Teaching special education can turn you into a hoarder… no joke! You never know what you will need year to year because the students, levels, and goals are ever-changing. But… there are 15 must haves you will need every year in special education.
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prep materials in special ed.
Teaching in special education requires a lot of prep. It’s better to accept it and make sure you have the best tools to get it down quickly and efficiently.
The first must-have in special education is a laminator. Even if your school has a laminator, you should have one at home. You know those nights when it suddenly dawns on you that you forgot to plan and prep? Getting a home laminator can save your butt from increased behaviors due to downtime, your admin walking in & noticing, etc.
I’ve had this Scotch Lamniator for years and it’s great. It never jams or ruins the laminate.
Next, you must have Velcro in special education. Velcro dots are fantastic but can get pricey. Instead, you can buy the hook & loop Velcro strips and cut the strips in half. Velcro strips can also be more versatile. For example, we used the strips to make this area to hang “paused work” or work students didn’t finish and need to.
My most favorite, can’t live without SPED prep tool is the Rubi Coil Binding Machine. It’s solid metal and will last you until retirement!
I love having my books and packets bound with the coils instead of the combs. My students haven’t been able to take them apart with the coils, but I could easily undo them to switch the order of the book.
Must have teaching materials for special education
Most students receiving special education services benefit greatly from hands-on activities. Having versatile manipulatives to teach & practice skills is a must. Click here or the picture below to read about what the most versatile manipulatives are.
You never know when or where you are going to need to put up a visual, so always have magnetic clips or hooks nearby.
Page protectors are a must. You can make worksheets re-usable or use them for visuals you will have to change frequently.
Curriculum must haves for special education
Visuals are a must have for special education teachers. If your school doesn’t have Boardmaker or a program to make visuals, I would recommend Smarty Symbols. The site has templates and a library of already pre-made visuals you can download as well as the visuals to make anything you need.
It would be great if our students came in at the same level and made the same rate of progress, but that’s a fantasy. As special education teachers, we need to have hands-on and leveled materials to teach reading and math.
This reading units bundle includes hands-on and leveled materials to take students from very letters and letter sounds through to higher literacy concepts such as antonyms, multiple-meaning words, and final blends. Having assessments, instructional materials, and activities that are hands-on leveled and visual supports is a lifesaver!!
The same goes for math. Our students often need a high level of repetition in order to learn, master, and generalize. We need to have many hands-on tasks that we can pull out at any given time.
Next, you need a system in place to track progress and build in review to prevent students from losing previously learned skills. Here are 2 blog posts to help you get started:
Classroom management & organization must haves
Collect all of the bins in lots of different sizes. Before you purchase, think about how and what they will be used for. If they are going to be where students can see them, think about how you will reduce visual distractions and busyness. Get a variety of types and sizes.
Timers are also a must have in special education. We have a couple of bigger visual timers and then get at least one dollar store time for each student.
A classroom management must have is a structured behavior system. Your students need to know exactly what is expected of them and the consequence of breaking the rules. The behavior management system should be focused on positive reinforcement. We use a token economy system in our classroom.
Another must have in special education is good paras and classroom systems for all of the staff that will be in and out of your class. Click the posts below to read how to support paras (which ALWAYS leads to better working relationships) and how to set up your classroom to run without you. Bookmark these posts!!
Last, but certainly not least, is you will need a sense of humor to be a special education teacher. There will be many times where you are flustered and challenged, so you need to be able to find the humor in order to not get burned out.