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If you are only using your paraprofessionals to undo task boxes and take kids to the bathroom, you are really missing out. You are missing out having an extra person to teach in your classroom. You are missing out on hours of valuable small group or one on one instruction. You missing out on even more progress on those IEP goals. Not to mention, that paraprofessional is probably pretty stinking bored. Set up a paraprofessional-run station where your para can work on IEP goals. I don’t mean give them a list of IEP goals and move on. You are still the teacher. Rather, create a system and prep the materials for them to work on that goal in the same way you would. Check in and monitor progress and enjoy the benefits of all of that extra instructional time!

1. Run the program yourself first.

Sometimes there are things that work out just perfectly when we envision it in our heads and then in real life it’s a whole different story. That happens a lot with instructional programs. Maybe we think we can pick up exactly where we left off last June when in reality we need to spend some time reviewing and relearning some of those concepts. Maybe we think 15 trials is a good amount but we see out student will fatiguing around 9 or 10. There are always little tweaks to make. Before you start training your paraprofessional on how to take data on some type of instruction – do it yourself for a bit first. And don’t just do a day or two. Spend a week or more running the program how you envisioned to make sure that you can fix any of those tweaks yourself!

2. Set everything up.

Get EVERYTHING ready for your paraprofessional. Have the data sheets copied and organized so they can be found super quickly. Get any materials you need in a spot that can be grabbed right away. Make real world language program guides (read why these are amazing and why you need them here). Get the organization down. Remember the second that child is sitting and ready to learn, getting the data sheet out should be a less than 2 second activity. If you have to turn around, find the data sheet, go get a pencil, find the right page, etc… by the time you look back up, where is your kid? He is long gone. So make sure that everything is organized so it can be found quickly.

3. Spend time training.

The question I always get is – how will I find time to train my paraprofessionals? The answer is iPads, puzzles, extra worksheets, and file folders. Give the group of students you are scheduled to work with a big pile of all of those things (or even just iPads to keep it simple) and spend a full week working with your paraprofessional at their station. Yes, a full week. Yes, that means the kids that are scheduled to be with you are missing out on instruction that week. That’s okay. That’s what September is about. We are teaching routines and that means teaching paraprofessionals data routines as well. I’d rather that group miss out on one week of instruction and get stellar instruction and through, accurate data taken at the paraprofessional station all year. Totally worth it. (tangent over)

Spend that week training the assistant. Have them watch you run the program, observe them taking data, provide feedback, and repeat. Check out this post for more tips.

4. Check in.

That one week isn’t all I’m asking you to give. Continue to provide regular check-ins. Especially those few weeks after you’ve done your training. Checking in doesn’t just mean asking how things are going (which you should do!) but it means also observing the data collection process and giving feedback regularly. This is something we often have great intentions of doing but it doesn’t always get done.  Write it in your calendar, on your lesson plans, or put a reminder in your phone. Teachers need prompts too 🙂

5. Review the data regularly.

Review the data on a regular basis. Again – set up reminders if you need to. Give your paraprofessional feedback so they know you are checking in on the data “Looks like Johnny is almost at mastery on his addition goal” or “Sarah is struggling on her number identification task, maybe we will switch it up.” Add in the accountability piece. If you knew that your principal never read your lesson plans, would you still do them? Or would you do them as thoroughly? No probably not. But if you knew your principal read them every week, you would make sure they are done.

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