Color Coded Centers

Wednesday, March 14, 2018
I have almost completed my first year as an Early Childhood Special Education teacher. I taught the older grades in the years prior to this one. In regards to teaching your little ones (or bigger ones) how to use visual schedules and transition cards, one of the biggest tips I can give you is to color code your classroom!



It's SO simple!

1. Determine what areas you want to have in your classroom. For example, I have various areas in my classroom: the library, the whole group area, the direct instruction area, the math table, the reading table, the art table, the sensory table, the social skills area, and the play zone.

2. Assign each area in your classroom a color. For example, the library could be the yellow zone, the whole group area could be the white zone, the direct instruction area could be the blue zone, etc.

3. Set-up a visual color system for your students. This will include color coded schedule icons and color coded signs. The color coded schedule icons will go on your student's schedules. The color coded signs will be posted at each center with velcro attached so that your students can match their schedule icon to the appropriate center. This allows your students to practice matching colors throughout their instructional day. I have also included shapes with my system so that my students can be practicing colors and shapes throughout their day. Check out my transition color coded system here.  For all of my other schedule icon needs (i.e. recess, snack, bathroom, sensory room, etc.), I use Christine Reeve's Autism Pre-K- Elementary Classroom Visual Bundle

4. Go all out! Color coding the areas of your room, especially your center areas, provides your students with the extra visual supports that they may need to distinguish one area from another.  Use color coordinated bulletin board paper. Use color coordinated hanging lanterns. I bought some from Amazon that I love. You can purchase them here. Use color coordinated binders. This helps you and your staff remember which data binder belongs to which table.


Google Classroom in Special Education Classrooms

Sunday, February 25, 2018
As a special education teacher, I use Google Classroom daily in my classroom to organize my technological resources. I also use it as a lesson planning tool to help me remember the key concepts and ideas that I want to cover each day in my classroom. I have used Google Classroom for the past three years and cannot imagine a day without it. It also makes having a sub a breeze!

  • You must have a gmail account to set-up a Google Classroom. After setting up your gmail account, go to https://classroom.google.com so that you can begin setting up your Google Classroom.
  • Click on the + in the top right hand corner to create a new classroom. 

  • Select "Create class."


  • If you are not using your school gmail account, the above notice will pop up. Follow the instructions and links to set-up a G Suite for Education if you will be allowing your students to access your Google Classroom. Once your G Suite for Education is set-up, you can begin adding links and documents to your google classroom. 



  • Name your class. 



  • Decorate your class. You can choose a theme or upload your own image. 



  • Begin uploading your technological resources for your classroom. Click on "Create assignment" and then title it based on classroom activity (i.e. Circle Time #1, Quiet Time, Circle Time #2, etc.)







  • You can add attachments from your computer, items from your google drive, youtube videos, or other links. 

    • Once all my links are posted, I click "Add class comment" and add notes to myself for each day so that I remember what I want to include in that activity each day. This prevents me from having to carry around my lesson plan book all day. 



    Here is an example of a Google Classroom that is set-up for an Early Childhood Special Education Classroom.






    10 Must Have Items for Differentiation

    Friday, July 28, 2017



    DIFFERENTIATION: It is a word we hear all the time in the education world. Special education teachers live, breathe, and preach the importance of differentiation in their classroom. Additionally, general education teachers are constantly being challenged to differentiate the curriculum they are using to meet the needs of ALL of their students. Teachers are left wondering, how do we actually differentiate worksheets and classroom curriculum? What materials are helpful in the differentiation process? I will be sharing some of the differentiation techniques that I use in my moderate to severe classroom over the next couple of weeks. Today, I am sharing some of my favorite items that you can purchase from, yes you guessed it, Amazon! These items will make the differentiation process go smoother and will make it more fun for you and your students! 

    1. Crayola Markers:

    I use these markers for differentiation and color coding in my classroom DAILY. The tropical set is my favorite because they are so much fun! On a completely separate note, my students will work for the privilege of using these markers at my center. 



    2. Paint Dotters:

    These are awesome for non-writers. They assist with hand-eye-coordination, attention skills, and even fine motor skills. Many of my students that do not tolerate holding a pencil or crayon, will tolerate holding and using these. 


