Friday, June 21, 2019


How to get Organized with a Teacher Binder

You guys, I have seriously been trying every single planner, binder, book out there, and nothing has every had the right fit for me.  Either I end up wasting a bunch pages that I don't even need, or its too big to carry with me or I don't end up using it because it doesn't look pretty enough to me. (I know that sounds stupid, but I love all things pretty).

I have tried the Erin Condren Planners and Happy Planners, I've tried the plum planners and I have tried planers from Target and I have even bought a few of Teachers Pay Teachers.  So I finally created a planner that fits me.  I'm a special education teacher so I feel like my needs are unique.  I don't ever have to buy another one because I can print and use it again year after year.  Some years I know I will need different pages and I love that it is so flexible that I can add and take out pages that are needed.  If I need one extra page, I just print one more.   If I make a mistake on a page and cant stand to look at it, I just reprint that page. Some people like their planners bound and some like them in the binder, I like that I have both options.  Some people who have purchased my Planner have had theirs bound at Staples for only seven bucks! I have a binding machine at home, so that is a great option for me as well.


Here is what my teacher binder has to offer: 

Cover Pages:  I have included 31 different options for you to edit and add your name or whatever type of text that you would like.  Some people like color and some people like design, so I wanted to make sure that there were lots of options for you to choose from year after year for either male or female teachers.  Each cover page has a matching spine and divider pages that can be used in your binder.  Here are a few different designs from the options.


Calendar Pages:  I have included so many calendar choices for you to print year after year.  There is a watercolor option, a clip-art option, horizontal and vertical options and also options for a half page calendar as well.  I really like printing the half page calendar and staple it together for my purse :)



Data Sheets:  I have included all of my data sheets in this product as well.  That is a $5 value in itself.  There are so many different data sheets that you can add to your binder, including IEP documentation for sight word assessments. There are 40 different data collection sheets in this zip folder.   You can check out the full resource here!



Weekly Lesson Plan pages:  These come in three different options, a 7 subject, a 5 subject vertical and a 5 subject horizontal. These pages are my favorite because of the design and colors!


Here are a bunch of other pages that are included:

  • All about me page
  • Year at a glance (2 different versions)
  • Attendance page
  • Student Checklist
  • birthday page:
  • to-do list (2 different versions)
  • weekly planner
  • wish lists:
  • graph and lined paper:Parent communication log
  • fire-drill evacuation forms
  • PD tracker page:  
  • transportation form
  • medical forms
  • Substitute notes
  • anecdotal notes
  • student photos
  • IEP's at-a-glance
  • Field Trips
  • Meeting notes (team and PLC notes)
  • Parent teacher conferences
  • Classroom Schedule
  • Related Services forms
  • small group lesson plans
  • password tracker
  • important emails
  • Student self evaluation
  • student health log
  • student information sheet


WOW, that was a TON of ready-made forms and resources for you!!   You just need to print and go!!   Do you think its missing something?  Let me know in the comments below!



Discete Trail Training?
What is it? How do I use it?

What is it?

DTT is a researched-based ABA technique that is teacher-led intensive instruction that breaks tasks into smaller parts.  This teacher strategy falls under the umbrella of Applied Behavior Analysis.  DTT uses tangible reinforcers for correct responses.  This specific approaches been proven to be very effective for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

DTT instruction has 5 major parts: 
  1. tasks are broken into smaller parts
  2. master the small part
  3. intensive lessons
  4. prompts that are faded
  5. reinforced by tangible incentives

How do I use it in my classroom?

Using DTT in your classroom is easy.  DTT is meant as one on one instruction.   To do DTT with validity, you need to know the stages of learning!




In order to implement this technique successfully, you will need to be sitting very close to the child and have reinforcers and the activity ready to go, along with a data sheet.

