Pageant Fundraiser for Special Needs Princesses

Every little girl loves dressing up and looking beautiful. What a better way to do this than a pageant?

One of my fellow special education teachers and blog readers, Lori Bush, put together this amazing pageant as a fundraiser for her special education classroom and featured princesses with special needs. Check out how she created this wonderful experience for special princesses and raised a ton of money for her classroom as well!
The whole process of paying the entry fee, finding a dress and being able to walk on stage in front of judges can be a lot for a girl with special needs. The judges look for poise and perfection, which may be difficult for some who may not be able follow the typical walk pattern on stage or have the ability to see the X marks for where to stand.

The Miss North Central Alabama Pageant has assisted those young ladies with special needs become the pageant princess they are!
Last year as a fundraiser for my (Lori's) classroom, my paraprofessional, Sandy and I planned a pageant. Not only would we have divisions for all ages, we would add a special needs "Princess Division".

The special princesses would get to experience the whole pageantry without the stress of being judged but still get the crown and sash every queen deserves. There was no charge for the princesses and with the help of Haley’s Closet, dresses were made available at no cost. Haley’s Closet is a dress ministry started by Denise Murphree and her daughter Haley. They provide pageant and prom dresses for a small loan. If the dress is returned cleaned and the same condition, the family gets the money back.
Our first year, we had 7 special princesses in our pageant with a total of 71 contestants from babies to young ladies.

This year, we had our second pageant. As word got around about the special princesses division and where the proceeds went, the number of contestants grew. We had 25 special princesses signed up and more than 140 contestants total! We split 5 age division! We were able to give away TWO $500 scholarships to our Miss North Central Queens in the 16+ division.

Along with the proceeds that support my special needs class, we were able to give back to Haley’s Closet. Denise was on stage telling the audience about how Haley’s Closet got started when her adopted daughter saw a fancy dress at a yard sale, and wanted it because she had never had one. The tears were flowing in the audience and then we added to the flood.
Miss North Central presented Denise and Haley’s closet with 7 little girl pageant dresses and a box full of slips. Yes, there was “ugly crying” going on stage, backstage and in the audience.

Miss North Central wants every little and big girl, no matter their ability or disability to feel like the queen they are.
Tips for planning your own pageant:
  • Make sure your venue is wheelchair friendly and a dressing room with plenty of space is available. (The auditorium we used, the backstage doors were flush with the hallway in the school and to the classrooms that we used as dressing rooms.)
  • We also didn't charge our special needs princesses. Most are low income anyway. Some may even have health issues that might pop up the morning of the pageant where they might not be able to attend last minute. The money from the competing contestants paid for their sashes and crowns. 
  • At least one parent was allowed in free with them like with paying contestants. 
  • Make sure their division is FIRST and no delays in getting started. (Since we had over 20 signed up, we split them into two group and lined them up in order of age. After the first group went out, we brought them all out in a line and crowned them. Then the next group got their individual stage time. After that, they were lined up and crowned. This helped keep things moving along.)
The proceeds from the pageant made it possible to purchase lockers for my students, juniors and seniors up to age 21, in my life skills class. We are in a separate school building and therefore didn't have lockers. My students wanted lockers like other high schoolers. Once we got the lockers, one student said he felt like a real high schooler.

With the addition of life skills and vocational skills curricula came the need for materials. We get a small amount of instructional money but not enough to purchase all of the materials we needed. With the pageant money we were able to buy supplies for more than 50 work task boxes, subscriptions to News2You & Unique Curriculum’s Transition Band, and an abundance of life skills materials from other special educations teachers on the Teachers Pay Teachers website. We were all blessed!

How to Write Amazing IEP Goals (and take Data like a Boss)!

How often have you gotten a new IEP goal and thought, how in the world am I going to track that? Or even worse yet, wrote an amazing IEP goal only to later realize you aren't really sure how you were going to collect data on that goal. Been there, done that. My first year of teaching I found myself writing really good IEP goals that were specific and described how students needed to grow...but sadly I found myself unable to keep track of their progress as detailed as I would've liked.
Sure, you can read a million different ways to collect data and maybe you've tried them all: clipboard, notecards, binders, and the list goes on. But your data collection might not get better until you make your student's IEP goals work for you!

Here's how to write the best IEP goals that you can also track easily and effectively!
There are 3 important questions to consider before writing an IEP goal:

1. What does this student need? This is the most important question. Why work on a skill if it isn't going to help the student succeed in the future?! What academic skills are you working on with this student? Or what life skills does this student need in order to be successful?

Here's a few student examples from the most common goal areas (I typically include a ELA, math, life skill goal, and then the last one varies based on student need).

