Saturday, December 16, 2017

Preschool Holiday activities

We have been having a lot of fun in my preschool ECSE class.  The kiddos are super excited about Christmas and  I have been using that to my advantage. 

We have been using playdough to work on our fine motor skills and imagination.  We used popsicle sticks and playdown and tried to make trees.  Later in the week after reading and the Gingerbread Man, we used gingerbread man cuts out (laminated!) and made faces, buttons, etc.  The kids were then having their gingerbread people talk to each other.

This tree has been a huge hit!!  I found the felt tree at the local thrift store for $4.  I then used cut outs that I received from Carson Dellosa (Part of the Holiday Fun Collection) as ornaments.  The kids have loved these cutouts! They are not only using them for ornaments but as cookies in the play kitchen.

What have your been doing in your classroom to keep the December peace?

Friday, November 24, 2017

Flexible seating in the Special education classroom

Ever been to a professional development and after sitting and listening for an hour you just need to move?  So you cross and uncross your legs, tap your pen, then get up and go use the bathroom because "Hey we are adults and we don't need to ask to use the bathroom".  Well, guess what?  Our students need that movement also.  Studies have shown that students focus more on instruction when they have opportunities to move and sit in a position that is comfortable for them.   As their teachers, we need to help these little people find the best learning position for them.  The best way to do this is to offer a variety of options.  

Set Boundaries/Guidelines:

Before I let me students try different seating options, I set the guidelines or boundaries for the option.  If you don't follow this, you don't get to use.  Period.  For example, if sitting on a wobble stool students are not to stand on the stool or spin around.  If using a wiggle seat, they are not to poke it with a pencil.  You have to set up what works for you.  All teachers have different expectations and personal limitations.

Types of Seating:

Wobble Stools:

These have been a hit with my 4-year-old students through adults. (Yes, I sit on them).  Students love to sit on them while working on puzzles, doing word work, in small groups etc.


Really any type of stool is awesome.  One of the teachers I worked with last year wrote a grant to get 5 stools that were used at one of the small group tables.  The kids loved the option. 


Yes, standing needs to be an option.  Some kids just need to be able to stand.  Sometimes I will give boundaries on the floor in the form of a tape box that they need to stay in when they stand.  You can also use a standing desk or take a regular desk and adjust the legs as high as they will go.

Sitting on the floor:

Sitting on the floor is for more than story time.  You can lower a table and students can sit on the floor and still work.  They could also use lap desks or clipboards. 

Wiggle Seats (AKA Stability/Exercise disk):

These awesome seats were originally designed for exercise, but the kids love them.  I let my students use them in chairs and on the floor.  You can find a variety of types with different types of textures.  Change how much air in each one to meet each child's needs.  If you do look to buy these lookup stability disk or exercise disk as those prices are often cheaper. 

There are so many more options and this is just scratching the surface.  I hope this gets you thinking about how you can offer other seating options to your students.  I would love to hear, in the comments, how you use flexible seating in your classroom. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sensory Bin Fun!

Do you use sensory bins in your classroom?  This year I have decided to implement sensory bins with my preschool class and the bins have been a huge hit! I wanted to share some of what we have used so far that has been successful.

Base Materials:

I have used a variety of base materials to get our bins started.

Add ins:

Some of our bins include the base material and then just stuff to scoop and play with such a cups and funnels.  In some of the other bins, I put various items that the kids can hunt for.  Here are a few examples:
  • plastic/foam letters
  • small pumpkins
  • bugs
  • plastic shapes
  • numbers
  • mini erasers
  • items that match our current unit


  • Limit the number of students per bin. I only have two students per bin. 
  • Set rules.  I tell the children that they can not throw the items around and need to keep the "stuff" in the designated areas.
  • Use lunch trays to help contain. 

I am loving how these are all working in my classroom and plan in making a variety throughout the school year to fit with our units and the time of year.  I am still working on organization, but once I find something that works I will share! 

 I would love to hear how you use sensory bins in your classroom.  Please share in the comments below.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

October Alphabet fun!

