Special Education Math: This is How I Structure My 20 Minute Group

As a special education teacher, I cover so many grade levels. I struggle to fit in time for math. Typically, I have about twenty minutes for each group. 
In that twenty minute small group, I have SO many things to cover. I like to practice multi-digit addition and subtraction, as well as math facts. Depending on the group, I also cover other skills that are critical for my students, like reading graphs, telling time, counting money, word problems, and number patterns. 
But how do I get all of that done in twenty minutes? 

10 Minutes: Addition & Subtraction Computation

I spend the first ten minutes of our group working on computation. We begin with addition and subtraction WITHOUT regrouping. As the year progresses, we begin working on addition and subtraction with regrouping. 
For my students, we often work hard throughout the entire year in order to master this goal. 

2 Minutes: Prize Box Problem

I don’t know about your kids, but my students with disabilities are often capable of so much more than they believe. In my small groups, I found that they were relying heavily on ME to guide them through each problem. I needed a way to motivate them to try problems on their own. 
So, I began to have them complete a prize box problem. I set a timer for ten minutes when we first begin our group. We work through each problem in our booklet until the timer goes off. When it does, the very next problem becomes our prize box problem. 
If they can solve it correct on their own, they can get in the prize box. It’s simple but effective! Earlier in the school year, I had different requirements to get in the prize box, such as starting in the correct column, trying to regroup, or attempting the problem by themselves. 

5 Minutes: Critical Math Skills

We are PUSHED for time, and we have gotten pretty good at speeding through some of these critical skills. We practice things like reading graphs, telling time, counting money, solving word problems, and number patterns. 

3 Minutes: Timed Math Fact Test

While this group is usually focusing on larger problems, I still think solving math facts fluently is important. At our school, a lot of our classroom teachers give some form of timed math fact test, whether it be on paper or digitally.
I think my students need that practice in a safe place. We work on small mastering small goals in a few minutes per day. 
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How to Juggle In Person and Online Teaching

Shew! This is a tough one. Juggling in person and online teaching is going to be a BIG part of our school year. Here are the things that I’m planning to try. Will it work? I don’t know. Will I likely have to revise this blog post a few weeks into school, probably! But here are my thoughts. 

Set a Schedule

I am going to set a schedule, just like I would do if it were a “normal” school year. I’ll share this with parents and let them know what time their child will need to be present in my small group. 

Place Your Laptop in One Seat

I plan to have a designated spot in the middle of my table for my laptop. For each group, I’ll turn on Google Meet and sit directly across from the laptop. Then, I’ll be able to see and hear my students attending online. 
I am planning to use Google Classroom’s Meeting Link feature to help save time transitioning from one group to another. 

Run Group Like Normal

At this moment, I plan to run my group like normal. Each group will likely vary as far as the number of in person students versus online students. That’s ok! I want to try to serve as many kids as I can throughout the day. 
I’m planning to use my phone or iPad like a document camera, so that my at home students can see what we are doing together. 

Send Supplies for Online Learners

In my small groups, we use highlighters, markers, pencils, crayons, hundreds charts, and printable booklets. Depending on their grade level and IEP goals, we sometimes use spinners and dice as well. I plan to package those materials up and send them home. 
For some students, I think this will be difficult. I’m still planning to try because I think it will significantly help them to be successful in the group. 
What are your ideas for juggling in person and online teaching?
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5 Simple Ways to Make Virtual Small Groups a Success

I have a feeling we’ll be doing a lot of virtual learning this year. Our special education students need structure and routine more than ever, and it’s our job to help make virtual learning successful with small groups. 

Here are five simple ways to make your small groups a success as you dive in to virtual learning. 

Set a Schedule

When will you meet with your small groups? Set a daily or weekly schedule where your students KNOW that they’ll be meeting with you using a platform like Google Meet or Zoom

Communicate with Parents

Let your parents know when you’ll be meeting and what their child will need to do. It’s important to let them know how critical these small group times are. Although it can be hard sometimes, communication with parents is so important. 
There will be things that arise and prevent students from joining my groups, but I try to be in constant communication with my parents. I want them to be comfortable sending me a text or email to let me know what’s up!

