4 Ways to Teach Students how to Tell Jokes using Symbol Support (free download)

What do you do for April Fool's day in your special education classroom? This can be a tricky holiday to celebrate. In my classroom, we tell jokes! And not only on April Fool's Day. Jokes are a great way to give student confidence speaking, motivation to communication, and an appropriate way to gain attention.
How to teach special education students how to tell jokes using symbol support (free download)

I have an envelope filled with these 22 symbol supported jokes that my students can use in a variety of ways depending on their abilities.

Telling Jokes Verbally: My readers can read the question (labeled #1 on the strip) first, wait for someone to say, "I don't know" or "What?" and then read the punch line (labeled #2). We all then laugh. Ha ha ha...

Telling Jokes with a Communication Device: For my students who use Proloquo2Go (a communication app on iPad), I program in a couple of jokes with separate question and answer buttons/labels, but with a picture that corresponds to the joke. Here's one of my students telling his favorite joke using his iPad!

Telling Jokes using Switches: You can also use switches to tell jokes! If you have a two button switch, one side can be the question and the other the answer. Or if you have a multi-level switch, the first hit is the joke, and the second the punch line!

Telling Jokes by Giving them to Someone: You can also have a non-verbal student tell a joke by physically handing it to someone. With these joke strips, you can cut them apart so that #1 and #2 are separate and glue them to a different color construction paper strip, such as green for #1 and red for #2. The student would then tell the joke by handing over the green strip first, and then when the individual reads it and responds, the student can hand over the red answer strip!

Download these 20+ jokes for free here!

How to Set Up an Independent Work Box Station

My independent work box station is one of my favorite activities for my students. It's amazing to watch them grow more and more independent and begin to work on these tasks all by themselves. And my students find so much satisfaction and pride in being able to do tasks on their own tool! Plus, I know a lot of classrooms are short on aides. After teaching your students how to use a work task station, you shouldn't even need any aides to run it so you can utilize them where needed (just obviously with someone keeping an eye on things in case a student needs redirection!).

What kind of supplies do I need? Shoeboxes (I got 30 of them at the dollar store), labels and schedules, and random things you can probably find in your classroom or at the dollar store to create the tasks! If you need more space and have small tasks, you can use index card holders (for task cards) or magazine file boxes (for file folders)

What kind of tasks should I have? You should have tasks that your students can complete independently. Sure, you want to challenge them a little bit (for example, don't give a student who can alphabetize a simple color matching task), but the overall goal for this station is independence and following a schedule - a VERY IMPORTANT life and vocational skill!

See my Pinterest board here (or below) for ideas and for pictures of the work tasks I included.

 You can also look through my boxes in the links below.
Look around your classroom and see what you can find to make into tasks before you go out and buy stuff. You might be surprised what you find!

Whatever tasks you have your students do, make sure to teach your students to put their work back in the box completed and DO NOT let them see you take it apart. That devalues their work, and who wants to do work if they know it will just be taken apart? Plus, it's not realistic. If you are completing a task on the job, you better not take it apart after you've finished it! I've had some students who came to me so trained in taking their work apart that it took six months to undo...

How do I set up my student's schedules? A weekly master schedule is your best friend! I scheduled my student's boxes so that no two boxes were done on the same day, so that the student schedules could be set up in the morning by an aide and be ready to go.
Sometimes students repeated tasks in a week, but for the most part, they had a variety of 12-15 boxes that they complete weekly (some students don't do work tasks on various days due to shortened schedules or therapies). This also made data easy to compile because each day of the week had the same boxes.

How do I teach my students the schedule? Start with very simple tasks. You want them to learn the routine first. Set up their schedules beforehand and have your student find their schedule with their name on it (for student who are working on identifying their name, I choose a unique color for their schedule card or put a sticker on it to help them identify their schedule).
Once a student finds their schedule, I have them find the boxes that match the icons on their schedule. I used letters for my icons and put different color backgrounds on all of them to further help my students find what they are looking for. When the student find their boxes, they put them on the table. (For some students, you will probably have to do this step for them and have them start right at their desk). The students then work through their schedule in a left to right order (or top to bottom). When my students finish a task, I have them put the completed box back on the cart (with the work still in place so I can check it later), and they take the icon off of their schedule and place in a "finished" cup and move to the next box!

And that's about it!
Teach your students the routine and soon this station will run instead. I speak from experience when I say that you will amazed and so proud of what your students are able to achieve independently!

Let me know if you have any other questions in setting up a work box station.

Quick and Easy St. Patrick's Day Ideas for your Special Education Classroom

Who's celebrating St. Patrick's Day in your classroom this week? Any excuse for a party, right? I love parties, but I also love activities that are quick and easy to prep. Here's a few of my favorite activities that you can have ready to go in minutes (or even seconds!)
Parties also help our students practice important life skills and offer a fun way to get used to changing the routine (which can be hard, but important!)

St. Patrick's Day Crafts
Have you ever done marble painting with your students? It's very easy to have all students, no matter their skill level, participate. We used copy paper box lids, a piece of paper with a shamrock outline, and then added some marbles and blue and green paint. The student then tips the lid back and forth to make this really cool painting!

