An Autism Connection

Sunday, February 23, 2014

updated classroom schedule and TQI

This should have been posted February 23, but I started having internet issues, and it's been down for a month. We finally switched providers since the other folks couldn't seem to fix the issue and now here I am.

I have been prolific this week, lol. I don't post anything for a month and all of a sudden there's something every day. That's what a little rest will do for you. Plus, I have given up gluten and sugar, and limited my dairy and I feel like a brand new person. I followed this fabulous woman, Kathy Abascal and her To Quiet Inflammation (TQI) diet

The author is an herbalist and a scientist. In her book, she explains how food can exacerbate inflammation processes in your body, leading to aches and pain, and other inflammatory responses. You spend 5 weeks eating  foods  that don't cause inflammation or help to quiet inflammation. You eliminate gluten, sugar, dairy, alcohol, red meat, and other things she outlines in her book. Two thirds of your meals must be fruits and vegetables and one third can be protein and grains.  It's only for 5 weeks so it's not permanent. You pay attention to your body and the changes that happen to it without these foods.I noticed the good effects right away and had so much more energy. After 5 weeks, you slowly add the foods back one at a time to see if you have a reaction to it. My boyfriend and I did it together and he no longer has the lower back pain he has had for years. We took a class in person, but you could do one online, or just purchase the books. It's been an eye opener for me. Who knew that food could affect my health so negatively, but after following her guidance for a month and a half, I am sold. I am losing weight, have no more joint aches, am sleeping better, have tons more energy, and I don't have any more brain fog. Ken has permanently eliminated gluten, as that is what was causing the issues for him, but is back to eating the other things he ate before. It's worth it, I promise . Check her out! (I have not received any compensation of any kind from her or anybody for this, just my own reaction to it, which is what I wanted to share).

At the beginning of this month, we had a semester change. I also sent two of my students out for Language Arts classes. In addition, one of those students is now included in general education/resource classes all day except for one class with me. He goes with a Para. All of this meant that I needed to revamp my schedule again to accommodate their schedules, the fact that I am down 1 Para for most of the day, and that there have been slight changes to the two periods right after breakfast and lunch, since the students were taking so long to eat. I plan to make updates in the fall, as well, but this is it for the rest of the school year.

If you want to see it in bigger font, Here is the link in Google docs. It's color coded so that people can see where the adults need to be, and with who, at any given time throughout the day. I have another one that is strictly the adult schedule, with more specific info about what they are doing each class period. It's worked out ok so far. The students took a couple of days to adjust and it was confusing for all of us, as they would change the picture icon back to the way it was the previous semester. I guess they assumed I had made a mistake with their schedule. So for a  couple of days, we had to be extra vigilant that they were using the icon that was next on the actual schedule, and not what they thought it ought to be. Fun times. Now they are used to it once again. and things are going smoothly.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Paraprofessional handbook-google docs

As I was looking over my other posts, I had promised to share my Paraprofessional Handbook on google docs and I never did. I borrowed liberally from Miss Allison's class for ideas but also added things I had found online, etc. It's long but comprehensive.

The actual cover is different on what I am sharing, can't remember why, but the rest of it is the same.
 Here is the table of contents.I included everything a brand new Para might need to know if working in my program, or another Special Ed program in my building, although most of the focus is on my room. There are lots of extras in the appendix.Like I said, it's long but has lots of useful info.

Here's a sample page. I made sure to say the exact time, how long breaks are, where they can put their belongings, and certain expectations I have for Paras in my classroom. I used to be a Para myself and having that experience was helpful when writing this. Also, I address areas where I have had issues with Paras in the past. I tried to lay it all out ahead of time so that the expectations were clear.

Social Skills lesson

Have I mentioned how much I love Michelle Garcia Winner's Social Thinking curriculum??? It's perfect for all of my students, truly. My focus the entire year so far has been expected and unexpected behavior throughout the day. We've gone over these behaviors in every area of our school and community and I have hammered out the terms expected and unexpected to the point where it has now become part of my student's everyday vocabulary. Yay! So last week, I went back to our emotion words, and which ones were expected and unexpected, as a review. We worked on how our emotions and the things we do can affect the people around us, and can in fact "bother" other people when it is unexpected.

