Pivot is quickly becoming part of my everyday vocabulary.
This year our K-5 special ed team had to quickly pivot as we learned we are teaching the remote learners on our caseloads in addition to teaching our full-day in-person learners. This idea of teaching both learners brought on a whole new level of challenges and support needed to meet the needs of my students. As always, I want to make sure I’m meeting the needs of my students as best I can, even if they are remote learning. This mix of safety, support, and meeting IEP goals is new to everyone. Let me share some of the ways I’m supporting my in-person and remote learners.
I provided individualized first/then boards, token boards and visuals supports for all of my in-person and remote learners. I created a video on how to use them and shared it with my staff and parents. Several parents have reported these to be huge helps in their homes and they are thrilled to be using them. For safety purposes, no one is sharing visuals this year, so we are keeping individualized pieces in Iris Photo Boxes.
Model Technology Use
The sooner you can use get kiddos using technology, the more natural it will become. We are working hard on using SeeSaw Activities and filling out our morning calendar on the iPad. This way, if we have to pivot to all remote learning, students will be familiar with the platform and tools it offeres already. Parents may need visuals to help them solve tech problems. I use quicktime on my computer and video myself logging into things like Boom Cards as a student so parents can see what to do. Visuals are important for everyone, not just students!
Safety Visuals, Videos, & Social Stories
One of my favorite co-teachers turned me on to hand-washing timers. They are amazing! Just push the hand and it will play a song and flash green as long as the child should scrub their hands. When the song stops, the light turns red to signal the child to stop scrubbing and rinse their hands. You can find them on Amazon here.
I know you have a million things to do, but we have to keep assessing. It’s more important now than ever to have a baseline of where kiddos are when they come to you. Work as a team with other special education teachers and support staff to find ways you can assess. One thing we did was buy a plexiglass cover for testing materials so when students touched the item, the testing materials would be protected and the plexiglass could be cleaned.
One thing I’ve found is more important than ever are preference assessments. I want all the tools in my toolbox when it comes to motivating my learners, especially those remote learners! One way I’ve found to get to know each other is through preference assessments. It’s a great icebreaker for first Zoom/Video meetings and often times parents can chime in. I’ve found out some awesome info that will help me down the road.
Keep Taking IEP Goal Data
Our district wrote Individualized Remote Learning Plans for all students with an IEP who are remote learning. Together with the parent, we pick specific IEP goals to work towards during remote learning. To keep track of my student’s progress and data, I created this form. I use it every time I meet with a remote student, a parent, or have work turned in that aligns to an IEP goal we agreed to work towards during remote learning. This will not only help me keep track of how the student is progressing towards IEP goals, but also help me keep track of student engagement, behavior, time engaged, and through what means the student was engaged. It might seem like a lot, but it’s a lot less data than I would take daily if a student were in my classroom!
The best advice I can give is to remain flexible. Be willing to pivot whenever needed as you start this school year. Thinking outside of the box and beyond traditional measures can help, too. Partner with community supports in the area, like your local library, if that’s helpful. I had several parents who needed items printed. I spoke to our local library and they printed the items they needed free of charge. If COVID hadn’t happened, I would have never thought to reach out to the library.
Another way to stay flexible is with mindset. Instead of instantly deciding an idea won’t work for you because it doesn’t meet your specific scenario, think about how you can take parts of the idea that will work. It’s a quick change of mindset that will help you remain positive and you look for ways to reach your students. I’ll be posting more ideas on my InstaStory Takeover today. Be sure to check it out. Here’s to pivoting!