Tag Archives: routines

Strategies for Working with Students with Speech and Language Impairments

Structure, structure, structure!

This point cannot be emphasized enough. Have a schedule and stick to it. There are so many unexpected moments and aspects to our day. Social interaction, emotions, and other moments cannot be planned or necessarily expected. To relieve some of these anxieties, it is so critical to provide an environment that is organized, predictable, and dependable. Seating arrangements (with visuals!), visual schedules, consistent routines that become ingrained for each child, and clear expectations help to provide this type of environment. Once these routines become completely innate for the group, you will have the space and time to push them even farther. It creates an opportunity to raise the bar and hold your group to these expectations, once you have built that structured foundation for them.

Follow through

This ties in with the last point.  It is critical to always follow through with anything you say whether it is a consequence or a promise. Building a trusting relationship with the children is one of the most important things a teacher can do. When a child sees you follow through, whether it is with a positive reinforcer or a less than desired consequence, that shows the child that you mean what you say and they can trust that. Establish this early and do your best to remember how important it is to give children many opportunities to trust in your words and actions. It also means that you have to carefully choose what you say and know that you will follow through with it.

Make a visual

Visuals can be so helpful for communicating expectations. There are many different kinds of visuals you can make.

Visual schedule – A visual schedule is grounding for children. Knowing the plan for the lesson or day can help lessen anxiety and increase awareness of his/her world.

Visual routine – This visual is important for complex tasks with multiple steps. For example, a morning routine may include unpacking multiple items, washing hands, and beginning morning work. Remembering the steps can sometimes be a challenge.

Visual routine with a storyline – Sometimes the visual routine isn’t enough. In this case, you can create a visual that follows a storyline.

Incentive visual – An incentive visual is similar to a star chart for reinforcing positive behavior. The difference is that the incentive chart is personalized with the child’s interest. There is no big prize at the end; children just want to know that you notice positive behaviors.

All visuals should be goal oriented and the goal needs to be as concrete as possible. Avoid vague goals like paying attention or doing your best. Define what that means and the child will be able to rise to the occasion. For example, instead of saying pay attention, you can write: X is working on having his/her eyes on the teacher and keeping his/her brain in the group (this is language from Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking Program).

Write it out

Spoken language is fleeting and often goes in one ear and out the other. If the child can decode, write or type what you’re trying to communicate. Reading the message will help regulate the child. It also makes the message more concrete. Even if the child cannot read, you can write it and speak it as you write it. Then, you can read it back to them.

Drawing a simple picture to convey a situation that just occurred can also be helpful in both regulating the child, as well as aiding the child’s understanding of that situation. Drawing the people involved in the situation and using thought bubbles, or speech bubbles, can help clarify the reasons why a person might have done or said something resulting in an undesired situation.

Validate feelings

All feelings are important and valid– how they are expressed should be your teaching point. We all experience a range of emotions. As adults,  most of us have learned socially acceptable ways of expressing those feelings. New teachers often react to the action rather than the emotion behind it. Start by validating the child’s feeling: I would feel mad if someone knocked down my building, too. Most of the time,  the child will relax a little because he or she will feel understood. The next step is to talk about how it’s OK to feel the emotion, but there are options for how we can show the emotion. At this point, you can create a list of ways to choose from. Be sure to choose a variety of desired and undesired reactions, and ask the child what they think is the best way to express their emotions.

Settle arguments with new ways of expressing

As a teacher, you’re bound to have kids in your class who have different language rules at home. Create your own that will unite the group. This can happen with strategies for the calendar.  For example, countdowns to important dates,  some people count today and some people count the day of the event. In my class, we counted by how many more wake-ups there would be. The common, concrete language unified the group and made the strategy for counting number of days consistent.

Give sentence starters instead of only asking a question

Children are often trying to formulate their language. If you provide an open ended question,  and you see the child is unsure how to formulate a response, you can give a lead in. “I am mad because…”

If something isn’t working, rethink it!

If there is repetition, something is not sticking with the child. Think of another way to help them concretize the support or message you’re delivering to them. A visual, validation, written language – whatever works best for the child. Not only will they be able to fully process the language, they will be able to accept and utilize the support you are offering.