I then moved onto a list of unexpected behaviors that  we brainstormed from behaviors we have seen in our classroom. They are more observant than I give them credit for! The beautiful thing about this list is that when the students exhibited any of these throughout the week, I could point to the list and the fact that it was unexpected behavior and bothering others, and they stopped!

 From there we moved on to the bothering scale. I believe I got this from Boardmaker share, but I honestly can't remember. If anyone knows, let me know so I can give credit. We modeled some of the unexpected behaviors we have seen, and then had the person whom it was bothering point to the scale to say how they felt. It was great!

When we come back from our beautiful week long mid winter break, I will have to review this, and move onto how to interact with others in a more appropriate manner. Well be working on friendship skills, conversations, how to work in a group, etc. I'll post more on these at a later date.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Group meeting

Since I teach middle school, I don't do circle time. However, my students still need work on the same calendar time concepts that are typically taught in circle time. Enter group meeting. We do this right after lunch.  I have just 5 students then. This is led by a Para and he does a fabulous job with it.

This is our group meeting set up. The binder on the table is the one that my higher students work on after the Para is done with the calendar routine. It reinforces the concepts.

 Just to the right of the calendar, I have our question words reminder that I got from Autism Tank. We use this for our sentence of the day. This is also where they check in for several groups.

Here is a close up of the calendar board. I use both items that I had and items I purchased from both Autism Tank and Autism Helper. In the routine, Mr. J goes over the days. We then have the students look outside and tell us what kind of weather we are having. Is anyone surprised that in Seattle we have rain, lol??? Most of my students can answer verbally but my non-verbal students use the velcroed items to show their answers, or use their communication devices with info I have programmed just for this.  Then a student looks in the weather page in the newspaper to see what the high temperature will be for the day, and we graph that. We then move on to the actual calendar and identify the month and season, and look at any holidays or special events and count the days until that event. We then have 2 students write the date in numbers and words. Then we go back to the calendar board and Mr. J goes over our sentence of the day. In the beginning, we only had one error to correct, either punctuation or the capital letter at the beginning. But they have gotten so good, that we include both of those, as well as adding random capital letters and some misspellings, and they can now find them all. I am so proud of them!

 In addition, we also do some polling. This activity was purchased from Lakeshore Learning, which both Autism Tank and The Autism Helper recommended. I have no regrets, this is a wonderful product.  I  love it because the students are actually interested in what the others choose, and they often get to be the leader for this and ask the other students and staff the question of the day.

 Afterwards, the students do  individual work in their binders, as a review of concepts. That is also when the students answer their 5 questions. I got that also from The Autism Helper. In the binders, I have also included more functional items such as name, address, phone numbers, etc.

Next year, I hope to expand this to include more math concepts around the calendar, and maybe expand the newspaper bit to read one article and also include News 2 you. But for now, I am satisfied.
After group meeting, the students do hygiene. Because of some behavioral issues in the bathroom, I try to stagger when the students leave group meeting for their hygiene time.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

lesson plans

In my last post, I shared my new lesson planner format. In this post, I am sharing the overarching lesson plans for two of my groups: Teacher time and Language Arts. Last semester, my struggle was to have something up and running, with a focus on schedules and something to keep them busy. I feel I have been successful with this and our days run fairly smoothly for the most part. Even though they also need additional tweaking and  work, I have decided to revamp these over the summer for next year. There has been some changes in our schedules to accommodate one student who is in general education classes most of the day with a Para, but the classes are the same, just different times of the day. Thanks to my incredible restful winter break, I now feel like I can tackle a few things that needed it, and one of those was having a template for these 2 groups. I wanted some kind of structure to my days, since I was focusing on IEP goals. Then I saw the Autism Tank guided reading plans for January and decided that something very similar would work for me since we were doing similar tasks and lessons for reading. I felt the template could also work for Teacher Time.

