Wednesday, July 30, 2014

How I use Work Boxes in my Classroom

I first stumbled across the concept of work boxes, task boxes, task schedule, whatever you want to call them from Sasha at The Autism Helper. After a few posts of hers on them, I decided to put some boxes together. This was toward the mid-end of the 2012-2013 school year. My boxes were all fine motor tasks and I did a blog post on them {here}.

I made them, but now what? I didn't know when to have my students use them or when to teach them. If I wanted to implement work boxes effectively in my classroom I needed to do more research. A lot of what I came across was from Autism Classroom News. I found a book co-authored by Christine Reeve. I already had a copy of her book on setting up a classroom for students with autism, so I didn't think twice about ordering this book too.

Building Independence: How to Create and Use Structured Work Systems

This really helped me wrap my head around the idea, and got my gears turning on how I could implement it in my own classroom. I realized I needed to change a lot of my activities. I needed tasks the students already knew how to do and could complete on their own. From there my system grew and grew. It's seriously my classroom baby and I love it. I love planning new activities for boxes and I love it when I see my students independently complete their whole work box schedule.

I've added another shelf since this photo was taken and put more boxes into some of those empty slots. Depending on how many students you have on work schedules will determine how many boxes you need. For me, this past year I had 6 students completing schedules at once. Each student was doing anywhere between 2-5 boxes at a time. At max, I'd need at least 30 boxes to ensure my students each could complete a different task. Hence the reason I have such a large set up.

I divided two horseshoe shape tables into 4 sections. Gave each student a spot with their name tag and a strip of velcro to list their work schedule and their earn following their work. For some students this was the ipad. For others this was simply going to free choice centers. One table is right in front of the boxes and the other is located elsewhere in the room. It was important to consider what students would travel better to get their boxes and which ones should be closer to the shelves. Also, I had to consider which students should return the boxes to the shelves on their own, and which ones simply needed a finished basket.

The additional pictures at the top of one students section correlate to a behavior plan. They have nothing to do with implementing task boxes in your own classroom. :)

I label my shelves with pictures of where each box goes. This allows the students to return the boxes to the correct spots on their own. I would really suggest to do this. I had one student who couldn't put boxes back independently until I added these pictures.

You'll also need to consider-- can my student match pictures? If so, what can they match independently? Colors? Shapes? Letters? Numbers? The child will need this pre-requisite skill to complete work boxes. Make sure you teach this first. I have one student who can match shapes and colors independently, but needs some support with letters. I try and keep the majority of tasks that are appropriate to her skill level in boxes that she can independently find.

One of my other favorite things about work boxes is I can target multiple IEP goals for my students by using this system. We are working on attention to task, independent functioning, matching, sorting, counting, identifying letters, one-to-one correspondence. The list goes on.

I use a "work" picture for my students to transition to their tables. They remove a picture (we're sitting on the carpet before this) and they place the picture on the velcro square at the top of their schedule on the table. From here, they move to the first picture on their schedule. Take it off, go match it, bring that box back to their spot.

Students are taught to take their finished picture to an adult when they complete their work, and then go back and bring an adult what their earn picture is. For the students in the photo above, you can see that all 3 of them earned the iPad. Fortunately each student tends to finish their work at a different time, however, we do have "iPad back-ups" if you will. I have 3 students earning the iPad for finishing their work and only 2 iPads in the classroom. I can't imagine this is a foreign struggle in any of your classrooms either. But don't worry, I have a solution (and it works!)

I created "iPad wait cards" for students who are waiting for the iPad. They can keep this card with them and go play at centers until an iPad is available, or just wait at the table. (You'd be surprised how many prefer to do that!) Occasionally I have students taken out for services when they may be in the middle of their earn time. This card works great for that too. They take the card with them and turn it in to a teacher when they come back to finish their time on the iPad.

Is there anything else you think you need to know or are you ready to set up work boxes in your classroom?! I could boast about this system for days! And you don't have to spend a lot of money to set it up! I shouldn't say you don't have to spend a lot of time, because initially it does take a little bit for prep. I buy my shoe box containers at Wal-Mart. They are .97 cents. DO NOT buy the Dollar Tree ones. The lids do not latch like they do on the Sterlite ones. You want them to latch. Trust me. The red lid containers are also from Wal-Mart in the kitchen section. You can get a 2-pack for $3.97 (i think). They were the perfect size for shelves, so I splurged. I have more tricks up my sleeve for our work boxes but those ideas are for future posts! Any questions? Post in the comments or email me at!

Monday, July 28, 2014

FAQs for Happy Sticks Behavior Management & a Product Update!