There is a 5 step process to this technique
1. Antecedent: [teacher says "give me red"]
2. Prompt:  [teacher points to the red]
3. Response:  [child gives the teacher the red card]
4. Consequence:  [teacher gives treat and praise]
5. Interval between trials: [take data, give hive five, have student touch nose]

Reinforcement is a critical part of DTT and has to be something that the child wants to work for. If you have time, try to complete an interest assessment on the child to find out what the hierarchy of incentives is.  For example, I had one student before who only ever liked watching episodes of Phineas and Ferb on his iPad, so his reinforcement was 15-20 seconds of an episode.  And that was enough!!   Let me show you how that would look:

SCENARIO #1 (Joshua):

Teacher and Joshua sits down at the table.  Teacher is prepared with iPad and the activity.  Teacher sits directly across from Joshua.    Teacher is trying to teach Joshua to identify a picture of a bear.

1. Teacher places a picture of a bear in front of Joshua. Teacher says "touch bear".
Joshua doesn't respond.  He is looking at other stimuli.

2. Teacher repeats the question, "touch bear" and this time teacher also touches the picture.

3. Joshua then touches the bear.

4. Teacher praises Joshua and puts the iPad in front of him IMMEDIATELY and lets him watch 15-20 seconds of his favorite episode.

5. Teacher takes that 20 seconds to record his response on a data sheet.    Teacher would record "bear" and record that he did not identify it.

We call this one trial.  Teacher may being doing a group of animals and may move on to the next animal by repeating steps 1 - 5.


Let me give you another example.

SCENARIO #2 (Emily):

Teacher and Emily sits down at the table.  Teacher is prepared with the activity and has done an incentive assessment on Emily prior to this lesson and knows that Emily loves goldfish.  Teacher sits directly across from Emily.    Teacher is trying to teach Emily to identify 10 sight words.

1. Teacher places 3 sight words in front of Emily.  Teacher says, "give me can".

2. Emily gives the teacher a flashcard that says 'because'.  Teacher puts 'because' aside and repeats the question without giving any response to the wrong answer.  Teacher points to "can" and says "give me can"

3. Emily sees that the teacher pointed to "can" and gives the teacher that card.

4. Teacher praises student and IMMEDIATELY gives Emily one goldfish.

5. Teacher records the data and says "give me a high five" this is just enough distraction to go right back to the question.    Repeat the question.


I usually will do 10-20 trials at a time.  This method can be used for so many subjects.  Wether you are teaching sight words or just want them to follow one-step directions, this is an easy way to teach and take reliable data.

Watch the videos below in action.





Are you looking for data forms to help you get all of you data organized?  Check out my data forms resrouce that has these DTT sheets and other progress monitoring things with it.  



Thursday, June 20, 2019


Working With ParaProfessionals in the Special Needs Classroom

Let's be honest, working this closely with other people can certainly have its challenges, but I am here to tell you how I make sure you are working as a close-nit team.  Whether you are working in a self-contained setting or running a general education classroom, communication and having clear expectations are KEY!

Using a simple brochure to start off the year is a sure fire way to start the year off on the right foot.  Not only will this brochure allow for conversation starters and explain clear expectations, but your paraprofessionals will have it all in writing so they can refer back to it whenever they would like.  Setting expectations in the beginning of the year is crucial to have a successful year.


Use the first weeks of school and schedule yourself NOT to do any teaching.  Use those weeks to teach your Para's EXACTLY how you want them to teach, to record data, to use language, to reward students, ALL THE THINGS!  I promise, if you invest this time in the beginning of the year to train your Para's up front, you wont have to work so hard throughout the year.  Your self-contained class should be able to run itself. 


Something I tell my para's in the beginning of the year is that I wont interfere unless you ask me to.  All too often I see the teachers doing all the things all by themselves, including taking care of all the behaviors.    This usually occurs when the teachers are thinking that they are the only ones that know how to handle it.  You need to teach your para how to handle the behaviors so that you can share the load.  They are, most likely, fully capable of handling all the things.  The burden should not solely rest on the teacher.  If you have to step out for a meeting, the room should not fall apart without you.  Train your para's to run the classroom without you.  I promise, you will thank me later.  

