Hey Hey guys! I hope you're all doing well!
So this week I posted on Instagram (for the millionth time) how obsessed I am with using Google Slides. BUT this time it related to using Google Slides to create hyper-linked choice boards for students to complete during a designated independent/leisure time during the school day.
I am currently using this with my students remotely, however there is no reason why this same format couldn't be used for learners in person. 

As a recap, here's what I love:
  • It provides my students with more opportunities to make choices and work independently! This is HUGE! Right now things are hard, we are more restricted in what we can and cannot do in so many areas of our life and ANY time I can give students ownership of their own time and provide them with choices I am ALL ABOUT IT!
  • Students can reuse the same choice board for a week or more (I actually use the same one for the month! There are enough choices and variety with what is linked and so I don't feel the need to update it more often than this, which if you know my work harder not smarter lifestyle, is basically a miracle.)
  • The hyperlinks make it super easy for my students to navigate to the intended activity or website AND depending on what I link, can restrict them from going to anything unintended (I'll go more into my shoutout to & how it allows you to safely provide your students with links to YouTube videos without the worry of what they could accidentally stumble upon).

How Google Slides Saved Me During Distance Learning

 Hey Guys!

If you follow me on Insta or follow my TPT store for updates, you know I have been HUGE into Google Slides since the start of Distance Learning in the Spring. I am not going to pretend that I wasn't a die hard Microsoft Office fan. In fact, I STILL love using PowerPoint for fancy fonts and creating backgrounds for things (such as my Google Slides activities!)... BUT when school buildings were shut down in March I needed a way to collaborate with my colleagues and provide effective instruction without any of the thousands of visuals, schedules, behavior supports and other adapted materials that I use daily with my students. I'm going to show you my top 3 favorite ways to use Google Slides for instruction which I will absolutely continue to use once we are back in person and far beyond this very, different school year. 

This year I am teaching Vocation/Careers and Life Skills across three of our Self Contained Programs at my High School. The students on my caseload are incredibly diverse. This is so cool and I am honestly learning so much since I stepped out of my shell of being strictly a self contained Autism Teacher two years ago BUT having such a big number of students with SUCH different skill sets and needs is a huge challenge. So I will talk a little about how I use Google Slides for creating my lessons to use across these diverse classrooms.
  • Group Meet Slides - I generally create templates of the lessons I'll use for each class with a Schedule, Rules, intro activities (for some classes I use a stretch/warm up, others it is a game, challenge or question of the day), class activity (I embed a theme based lesson here) and end of class activities (this may be dance videos, drawing videos, a wrap up/check in Google Form, another fun activity, points check ins, etc. depends on the class!). Check out this video for the routines and activities I have set up for one of my classes: CLICK HERE
  • Individual Meet Slides - Similarly to group meets, I set up a deck of Google Slides for individual instruction meets. The slides will generally start off with the basics (rules & anything they may need to gather for class) and then there will be an intro slide & links for each of the goals I plan to work on that day. I LOVE using even MORE Google Slides activities as what I have linked so that I can work with the student in the same slide/see their real time performance. I also do include things which I simply share on the screen for them to look at or as prompts for staff. Here is a video overview of how I am doing this as well: CLICK HERE
    • SIDENOTE: I also LOVE the number of prompts I can embed into slides within seconds if a student is struggling. One day I shared on Instagram that I embedded a number line for a learner on the Files by Year goal and guess what, I did that in less than a minute during the session by simply asking the student to stop and wait, adding in a text box and then typing the dates in sequence to be used as a reference. So text boxes are awesome for this as well as adding a circle (with the center transparent) or a bright colored arrow to show a student where to find information. 
I LOVE being able to work on some of our same independence building skills (such as following an independent activity schedule or checklist) with students virtually. Whether it is following a digital file folder activity schedule or following a digital checklist with hyperlinks, timers and checkmarks to show tasks which have been completed, it has been amazing to see how well my students responded to these activities and truly generalized the task! This is something you will also see in the video above for an individual student meet.

