Saturday, October 22, 2016

Using Token Boards to Motivate Students

The Teacher's Toolbox
Time to confess! Special-ed teachers have a secret little tool in their pockets that works like magic for kids that just won't work. Want in on the secret? Token Boards! It's a tried and true motivator. 

But did you know you don't have to be a special-ed teacher to use a token board? If you've never used a token board. It looks something like this: 
Courtesy of Designed by Teachers
It works like this: The student decides what reward he'd like to work for, a star (or token) is added at intervals during the lesson, the student earns their reward when the lesson is complete. Easy! 

This works WONDERS with students in a regular-ed setting because they've never seen anything like it and they really think they're getting something for nothing! 

It also works like magic in our special-ed classrooms... to a certain point. If you're a special-ed teacher you can attest to this: TOKEN BOARD BURNOUT! After awhile, the novelty wears off. The child (and the teacher) gets tired of looking at it and working for the same old rewards. 

I don't abuse the token board. I try not to use it for every task. Sometimes we don't need it at all. (I am always working to wean the student off the token board.) But when that head is down or the arms are crossed, and I'm getting that "I'm not doing it" look, I know it's time to whip out the token board.

Usually, I customize the tokens to include characters or other cute items such as cupcakes or butterflies just to make it interesting. This year, I've decided to take it a step further by making Seasonal Token Boards! 
The Teacher's Toolbox
Right now, we're using the Little Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate token board and my students LOVE them! Such a simple thing can make such a difference! 
The Teacher's Toolbox

By changing the boards monthly, we add a little excitement to our every day tasks. The kids love creating these little "scenes" and by the time it starts to get old... we get new boards! WIN-WIN!  
Build-a-Scarecrow - The Teachers Toolbox
If you have volunteers, room moms, paras or college students, they can help you assemble these in no time at all.       
October Token Board - The Teacher's Toolbox

My students take their token boards with them for Speech Therapy and OT. It helps keep them on track while out of the classroom, as well. One more bonus... they LOVE showing these off! 

So to motivate students with token boards, remember: 
1. Don't abuse it or overuse it. 
2. Keep your rewards and tokens fresh.

I've been working on monthly token boards to share on TPT and they are turning out SO CUTE! These will be available as a growing bundle for a great price, so grab them here!
November Token Board - The Teacher's Toolbox

Token Board Bundle - The Teacher's Toolbox

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Quick Bulletin Boards

Teachers have a love-hate relationship with bulletin boards. We love how they look when they're up and done. But by March, we're out of ideas and out of time! Without them though, our classrooms just wouldn't feel like home. 
The Teacher's Toolbox
via queenof1stgradejungle
I've noticed something trending, though. Teachers are creating these cute bulletin boards with full-sized pages for titles, or giant letters. So cute! The end result is a nice, eye-catching bulletin board that really pops! 
The Teacher's Toolbox
via constantcontact
I made some recently in my classroom (still need to take the pictures) and they turned out so cute! 

There's a great tutorial from Blair Turner here if you'd like to make your own letters on Power Point.
The Teacher's Toolbox

If you need some quick Fall Bulletin Board letters, I've made some that you can grab here. There are letters for 3 different boards: Pumpkins, Apples, and Happy Fall. Too cute!  
The Teacher's Toolbox

The Teacher's Toolbox

The Teacher's Toolbox
Happy Fall y'all! 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

SPED-tacular Sunday Freebies!

The Teacher's Toolbox
My friend, Traci, over at The Bender Bunch, is hosting her weekly SPED-tacular Sunday Freebies! Go grab my freebie - the cute little Kitty Ten Frames below - and TONS of other freebies for your classroom! Be sure to check back every weekend for more goodies! Have a great week!
 Sunday Freebie
Kitty Ten Frames

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

IEP Work Boxes = Quick Data

Taking data while working with a student with special needs isn't always easy. It takes a little bit of multi-tasking (okay, a lot). If you're new to the SPED lifestyle, don't worry - you'll get better at it soon. 
Mrs. Irvin's Toolbox
More and more, teachers are asked for current data on their students. Students with IEPs have goals that are reported on at least four times a year. Some districts require teachers to report on goals eight times a year minimally. It is unfortunate that we have to do this so often. (In my opinion, teachers should be trusted to decide whether a skill has been mastered or not, but don't get me started.) Data is a very useful tool. Don't let yourself get to the end of the year (or IEP duration) before realizing you don't have enough data to back up your discussions at an IEP meeting or conference. 
Mrs. Irvin's Toolbox
The flip side of this is that we have to consider what is happening to our students during the drill-n-kill of every day tasks. Students with special needs often take a little longer to master some concepts. What happens is, we end up working on the same flashcards, numbers, activities day after day. Our job is to mix it up and make practicing those same skills a little more fun. In addition to the research-based programs we use in our district, I bring in many different "adapted" resources. I have different reasons for using supplemental materials: 