Hold team meetings.  Whether they are weekly or monthly, schedule a time to meet and collaborate with your team.   Use an agenda and record your meetings.  Celebrate victories, talk about student needs, go over friendly reminders or procedures and talk about stuff that matters!
one of the many sheets in my Editable Teacher Binder resource

In addition, try and get together at least once after school in the beginning of the year to get to know your para's on a more personal level.  You want your para's to trust you, to like you and to believe in what you say, especially if you are younger than them.  

Share information when you get it.  When you hear about great professional development, in-district or out of district, inform your para's and let them decide if they would like to go.  I had a para once pay out of pocket because he was so interested in the subject matter. Advocate to your administrators to get free professional development during training days for your para's.  

Be approachable.  Be personable.  You want your para's to feel comfortable enough to come to you about anything.   Paraprofessionals deserve respect from the teacher.  You are not better than them and they should be treated as such.  I started as a paraprofessional and it gives me great perspective on how I treat my support staff.  
My classroom on Halloween in 2016 (with all my paraprofessionals)

Utilize the support you have and they will feel valued.  They want to feel needed and they want to work, believe me.  You would be shocked at how often I have seen teaching assistants or aides sitting around doing nothing, playing on their phones.  Monitor their performance and if they aren't doing it right, coach them, teach them.  Don't talk about them behind their backs to other people.   

Set a schedule and share it so all support staff know where they are supposed to be at all times.  I have even made tiny schedules and laminated them to be placed on the back of school identification cards. 

If you feel like your paraprofessional, TA (teaching assistant) or aide needs more in depth guidance, you can check out the paraprofessional handbook that I created for more newbies to the field or a change in population of kids.  

Managing and training paraprofessionals (Teaching Assistants, Aides and TA's) can be daunting and never ending. Coming up with the right expectations or responsibilities can be a headache. Let this manual be your guide to help them get started. This document is 100% editable to make it your own!!

Here is what is included:

  • Welcome Page
  • Roles & Responsibilities –daily duties, cleaning, assisting
  • Confidentiality
  • Accommodations & Modifications
  • tracking data
  • classification list
  • SPED Acronyms
  • BIPs
  • Prompt Hierarchy
  • Training (what is Autism, behaviors, aggression, communication, language, visual schedules reinforcers)
  • signature page
  • paraprofessional information sheet

10 ways to use visual supports in your special education classroom

When teaching students with special needs, using visual aids are soo very important.  It doesn't matter what time of day it is, whether its Math time in the classroom or brushing your teeth at night, using visual support systems for students with special needs is vital to their success. Even typically developing kids and adults, rely on symbols and pictures every single day.


Students with disabilities, especially those on the Autism spectrum, rely on visual supports to help them throughout their day.  Let me share some ideas of how I incorporate visuals in my self-contained classroom.

1. Visual Schedules: Whether you use symbols, objects, real photos or just words, you need to have give students access to visual schedules all day long.  The type of schedule you use should meet the needs of the students.   Some students in Kindergarten will need large vertical schedules using pictures and words.  Or you may have a high school student that needs a written schedules taped to the inside of their agenda.  Some students need a classroom schedule posted somewhere on the walls of the room.  While others may need a horizontal object schedule at their desk.  Special Education can be tricky, you needs to find which schedule meets the needs of the students.  You can read more of how I use visual schedules here.


2. Transition Visual Supports: Students often struggle with transitions, especially students on the spectrum, and although visual schedules help, these students need more visual supports to help them through.  When the bell rings, students are often told to "check their schedules", but pictures speak louder than words.  Using a "check schedule" picture card as a cue to help transition them to the schedule.  These can significantly decrease behaviors and students are happy to comply.  Other transition visuals that I have used is a "pause button".  Read the blog post I wrote all about "The Power of Pause" and how this is used!  When I worked in the primary levels, we also used transition objects to get students from preferred activities to preferred activities.

