3 Easy Ways to Use Rewards to Encourage Positive Behaviors in the Classroom

Sunday, January 21, 2018 No comments
Image result for students excited

   Rewarding students is almost important as actually teaching. And if anyone must be reminded of how great they are, it's our SPED kids. Our kids work hard both inside and outside the classroom and deserve an occasional token of appreciation. This lets the student know that you acknowledge them and value their effort. My kids aren't perfect (what kids are?) but I want to make sure that they know that I do notice how much effort they've put into their work. I just had a student drastically improve her reading fluency in one semester. I had to make sure I acknowledged that both verbally and with a tangible. Rewards also help to encourage positive behaviors in your classroom. Here are 3 easy ways to include reward into your behavior management plan in your classroom.

1.) Raffle Tickets - I like to give raffle tickets out when I see a student doing something positive, when they've answered a question correctly, or have overall good behavior. I hold a raffle every Friday without fail. You must be consistent. I choose three winners and they usually win something that they want such as a bag of chips or candy.

2.) Working Toward A Pizza Party - You can create a chart that tracks behavior points for the class. When they've met a certain amount they may be eligible for a classroom party. This is a great way to get students motivated.

3.) Free Time Pass - I happen to have several computers in my room and they all have access to Cool Math Games which is a website almost every student at my school is addicted to. Most of the games have nothing to do with math but I digress. You can allow a student to earn a simple free time pass if they've completed a certain amount of work. They can use this pass on a Friday after a quiz or a Monday morning. This will definitely give them an incentive to be productive. Be aware of "rushers" who will sloppily complete assignments so that they can earn a free time pass. Make sure that their work meets your criteria. They may earn up to three passes but they cannot use them all at once and can only use them at your discretion.

Happy Teaching!

   Do you need more effective behavior management tools for your SPED students, help with the best accommodations to use during your lessons or just plain ol' support? We want to help! One to one online consultations are available with our two consultants who have a combined 25-years experience in Special Education. 

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5 Ways to Include Career Readiness into Your SPED Curriculum (Middle and High School)

Saturday, December 30, 2017 No comments
Image result for Career youth

  I have 8th graders. If you know anything about 8th graders, all they're thinking about is who commented under their picture on a certain social media app and if they can convince their mom to buy them fast food for dinner tonight. Career and college readiness seems to be the furthest from their little 13-year-old minds most of the time and that's okay. If you told me that I was going to be a Special Education teacher, blogger, and children's author, I would have either laughed or cried. Just a few years prior to entering middle school I had my heart set on becoming a dolphin trainer and look at me now. My dolphins just have legs, language skills, and are social media savvy. My dolphins are also unsure of what they want to become when they're older.

   Many of my students do not want to attend college which leaves them having at most 4 years left of formal education after 8th grade. I don't want to constantly preach to them that they should be thinking about their careers this early but I do want to expose them to the working world in some form. They are young enough to still dream wildly when it comes to their future occupation but old enough to understand that they'll be working for far longer than they were ever in school. Here are 5 fairly easy ways to include career readiness in your lesson plans to make the real world of having a job not so daunting for our impressionable kiddos.

1. Have a Mock Interview - Pretend that you are the boss and create a job description such as a Teaching Assistant. Develop interview questions that your students can prepare for. Hold an interview session in class to hear your students answer various questions. Give them feedback on not only their answers but their body language and tone.

2. Develop a Resume - I had my students complete a (fill in the blank) resume where they included all of the skills that they have developed since elementary school. I asked them to list chores and volunteer work that would make them a competitive worker amongst their peers. This was a very engaging activity and it allowed me to really get to know my students better.

3. Create a Vision Board - A vision board activity could be used to encourage students to visualize their 5-year goals and beyond. The purpose of a vision board is to place words, phrases, and pictures that illustrate a future ambition. One of my students wanted to be an interior designer and study in New York when she's older. She found several magazine cut-outs that helped to make this goal more concrete for her.

