Special Education Teachers: Here’s How to Get It All Done

Image of keyboard and to do list with text Sped Teachers Here's How I Tackle My To Do List

As a resource room teacher, I have SO many things that I need to get done. There are days where behaviors are crazy. Some days, I sit in meetings all afternoon and get next to nothing done.

However, I do have a few routines that I implement that I feel really help me “Get It All Done“…if that’s even possible!

Quiet Tasks vs Busy Tasks

In special education, many of us share a room with other adults. For me, I share my room with another special education teacher and three assistants. My prep is also during the lunch breaks of several of our assistants and others in our hallway. There are always people around once the school day begins. This makes it difficult to “get it all done“.

I like to think of tasks as either quiet tasks or busy tasks. My busy tasks are things I can get done with other people in the room. My quiet tasks, on the other hand, are the tasks when I need peace and quiet. I usually come to school early and have the room to myself. I like to use this time to do things that require full focus and concentration. I struggle to read and understand when there are other people in the room. It’s also hard for me to type reports when there are conversations that I want to be a part of. I know, I’m nosey!

I try to get one quiet task done every day. Maybe that’s writing a report or reading several of the weekly reading stories. Either way, it is something I can accomplish while the room is silent. 

Pick a Day to Stay Late

I like go to to school early, so I can get one quiet task completed for the day. I also have one day each week where I stay after school. I stay after school until everything (within reason) is accomplished. Usually, these tasks are the same from week to week.

On Fridays, I do not leave until all of my reading and spelling tests are graded. I lay out all of my homework for the upcoming week and make sure that my intervention booklets are in my folders for the next week.

My family knows that this is my routine. They know I’m going to stay late. Every other day, I try to leave school right when contract time ends or soon after. For me, that feels like balance! 

Image of shelf with multiple papers organized in folders

Batch Tasks

Batching tasks is my biggest time saving tip! Whenever possible, I don’t make just ONE week of copies. I make 6-10 weeks worth of copies. If I’m going to assess one student, I try to assess several. Here’s what I mean:

Readings Tests

I like to sit down and do all of my accommodations for a whole unit of reading tests. When I’m done with a unit, I add them to a binder that I keep for each grade level. 

After I get done with each grade level, I take the binders to the copier and and make whole units worth of test copies. This allows me to be ready for the next six weeks of reading tests! I store them in order in the magazine files shown in the picture above.
Image of reading series batch printed

Interventions

I use several interventions in my small groups. I love these because I can copy a booklet and it gets us through the entire week. When I copy these, I usually do 5-10 weeks at a time. It takes a while to make each of these copies, but then they are DONE! 

Homework

Homework is something that many grade level teachers like me to give my students. I have a product from TpT that allows me type all my spelling words to generate homework right away. I can print homework for weeks at a time in minutes.

Classroom Observations

In my school, I handle the paperwork for our evaluations. Part of that includes completing classroom observations. I like to pick an odd day, like right before break, to do my observations. My goal is to try to get as many done in one day as humanly possible. Then, I work to type those reports the following week. 

Assess Students on Present Levels of Performance

With evaluations, I also have to assess each the students prior to holding their meeting. My goal during my prep for one week is to get all those assessments done. Depending on how many students there are this could be quick and easy. Other times, this is quite a large list. 

IEP Writing

After assessing students, I add writing IEPs to my to do list. I use the assessments to write their IEPs. After a good assessment, this part is easy! 

Lesson Plans

I use a template for my lesson plans. I usually print 6-10 weeks of the template and begin planning. I have a bucket for each group. I add any materials that I’ll need to the bucket, and I’m done! 

Grace

SPED Teachers, give yourself some GRACE!

No one really gets it all done. No matter how hard we try, we’ll still find ourselves with a crazy day or a week that just gets away from us. But when things get crazy, you’ll know that you have the basics covered! If you can get a good system into place everything else will work itself out.

Image of reading intervention worksheets with text Free Download from The Primary Gal
I think this reading intervention could really help save you time and get it all done! Would you like to try a free week? You can download them by clicking here or the image above
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How to Accommodate Students in the General Education Classroom {Reading}

As a resource room teacher, I only get 30-45 minutes with some of my students. They spend a whole lot of time in the general education classroom. Meaning, they need accommodations! Accommodations can help them to be successful with grade level material.

Below, you’ll find reading accommodations that can be used in the general education classroom or in your resource room.