3. Visual Timers:  Students with disabilities, like us, want to know how much time is left when completing an assignment or activity.  In my class, we use visual and auditory timers, called Time Timers, which help students visually see how much time is left and can see the time disappearing.   In the past, I have also used an online timer that I would display on the SMARTboard.  I have used sand timers and liquid timers as well.  Being able to see time "disappear" is the key.


4. First/Then Chart:  Students with disabilities like to know whats coming next, which we use a visual schedule for.  However, when a student needs extra support, this type of visual aid comes in handy.  This is used to shape behavior.  I put a picture of the activity under "FIRST" and the a picture of the incentive that they are working for under the "THEN".
For Example, Jacob just finished putting his stuff away and needs to start his morning work.  He checks his schedule but doesn't seem to want to go to the area that the morning work is located.  The teacher would grab the "First/Then chart" and put 'morning work' under the FIRST part.  The teacher would ask Jacob what he would like to work for (or the teacher may already know what he wants).  Jacob may respond with "the sensory bin" or maybe the teacher gives him a 6 option choice board.  Then the teacher places onto the "THEN" part of the first/then chart.  Jacob is much more likely to complete his work and transition to the work area, if he can see what he is working for and knows whats coming next.



5. Token Boards: A token bard is a great visual to help students see their progress and to see when the activity will end.  Once a student masters waiting, staying on task, and no longer needs immediate reinforcers, they are ready for a token board.  Check out these ready-made token boards!

6. Checklists:  End of the day checklists, AM routine checklists or even small "to-do" lists help students with disabilities organize their thoughts, organize their physical space, become more independent and develop necessary executive functioning skills.


7. Behavior Supports: Using behavior contingency maps, visual behavior contracts, 5 point scales, power cards or "I need a break" cards are all fantastic visual supports to help students with behavior.  Students needs to have visual reminders of what is expected and how to ask for help.

8. Expectations: Students need visual posters around the room to remind them of what is expected of them.   There are so many options for this, but some can include:
  • carpet expectations
  • classroom rules
  • key ring behaviors reminders
  • computer expectations
  • desk reminders
  • behavior reminders inside agenda

9. Classroom Signs:  Visuals should be in places that students have access to them and that they are needed.  Don't crowd your walls with unnecessary junk.  We used a giant stop sign on our door because of eloping issues.  We used a giant visual interactive word wall,  to open and close the computers we would use large "open and closed" signs or even blankets to throw over them.  I have even seen teachers use cardboard to divide physical space.



10. Communication: Lastly, communications so very important.  If you have students that are low verbal or non-verbal in your classroom, it is imperative that they have means to communicate.  Be sure that you have CORE boards or communication boards available to students who are having difficulty with communicating their wants and needs.  You could also provide them with choice boards to provide them opportunities to select different type of incentive or activities.  
photo credit by PrAACtical AAC


Even though visual aids are often used with a child with Autism, because they are such visual learners, visual aids can support anyone.  They allow students with disabilities the chance to focus, to express themselves, reduce anxiety and assist with transitions.  Visual Aids bring structure and routine into the special needs classroom.  

visual aid visual support
Clicking picture will direct you to my TpT store


If you are looking for a resource packed with Visual Aids, check this out in my TpT store. 


Friday, April 5, 2019


The importance of Using Visual schedules in the classroom!

Visual schedules are just a visual prompt that is used to help are kids understand what is coming next.  Simple right?  But so many teachers forget to use them and I have even talked to some teachers who think that they are a waste of time (WHAT???)   Visual schedules are actually evidence based practices and are based on the idea that students on the spectrum struggle with predicting what comes next.  These visual schedules are made and used to help depict their day or what will happen next.
 We should all be using them.  No matter what type of schedules you are using, you NEED to be using them.  Students on the Autism spectrum often need to visually see what is coming next or how their day is going to go.  Here is a list of all the reasons that using visual schedules is important.