4. Interview Someone - If it's okay with your principal and parents, invite someone with a career (other than teaching) that might be interesting to the students. My school invited a successful Hip Hop/Rap Music Producer to come and speak to our kids one year and he was a hit. The kids couldn't stop talking about him for days.

5. Sharpen Those Search Skills - Allow your students to look on a company's website and find out how to apply. Your students don't have to fill out the application. It is important for your students to know how to navigate a website and look for language like "apply here", "application", and "careers". SPED kids can definitely be at a disadvantage so the earlier they are taught about online applications, the better.

Happy Teaching!

Barack Obama: The Adapted History Workbook (SPED Friendly)

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 No comments

                                     Social Studies Adapted Book for Special Education

 I love history and since I can't always dive deep into as many historical topics as I would like to since I'm an English/ELD teacher, I love using my three history-related workbooks for my classroom. I wrote the Barack Obama workbook to help my students learn about American history in an interesting way. Each page has a short blurb of the history of the president as well as related discussion questions. My SPED kids loved this lesson and enjoyed reading about former President Brack Obama. You can always add to this lesson by including more visuals and videos that relate to the history of America's first African American president. I would use this lesson all year long, during President's day, or Black History Month.

I tried to use a large enough font that made it easy to read and I tried not to make the passages too wordy. 

Here is an example of my students' work (the copier is kind of broken so that's why they're smeared)
They also just loved that I authored something that they were working on. My kids wanted to know if I was famous writer.
I hope your class also enjoys this activity. I have it available in my TPT store. 
I also have Martin Luther King Jr. as well as Rosa Parks. 

Social Studies Adapted Book for Special Education

5 Ways I Stay Organized as a Special Education Teacher

Sunday, November 12, 2017 No comments
Image result for black teacher writing

  Being a Special Education teacher and organization don't always go together. IEPs and assessments can produce a mountain of paperwork that never seems to end. Luckily, I've been able to organize myself quite well since I've been teaching so as to not miss any IEP deadlines and make sure that I assess my students as early as possible prior to their IEP meeting. As an RSP/Classroom Co-Teacher, I also have to lesson plan for my classes. All of this paperwork can end up a huge mess but here are 5 ways I stay organized to keep my head above water.

1. Large Visible Post-Its On My Desk - I like to use the large, lined Post-It notes to create checklists for what I have to complete for the week. I prefer to keep them posted to my desk so I can constantly refer to them. I love checking things off so large, lined Post-It notes work for me.

2. Google Calendar - Ever since I found out about Google Calendar, I really can't remember how I functioned prior. I put every single thing I must complete (sometimes months in advance) on Google Calendar and it sends me alerts when my meeting is starting or that I promised to fill out the IEP goals at 12:30 P.M. You can put both events and reminders in Google Calendar. You can use the calendar by viewing your weekly and monthly schedule. I prefer to keep it on weekly and keep scrolling. Google Calendar can be directly connected to your email since flights that I have purchased that were sent to my email automatically appear in my Google Calendar feed. This app is perfect for the forgetful and so easy to use.

3. Teacher Bag/Rolling Cart - I have my purse and then I have my teacher tote bag large enough to fit my laptop computer. I make sure that I have plenty of pencils, pens, and a notepad in it. I was even able to get a personalized bag from Etsy so I can easily spot it. You can also use the rolling cart to keep your teaching materials in one place as you travel from home to work.

4. Notes App on iPhone - I use the Notes app on my phone to write anything down from personal thoughts to lesson plan ideas. You can create different folders and categories in the Notes app to keep your dreams and plans organized. I also use this app to take notes and when it's opened, I know exactly where to look to retrieve them. I highly recommend using the Notes app more often if you don't already.

5. Clear 3 Drawer Organizer - I like to use a clear 3 drawer organizer to separate important documents and lessons so I always know where to find them. If you use color-coded folders, the clear drawers work really well. I typically use one of the drawers for testing materials, another for completed IEP assessments, and the other in-progress testing materials. I like using both the smaller one to fit on my desk and the larger one as well.

