Saturday, June 18, 2016

IEP Writing Tips & Planning Pages

I know that the IEP format varies greatly state by state. Some use online systems, some use computer, but not online systems-- I'm sure there's even some of you out there who could still be hand writing all your IEPs! Which, I think would be crazy, but at the same time, our online system frequently has glitches and I feel like I write out most of the IEP on paper first anyway, so it could still be a blessing for some.

Regardless of what the system looks like for you, I thought I could still share some tips with you. This is the process I use when I sit down to write an IEP. It's precise. I've spent the last 6 years perfecting it and every time I write an IEP I perfect it a little bit more.

Each year IEP writing for me includes IEPs for new incoming pre-schoolers, annual review meetings for pre-schoolers already in our program and revision meetings throughout the year. I'm going to share my tips with you from the experience of writing a pre-school IEP. I specify pre-school student because again, many IEPs look different among states, and can also be different for different grade levels. I might include stuff your IEP doesn't require, and your IEP might require stuff that mine does not. Either way I hope you still find these resources helpful to you in your writing process!

Before I get started I make sure I have a time sheet to keep with my paperwork. This isn't something we're required to do, but something I began doing myself this year just to keep track of how much time I spend on an IEP for a student. 

When I'm writing an IEP for a new student the first thing I look through is the evaluation report and while doing so there are several things I'm looking for. I can save time by using this page to fill in info as a come across it. 

The next thing I'm looking for are the areas of delay for the students. I list out both the areas of qualifying delays and the areas with a partial delay. A partial delay may still require a need area or even a goal on the IEP if the child still has skills under this domain they need support with. The areas with qualifying delays MUST have goals.

Once I've identified the areas where I need to write goals I move to the next sheet. I use one of these for each need area where I am writing a goal, so you'll have to print multiples of this one. I list the area of need at the top, then refer to the evaluation report to gather the students present level of performance in this area.

When I write goals I always write the annual goal first and then make my benchmarks from there. I included space for up to four benchmarks on this page. Sometimes you may have 5 depending on when during the year you're writing the goal.

Once goals are completed the IEPs we write look at additional considerations. This includes special transportation, 12 month entitlement services, and extended school year (ESY) services. This is typically stuff I add to the online system as I'm going through, but I've included it in the forms as well just in case.

And for me, the last consideration for the IEP is an explanation of the student's placement. The placement page shows what kind of setting the child is in and we have to explain/summarize why that child is placed in that setting. Again, this is typically something I just add to the online system when I get there, but I've also included this on the planning pages.

I hope this is something you'll find helpful while writing an IEP. For me this really helps me organize the information and my thoughts before entering it into the formal IEP system. By having the additional pages for the smaller sections at the end I can get everything done on paper--which might also be helpful if I find myself multitasking during maybe a staff meeting haha.

I've also included forms for when you are working on an annual review IEP for a student you already have. In this case the "process" can be a little different because you aren't using an evaluation report to base your IEP off of.

If this is something you think could help you out, click the photo below to head to my TpT store and grab a copy!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tips for Smooth Transitions

I reached out to my readers on Facebook for some suggestions for this post. Every month on the 12th I write a blog post as part of the We Teach Sped group-- a group of special educators who are sharing awesome classroom tips and resources with you every day of the month. Click the link above to "like" us on Facebook and find the monthly calendar!

You all had awesome suggestions for blog post topics that I will keep using, but this one stood out to me for today!

With my pre-schoolers I have several strategies that we use to aid with transitions. Some students transition just fine with our overall classroom routine for a transition, while others may need additional supports to make the transition. Here's a list of the transition techniques we use; maybe there are a few you can take back to your classroom!

#1. Verbal Warning with a Timer
          - This is our "routine for a transition" if you will. Before we are going to transition to the next part of our routine I will set a digital timer along with the verbal announcement, "When the timer beeps, we're cleaning up for greeting time." --Just for an example. This works for a majority of my students this year. I have one who shows a little level of concern once the timer is started. For him, I let him know how long I set the timer for. Not that I think he fully has an understanding of the concept of time, but it seems to help calm him to say, "You have five more minutes with trains" so he knows he can still play.

#2. Option to Ask for 1 More Minute
          - I know quite a few of our pre-school classrooms utilize this strategy with different students with a variety of needs. For children who melt down once the timer actually does beep, we use a visual card to help prompt them to ask for 1 more minute. This helps the child feel in control and help decrease the tantrums. After hand over hand prompts to exchange the card, students begin exchanging on their own or using their words to request one more minute. My suggestion is to initially allow them to request this frequently. Maybe up to 5 additional minutes if your schedule allows. Once the concept is understood you can work on setting that max in place. Maybe they can ask 2 more times and then they have to make the final transition.

#3. Individual Visual Schedule
             - For some students an individual visual schedule may be needed to help them make transitions. We have a full class schedule posted in the room, but if a student is struggling to transitions from one activity to the next, giving them their own schedule to follow may be of more help. This schedule only has a certain number of spaces available so I might minimize what pictures are included, and be sure to highlight the transitions that the child struggles with the most.

