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Fifth Grade Teachers: a Few Tips to Start the Year On the Right Foot

The start of a new school year is always such a great feeling. You and your students get a fresh start. You can try new things. You can toss things that haven't worked for you. In today's post, I'm sharing a few things that I think every fifth-grade teacher NEEDS to have in place before beginning the new year. I'll offer how I do it too, in case you are looking for a new idea!

Test Prep Routines

While we all like to pretend like that test isn't going to happen, it will. I absolutely HATE cramming in all the test prep things a week or two before we begin testing. The reality is, if you have great routines for practicing critical skills all year, you won't be stressing in those last few weeks. 

I wrote a blog post last year about test prep routines in my classroom. I think these are critical to have in place to reduce the stress level of both you and your students. 

Positive Behavior System

I don't care what you use or prefer, but it is critical that you have a system in place that rewards positive behavior. I have used a clip chart and Class Dojo throughout the years, and I've loved them both. In both scenarios, I rarely needed to take points away or have students move their clip down. Instead, I would call out students who were doing exactly what I wanted them to do. I can tell you that my lines were always straight and quiet in the hallway and my students always worked well in centers. They knew I was always looking to give points during those times.

As they earned points (or moves up the clip chart), they earned money in our classroom economy. They could buy things that didn't cost me a dime, like line leader passes, snack passes, moving their seats, or iPad games. It was great motivation to work hard and make good choices. 

Morning & Afternoon Procedures

Whatever your morning or afternoon looks like in your school, I think it's critical to have procedures for your students to complete as they arrive and just before they leave. I always have mine posted in my classroom for my kids to take a look at and mentally check off. If not, I would have kids who forgot to download their homework or students without a sharpened pencil in sight. Take time to think through exactly what you want your students to do. I also require my students to do things in this exact order. I need you to use the restroom and turn in that homework more than I need you to begin morning work, like our math warm up or picture of the day. 

Morning Procedures: 

1. Use the restroom. 
2. Unpack your backpack. 
3. Sharpen three pencils. 
4. Complete Math Warm Up. 
5. Begin Picture of the Day. 

Afternoon Procedures: 

1. Clean up the floor. 
2. Clear the top of your desk. 
3. Download Math Video. 
4. Get your mail. 
5. Pack your backpack. 

In my classroom, they would lose a Dojo Point if they didn't do one of these items and "got caught". For example, if they asked to use the restroom shortly after the bell rings at 8:00. I would always let them go, but they would lose a point. This rarely happened!


Three Mistakes I've Made as a Special Education Teacher

Being a teacher is hard. Seriously, my friends. And being a special education teacher can often be even more challenging. Today, I want to share with you a few mistakes I've made throughout the years with the hope that you can learn from my mistakes.

Setting Goals Too High or Too Low

I'll be honest, I tend to set goals that are too low rather than too high. Either way, I am continually working on becoming more realistic about my teaching and their abilities. While I am willing to rewrite IEPs to address new concerns, it makes sense to set goals that are realistic and just start chipping away at the process. 

I'll also add that I think this is a major thing that comes with experience. As you get to know students, yourself as a teacher, and various disability areas, you'll be able to write goals that are more realistic for your students! 

Take Charge of Your Meetings

As a new special education teacher in my district, it was really hard for me to take charge. I am confident and I know what needs to be said, but I'm always afraid to step on someone's toes. However, it is OUR job, and the best interest of the student, if we step up and take charge. Run that meeting! You have called together an entire team of people who are there to help a particular student on your caseload. Take charge. It's ok. If the thought of taking charge scares you a bit, ask someone for advice on handling the meeting, explain the dos and don'ts of conducting an official IEP meeting, or have them observe you. It takes a while to build confidence, but it's something that you need to do. 

Keep Things Positive

I'll be honest, this isn't something that I have a hard time doing. What I DO have a hard time doing is keeping other adults present in meetings from going down a negative path. No parent wants to walk out of a meeting where they've heard so many negative things about their child. I try to share one strength for every weakness that I share. There are times when weaknesses MUST be discussed. If you are working to create a behavior plan or address new concerns, there is no way around it. To me, that means that I have to share several really positive things to help that parent walk away with a good feeling about your attitude and love for their child.

