TAH Teacher Spotlight: Abby’s 3rd & 4th Grade Classroom!

Meet Abby and her 3rd & 4th grade classroom!

I have fallen in love with not only all of my students, but the amazing staff and families I have the honor of working with every day. I have a total of 5 students in my room. All of my students have a wide range of abilities. The primary focus for our classroom includes independence, communication and social skills.

I have 4 paraprofessionals in the classroom. They are critical members of the team. They support students in general education, life skills, instruction and task completion. I could not imagine this job without this amazing team. Everyone is positive, laughs and loves our students.  One of most beneficial things our team has implemented is bi-weekly meetings. We meet for 30 minutes before school to go over behavior strategies, data collection, as well as a quick overview of each child’s progress the previous two weeks. At the start of every meeting we share a “sparkle” moment or a time when we loved our jobs.

As this is my first year in this program, the team and I have done a major overhaul of the layout and organization. Thanks to The Autism Helper, we have implemented task boxes for reading, math and motor skills. We organize this using bins, as well as individual boards per students. Each student is responsible for completing the task, putting it away, while the team member records the data in their data folder. Each student has a folder. Weekly I move the data sheets from the folder, to our big data binder!

Schedules for all!

Each student has an individual visual schedule. They have a morning schedule as well as an afternoon schedule. Staff uses the schedules for an overview of the day, and then incorporates first/then strips as well first/next/last strips. Student’s complete the schedule and put the visuals in the “all done” pocket.

All About Behavior

When it comes to behavior, you name it we experience it on a daily basis in our classroom. Task avoidance, attention seeking, self-injurious behavior, escape and elopement. Each student has a different plan. Plans are posted on clipboards where it is easy to access, complete ABC data, frequency and duration. The most effective, efficient and appropriate way we have discovered as a team is to utilize behavior flow maps, which show different actions staff can take. This idea originally came from The Autism Helper, and we edited the documents to fit each of the student’s needs. It is easy to quickly reference, especially on those days where every student seems to be on a different rollercoaster at the same time.

We also differentiate between a “break time” and a “choice time.” Choice time, is when a student has completed a task and has earned his preferred activity. Break time, is for when a student needs support with self-regulation. When this occurs, staff and students are prompted to take a sensory break. We have a sensory room, with specific sensory diets for each student. Sensory is included in our room in the form of t-stools, peanuts, alternative lighting and different chewies for oral stimulation.

For reinforcement, each student has a token board and works for their motivating operant, or their preferred activity. Team members are randomly assigned different starting token amounts, and students earn the rest. Students are working from 6 tokens, 12 and 18. Motivating operant can vary from food, to looking at the plants, to technology time. We just have to make sure we watch that the plants stay plants and are not ingested as a salad or appetizer.

For example, I have one student that really loves to avoid work by rolling on the floor, pretending to sleep, screaming, and even fake crying. In order to be proactive, he has a much higher rate of reinforcement for all tasks including instructional control, compliance, and task boxes.  The moment this student complies, he is rewarded with his preferred activity or edible.

Getting organized!

When it comes to organization, all students are color coded. Student A has his schedule, task bin assignments, data and direct instruction bins in blue, while Student B will have the exact same things but in a different color. When it comes to organization, I have fallen in love with Velcro, lamination and bins. Bless my team and their patience. Everyone has assisted in building, laminating and using Velcro to make assignments appropriate for our students.  Students in our classroom need everything visual, hands on and interactive. I know we have had a successful day as a classroom when our room is a mess from our learning materials.

Hi! My name is Abby Showerman. I have been teaching for 5 years now. I graduated from MSU with my bachelor’s degree in special education. I started off teaching second grade for a total of three years. When I completed my master’s degree in special education with a focus on teaching students with autism, I became a resource room teacher. From there, I accepted my dream job as a self-contained ASD classroom teacher for students in 3rd-4th grade in Michigan.


  1. You suggestions have been so helpful for a little guy in our gen ed kindergarten class. He has autism, is fairly high functioning, and his actual placement is supposed to be SDC. Unfortunately, we don’t have SDC at our tiny one school district, and there’s no room in our neighboring district. 🙁 We are asking him to work so hard compared to the class he came from, and his favorite task avoidance strategies are crying and playing dead/ pretend sleep. I sure got a chuckle when I read on your page that you had a similar student. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a student with this level of need, so your ideas were on point, and a great refresher for me. Thank you for sharing! I hope, with my support, that my kindergarten teacher will fully embrace and implement these ideas (some of which I already shared with her the first week, but I think she though he could manage the full gen ed kindergarten schedule. Well, the honeymoon is over and now he’s struggling and pushing back.)

  2. Thanks for reading! Your student is lucky to have such a dedicated staff working with him!

  3. Hi my name is Cynthia Edmond,you may not remember, but I was in you class your class the first year you tought. I came across this looking up old newspapers, and remembered you! When I remembered you I was looking up your classroom to find, sadly, your not teaching at fowkerville anymore, but your still doing something wonderful.


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