Testing season is here!  And along with the pressures of the test, and managing the testing schedules, and trying to fit in your instruction along with testing, you have to keep track of all of the accommodations!

Special education accommodations


Excel to the rescue!  I create a spreadsheet of my students by homeroom.  (Each homeroom gets a page in my workbook.  Then I label each column with the available accommodation for the state test. I simply type in my student names and put an x in the box for which accommodations they receive.  I print a copy for each homeroom teacher and our school assessment coordinator, so she can added the supports to the online testing program.  It's a quick way to keep track for everyone!  And, as I often have the same kids each year, I can just edit as needed.

special education accommodations


I use this same concept to tract daily accommodations and accommodations for my students too!  Again, each homeroom gets their own page in the workbook, and I just label each column with the accommodations or modifications needed.  It's easy to share with teachers and therapists so we all keep track of what the students need to be successful.

How do you stay on top of accommodations during testing?

Check out the rest of the Special Ed Speaks Posts!







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Have you worked with a student who just does not like to write?  Maybe they lack confidence, maybe they have poor fine motor skills, maybe they struggle getting their ideas down on paper, maybe they have difficulty expressing their ideas.  Whatever the reason they may not enjoy writing, unfortunately it is still something they have to do.  



One tried and true way I have increased engagement for my struggling writers is through the use of the almighty Post-It Note!


Labeling- With my beginning writers, we use a lot of pictures to help us generate ideas on a topic.  We use post it notes to record our observations and thoughts.  Then we pick our favorite ones to write sentences about.  (The number may vary depending on the level of the student.)

supporting struggling writers


Brainstorming- With my older students, the Post-It Notes come in handy when we are brainstorming ideas
helping struggling writers come up with ideas

Magically, you hand a student a Post-It pad and a colored pen and their ideas start flowing!  I often set challenges for how many ideas they can come up with in a given time frame.  Students who usually struggle with coming up with ideas to write about are eager to fill up their Post-Its with ideas. Their written output greatly improves!


Quick Writing-  We also use Post-It Notes to do quick writes of a specific skill.  For example, my third grade students were working on descriptive writing.  We hung pictures of every day objects around the room.  They spent 1 minute at each station generating as many descriptive phrases or sentences as they could about the pictures on their Post-It Notes.  
motivating writers

The engagement of all 30 students was incredible!  The room was quiet and all students- regular ed, special ed, or ELL, were successful in the task.  We had 30 minutes of uninterrupted, on task, engaged writing.  It was amazing!



How do you engage struggling writers?

Supporting Writers Who Struggle






My first years in the classroom I used a standard behavior chart.  You know the one- Each student was given a number, and had 4 different colored apples with their number in our pocket chart.  For each infraction, they got a warning, and then consequences that progressed as the color of their apple changed.  The same kids kept their apples red day after day.  And the same kids had their apples change color day after day.  The chart was ineffective in improving behaviors, and I quickly tired of giving warnings, and consequences that didn't work.  I left school feeling frustrated, tired, and disappointed.  

Then, I learned about Love and Logic.  And everything changed.


managing behaviors

Love and Logic is a philosophy that was developed by Jim Fay and Foster W. Cline, MD.  It is an approach that is built around strong relationships, logical consequences and healthy decision making. They have curriculum for parents and educators.  I was fortunate that our school social worker was holding the Teaching with Love and Logic class in our school.  Immediately I knew that THIS was how I wanted to be as a teacher, and that this was who I was as a person.

Love and Logic has several skills that they use in their teaching curriculum.  I began to implement them right away, and the results were drastic!


One of the first skills I used was neutralizing arguing.  All too often I was getting hooked into an argument with a student, and no one would win!  We would just wind up frustrated with each other!  I started using Love and Logic one liners when a student would try to hook me into an argument and it worked!  I was able to stay calm and not engage with the argument, and they quickly learned that I couldn't be hooked.  My favorites were the sympathetic "oooooh", "I know." and "What did I say?" delivered in a calm voice, and without sarcasm.  


Another skill that was easy to implement right away was building relationships with my students.  I made sure to take the time to get to know my students, laugh and play with them and share with them about me.  By developing a strong relationship with my students, they were able to trust me and want to do their best for me.  I take 10 minutes out of each morning to work on relationships with my kids.  (read about it here) I know that my relationships I have built with even the toughest kids have saved me from many misbehaviors and minimized so many issues!


Love and Logic also teaches about giving choices when things are going well, so we can share control with our kids.  Then when we need to we can make the choice, and kids won't fight us since their need for control has been met.  It was so simple to add choices into our day-  Do you want to read this book or that book?  Would you like to write in pencil or pen?  Do you want to do evens or odds?  Do you want 5 minutes or 7 minutes of computer time?  Lots of little choices throughout our day, allowed my students to feel in control.  This allowed them to feel safe in our classroom, and they knew they could trust me.