Happy Fall!!!  I am so excited for cooler weather, leggings, hooded sweatshirts, and carving pumpkins.  Oh, and The Little Old Lady who wasn't afraid of Anything!  October can lead to so many fun activities that really grab our kiddos attention.  I wanted to share some of the alphabet games I play with both my preschoolers and K-2 kids to keep them engaged and learning in October.

1. Alphabet Bats

My student love these bats!!  They are paper bats on a clothes pin.  Each bat has a letter on it.  The kids pick a bat out of the bag, read then letter and hang it on the string.  Letter practice and fine motor all in one!

2. Alphabet Scarecrows

These scarecrows are so much fun and can be used in a variety of ways.  Students can practice saying the letters, handing you the correct letter, matching the upper and lowercase letters and the list goes on. I got these scarecrows for free from Make Learning Fun. 

3. Pumpkin, Pumpkin

This is very similar to books I use later in the year (Valentine, Valentine and Farmer, Farmer) however, instead of using a book I use a plastic pumpkin or a pumpkin cut out.  I put letters/numbers (cards, magnetic, etc) inside the pumpkin.  The students then take turns pulling out a letter and saying what it is.  Sometimes I will throw in a few distractor items like a spider or finger (Pretend of course!). 

4. Spider Webs

This is one of my favorite activities and I pull it out multiple times a year.  I have used black paper plates (from the dollar store) and a silver permanent marker to make spider webs.  Each web is programmed with a letter, number, shape, etc.  (I think I may make a few with sight words this year).  I then spread the plates on the floor and the students place spiders( I use these that I bought on Amazon) on the letter I call out.  You can see more about this activity by checking out this post. 

*This post contains an affiliate link for Amazon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

5 Freebies to start your year

Happy September!  Happy Back to school!  Yes, I know I am late on the train, but just like everyone else, back to school time is crazy around here!

Here is a list of freebies for you to use to help you plan, make activities for independent work binders, for a quick center, subplans, or just on a day that you realized you didn't plan enough!

1. Name activities for parents:

I just found this Freebie by Tara West and it is perfect for me to send home with my preschoolers and maybe even some of my kinders for name practice at home (Ok, I will probably use it with my own child also).  I have not decided if I will save it for parent conferences or give it out next week at Back to School Night, but either way.  It is a win!

2. Printable Packs by 3 Dinosaurs:

If you have not discovered 3 Dinosaurs yet, I highly recommend bouncing over there right now.  I use Cassie's Printable packs not only for my preschoolers but also for my K-2 kiddos.

3. Planning Playtime Freebies

Planning Playtime has a Freebies page where she has various freebies that will work for each month.  While I am not a fan of using worksheets in preschool, I feel like a lot of these activities I could make into reusable activities for independent work binders for my K-2 kiddos.

4.  Make Learning Fun Themes

Another one of my favorite places to check is Make Learning Fun.  If you go to the themes section you can find tons of activities for math, language arts, etc. all on a specific theme.

5. Alphabet Letter Hunt

Tot School has these free Alphabet letter hunt sheets.  I am using these in conjunction with the Unique Curriculum.  As I introduce letters, students can use these sheets to practice recognizing the letter.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Meet the Parent: Special Education Style

Meet the parents tips for special education teachers.
As a new teacher (Okay, and as a veteran teacher) meeting your students' parents can be scary.  It is almost akin to meeting the parents of your new love.   However, this does not have to be so stressful as long as you prepare yourself and start off with a positive relationship. Parents are the best advocates for their children and they love to be your advocate also (I say this as a teacher and as a parent of a child with an IEP).

Get to know your students

I know, how can you get to know them when they have not been in your room yet.  Guess what, as a SPED teacher we have a slight advantage to general ed teachers in this department.  Paperwork.  Who ever thought paper work could be a good thing?! In this case, it is great.  So grab a cup of coffee, sit down and take some time to read over IEPs, parent surveys, evaluation reports, reports cards, etc that are in the student's cummulative folder.   This information will help you have an early peek into the windows of your student.  

Paperwork might be good!