THIS WAS A GAME CHANGER! I have spent so many hours trying to figure out how to replicate some sense of hands on work with my students. To be honest, 90% of what I do in the building is hands on. Seriously, this is one of my FAVORITE teaching jobs because it's all the functional skills I value so much - we cook, we clean, we practice jobs within the classroom, around the building, in the community, etc. We are constantly up and moving around and getting real experiences! So in the Spring when I was suddenly 1. Lecturing, 2. Relying on verbal responses from students, asking them to write/draw a response or (eventually after lots of practice) getting students to reply in the Chat - this was still so drastically different from what I wanted my instruction to look like AND it didn't really capture the skills and abilities of all of my kids! 
Enter: Google Slides. Here's the thing guys - you can do so much with slides! The types of activities I tend to use most are sorting, assembly or direction following tasks as well as GAMES! One of my favorite ways to teach students how to 1. Find the slide with their own name, 2. Move interactive pieces around on a slide and 3. (This I only do as students are more ready) Move back and forth between the Google Meet Tab/Window and the Interactive Slide is playing BINGO!  There are examples of both Games and work activities that I set up for my students in both videos above as well :)

I hope that you have found this to be helpful! I'm glad you read this far as I KNOW I can be too wordy... Shoot me an email if you have any questions or want help setting up some slides for your classes. I am happy to give suggestions or share some screenshots of some of the ways I have worked on certain goals. 

***Check out this FREEBIE Digital Checklist for Google Slides to help you implement more interactive Google Slides activities into your lessons this week! Click Here

Now seriously, GO OPEN GOOGLE SLIDES AND GET STARTED!! (When you're ready of course) 

Take care guys!

Distance Learning & Virtual Job Exploration

 Hi Guys!

I know a lot of us are struggling right now when it comes to teaching hands on job skills to our learners during this challenging period. For those who are teaching in person, there are likely many restrictions which do not allow your students to work in the community or really even around the school itself on top of limiting shared materials, teacher prompting and proximity, etc. For those like myself who are teaching remotely, it feels impossible. But it isn't. None of this is ideal, that's certainly true. However, there are LOTS of ways you can continue to work on exploring careers and learning job skills virtually!

There are two main ways I have worked on these skills since distance learning began in the spring and I am hoping to expand on how I address these needs this fall:

1. Career exploration videos: 

  • I have used a TON of videos from Career One Stop in lessons with my students. I do really like this website because they have lots and lots of videos and other information related to lots and lots of jobs. My only challenge with this website is that the videos themselves generally were fast paced and covered a lot of content in a short time, making it hard for some of my students to really follow what was happening. This varied by video & I have some students who these videos worked great for. Definitely worth checking out. 
  • I have also found LOTS of great videos on YouTube (always preview these videos before sharing with your students, and I advise using the Safe You Tube website to generate a link that will only grant access to that video rather than allow your students to click and scroll their way through questionable content on YouTube...). I found so many videos which were an actual walk through of the job or provided a clear model of specific job tasks for things like stocking supplies or merchandise, busing a table, and more! 
  • It takes some patience as you wade through all that is out there, but there are definitely worthwhile videos within both of these sites (and likely other websites as well!).

2. Simulated Job Tasks: There are plenty of ways to approach this, here are some of my ideas as well as ways I have approached this so far.

  • BOOM Cards -  There are TONS of free career focused activities out there! I know there are lots of high quality paid resources as well. There are lots of you out there creating your OWN BOOM decks - well you impress me! I have yet to even try, though it is on my list so maybe that will change soon. 
  • Interactive Google Slides - I have been working very hard on this, as I always believe that our students do best with HANDS ON practice. Although these digital practice activities look different from what our students will face once they are out in the workforce, the simulated tasks still allow the student to practice skills related to the job as well as get a feel for their skill and interest in this area.
  • Google Forms - I typically had students reflect on the job using forms so I knew the work was completed, as well as had a record of what they did and their preference. I usually began the form by having the student recall some information about the job (e.g., job title, tasks completed at this job, etc.) then asked them to indicate if this is a job they would like to try in the future. I also at times put in questions which required the student to demonstrate that they knew how to perform the task - e.g., determining if shelves were stocked correctly, identifying the proper cleaning tools needed for a job, data entry, etc. 
  • Suggestions for Simulating Jobs at Home 

    3. Putting it all together: In the spring I generally did the following:

    1. Question of the Day Related to the job I planned to address *I used a combination of Vocational Questions of the Day from Adulting Made Easy as well as questions I created specifically for my own learners.
    2. Simple written explanation and/or a video about the job (See #1 above)
    3. Simulated, Interactive Job Tasks (See #2 above)
    4. Reflection: Some of this was done verbally or via chat features during a live lesson, other times this was completed via a google form.
    One NEW way I plan to work on this in the fall is using Virtual Job Fairs. This will allow learners to select jobs they wish to learn about, research them, practice some skills related to the job and reflect afterwards! I am SO excited to introduce this to my students and am hoping it will be a fun way to approach this need in an unideal situation. 
    Although I am still working on it, here is a quick clip of what this looks like so far:

    EDIT: Since this blog post was written, I have created a Virtual Job Fair Template FREEBIE. You can find it in my TPT Shop, or CLICK HERE to check it out!