Lastly, I started telling my students what I would do or allow, rather than telling them what to do.  Using enforceable statements, I took control of my actions, rather than trying to control my students' actions.  "I take quiet lines to lunch."  "I allow kids who finish their work to have computer time."  "I'm happy to send kids to recess who clean up their work."  I could control what happened, rather than telling my students what to do.  This was life changing!


As I tried out my new strategies, my students responded.  Behaviors improved, arguing decreased, and I was able to leave at the end of the day knowing that I had handled things in a respectful and loving way that allowed me to have more fun with my students. My students knew the limits, and knew what was expected.  And after sometime, used some of my tricks on each other!  (They got pretty good at my one liners!)


To this day, I don't use a behavior chart, and stray from strict reward systems.  I use the tenets of Love and Logic to guide my behavior management, and am able to have fun while doing it!

classroom management
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Have you tried any Love and Logic strategies with your class?

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As a special education teacher, we have a lot of balls in the air- schedules, growing caseloads, evaluations, curriculums, therapies, data collection and so much more!  It can be a crazy ride that leaves you frazzled and frenzied.  But, if you work to create systems and find tools to keep you organized, the ride becomes a lot more fun!  I'm here to share 5 of my favorite things that help me stay organized as a busy resource teacher. 

(Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links)

1) A Large Calendar

Now, I already have an Erin Condren Life Planner that I LOVE and use to keep track of meetings, professional development, IEP deadlines, and all of my outside school life too.  But, in my classroom, I use a large desk calendar to keep my school days organized.


I hang this on the wall near my file cabinet with a couple of command hooks.  (I don't use a desk, but that is a story for another post!) I record meetings, PDs, and due dates on it.  I also add grade level events, school wide assessments, field trips, guest speakers, or anything else that may change our day to day routine.  It helps me see at a glance what is going on and be prepared for what is coming that week!


2) A Well Organized File Cabinet

Too often, a file cabinet just becomes a giant hole for all the papers that we will never see again!  But, if you have a plan, and keep it organized and even better color coded, it can be a great tool.  I use hanging files and colored file folders to keep my drawers organized and useful!



I have a four drawer file cabinet in my room.  The top drawer is for student files.  Each student has a hanging file folder, color coded by grade level (with the flexibility and growth of my caseload each year, it is just not practical to color code for each kid!)  I use three files for each student.  The first one is a student information file where I file notes from parents, medical reports, and any additional information.  The second file is for data, I put copies of completed data sheets, printouts of assessment data, completed checklists, etc.  I store student work samples (originals or copies) in the third file.  This is handy as I write progress reports; conference with parents, therapists or teachers; or write IEPs.  If needed, I will do a fourth folder to hold blank and completed student specific behavior charts.

My second drawer is for reference files.  I organize PD handouts, manuals and handbooks, assessment protocols and other items I need to be able to find when needed, but not have in my teacher binder for daily access.  It makes life so easy and less stressful when I can find what I need.

The bottom two drawers are used for storing resources and materials I have made.  One drawer is files of originals to be photocopied such as reading passages, math practice, writing prompts.  The other drawer has hanging file folders that keep my printed and laminated activities.  I group them by subject and store individual activities in Ziploc bags.


3) Paper Sorter

I use so many different types of paper, that a paper sorter is a must!  I use two in my room to stay organized.  I use one for colored copy paper and colored cardstock.  The other is used for writing paper, page protectors and laminating sheets.  It helps to be able to find what I need quickly!





4) Storage Boxes

I teach 10 different groups throughout the day- some in my resource room, and some in the regular education classroom.  I need to be able find my lesson materials quickly and keep them organized.  I use the Sterilte Clip Storage Boxes (in several sizes!) to keep up with my materials.  These are the best storage boxes out there!

I have one tote for each group, and load it weekly with any copies, lesson plans, manipulates, games or activities I will need.  Each box is labeled on the side with what group it is for, so it makes it easy for me or even a student to find.


5) Rainbow Cart

It seems like EVERYONE has a rainbow drawer cart of some type in their classrooms.  I had one with a metal frame previously, but it met an untimely end when someone needed to get out some frustration.  I replaced it this summer with this one from Really Useful  (similar ones are at Michael's and a god price with a coupon!)




The drawers slide in and out easily, and the wheels are great!  I use mine to store all of my fidgets, and sensory items, so I can find them quickly for students and teachers as needed!


When my day is go go go, and I don't get much down time, my organization in my classroom allows me to find what I need quickly, clean up with a breeze, and keep myself pulled together.  It saves me time so I can focus on providing the best support to my students and keep myself from feeling so overwhelmed.