    3. Number and Letter Stamps:
    (*can be purchased separately, but it is cheeper to buy together) 

    Again, I use these for my non-writers. Instead of using a pencil to answer their math problems, they use these stamps. These are also awesome for math worksheets, spelling worksheets and tests, and for practicing names. 




    4. Stamp pads:

    You cannot use stamps without a stamp pad. These are my favorite. They are washable and do not dry out! There are lots of different colors that you can purchase. 



    5. Finger crayons:

    These are good for students with poor fine motor skills. Instead of grasping the crayon they place them on their fingers to color. 



    6. Highlighters:

    These are a MUST have in my classroom! I like this type of highlighter because it has a chisel tip. I place these at all of the centers in my classroom. These are used for students that can trace letters and numbers, but cannot write independently yet. These are also used for additional visual prompting for cutting. 



    7. Adaptive scissors:

    These are my favorite adaptive scissors. The spring can be slid into the scissors, making them open easily during use, or the spring can be slid out of the scissors, making them a normal pair of scissors. I make sure I have a set of these at every table in my classroom. 




    8. Laminator

    Some students benefit from laminated and velcroed pages and activities. This is my favorite laminator. I have two-one for home and one for school. 



    9. Lamination sheets

    These are my favorite lamination sheets. 



    10. Custom Name Stamp

    These are amazing for non-writers. My students love being able to stamp their name on their paper. I would suggest asking for $10 from each parent at the beginning of the school year to buy these stamps. Explain that the stamp will go with them to the next class/will be sent home at the end of his/her time with you. I recommend this stamp because it is self-inking, making it super convenient to use. 




    8 Steps to Creating an Interactive PDF

    Saturday, April 29, 2017
    As many of you know, I have recently become a huge fan of creating and using interactive PDFs for my students to use in my classroom. I love that I can create a personalized activity for my students that requires no additional prep. Additionally, my students really enjoy these activities because they can be used on the computer and iPad. I have had so many people ask me how I create these interactive PDFs. Today, I am finally sharing my simple tutorial for creating interactive PDFs. Creating interactive PDFs is very simple, but it is very time consuming! If you have additional questions, you can email me at delightfullydedicatedspecialed@gmail.com.



    1. Create your activity using powerpoint




    2. Save the powerpoint as a PDF





    3. Open the file in Adobe Acrobat  


    4. Go to "Tools" and Select "Edit PDF"





    5. Select "Links" and then Select "Add/Edit Document Links" from the drop down options



    6.  Draw a box with your cursor around the item/area of the page that you want to be linked. A pop up window will open. Make sure that "Go to page view" is selected under "Link Action."  Select "Next."







    7. A pop up window will open giving instructions. Go to the page that you would like the item/area of the page that you selected to be linked to. Once you are on the page that you want it to be linked to, select "Set link."





    8. Continue steps 6-7 for the remaining links that you would like to add


    TIP:  Place your cursor towards the bottom of the page. Select multi page view so that you can see 3+ pages on the side. This makes it easier to navigate from one page to the next. 







    Check out my interactive PDFs here


    6 Steps to Mix Up Your Calendar Routine

    Tuesday, March 28, 2017
    Towards the middle of this school year, I realized that I needed to mix up my Calendar routine. Sadly, my calendar routine had become stagnant and boring. I was just going through the motions. Once I realized that, I began my journey to find activities and strategies that would be more effective, engaging, and hands-on for my students. With the help of some exciting products from fellow special education teachers and the creation of some new products, I was able to come up with a routine that is effective and fun. My students, staff, and I no longer dread my calendar time. 

    What does my calendar routine consist of?