Happy Teaching!

For the Special Education teacher that needs more help with ADHD students in the classroom, click HERE:

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Pop-Up Shop Success!

Saturday, November 4, 2017 No comments

  Yesterday, I was part of Pop Up LA which is held monthly to showcase black entrepreneurs. I had my stand with all four of my books ready and I got to share my stories with some awesome parents and kids. The entire event was a success and it was also a great networking opportunity. I'm looking forward to doing more Pop Up Shops as well other events. I hope I can get my books in the hands of so many more kids soon!

5 of the Best FREE Websites to Visit for your Special Education Students!

Sunday, October 29, 2017 No comments

  As a Special Education teacher, I'm always trying to find effective but interactive websites for my SPED kids. I usually look for something that can give me great data and keep them entertained for at least 35 minutes during class time. At my school, we share the laptops with other classrooms so I'm not able to use the laptops at whim but they come in handy during short days or after a Friday quiz. I've chosen 5 of the best and most effective websites for Special Education students who thrive off of an interactive platform.

1. Read Theory


   Read Theory has hundreds of free reading passages for students of all grade levels. You can create a teacher account and then make student accounts for your kids. After a student creates an account, they take a reading quiz to gauge what reading level they are. The student then continues to read passages that are at their level. However, if they begin to answer few reading comprehension questions incorrectly, they can drop down a level or raise their reading level with correct answer choices. My students love to track their scores and make sure that they aren't dropping too low. The data on Read Theory is phenomenal in that you can have all your kids' reading levels on one document. You can track their progress as well. I highly recommend Read Theory for SPED ELA and History teachers who want to sharpen their student's reading comprehension skills.

2. Read Works


   Read Works is much like Read Theory in that it also has a wide array of FREE reading comprehension passages. You can create a teacher account and get access to all of their reading passages at all grade levels. Although my kids are 8th graders, their reading levels are within the 2nd and 3rd-grade range so I usually print out stories and quizzes from this website so they can read independently. They have articles on anything from Science to History. There is even an option for an audio version of the text to play aloud in class. Each story has illustrations, vocabulary words complete with definitions, and a quiz with both multiple choice and short written response. These are great to print out and read along together to work on crucial reading comprehension skills.

3. News ELA


 This website has both paid and free features but the free account is still pretty awesome. I have an account linked to my Gmail and there hundreds to possibly thousands of articles at my fingertips as soon as I sign in. Much like Read Works, News ELA has articles ranging in all subjects and current events that are written at different reading levels. Every article has a quiz as well as a relevant writing prompt. Whenever something interesting has hit the news cycle, I always find a relevant article on News ELA that goes into depth. I typically assign News ELA as an activity on a short day, as a supplemental activity to a larger lesson, an independent activity, or group work. If you don't already have an account, I highly suggest you make one as soon as you can especially if you teach ELA, Science, History or the Arts.

4. Prodigy


  Prodigy is more math centered and is an interactive game for students in grade 1 through 8. My small SPED 8th-grade math class LOVED Prodigy last year. They found it to be very engaging and helpful. This game requires students to create a character that goes on a quest. The students can interact with each other by battling. I would say that this game reminds me of one of those popular fantasy roleplay games that are popular online. After you create your teacher and student accounts, you can place your students on a particular math level in order to refine their skills in a certain area. My SPED 8th graders were still working on decimals and fractions so many of the games they played on Prodigy required them to solve math equations prior to battling someone or moving on to the next level. This is the perfect game for your most restless of students who just may beg to play this daily. I highly recommend this website for SPED math.

5. CNN 10


  CNN 10, originally CNN Kids News, is a 10-minute news program for students or adults. CNN 10 gives you highlights of the most popular news from the previous day. This short highlight reel is perfect to introduce current events and start engaging conversations in the classroom. I tend to use CNN 10 as a treat if the students have been working quite well for most of the period. Each episode is typically very clear and concise. CNN 10 can be used to introduce writing assignments based on current events as well. I've also used their videos to clear up any misconceptions about what has happened in the news recently. CNN 10 can be used in a classroom of any subject and is perfect for brain breaks and rewarding students for appropriate classroom behaviors.

