Monday, February 19, 2018

Paraprofessional Instructional Areas

One thing I struggled with my first year of teaching in special education was figuring out what to do with the staff in my room. You know a lot more about what you want to do with your students and they definitely prepare you better in college for that. To be honest, I never had a professor even MENTION what it would be like to work with paraprofessionals in college.

Image result for teach love autism
The one thing I knew I needed was something for those adults to do and of course I needed a schedule. So I created one just like I do for my students and in a lot of ways since I have my stuff work directly with my students at least once a day it looks very similar.

Another thing I took into account was I have over the course of the last five years have had one para that has been with me the whole time and then the other position has changed people four times! This is something that can be very tricky when you have a high turnover rate! I don't think I need to get into those details but, my point here is that you sometimes have to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the people you are working with so you can get the best out of them. We all like to do something we are good at or know that we can accomplish.

 So, I first started with very easy tasks for my staff and at the beginning of the year they have to assist teaching students how to independently complete work task boxes. All this meant was that they had to observe the student and let us know if it was something that they could complete independently and I had them take DATA! Yes, this is something you want to get your staff used to doing right away!
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After that was done it helped me understand some of the skills that my staff had especially if they were new staff. Then I was able to determine some tasks that they could do and here are some ideas of things that I have had staff do as their own run station in the classroom. These have all worked well depending on the person that was running it.

The biggest thing to understand is that you are going to have to train your staff. You cannot just give them a task and say "Go for it!". They cannot read your mind and you can't imagine they will know exactly how you want things done. This doesn't mean that you are bossy either. You need to be confident that you are the person running this classroom and  that you know what is best for your students.

Fluency Station:

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(credit: The Autism Helper)
This station was inspired by The Autism Helper. I cannot take credit for this station but, I have found that every person that has run it in my classroom has been able to do it successfully. It is probably why I have had it in my classroom every year. It allows you to work on soooo many skills but in a discrete trial way and you get tons of DATA!! I take flashcards like the ones above. Some are fancy, some are homemade and I have my para run through them and take data. It really is a great set up! I utilize the IRIS storage cases (4 of them to be exact) and I then assign a color to each student and that is their bins with their materials inside. I also have a binder with tabs where my paraprofessional keeps the data!

Binderwork Station:
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This is not fancy AT ALL! Literally it's binders with worksheets that students can work on and I just create a schedule for what the para pulls from to work on. You can put anything in these from math facts, handwriting, comprehension, and more! I have included Edmark materials, Unique Learning Systems  worksheets and more!

Work Task Practice:

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I always want my students to increase their independence and when it comes to work tasks that is the goal! So I have had times where my students work with a paraprofessional on work tasks that would normally would be too difficult for them to complete on their own. I have them picked out so that the paras can work with the student and try to get them to that independent stage and eventually take that task and add it to their work task time because they can do it on their own. It makes sense that the only way my students will build the skills that they can do independently is if they work on them!

Life Skills/Hygiene Practice:
I have had paraprofessionals work with students on different life skills activities that they need for everyday practice. These things would be folding clothes, hanging clothes, matching socks, vacuuming, wiping down tables, and other tasks that might be more of a vocational type task. I have also had students work on their hygiene skills with a para where they help read social stories and work on things like washing their hands, washing their face, brushing their teeth, combing their hair, and more! These students needed the practice and having something to model for them is just what they needed! 

Writing Station:
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This station was centered all around writing and handwriting depending on the students level. I had my OT work really hard with the staff that ran this station so that they had the basic background information on what we wanted when working with students on their handwriting and this helped tremendously! I had my para work with students on the Handwriting Without Tears materials and also incorporated some fine motor activities for her to do as well. When it came to my students that didn't need the handwriting instruction I would have my para work on them writing words, sentences and beyond. I would have my para work with those students on expanding their sentences, and answering questions in sentences.

With all this said, I could not do what I do in my classroom every single day if it was not for the paraprofessionals in my classroom. They are the backbone that keep things running so that I can do my job. Without them, I wouldn't be able to accomplish what I do with my students. I am so thankful for the work that they put in and I am so thankful that they value educating our students the way that they do!

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