What tricks do you have to stay organized?
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As a resource teacher, I usually see my students for 30 minutes at a time and am going non-stop throughout my day.  It can be a hectic schedule, and hard to take time to connect with my kids.  I knew I needed to build, cultivate, and maintain strong relationships with my students in order to build their trust, and support their behaviors, but wasn't quire sure how to fit it all in.  I use Love and Logic strategies with my students and having a strong relationship with them is crucial for that to be successful!
10 Minute Morning Routine to help manage behavior

Enter my 10 Minute Morning Routine, it has been a complete game changer for me and my students. I know that my relationship with my kids helps them be successful throughout their day, as they know they are supported by a caring adult.

So what does this 10 Minute Morning Routine entail?  It's so simple, yet so effective.

Each morning, during student arrival and classroom morning routines, I carve out time to do a morning meet and greet with my students.  I service multiple classrooms, so I start at one end of the building and stop in each and every classroom my students are in.  (I've had as few as 4 and as many as 9!)  

I greet my students, ask them about their nights, prepare them for any special events or changes to the day, and give them an encouraging pep talk.  These few moments with each student allow me to connect daily.  They also serve as a quick barometer as how our day might go- is the student sick?  tired?  having a rough morning?  If so, I can be proactive and work to get them back on track for a successful day.  I may allow them to eat their breakfast in my room, stay with them to complete morning work, or set up some check in times throughout their day to make sure they are doing okay.  If they are in good spirits, we share a joke, hug, or fist bump and are off to rock the school day.

I swear by my morning ritual and make sure I carve out that time each morning!  I could be making copies, or preparing lesson plans, but I know that investing those few minutes in my students makes a BIG difference!

How do you connect with your students?



I am in love, and so are my students.... with Task Cards!  

My fifth grade readers have really been struggling with their comprehension.  We have been focusing on finding evidence in the text and putting the question in the answer.  But, honestly have not seen a lot of progress overall.  I needed to find a way for my students to get daily practice with a wide variety of comprehension skills, but that didn't take up too much time of our limited time together. (This is a major challenge as a resource teacher!)  

Then it hit me... TASK CARDS!  


Task cards are the perfect opportunity for daily practice of skills.  My students love the novelty of them.  I love the variety and repetition.  It's a win-win!  Our current favorites are form Rachel Lynette.  She has SO many different ones available at a variety of levels, too!


We've been using them a few different ways.  Sometimes I pass out a few to each student, then they answer on their white boards.  Or, we will take turns reading out loud and compare answers.  We will use them as a quick warm up, or as our final activity to wrap up our group.  

So far, they have been a hit!  I can't wait to use them more and more with my readers, and continue to watch them grow.  

How do you use task cards with your students?
Basic Facts are the bane of my existence right now!  

My 5th graders are currently working on multiplying multi-digit numbers.  They understand area models as well as the standard algorithm.  However, their accuracy is negatively impacted by their lack of basic fact fluency!  And not knowing their facts is slowing them down!  My students are using repeated addition and counting on fingers to figure out those facts they should know quickly.  It is frustrating for them (and me, watching them).  

So, here is what we are doing to learn those facts to mastery once and for all!


learn facts




With Technology...Xtra Math
I have set up accounts for my students on Xtra Math.  If you are not using Xtra Math, I encourage you to check it out.  It is free to use via any internet browser, and there is an app for purchase if you prefer.  

XtraMath works to get students to solve their basic facts within 2 seconds.  They log into the program a few times a week, and complete a session.  Sessions last about 5 minutes.  The repetition, approach and encouragement from the teacher on the screen, really help my students.  They also love to see their squares turn green on their mastery grids.  One of the things I like the most is that the format is simple and clean- and can appeal to any age level.  (I hate when sites with great activities have immature graphics and don't look age appropriate.) I love the teacher reports as I can see the progress and accuracy of my students at a glance.  



My students are logging their time each morning during our universal breakfast time.  Quick and easy!  


Without Technology...Good Old Fashioned Flash Cards

Flash cards are easy.  Parents can use them.  Kids can use them.  Low tech is best sometimes, and sometimes we just need to drill the skill to build our speed!

I created a set of basic fact flash cards (in black and white as well as color by fact family) for my students and their families to use.  I have run sets off for them, punched a hole and put them on a binder ring.  They now have a set at home, and one in their desks.  We often practice by making a yes pile and a no pile for the facts we know or don't know.  Then we focus on the ones we don't know quickly.  It has really helped!

You can pick up the flash cards in my TPT store!

Learning math facts

I hope you can find them useful!


I'm confident that with this extra focus on basic facts, we will be fluent and accurate mathematicians in no time!

How do you help students learn their facts?
Math Facts



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