This post is long over due! Last summer I posted about Happy Sticks Behavior Management {here}. I was so excited about the idea that I couldn't wait to share it. That had one down side-- I was yet to implement this system in my classroom so I knew there would be some gaps to fill in the product once the school year started.

A lot of you were interested in the system and had great feedback and questions regarding it! I thought I would use this post to answer those questions, AND explain how I used the system in my classroom. I ended up making adaptations to it in my own room so I included those updates in the pack. After you read this post, if you already own my Happy Sticks product, you'll want to download the revised version! Let's get started with the FAQ shall we?

  1. How do you manage/store sticks?
    • I store sticks in 2 places. The first being my apron pocket. I'm always wearing my apron so this makes them handy for when I want to hand them out. I also keep a little container of them by our radio. It's central to where we count sticks, and in the classroom. 
  2. How do students get sticks?
    • In my classroom students can earn sticks for consistently following directions and using their "listening ears." They also earn sticks for cleaning up when it's time, or being a good friend.
  3. Do students lose sticks?
    • Personally, I don't take sticks away. My philosophy doesn't support taking away something you have just given a child. They clearly did something to earn that in that moment. Now, this is not to say that every once in a while you won't have that one child who ONLY responds to that negative of losing. But I don't make a habit out of it. That also doesn't mean that there are not consequences for poor behavior. I created this system because I didn't feel that my color clip chart was working in the classroom. Well by December I had added the clip chart back, but it correlated to our happy sticks. If a child was on yellow or red, they didn't count their sticks when it was time it earn. So if I hand out sticks, and that child makes poor choices, I can have them move their clip down and/or visit the thinking chair for their consequence. If I don't feel they have shown me they deserve to earn, then their clip stays down on yellow or red when it's earn time.  
  4. How often do you count sticks?
    • We have 3 "earn breaks" during our daily schedule. The first one is after greeting time. Then the next two are after we clean-up from centers. This is a great motivator for cleaning up. "We need to clean-up so we can count happy sticks and chose our earn!" 
  5. What about a different colored stick for negative behaviors?
    • A purchaser asked me this question and I thought about it. I decided this could be a great alternative to negative behaviors. For example, If a child is continually calling out in class, you can say "I'm sorry you keep calling out, I'm going to have to put a red stick in your pocket." When it's earn time that stick could mean a loss of 1 min at earn time for each red stick. Now, because the red stick is a negative consequence itself, if you were using something like this, I would say YES these sticks you can take away. Should the child get it together, stop calling out, and start raising their hand, then you reinforce that behavior positively by saying, "great job raising your hand! I can take your red stick back."
  6. What do you do for students who make poor choices?
    • As I mentioned above, I re-incorporated our color clip chart, but tied it in with our sticks. A child who is making poor choices is going to move their clip down. They can always move their clip back up. At the beginning of earn time, we look to see what color our clips are on. Students earn additional sticks depending on what color they are. If they are on yellow or red, they don't earn. The sticks they already have will stay in their pocket and they will sit out while their peers get their earn time. 
  7. How do you keep track of sticks?
    • I thought about creating a form that allowed me to communicate to parents how many sticks their child earned that day. The more I thought of it, the more I decided not to. There really is no point in telling the parents whether their child earned 12 sticks throughout the day, or 22 sticks. Either way, that child earned. If they did not get their earn time, then yes, that is going to be communicated to the parents. 
  8. How do you communicate behavior to parents?
    • Since I added the color clip chart back in I went back to using a behavior calendar to communicate at the end of each day what color their child was on. If they had to move their clip down to yellow or red, but went back up, I color 2 colors on their day. If they stayed on green or higher, I just color in one color. I use these editable calendars by A Cupcake for the Teacher. In the box on her calendars I added an explanation of what each color means. 
  9. How do you introduce the sticks to your class?
    • At the beginning of the year anytime a child earned a stick they would need hand over hand or one on one support to guide them to where their pocket was, identify their pocket, and put their stick in. After a while they were able to do this on their own when given a stick. The first 2 weeks of school, we count our sticks, then we have an earn. Everyone gets the same earn, they do not make a choice based on how many they have yet. Once they have the routine down, I introduce making choices based on how many sticks they have. It doesn't take long for the students to adjust to this. 
Now that we've reviewed the FAQs, I can share in a bit more detail, the changes I made to the Happy Sticks System throughout the school year.

Here is our happy sticks display in the classroom. (The topper for our pocket chart somehow went missing. But it is included the pack when you purchase.)