St. Patty's Day Drink
"Cooking" activities can't get any easier than this! All we did was add some green food coloring to some Sprite and the kids had a blast! It's also a great time to work on requesting items, counting food coloring drops, and pouring their drinks (if you're that daring!)

St. Patrick's Day Cards
I love to work on writing and using unique thoughts with these differentiated St. Patrick's Day cards. This pack has supports for all of my students, including my symbol writers and my writers, making it easy for me to differentiate for all of my students without any extra modifications!
I can have a student complete sentences using a symbol, trace sentence starters and choose a ending (or come up with their own), or write their own card using mix and match sentence starters.
Each card will end up being unique with it's own message, which I absolutely love. You can have students can make cards to give to each other, teachers, or family members.  Save time and help teach the important life skill or writing cards with these St. Patrick's Day cards!

Lucky Charms Sorting and Graphing
Check out some of these ideas that I pinned here for using Lucky Charms for fun math lessons! Kids will love sorting and/or graphing their cereal, well, they will love it as long as you let them eat it afterwards :) And all you have to do to prepare is buy a box of cereal and print a couple of these free worksheets!

What else are you doing for St. Patrick's Day? This week's Instagram challenge is to share something green! :) Participate by using the hashtags #BSEspedinspiration and #spedstpattys! 
I'm looking forward to seeing what you're doing in your classroom this week!

How to Teach Students Their Personal Information

Knowing and being able to share personal information is one of the most important life skills for our students to have. This might be achieved verbally for some of our students, whereas other students might work on handing over a personal identification or ID card. Some of our students might be working on filling out more detailed forms, and others working on writing their names. No matter where your students are at, they can (and should be) working on their personal information!
How to Teach Special Education Students Their Personal Information

Personal Information as IEP Goals
I love using personal information as an IEP goal, or an objective. It is an essential life skill and ties into language arts/speaking/writing standards as well.

(You will notice a lot of my objectives are separated by letters. I like to separate sections of the objectives by letters so that I can be even more specific on how a student is performing on a skill without making it two objectives, so for example, I can say "Student is currently at 70% accuracy for tracing his first and last name. A) Student traces his first name with 90% accuracy, about one in every ten times he will forget or skip a letter. B) Student traces his last name with 50% accuracy, usually getting the first couple letters correct.")

Here are some of the phrases I have used in my objectives (of course with the "By ____, Student will.... with __% accuracy, __ out of __ trials.")
  • Student will trace his a) first name and b) last name
  • Student will match his personal information (a. name, b. address - street name. c. city, d. state, e. zip code, f. birthdate, g. age) with the appropriate section of a form.
  • Student will be able to produce an ID card with his personal information in response to a personal information question such as “Can I see your ID” or “What is your address?” 
  • Given the following personal information: name, birthday, and age, student will a) trace personal information b) copy personal information c) write personal information without a model.
  • Student will complete a form using her personal information (a. name, b. birth date, c. address, d. phone number)
Practicing Personal Information Daily
One of the times we practice personal information is during our morning work or binder time. Each of my students have a form in their binders that they use to practice the personal information that relates to their IEP goal or what they need to work on. 
Ways to teach special education students their personal information - an essential life skill
Some of these personal info worksheets are laminated with velcro so that students can match their personal information, other worksheets are laminated and students can use a dry erase marker for something like tracing their name, and still other worksheets are simply printed on paper so a students can practice filling in a form with a pencil and also so that I can continuously adjust what information they are working on.

Ways to Fade Prompts and Teach Independence
When a student is working on memorizing their personal information, I usually start with them writing the information they know without a model (such as their name), and then the information they are learning with a light tracing font. I will then physically fade the tracing font to a lighter shade of gray as the student gets more practice. 
Teaching students their personal information by physically fading the trading prompts - great for special education students
Also, for each worksheet/form, students practice writing their information more than once, so I might have them trace it the first time, but then the next time it will be blank, so they can look up at the previous information to copy it, but will start learning the information as they do so!

Practice Filling Out Forms Electronically!
Google forms are easy to make and great to use when collecting data! I made a few different google forms that I can easily customize for my students needs. One is all typing, the other is a combination of typing and drop-downs (for example, to choose state or birthday month), and the final one is multiple choice for my students who are still working on recognizing and choosing their own personal information. Check out this YouTube video on how to edit these to use for your students. And the data sheets, done automatically, I LOVE GOOGLE! :)

Non-writing Ways to Practice Personal Information
Our students who aren't able to write need to know their personal info too! You can program their personal information onto their devices and ask them questions to practice answering using their communication system. 

You can also print out an ID card for them to carry in their wallet, and ask questions such as "what is your name?" or "what is your address" and have them respond by having over the card (or if they have a state ID they can use, even better! I always recommend to my student's parents to get one of these for their child. Disabled IDs are FREE and great to have, especially if a kid gets lost or gets into a situation and doesn't know how to respond). 

I have also worked on recognizing their name in a simple, "my name" and "not my name" sort. You can also have students match their personal information (cut out in strips and laminated with Velcro) to a Velcro-ed form!

If you want some editable personal info forms that are ready to go, check these personal info sheets out! What other suggestions do you have for teaching students their personal information?
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