Online / Distance Learning in my Special Education Classroom

I get a lot of questions about what online / distance learning looks like for my classroom. It can be tough to answer because everything is SO differentiated based on each students' needs.

Our families and school teams worked together to create contingency learning plans for each student (these were basically really long Prior Written Notices). These plans outline how work will be provided (printed or online), how much work the student will be provided each day, how often the student will have contact with teachers, what supports for the student will look like, etc.

Since I obviously can't speak about specific students / plans, I'm going to show 2 basic  examples of how I'm doing online / distance learning and answer some of my FAQs.

Using Printed Materials:
The families who wanted printed / paper materials for distance learning received a binder similar to this. Depending on the students needs, students complete 1-3 pages from each tabbed section a day. Materials are included for reading, writing and math and target the student's IEP goals. Students also received books, pencils, basic art supplies, etc.

You can grab the FREE binder covers and tabs here. The freebie also includes links to the worksheets in the picture.

Online Instruction Materials:
Students who do online instruction receive a daily email with a link to an individualized Google Slide. I don't use Google Classroom, Seesaw, or any other platform for assigning student work. I started remote learning using Google Classroom and found it was just easier for families if I sent all work in 1 Google Slide™ document. The Google Slidesdeck includes all of the student's materials for the day (reading, writing, math, morning meeting, movement, etc.). Students complete all of their work in Google Slides and only have to leave Google Slides to complete a few online activities (more on those below). I also embed all of the links and sign in information in the Google Slide for students.

Here's an example of what a student's individualized Google Slide deck could look like:

It is a little extra work to do an individual Google Slide deck for each student, but I've found a few ways to streamline it and it definitely has it's benefits!

How I streamline this:
-Here is an example of how I streaming and organize reading materials:

  • I have Google Drive folders for each week of remote learning. Within the weekly folders, I have folders for each subject AND for my individual students. Think of the materials in the subject folders as my master copies. I add the materials/ lessons to the master copies, then I copy and paste materials/ lessons (the slide decks) from the masters to the student slides. 
  • The "Reading" Google Drivefolder includes folders and slide decks for multiple groups. This is similar to how many of us have different reading groups in the classroom. I create and add all of the reading materials for the groups to the master copies. I copy and paste the materials into the individual student slides (based on their group) and add any differentiation necessary. 
  • If you want to do this, my biggest tip is: make templates for each lesson/ subject and for each student. This way you can easily and quickly copy and paste materials into the templates! 
  • Note: If you're going to send students individualized slides, make sure you set the sharing settings to: "anyone with the link can edit."
  • If you want an already made template, check out my online learning lesson plan templates.
The benefits of doing it this way:
-Students don't have to worry about creating copies of Google Slides or submitting assignments! When students edit the Google Slides, you will be able to see all of their edits without them doing any extra steps!
-Since you can see all of students work in Google Slides, it's a great way to collect data!

  • Are you doing live instruction? Yes! Most of my students receive live instruction every day from either myself or a paraprofessional (more about how paras are support students below). My live instruction looks different for each student, but it's typically 15-20 per session and is always done in 1:1. We do live instruction through Google Meets (it's what my district requires), I share my screen and we do a variety of activities like: read stories, work on sight words, word work, work on math IEP goals, review work I assigned students that day if they had questions, etc. 
  • Are you doing pre-recorded instruction? Definitely! Pre-recorded videos are great because they allow us to give instruction to students without students being required to sign on at a specific time. The drawback is students can't get immediate feedback, but it's still a great option! I do pre-recorded instruction/ videos for morning meeting, read alouds, breathing activities, and questions of the day. I also record videos using Screencastify (click here for more information & a tutorial) to explain directions to students for their activities. It's a free Google extension and is amazing! I embed the Screencastify videos directly to the Google Slides I send students.
  • How often are you contacting students/ families? How are you contacting students/ families? It depends on the student/ family (sorry, I've said that A LOT in this post :-P ). Most families receive a daily check-in and contact from a teacher in our classroom via phone, Google Meets or text. We aren't always able to get a hold of students and families daily, but we just follow what's in their plan and the district expectations. 
  • Are you paraprofessionals working right now? What are they doing during remote learning? The paras I work with have been amazing during this all! They've really stepped up for our students which is amazing! Each paraprofessional does daily check-ins with 2-3 students. Check-ins are 15 minutes long, are done 1:1 and are held over the phone or Google Meets. Some students get emails or recorded videos for their check-in because that's what they prefer too! Paras are also doing weekly video recordings of them reading books and helping with recording Screencastify videos to explain directions to students. 
  • What are your favorite websites / freebies you're using?
    I've really tried to minimize the number of websites I'm using with students. I didn't want to overwhelm students or families with a ton of different logins and learning to use multiple different platforms.
    For math, we are using HappyNumbers. Teachers can get a free account through the end of the school year. It's awesome because it's differentiated and is SO engaging! This is something I will likely try to get my school to purchase for my students even when remote learning is finished.
    For reading activities, we are using BoomCards. You can also get a free unlimited account through them during the school closures. Boomcard memberships are super cheap (and there's always a basic free option), so this is something I'll continue using when we return to in-person learning! 
Feel free to leave any questions in the comments, send me a DM on social media or email me @ 

I'm not affiliated with Boomcards, HappyNumbers or Google. I have no connection with these companies other than just sharing what has worked for my class!