If you are a new or newer special education teacher, I have a course designed just for you! Writing IEPs was seriously so intimidating when I first started teaching special education. I wanted to create a course to help other teachers build confidence in their IEP writing. I'll teach you how to assess your students, draft a present level of performance, write measurable IEP goals, and monitor the progress of your goals! Click the image above to grab the course from TeachersPayTeachers. :)


Special Education Teachers: Advice from One Teacher to Another

remember when I first started teaching. I was so excited, but I was also a nervous wreck. The only experience I had with students with disabilities was from student teaching. I was confident and willing to try anything, but I was also a newbie! I didn't know if I was ready, and I really wish I could have read a little bit of advice from teachers who had walked the path before me. 

So below, you'll find a few words of wisdom from some Primary Special Education Teachers! If you are a primary special education teacher, you'll love the ideas, inspiration, humorous stories, and conversations that are taking place in our group. 

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"Establish a system for data collection that doesn't make you want to pull your hair out.  Also....keep up with said data collection and teach your assistants to help you with it." -Serina

"Organization and documentation are the hardest things, IMO, to get a good handle on. Look at different options and find what will work well for you before you get started! If you don’t do it before the school year starts, you will be struggling to find the time to do it and have extra unneeded stress!! Remember it’s ok to ask for help and remember to take one day at a time and deep breathing!!!" -Julie





















"Find a veteran teacher at your school and establish a relationship with them. Reach out to them if you have questions. We’ve all been there, it’s okay to be unsure...just ask!" -Amanda


"Don’t try to be perfect at everything all at the same time. Pick a subject to be great at and then after you have that down pick another. ASK FOR HELP!" -Sarah


"There is no such thing as a dumb question..." -Sherri


"Be flexible... things change all the time, kids have off days or people forget to let you know things so sometimes you just have to go with the flow." -Greg


"Make teacher friends in your building. I just completed my first year of teaching. My teacher friends kept me sane. They just get it!" -Rebecca


"*Keep it simple! 
*Be flexible!
*Eat in the lounge and participate in staff activities. Those relationships spill into the classroom and make supporting kids TONS easier.
*Find a reason to laugh or smile every day. 

*Do what you love and love what you do.
*Don't be afraid to try new things or stop what's not working.
*Be the reason your students want to be at school." -Krista

"Keep data organized! I put each goal on a sheet of paper and place it in a binder. Every time I do a task that addresses that goal, I write the data down on the sheet and then stick the evidence behind it. Having everything in one place helps me grab it in case someone asks for the evidence. Writing it down on the sheet makes writing progress reports easy!" -Lauren


"1. Always stick to your convictions. This goes for dealing with admin and district personnel. If you know your students need something, be persistent and don’t back down. You are their advocate. 
2. Never be afraid to ask for what you believe you or your students need, worst they can say is no. Don’t be dissuaded by others who say they’ve been told no or who say “don’t bother asking.” 
3. Pick your battles. If you fight over everything or are constantly confrontational no one will take your major concerns serious."-Arynne 

3. Pick your battles. If you fight over everything or are constantly confrontational no one will take your major concerns serious."-Arynne 

"Establish positive parent relationships from the beginning! Often parents are not as "educated" on the learning styles, teaching techniques, and/or educational needs of their children with special needs/disabilities. I can't tell you the amount of times I've heard "well my other child was on this level at this age" or "well how come my neighbors kid in second grade knows how to do this but my child can't" *** It is important to share with parents that their child needs to learn in a different way, that they might learn at a slower pace, and they might need extra practice BUT they are still learning and that's what matters most! I have found including parents in the learning process leads to more success for the child!" -Laura


"My best advice after 22 years is to just relax and enjoy the ride. Do what the individual kid NEEDS and not what any other person (who doesnt know the kid as well as you do) thinks they need. One of my mantras is “if they could learn the way gen ed learns...they wouldnt need sped”. Remember that the goal is the gen ed CURRICULUM. It doesn’t say how they have to get there." -Stephanie

"Don't be afraid to completely change things! Go with what's right when you first take over and mid year when your practices seem to need to change. Want to change dismissal procedures? Do it! Don't feel like you're stuck with the way it's always been done by you or anyone else. Do right by the kids."-Emily