  • Sometimes, the programs we use are a little monotonous - I know, our kids need that consistency, but really... The problem I have with this is that our babies DON'T master these concepts as quickly as the programs suggest they will! Thus, we find ourselves repeating the lessons or levels, over and over, in hopes that it will eventually "click" for these kids! It's a wonder the teachers aren't the ones throwing a chair or two!
  • Sometimes the programs we use are outdated, as in 10-15 years old or older! Lots of things have changed since then, especially to a six-year-old. Images of vehicles, telephones, computers, even people sometimes look a little odd. 
Being able to go over the same skills, with fresh materials, is always so refreshing. Now, I'm not saying you should ditch your research-based, approved programs! But, a little change now and then is a great way to get your students excited about doing something "new" before they realize it's the same thing you've been working on for weeks. 

Mrs. Irvin's Toolbox
The change in seasons is a great way to bring in something exciting. I like to throw in "seasonal" fun to practice basic skills like letter & number identification, counting, matching, working with shapes and patterns, etc... I like to use IEP BOXES with seasonal resources for daily practice and data collection. I've created these FALL resources to help break up the monotony. 
Fall IEP Work Boxes
Here's a fun little Kitty Ten Frame freebie that you can use in your classroom right away! Just laminate and go! If you'd like to start IEP boxes in your classroom, this is a great way to start. My FALL Work Boxes include lots of great tools for daily practice and even contains a data sheet to keep track of your student's progress. (More about how I use IEP boxes later!) 
Fall Work Boxes
Fall Resources for IEP Work Boxes are available in my TPT store here or click on the image below.  
Mrs. Irvin's Toolbox
By the way, these are the boxes I use for my IEP Work Boxes. They are the perfect size and really durable! It was a great investment for my classroom! 
*Affiliate links above, but I also just love sharing great finds! 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Back to School Giveaway!

Back to School TPT
How much have you spent on your classroom so far? I try not to keep track! It's scary how much we spend getting our classrooms ready and supplementing our curriculum to make learning fun. 

So, in honor of hard working teachers everywhere, I'm teaming up with some great teachers to have a giveaway. Here's your chance to get a little back! AND IT'S SO EASY! Hey, $25 on TPT can go a long way!

Prize: $25 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card
Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher), 
Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. Giveaway ends 9/23/16 and is open worldwide.
Are you a Teacher Blogger or Teachers pay Teachers seller who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media?  Click here to find out how you can join our totally awesome group of bloggers!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Hurricane Hermine: No Power, No School

The Teacher's Toolbox

So what happens when your district shuts down for a week in the aftermath of a hurricane? I'm about to find out. We go back to school tomorrow. 

Hurricane Hermine pounded our beautiful city of Tallahassee (Florida) last Thursday night. As a precaution, school was cancelled for Thursday and Friday. Then we had the weekend to recover and Monday was a holiday for Labor Day. But on Sunday, it was clear to the district (and the rest of us) that we would not be ready to come back to school on Tuesday as was originally planned. Many people are still without power, even as I write this on Tuesday night, 5 days after the storm. 
Mrs. Irvin's Toolbox
But school starts back tomorrow, Wednesday. It was announced yesterday. That means it may be hard for parents (and staff) to get their kids ready for school in the dark, and heat, on Wednesday morning. It won't be easy packing lunches when you haven't had refrigeration for a week. Some may not even have clean clothes for the week since they haven't been able to do laundry. For some, though, it may be a blessing to be able to send their kids to an air-conditioned school where they'll see their friends and get back to their regular routine. 

It'll be interesting to see how my students have handled this "unexpected" event and how long it'll take them to get back to the routine that we just learned. (We started school on August 15th.) This is such a hard time for us, but especially hard for families with children with Autism and other special needs. 

For now, I'm counting my blessings. I have my home, a/c, refrigeration, transportation and most of all, my family is safe and sound. A bit of a rough start to the school-year, but a great reminder to appreciate everything and everyone we have.   

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Be ready! TPT Sitewide Sale!

It's a site-wide sale, everyone! Get your carts ready for the TPT sale on Monday, August 22!