So to the left we have a pocket chart for our sticks, then our earn board that displays our choices, and our color clip chart. By looking at the clip chart you can see how I made it tie into the sticks. Purple = 4 extra happy sticks, blue = 3 sticks, green = 2 sticks, light green = 1 stick, and yellow and red are no sticks, no earn time. When students end their day on purple, they also get to pick from the treasure box. You can also see that I edited our choice board. When school first began, this is what our display looked like: 

No color clip chart, and our earn chart went up to 25 sticks. The numbers were also displayed in segments of 5, versus having each number on the card. After a while using this system I realized 2 things. One, I wasn't giving out enough sticks, nor was I going to be giving out so many that they reached 21-25 sticks since we count 3 times throughout the day. Why keep those options displayed if we aren't going to use them? So I cut off from 11-15 down. Next, I realized, well my students aren't old enough to understand the concept that 1-5 means if I have 2, 3, or 4 sticks, I'm picking from that option. They need to see the actual number on that card. So I edited mine.

Now students would count their sticks, then come up and identify the correct number. This also gave me another opportunity to practice number identification! After identifying their number, they would make their choice. After everyone counts and makes their choice, I set the timer. Typically for 3-4 minutes. Our last earn time of the day is right before dismissal. So if we're running behind I'll set it for 1-2 minutes since we need to get to the bus! 

I change our earn items each week, or every 2 weeks if we had a short week for some reason. The pack includes a variety of visuals that you could use for your earn choices. Or you can easily create and add your photos to the chart. I usually do a mix of toys, sensory, or food items. Sometime all 4 are toys/games, or food. (And a brownie means, brownie bite--not a full size brownie!) 

If you need to re-download this file to snag the updates for your classroom, just click the photo below Or, head on over to my store if you've wish listed this item and I've now convinced you to buy! ;) My TpT store is 20% for the rest of today-- snag this item for $2.80 instead of $3.50! (Through July 28th, 2014)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Don't Miss Out!

On all these sales and savings! Popping in to remind you of some sales to take advantage of and giveaways that you don't want to miss! 

Today (Sunday) the 27th and tomorrow (Monday) the 28th my store is on sale for 20% to help with those back to school blues. whomp. whomp. There's not avoiding it, it's coming. So why not at least save a little bit of money on the items you need to prep for your classroom before that first day gets here!

Click the photo to head to my TpT Store
Some more of my friends, and your favorite bloggers, have their stores on sale too! Click {here} for the links to their stores. (Please note: some of these sellers may or may not be participating in this sale. You can find out by going to their store and looking for the sale tag.) 

Next up, don't forget to enter to win a Blo(r)ganizer from Ashley at Schroeder Shenaningans in 2nd. I have been raving about this product since the day I bought it and I'll continue to do so! If you blog and/or sell on TpT, you need this to help! It will keep all your thoughts, ideas, and plans, organized and in one spot! The giveaway closes at 8pm EST tonight!

Click the photo to enter the giveaway
Now you go and shop til you drop. I'm off to work on updating my Happy Sticks Behavior Management today!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Substitute Survival Guide

As I'm sure many of you have seen, I offer many substitute binder packs in my TpT store with all different themes. If you've never seen them you can check them out by {clicking here}.

These packs just include themed divider pages for setting up your substitute binders. The rest of the info is on you to gather, organize and include.


I have put together for my own classroom what I am calling a "substitute survival guide." Because let's be honest, they want to survive the day and we want them to too. And depending on what you teach, or the lovely student group you have that year--surviving really is the goal! :)

I was using one of the same theme binders in my classroom that I have listed in my store. But then this year, I realized, I never took the time to update each section like I should have. I would wind up typing out 8+pages for sub plans. They were basically a narrative of our day-- surely overwhelming for the sub. But I didn't want to forget anything!

Each year the needs of my students have become more and more complex. Especially when you are working with non-verbal students and you have a substitute come in, it can get a little tricky. EVERYTHING needs to be spelled out for them. What to do if so & so does this. What behaviors to ignore. Who is allergic to what. Who gets what edible reinforcers. Why they get that reinforcer. The list goes on.

Fortunately I have at least 1, if not 2 para-educators in my classroom who are pretty darn good at running the show if I have to be out. BUT the time may happen when we are both out. It never has, and knock on wood, it never will, but I need to have my sub binder prepared for something like that just in case. And better to do it now than when that fever is setting in around 10pm and realize you just can't make it in the next day.

I've included a ton of form options for you in this binder! There are some forms you may not need to use, just like there are some forms I don't need to use. My students don't have specials, but I know yours might, so there's an option for that. You may not have students who use their own individualized schedules, but mine do, so that form is in here too. I really think this is versatile for all teachers!

