Thursday, January 4, 2018

Data Collection in ECSE

Data Collection can be tough.  Between teaching, behavior management, bathroom routines, nursing services, speech, OT, PT, assistive technology and who knows what else how are we also supposed to collect data?!?  Well, guess what.... we don't have a choice. (Ha, I know you all know that, but sometimes we need a reminder).

Embedded Instruction:

 The number one thing I do to make sure I can collect data while wearing all of my other hats is to embed my instruction.  When you embed instruction into your daily routines, you can collect data on the things you need.  Embedding instruction means that you purposely plan and teach through your daily activities.  I wrote a whole blog post on this.  You can find it by clicking here.


I like using a matrix to collect data in my ECSE classroom and when I am teaching K-2 self contained.  A matrix allows me to see what I need to work on all at a glance and take data right on the sheet.  I keep a copy of my matrix on a clipboard that I or another adult can easily access and add data points.  I then transfer the data to a graph for the individual student.   You can find a little more out about a matrix ( and how it links in with embedded instruciton) at this blog post

Be Ready to Collect Data:

Have copies of your data sheets ready to go.  I keep a binder. clipboard, or a hanging file folder (depends on the year) filled with the data sheets I need.  I also keep the items I need to assess with the sheets.  For example, if I need Alphabet flashcards those are kept in a drawer with the needed sheets.  I recently did an alphabet check on my preschoolers using the PALS quick check.  To make sure I could do this quickly, I have all of the sheets that I need preprinted and in a binder.  I put the sheets that the kids read off of on a page protector.  Then I assess as one of the center rotations.  There are usually 2-3 kids in a center so I work with one and the other one does an activity like puzzles or a fine motor box.  I wanted to share a picture of my binder, but we have had a larger than expected snow fall and I didn't take pictures ahead of time (#bloggerfail). 

Don't make it to hard:

Do not get yourself in a frenzy tryign to collect data. If you make it to hard, you will not do it.  If you need to, go back to the simple ways .  Put a pile of paperclips in one pocket  and everytime a student exhibits a behavior, move a paperclip to the other pocket.  You can do the same with rubber bands.  I even know teachers who have kept data on their arm with a pen or put a sticky note on their body to collect data.  I have also been known to wear a teachers apron (a nail apron from the hardware store works awesome also) and I keep whatever it is I may need such as sticky notes and pens in that. 

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?