"I teach 1st & 2nd grade self-contained. I have a binder for each student. It holds their IEP’s, ABC data, daily communication logs, emergency contact and BIPs etc." -Lindsey

"Get out of the classroom and talk to fellow staff as much as possible!! Take the risk of having to pull your class back together, rely on your aide, and do not rely on email. Build the community within your campus as well as your classroom. It will make for a more pleasant teaching experience all around! Trust me......." -Tammy


"Celebrate every victory- even the small ones! Way to often are we to hard on ourselves. Take a step back and smile from the progress. Any step forward is a step in the right direction!" -Melanie


"Try not to take anything personally, keep a sense of humor; it makes the days go by faster, have a solid idea of behavior management and consistent structure: but remember that it's okay to change things that are not working, don't be afraid to ask for a break when needed: it's better to take the break to decompress then it is to spend the rest of the day angry or annoyed with kids (they feel EVERYTHING), make friends with other teachers, it can often feel like we are on an island all alone, data, data, data: this drives EVERYTHING: find a system and keep up with it, hold regular debriefing sessions with Paras to ensure everyone is on the same page, organization that you can maintain; it doesn't have to be Pinterest worthy, but it should be functional...... sorry so long " -Jessica😊




"Be flexible, things change on a whim often. Be prepared. Document, document, document!" -Jenn

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You don't have to be an expert in everything special education! You just have to be willing to jump in with both feet. If you haven't already, hop on over to a Facebook group dedicated to special education ideas, strategies, and advice! :)


12 Mentor Texts Your Students Will Love for Teaching Theme

Since it is summertime and so many of us are already in planning mode for next year, I wanted to utilize my Mentor Text series post this month to share books to help you teach your students about THEME! 

If you don't have any of the books listed below, you can click each picture to find them on Amazon!

The Bad Seed

I repeatedly saw this book online and had to get my hands on a copy, and it totally lives up to the hype. In my opinion, there are multiple themes that are demonstrated in this book. This Bad Seed had a traumatic experience that really changed him. After that, he did bad things just because he was labeled a bad seed. It's the perfect book to start conversations and learn a great lesson or two!  

Unique Monique

Monique struggles with the requirement of wearing a uniform each day to school. She wants to stand out and be different. Her classmates follow her lead and begin wearing funky glasses, big hats, and doing anything they can to spice up the dress code. In the end, Monique finds a really great way to be unique! 

One

I had heard of this book many times, but I had never actually read it until I attended a conference. After getting the opportunity to read it, I had to use it to teach theme! While the pictures and simplicity may seem like it is only for younger students, the core theme in this book is deep. It only takes one person to stand up to people who try to bully or treat you poorly. 

The Hueys in the New Sweater

This story is just silly, but so enjoyable, even for my older students! In a world where all the Hueys are the same, what happens when one begins wearing a sweater? This book pairs so well with Unique Monique, as one of the Hueys becomes a trendsetter as he works to stay true to himself. 

Spork

What do you do when you don't fit in with the forks or the spoons? It's hard to know who you are! In this silly book, Spork learns that everyone has a purpose. Everyone has a role that they are meant to do. Plus, who doesn't love a good book about sporks! 

The Potato Chip Champ

When you have everything you could ever need or want, it's easy to get frustrated when bad things, like breaking your leg, happen. It seems like your world is going to end. Meanwhile, when someone is getting everything that you want...it's even harder! Champ and Walter become friends when Champ learns that Walter's kindness counts more than all the shiny things he "needs". 

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun

First of all, how can you read this title and NOT want to read the book?! This book is perfect for teaching your students to be who they are--no matter how crazy, silly, unusual, or different that may be! 

Those Shoes

I don't care who you are, at some point in your life you have wanted something that "everyone else" had. In this book, Jeremy desperately wants Those Shoes. Everyone has them, but his grandma says they are too expensive. This heartwarming story shares what happens once he finally gets his hands on a pair!

The Little House

Ooooh, this book is one of my all-time favorites. It is a great story with multiple themes and is perfect for demonstrating that the grass isn't always greener on the other side! Year after year, my students love using this book for a close read. 

