The theme of September may make you a little uneasy because yes you read that title right – IEP goals can wait. This month isn’t about jumping into a new skill or creating the perfect data collection system (that’s coming soon thought) this month is all about my two Rs (heck no not rest and relaxation – you will probably be doing zero of that during this crazy busy month) – this month is about ROUTINES and REINFORCEMENT. Make that your only goal. It’s some what liberating and freeing to focus on only those two things this month and if you dedicate your month to that goal you will actually get it done versus trying to accomplish routines, reinforcement, data, academics, lesson plans, and all that.

Let’s talk about routines.

Even if you kids are veterans in your room, they had a long summer break. You may have switched up the schedule, added in some new centers, or created new work tasks. Give them some time to learn the new routine. Remember – schedules aren’t a magic wand. Just because you made schedules for all of your kids – doesn’t mean they automatically know how to use it. Take the time to teach the schedule. If your kids are brand new to you, your school, or your class – it’s going to be a transition process learning the new lay of the land. Give them that time. If you halfway teach routines, you will be pulled away from your instruction all year long to get kids to the right stations, help with transitions, and show what to do. Instead spend the time now so you can focus on instruction later.

How do I teach the routine?

If you classroom is based on rotating between centers, I recommend having the teacher initiate the transition. Let you aides know that you will be starting the center changes so to wait for your cue. Take the kids that are at your group – model and walk them through checking their schedule and finding their next activity. Then take the kids at the center through the same process. Repeat until all kids have been moved to the next center. This will take some time. By the time you sit down with your next group – you may not have much time left – that’s okay! You are working on teaching the routine. Keep the work at each center easy, enjoyable, and previously mastered!

Reinforcement is the name of the game.

The other goal is a hugely important one. You want to work on establishing yourself and your classroom as an amazing, incredible, love it so much it hurts place. I always say – be a chocolate chip cookie. Everyone loves a chocolate chip cookie. I’d eat one for breakfast everyday if it wasn’t unhealthy. Work on becoming that. Also take the time this month to give preference assessments, do observations, and try out new preferred items to start to figure out what reinforcers work for which kids. When teaching routines, plug in TONS of reinforcement. That means loads of tokens, praise, breaks, iPad, etc to show your kids which things they are doing that are great!