Be Transparent

Always have a reason for what you do and invite children to question the reasons. Be ready to explain why you’re giving them a specific direction, completing an activity, or doing a lesson with them. Never just respond, “Because!” If you don’t have a reason, ask yourself why you are doing it. The “why” questions help keep us on our toes and remember how important each lesson is; make it meaningful, deep, and and worth their time.

Maintain calm

Sometimes it’s hard to take a step back from an emotionally charged situation, but teachers, it’s part of our job to remain calm in even the most tumultuous situations. There are times when I find myself on the verge of responding to a situation based on my emotions alone, and I need to remind myself to take a deep breath (or several!) before rationally reacting. It’s also important to model the types of strategies we use to calm ourselves down in a frustrating situation. In fact, sometimes I will explicitly tell my students, “That makes me feel frustrated, and when I’m frustrated I might say something I don’t mean. I’m going to take a few deep breaths to help me calm down.”

This blog post was collaboratively written by Jess, Caitlin, and Katherine

 

 

And… Break!

The weeks leading up to a break are filled with anticipation. Everything seems frantic and all I can think about is having time to myself and my family. The final week is laden with exhaustion, depletion, and excitement. Each day begins with a deep breath, a cup of coffee, and a countdown. Routines have never been more important, and academic expectations need to be lowered for everyone’s sanity. Children are so easily distracted by travel plans and holidays and family; their minds are not in the classroom. The same is true for teachers. 

In addition to the extensive report writing that so many special educators engage in over the breaks, there’s a certain rejuvenation that takes place. There’s enough time to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning without a million things to plan for the day, to bake, to cook every meal, to remember personal hobbies, and to reignite the passion for teaching creatively.

My next couple of posts will be about the new resources and ideas I find for teaching while I explore my own hobbies at home.

Have a wonderful (almost) winter break, teachers. You deserve it.

Look for the silver lining.

Any job has its share of good days and bad days. Teaching has a spectrum of days ranging from feeling like you’ve changed a small part of the world in the most amazing fashion, to choking back tears until a free prep appears in your schedule. Luckily I can confidently say my good days infinitely outweigh my bad days. With that said, bad days can be difficult to digest. As teachers, we are so eager to make a plan, follow through with that plan, and assess the outcome. But when a bad day affects ones ability to see a plan through at all, my next thought is “what can I do to change this situation? How can I make it so that this situation is less likely to repeat itself?” When the answer doesn’t come so simply, set in an overwhelming feeling of stress.

Teaching is emotional, intense, and in many ways spontaneous. Unexpected emotions and behaviors pop up during our days. These moments take precedence over the academic plan for our children. If one of my kids isn’t emotionally or physically regulated and ready to learn – how can I expect them to attend, participate, and be an active member of the group? Even though I planned on reviewing yesterday’s content, introducing three new vocabulary words, and having independent work time, it is okay if that plan doesn’t see itself through. Their emotional, mental, and physical needs come first before I can hold them to such a standard.

With all of these thoughts, I also selfishly consider my own patience, sanity, and overall state of mind. What can I do when I’m starting to feel like I’m losing control, not being effective, or unable to spark my kids’ interests. Well, the teacher side of me thinks, obviously I need I reevaluate the situation. I need to think about my role as the teacher and how to set up my room so that all children can be successful. Do I need to incorporate more visuals, more movement, less verbal language, more time for transitions – the list goes on.

Then the human side of me thinks, take a breath, go grab a coffee with Jess, cry if you need to, and envision the glass of wine I will most certainly be having with dinner tonight.

Surprisingly the combination of teacher and human somehow balances out, gets me through the day, and leads me to prepare for a better tomorrow.

As I write this post reflecting on an emotionally taxing day, I am realizing that even putting these feelings into words is a helpful strategy. Whether it may be to a public forum, a text message to a friend, or only for my eyes to see, writing about tough days is a way to let it out of your system. Of course I still feel drained, stressed, and like I’m ready for bed at 6pm. But with that said, I am also prepared to begin tomorrow as a fresh start, learn from my mistakes, prepare my students for a great day, and prepare myself for those unexpected moments that often lead me to think “this really is the most incredible job,” even on the tough days.

What I told the conference group…

The session was meant to be an hour long, but we ended up discussing classroom management, behaviors in children, adaptive tools, ways to organize, and the importance of understanding children, for nearly two hours. It was an incredible conversation that came down to the fact that kids are people, we can’t expect them to be the same all the time, and we have to understand who they are. My co-teacher and I bounced off of each other when talking about the simple systems we have in place for the daunting idea of classroom management.