Peanut Butter & Cupcake

We go together like Peanut Butter and...Cupcake?! This book makes my fifth graders LAUGH! It's right up their alley with a little bit of humor as well as a good theme. Plus, look at those illustrations. 

Beekle

Ever wanted an imaginary friend? Meet Beekle. He really wants to BE someone's imaginary friend. No matter what though, no one picks him. But with a little bit of patience, he sees that waiting for the perfect best friend is worth the wait. 

I Walk with Vanessa

This book is wordless, so you can use it for teaching students to make inferences as well as spotting an amazing theme about kindness. I love the illustrations and the idea of making someone new feel welcome.


If you are interested in the theme graphic organizers that I used in the pictures for this post, you can find it (and many more) in my TpT store. Included in the file, you will find both digital and printable versions of each graphic organizer. 

5th Grade Teachers: Advice from One Teacher to Another

I remember when I first started teaching fifth grade. I was so excited, but I was also a nervous wreck. Could a young, twenty-something be respected and actually handle FIFTH GRADERS?! I didn't know if I was ready, and I really wish I could have read a little bit of advice from teachers who had walked the path before me. 

So below, you'll find a few words of wisdom from some Not So Wimpy Fifth Grade Teachers! If you are a fifth grade teacher, you'll love the ideas, inspiration, humorous stories, and conversations that are taking place in our group. 

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"As a first year, it’s all overwhelming. I organized my Reading Streets lessons in my file cabinet by unit and then by lesson. I did the same in science. But in math, I organized by chapter in the file folders. My social studies isn’t fully there yet but I’m working on it and it will be done by chapter at the moment." -April



"Never let them smell your fear!"  -Jessica






"Classroom management - if you say you're going to do something, you HAVE to follow through." - Becca



"Get involved in your students’ lives outside of the classroom ~ go to their ball games and dance recitals..... that will halt a lot of the negative behaviors." -Anna



"Consistency...minute to minute... hour by hour... consistency. Model your expectations... repeatedly the first few days/weeks of school... reinforce with positive feedback... by doing this you will set the tone for your classroom... (For example, set the expectation for the first few minutes of class...do you want your kids to come in and get right to work (bellringer or reading, etc) then set this expectation... model.. model... model..." -Debbie



"Start strong!! Start how you want to end the year because they will create classroom habits quickly. Don’t be their friend!! You can be kind and fun without being a buddy." -Christy



"I read one time that you should treat each management situation like you are a referee. It's not emotional, you don't have to hem and ha over what to do. You simply give whatever consequence or reward fits the action. That helped me be better at not waffling and staying consistent. Also, you will never be done managing. Just because it's February doesn't mean that you don't have to keep watching for and managing behavior and you'll probably have to repeat yourself in some ways all year long, especially with some kids. It'll get easier as the year progresses and your students buy in and understand the system, but you can never put classroom management on auto pilot and forget it." -Kaylie



"Don't assume that they're more mature (they're not!) and therefore don't take as much repetition to learn and remember routines and rules! Spend the first two weeks practicing and reinforcing your classroom rules and management plans - when they can get out of their seats, how they manage getting their computers, etc. 
They will ask you questions you might not be able to answer - especially right in the middle of the million other things you're doing. It's okay to say you'll research it, or they can go and research it and report back to the class." -Cindy


To go with Cindy's advice above: "I have a parking lot for this on my wall. I put sticky notes next to it and at the beginning of the year we practice reinforcing that if it does not immediately apply to our topic to park it and I’ll get back to them. Minimizes disruptions and hold both of us accountable. I also tell them if it’s private or personal to put the sticky on my desk instead. If it becomes a struggle with a particular student I can privately talk to them about the parking lot misuse. (For example, thinking a private note is ...I really like dogs like the one in the story.)" -Ashley



"Interact with children at ALL grade levels! I smile and chat with kids from K-4 as I walk through the halls from point A to point B, every day. I attend as many grade-level performances and activities as I can. They know my name and I know their faces. After years of mostly pleasant interaction, they enter my fifth grade classroom with a strong level of rapport already built. I work in a low-income school with a lot of kids that carry a lot of baggage on their shoulders, but I rarely have major behavior issues in my class or across my grade level. Build the relationships and rapport with the kids coming up and you've already won over a good portion of your class."  -Linds