Get to know your parents

Again, how?  Look at the paperwork!  If parents have filled out school paperwork look to see if the parents have the same last name, is the student living with one parent, both parents, grandparents or someone else?  

Make the first communication POSITIVE

Try not to wait until open house to contact your parent's for the first time.  Call home and introduce yourself, send a postcard to your student saying "Can't wait to meet you at open house!", send a quick email.  Anything to let your student and their family know that you are happy to be working with them. 

Ignore the Negative Nancy

My first year at my new school I was warned about one parent and how she was so hard to work with.  I was a nervous wreck!!! However, I was positive and gave a friendly approach.  Guess what?! She became one of my biggest supporters. We were able to have open lines of communication and talk about the best way to approach her child's education without so much as a frown.  


Let the parents know how to contact you.  I have a business card that I give to parents when I first meet them and every year I have their child, that simply has my name, phone, and email. I had them printed on VistaPrint, but you could just print it one peice of paper or even a sticky note.  This way parents know exactly what they need to do if they need to contact me.  I have also started using Remind so that parents can text me, which for some is easier.  Remind keeps a log of conversations so I can just print it out if I need to.  I have also had parents who would only communicate via Facebook messenger.  I try to do what works best.  However, remember that you have to have the type of communication that works for you.   If you are not comfortable communicating via Facebook or Instagram then give the parent your accepted forms of communication and move on. 

I hope this helps you feel a bit more comfortable when it is time to meet the parents!  Do you have any other tips or ideas to help new (or seasoned) special education teachers?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Working with Para-Professionals

Working with paraprofessionals

**This post originally appeared on A Special Sparkle on July 21, 2013.  It has been modified/updated a bit.**

One of the scariest things for me my first year was not the kids, but working with my paraprofessional.  I mean, she was old enough to be my mom (Sorry Ramona!) and she had been working in that classroom and school for at least 5 years.  

 When I went into my classroom for the first time she had her (very large) desk in the back corner with some stuff hanging on the wall near it.  The first thing I did was move her desk.  I had to make sure the room was mine and the way I wanted to be setup so that we could have a successful year.  We never met until the first day that teachers had to be in the building and all of the paras came to eat breakfast with us. Of course I was late to that breakfast because I got a flat tire (Go me!!)

 Our first year was crazy, but we became good friends and in the past 11 years, I have learned a lot.  I am no longer working in that school, I now work in a different district with a different group of paraprofessionals (all who I love dearly), but what I learned my first year (and every year after that) has been invaluable.   The paraprofessionals I currently work with are great!  We are friends and even though they sometimes get very motherly on me, I still wouldn't trade them for anything.  With that being said, here are a few things you should keep in mind when working with paraprofessionals.


 Treat your paraprofessional with respect.  Don’t ask him or her to do anything you wouldn't do. If they are expected to change a diaper, then make sure you jump in a change a few yourself.  


 Let the paraprofessionals know what your expectations of are them.  I find it best to write it out.  That way you can always refer to it.  I made a plan a few years ago that I was told was very helpful.  You can check it out here.  Feel free to adapt it and use as needed.  Also, while blog stalking browsing, I read a great post on Make Take Teach where Julie explains how she structures student time in inclusion using a curriculum matrix.  This also provides that paraprofessional with a plan.

Open Communication

Keep the lines of communication open.  I can not stress this enough.  The ladies I work with are my lifeline at school.  If I am out, they are the reason the classroom runs smoothly.  There are often evenings where we are on the phone discussing something that happened during the day or texting reminders to each other.   This year I am planning on having a communication center where I can post notes for the day and a “ Ask Caitlin” notebook so they can write things down that I need to address at one of our meetings.  I also want to include a calendar in this area. 

Ask for help

 Ask the paraprofessionals for ideas and suggestions.  They are a wealth of information and sometimes will have an idea that you never thought of.  This can be for anything from a lesson idea, behavior modification or a suggestion on how to word an email. 

Have FUN!!

Most importantly, have fun!   

Here are some links to some other sites that you may find helpful information on working with paraprofessionals. 

Working with paraprofessionals