Monday, February 19, 2018

3 Tips for Making an Awesome Teacher Portfolio for Interviews

Interviewing for teaching jobs can be stressful, but you can make it easier on yourself by having an awesome portfolio to show principals! If you get a little nervous when interviewing, having physical examples of your work in a portfolio to show off will definitely help ease your nerves! Check out my 3 tips for making an awesome teacher portfolio.

1) Keep your portfolio simple and tailor it to the specific job you're applying for.
There's a fine line between having too much and too little in your portfolio. There's no need to have a 4 inch binder full of materials and examples... because no principal will have time to look through it all, but it's also important to have enough in the portfolio to show that you would be great at the job you're applying for! I suggest tailoring your portfolio to the specific job you're applying for. For example, if you're applying for a job that includes management of paraprofessionals, include information on how you've effectively managed staff in the past. However, if you aren't applying for a teaching job that involves managing paras, then save the space and don't include it in your portfolio. If you're applying for a job in a classroom for students with autism or social/ emotional disabilities, make sure you include information about your experience with behavior management or applied behavior analysis. It's a good idea to look at the specific job description to identify what strengths you should highlight in your portfolio.

2) Put copies of references and letters of recommendation in your portfolio. 
This might sound simple and obvious, but don't be that person who says, "Oh, I'll send you my references and letters of recommendations later today." Make it easy on the hiring principal and show you took the initiative by having copies of letters of recommendation and your references' information ready to hand over at the interview!

3) Include pictures and real-life examples in your portfolio. 
It's a great idea to include pictures and real-life examples of your work in your portfolio. You can include pictures of students working, student work samples, your data wall, how you collaborate with parents, the list can go on and on! Pictures are a great way to capture the awesome things you are doing in the classroom. Something that would be meaningful to include in any teacher portfolio is examples of differentiation. To show how you differentiate, you can include pictures or bring physical materials that are differentiated. You can use page protectors or plastic binder pouches to make pictures and lesson materials look professional. I love these binder friendly pouches from Amazon.

Here are examples of things I included in my most recent portfolio when applying for self-contained special education classroom jobs:

-Resume, References, Letters of Recommendations

-Parent Communication
I included pictures of parent newsletters and back and forth books.

-Staff Management
I included pictures of staff inventories completed, zoning plans and daily task lists/ duties.

-Behavior Management
I included pictures of behavior supports I implement and printouts from a behavior presentation I gave.

-Data Collection (Behavior & Academic)
I included pictures of behavior and academic data collection.

I included an example of a literacy lesson/ book that is differentiated in three levels.

Happy job hunting!

Friday, January 19, 2018

February Themed Task Boxes

It's almost February, so it was time for me to knock out some February themed task boxes! I normally keep these posts super short and full of pictures, so here we go!
Sorting activity with erasers from Target dollar spot. 

Put in task with little kaleidoscopes from Target dollar spot.

Put in task with stamps from the Target dollar spot. (I hot glued the caps on the stamps!)

Sorting activity with hearts off of decorations from the Dollar Tree. 

Color sorting/ fine motor clip activity with mini-clips from the Target dollar spot. 

I hope this helps you put together a few simple and fun Valentine's Day themed task boxes! Click out the below image to check out Autism Classroom News for tons of work box ideas!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

An Open Letter to Teachers Coping with Death in the Classroom

Let me start by saying I'm not a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist or a grief counselor... but I've dealt with students passing away numerous times. This is a letter I never wanted or expected to write, but I have something to say to you...

Dear Teacher Coping with Death in the Classroom,

First, I'm sorry that you're reading this. I'm sorry to your student's family, to you, to your student's friends, to your school community, I'm just sorry. I know that this is probably one of the most painful things a teacher and school community can go through. Although I'm not a mental health professional, I want to tell you few things....

It's okay to not want to talk about it while at work.
Don't get me wrong, you will need to talk about it, but for me, there is a time and a place to talk about a student's death... I don't want to talk about it when any students are around or honestly with people at work who I'm not close with. In the past, I've politely asked my administration to let my colleagues know to not bring it up or speak with me about it while students are in the building. I know that my colleagues mean well in asking how I am doing, but I just can't bare to choke back the tears while standing in the hallway or cafeteria.

It's okay to not know how to explain it to your students.
When a student passes away, one of the first few thoughts you might have is, "How am I going to explain this to my class?"  Ask for the support of your administration, school psychologist or grief counselors within your district. Explaining death to any child is tough but it can be even harder when you're explaining it to students with disabilities... You don't have to do this alone!

Taking the student's things away/ down is the one of the hardest parts.
I remember standing in my classroom looking at student's personal belongings numerous times thinking, "What do I do with this?" "When do I take her name tag down?" "What do I do with his art projects?" etc. I felt like if I took these things down right away I wasn't remembering and honoring the student, but these thing were also a painful reminder to look at everyday. One time I had a student (who was non-verbal) bring me a name tag off the desk of a student who had passed away, just days prior, and just handed it to me.... probably trying to communicate, "Where's my friend? I miss my friend." And that, that about broke me.

Celebrating the student's life will help! 
Plant a tree, post their picture on an memorial wall, make a plaque, have a special ceremony, do something to celebrate the student's life! I promise that it will help you, the family and your school community.

