How to Train Paraprofessionals with No Time to do it

Training Paraprofessionals.pngI’m sure everyone tells you how important it is to train your paraprofessionals. If they don’t know how your classroom runs, have each students behavior plan memorized, and know their duties how can they be successful right?

Well, having time to train paraprofessionals is often considered a luxury. We don’t have prep time, they don’t have any extra paid minutes in the day, and we often get new people throughout the year thrown into the mix.

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How can we combat this?

We couldn’t run our programs without our amazing paraprofessionals, so let’s make sure they have the tools to be successful!

Having a place your paraprofessionals can easily go to reference things is a lifesaver. I have always had an “info binder” that I can direct paraprofessionals to when they enter my classroom for the first time. It is helpful for subs or new paraprofessionals to have some information about their role, expectations, the schedule and the students in the classroom before jumping into things.


The binder pages should contain all information that is a NEED TO KNOW in your classroom. It should be quick and to the point. It should contain information about schedules, routines, reward systems, behavior plans, allergies, sensory needs, and most importantly expectations.

I ask all staff that begins to work in my classroom in any capacity, find 5-10 minutes to read through this binder while our students are on a break, or at therapies or specials in order to get themselves up to date with classroom procedures.

I then find 5-10 minutes after school to meet with them to discuss any questions, problems, or concerns that they may have going forward. I also keep a blank page in the background for notes and questions and encourage all staff to keep notes on student data sheets when ever a question about a plan or program may come up. I then can respond to that or find time to model a program for them the following day.


I also find classroom reminder signs, or visuals for adults, to be just as important as our visual reminders for our kids. I hang these on my door to remind staff that may stop by throughout the day what the expectations in my classroom are. The prompting hierarchy is posted throughout the room, as it is easy to forget and simple to glance up to remember!


I like to laminate and use these schedules as dry erase boards to update and assign duties weekly or monthly. These signs throughout the room are a quick and easy way to keep staff updated with the goings on in the classroom, without having formal meeting or planning time together.

It is so important for all staff to feel “in the know” in order to best serve students. Remember to always update your staff on new information or things going on with the student that they should be aware of to their job effectively. This often takes just a few minutes each Monday morning to go down the list of students with any updates.


& always remind your staff that our students are master imitators, you are our role model when you walk in our room!

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How do you train your paraprofessionals?

You can find my editable paraprofessional binder ( add in all of your own expectations, student information, schedules and more!) in my teachers pay teachers store here.


Teaching Clean Up!

If your kids are anything like mine- they like to pull EVERY toy or book off the shelf at once, and DON’T like to put everything back! This year- I’m saying no to a messy book nook and teaching my kids to clean up with visual supports.

Here is my book nook area- this is where my students take their breaks, once they earn their tokens on their token boards.

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There are many things to choose from, books,sensory toys, marble magnet trax, (affiliate link) mirrors, stuffed animals, toys cards, and the classroom favorite- that big dinosaur from target.

Students are able to play as they wish for their alotted time. I use these sports timers ( you can see at the top of the photo) to time our quick book nook breaks in between work stations.

I really wanted students to be able to play HOW and with WHAT they wanted during their time. The rules are, they must stay on the rug in the designated area, they must be safe, and be sitting up. Other than that- I really don’t control how or what they play with at this time. They can take out more that one toy at once and use them as they wish- it’s part of being a kid & we teach leisure skills and appropriate play at other times in the day- this is THEIR time to take a BREAK.

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What I DO care about- is keeping this area SPOTLESS, and teaching the skill of CLEANING UP when your break is done.

How do I teach this? With visual labels of where everything goes. IMG_0143 water.jpg

I easily completed this organization task in about 15 minutes. I placed everything on the shelf how I wanted it, and I snapped pictures on my iphone- ran down to the computer lab, pulled them all into a powerpoint document on the same page and printed them out. I also made word labels to increase our reading and sight word knowledge, printed those on astrobrights paper (affiliate link)- so you can’t miss it! and printed those out, taped them both on in front of the toy with scotch shipping tape and it was ready to go!

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When students clean up- they match each toy to the picture and make it look just like it looks in the photo.

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I also printed a picture of the entire shelf as a whole and put it on top- my kids know that when the shelf matches the picture- they have done their job!

This is a very basic way to teach responsibility and clean up, I’m thinking of doing this on my student shelves and in my kitchen area too!

How do you teach clean up?



Back to School Communication


Communicating with parents during back to school is a BIG deal! We only have a little window where we can get as much information as possible to make sure we are designing each program individualized to the students needs both at HOME and at SCHOOL.

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Running a life skills autism classroom, I don’t just care about the skills my students have at school, I spend a lot of time making sure I am generalizing each skill to home too. I am lucky enough to do home visits a few times a year, and communicate with parents daily via my home/school communication sheets (you can find mine HERE), and at these times, am I able to get some really valuable information from parents.

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But the beginning of school is an even bigger chance to get information. EVERY YEAR I send home parent surveys– even if I already had the student in my class. Our students are constantly changing and it’s our job to keep up with it all!

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I send my forms home on back to school night, but you may have curriculum night or meet the teacher. I give my parents the option of filling it out there, or bringing home and sending in the next day.


Here is what I am sending home this year, each year I tweak it a little bit- and I’ll make it available here on my blog for you! It should give you some ideas of what you should be asking parents each year to get an idea of what their child needs to work on. I pay close attention to the goals for their child section- I hold this near and dear to my heart and really place a focus on just that for the year. Parents are also a bit more honest in this setting- rather than being placed on the spot at IEP meetings and asked the same question.

