Thank's for stopping by!

Thank's for stopping by!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

2 Stars and a Wish

I am joining Mandy from Mandy's Tips For Teachers for a blog hop on 2 things that work really well for me, at the start of the year, and 1 thing that I wish to work on!

The beginning of the year is chaotic for EVERYONE involved! Teachers are getting ready for their new learners. Students are nervous and anxious about a new year, new teacher, new room, and new class. I am going into my 3rd year of teaching and am not even close to figuring it all out! These are just a couple pf things that have really helped me!

Working in Special Education brings it's own set of challenges! I have students that I need to get to know and form a working relationship with, and I only see them for 30 minutes a day... Perhaps more, depending on their need. There is paperwork to complete. I.E.P's to update. Groups to be taught! 

These are just a couple of things that I try and do/start right when the year kicks off! They are very beneficial to start the year of on a good foot! 

My first star idea is letting the students look around my room, check things out and ask questions. Working at a STEM school gave me this idea. The students do "Wonder Walks". They walk around the classroom for a set amount of time, with their notebooks. They are asked to write down anything they notice, like or wonder about. When the time is up, the class meets back up and discusses what they found.

This allows the students to guide the rules and expectations discussion. The expectations are always brought up... "Mrs. Nystrom, what does "Enter Appropriately" mean?"... Now, I am not just telling them what I expect, I am answering their question... and telling them how I expect them to enter my classroom! HA! It's so subtle they hardly even notice!

This procedure allows students to get a feel for the room, in a non-threatening way. It also allows them to see that their peers are wondering the same things!

I have included an exclusive freebie for you! This simple chart will help student's organize their thoughts during a Wonder Walk! 

Grab the file HERE!

My second star idea comes from working with students who have behavior needs. Special Education services rely on the need that students have. In order to continue providing services, a continuing need has to be proven. Enter documentation. I learned early on that a documentation system is very important! A majority of my caseload is typically students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (E/BD). Students use my room as a place to calm down and regain control of their actions and choices. During these times, behaviors can occur, crucial information can be reported, and interesting things can happen. 

As a SPED teacher, it is important to start the year off with a documentation system that will allow you to quickly note and track behaviors. I had several situations last year, that required lots of documentation and lots of "look backs". I had to make sure I had everything documented and recorded! 

Without a good system, you are unable to reference specific events, when needed (behavior plans, setting changes, mandated reporting, services times). 

My system is very simple and easy to use. This is the form that I use:

This form has everything needed to keep track of important behavior events, as well as other important information. 

At the start of the year (or new trimester/semester) I start a page for each of my students. I record their name at the top and place a paperclip at the top. Then, I use a large binder clip to keep all of the logs together. 

As the trimester goes on I record behavior events and important changes/ information. I record the date, time (if applicable), the event or information, and the end time (if applicable). 

When I fill a page up, I staple a new sheet to the TOP, and paperclip the two pages together. 

The paperclip helps keep the logs separated by student! This makes it easier to find the student you are looking for. I typically keep the students  I document the most on, at the top.

At the end of the trimester, I record the trimester number at the top, and file the entire log with that student's file! This way I can always reference it, when needed! 

Tip: Keep extra blank pages at the bottom of the pile! :D 

As a general education teacher, you may be wondering how a good documentation system can benefit you. Have you ever had a student in your class that has behavior needs, but is not currently receiving services?? 

When approached by a teacher about the possibility of a referral, this is the first thing I ask about. "Have you been documenting??" In our district, Child Study will not meet with the teacher until there is at least 30 days of data. This is a very easy way to provide data! 

If this is something that you need... Here is a copy of the documentation sheet that I use! 

Grab it HERE!

My wish this year is to push independent, word work time! My school uses Words Their Way. Each grade level does it in one way or another. During the last school year I had a couple of students who were working in my learning center on a full time basis. All of their academics were being completed in my room...while I assisted other students and ran groups. I NEEDED something to help this process! The classroom teachers provided activities for the main skills taught in reading and math as well as science and social studies. Word work was an area that was tough. Who wants to practice words?! Especially when there isn't someone sitting right there! I started looking into other 'fun' ways for my kiddos to practice their words.  This is how my  Word Work Task Cards packet was created!

We started using them towards the end of the year and they made a HUGE difference! These task cards allow the students to A. Choose how they are going to practice their words and B. Do them independently! 

I found a great bucket at the Dollar Tree to hold all of my materials. Inside the bucket, I include all of the materials needed, recording sheets, and the task cards. Check it out!

I have the directions hanging directly above the bucket. All of the materials are IN the bucket! The small blue containers hold the Task Cards. I have all of my recording sheets in the expandable folder. 

After teaching the student how to use the task cards and the materials, students will be able to choose their activity, complete it and prove that it was done (using recording sheets, which are included). 

Here is a glimpse into the pack! 

There are 48 task cards and 20 recording sheets. Several cards
use a generic recording sheet. 

 A list for the teacher, with all task card titles and materials needed!

A close up of each Task Card! It includes everything they need; 
the directions and the materials needed

Check out some student examples!

                                  Pipe Cleaners                                            Hidden Picture

The best part about these examples, is that all I had to tell her was "It's time for Word Work!". She went right over, chose the task card SHE wanted to do, got her materials, and got started! There was no battle. No power struggle! Her scores drastically improved on her assessments, and she was proud of what she was doing (she wanted the pictures sent to her mom!). 

These are a must have in any classroom that has spelling or Word Work words! I only had them for a couple of months this past school year. I can't wait to use them this WHOLE school year! 

Grab your copy HERE!

If you enjoyed these ideas, please consider joining me on Facebook  for more great ideas!

For more star ideas from more than 40 different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic that interests you. Thanks for visiting!


  1. I really like the "wonder walk" idea. I'm definitely going to use that on the first day. Thanks for sharing!
    Laughter and Consistency

    1. Thank you! =) It is such a great way for the kiddos to informally get to know their new environment!

  2. I'm so glad I stopped by! RtI is one of my "wish" items! Namely, keeping track and organizing documentation! I think the forms you've shared here will be a HUGE help!!!

    Theresa @ True Life I'm a Teacher!

    1. I'm glad yous topped by as well! :D Documentation is so tough to get on top of! This system worked wonders for me last year!! :D So easy to keep up with and it was all in ONE spot... not 3 or 4!

  3. I love the "wonder walk" idea! Your word work task cards are now on my Wish List!

    Sally from Elementary Matters

    1. Thank you!! The kids love it as well! It beats the "here is the pencil sharpener", "here is the paper" conversation! The kiddos can discover it on their own!! :D

      Those Word Work Task Cards are one of my Favorites! :) I know I am slightly bias, but it is awesome! =) It makes practicing words "fun"!! :D

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Thanks for sharing! I really like the wonder walk idea. :-)