Preparing visuals, hands-on activities, and interactive books for special education students can be very time-consuming! It takes a lot of materials and time to get it all prepared. Here are 8 prep hacks for special education teachers to make it easier for you.
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create rules & systems
- Velcro is a crucial part of sped prep. Create a rule about Velcro to save time every time you need to replace a piece of Velcro that went mission or are prepping a new material. In my classroom, our rule is hard/rough Velcro stays put, and soft Velcro travels. With this rule, all of the paras, therapists, etc. know that the soft or loop Velcro gets attached to all moveable pieces.
- Another system we have is designated scissors for cutting Velcro. Scissors get sticky when you cut Velcro, so keep them away from the rest of the materials you are cutting and prepping. We keep our Velcro scissors in a small pencil box along with extra Velcro pieces and dots for on-the-fly prep. It’s a life-saver!
- Have a to-do list posted in your classroom listing prep that needs to be done. Make sure classroom staff & volunteers know to work on the list during downtime, students are absent, etc. Even having an item half done cuts down on your work. To get the most out of this sped prep hack, make sure the list tells the person where to put the materials once they are prepped.
Batching tip for prep
Batching is a must when you are trying to get all of your sped prep done. We do it in our everyday lives all of the time. For example, grocery shopping is an example of batching. Most people go to the grocery store for a week’s worth of food. That’s batching. It is more efficient to do it once a week versus every time you need to cook a meal.
To batch in prepping materials, simply do all of one prep step or task at the same time. For example, If I am putting 4 interactive books together, these are the steps I would take to quickly prep all of the books.
- Cut all of the pages & pieces for all 4 books.
- Laminate all of the pages & pieces for all 4 books.
- Cut out all of the laminated pages & pieces for all 4 books.
- Assemble & bind all of the 4 books.
If I had done one book at a time, it would take longer because I would have to keep switching activities and materials.
Prep hacks for laminating
There are lots of little pieces with interactive books, hands-on centers, and task boxes. Those pieces can easily shift when we laminate them. To solve this, use a small dab of glue on the back of the piece to stick to the laminating pouch to prevent shifting when you feed it through the laminating machine.
My most favorite sped prep item I ever purchased was the Rubi Coil Machine. This makes prep so much easier and lasts forever. When you coil bind your materials, your books will hold up longer and look nicer. I used to use the comb bindings, but students were able to take the books apart quickly. I’ve never had that problem with the coil bindings. Using the Rubi Coi Machine has definitely reduced the amount of re-prepping I have to do!
be prepared for last minute issues
The downside of having so many visuals & pieces in our programs is that they randomly get destroyed or go missing. Always, always make an extra copy of your visuals or a 2nd copy of the worksheet, social story, etc. It will save your butt and help you eliminate downtime.
Prioritize SPed prep
Our to-do lists will always have some prep items listed. It’s important to choose the order wisely and prioritize your needs. Make sure priorities are also noted on your prep to-do list for classroom staff and volunteers. When you systematically prioritize your prep items, you will ensure you have everything you need to set you and your students up for success!