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5 To-Do's for "Back-to-School"

It's that time of year! In kicking off a successful year, teachers and therapists are investing time in planning a learning environment with respect, relationships, and rules. All students must feel safe, yet we must be prepared for their differing levels of trust. Some students jump right in seeking to explore while others may have reservations. For example, children with sensory needs may be fearful of specific stimuli like noises or textures. There are some specific things we can do as educators and therapists to prepare our learning space for the year ahead, and LessonPix can help!  

  1. ORGANIZE: The learning environment must not be too cluttered or over stimulating, yet inviting and enjoyable. This balance must be driven by what you know about incoming students, and shifted accordingly. The layout organization of your space requires time and thought to promote positive behaviors for learning. Just think how many stores invest big money and resources to layout their inventory. The environment truly can support or hinder learning. Start your year by considering the flow of the layout and make clearly defined spaces.

    • Label items on shelves, color code if you’d like for clarity. Picture Card or Picture and Word Cards make it easy to show a word and picture. E-mail photos from your phone or tablet to use on your labels rather than clip art.

    • Make spaces for students' personal belongings to help students take ownership of "their classroom" or "their speech room", rather than just a visitor to your room. Label with name, photos, and/or symbols. 

    • Establish a sign in area for students as they enter and/or leave the room. 

    • Create task boxes and/or space for independent work. Label with menus and list templates to clarify instructions.

    • If you are using a core board, integrate core words to label the room: open the door, turn on lights, look out window, etc.  

  2. PREPARE SCHEDULES: If students are to give you their time, they need to trust that it will be put to good use. Students benefit from knowing what is expected of them and that they will have opportunities for their preferred tasks. Sometimes we cannot predict exactly the schedule when we start, but we can take time to be ready with visuals. 

  3. DEVELOP COMMUNICATION: Plan for ways to communicate with the students and their parents. Remember, communication is a two-way street, so students and parents need a way to respond. 

    • Make spaces for communication with students. For example, create visual directions, job chart for student involvement, and/or task analysis checklists to breaks tasks into smaller chunks.

    •  Develop mediums to communicate with parents. You can create a daily binder, weekly communication sheet, daily reports, or daily behavior sheets. When you personalize beyond e-mail newsletters, you strengthen relationships and trust.

  4. CREATE A BEHAVIOR PLAN: Consider your behavior plan for the learning environment and define clear expectations. You can prepare classroom rules, a token system as needed, and/or reinforcers. Here are some templates to help implement behavior strategies.

  5. BUILD YOUR CLASS COMMUNITY:  This portion is equally as important as the others. This is the preparation for initial lessons that lay the foundation for your relationship as teacher–student or therapist-student. There is a wealth of lesson plan ideas with cute themes, literature, and classroom decor to help build a fun and motivating community. 

    • Choose a fun theme. Crayon theme teaches imagination and diversity with Harold and the Purple Crayon and Crayon Box that Talked. An Ocean theme with Rainbowfish teaches social skills and friendship. You can create various materials with your chosen theme for increased cuteness and fun.

    • Consider your specific students or clients. You may choose to develop interest inventories, sensory-diet plan, or a preference hierarchy to help plan the environment and activities.

    • For small and large group settings, plan activities that incorporate social opportunities. For example, make name tags, "Getting-to-know-you Bingo", I Have Who Has, "Go Fish" playing cards with student photos, Scavenger Hunt checklist, etc.

    • Plan for a Meet and Greet, Open House, and or conferences with parents.  

When you begin the new school year by investing time in these five, you build a solid foundation for learning. Your students will understand what is expected such as where to put their things or how to complete a task. They will trust that you will keep them safe and increase their independence for success. Throughout the year, you will need to revisit each of these and grow with your students. These five "To-Do's" will set the tone for a successful year.