#1 Prep and Plan
Before you even think of diving head first into having your para take data and starting to train them – you have got to get organized and make a plan. First thing you will do is select goals that your para can take data on. I love to select a goal that I already started working on with the student. Working on the goal yourself for a little bit helps get the kinks out. If the goal is way too hard or way too easy or you need different materials or prompting procedures – figure that out ahead of time. This training process will go the best if you have a really clear, concrete vision of what implementing the program looks like. If you are wishy washy – you’ll never get on the same page.
In addition to running the goal yourself for a bit, you also want to prep data sheets and program guides. You want everything ready to go and as straightforward and easy to understand as possible. For more info on data sheets click here. If you aren’t looking to reinvent the wheel check out my Discrete Trial Set 1, Discrete Trial Set 2, and Discrete Trial Set 3. Each includes program guides and data sheets for a bunch of different goals and they are editable! So get prepped with all of that material ahead of time. Remember just like us and our students, some of our paras may not be auditory learner and having the program guide will help make sure they understand everything you are explaining!
Now that you know how to run the program. Have your para observer you run the goal for a few days. I know what you are thinking – how do we have time for that?? Either you go to the para’s station or the para goes to your station. Give the students that now are without an adult iPad, file folder activities, computer, or break time. Everyone will live. It will be fine. Breathe. Teachers get nervous about giving any unplanned break or down time but in the mission of para training it is okay!
#3 Watch and Provide Feedback
Now keep on with the crazy plan of letting the students at your station have computer or break or do previously mastered tasks for a few more days. Even if this whole process takes a week – it’s worth it! If your students miss one week of small group instruction with you but get a YEAR’s worth of quality instruction from a para in return – it’s definitely worth it.
After your para has watched you model implementing the goal, now it’s their turn. You are going to observe them and provide feedback. Providing feedback is hard for teachers. We think our whole job is to be a teacher but we are teacher/managers and that’s a hard pill to swallow. Giving feedback is awkward and people can take feedback differently. I like to ask people when they would like to get feedback. Some people like feedback in the moment right while they are doing something that isn’t right. Other people want to get feedback at the end. I always give paras the option – feedback in situ or at the end? It sets the tone for mutual respect.
#5 Sandwich your feedback.
When giving feedback, use the sandwich method: one positive comment, one constructive comment, one positive comment. Start with something great they did, add in any points to work on, and end on a high note. I love this method!
#6 Check In
Once your training is done, you can’t go on vacay and assume all is well in the world of para data for ever and ever. Check in, review the data, run the program yourself to see if you get similar scores, ask how it’s going, and most importantly PROVIDE PRAISE. Schedule all of this in your calendar or else you will forget.