My favourite thing about a new school year is CHANGE. While the bulk of my program stays the same from year to year, I thrive on the opportunity to find new ideas and implement them into my classroom to either improve an area of my teaching or enhance what is already there.
This year I kept the general layout of my classroom the same, but made a few key changes that I wanted to share with you. My motivation behind these changes was EFFICIENCY. If I can make the busy days of mine and the support staff easier in any way, the rewards speak for themselves!
1. Sensory Boards
This year I enlisted the help of my handy DIY friend to help me make sensory friendly boards for my students out of simple peg board, shelf brackets and shelf board.
WHY? My students love to play with tiny little fidget items such as metal locks, coins, beads, zippers etc. These items are easily lost and can pose a risk to other students if left on the floor. I wanted something sturdy that I could zip tie these smaller objects to in order to keep everything in one, common place. My students also like, for the lack of a better phrase, baby toys. I tried to get away from these and towards more age appropriate items such as wooden puzzles, mirrors and sequin fabric. The best part is, zip ties are cheap and easily cut off to interchange items all year long.
2. Toy Bins
I’ve never really had bins of toys out for my students in previous years. This is mostly because my students are very sensory-seeking and would much rather prefer to play with a handmade sensory bottle than train tracks or animals. In recent years I have focused a great part of social skills programming on teaching students how to play appropriately with toys in order to engage in meaningful play with their peers.
WHY? I introduced toy bins for two reasons:
* To teach leisure skill activities, social skills with peers and to encourage meaningful play when on breaks and with friends.
* To generalize sorting skills to ‘cleaning up’ skills using the pictures on the bins as cues when it is “clean up” time. This is a life skill I will focus on this year for all students. This is also why I only have 4 toy bins, and can gradually add more as these skills are learned.
C-clamps have become my best friend in the Autism class, and if you have strong, sensory-seeking students in yours, you will love them too.
WHY? C-clamps hold down objects to a table, shelf, or any surface, and students aren’t able to move the objects. For example, I have one of these cool things that my students love to sit in front of, their hands so excitedly whacking and waving the beads back and forth that the whole mirror falls off the table. For students with limited fine motor accuracy, C-clamps will help keep those things you want on the table steady. I buy mine off Amazon.
This year I de-cluttered my walls and decided to go back to basics with my posters. My goal here was to set the tone in the classroom for students, staff and visitors when they walked in. I found a website called northstarpaths.com, created by the awesome Kristin Wiens, where she creates absolutely perfect graphics, visuals and infotexts that feels like they were specially created for the special education classroom. Her images are free to download and use so I had these posters made. Find them HERE!
WHY? I want to set a positive tone when people walk into my classroom. I want them to know that the staff and students in my class are advocates for Inclusion and understand behaviour and challenges with a positive, growth mindset. Nothing conveys this message better than these images!
I want to hear from you! What is a MUST HAVE item in your classroom that serves multiple purposes for organization, efficiency or just something you can’t live without?