#4. First/Then Boards
         - These are actually one of my favorites! I love using first/then boards in the classroom. I have two set up with a small binder. Then inside the binder I actually took an extra PECS book page and put it in the rings. This makes it really quick and easy to flip through and change out what you need on the first/then board. This is also really great if you want to give the student the option to make a choice for their board. You can set up their available choices inside the book for them to choose from.

#5. Give a Choice
            - This one might sound so simple, but giving a choice can really work for some students. If they struggle to transition to snack, then prior to the transition I will ask them, "Would you like snack today? Yes, please or no thank you?". The transition could be an issue because they just don't want to have snack that day. Or pair a preferred with a un-preferred to have the child pick what you want them to do. If they want to avoid the bathroom, then give them the choice "bathroom now, or book first?" This choice forces them into choosing the book, which may be the next part of your daily routine. By saying bathroom now, I feel that you've just given them the option to delay going to the bathroom, but it is still going to come up again. Then later on you can use a first/then to do bathroom first followed by a preferred activity. :)

What are some of your favorite transition techniques that you use in your classroom? I'm always looking for new ideas!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Jelly Bean Task Mats

When I came across these jelly bean erasers in the Target Dollar Spot the gears started turning right away! I loved the idea of creating a resource that allowed you to work 1:1 with a student to test a variety of skills, or focus on just one skill.

Then I thought, wait, wait, wait. Not all Dollar Spots have the same items and when it comes to some things, if you don't come across them in the first few days, you can miss out on a great find. So I knew not everyone would have these erasers, but may still want the task mats.

So instead of just focusing on the 4 colors included in the erasers, I made the activities to include the colors of a traditional bag of candy jelly beans as well. Now you can complete these tasks with either the erasers or the candy.

There are six different tasks included, some tasks have more than one activity page. I printed mine on regular printer paper and laminated them to be placed inside of report covers. I liked the idea of flipping through the pages like a book as you complete the tasks. The same idea can be achieved with a binder and page protectors. I don't know about you, but I feel like the price of a binder (with the clear view cover), has gotten a little steep, so I wanted to present this idea in a more cost effective way.

Here are some snap shots of the included activities. I ate most of my "research" so most of the example pages are shown with the jelly bean erasers, but the same activities are included for jelly beans and in traditional jelly bean colors.

Some of these activities have more than one activity sheet included. The counting sheets are available with and without colored squares like shown above in the photos. Are task mats something you can see yourself using in your classroom? Head to my TpT store to snag them!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Visual Supports for Play Activities

Even though I was planning on writing this post about two weeks ago, it managed to sneak up on me and I almost forgot about it!

I wanted to share with you some visual supports I keep handy around the classroom to support our non-verbal students during free play/center activities. I started making these boards a few years ago when I realized there was no way I could expect to keep visual supports for activities like this in a student's communication book for PECS. They just aren't big enough for something like that.

These play boards were my solution to providing students with visual supports during play opportunities without cluttering their communication books with pictures that would be used far less seldom than the pictures to communicate their every day wants and needs.

I should have snapped of photo of this, but of course that didn't dawn on me. I use command hooks on the wall in my play centers and punch a hole in the top of the play boards. Depending on what toys are available in the different centers, I hang the play boards up on the hooks. This keeps them out of the way, but makes them quick and easy to grab when you're playing with a student, or they're even excellent resources during push-in speech services. They are also hanging at student height so they can go up and access the board themselves.

You can grab this board for Free from my TpT store if you want to try something like this with your students. I have a few more I've already created that I'm working on getting added to my store.

What creative ways have you found to provide your students with visual supports during games/activities? And don't forget to follow We Teach Sped on Facebook to keep up with each of the daily posts and see what's coming next on the calendar!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Dinosaur Round Up!

I don't know why but I think dinosaurs are so much fun to do in the classroom! It's always one of my favorite themes to plan for. I've gone all out and created a volcano for dramatic play {directions shared in this post}
and I love how much fun the sensory table can be with "fossils" to dig for and discover in the sand.
Unfortunately I no longer have that awesome loft to hang my volcano from, but the ceiling works too along with some help from the custodians. :)

Dinosaurs must be a great topic for others too because they are some of my best selling products that I have in my store. I have my Dinosaur Roar Unit, which was updated in 2013 to include some awesome resources for teaching about dinosuars- the fact posters are my favorite! This is still the #4 top product in my TpT store!
Next up, at #3 in my TpT store is Dinosaur Alphabet Matching that I added back to my store just last year. This file had a face lift and I can't believe how popular it has become! It's a fun quick little activity to practice letter identification. It can be used in a pocket chart, as a memory game, literacy center, or even just a quick time filler.

When I go to plan for my dinosaur theme this school year I'm going to want to incorporate the theme into as many of the different parts of our routine as I can so I of course I was going to need some Dinosaur Cookie Tray Activities! I figured you would too knowing how popular the other items have been!

I'm excited to share these with you, 26 activity pages total. Perfect for planning that part of your day. We use these as a "morning work" that students do as part of their arrival routine. With a mix of skill levels included I can mix these sheets up between my students and get 2-3 weeks out of just the one pack!

Here's a shot of just some of the activity sheets that are included.
I hope to see these new dinosaur activities jump to the top of my best selling list with their friends! What do you think?!