English / Language Arts: Anna is working on journaling. She is a rock star at copying sentences, but when given a sentence starter she has no clue how to finish it. I would love for her to work on her journaling skills and be able to complete sentences using her own thoughts.

Math: Ben struggles with recognizing the values of bills and coins. Since he is in high school, we are going to focus on bills and using gift cards as he will be using those most often. Ben participates in a weekly classroom store where he can spend classroom money, occasionally buys lunch at school, and goes on monthly community trips where he may or may not have opportunities to buy items.

Life Skills: Caden is very prompt dependent. He can complete a task if he isn't distracted but will not move onto the next step on his schedule without a staff member giving some type of prompt.

2. How will you teach that skill? Will you be able to use task cards? Worksheets? Real life practice? Direct instruction? (Note: this is an important question for YOU to ask, but remember that another teacher might end up with this IEP. Write the goal as if the materials you are using aren't necessary, but give enough information that another teacher would be able to continue the goal even if they don't have the same resources)

English / Language Arts: Anna has a journal station built into her schedule each morning. She works in a small group with 2-3 students and a paraprofessional or myself, and will use these errorless leveled journals daily during journal time.

Math: During his direct math instruction, Ben will work on recognizing bills using a variety of method including worksheets, play money, file folders, and task cards.
Since the classroom store is weekly, he will participate money exchange there. Since he doesn't buy lunch all of the time and I'm not sure how many opportunities will be available in the community, I won't list those places in the IEP.

Life Skills: Caden has visual schedules for multiple classroom activities including: morning meeting, work tasks, and his hygiene schedule just to name a few consistent schedules. He has a 1:1 aide that can follow a plan I create for gradually reducing prompts (verbal to gestural to none from staff, proximity, etc)

3. How will you collect the data? 

English / Language Arts: Anna's journals are stored in a binder. Since I check her work after she is complete, it will be easy for me to check off a couple boxes on a data sheet, but I won't have a lot of time to write since I have multiple students in this station at once and she doesn't have a designated paraprofessional. It would be easy enough to collect data daily, but also not necessary. I will aim for data at three time a week.

Math: I don't need to collect data on everything! I will let the file folders and worksheets be practice only, and keep data on the direction instruction time that I have with him using the fake money that looks real. I should be able to track data each time we work on this skill, and I will aim for once a week.

Life Skills: Since Caden has a 1:1 aide, I will let her collect the data for this goal. The data sheet should include the steps on the consistent mini schedules we use and a space for the aide to write what prompt Caden needed (abbreviating V for verbal, G for gesture, + for independent, etc). The aide should be able to track each of these daily, and the data sheet could show a couple of weeks on one page.

Now, write that goal! Now, every school has specific requirements and thoughts on how IEP goals should be written. After talking with my team at school, I usually ended up writing general goals such as: "By ______,  Ben will demonstrate increased skills in the area of functional math as demonstrated by the following objectives." And then each objective was extremely specific and what many people would call an IEP goal in and of itself. So the examples that are following were actually objectives, but if you are required specific goals, the examples below would be perfect and their objectives can always be leading up to that goal (with 60% accuracy, 75% accuracy, 90% accuracy).

As you probably already know, make sure your goals (or objectives) are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

English / Language Arts:
Given sentence starters, Anna will complete a journal using options or her own thoughts with 100% accuracy, 5 out of 5 trials.

Math: (two goals/objectives shown)
Given a variety of bills, Ben will match/identify A) one dollar bill,  B) five dollar bill, C) ten dollar bill, and D) twenty dollar bill with 80% accuracy, 4 out of 5 trials.

When presented with a shopping activity, Ben will participate in a check out routine as demonstrated by 100% performance for the following steps:
1) Locates check out line
2) Waits in line with appropriate behavior (moves up when line moves, refrains from standing too close to others)
3) Takes out money or gift card
4) Hands to cashier
5) Waits for change (if paying with cash) or card to be returned
6) Takes bags
7) Moves to safe location (out of the way of next customer) to put change and receipt in wallet

Life Skills:
Given a picture schedule for a task with multiple steps (such as work boxes or hygiene routine), Caden will complete all steps of the task, moving from one task to the next without additional prompting from staff, 80% of the time, 4 out of 5 opportunities.

And that's it! Hold your IEP meeting, collect your data, and life is GOOD!

I hope you found some of these ideas helpful. Need a visual reminder at your desk? Here's a free printable for you! Happy goal writing!
Annnnd stay tuned for blog posts including tons of sample IEP goals/objectives and ways to teach them too! :)
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