"I use a "10 Line" in my class to get them lined up. 1=stand, 2=step behind your chair, 3=push your chair in, 4= make your way to the door (walking), 5-10=time for everyone to get there. The whole process is SILENT and my class has the best line in the school. If at ant point someone slips up, you start over." -Elizabeth



"They still like it when you read to them." -Chen



"Assigning group colors, numbers, and group jobs. I have 7 colors, each group has 1A, 2B, 3A, and 4B. Jobs are rotated based on numbers. 1A will be material manager for the week. 2B will be assistant. 3A will be data collector. 4B will be reporter. Only 7 kids are coming up for their groups papers or turning in papers. Only 7 kids are getting materials. It has helped me so much with classroom management!" -Bri



"Build those positive relationships with students and parents! Connections are key ♡." -Gracie



"If there was a mistake to be made, I probably made it. My favorite thing....... sometimes you and the kids need a minute. During independent work, while the co-teacher is there step outside the door with them and just check in. "Was the bus ride okay?" "Did your afternoon go well yesterday?" "Anything we need to talk about or having trouble with"? 
Also, PLAY with them at recess. Do a yoga pose, swing the jump rope, etc. Never, no matter how much they cry and hate you, never, lower your expectations of them as learners and humans. They are growing adults, but still kids." -Megan



"Consistency. Procedures. Consistency. Hold them to high expectations. Consistency. Do not engage in their backtalk/arguments. As hard as it is...walk away. You will be so much less exhausted at the end of the day. That said...I enjoy 5th graders because of their independence, ability to form relationships and understand sarcasm, and sense of humor." -Mandy



"Start with the end in mind. Second semester is tough and middle school is no joke. Graduation is a big deal...help them be aware of it." -Allison



"Respect. Treat them with respect and you will receive it back. I try and treat mine like little adults. But remember, they are little, so they will make mistakes. The more they respect you, the more they will WANT to please you and follow your directions." -Amy

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You don't have to be an expert in everything fifth grade! You just have to be willing to jump in with both feet. If you haven't already, hop on over to a Facebook group dedicated to 5th grade ideas, curriculum, and advice!


9 Mentor Texts Your Students Will LOVE for Reading

Since it is summertime and so many of us are already in planning mode for next year, I wanted to utilize my Mentor Text series post this month to share books to help you introduce basic reading skills to your students. 

Last summer, I spent a large chunk of my summer working to find mentor texts to use in the first ten weeks of school. I used these books (along with others) to help me introduce and review basic reading skills that I wanted my students to use for the remainder of the year. 

If you don't have any of the books listed below, you can click each picture to find them on Amazon!

The Little Red Pen

I absolutely love to use The Little Red Pen for introducing my students to making connections. It is the perfect way for me to model my obsession with office supplies and the hours spent grading papers. The way that the characters talk to one another is entertaining and so fun to read! 

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

This book is so interesting and maybe even a bit odd! When Sylvester discovers a magic pebble, he mysteriously turns into a rock. His parents look everywhere for him, but they aren't able to find him. Will they ever discover that Sylvester is actually sitting near their house? There are so many questions that you and your students can generate as you read this book aloud! 

The Sweetest Fig

I don't know why I love this book so much, but I do! One day, as Monsieur Bibot is working in his dentist office, he is offered two figs for payment rather than money. He took them but wrote the old lady off as crazy as she told him that they would make all of his dreams come due. After he eats the first fig, he realizes that she was completely right! This book is so perfect for introducing the reading comprehension skill of making inferences. There are SO many things that are left to the imagination in this classic from Chris Van Allsburg! 

The Night I Followed the Dog

Have you ever wondered what your dog does while you are sleeping? When this young boy follows his dog, he learns so much that he never knew! This story has a great plot structure that allows you to show your students the components that all great stories should include. 

Bedhead

Just look at this cover! Isn't it perfect? Margie Palatini does an amazing job of describing Oliver's hair as he wakes up and attempts to get ready for school on picture day! I love hiding the cover with construction paper and having students draw what they "see" as I read this book aloud. I have them record phrases from the book that describe each of the five senses. 

