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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Morning Meetings in the Primary SPED Classroom

Hi Everyone!  I am excited to be a part of the Back to School blog hop hosted by The Autism Vault.  There are lots of great post and prizes to be won!  Make sure you make your way through the entire hop for your chance to gather some great freebies and great prizes!

I start everyday in my classroom with our morning meeting. It brings everyone in the class together and I have found that this is a great way to start off our day.

When the students come into the classroom, they complete their entry routines.  They take off their jackets (if wearing one), change their shoes (they have indoor/outdoor shoes), unpack their backpacks, put their lunches and communication books away, get their AAC device/book, check their schedules and go to the carpet for morning meeting.  Since my student all complete their entry routines at different paces, once they get to the carpet they choose a book to read on the carpet while we wait for everyone to join us.  We taught them to do this as part of the morning meeting routine and we found that it helps to settle them for the day.  Now, when I say read, I mean that they look at books or complete interactive books as none of my students are fluent readers yet.  Once everyone arrives at the carpet, I tell the students to put their books away and we start our morning meeting.

I run our meeting on our SMART board using a Notebook file that I created.  I absolutely love the SMART board for group lessons because I can make the activities engaging and interactive for my students.  Before we had the SMART board, I used paper based materials and we always had a difficult time keeping the students engaged and on task.  This piece of technology has assisted in decreasing excessive behaviours and increasing on task behaviour.  It's not say that things always run smoothly.  My students still have autism, and some of them still require reinforcement to remain engaged and on task throughout the morning meeting.  For those who need it, they get reinforced using edibles or tangibles or through token boards.  For the students who need the token boards, once their books are put away, they choose what they are working for and place it on their token board.  Then they hold their token boards in their laps or on the floor beside them and are reinforced throughout the morning meeting.  I was trying to find a pic of the token boards we use in my room, but I could only find this one on my phone!  If you want a better visual, you can find them in my TPT store.

The focus of my morning meeting is communication and appropriate behaviour. I use this time to address social skill development, as well as to introduce and review academic concepts. Typically, I emphasize attending, imitating, listening, and turn taking, and waiting skills.  I include calendar skills, but no other math skills.  I teach a math group lesson later in the day, so we focus on math skills at that time.  In my morning meeting, I include songs, questions, and interactive activities.  I just revised our morning meeting and made a new Notebook file, which you can grab here.  Obviously, you will have to edit to include your class information, but this gives you an idea of how to run it.

We start our morning meeting by singing the national anthem, as my students arrive after the school's announcement.  Then we say our morning prayer and take attendance.  For some songs I use you tube videos and other we sing.  I find mixing it up like this helps to keep the students engaged and on task.

You will notice that some of the info seems to be missing in the pics I am posting...that's because it is!  I created the templates for the Notebook file in Powerpoint first because I find it easier to work with and then imported into Notebook.  I had to add the interactive pieces in the Notebook file.  When you download the Notebook file, you will find everything you need is there!

Okay, back to my morning meeting.  After attendance, we sing a "Hello" song and then I say hello to each student.  By doing this, we work on the critical communication skills of greetings and eye contact.  I also ask the students how they are feeling today and they answer using vocal language, or their AAC system and then post their answer on the SMART Board.  We then work on learning each other's names.  The students either point to the named person, say the person's name when asked or match their written name to the picture depending on their skill level.

Then we get into the calendar skills.  We sing the months of the year and days of the week song and students match the abbreviations of the months to the month.  We work on relating the days of the week to each other (today is.., yesterday was...) and then count the days of the month until we get to the current day.  Lastly, we practice saying and writing out the date and counting the number of days in school.

After that, we discuss the weather.  Students take turns each day identifying the weather for the day and then we tally the sunny days for that week.  Next, we discuss the seasons and choose the appropriate clothing for the season.

The last part of our morning meeting is focused on vocabulary.  Each month, we have different vocabulary words that the students learn.  For September, vocabulary instruction will focus school words.  The students will either point to the labelled word or expressively identify the picture when it's their turn.  Finally, we do a question of the day.  I ask each student the question and they respond using vocal language or their AAC system.  We tally their answers and discuss which had the most responses (more/less comparisons).  Then students check their schedules and move onto the next activity!

How do you run morning meeting in your classroom?  I am always looking for new ideas and would love to know!  Drop me a comment below!  And don't forget to enter our giveaway for some awesome prizes!  

Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to hop over to Autism the Teen Years for more tips and freebies!  

Until next time,

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Friday, 19 August 2016

Friday Inspiration File

Happy Friday!  It's my day to post on the We Teach SPED page and since it's Friday, I thought I would choose a topic that doesn't require much brain power!  Today I want to share with you my 5 favourite fidgets that you can make with little money and materials! 

1.  Binder Ring Bead Fidget

This one is so simple to make and you most likely already have the supplies in your classroom!  All you need is a binder ring, I prefer using larger ones, and some pony beads.  Simply put some beads on the binder ring and you are done! Make sure not to fill the entire ring with beads; you want to leave some space so that the students can move them around the ring.  I also like to put a dab of E6000 glue where the opens, so that the students can't open them and drop beads everywhere!