    What are some other ways you are addressing this with your students? I know this is a challenge, but we do need to continue to provide transition services to our students, even remotely, and honestly for me it is one of my favorite parts of work - so I am very excited to still be able to work on these skills!

    Best of luck this school year, I know you're all out there giving it everything you can. 
    Take care of yourselves!


    Back to School 2020: May Your Reinforcer Game Be Strong

    Published Post 
    08/11/2020, 23:31 PM

    May Your Reinforcers Be Strong 💪🏻 Back to School 2020 

    Look guys - we have all been saying it... this year will be unlike any other school year. For me personally, the learners I work with have been home, many with a reduced demand level, with new stressors, without a routine or with MAJOR changes to their routines for SIX MONTHS! We absolutely have to think of this every morning when we walk in that door. This is what we and more importantly what our STUDENTS are up against.

    With so many changes and restrictions, with so much unknown one thing we absolutely must do is make sure we are ready to reinforce the heck out of every. single. thing. our kids do 🙌🏻
    I know that my “tentative and soon to change 1,000 times” plan for the school year looks like this:
    1. Teach and reinforce masks, social distancing and basic hygiene
    2. Teach and reinforce adherence to new routines (no communal supplies and not touching things which don’t belong to you... even if just to race across the room and put them “away”). This is going to be big. It’s ALSO going to take some classroom modifications, depending on the room (for those of you who don’t know, I no longer have my own classroom, I now teach Careers and Life Skills across 3-4 of our self contained special education program classes. Also - I enjoy creating my own rules surrounding the use of punctuation & making run on sentences trendy.) 
    I think my motto this year will be “when in doubt, take it out.” If there is something your students can’t touch... get it out of the classroom. Or into a locked cabinet. We have no time for these kinds of battles (and frankly, our students have no time for the extra stress and confusion!) when returning to school in the midst of this pandemic.
    3. Teaching our digital platforms 💻 Google Classroom was a fantastic way to set things up this spring. All in one place, 1 daily link to click and get access to EVERYTHING the students needed to do for the day (outside of live sessions). And guess what, most of the kids: 1. Didn’t know how to use it, 2. Refused to use it, 3. Didn’t “refuse” but also just didn’t get there 🤷🏼‍♀️
    Google Slides Schedules & Activities, navigating to a link or website and returning, etc. These were huge barriers for our kids. I’m not saying that we won’t do any hands on lessons, or we will be computer based even in person 100% of the time, but we learned a lot this spring, and a big chunk of that was that our kids weren’t ready for accessing instruction online. And we needed them to be. Think about future implications! Sending home a digital schedule or video model for a new skill/generalizing a skill learned in the school setting? This alone makes it SO important that we get it right. Not to mention the very real possibility of additional shutdowns while this pandemic continues to hang heavy around here..
    4. Preference assessments & HEAVY reinforcement for all these things listed above and more will be an absolute priority for me as well! Individualized token boards and other reinforcement systems will of course continue to be used - some moving to digital formats when possible to reduce the number of materials which are handled by both a student and their teacher(s.) 
    Here are links to 2 FREE Token Board Resources for you if you need them! 
    1. Printable Token Board (laminate and use with a dry erase marker, add Velcro and use physical tokens/coins): Click Here to Access
    2. Digital Token Board for Google Slides: Click Here to Access
    Using class-wide systems of reinforcement can also be helpful depending on your learners! I was working on this with some of my classes last year and will certainly continue to do so moving forward. In one class, we had 2 systems running: 1. Employee of the Week - every day students earned points based on behavior, effort & teamwork, if they received a set number of points that day, they were entered into a bin to be in the running for employee of the week that week (selected by pulling a name from the bin). PLUS every day that we earned 100% of our points, we earned a piece of the puzzle for our whole class prize! We were on a roll working towards a dance party when the pandemic hit our area and we were shut down, so I’m hoping to jump right back in where we left off!! 
    Collage of 5 photographs showing a class wide reinforcer system. Includes Daily Employee Paycheck tallying points, Weekly Employee of the Week Certificate, Rules and Choiceboard for Whole Class Rewards and Puzzle Pieces to be Earned for Reward.

    So that’s the rough draft of my plan. I am hoping we will ease back into routines and be able to feel confident and comfortable that we can maintain health and safety while meeting the needs of our learners. There will be adjustments and challenges, but just like during Distance Learning - there will be celebrations for how we have all risen to the challenge and exceeded the expectations!! Best of luck this year everyone! Please comment below to share your plans and experiences as you move back into your classrooms as well!