Creepy Carrots

I love everything that Aaron Reynolds writes, and I put it to work during the week that I teach Point of View. This is a hilarious story written in the third person about a bunny who believes that carrots are following him everywhere. And they are! They are playing a trick on him. The reason is pretty funny! 

Enemy Pie

Enemy Pie is a classic book that I believe every student have read to them at some point! When the main character has a new enemy, his dad volunteers to help him make a pie that is PERFECT for an enemy. But there's a catch. You have to find a way to trick your enemy into actually eating the pie. This book is full of great themes for your students to discover, learn from, and support with evidence from the text! 

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. 

The Littlest Matryoshka

I love using Matryoshka dolls to help my students visually see that their knowledge of a particular idea or topic is growing and changing as they read. The Littlest Matryoshka is perfect to both demonstrate the skill and tie in the visual! 

I also spend a week working to introduce summarizing, but I rely on non-fiction articles for that particular skill! If you would like graphic organizers, anchor charts, grammar lessons, and reading comprehension passages for assessments, be sure to click on the image above! 

SIMPLE Special Education Tips for NEW Teachers!

I absolutely love being a special education teacher, and I've learned so much throughout my time teaching students with disabilities (...and I know I have so much more to learn!). 

If you are new to special education, I want you to know that there are many days when you'll feel like you're drowning, but I want to share with you a few tips to help set you up for success. When those stressful, crazy days come, I want you to be prepared and have an organizational system in place to help keep you sane...as much as it can be anyway! 

Tip 1: Create a "To Be Filed" Area

We all know that the role of a special education teacher is known for an enormous amount of paperwork. And while I like to pride myself on being on top of the paperwork and being organized, we all know that there are times when things just get a bit crazy. Because of that fact, I like to have ONE spot where I can "shove stuff" until I have time to sit down and file it. Sometimes, my stack is small. Other times, my bottom tray is overflowing. Either way, I know where I can quickly and easily find paperwork rather than shuffling through my desk.

Tip 2: Create Folders for Commonly Used Forms

I have a few forms that I ALWAYS have copies of in my drawer that are ready to go. My most commonly used forms are packets for initials and Functional Behavior Assessments. If I have a meeting with a parent about possibly identifying a student, I don't have to remember to make copies or wait on the printer. I can have them ready as soon as I need them. For you, you may discover that you are repeatedly printing something for parents or staff members to complete. Make a folder and shove five to ten additional copies into it! It will save you time and hassle later. It also makes you look super prepared and organized! 

Tip 3: Parent/Teacher Envelopes

While I wish every parent could attend every meeting, we all know that there are times when we have to send an IEP home with a student for a parent to sign and return the next day. I like to have these envelopes ready and waiting in my drawer. I can easily put the IEP and signature page into the envelope and send it home with the student. When the parent or their classroom teacher sees that note on the outside, they immediately know what to do. I've also had parents sign it and bring it into the office the following day. The lovely secretaries are able to put it in my mailbox right away. 

Tip 4: The Originals Folder

I've done this for years, in both general education and special education. I keep a folder with all of my commonly copied pages. I can quickly grab the folder and run to the copier. I keep assessments, flashcards, forms, spelling test papers, graphic organizers, and other things that I need regularly. At my previous school, our mailboxes were in the copy room, so I just kept the folder in my mailbox. It definitely saved me a few steps! 

Tip 5: Clipboards with a Purpose

I have two clipboards that I almost always have on or near my desk. The first one has blank paper and is used for classroom observations. When I have a student that is being evaluated, I have to complete a classroom observation as part of the evaluation process. I like having a stack of paper to make notes, draw pictures or digraphs, and record the events of the classroom. I try to do my evaluations when I have random times when I can't see my regular groups. For example, this spring, our third graders were on a field trip. During my regularly scheduled times with third grade, I grabbed my clipboard and went to complete observations that were noted on my clipboard. 

The second clipboard is used for paperwork that is *almost* ready to be submitted to the special education office. For example, I will often give a classroom teacher and a parent their packets of information to be complete for an evaluation. Usually, either the parent or the teacher completes it quickly and we are waiting for the other to finish. I like to put it on my clipboard so that I have it as soon as the other party finishes their portion. I always know right where to find it. 