I felt like I told them so much, but I wanted to make sure they got the messages I was trying to deliver. As a follow-up, I sent out a Google Form to gather reflections and reactions to the time spent in the classroom. I left it to be anonymous, so they could really talk about how they experienced the time spent in the room.

Here are some of the responses:

What was the most interesting takeaway? 

classroom management materials all around the room!  it was great to see how you set up the classroom, explained strategies that worked, I’ve already used some in my second grade classroom and plan to implement many things in my kindergarten classroom next year as my first year head teaching (especially green and red moments)

Brainstorming ways that some behavioral tools and ot tools could be incorporated into any type of classroom or for certain students.

Does classroom management sound more or less intimidating now? Why?

less! still intimidating, but knowing that all teachers need to try out all different things, and that you are not alone in the process helps ease my mind a lot.

It sounds less intimidating because validating the feelings students have and giving them a time and space to express them really makes a difference. Witnessing differentiation for each student with universal design and language makes me realize how important not only class community is, but also how crucial the school community is; when the entire school follows the same procedures and language set there is an incredible difference.

What do you recommend we address next time?

I definitely think going through your classroom management tools, strategies for specific things, and materials used in the classroom would be helpful. i sometimes find myself worrying about not having the right tools, books, etc. and where to find them! thanks again!

Maybe select two specific case studies of students from the past who have a range of needs and address your classroom/teaching style benefited or didn’t benefit that specific case. Possibly include a list of goals they are working on and how you are helping them. What might their report home look like?

Having these reflections is so helpful to me. I also realized that the longer I teach, the easier it is to reflect. I’m looking forward to having more opportunities to talk to new teachers and continue to demystify behavior management.

Classroom Management

by Bilal Kamoon
Photo credit: Bilal Kamoon

Classroom management sets bells ringing in most new educators’ minds. When the words spill off your tongue, your mind races to find out what that means– it means control without having control, order and emotions, productivity and creativity. How can you possibly create an environment that is managed and still find that individual flare? I can remember being so nervous about this when I first started teaching. My worry was that I wouldn’t be able to get them all to follow directions. Here’s a bit about what I’ve learned.

Creating a routine is one of the first steps to management. Predictability is helpful for children and adults alike. Once a routine is in place, there is more room for thinking about everything else. To get yourself (and your classroom) settled into a routine, first create a list of things that need to be done every day. For school, the list can include all of things you want to child to do independently each morning or afternoon; this can include items that need to go in and out of a backpack, independent work, etc. For home, this list can include snack, bathing, homework, brushing teeth, etc.

In the beginning, create a checklist or visual that reminds the child of the routine. Stick to your visual, and soon it will become automatic for the child (or your classroom). Motivation plays a key part in this– some children are capable of remembering the routine with the visual and some children need a little more support.

For more resistant children or a child with executive functioning or attention challenges, a more creative approach may be necessary to get those neurons firing. In the past, I have created story lines using children’s interests. Using the list of things they need to do, I’ve made a visual for them to do things like they’re more interested in. For example: freeing the tiger, getting the triceratops to the watering hole, or scoring a touchdown– all based on the child’s true interest to make the tasks more engaging and motivating (and you won’t need to repeat the same thing over and over again). Turning stressful times into a game or story has taken stress of both me and my students.

Laminating and using Velcro dots keep the visual intact and ready to use again and again. All visuals were made on Boardmaker.

Check out the visuals below:

Freeing the Tiger

The tiger moves from box to box until he or she is free from the zookeeper.

Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 11.09.26 AM

Getting the Triceratops to the watering hole

This visual has a triceratops that moves through each step of the routine until he or she gets to the watering hole.

Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 11.11.11 AM

Scoring a touchdown

This visual is great for the sports-interested child. He or she can move the player down the field to score a touchdown.

Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 11.10.23 AM

The child can also record when the tiger is caught by the zookeeper, when the triceratops goes to bed thirsty, or when the pass gets intercepted to squash the touchdown attempt. Keeping track can give the child a more enticing incentive, which leads to a feeling of accomplishment, a new sense of independence,  and increased confidence.