If you liked these resources, check out my 
Special Education Resources at my 

I have resources that address ADHDAutismReading ComprehensionBehavior Monitoring, and Daily Classroom Warm-Ups.

7 Easy Self-Care Tips for Special Education Teachers

Sunday, October 15, 2017 No comments

  Being a Special Education teacher can be just as rewarding as it is stressful. Writing IEPs, co-planning with the General Education teachers, chasing after students with severe behavioral problems, and managing your personal life can be overwhelming. At my school, we have been following the 7 principles of the "Leader In Me" series which teaches kids core values such as managing your time and handling your priorities. One of the principles that both kids and adults tend to not do as often is "Sharpening Your Saw" which means that as a teacher or student, you should take the time to decompress and re-energize daily.

    Unfortunately, many teachers and students can become burned out to the point of becoming physically ill and emotionally drained if they do not learn how to include self-care within their daily routine. Self-care and well being is not always hidden within an expensive yoga class or scented candles. You can include these 7 easy ways to help you stop, think, and decompress.

1. Journal - Writing down what has transpired throughout the day can be quite calming. This is a way to get your frustrations and anxieties out in a positive way. You do not have to write in your journal every single day but it is a great way to show proof of progress through your career and daily life.

2. Take Slow, Deep Breaths - You can do this basically anywhere and it's quite calming. If you feel frustrated or anxious, take three slow deep breaths consecutively. Try to focus on your breathing only and clear your head of all other distractions. Deep breathing has been proven to lower stress levels and blood pressure.

3. Walk - After a rough week with my middle schoolers, I've found that walking quietly in either a park or a neighborhood can be stress relieving. Try not to use your phone at all. Just walk and take in your surroundings. Look at all the details of the trees, plants, and buildings you pass by. You should literally stop and smell the roses as you walk. Try to remain in the moment and focus on what you are thankful for. This is also great exercise and we could all use more exercise.

4. Get a Full 8 Hours of Sleep - I know that some nights are harder than others to get a good night's rest if you have children, are lesson planning, or attending to other obligations but you MUST sleep. Sleep allows the body to recharge and allow you to actually be productive the next day so DO NOT deprive your body of rest on purpose. Unfortunately, illness and stress can become further exacerbated without allowing your body to fully rest.

5. Buy A Small Item You Like - Whether it's a small candy bar for the week or a book that you've been waiting to read, purchase something that makes you feel good every once in a while. You should treat yourself and remember that you do deserve a moment of joy every now and then.

6. Sing - Whether it's in the car or in the shower, sing out loud to one of your favorite songs. No, you do not have to have the voice of an R&B diva or even remember all the lyrics. Just sing. Singing to your favorite song helps to lower your blood pressure and brings you back to a vulnerable place. Remember how happy you were when you sang silly songs as a child? The same works for your grown-up self too.

7. Text, Call, or Email a Friend/Family Member - When you're under a lot of stress, it's very easy to fall under the radar and forget that you still have people that are there for you. Don't forget about those who are close to you for weeks to months at a time. Text or call to say "Hi". We are social creatures and we feed off of interaction with others. I find that when I call my mom to talk about a stressful portion of my day, I automatically begin to feel better by hearing someone else's opinion.

8. Laugh - Laughter not only feels good but it lower stress levels tremendously. Listen to a funny podcast, a comedian, a lighthearted book, or even at a hilarious thing one of your students said that day. Try not to take life too seriously. Sometimes I find it less stressful to poke fun at my mishaps throughout the day instead of fretting about them.

Happy Teaching!

If you're interested in teaching resources for your special education students, visit my Teacher Pay Teachers store. 

I have the following resources available:

-Essay Maps
-Social Stories
-Project Based Learning Assignments

And more!