2.  Carabiner Clip Fidgets

This one is so simple to make with supplies from the dollar store.  Simply buy a carabiner clip and some fun keychains, attach the keychains to the clip and you are done!  Easy peasy!

3.  Pool Noodle Fidget

This one is ridiculously simple!  Just a buy a pool noodle and cut into slices!  Students can squeeze the slice or put on their finger!

4.  Balloon Stress Balls

You could have your students help you make these.  They could practice measuring and pouring to fill the balloons.  I didn't do that, but you could!  I actually made these this summer when I was cleaning out my kitchen cupboards and drawers.  I found these balloons and then when I was cleaning out my pantry, filled them with old spices, flours and beans!  I love the different textures the ingredients created!

5. Weighted Lap Fidget Bags

I made these after seeing a similar product in a catalog for $40.  I found these pouches at the dollar store and decided to try to make my own.  They cost about $5 each to make.  The first one I made is from a mesh pouch filled with rice and then I added two strings of beads on the outside.  The second one is a plastic cosmetic bag that I filled with water beads.  I like these because they provide some weight to the students and they can still fidget with the rice and beads with their hands.  I plan on using these during group lessons the SMART Board.

Do you have any favourite DIY fidgets?  I'd love to hear about them!  Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time,

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

5 To Do's To Make BTS Simple!

Hi Everyone!  It's my day to post on the We Teach SPED page and I have some tips to help you make going back to school simple!

1)  Get to Know Your Students

This first step is crucial in setting up your classroom for the year.  If you don't know anything about your students or their abilities, how are you going to make a schedule or plan lessons for them?  Getting to know your students can be easy.  Read their IEPs, behaviour plans and student profiles if they have them.  If you can't get access to these items during the summer, call their parents and hold interviews either over the phone or in person.  If you can and are willing to, ask to meet and observe the students at home or their summer program.  Over the years, I have found that reading about students is helpful, but it's not until I meet and observe them that I can get a really good understanding of their needs and abilities.

2)  Print and Prep!

Over the summer, I like to print and prep my teacher binder, my sub binder, forms I will need throughout the year and reminder notes.  It doesn't take much time to put these binders together and it one less thing I have to worry about the week before school starts.  It also helps to get me organized and on track for the documentation I need to keep throughout the school year.  There are several resources for these binders on TPT, but here are links to the ones I use:

3)  Go Shopping!

This is my favourite part of going back to school!  However, I usually leave this part to the last minute and then it just becomes stressful for me and my bank account!  This year, I decided to spread it over the summer and when I am out running errands or going grocery shopping, I stop at the dollar store or Walmart and pick up things I need.  I have to say that doing it this way has really made it more enjoyable and less financially stressful.  Plus, I am getting everything I want that I see at the dollar stores!  In the past, I would wait until closer to the school year and then what I wanted would be gone!  If you see something at the dollar store you want/need, scoop it up because the next time you go there, it might be gone!!!

4)  Plan & Prep Week One

Once you know who your students are, you can start planning your first week back.  I always start the school year off the same way.  The first week is dedicated to teaching the routines, pairing with reinforcement and assessment.  Teaching your students how you want your classroom to run from day one is key!  Building independence in our students is a major goal and we start this by teaching them the routines for every part of the day.  We also take time during this first week to pair ourselves with reinforcement.  This is especially important for new students, but you need to rebuild your relationship with your returning students after a two month break.  So during the first week, we extend recess and playtimes a bit and make sure that we plan some fun activities that the students like.  Finally, the first week (or two) is devoted to assessment.  This is a key process as it informs me what skills my students have retained over the summer and which ones they have lost.  The assessment drives my instruction and also informs me of any changes I need to make to the schedule in order to meet the students' needs.

To achieve these goals, I have to prep the materials I need.  Over the summer, I make new independent work tasks and prep any materials needed for assessment.  This includes data sheets and teaching materials.  I also make sure to have materials I will need for art class and music class as this is easier to prep.  I use these resources for independent work tasks and art.

5)  Meal Prep

This is something that I do every year and am so thankful to have time over the summer to do this!  The first week at school is hectic and it only gets more hectic over the course of the year.  So help future self out by making and freezing some meals.  This eliminates so much stress for me the first couple weeks of school as I am usually exhausted and don't even want to think about cooking.  There are tons of Pinterest boards about quick and easy freezer meals you can make.  I also like to make some quiches, soups and chili to freeze for my lunches.  And don't forget to take advantage of all the fresh, local produce available during the summer and freeze some of it!  I love freezing berries in the summer to use in smoothies during the school year.

If you complete these 5 To Do's over the summer, I guarantee you will have a less stressful return to school!  I'd also love to hear what you do to make back to school simpler!  Leave me a comment below!  Thanks for stopping by! 

Until next time,

Friday, 29 July 2016

Friday Inspiration File

Hi Everyone!  We are in the middle of our summer break here in Ontario, but that hasn't stopped me from shopping for school supplies!  If you follow me in Instagram, you will have seen some photos of the awesome things I have found lately.  If you don't follow me on Instagram, what are you waiting for?!  You can follow me @adventuresintheatc!  For today's inspiration, I want to share with you five of my favourite dollar store finds this week.