Graphic Organizers 

Graphic Organizers are a perfect tool for differentiation and accommodation in the general education classroom. Students who are well trained in knowing what to do with a graphic organizer can often apply it to a passage at their independent reading level. I have found that my kids aren’t always writing in complete sentences, but they are able to get ideas on paper! 

Use a Screen Reader

It’s 2020, people! It would be fabulous if all of our kids could read each and every thing in front of them. But let’s be honest, that isn’t realistic. If you are sharing a document or website with your students, use a screen reader. You can download them for free as a Chrome Extension! 

Read Questions Orally

I like to read questions aloud to my kids before we get started reading. It helps give them a purpose for reading and it helps them find a few key ideas or words to pay attention to. Reading the questions aloud won’t solve all of a student’s reading difficulties, but it will help them focus as they read.

I like this accommodation for two reasons. First, it is easy to transition from YOU previewing the questions to THEM previewing the questions. It also helps them get in the habit of practicing a test tasking strategy that many teachers preach to our students to try! 

Number Paragraphs and Questions

In today’s test-taking world of education, numbering paragraphs is often something that we see done on high stakes tests. I like to follow suit and help my students by writing the paragraph number under the question.

It helps my kids in two ways.

#1 They can easily chunk the test by reading a paragraph or two and stop to answer the question(s).
#2 They aren’t hunting and sorting all over the passage for the answers.

We know reading and testing is difficult for some of our kids, let’s set them up for a little bit of success! 

Rephrase the Question

Guys, we talk a lot. People writing test questions talk a lot. Everything handed to our kids is text heavy. Help them by rephrasing the question. See if you can make it simpler. Try to slllloooooow it down. See if that helps them to understand WHAT they are supposed to be doing. 

Let Them Draw

Reading is tough. Many of our students don’t visualize or know what to do inside their head as we read aloud, much less when we complicate it more by having them do the reading.

I like to have my kids draw what is happening in our reading stories each week. Some texts lend themselves to a picture better than others, but it’s a good practice to help them visualize and make the reading come to life.

Provide Sentence Stems

I like to have my students use sentence stems to help them get their answers started. Most of my kids are able to answer open-ended questions independently, but only if they have a sentence stem. We use this cheat sheet all year long. I shared more about these sentence stems in this blog post! 

Preteach Vocabulary Words

Many students with disabilities have difficulty with vocabulary. Between low verbal comprehension scores or lack of complex vocabulary at home, they need help understanding key vocabulary words.

I like to help my kids better understand vocabulary with pictures, examples, stories, or synonyms. Even the words hidden inside questions can make it difficult for students to answer. Break it down and try to help them understand what they’re reading or being asked to do.

What accommodations do you find to be the most helpful?

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How to Organize Your Picture Books with a Google Sheet

I absolutely love picture books for teaching and modeling reading skills. But you know what? I can’t afford to buy them all. I can’t even remember which ones I have, which ones I use for what skill, or if I borrowed them from a friend.

The struggle is real, my friends.

Several years ago, I created a Google Sheet with all of my books. Actually, I had my high school helper type up most of the titles and authors for me! Then, as I used a picture book, I would jot down the skill that I taught. I also added books that I borrowed from friends or checked out from the library.

Using this File

Remember Where It Is Saved

Once you opt-in above, you can access it from your Google Drive at any time. I like to bookmark mine to access it quickly and easily. If you use Google Chrome, click the little star in the corner of your browser. Then, it will appear just under your address bar. 

Know How to Sort

Using the sort feature, you can sort your books by title, author, or reading skill! It will help you find your books faster. This is seriously the game changer!

To sort, click on the column that you want to organize your books by. Then, click “Data” and “Sort sheet by Column ___, A–>Z.” You can choose and of the columns listed here!

Record Where to Find the Book

Do you own it? Did you borrow it? It is a library book? Use the drop down menu to record how you’ll get your hands on it again next year.

Pull It Up on Your Phone

Have you ever been in a book store and found a classic book you love at a great price? Can’t remember if you own it? Pull up the spreadsheet on your phone and find the title. You can quickly see if you should snag the book or if you already own a copy! You’ll just need the Sheets app on your phone. 
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Free Evaluation Checklist for Special Education Teachers

How many special education evaluations do you have during one school year? I average about 20-30. And I must say, it is HARD to manage at times. This year, I started using a checklist to help keep my special education evaluations organized.

