TAH Teacher Spotlight: Amanda’s Junior High/High School Class

Meet Amanda and her 6th-12th grade class!

A Day in the Life

My classroom is a combo of behavior and functional skills, with an age range from 11-20 (6th grade-12th grade) and 2 very distinct functioning levels. We focus a lot on social skills and coping skills throughout everything we do. My favorite part of our day is our morning that leads into our academic block. We don’t hit academics every day because of the wide variety of things we do. We cook one day a week also and have social skill Friday! We start every morning with morning work and breakfast. Those lead into watching the news and the weather. After that we practice our calendar skills. My higher group completes a google form and my lower group uses the smartboard.

For our academics we focus on functional math, basic math, functional reading, and basic reading. I have my kids grouped into 2 levels group 1 is my functional group and group 2 is my basic skills group. I have 2 areas in my room set up to accommodate this structure. I have a kidney table at each with the resources for either math or reading. My kids know the math table and the reading table. I typically run my reading table and utilize a para to run my math table. I provide all of the resources for each group in a daily folder, papercliped by group. If there is an anchor chart to be made, I will provide all of the resources and an example of what it looks like when it is done. This way I can have 30 minutes of math and 30 minutes of reading running at the same time at 2 very different levels and the entire block only takes 1 hour.

Smartboard Schedules for the win!

We utilize a smartboard all class schedule. One activity comes up at a time and we complete that. It is really nice for transitions because I rarely have to discuss it. The picture on the board says do it, so we do it.

Behavior Plans that work.

All of my students have very unique, very intricate behavior plans. We do not do much as a whole class wide behavior management program, other than our level system and our tokens. Our level system has different incentives attached to each level that matches up to our target sheets. They are very intricate, but really good for collecting all behavior goal data! We also utilize a program wide token economy where they can shop from a “vending machine” and participate in an auction at the end of each semester. I utilize behavior interventions all day long. It is part of what I love about my job. I have some amazing success stories with students going from several severe behaviors a week, to none or a very minimal amount. I think my biggest word of advice for working with behavior is providing that time to let the kids process and to wait. Waiting is so hard, and so uncomfortable, but vital to behavioral success.

It doesn’t have to be “pinterest perfect” to work!

While I wish I had a “pinterest” classroom, I don’t. The classroom I have works for my students and my staff. We all know where everything is. I use color coding of my kids so that helps as well. It often looks messy, but it is a useable classroom that works.

This is my reading table with a bookcase behind it a well. The clear boxes on the second shelf are where I keep my reading work. For my functional group, each kid has a basket with their own reading system in it. They are currently using different versions of Edmark. All 3 are in different books. So we utilize the cards to help fill in time so I can work 1:1 while they do that.

This is my math table, behind is the bookcase where all of the math materials are located. This is the bookcase where I keep the math manipulatives and the work or directions go in the folders on top. They are separated by day and they hold the papers for the week. Everything that is needed at that table is within reach on the bookcase.

Above all:

Don’t stress. Don’t try to do everything. Pick 1 routine or 1 activity to change and perfect before moving on to everything else.

Provide opportunities for the students to have some control. You don’t have to control everything.

Learn to ignore. Ignore behaviors that don’t matter.

My name is Amanda Keen. I am in my 5th year teaching, but I was a para for 4 years prior to that. My mom is a special education teacher as well and for years I avoided it because I didn’t want to be my mom. I work in a public separate school setting for kids with moderate/severe cognitive disabilities with a behavior component as well. We have a program that also serves students with moderate/severe behaviors with mental illness. I worked my first three years on the side for students with cognitive disabilities. It was there that I fell in love with behavior and all things (data) that go with it. I moved to the other program in our building and have a classroom that is one of a kind. We focus on functional skills, daily living skills, social skills, and moderate/severe behaviors.

I am currently in a graduate program and doing my intensive practicum for my BCBA. I will be done with my hours this summer. I really want to work in a school district and help teachers and their teams work with these challenging behaviors. I also blog and share my resources on TPT when I have time with a friend of mine! Check us out at https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Show-Me-Sped or showmesped.blogspot.com.


  1. I love the idea of having separate, distinct areas for reading and math centers. I have binders for each of my students and have sections within their binders for ELA and Math work. However, sometimes I feel that because of their varying abilities and levels, I am all over the place trying to make sure they are independently working on what they are supposed to. Great idea and thanks for sharing!

  2. Love the weather & morning conversation on the SmartBoard. Did you develop this yourself or is there something already out there?

  3. Yes! I love that too!


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