This was my first year in an intellectual disabilities program. I've learned a lot, and I did a lot of learning on my feet. I planned lessons I did for years in general education classes, only to find that I had to adapt, and adapt, and adapt some more to make them work. I tried things that flopped and tried things that kind of worked and finally settled on teaching methods that worked for me and the kids.
Here's my starting list of things I need to improve for next year:
- Intentional time on "learning to learn behaviors", particularly "quiet hands". I had a student transfer into our class in January and I was much more deliberate in teaching him how to wait and not touch materials than I was with the other children. Next year I'm going to plan activities or plan to work one on one with students to intentionally teach not touching materials, waiting for instructions, etc.
- Following my new writing workshop structure from the beginning. It took me a long time to settle on a writing workshop structure that worked for my kids. I love Lucy Calkins and Katie Wood Rae. I LOVE writing workshop. Giving up the structure I was used to using in general education was hard, but in the end my kids are making more progress now that I've adapted my structure. Now I do more of a center style writing workshop, and kids that are able to use that time for free writing go to a free writing center. At this point in the year more kids can do free writing since I changed the structure.
- Be more deliberate in inclusion. I think we did fairly well with inclusion this year, but I think we can do better. I want to spend a lot of time before school starts looking at ways we can include students with their gen ed peers and then planning how we're going to work on getting them there from day 1.
- Change how I store materials- this year I didn't want my kids to have free access to pencils, crayons, etc (see number 1 change for next year) so I kept baskets empty and put the supplies they'd need inside them before the activities. It worked occasionally but lent itself to being disorganized. To work it needed heightened organization, which just isn't possible on the fly.
- How I organize my work table. I set it up how I used my table in past years, but this didn't transfer over to this class. I need to change how easily I can access materials while teaching.
- Better organization of my math centers earlier in the year. Halfway through the year I took time to file my math games and really organize them. It's been a life saver. I want to spend a lot of time organizing them this summer so I start the year knowing where all my games are.
- Being more upfront with how I want the class run with my aides and other teachers in the room. This year I didn't know what I wanted so I'd often find myself thinking "why isn't anyone doing this" and then I'd realize that I hadn't actually told anyone what my vision was.
- Including parents on my weekly notes to all service providers. I spend a lot of time writing an email to all the teachers who work with my students so that they know what prompts we're using, what language we're using, what behavior plans we're starting and what we're teaching. There isn't any reason I can't include parents on this.
- Have a re-telling Board Maker answer chart set up from the beginning so that I have generic answers to questions like "who", "what", "where", "when", including distractors.
- Actually post on my class blog and make it a living part of the classroom. I had that intention this year. Next year it will actually happen...