    New All-In-One Visual Schedule Binders

    Hey Guys! SOOO I posted some pics of the new schedule I'm piloting with my class this fall (well... my aides & sub since I'll be out on maternity leave, but either way!) & got quite a few questions, so here it is! Below are pictures and descriptions of the schedules we follow each day.

    Our class follows a large daily schedule which is posted on the wall. It displays the start times & major activities of the day (we recently added an additional visual which a student checks off the type of schedule that day - early dismissal, regular schedule, delayed opening, etc.). This is what the students copy into their planners each day. (There are also day of the week schedules nearby which highlight major events BUT I of course don't have a picture saved in my phone & have already dismantled my classroom for the year, so that will have to wait for a future date!)

    We also have a schedule on the Smart Board which gives clarification to the current day's expectations during any given activity. For example  - during stations the students either see a list of possible tasks & staff assignments for the duration of stations OR see a chart which shows which staff member & activity they will perform during rotations in stations. We MOST often have the same staff for the entire 1.5-2 hour stations session & just rotate tasks with that staff member (due to our classroom logistics like job sampling which eliminates 1-2 staff members for the whole morning/afternoon, it is much less chaotic to have the same person for the entire time). Some days we will rotate staff & activities. This typically occurs on days when all staff & students are in the room AND I need to run specific groups with the students & so in order to rotate through those groups, I need to have staff jump around to support different kids with different activities.

    SOME of my students do a very nice job of following the Smart Board schedule, rather than simply following what they believe to be the routine for that day from memory, however most of my students need reminders to check & see if they have completed all tasks, have noted changes, etc. This is (in part) where the idea of the all in one schedules came from. I wanted to give my guys something that they could use for the entire day which would help them to be more accountable for the tasks & expectations during all scheduled activities. It also serves the purpose of keeping ALL visuals related to schedule tasks in one place. I cannot tell you how often things get put in different places or disappear & it makes me CRAZY! If we can't access the supports we need when we need them, they are totally useless (and we REALLY need them).

    So I created these mini binders, each cover has just the student's name, with tabbed pages (for easy access) for each major scheduled activity for the day. Some activities also have additional pages behind them which are either further explanation of the tasks, prompts, visual aids, etc. Each page also notes any general expectations for the class such as cleaning up all task materials before moving on to the first step of the next activity, identifying what items are needed (if traveling), etc. Take a look below to see all of the pages & feel free to email me (or comment on the post) with any questions or to clarify any of the tasks!

    Happy scheduling everyone :) ***Also, check out this FREEBIE in my TpT shop to help you create your own mini binder schedules!

    "Take Homes" - A New Resource for Reaching Out to Parents!

    I'm pretty excited about this! I have to say, this idea stemmed from a meeting with my OT (who is amazing) on Friday afternoon. We sat down to discuss the results of an assessment which had been sent home to parents in the beginning of the year regarding daily living and self help skills. Honestly, some of the parent ratings REALLY surprised me!

    I know that after 12 years in the field of special education teaching students with autism, I should not be alarmed by a lack of naturally occurring generalization across settings and people, but after working with many of the students in my current class for the past 4 years and seeing how independent they have become, I was shocked to see low ratings in some of the areas where they truly excel in school.

    This highlighted for me the need to increase the amount of communication, collaboration & training that I do with parents regarding ways to transfer skills to home. I wanted to share two ways I will begin to address this, in addition to (as always) providing parents with the opportunity for home visits, in which I conduct observations then provide individual training (for the student and family) & support.
    1. This year we are introducing more regular & formal Parent Training's. I am excited to begin this and I'm now pretty certain of my first topic (implementing hygiene & self care schedules in the home)! These trainings will be for small groups of parents who have similar training needs. For this first one, I anticipate that MANY of my kids' families would benefit, so I may either invite them all in for one training or do 2 half day trainings and split parents into 2 groups depending on the type of response I get when I reach out.

    2. This week, I am beginning to send home "Take Homes." These documents will serve to provide parents with detailed information based upon recent observations, changes in program, changes in behavior, etc.
    My plan is to describe what led to sending this document home (e.g., During our recent community based instruction outing to the mall, I accompanied your student on the escalator and noticed this is a big challenge for him. (Student) was very hesitant to get on and off of the escalator and his delays nearly resulted in an injury. He was very anxious during the short trip on the escalator and was holding a staff member's hand for comfort. From my observation, his fear was related to the movement of the floor/stairs, not specifically the heights.)

