Are you a new special education teacher? Is your head spinning with a never ending list of things you need to do to prep your classroom? Let me help! I was in your shoes not too long ago, and I am ready to give you some tips I’ve learned along the way. I have 5 classroom hacks for new special education teachers.
Classroom Hack #1: Make a Classroom Schedule
A functioning classroom schedule is one of the most important pieces of a successful special education classroom. I use a zoning plan in my classroom so each staff member in my classroom knows what responsibilities they have all day. You can read more about my zoning plans in my blog post here.
When I’m writing my zoning plan in the beginning of the year, I always plan my non-negotiables first. For example, I plan for inclusion minutes, lunch, special area, recess, staff lunch and breaks first. Once I have those things built into my schedule, I can start plugging in the other components of my schedule. You will have to change your schedule a hundred times before you are happy with it, and that is okay! Having a working schedule that you can tweak as needed will help your classroom run much more smoothly.
Classroom Hack #2: Organize IEPs
My second classroom hack for new special education teachers is to organize your students’ IEP and information. I like to keep a binder for each student with their IEP, personal information, progress monitoring data, work samples, and much more. Having a binder for each student has made it simple for me to keep all my paperwork and student information organized. Having a student binder also gives you easy access to your students’ IEPs and personal information for reference whenever you need it.
I also send home a student information sheet at the beginning of the year for the parents to complete and return. You can find the forms I use at the Simply Special Ed Shop! I put the filled out forms in the student’s binder for quick reference whenever needed.
Classroom Hack #3: Make an IEP Calendar
This classroom hack is a big one! Go through all of your IEPs and evaluations, then make yourself a calendar of all your deadlines and meetings. I make a calendar in the beginning of the year with all my students’ IEP and evaluation due dates, and I schedule all my meetings for the year. Scheduling all my meetings in the beginning of the year saves a world of headache and stress throughout the year. Put your IEP and evaluation calendar somewhere where you will look at it often so you stay on top of your meetings and you’re prepared every time.
I have one more bonus hack for you for IEP meetings. Use a portfolio folder (affiliate link) with several pockets and label each pocket with various paperwork you will need for your meeting. For example, pocket one is meeting agenda and parent rights paperwork, pocket two is member excusal forms, pocket three is progress monitoring data, pocket four is evaluation paperwork, pocket five is draft IEP, and so on. I got this hack from my best teacher friend, and I have never gone a meeting without it since!
Classroom Hack #4: Establish Progress Monitoring Data System
Progress monitoring is the name of our game in special ed. My next classroom hack I have for you is my favorite. IEP goal bins are a fundamental part of my special education classroom. In my IEP goal bins, I gather and organize materials needed to track each objective on the IEP. Then, I make an instruction sheet on how to use the materials to track each objective. I also have data sheets on the student’s clipboard that accompanies their IEP goal bin. The objectives and instructions are also labeled on the data sheets for fool proof data collection. You can find the data sheets I use here. I could talk for days about how much I love my IEP goal bins. To read more about how I set them up, go read my blog post here. You can also watch a me setting up an IEP goal bin in a video here!
Classroom Hack #5: Plan a Communication System with Families
My last classroom hack for new special education teachers is to plan how you will communicate regularly and effectively with parents. I like using daily communication logs. They are simple to fill out, give lots of information, and give a quick opportunity for communication between families and teacher daily. Communication with parents and families is so important, so pick a system that is easy for you to use regularly. Daily communication logs are easiest for me to use because I print as many as I need at the beginning of the year, put them in each student’s home-to-school binder, then they are ready for the year. I am all about a simple, meaningful special ed hack. You can read more about how I communicate with parents in my blog post here!
What are your favorite classroom hacks for new special education teachers? All our veteran teachers, what other classroom hacks do you have for our new teachers? I was a new teacher just a few years ago, so I know how overwhelming it can feel to be a new teacher. I hope these classroom hacks help you feel more equipped to rock your special education classroom!
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Michael Smith says
Very Impressive Content!
Whitney Kaiser says
Thank you for reading! I’m so glad you liked this post!