Wednesday, September 20, 2017


I've received several questions lately so I thought I would share them here.  If you have questions, you can leave them in the comments or email me at lifeinspecialeducation(at)gmail(dot)com.

Question:  I have a kindergarten student who is struggling with waiting his turn.  He gets mad when I call on other students.  He only wants to be a partner with one student in the class.  He refuses to work with any other student other than the one preferred peer.  He also has poor fine motor skills and a very weak pencil grasp.  How can I help him be more successful in the classroom?

1.  Answering questions/waiting his turn to talk- Create a visual for the board.  Use a flat magnet that is red on one side and green on the other side.  Place 5 of these magnets on the board.  Explain to the student that these are his question tickets.  When he answers a question or volunteers a story, turn one magnet from green to red.  When he runs out of tickets, he cannot answer any more questions.  Since this is a kindergarten, the question tickets should be reset for each instructional block/subject.  Give the student ownership of his question tickets and have him reset the tickets to green before each new subject.

2.  Partner with non-preferred peers- To help student work with a variety of peers, have him work with preferred peer along with another peer.  This will help the student get used to working with others.  If he refuses to include the third peer, use "first, then."  First you will work with the assigned partner, then you will get to choose your own partner for the next activity.  If the student knows that he will get to work with his friend, he will be more willing to tolerate other peers to get what he wants in the end.

3.  Fine motor- First, only use the "fat" pencils/crayons/markers.  If the student does not use a tripod grasp, give the student only short pencils that are no longer than 3-4 inches.  The short pencil forces the student to hold the pencil using a tripod grasp.  Once the student begins to use a tripod grasp regularly, you can transition him to use longer pencils.  This particular student does use a tripod grasp, but the grasp is so weak that if he were to lift the pencil off of the paper, the pencil would fall out of his hand.  Try to figure out if the student has a sensory issue of how the pencil feels when writing on paper.  If this is the issue, a mechanical pencil may help.  If not, the student may need a weighted pencil.  You can make your own weighted pencil by adding a metal nut to the end of the pencil.  (Put a little duct tape over it to keep it secure.)  You can also work on strengthening his hand muscles by having find small objects in putty.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Secret to Teaching

 Teaching is hard.  We all know that.  But what makes some teachers succeed while others fail?

The answer is probably much simpler than you may think.  It's relationships.  Teachers who take the time and effort to create meaningful relationships with their students are the teachers who are successful.  Relationships take a lot of time and hard work especially for our more difficult students, but relationships make all the difference in the world.  A student is more likely to trust an adult who takes the time to get to know them and who finds positive qualities in them.  Students are more likely to keep trying when they are frustrated, accept consequences, and calm down when upset or angry when they have a relationship with a trusting adult.  For many of our students, they have few, if any, relationships with adults and have no idea how to interact with others.

How do you create a meaningful relationship with your students?

1.  Get to know them.  I know we are busy and we have to cover the curriculum, so when do we get to know our students?  It really only takes a minute or two each day.  Every week choose 1 or 2 students to spend 2 minutes with them.  You need to ask them questions about themselves and share information about yourself.  You can also sit with them at lunch.  Kids love to have extra attention at lunch.  This is also a very low threat for students because it is a social situation instead of an academic setting.

2. Be silly.  Students like to tell jokes and trick the teacher.  Be willing to walk right into a student's joke.  This shows the students that you are human and you are not perfect.  Students love to laugh.  Find a way to laugh with them.  It's ok to laugh at yourself.  Your students will love to see you as a real person.

3.  Be willing to apologize.  When you mess up, apologize.  If you make a mistake, apologize.  I know it sounds simple, but students rarely get the opportunity to see you as a person.  If you are willing to apologize to a student when you mess up, they are more likely to apologize when they mess up.

4.  Talk to them.  Make an effort to talk to each of your students every single day.  It only takes a few seconds to say good morning and ask them how their night was.  Compliment them and notice when they come to school with a new haircut or new clothes.

5.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.  If you tell a student you are going to do something, do it.  If life happens and you can't follow through, tell the student and apologize.  When you treat a student with kindness and respect, they are more likely to return kindness and respect to you.  If you dish out a consequence when you are angry and you later realize it's unfair/unnecessary, talk to the student and apologize for reacting out of anger.  Tell them you overreacted and that xyz is a more fair consequence.

The bottom line, talk to your students and get to know them for who they are.  Celebrate what makes them amazing.  You kids will thank you for it.  

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