Thursday, January 28, 2010

Task Boxes

I'm looking at putting together some tasks boxes for the students in my classroom.  I created some last year and we used them, but I'm looking at using them with some different students and I need more of a variety of tasks.
For anyone not familiar with task boxes, they are a great component of a TEACCH or STACK program, especially for students with Autism.  They consist of a plastic box with lid, with items inside that are used by the student to put together different types of tasks depending on the skill you are working on.  Some different types of tasks include put on/in tasks, fine motor, matching, stacking, sorting, assembly, packaging, and job training.
I love the idea of purchasing task boxes, as everything is ready to go, there is no running around to different stores trying to find all the items you need for your activity.  However, for the websites I have looked at who sell pre-made task boxes, I just can't justify spending that much money (like $30-40 a box for some activities) for items I can go buy at Target or the Dollar store for so much less.
As I teach middle schoolers (grades 6-8), I plan to focus more on pre-vocational and academic tasks.  Here are some of the tasks boxes I have previously created:
-Putting greeting cards in envelopes and closing envelopes
-Folding washcloths
-Placing toothbrushes in matching toothbrush cases by color
-Place CDs in a CD case book
-Sort pencils according to color/style

My choices were somewhat limited in the past as the student I was creating them for only has use of her right hand, so the tasks were limited to those that she could do independently.  If you are looking for ideas to make or purchase task boxes, I recommend checking out,, or the books by Tasks Galore.

I will post info on the task boxes I create after deciding what to make and putting them together.  For now, off to Target!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Assessments-- What do you use?

I'm trying to research some different assessments, checklists, and rating tools that are used for students with multiple disabilities during an MFE/ETR (reevaluation).  I'm in a middle school classroom, and I feel that the assessments we use when my students have an ETR really are not appropriate-- we can barely answer most of the questions as they end up being not applicable.  I typically use the Employability Life Skills scale, for speech we use the Functional Curriculum Checklist, and others just do record review. 

I would love to hear from those of you in the same field, what assessments do you use when  completing an ETR?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Peer Collaboration Clubs-- Part 3

This year we started up the program a little late again, as I was waiting and hoping to see if anyone would co-chair the club with me.  Part of the problem is that there is no stipend for the club, and many teachers can't commit to that much outside work without compensation.  So this year I'm heading it myself, but getting lots of help along the way from staff helping with various events.  To get us started this year, I put an announcement on our morning video announcements asking for previous members or lunch club members who would be interested in becoming "Celtic Connection Ambassadors".  I was contacted by about 10 students, and we set up a meeting but only 5 of them were able to attend.  At this first meeting, just like last year, we had the students decide how often we should meet (2x per month again), what day of the week (Mondays), and what activities we wanted to do.  The group decided we should do one activity per month at the school, and one out in the community.  So far this year, we have done the following:

    * 1st meeting the Monday of Thanksgiving Week: Thanksgiving themed video scavenger hunt around the school building, making Celtic Connection signs to hang around the building, chips and pop snacks.
    * 2nd meeting: shopping at local mall for secret santa gifts-- we met right after school and took a bus to the mall; I broke students into groups of 3-5 by grade level, each with a teacher chaperone and they had to go buy a gift worth $5 for our holiday gift exchange.
    * 3rd meeting: holiday party: we did a white elephant gift exchange (which was a huge success!), watched the movie Elf, did a 'winter clothing' relay race, and each student brought a dessert to share for a potluck.

My Celtic Connection Ambassadors will be meeting this week to plan out our next few events, but we've already created a large list (with input from the entire club) of activities we want to do this year.

As you can tell by our activities so far, some of these activities cost money, even if it is just for some of the snacks.  We did our first Celtic Connection fundraiser this year, that we called 'Winter Wishes'.  Some of you may do this in your schools, I actually got the idea because they had this at my high school when I was growing up.  During the last week of school before break, we had a table set up during lunch periods where we sold cute 1/4 page tags that said 'winter wishes' on the front with snowflakes, and on the back had a space for "To", "From", "Homebase", and a large space for a message.  The cost was $1 each, and students would fill them out to a friend-- we would then attach a candy cane with a ribbon, and deliver them during 1st period on the last day before break.  I was really nervous about this going successfully, but it went very well for our first fundraiser.  I had kids from Celtic Connection and my students sign up to help sell during their lunch periods, and we made signs and put on announcements to advertise.  The members all helped deliver the winter wishes on Friday morning, and they were a big hit around the building-- I think we made at least $150!  We plan on continuing to do this activity to raise money for our club, and hopefully it will continue to be a success.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Peer Collaboration Programs- Part 2

This is a continuation of my previous post about lunch clubs at my school.  Another program we just started last year is called "Celtic Connection" (pronounced 'kel'-tic, not 'sel'-tic), which we created last year as an after-school peer collaboration program.  Last year I had assistance in starting this program by an amazing paraprofessional in my building, but she did not have as much time available to assist this year so I'm heading up the program myself.  That is not to say I don't have assistance-- we have a great special ed. staff in my buildling, and the Intervention Specialists and paraprofessinals all take turns showing up to events to assist.  We also have an amazing Speech Therapist who is very involved in the program, and our principal and asst. principal have even helped out from time to time.

