Tis the season. :-) For once I actually got a summer break since my cooperative cut our summer days and hours in half. I've enjoyed the "forced" vacation and have had a blast spending it with my daughter and our foster son. All good things must come to an end, however, and it's time to start thinking about organizing for the coming school year.
Things will be a bit different in my room this year. Four of my five school-based students will be at the high school level. That means we need to think about how high school will look different than middle school for them. Four of my seven total students will be taking state assessments this year. That means we need to maintain a strong focus on academics. Not to mention that we have access to three curricula: Equals for math, ALL for reading, and Unique/News-2-You for science and social studies. Since we spent the money to get them, we should probably use them, huh? haha Seriously, I'm looking forward to having the structure of curriculum to work with instead of constantly flying by the seat of my pants.
Last year community outings were pretty much limited to a grocery shopping trip once per week for a couple of kids, a group outing once per week, and one student who had community based jobs or other training every day. We had planned to go swimming every week as well, sending two students each time on an alternating schedule. For a variety of reasons that just didn't work last year but we are hoping for a better outcome this year. Outings happened rather randomly during the day, which made scheduling classroom activities challenging. This year I want to push the majority of outings to the afternoon, leaving the mornings for academics and other classroom activities. Students not going into the community will work on vocational, therapy, and other activities.
I will also be adjusting Morning Meeting to be a little more streamlined and with higher participation expectations from the students. I'm planning for each student to have a binder or other display where they can record answers to questions targeted to their individual needs. I haven't quite figured out how this will work yet but am aiming for Morning Meeting to take about 15 minutes to cover topics such as day, date, month, season, holidays plus one Question of the Day (we've been using an adapted version of the game Would You Rather...) or other voting opportunity so we can work with data.
Our day should look something like this:
7:30: early staff arrive and start set up
7:40: students arrive; put away belongings; choice of breakfast (for those who need it) or peer buddies (can choose hallway, gym, music videos, music); peers go to class a couple of minutes before 8:00
8:15: late staff arrive; bathroom/hygiene, reposition; "check in" activities (still working on)
8:30: Morning Meeting
8:45: Group instruction (Monday: Reading (novel study); Tuesday: Math (Equals); Wednesday: Science/Social Studies (Unique/News-2-You); Thursday (open; group community day); Friday: Game
9:15: Overlap time (in case we are running behind); bathroom, reposition; drinks, small snack
9:30: Rotations: students will have two 30 minute rotations per day for individual and/or small group programming. Monday: Math/Science-Social Studies; Tuesday: Reading/Science-Social Studies; Wednesday: Reading/Math; Thursday: sensory/leisure (for those not going into community); Friday: Make up work/SLP-PT
10:30: Break (leisure choices), positions, bathroom, lunch prep
11:00: Lunch (4 students prepare their own lunches, 1 is tube fed) and Leisure choices
12:00: Vocational and Daily Living Skills/Community outings (1-3 students per day except Thursday)
2:15: All groups return to school; bathroom, home prep
2:30: Departures begin; early staff leave; late staff prep for next day and do clean up
My oldest school-based student also has two morning commitments per week. He goes to the Skill Development Center one day per week to work on daily living and vocational skills he can't work on in our classroom. He also helps do some tasks for the classroom like binding books, laminating, etc. We are also looking for a volunteer opportunity for him in the community. In the past he has worked at the school library (helping to check in and shelve books, where he was very successful) and the local public library (they only allowed him to dust shelves; not a successful experience for him as he grew bored quickly); he also volunteered briefly at a local food pantry (where they only allowed him to pull empty hangers off of racks). I'm hoping either the public library in his home town (nearby) will let him do more or that we can find a food pantry that is open during the day at least one day per week that will let him do more. This student is capable of quite a lot and would be highly successful in any job with repetitive motor tasks like shelving books, filling bins, stocking shelves, fetching and carrying, etc.
That's it for now. I have a bunch of other plans floating through my head like starting a small classroom-based business (making decorative candles), Coffee Shop with some peers from another special education program in another district, Circle of Friends opportunities, and oh so many other things.
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