As hard as it it, remember that every single day in the classroom matters! Do your best to bring joy and love into your students' lives! Spend a little extra time outside when it's warm and sunny, read an extra story to them, spend an extra 10 minutes during centers in the afternoon, give them a hug or a high five every day before they go home, and hang in there, my friend!

A Fellow Mourning Teacher

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

3 Tips for Writing IEP Goals

Writing IEP goals and objectives can be daunting, especially your first few years of teaching or if you have the same kids for many years. I want to share a few of my favorite tips for writing goals and objectives that should help you throughout the process!

1) Make goals functional and real-world!

I understand that the common core and academics are important, but for many of our kiddos with  moderate to severe disabilities, functional/ life skills and communication skills are even more important because they will give students the platform to start learning those academic skills.

I suggest using the VB-MAPP or ABLLS (or some other assessment that includes language abilities) to assess students skills and then use the results to determine what skills students should start working on next. If you don't use the VB-MAPP or ABLLS in your school/ district already, this is a great free resources that includes important skills for tacting, listener responding, visual perceptual skills and matching-to-sample, motor initiation, listener responding by fuction, feature and class, intraverbal skills, and social behavior and social play. You can probably read through the list of skills and determine what your students are already able to do.

It's also great to think about what self-help/ functional skills students aren't able to do independently yet. There are a ton of free checklists out there that can help identify important life skills. This super simple checklist would be great to complete with parents to identify what self-care skills you could work on at school that would also help families at home.

2) Make sure goals and objectives are measurable and make a plan for data collection before you finalize the goal!

Goals absolutely have to be measurable or taking data will be next to impossible! Make sure the goals are concrete and would make sense to anyone who reads the goal. I like to have my therapists read the goals I'm suggesting to get their opinions if it's concrete/ clear enough. Something I also do that helps to ensure that the goal is measurable is I think about how I will take data on the goal before I finalize the goal. I'll typically make the data sheets for new IEP goals before I lock/ finalize the IEP just in case I need to tweak the writing at all.

It's also important to think about percentages and ratios when writing goals/ objectives. For example, if you're writing a goal for a student to read 10 sight words, don't write that they will do it 85% accuracy, because that isn't possible! ;)  I know that sounds like common sense, but I've received many IEPs with goals that have percentages and ratios that don't make any sense!

3) Don't just use objectives as a way to show progress/ growth... Use objectives as a way to differentiate and scaffold the task! 

It's common to use objectives as a way to show progress; for example, by having objective 1 say that a student will do the skill with 40% accuracy, then objective 2 would be 60% accuracy and objective 3 would be 80% accuracy. However, it's also great to use objectives as a way to differentiate the task! I love to use objectives to differentiate/ scaffold the task noting that the student will be given visuals, color-coding, etc.
This objective involves picture support for student to complete the task.

This objective involves color-coding support for student to complete the task. 

This objective is the last objective and aligns to the end goal!

If you need some IEP goal/ objective ideas, check out my free goal bank here! Do you have an IEP goal writing tips you want to share? Leave them in the comments!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

FREE Editable Adapted Book Templates

Something that I think is SO important is building the competence and skills of fellow teachers. A great skill to have is the ability to make interactive and adapted books (and really any other classroom materials)! When it comes to interactive/ adapted books, you basically only have a few options... adapting hard copies of books in print, buying printable adapted books or making your own books! I love to make my own books so that they meet the exact needs of my students and classroom curriculum/plan. I want to share the Powerpoint templates I've made to make adapted books.

The templates are super easy to use- all you do is click to edit the text and then copy and paste pictures/clipart. I use a variety of clipart websites  and google images. I promise that once you get the hang of Powerpoint and the template, it's super quick to make a book! I can make a book now in about 10-15 minutes (as long as I'm able to find the pictures and clipart I'm looking for).

I totally understand if you still want to buy adapted books on TpT to save time, but making your own books will allow you to make very specific books to meet your curriculum needs or individual needs of specific students!
This book template is for an interactive and half size book (a vertical piece of paper cut in half) and includes a template for matching cards and comprehension questions.

This book template is for an interactive and half size book (a horizontal piece of paper cut in half) and includes a template for matching cards. 

These book templates are for full size adapted books (there is a vertical and horizontal template) and includes a template for matching cards and comprehension questions. I love this template if you're going to use the book on an iPad or with kids with visual impairments. 
Hopefully these help you to make books for your classroom! You can get the free templates from my TpT shop here! Enjoy :)

Note: If you're going to post or share any of the books you make with my template (paid OR free) make sure read my terms of use!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

MORE Sensory/ Fine Motor Activity Ideas

If you've read my posts about our writing/ fine motor groups, you know that my kiddos do fine motor/ sensory activities every single day! Since we do the activities every day, I have to switch the tubs out pretty regularly to keep the kids from getting bored. I normally switch the fillers about every other month and switch out the actual task every other week.

Here are our latest tubs!
Pom poms with shape sorter 
Macaroni noodles with animal color sorting 

Straws and color sorting

Rice and simple put-in with balls

Noodles with simple put-in with marbles

Paper with simple put in activity from Lake Shore