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?

-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. 


March Task Box Activities for Special Education Classrooms

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Can you believe that we are already three days into March? It seems like I was just blogging about my February task boxes. As many of you know, in hopes of keeping my students engaged and learning new skills, I center my task boxes around monthly themes. We had so much fun with our February task boxes, which you can look at here, but now it's time to say goodbye and welcome in March. With only six students in my classroom currently, I have a ten task box system in my classroom. You can check out my task box system here. I typically use the following formula when setting up my task box rotation each month: three math (various levels), three ELA (various levels), and four fine motor. I usually have a few extra prepared so that I can rotate them in as needed. I then assign each student one math box at his/her level, one ELA box at his/her level, and 1 fine motor task at his/her level. I have learned that I can find many appropriate FREE tasks just by doing a simple Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers search, but I always create a few myself as well. This month, I am sharing some of my favorites that I found while searching. Simply click on the title of the task box activity to be taken to the website/store where you can download and view an amazing product for FREE!

1. St. Patrick's Day Beginning Sound Match by Playdough to Plato 

2. Shamrock CVCe Puzzles by Playdough to Plato

3. Easter Egg CVCe Puzzles by The Kindergarten Connection

4. St. Patrick's Day Vocabulary Clothespin Task by Shining STARS Special Education

1. St. Patricks Day Math Sort (Numbers 1-10) from Mrs Ps Specialities 

2. Rainbow Sorting Coins Activity from Spinner's End Primary School

4. Eggs Visual Addition Matching  from Heidi Songs

5. St. Patrick's Day Ten Frames from Michelle Breaux

6. St. Patrick's Day Count and Clip Cards from Shining STARS Special Education

1. Easter Egg Color Match from Child Care Land Pre-K

2. Pom Pom Egg Crate Sort  from Burbuja de Lenguaje 

3. Easter Egg Match from Makes and Takes 

ALSO.... I do admit that I have fallen in love with a few PAID products! I LOVE LOVE LOVE Autism Adventures' Interactive Bulletin Board Set for task box activities. With each month, there are two themes, which means I can easily switch out my boxes every two weeks. Additionally, each month focuses on very similar skills, which means my students can work on the basic skills that they still need to master on while being INDEPENDENT.

I also LOVE Simple Special Ed's Vocabulary Binders. I have the students work on the vocabulary matching during our task box rotation to mix things up. The students first focus on matching picture to picture and then move on to matching picture to word. I even use her flashcards as a matching task as shown in the picture blow. 

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