With last year being our first year, we did not get the program started until about November of the school year.  We recruited some students who were already involved in our lunch clubs, and asked them to work with us on starting this club.  From the beginning, we have had a student-centered approach: the name of the club, the slogan, the logo, and the mission statement were all created by club members.  We also had the club members plan the activities they wanted to do for the year, and decide how we could include all students and recruit new members.  The club decided we would meet 2x per month after school from 3-4:30.  Some of the activities we did last year were
  • a holiday party with a gift exchange
  • a movie night (we watched Madagascar 2 the day it came out)
  • video game night (we hooked up Wii's and Xbox's to different TVs and smartboards in the building)
  • board game night (we had a variety of games, but played mostly Apples to Apples)
  • Outdoor Games night (we played games like kickball, dead fish, ships and sailors... my 9+ years as a camp counselor really came into use that night!)
  • Scrapbooking night (we had all sorts of scrapbook materials out, and printed pictures from all our events-- each kid made a few pages to put in our scrapbook)
We also tried to include a snack at each event, as these middle schoolers are ravenous by 3 o'clock!  In the beginning, I would just buy snacks, but I got smart later in the year and had the students contribute.  We did a sundae bar where I supplied the ice cream and everyone had to sign up to bring in one topping.  We did a nacho bar another night will all the toppings laid out for them to make themselves.  And of course we made barrels of popcorn for our movie night.

See my next post for info about what we are doing this year!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Peer Collaboration Programs- Part 1

In an effort to get some more peer involvement going within my school, we have started some new peer collaboration programs and activities over the past few years.  One that we have been doing since I started four years ago is our weekly lunch club.  Each grade level is set to meet every Wednesday during their lunch period.  In the past, lunch clubs have taken place in various classrooms throughout the building, but this year I have all the lunch clubs meeting in my classroom (I know, what was I thinking).  For each grade level, we have 2-10 students with a full range of disabilities, as well as 10-20 of their friends all meeting weekly in my room.  The main purpose of this club is to give students the opportunity to get together in a smaller group setting, and interact and socialize with one another while making new friendships.  We have 30 minutes for lunch, so students usually spend the first 15-20 eating and talking, and the last 10 or so either playing a game or just continuing to socialize-- it depends on the grade level.  In 6th grade, we usually end up playing games like Jenga or Uno, in 7th grade we play the DVD games for Family Feud and The Price is Right, and 8th grade usually just wants to socialize.  The program has gotten really successful over the years, and some days we have almost 30 kids in my room all hanging out with one another.  I always get nervous on these days that we won't have enough to do, or the kids will get bored and not want to come back, but they always seem to entertain one another without much adult interaction.  The Special Ed teachers, parapros, and some general ed teachers also come in to assist if it is their lunch period, but the adults can usually just sit back and supervise as needed.  During our lunch clubs, we have done special events such as tailgate potlucks, holiday parties, and pizza lunches, but these kids just like the opportunity to get together and hang out with their friends.

Happy New Year

It's been a busy start to the year in my classroom.  I started this blog at the beginning of the school year, with great plans to post new lessons, ideas, and inspirations weekly that tied into our curriculum topics.  As we got closer to the holiday season though, I just couldn't keep up with everything we had going on in my classroom, as well as the three additional positions I've now taken on.

Since September, I have become my school district's Special Olympics Director, which I've been really excited about.  We just got through swimming season and our swimmers did a great job at the state meet in December.  As part of that title, I have also taken the position of Extra-Curricular Support Coordinator for my district.  As part of our new IEP forms, we are required to discuss with parents the opportunity for their student to participate in extra curricular activities.  For students that are interested in playing after school sports, joining clubs, or participating in music/drama performances, I'm in charge of finding support for them in the activities.  This posed a bit of a challenge in the beginning, as paraprofessionals couldn't assist for more than 5hrs. a week or they would be working overtime, and most teachers didn't want to work additional hours to assist.  I've worked out a system though, where I use a listserv at my previous university, and posted information to college students in Special Ed. related fields about upcoming positions.  I recieved over 100+ responses of students interested in helping, so I've been doing lots of interviews, meetings, and arranging staff for these positions.  It's been fun, but a lot more work than I expected!

I am also in charge of our middle school peer collaboration club and activities, which I'll create a new post about soon.  We have a weekly lunch club in my classroom for each grade level where students with and without disabilities get together to eat lunch, socialize, and play games. We also have an after school social club called Celtic Connections (as our school mascot is the Celtics), where we get together for fun activities after school.  So far this year we have done a video scavenger hunt, went shopping at the mall, and had a holiday party.
Getting all of these started this year has made it hard to keep up with my blogging, but I miss sharing ideas, getting great ideas from others, and being able to talk with other teachers in the same field.  I hope to be back on track in the new year, and I look forward to talking with those of you that read this little blog!