After downloading the freebie, you will be able to add your own customized pieces of the evaluation process. I have tried to include each tiny step of the process in hopes that I don’t drop the ball on one or more pieces of the process.

I record when I receive general education teacher and parent packets to begin the evaluation, signature pages, rating scales, due dates, classroom observations, assessing students, and writing an IEP.

Tips for Managing Evaluations

Review Your Checklist Weekly

Each week, I browse through my checklist to see what I need to do to keep the evaluation moving. Maybe I need to pass out rating scales to general education teachers or call a parent to remind them to complete a portion of the paperwork. 

Pass Out Rating Scales Early

After having a few years of evaluations under my belt, I made a checklist of rating scales that I would need for each disability category. For example, I know students who are being evaluated for a Mild Intellectual Disability will need an ABAS-3 rating scale completed. 
Instead of holding up the evaluation process, I *try* to pass them out to teachers once I receive a due date for the evaluation. This allows me to quickly pass it on the school psychologist and she has everything she needs when she’s ready to write her report. 
I drafted a quick list of rating scales that I knew she typically used. Then, I asked her if I had left anything off or made any errors. Now, it really speeds up the evaluation process and reduces the stress on the general education teacher who is responsible for completing ALL of those packets of information. 

Batch Tasks

I like to sit down and work on similar tasks all at the same time. For example, I might grab a couple of students and assess them on their Present Level of Performance. Then, I add that information into each of the future IEPs. I work better when I’m in the zone! 
Writing FBA’s? I do the same thing! It helps me to check several boxes off of my checklist at once AND I can often copy and paste several things while I’m working on the same task. 
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4 Mentor Texts for Teaching Compare & Contrast

Girl wearing a backpack and holding books
I absolutely LOVE to teach students to compare and contrast. I can’t explain it, but I love to take books that are obviously similar and pick them apart. I also love trying to find similarities between two very different books. 
I like to introduce comparing and contrasting by using classic stories that many of my students know. In the post below, you’ll find four books that I use throughout the week for teaching my students to compare key elements of each variation of classic fairy tales. 

If you are interested in snagging any of these books, click the picture to find it on Amazon. 
Mentor Text with text "Seriously, Cinderella is So Annoying!" and Graphic Organizer with text "Comparing Literature"

Seriously, Cinderella is So Annoying

I really love all of the books in this series, but this one is my favorite! Did you know that Cinderella was mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters because she never stopped talking? Why didn’t she get to go to the ball? Well, she lost her voice, of course. This book is perfect for comparing to the classic version of Cinderella that we all know as well as many other versions from other countries.

Mentor Text with text "Lon Po Po" and Graphic Organizer with text "Comparing Literature"

Lon Po Po

I remember this being in our basal years ago. My kids loved it then and they still enjoy it now! This version of Little Red Riding Hood comes from China and does not disappoint. There are so many similarities and even more differences. It is great for comparing and contrasting!

Mentor Text with text "The Princess and the Pizza" and Graphic Organizer with text "Comparing Literature" The Princess and the Pizza

This book is hilarious and the perfect upper elementary twist on a fairy tale. With cheap shots at other fairy tales and the silly tests to become a princess, my fifth graders loved this book year after year. 
Mentor Text with text "Believe Me, Goldilocks Rocks!" and Graphic Organizer with text "Comparing Literature"

Believe Me, Goldilocks Rocks!

Did Goldilocks break into the cottage or are she and Baby Bear (aka Sam) really besties? They text one another and jump on the bed! This is a fun retelling of the classic story from Baby Bear’s perspective. 
Click here for your FREE Mentor Text Cheat Sheet!

Do you love mentor texts as much as I do? Have trouble organizing them all?

Do you want to use mentor texts but you don’t know where to start?

I have a FREE Mentor Text Cheat Sheet for you! In this Google Sheet, you’ll find MY list of Mentor Texts and the reading skills that I use them to teach. You can add your own books, sort by author or reading skills, find shortcuts to my blog posts, AND

>>>my favorite feature<<<
>>>cue the drum roll, please<<<

Choose from a dropdown menu to show where you can find the book. For example, I use a boatload of mentor texts in my reading instruction. I can’t afford to buy them all. I find some in our school library, the local library, borrow from my teacher friends, and SOME of them, I do own!

Using the dropdown menu, you can easily remind yourself where you can find your mentor text when you need it! Click the image above OR click here to grab it.

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