1)  This cutlery set is perfect for functional independent work tasks.  I love it because it's not as big as cutlery trays that go inside drawers.  Anything that saves space is a win with me!

2)  These scissors.  Last year I bought these at Scholar's Choice and paid $5.99 for one pair!  I found the exact same ones at a dollar store for $1.99!  I like these ones because they have a little piece that you can move to make them spring loaded and because of the visual cue they provide for finger and thumb placement.

3)  This die.  Oh the possibilities with this die!  I plan to use this in my literacy centres for letter matching and identification games and for sight words games. But you could also use it colours, shapes, vocabulary development, etc.

4)  These dry erase markers.  I love the bright colours and the fact that they are mini, which is perfect for little hands!  I like using mini writing utensils in my classroom as they encourage the proper grasp.  It is much more difficult to write with these using a whole fist grasp.

5)  These markers.  Like I said above, I love using mini writing utensils!  I have my room stocked with the Crayola Pip Squeak markers, but when I saw these, I had to buy them!  They are even smaller than the pip squeaks and cheaper!  Double score!!!  Just look at how small they are!  Try using a whole fist grasp now!

Do you have some awesome dollar store finds?  I'd love to know about them!  Drop me a comment below!  Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time,

Monday, 25 July 2016

ABA: The Building Blocks of Teaching

If you teach Special Education, or have ever had a student with Autism in your class, then you most likely have heard the term ABA.  But do you really know what ABA is?   In my position, I train and consult to a lot of EAs and teachers and it surprises me how little they really know about ABA.  I mean, after all, ABA is one of the most effective teaching methods for students with ASD.  But, besides that ABA principles are really just good teaching practices, period!  Every teacher uses some form of ABA in their classrooms, whether they know it or not.  So today I'd like to take a closer look at what ABA is.

ABA is the only therapy with more than 30 years of research proving its effectiveness for children with Autism and other developmental disorders.

ABA, or Applied Behaviour Analysis therapy, is the science of human behaviour.  It is the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviours to a meaningful degree.   "Socially significant behaviors" include reading, academics, social skills, communication, and adaptive living skills. Adaptive living skills include gross and fine motor skills, eating and food preparation, toileting, dressing, personal self-care, domestic skills, time and punctuality, money and value, home and community orientation, and work skills.
Over the past 30 years, several thousand published research studies have documented the effectiveness of ABA across a wide range of:

  • populations (children and adults with mental illness, developmental disabilities and learning disorders)
  • interventionists (parents, teachers and staff)
  • settings (schools, homes, institutions, group homes, hospitals and business offices), and
  • behaviors (language; social, academic, leisure and functional life skills; aggression, self-injury, oppositional and stereotyped behaviors)

ABA treatment can include any of several established teaching tools, including discrete trial training, natural environment teaching, and the Floortime model.

Discrete trial teaching

The most common and distinguishing type of intervention based on applied behavior analysis is discrete trial teaching. It is what people most often think of when you say "ABA" or "Lovaas method." It is a mistake, however, to think of an ABA program as just DT teaching. Lovaas (among others) notes very clearly that a behavioral program is a comprehensive intervention, carried out, as much as possible, in every setting, every available moment. The skills that are taught so efficiently in discrete trial drills must be practiced and generalized in natural settings.

A discrete trial is a single cycle of a behaviorally-based instruction routine. A particular trial may be repeated several times in succession, several times a day, over several days (or even longer) until the skill is mastered. There are four parts, and an optional fifth, to a discrete trial.
  • the discriminative stimulus (SD)-- the instruction or environmental cue to which the teacher would like the child to respond
  • the prompting stimulus (SP)-- a prompt or cue from the teacher to help the child respond correctly (optional)
  • the response (R)-- the skill or behavior that is the target of the instruction, or a portion thereof
  • the reinforcing stimulus (SR)-- a reward designed to motivate the child to respond and respond correctly
  • the inter-trial interval (ITI)-- a brief pause between consecutive trials

Essentially, this illustrates the order of a discrete trial. First comes the teacher's instruction (SD). If the teacher thinks the child may need some help responding correctly, she will give him a little prompt, cue, or model to help him out (SP). Then, either with help or without, the child gives some response to the instruction (R). If the child responds incorrectly she might correct him, and then give him another chance. If he responds correctly, or close to correctly, the teacher might give him some reward or praise to encourage him (SR). After that is completed, the teacher might want to pause for a bit before continuing, to let the child know that they have completed one set and have moved on to the next (ITI).

When I present workshops or provide trainings, I don't like to overload my audience.  The same applies here, so I am going to stop here and talk more about discrete trial training,  in my next blog post.  Since ABA and Discrete Trial Training are large topics to cover, I am going to break these concepts down into a series of blog posts.  I hope you found this introduction helpful and hope you will stop by next week for the second post in this series.

To help you get started with discrete trial training, I have made my DTT Colour Teaching Kit free for a limited time!  Click on the picture below to grab it for free while you can!

Until next time,


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