 First, I looked at the IEP goals for my students. For reading, I obviously decided to work on their LA goals. For Teacher time, I decided to work on direct instruction in math, as well as those goals that don't fit in anywhere else the rest of the day. We have additional rotation areas where they also work on reading and math, but these are more independent tasks that are based on skills they have already learned. With me, the emphasis is on new tasks and skills that are not mastered.

For Language Arts, I have just 2 groups. I had a 3rd, but I moved both of my higher students out to other classrooms since their skills were beginning to approach grade level. I send them with a Para and both are doing well. The lower group is interesting. One of the students is working on letter sounds and answering simple comprehension questions. The other one can read, but is unable to answer any questions about what he has read. Both use a communication device. One is unable to speak although he has utterances. The other one can read, but is otherwise echolalic and has no other speech. Both are non-writers. Even though they have different reading abilities, they are so similar in all of their other needs I decided to put them together. The following are the activities we will do each day for the week.

My other group are readers, currently at level E according to Fountas and Pinnell.
I work with them on short fluency timings ( thanks Autism Tank), as well as comprehension questions, something they all struggle with. I use a variety of games and worksheets. On Tuesdays, we do News-2-you and do the worksheets that accompany this. When we are near a holiday, we will also do some of the cooking activities, etc. On Wednesdays, I work on reading strategies. On Thursday,  we work on leveled readers, along with word work and more comprehension questions. On Fridays, we write and edit, etc.

For teacher time I have 3 groups. As I said, my main focus is Math, but I also work with them on other concepts, such as shoe tying, that don't fit anywhere else. This is my higher group. I have some Language Arts in there too, because I wanted data on specific goals since these students are in general ed.

This is my middle group. Math concepts are similar, but they have slightly different goals.

For my lowest group, the emphasis is on very beginning math concepts. Since both of these students are non-writers, I do a lot of fine motor work as well.

Having these in place has really helped me stay focused. It doesn't get boring because the activities get changed out, depending on the season.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lesson Planner

I have struggled with different planners to write my lesson plans in so that I can keep track. We don't have to turn them in weekly or anything, but we do need to turn them in at the end of the year in case there's ever any questions about what was happening in class. No one ever looks at them, for which I thank my lucky stars, because mine were always haphazardly put together.

 I've tried binders and loose papers, but they seem so bulky, or there are too many papers and I lose track, or I keep having to scribble them out or rewrite them because my plans were constantly changing due to unexpected things happening in my day, like Para absences and no subs, student tantrums, fire drills, etc, etc. I would give up and just write them on little post its and stick them all over the place. I was also relying on my memory (hahahaha), which didn't work so well. With me teaching so many different group/subjectss and putting together an entire day, I needed something a little more structured that I could reference throughout the day. So naturally, I turned to Pinterest, a teacher's best friend and resource. I love Pinterest!!

And I found this pin

 and this one

You can click on the pins to get more information. I also saw a similar post on someone's blog but I must have deleted it because I can't find it, otherwise I would also give them credit. And I found the blog, it is from Life Skills in High School. This is her example.

In any case, a light bulb went off. None of these samples were perfect for me because they had too many spaces, or not enough,or  required too much set up, etc. But the style and concept of the planner is perfect for what I do because of it's flexibility, and who doesn't love that!

I decided to take the planner we have access to at my school and just add post its. I chose this because it is set up for a 7 period day. And no more messes. I can change the post its, move them around, and edit the entire book without doing a lot of extra work. There's even a way to write your lesson plans on your computer and print them on to posts its if you want. I don't have a link but I have seen it on pinterest, so therefore it is true. But that's too much work for me, I am looking for SIMPLE and EASY. Anyway, here is how mine turned out:

This is the planner we use at my school, although you can use whatever you want, including notebook paper, a spiral, binder, etc. 

There are spaces for 6 classes going across, which works out perfectly for me because  of our 7 period day, with one period that is a panning period. I try to follow the bell schedule the best that I can. The days of the week go down.