If there are forms you would love to see added to this, let me know! I'm willing to add on! Here's what is included so far:

-Binder spines (in 5 different size options)
-"Steps to Survival"
-Student information
  - student list
  - allergies
  - behaviors/how to address them
  - students triggers/reinforcers
  - related services
  - visual schedule order list
-Behavior Management
  - behavior system used (components)
  - behavior system used (reinforcers, earn, ex. of earns)
  - color clip chart
  - behavior report
-Daily Schedule
  - daily schedule
  - specials schedule
  - activity (describe each part of the schedule)
-Emergency Procedures
  - contact numbers
  - behavior problem procedure
  - fire drill procedure
  - lock down procedure
  - tornado procedure
  - earthquake procedure
  - hurricane procedure
  - power outage procedure
-Transportation Information
  - bus numbers
  - car riders
  - walkers
  - after school care
-Lesson Plans
  - format pages for plans (if interested)
  - student groups
-Miscellaneous Info
  - time fillers
  - early finishers
  - important songs and chants
  - map
  - bathroom breaks
  - ready, set, reset

This product is also editable, so you can fill in the forms in powerpoint with your own favorite fonts. OR there is a .pdf version included if you'd rather just print and fill in by hand. You can see that I created dividers by laminating the divider pages and using post it tabs. This is a super simple and easy way to use images as your divider pages!

I put all of my forms inside of page protectors. I just have a preference for organizing this way. Everything remains crisp and clean. I can't wait to put this to use in my classroom this year. I started to fill in some of my forms, but obviously need to wait until I have more information on my students before I can complete it. If you're interested in this product, you can find it in my TpT store {here}! I would LOVE your feedback on this!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Explain the Song Book to Me

When I posted about our {daily schedule} I mentioned what we do during each part of our day. One of those includes the "Song Book" during large group time. I had a lot of people show interest in what the song book is, so I said I would do a separate blog post on this.

If you are teaching pre-school-- at any age or skill level, you NEED a song book. Even if you're a kinder class, having a song book would make for a great break between activities.

My first year teaching special education pre-school we were using High Scope Curriculum. Our district ordered all kinds of supplies from them. High Scope is really awesome if you've never heard of it and they offer a tremendous amount of resources. We no longer use their assessment system (it was crazy tedious), we use Teaching Strategies GOLD instead, but we still use everything else high scope. I could continue to elaborate on High Scope and what it is, but that would be a huge tangent to this post. I'm just here to share about the Song Book today. :) But let me know if you want more information on it and I'll talk about it more in separate post!

We use the song book during our large group time. Each day there is a child's name velcro'd to the front of the book. That is the child who gets to pick that song that day. This works so well! Every now and then you might have the child who gets upset because it's not their turn (I think that's unavoidable at this age) but after a while they adjust really well to understanding that their turn is coming and you see that behavior decrease.

The Song Book can be ordered from High Scope for $24.99. It includes a page to use for the cover and 25 full page images for common songs to help the children decide on the song they wish to sing. I also have added additional songs to our book, where I create my own images. I put each page inside a page protector in our book.


Because High Scope sells this book, and because it would be against my moral compass, I cannot create a similiar product to sell you. BUT if you weren't interested in purchasing, you could easily start something like this on your own. I do really like the simplicity of the images High Scope uses for their songs. They are simple, yet convey each song well.

Now because I am working with students with autism and severe disabilities I have made some adaptations to our song book. Now this is something that I CAN share with you if you are interested in making the same adaptations to your book.

I added a sentence strip to the font of our book, and small PECs to each page with the matching song. This way, I can create a language opportunity for our students who are non-verbal or low verbal and using PECs. We then add the PECs page to this visual support for singing. Students who can use their words to tell me in a sentence what song they have picked will still hand me the PEC that matches the song so we can add it to this visual, they just will not use the sentence strip.

When you purchase my Song Book Supplement Pack you will get a sentence strip, PECs pictures for common songs, and the singing visual.

Click on the picture to find this in my TpT store

Now, if you're thinking, I love this idea, but I really don't know if my students can do this or understand how to pick a song. You're thinking wrong! They can! I have to share this wonderful story with you that happened just this past school year with one of my students.

He is non-verbal, we were starting him on PECs. He was currently using "one communication page" with pictures on either side. Mostly songs actually. He was also working on sitting for carpet time. He had progressed from sitting on a peanut ball with adult support, to sitting in a chair. He had observed other students chose a song from the song book, but he had never had a turn. We working on getting him attend to the group, I hadn't tried teaching the song book to him too.

Then one day during free centers, he takes a chair, slides it to his spot on the carpet, grabs the song book, and sits down in his chair. Picks a song and takes the PEC to an adult. IT WAS AMAZING! It's moments like that, that remind me how much I absolutely love what I do and love working with students with autism.

You can use this resource in any classroom! Make whatever adaptions you need to allow your students to access it!

P.S. Don't forget to enter the giveaway to win a copy of the blorganizer by Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd! You can click {here} to enter the rafflecopter!