I teach students who have multiple disabilities in grades 3-5. I have a unique class since some are from the district we are housed in and other students are from surrounding districts. It is a countywide program housed in a particular building. We have K-12th grade classes in 2 districts in the county. There are 2 other classrooms within my program that have 3-5th graders. Since we do not have the luxury of having particular textbooks and workbooks that we use like students in the general education curriculum, we have to make most of our lessons. We are still held accountable for teaching the state standards.
We just recently began making theme bins based on the standards. We used the science and social studies standards and grouped them in categories to name each bin. For example, standards on land, rocks, geography, and earth were grouped together and called “Where in the World.”
Included in all of the bins are 3 weeks worth of lessons for each subject area (reading, writing/technology, science/social studies, and math) based on this theme and content standards. Each lesson also includes a higher level and lower level activity since the students’ abilities are so diverse. Each teacher created 2 bins for the year and each month we rotate the bins. This really cuts down the preparation time that each teacher has to spend. In each bin, there are 3 weeks worth of lesson plans, handouts, games, books, and anything else needed for the unit.
This is a very fun way to teach the students the standards and they love having themes. And as the teacher, I love having great lessons with half the work!!
As a former teacher and as a mother of an energetic preschooler, I am always looking for new learning products that will excite and entertain my son. Some of my favorites are the workbooks from the Ready-Set-Learn
series. I really think that these books are must-haves for parents of young children. There are so many titles to choose from that cover several different skills. So far for my 4-year-old, I have bought Preschool Activities
, Preschool Fun
, and Beginning Math
. We skip around and work on pages out of each of them in random order. Jack likes choosing the pages. Each workbook comes with 180 stickers and a reward chart to track progress.
After completing each page, Jack loves to put one sticker on the finished page and one on the racetrack reward chart, and then he can’t wait to start on his next page. He is getting so much practice with academic skills all while loving every minute of it. It makes mommy so happy, too! I always keep one book in the car and one at Grandma’s house. I love taking them with us to restaurants because they keep him seated, quiet, and engaged—and it always impresses those waiting on our table! I also buy them for other kids as birthday presents. They’re only $2.99 each, so I can’t pass up the great deal.
One of the most important lessons I have ever learned is knowing when to “throw in the towel” on a lesson plan. I’m sure you’ve experienced it before. You could be saying something mid-sentence and realize, “My students look bored. They’re not getting this. This just isn’t working.” At this point, we have two options. Sometimes we make the smart choice and adjust our methods, tweaking the activity as necessary. But if we’re optimistic that things may improve (or simply determined to get through the material after having spent hours planning it out), we may choose to plow through it as planned. And the results can be disastrous.
One particular moment that comes to mind is when I was teaching English in China. I was partnered up with another teacher, Nolan, and together we taught songs to six classes each day. Towards the end of our English camp, the school had asked us to teach the students a song that they could sing at the End-of-Camp Ceremonies. Nolan thought of an idea right away; he wanted to teach the upper-level students the chorus to Brian McKnight’s “Back at One.” At first, I kept an open mind. Sure, the tempo is a little slow and the subject matter is a bit mature. But the students loved American pop music. So I (naively) assumed, “We’ll make it work!” We walked into class toting eager smiles and an overhead transparency of new lyrics. But after only fifteen minutes, we recognized the dreaded signs—the glazed-over eyes, the shuffling feet, the utterly monotone voices—of a failed idea (a failed idea we had them rehearse for two more class sessions before finally realizing we needed to not only throw in the towel but also burn it!).
Fortunately, we had a back-up plan that we could resort to (“Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in rounds—thank goodness for melody!). In fact, it’s these kind of secondary ideas that I frequently fell back on well after this experience because, in the end, it offered a more rewarding experience to my students. And isn’t that what teaching is all about?
It’s been estimated that 20% of students have one or more developmental, learning, or behavioral disorders. It is important, therefore, to adjust your teaching practice to suit the specials needs of your students in the classroom. Here are some tips to consider as you do this:
How do I get them started?
Let these students know when you are starting and how long they will probably take to do the task. If possible, stay with them until they finish that initial stage of “I can’t do this” or “Why do I have to do this—it’s stupid.” If the whole thing is daunting for them, break it into small parts.
How do I get them to stay on task?
Clear away as many distractions as possible. Be sure to clean off the desk. Sometimes a student like this actually performs better with a rubber ball to hold. Their tension goes directly into that object. Keep telling the student what a nice job he or she is doing.
How do I get them to stay in their seats?
Make sure your student knows what you expect. This type of child may feel a great need to get up and walk around for a little while. Use this as a reward after a set amount of time following directions. Keep them away from areas of distraction like the door, pencil sharpener, or drinking fountain.
How do I get them to follow directions?
This child doesn’t understand or register subtle hints. You must be direct and clear in as few words as possible. Have the child repeat and explain what he or she is supposed to do. You may also have to go so far as to role-play the direction.
For more tips on working with students with special needs, check out Chapter 3: Working With Special Populations in the Substitute Teacher Handbook.