 See what I mean about scribbling and crossing out? I ran out of a different colored post it so I decided to just write it, but then changed my mind about what we were going to do. For 1st and 5th, I have teacher time and mostly teach math (so I used the same color post it), but also other skills that don't fit in elsewhere in their schedules. For 2nd period I teach ULS (Unique Learning Systems), for science and social studies, for 3rd period I teach language arts, and 6th period I teach social skills. On Fridays during 6-7th period, I alternate between art, drama, games, and cooking. On Tuesdays and Thursdays during part of 6th and 7th periods in nicer weather, we go out into the community. Those post its will be in the boxes on the right.

And there you have it. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

More changes

The items I ordered in June started trickling in in early December. They were all the curricular items I had ordered. Although very welcome, school started in September and the students had to do something, so I purchased a boat load of stuff (to the tune of several thousand dollars, only some of which has been reimbursed) from various places, so there are already materials in place. I was happy to see the Social Thinking books, books for my reading groups and independent reading, and to finally get ULS, but the rest of it I am still unpacking. I am reluctant to make too many changes during the school year because the students are used to our schedule so most of this will be incorporated next year. Here it is February, and the items have stopped coming. Naturally, they are the items that would be of most use to me now, such as the headphones for our computer center, my book binder and laminator, a kidney table for our groups, work task bins and storage, walkie talkies since I have a student who "runs", and some items for my student break area: rocking chair, trampoline, etc, to name a few items.

Because of all of these changes, my room is really chaotic looking. I  don't have a lot of storage (it's a brand new building, not even 3 years old but there is NO built in storage or closets or cupboards!! What were they thinking????), so  things are basically in boxes above my storage, or on top of bookshelves or file cabinets, and or  in boxes on the floor.

 These top 2 photos are books for my library that need to be leveled. I had a student TA who was helping me with the leveling but she changed classes at the semester so now it is up to me. I need to get rid of some of these books. I got the entire Boxcar series but how many kids are actually going to choose those???
 Here are all of my adapted books that I want to bind.
 Here are sorting and work box tasks that need to be put together.
More work tasks

 I HATE IT, but there you go, I can't do too much about it right now. For example, I got over 900 leveled books for guided reading, and then for individual reading, which was about 9 big boxes. I did not have any say in which books or how many. Someone at the district decided that my 6 students needed that many. Don't get me wrong, I am grateful, but a little consultation with me would have been nice. Even though the books as a whole are leveled (AA through M books),they were lumped together and they are not individually labeled. Thanks to my TA, all the guided reading books now have labels and are in bins. I started using them last week, but the individual books still need work. In addition to book boxes, I have boxes of adapted books that need binding,and  boxes of work task items  that need a home, etc. I am planning a major purge as soon as school lets out so that next year will feel more comfortable. In the meantime, I am doing what I can.

There are also a few changes I plan to make to my room before school lets out: my independent work task station set up needs an overhaul as well as my life skills station and my teacher time station. I plan to blog more about those in the next few blogs.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Valentine's craft

Our Valentine's day was pretty mellow. I don't usually do parties because we are in a middle school and no one else does parties,and also because the kids get too worked up. We do one or two  special activities, and I do seasonal stuff throughout the month. If parents send stuff in, we'll use it, but I try to incorporate it into our regular schedule.

For Valentine's day, I wanted to do a craft or art activity and had been looking at Pinterest, but everything seemed so involved. I needed something that could be done quick, because we also had a dance on Valentine's Day. We have those during the school day so they shorten the regular school day schedule in order to accommodate the dance at the end of the day. That meant that I needed a short activity that could be set up, done, and cleaned up quickly before it was time to go to the dance.

 I found two that I thought would work on Pinterest. The first is a heart made with a stencil and bingo daubers here,

and this one called a love bomb.
After some reflection, I chose the bingo dauber one. The love bomb looked fun. I could get colored paper from our copy room and have the kids use our paper shredder to make confetti. Then we would put it in a paper bag and pop it over a paper filled with glue. But when I thought of the mess, I decided to skip it this year. 

So we ended up with the bingo dauber one and it worked out really well. Here are a couple of students working on them.

 And here are the final results. One of my students is artistic and he did the rainbows. Aren't they gorgeous? And the activity was super quick to clean up. Afterwards, they went to the dance and had a great time!