I have been teaching for a total of 15 years, so even though I am confident in the systems, procedures and routines I have established over the years, it is nice to mix it up from year to year.  Changing it up or trying something new keeps it fresh, creating an energizing environment for you and your students! Here are five new things I am trying in my classroom this school year..

1. Planning My Preps

Whenever I hear this idea, I always intent on implementing it, but never do. Looks like this is my year to finally do it! Prep time really gets away from me if I don’t have a to-do list or a focus for my planning time. While it seems redundant to plan your planning time, this can help maximize your efficiency and productivity.  I made a template of the different planning times throughout the week.  Creating a consistent time and day to complete school requirements (e.g. grades, entering in test scores) helps to plan the week and figure out times to do other important prep work (e.g. copying, creating materials).  I tried to put things on my list depending on location. For example, while at school, I try to utilize that time for things I can only do in the classroom.  I try to plan work I can do on the computer during off-campus time so I can really focus on tasks I can only complete while I’m in the school building. 

2. Making Requirements Work for SPED

As teachers, we are mandated to complete a lot of paperwork and unfortunately, sometimes it’s not always useful to how we actually teach in the classroom. I felt like for years I was always doing double the work-there were lesson plans I turned in and lesson plans that I actually used.  This year, I when creating documents for the required paperwork, I decided that I would make it work for me. Instead of doing a class curriculum map, I did individual curriculum maps. While it was a lot of work, having individual curriculum maps is more useful to my classroom and submitting them shows administrators the individualized work we do in the classroom. Recently, I also started putting in the ABLLS-R standards and the Dynamic Learning Maps (our alternative, standardized assessment) Essential Elements. The DLM Essential Elements Standards link with Common Core State Standards and are much more relevant to my students. 

3. Study Hall

This new station was inspired by the personalized learning initiative we are doing at our school. While personalized learning is not a new concept (ask any special education teacher), it is always beneficial to present the same concept in a different way. My Study Hall Station will feature an open design, flexible seating options and individualized work.  Teaching students how to complete work and make choices about their work will be key in the success of this station. So far, students have only read books at this station, but they seem to enjoy the concept and like being able to read on the carpet. As the year goes on, I’m sure I’ll be adjusting what exactly is at this station and how students use this station in order to ensure the maximum benefits!  

4. Flexible Seating

Flexible seating is another of the newest buzzwords in education, but it is hardly a new idea.  One could argue that this concept was pioneered by special education teachers and has actually been used in classrooms for many years. Looking at the picture above may give you anxiety (The chairs don’t match!), but it’s okay. Offering flexible seating allows you to see another side of your students and helps you to more accurately build a learner profile. Offering stations (like Study Hall) where they can stand and work at a taller table, or lay on the floor to use a clipboard may help students demonstrate what they really know. Flexible seating can be a little scary (especially if you are a little bit of a control freak like me), but you are still the teacher and it’s okay to guide students towards seating options if they are still developing choice making skills. 

5. IEP Goal Boxes

While I have task boxes in my classroom, I am going to try to have individual boxes for students, containing materials for them to work towards their IEP goals.  I want to incorporate  student choice when selecting items for the boxes. Pictured above is an example of what would be in an IEP task box if a student was working on sight words as one of their goals. I would ideally guide student choice in selecting the items that went in their IEP goal box. Pictured below is an example of an IEP goal box I plan to use with one of my students that is blind. There are several tactile examples of squares and a recordable button that says ,”square”. It is my goal for my student to be able to use this task box independently and help him reach his goal of shape identification.  I would also like to teach students to use the activities in their task boxes to eventually do partner work.  The IEP boxes are located at my Study Hall station and will also lend themselves to flexible seating.  

I hope you are inspired to try something new-share ways you are changing it up in your classroom this school year! 

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