Tip 6: IEP Binder

I use this binder all. the. time. my friends! I bought these alphabetical tabs at Walmart for a couple of dollars and recycled a 1 1/2" binder. Inside are all of the most recent IEPs for all of my students. I use it a lot during high stakes testing season to ensure that all students get the accommodations that are outlined. It is also nice to have while making schedules at the beginning of the year to ensure that I am providing all of the services that are required. I also use this to stick post-it notes in as I have phone conversations with parents. I can make notes about their concerns or things to be aware of at a later date. 

Tip 7: The Blank IEP

When I first started teaching special education, writing IEPs by myself gave me nightmares. I was afraid that I would leave something out or make a mistake. It scared me that my director would find major errors in my IEPs and fire me immediately. <----He wouldn't have, but I was nervous! I remembered that my supervising teacher during student teaching had an IEP that she used as a model for other IEPs. She had taken Wite-Out to a well written IEP and hid the name and information of the student. I called her up and asked if I could make a copy of that IEP to use as a model as well. 

If you are new and uncomfortable writing IEPs on your own, this may be something that you might ask your director, supervising teacher, or fellow special education teacher in your building for. If you aren't comfortable asking, then browse the IEPs of your new caseload and see what you think is a good example and create your own model. If someone is helping you write your first IEPs, create a model from those! 

 Tip 8: Understand Progress Monitoring & Get Organized

Progress Monitoring is something that I am very passionate about. It's also something that I think can make or break a school year for both you and your students. Find or create a system for monitoring your goals that is easy and effective. If your students aren't progressing, you can't wait until Spring Break to realize it. You have to have a proactive approach to ensure that your students are making adequate progress. The picture above shows my system and is listed on TeachersPayTeachers. Check it out and ask questions if you have them! 

Tip 9: Create Groups

At the beginning of the year, I had to attend a Google Training. I had been using and familiar with Google Services and really thought that it was a waste of my time. Boy, was I ever wrong! I learned so many helpful tips and time-saving tricks. Creating groups was one of them! I have groups for each of my grade levels and RTI teams. When I have to make a schedule change or get an opinion on something, I simply type in the first couple of letters in the grade level and up pops the four teachers on that team! It's perfect for quick emails and not leaving anyone out. 

Tip 10: Copy and Paste Statements

Maybe there is a better name for this, but I use Copy and Paste Statements OFTEN. For a long time, I typed each and every one of these things over and over and over again. I was literally writing nearly the same thing every time. WHY?! Stop the madness and copy and paste that $#*+! It saves me time, ensures that I don't have typos in redundant text, and allows me to include everything that's needed without getting sloppy. I also do this with my reports for Functional Behavior Assessments. Why find new ways to describe an assessment? Copy and paste it and add the information for the student you are currently describing. 

Tip 11: Contact Your Team

When you first begin teaching, whether it be in a new school, a new role, or a brand new job, always take a few minutes to contact your team. At the beginning of the year, I sent an email introducing myself and welcoming them to catch me in the hallway or come visit my room for a chat. I even told them I had a basket of chocolate! I hate being the new girl, so I wanted to get to know them quickly. I wanted to start seeing them as my friends and colleges and not strangers.

It also allowed me to tell them a little about my vision for the program and that I was open to suggestions, comments, concerns, or questions. It also gave me the opportunity to show them how much I love teaching and helping the special education population. 

Tip 12: Call Parents Before the First Day

If you're a little introverted, like me, this might be hard for you. Do it anyway. Call parents to start the year off on a positive note. Tell them who you are, that you are new to the building, and that you are calling to introduce yourself. Set aside a decent chunk of time, because these parents will fill you in on their child if you let them. It really helps me get off on the right foot with my parents. It gives them someone to reach out to and allows you to make a game plan for future conversations.

Tip 13: Join My FaceBook Group!

I love having a group a people who understand what I do and are available for questions, ideas, and inspiration! If you are interested, join my Primary Special Education Teachers Facebook Group! :)

If you are a new special education teacher or are looking to up your game when it comes to writing IEP goals, I would love to help give you the confidence boost that you need to start the school year. Check it out on TpT!