It is September and back to school time! We were always excited at the start of a new school year. It was fun to meet our new students and their parents and to begin problem solving how to teach effectively.
We had to remember, however, not to move too fast. We also had to remind ourselves each year to set up the class in a simple manner that ensured students’ immediate feelings of success. Simple tasks and establishing routines were beginning emphases.
Keeping life in the classroom simple at first allowed us time to observe our students’ skills. We watched to see how they approached a task and their abilities to organize, problem solve, sustain attention, follow routines, etc.
Establishing routines was invaluable during those early days of a new school year. These routines could change over time given the skills of our students or could remain the same for the duration of the year.
Here are a few examples of some of these routines.
Setting up an individual schedule with an individualized type of cue
The cue tells what activity and where to go.
Creating a wait area for transitions
We taught our students to go to their wait chairs to wait their turn for getting their coats before recess or their belongings before going home or for going to the bathroom. When told it was time to wait, we gave some students a small wait card like the one on the bin. This helped them get to this location in the classroom independently. For students who had a hard time sitting and waiting their turn, we provided a basket of fiddle toys.
Setting up routines for turn-taking
In this turn-taking routine, the toy Spiderman head is Velcroed under the photo of whose turn it was.
Establishing a routine for finish
Highlighting the concept “finished” teaches the importance of sustaining attention to complete work or play activities. The concept can then be generalized to many situations. Once students understand the routine of placing completed objects in a finish bin, they can more easily disengage from a preferred activity to make a transition to what is next on their schedules.
Teaching the meaning of important words that can be incorporated into daily routines
We find stop is a valuable word and concept to teach. It can be used in many ways. In the example above, it is used to teach that you press for one squirt of hand soap and then stop or you wash for five scrubs and then stop. The stop sign can also be placed on exit doors or cabinets.
We also try to remember that it is interesting to the students if we teach the important vocabulary in fun ways, such as during a chase game with stop and go signs.
"Back to school ideas" for setting up the classroom and where do to start can be found in all our resources. We hope you will check these out on our website.