these assessments, include your personal reflection of the student's strengths as well, such as Mark works well with computers.

3. State what the student needs to be successful. 

In the Transition Needs, Services, and Goals section you need to state exactly what that student needs to be successful. 

For example, in the instruction section, I would include something like this "Megan needs a structured program in order to stay on task. Megan will need to communicate her wants and needs. Megan will need to reduce the amount of support needed to complete a task or assignment. Megan also needs to improve her skills related to functional mathematics and language arts to assist her in preparing for post-secondary outcomes." 

Don't forget, your goals need to link to these areas so that you can prove that you are working on these things that your student needs to improve.

4. Prepare the student for their transition goals. 

If your student tells you they want to be a basketball star, you better show in the IEP that you are giving them opportunities to prepare them for that goal (the Course of Study in the transition plan is a great place for this). For example, to prepare them to be the next Michael Jordan, make sure they are in PE classes and have opportunities to participate in school sports, such as Special Olympics. 

We don't have to guarantee that their goals will happen, but we do have to show that we are helping them get there.

5. Be realistic. 

You won't believe how many parents say their child is going to live with them forever. The truth is, most children outlive their parents (not to mention that, with or without a disability, many students don't WANT to live with their parents forever). So many of my independent living goals sound something like this, "After high school, Paul will live with his parents and eventually move into some sort of supported living environment." This statement acknowledges that the parents want their child to live at home with them, but also that we recognize the need to prepare them to live successfully with other individuals as well.

Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any questions! Happy transition planning!

5+ Valentine's Day Activities for Special Education

I can't believe it is almost Valentine's Day already! Are you celebrating Valentine's Day in your classroom this week? Here's a few of my favorite Valentine's Day activities that you can easily include in your activities all throughout this week or for your Valentine's Day parties! 
Valentine's Day Party Ideas for Special Education Classrooms

Math using Conversation Hearts
I loved doing this estimating lesson. This is great for your students who need a bit of a challenge. This activity is a freebie from Miss Britnee on TpT, read more about it and grab the freebie here!

We also did conversation hearts with my lower students! We practiced color sorting, counting, and graphing. There are like 50 freebies for activities like these on TpT! I thought these free worksheets looked great, and check out even more candy heart math lessons here. This is such a fun and classic activity. If your students love candy, they will love doing these math lessons!

Valentine's Day Crafts - Inspiration from Instagram!
This past week we were sharing crafts on Instagram and I was loving the heart themed crafts! Any and all of these would be great to do for a fun Valentine's day craft. Thanks for the inspiration ladies! :) Be sure to click on the links and follow these awesome teachers!
Grab this easy art pack from Teaching Special Thinkers here!

Aren't these love monsters adorable!? Check out the Love Monster book here(amazon affiliate link)

I love the polka-dots! You can paint them with a variety of items, including pencil erasers and q-tips. It's fun to switch it up sometimes! :)

Be sure to check out more of this past week's crafts by searching #spedcrafts!

Valentine's Day Cards
Of course, you can't have a Valentine's Day party without cards! I love these cards because students are able to personalize their card, not only by coloring it, but by including their own words and thoughts, making it a really meaningful card.

These cards include symbol support and choices for your symbol readers, tracing options with visual choices for your beginning writers, and mix and match sentence starters for your students who might be able to write, but sometimes need some help thinking of what to say!

You could have students write to everyone in their class, their parents, siblings, grandparents, and the list goes on! Have fun with it! You can grab these differentiated Valentines cards here.

Valentine's Day BINGO
What's a party without bingo?! I love these bingo boards from Live Speak Love. Head over to her blog to download these bingo boards and other party games! :)

Of course, if you can have candy in your classroom, conversation hearts make the perfect bingo markers!

Valentine's Day Journals

Try out this free Valentine's Day journal in my TpT store. 
I absolutely love how these journals allow for my students to write using their own thoughts errorlessly and that there is an appropriate level for all of my students. Grab this FREE journal here or check out all of the Valentine's Day journals here!

Still looking for more Valentine's Day ideas? Check out my Pinterest board full of ideas below!

What are you doing for Valentine's Day? I'd love to hear about it! 
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