1. Anxiety Reducing- First and foremost is the fact that it reduces anxiety.  There are many students on the spectrum that have daily struggles with anxiety and stress and to not know how their day is going to play out or even what is coming up next, can cause them to explode and can manifest into severe or even aggressive behaviors.  We want these students to be able to focus on what they are doing, so why not clear their thinking by providing a visual schedule to calm their anxiety and relieve their stress.  I have seen many teachers even power struggle over this!!  They truly need to know what is coming up next.

2.  Independence- just like how you and I check out notebooks, calendars or digital reminders, we want our students to be able to check their schedules independently too. They will not always have someone telling them what to do next their entire lives, so it is our goal to make sure that they can do this by themselves.

3. No Arguing!  When students are checking their schedules and time to transition, they cant argue with us or the teacher, its what the schedule says!   When the teachers aren't telling the students what to do, they cant argue with us.  The schedule is telling them what to do.

4. Reminders!  Visual schedules can help remind your students what is coming next.  Do you ever have a child constantly ask when lunch is?  Well this alleviates that problem and allows the child to glance at the schedule and figure it out themselves. Some kids often forget multiple times in a 30 minute session but always have that visual schedule to refer to.



5.  Zero words!  Most adults often forget to use as little words as possible.  Using visual schedules allows us to use pictures and word cards to eliminate using verbal language all together.  Remember, kids on the spectrum have a very hard time processing verbal cues, so using as many visual cues as possible will make them that much more successful.

6. Evidence Based Practice! - Visual Schedules have been found through multiple national Autism Centers that this is truly an evidence based practice.

7. SO many versions!  There are endless ways that you can use visual schedules, so you can always switch it up if that particular schedule is not working for your kiddo.  I'll talk more about the variety of schedules in a different blog post soon.

8. Multi-uses- You can use visual schedules within a center, as a whole class schedule, as individual schedules, small-group schedules, gen-ed schedules, there are so many ways to use visual schedules.

9. Multi-variety A visual schedule can be created using photographs, pictures, written words, physical objects or any combination of these items. Schedules can be put into notebooks, onto a wall or schedule board or onto a computer.

10. Improves on task behaviors - when students are so worried about not knowing what is coming up next, they can actually use all that brain power to stay on task and complete their work.

11.  Can increase communication and social skills- there are so many kids that use their visual schedule as a talking point which increases the amount of language and provides opportunities to use speech.  And it makes talking points with their peers and other students which can improve their social skills as well.

I have found that there are only 3 real downsides to visual schedules, but it is an us problem not a them problem.   Time, cost and space.  I am not going to lie to you,  planning and creating visual schedules take time and could cost a lot of money out of your own pocket, not to mention the amount of space that you will need to either store them or display them.  But listen... it is soooo worth it.  I have seen students behaviors completely turn around when using visual schedules and I would even say it was a life savor in some instances. 

I have a pack of visual aids in my store that you could check out here, inside you will find some visual schedule templates and first then charts to help you get started.  Then you could print out board maker symbols, or real photographs from your picture library or even google.

this is just a template found in my resource


Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about how to make, plan, or implement visual schedules!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Power of the Pause Button

Lots of people working in special education struggle with their students transitioning from preferred activities to non-preferred activities, but have you ever tried using a pause button?

You might be asking yourself, what the heck is she talking about it?  Well, I went to a training in North Carolina, it was a TEACCH training.  It was a 5 day classroom-like training.  One of the things  that they had taught us, that was so simple, it to use a pause button to get them to stop the preferred activity.  Students nowadays all know what a pause button is and does, so they recognize the symbol immediately.     For example, if the students are playing a board game and are not finished by the time Math is supposed to begin, the teacher places a visual "pause" button on or over the game and says "alright, its time to pause this game and start math", students understand immediately that they will have a chance to come back to the game because its only paused and they don't have to pick the game up either.  I use a giant storage container top with a large pause on top of it so that they can see through the container top to their "paused" game. 



You don't even need to have a visual prepared for this.  The student can be coloring a picture and its time to stop and you can simply draw a pause symbol in their paper, or on their desk or on a sticky note, or on a white board!   Oh the possibilities!   The pause button can go with you anywhere!!  How quick and easy is that!!