    -Check-In
    -Calendar
    -Menu
    -Weather Report
    -Flag Salute
    -Check Out


    Here are 6 simple steps to creating a more engaging and fun calendar time: 

    1. Include an Engaging Check-In PowerPoint or Interactive PDF

    My students start each day by determining "who is here today," greeting each other, writing or typing their name on the board, singing the "Goodmorning Song", and spinning in my chair (yes, I let them spin in my special desk chair). I used to have a powerpoint presentation with all of my students' names on it. I would modify it a bit for each student depending on their skill level. Some students would write their name, others would trace their name. Through time, I came up with my Check-In Interactive PDF.  My students come to the board each morning, select their name, state if they are here today (yes or no), choose a way to greet their classmates, and choose to either type their name or write their name. When it comes to writing their name on the board, I have each of my students write their name in a way that is appropriate for them. Up until yesterday, I actually sold these CUSTOM Check-In Interactive PDFs in my store, but I have realized that they take a very long time to make and customize. Now I just have a Basic Check-In Interactive PDF in my store that you can purchase here. It is not customizable or personalized, but it is a fun way to get your students' involved in your morning attendance/check-in. 







    2. Brainstorm Engaging Calendar Routines and Mix Yours Up Sometimes

    This school year, I decided to go paperless with my calendar routine. I no longer have a large calendar, magnets, icons, or random pieces on a bulletin board in my classroom that takes up a ton of wall space. I simply use my laptop and projector during our calendar time. Up until about a month ago, I used the Unique Learning System interactive calendar and weather activities, but then Autism Adventures created her AMAZING Interactive PDF Calendar. The calendar has been a game changer in my classroom, especially because it utilizes Boardmaker symbols that correlate to my AAC devices and communication boards. I love that I can access my calendar at anytime during the day and that I do not have to worry about resetting my calendar pieces each month. Plus, now I have extra wall space for other fun activities and student work display! You can purchase Autism Adventures' Interactive Calendar here. 

    3. Focus on Communication 

    My main focus for my calendar time is COMMUNICATION. My calendar routine is repetitive and consistent for my students. With that said, it is a perfect time for my students to practice using their words and their communication devices. I prompt EVERY student in my class to communicate with me during our calendar time in whatever way is appropriate for them. EVERY student says what day it is, EVERY student says what month it is, EVERY student says what the date is. We spend time on this because it is important for me to teach my students how to use their voices and to learn how to use AAC devices for functional uses. We use our voice, a GoTalk, and an iPad with Dynavox Compass installed on it during this time. Like I said, the AAC visuals correlate perfectly with the interactive calendar that we use. 

    4. Incorporate Visual Menus 

    I create a visual lunch menu each month using pictures so that my students can be more independent while reading the menu each day. My students love being able to read the menu, point to their favorite foods, and see what is for lunch the next day. If this is something that you would like to do in your classroom, I have created Visual Calendar Templates. Simply open the PDF or powerpoint document and insert the photos into the appropriate calendar boxes. Type the name of the food item into the calendar box. You can also use the Visual Calendar Templates for marking holidays, special school events, and birthdays. You can purchase my Visual Calendar Templates (March 2017-July 2018) here



    5. Highlight One Student or a Group of Students Daily during the Video Weather Report

    After we have reviewed our calendar, menu, and weather, I select one student to give the weather report. This student comes to the front of the classroom, stands in front of the board, and gives the weather report using either his/her voice or an appropriate AAC device. I videotape the student giving the weather report and sometimes throw in other questions (what are we having for lunch? what day is it? etc.). I use one of the classroom iPads to record the student. After their report is finished, they head back to their desk, I connect the iPad to the Apple TV, and I play their report for the entire class to watch. My students LOVE being the weatherman or weather-woman for the day! You can read more about the technology that I use in my classroom here. NOTE: if you are planning on doing this in your classroom, make sure to get parent permission to videotape your students. I use Hailey Deloya's permission slips and modify them as needed. You can download them for free here

    6. Include an Engaging Check-Out Routine 

    My students end each day by answering two questions: 1) how did you feel today? and 2) what was your favorite part of the day?, spinning in my desk chair, and receiving their token economy reward for the day. My students then are prompted through four steps of lining up: 1) stand up, 2) push in your chair, 3) get your backpack, and 4) line up! I have created an interactive PDF to help with this. The last 15 minutes of our day used to be the most difficult part of the day, but that is no longer the case! You can purchase my Check-Out Interactive PDF here. 







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