    Next, I want to provide some information about what to do in the home environment in order to support the student. If I am informing the parent of a newly mastered skill, I would explain how, when and where the skill can be used, what it looks like when the student performs the skill (what parents should expect to see), and what types of materials & other supports are needed to help the student perform the skill at home. Any additional guidelines & actual materials will be sent home on the day that the Take Home is sent home. If I am continuing with the example above, I would instead tell the parent what steps they can take to increase the student's comfort with using an escalator. This may include having the student watch slow motion videos of how to get on and off of an escalator, reading a social story, incorporating a model (one family member goes on first, he gets to watch, then goes on with a second support person), using reinforcement (naturalistic reinforcement would be best here... using an escalator to get to the food court or a highly preferred section of the store).

    Once these are sent home I plan to give the families a week or so to review the material, then will reach out to discuss if they would like to come in for training or feel they need more information/support to help their child.

    Here is a view of what the form will look like initially... I'm sure it'll change as I begin using it!:

    We all know that life skills are the most important skills we can teach to independence. AND that the student's actual home environment is the most important place for them to demonstrate that independence! I wish I had begun to do more of this sooner but am very hopeful that I'm moving in the right direction.
    I hope some of these ideas are helpful for your students as well!


    This Week in 206: Using Weekly Themes & Goals to Provide Training & Support for Classroom Staff

    Hey Guys! This is my second week back to school and I am excited to share my new approach to staff training this year. I tend to fall into the "we have no training time" trap and the extravagant plans I have for staff training fall to pieces as we scramble to put out fires in the little amount of time we do have set aside for meetings. This year, I am trying a new plan and I am VERY hopeful about it!

    The first thing I did was set up a Staff Information Station on a whiteboard near staff cubbies. There I have posted inspirational quotes, schedules, calendars & staff reminders for classroom expectations & strategies (download my Staff Strategies Cheat Sheets here). 
    This is what my Staff Information Station looked like during initial set up (It is now VERY full of information!).

    The next step in my plan is doing weekly theme based trainings for staff. Every Monday (or preferably Friday afternoon's before leaving!) I set up our This Week in 206 board in order to let staff know in advance what our weekly goal is, the reason why it is important, a few quick tips or reminders for getting started with implementation and an inspirational quote or statement related to the theme. I will be posting our Weekly Themes each week in hopes that it is beneficial for your classes (and that it motivates me to keep at it!) 
    This is our Week Two Theme (See more below)
    This week we are focusing on Fading Prompts from our classroom routines. Many of our routines are similar to last year's (and the year before!) Have we added new activities? Yes! However, overall things follow a similar format and there are visual supports in place for students to help them learn new/modified routines. Our first week back involved a LOT of prompting. Now that we are seeing some student initiation and success it is time to start systematically fading out our supports so that our students do not become dependent on them. Leaving prompts in place when they are no longer needed can create confusion for the student (Is the staff "prompt" actually a part of the task? Is it the new cue to perform the task? Can I do it on my own? Do I need permission to perform this skill?) and often leads to prompt dependence (in my experience). 

    Many of our classroom routines are taught as chains (a series of tasks, steps or skills which are linked together to perform the larger task). One common classroom routine which is taught as a chain is the Arrival Routine. This routine may include MANY steps - think... walk to classroom, greet teachers, greet peers, unpack backpack, put lunchbox away, put communication book away, put coat and backpack in cubby (or locker), write schedule, etc. When teaching chains, I often include some type of support which will remain in place after staff prompts have been eliminated and I typically use the Graduated Guidance prompting technique to use only as much prompting as needed. Graduated guidance is a prompting strategy used in Applied Behavior Analysis where staff prompting is increased and decreased immediately based upon moment to moment student performance. I often look at the data from the previous opportunity to see which steps the student seems to already understand as well as which ones he/she needs the most help with. This allows me to anticipate when I may need to move in with a prompt and when I can allow the student to attempt independence. This way I am making data based decisions to guide my prompting and ONLY PROMPTING WHEN NEEDED.

    So, this is our goal for the week - removing staff prompting as much as possible (only prompting when & how much the student needs) while still closely monitoring and tracking progress and, of course, providing lots of positive reinforcement for independence and student initiation. 

    I have said this so many times to my staff in the past and I think it is worthwhile to pass along to you as well: Our ultimate job is to ensure that our students do not need us to be here anymore! Independence is the most important achievement a student can make. Can we leave certain supports in place and have the student still be considered independent and successful? Yes! A visual schedule is a support the student can access without another person present. Hand over hand guidance or step by step verbal prompts (which are my biggest pet peeve and a whole other post for another day!) are socially mediated and so someone must be with the student, which does not allow for independence.

    Trust yourselves and your students, monitor for readiness, mentally prepare yourselves and your staff for what it feels like to take a step back & let your students shine!

    Have a great week everyone :)

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