Being a special educator is an amazing title that comes with lots of prep work and responsibility! There are just some resources that a special educator really needs to have in their classroom to help keep them organized, data-driven, and their students on track. Whether you are prepping your classroom for the back to school season
Here are 12 things special education teachers need for back to school:
1. A timer. These come in all shapes and sizes. My personal favorite is a visual timer that shows how much time has passed. These are just critical when you are timing a transition, a lesson, or during a student’s time out period. I like to have multiple timers all around the room. Encourage students to use them, too! It’s great to have kids timing themselves on how long an assignment will take or seeing if they can beat their past fluency rate.
2. A hanging file folder. Words cannot express how critical a hanging file folder can be! They are the perfect place to add folders with individual student names. I like to add any outstanding work, assessments to be finished, or important materials to go home to these files. Kids know when they walk in the door to check their files first. If there is anything in that file, it is a “do now”. Hanging file folders are also a great place to store reflection sheets, goal pages, homework logs, or any other resources you’re going to need frequently.
3. Extra pencils. I mean LOTS of extra pencils. Buy so many you think you will never use them and then stockpile them in a cabinet. You will probably be out by halfway through the year!
4. Magnetic tape. This stuff is the best for putting posters, index cards, artwork, and more up on your board. I personally love making an index card for each class I teach and then putting it up on the board with magnetic taper. Underneath, I’ll list the expectations and plans for the day in that class. These are great because you can use them over and over throughout the years.
5. Coping strategies notebooks. These are extremely helpful for kids with emotional challenges. A coping strategies notebook is just a binder with individualized coping strategies inside for each student. Kids can develop their notebooks with the help of an adult and use it on their own in times of stress. Use this free coping strategies notebook to get started with one in your classroom.
6. A craft bin. Add any assorted craft materials and add them to a bin or cabinet in your classroom. You just never know when a project is going to require popsicle sticks, shoe boxes, or yarn. As a special ed teacher, I end up saving everything for that one time I might need it. It comes in really handy when you do!
7. Books. A classroom library really should have a bunch of books. As a special educator, you are going to need many different levels to meet the needs of your students. Consider asking your friends and family member to donate any old childrens or teens books that they have. My first year, I was very lucky to have a friend set up donation bins at their work and church for me. I ended up bringing about ten big boxes of books into school completely free. If that’s not an option, consider checking out tag sales or sales at your local library for some deals.
8. A binder for every student. I love to use reflection binders to help kids chart their progress over time. It’s important that every student has their own individual binder to store their goals, progress, charts, data, and anything they are proud of and what to keep throughout the year.
9. Alternative seating options. In the past I’ve used mini-rugs, exercise balls, bean bags, beach chairs, and wiggle stools. Kids just love having the option to sit a different way. This is especially important for kids with ADHD. While some seating options can be on the expensive side, you don’t have to go broke to invest in some seating options in your classroom. Many options exist at your local dollar store or discount store.
10. Progress monitoring sheets. Every special ed teacher needs a simple and easy way to take data. Use these free progress monitoring sheets to print, fill out, and clip to clipboards. This makes them easily accessible for you or a paraprofessional to utilize and fill out data throughout the day. If you need an even easier solution, use these editable progress monitoring forms to copy and paste your students’ goals into, print, and go.
11. A reward system. The options are really endless with reward systems. You can choose whether you want a classwide behavior system or reward systems that are more individually based. This might also depend on your age/grade level. I’ve found that the best reward systems are developed WITH your students. That means involving them on how they can earn points or classroom currency and having a class discussion for what types of rewards can be earned. The best types of rewards are really free: listening to music, a half homework pass, lunch with a friend, taking a walk, leading the class, and a free time pass.
12. Task cards. I love task cards because you can get them on any subject you need. They’re so helpful in the special education classroom because you can have students working on different sets of activities with task cards simultaneously. They are small and can fit in a folder or bin for safe keeping. It’s helpful to have a variety of task cards on subjects like reading comprehension, vocabulary, social skills, writing, math, and even study skills.
What else do you think special educators must have in their classroom? Let me know!