It’s Not Always Academic

Categories: Behavior | Life Skills
I am a special education teacher, teaching primary grades TK-1st and all of my students are autistic.  The job of a teacher comes with a lot of duties but the one that most of us think about when we think of teachers, is that they teach us, right?  Right.  However, my job as a special education teacher is not always academic all of the time.  My team and I have to teach my students how to learn and be in school.  Keep reading to find out my top three skills to teach that are not always academic!

Being Part of a Group

This is a photo of students sitting as part of a group in a classroom. This photo shows that special education is not always academic.

My classroom always has some whole group learning time.  I try to make this time as engaging as possible but I always have students who want to elope to my play center or other areas of the classroom.  To create a routine and something for my students to look forward to each day, I start every morning by playing this Lava video. If students are wandering I try to use what they are wandering towards to engage them and bring them back to the whole group.  Whether it’s a toy or a book that they are seeking, I let them have it during whole group time.  I also provide access to fidgets, noise-canceling headphones, and flexible seating to make sure my students are comfortable. 

Finally, Visuals are super important to have during this time as they give students an idea of what is expected of them.  You can read more about my Structured Morning Meeting in this post.


Staying With the Class

This is a photo of students walking with a teacher with the teacher in the lead. This is a life skill that is not academic.
Most days I feel like I am herding cute little humans, and that is ok because I am teaching them valuable life skills like staying with your adult/caregiver for safety purposes.  Again, teaching special education means having students who wander and run away.  So, while this skill is not academic, it is a very functional skill to focus on and teach.  If they run away, my team and I always make sure they are safe and give them time to adjust. When the student is ready, we walk back to where they ran from and walk to our destination. I try not to chase students unless safety is a significant concern because chasing sometimes turns into a game for students.  If you are dealing with running behaviors in your classroom, read this helpful post from Sasha.  As always, frontloading my students with visuals and expectations before walking to a destination is super beneficial but takes time for the students to grasp.

Staying at Assigned Centers

This is a photo of a student sitting at a desk in school. The student has a box of colorful toys that he is playing with. This is not academic.
This post is all about teaching skills that are not academic however, teaching academics is always a goal of mine.  This skill is a vital prerequisite to academic skills.  It is not uncommon for my new students to be able to stay at their assigned center for 0-3 minutes however, my centers are 15 minutes long.  Fifteen minutes is a time frame that we work up to but to help keep my students in their assigned centers for longer, I use fun engaging activities.  Most students love toys, kinetic sand, and learning games.  Literally, whatever they engage in, is what I use. Then, once my students are transitioning and staying in the center, I begin to introduce academic tasks such as Easy Matching Weekly Workbooks, Leveled Daily Curriculum, and assessments.
That’s it for skills that are not always academic.  What are your thoughts?  Do you have any questions?  Leave them in the comments and I will get back to you. Thanks for reading!
Michelle Lindenmuth, M.Ed.
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