Record Meeting

Now, there are 101 rules around recording meetings, so do some checking to see what you’re allowed to do. If a child cannot attend your meeting, many platforms offer the ability to record the session. If they can’t attend live, they can watch the recording of all or part of the meeting at a later time. 
What can you record YOURSELF doing to help them continue to grow and progress at home? It doesn’t need to be student faces and the silly things that are said and done in the small group. Think about how you can let your students make up missed “classwork”. 

Share Screen

Learn how to share your screen. This will allow you to share PowerPoint files, PDFs, and other lessons with your students. I love to be able to model and walk through activities that we would have typically completed in class. Is it different? Sure. But it is a great way to share REAL lessons with your students. 

Prep Supplies & Communicate

If you know students are going to need specific items, bag them up and do your best to get them to your students. I know that this step isn’t possible in all scenarios. For me, I want to send home highlighters, markers, pencils, hundreds charts, and several weeks of our printable booklets
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Fun and Simple Virtual Rewards for Students

Some of us will be starting the school year doing virtual learning. For others, like myself, I’ll be starting the year in the classroom, but Lord knows how long that will last. I feel like we’ll quickly be finding ourselves back in the virtual learning world. 
Last year, I was looking for a way to motivate my students and give rewards to them during virtual learning. Here are a few simple ideas to make virtual learning more successful and motivating for our students. 

“Lunch Date”

A lunch date is a great motivator for students. Using Zoom, Google Meet, or another video conferencing platform, you and your students could have lunch together. They’ll love it!
You could make this something that multiple students can earn or one on one with a parent present! Either way, it will be a great way to let your kids get some quality time with you in a casual setting. 

Special Share

Some of your kids might not like this option, I know I would have rather died than share a story with my class. Other kids? They LOVE the opportunity to share a story with their teacher and classmates. Use this to your advantage and let them share something special at the beginning or end of your virtual small group. 

Be the Teacher

What routines do you have in your small group that you could turn over to a student? I’ve let my students greet others as they join the group, choose students to read aloud, or keep track of our time. 
Either way, they’ll feel special and motivated to keep working hard in your small group. 

Choose the Game or Greeting

If you play games, sing songs, or do various morning meeting style activities, let your student earn the right to choose the activity. 

Bingo Night

My favorite reward is Bingo Night!!! My kids love bingo both in person and online. When I played with my kids, I used sight words. I drew a blank board for them to copy. Then, I gave them a word bank and told them to fill in their homemade bingo board with the words. 
I also added a printable board, but many of my students weren’t able to print it. But that was ok, it gave them an example of what their board should look like. 
This could also be done digitally, but I wasn’t brave enough to tackle it with my first graders! 😂
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How to Use Google Meet in Special Education

Google Meet was a HUGE blessing to me as a special education teacher. I was able to continue to hold small groups throughout distance learning and meet with parents for case conferences. I couldn’t have continued to teach my students without Google Meet. 

How to Set Up a Google Meet

For special education, I found myself constantly needing to schedule a Google Meet for one reason or another. I used Meets for small group sessions, one on one tutoring sessions, and annual case conferences with parents and other staff members. 

How to Generate a Permanent Meeting Link

I found that my students got a little overwhelmed with the Google Classroom Stream. By creating a permanent link, my students could just click the link and join the Google Meet without scrolling through homework assignments and annoucements. 

How to Share Your Screen in Google Meet

Whether you are walking through general education material, sharing a PowerPoint presentation, or teaching a lesson with a PDF, sharing your screen is extremely important. 
I think this is great asset for our special education students. With a screen share, they can continue to participate in activities and have help with difficult tasks. I used screen share to explain general education tasks with them one on one. 

How to Use Your Phone as a Document Camera

Walking through your daily lessons WITH your students is extremely valuable. By using your phone as a document camera, you’ll be able to share written documents with your students. I love this for our students with disabilities because so many rely on copying from their teacher. This is one important strategy for helping them complete tasks while digital learning. 
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