You can find it here for free!! Good luck!



Simply Special Classroom Tour

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Welcome to my Life Skills classroom! I am so excited to share with you my classroom tour!

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When you step foot in my classroom, our bins are on the left. Students know to put their lunchbox, water, and any notes in these bins each morning as part of their morning routine checklist.

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The first area is of course our SCHEDULES. These are so important to student success throughout the day. I use left to right schedule (you can read more about how to set these up here)  in my classroom. Some kids are transitioning to the student success binder schedule that I carry in my teachers pay teachers store here. Any way you do it, your kids NEED schedules to stay on track , reduce behaviors, and just plain be successful.

This year, I decided to store all of my visuals at the top. I actually straight up BEGGED the custodians to lower my bulletin board almost to the ground so my kids could reach it. Luckily, he happily did so for me, and super quick too!  Then I was able to make some Veltex boards out of cardboard, (see my DIY tutorial here) and store all of my visuals on top out of reach and organized! Having this much space was super helpful and I think it will help my staff and I stay more organized this year.

On the right there is a new whole class behavior board, I’ll go more into detail about that next week! The felt money is from target!

As you can see, I use all of my furniture in a way to create separate spaces, sort of like little hallways, and little rooms. I really think this helps to have defined work and play areas, as well keeping areas contained for students who may be more apt to wander or bolt.

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The group area and white board are the hub of my classroom. We meet here for morning meeting, art, and any whole group activities. This is where we do our Vocabulary word of the day from my Monthly Vocabulary Units and where we use our interactive whiteboard!

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This section of my white board may just be the most important part of my entire classroom. Each color card has a student name on it (blurred out in all my photos) and each day we fill in daily activities. With 3-4 grades in one classroom, we need to stay on track as adults too, this is where we can quickly glance to see what ___ is up to today, without having to look at student schedules and sift through common daily activities. This also helps specialists, if they want to change a students session time, they can glance up to see if they are available and not interrupt your teaching.

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This year we will be implementing our new classroom motto, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” ! I always say this to my kids, but this year it will be our theme.

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The sign hangs right above what we call our quiet zone. My kids go over here to take a break when they need it. One of my paras got me the sign years ago and it just stuck🙂  I got a new comfy chair for this area this year! And isn’t that hand made tissue box cover gorgeous! It’s from a parent and matches our classroom perfectly!

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Where do the kids work? We have 3 stations in our classroom. 1 paraprofessional station, 1 teacher station, and 1 independent work station. We rotate through these stations during our center time. Everyone works with everyone- no assignments! I will be diving deeper into center time next week! You can find the calendar above in my tpt store HERE. & the first/ then board in this behavior management pack.

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Each student desk is equipped with the visuals needed. Students carry their personalized token boards from center to center with them. Extra pieces are stored on the veltex board above my schedules, it is inevitable that these checkmarks get lost! We also have morning work checklists on our desks!

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Some of my higher students will be transitioning to my Simple Success Student binders this year. They have everything they need to be successful as they travel around the building to inclusion, specials, and therapies!  This student uses a dry erase marker and checks off his own token board! I love when they gain this independence and I can scratch the crazy velcro pieces🙂

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Here is another work space. This is mostly an area for discrete trial, all the materials are kept in the bin on the teacher side of the desk. The veltex board is used for velcro prompt pieces. You can see my DIY of how to make this board here.

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Student targets and reward choices are easy to reach on the teacher side of the desk. I keep all materials away from student side in case a student throws or swipes frequently. Reward choice boards are available in my behavior management set. These sight word sets can be found here.

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Each student is assigned a bin! I keep their student binders, DTI binders, and IEP goal materials in these bins. Some students have daily student folders that they independently get out of their bin each morning when they begin morning work. Above is Fluency Strips from The Moffatt Girls! We use these in discrete trial DAILY!

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This section is also home to our data clipboards. Here is where they are stored in the classroom, but they are mostly around the room near the student so we can take data quickly- and of course they are color coded due to Teaching Special Thinkers advice!

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This is the independent work station. Students match the card from their independent work schedule to the box and pull the box to complete it. When complete, they move the box to the all done bin under the table.

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I use duct tape on the table to designate spaces for 2 students to work. They learn personal space best this way!

Most kids like to stand at this station, and I like how it puts a spin on flexible seating in a special education room, but I have a chair option too! This giant shelf also works GREAT for designating spaces. This side is all work, and the other side is life skills and play!

You can grab my independent work cards here!

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My play/ reward area is one of my favorite spaces.

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This shelf had a giant hole in the back from last year, so I used it as an opportunity to cover with a piece of sheet metal and use for our magnet marble station (affiliate link) that the kids love so much!!!!

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This year, I plan on teaching my kids directly how to keep the play area clean. This is included in some of their life skills goals! I put a picture visual and a word label under each toy on the shelf. They will have to match the toy to the spot on the shelf when they are cleaning up!

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Our life skills word wall is aligned perfectly with my Life Skills Centers and Life Skills Centers Extension! ALL of the words use in this unit are supported with Smarty Symbols images and will help my students with their writing this year!

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Underneath the word wall is some bins from an old rainbow cart that did not survive some abuse last year🙂 The bins fit perfect on this shelf and are helping my paras and I stay organized! Each bin has something different and we know when we are getting low that it is time to make copies. I spy some awesome resources here from my TpT store, Breezy Special Ed Journals, and Autism Adventures Homework! My Simple Math Curriculum is also stored here!

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This is definitely the most exciting area in my new classroom. I decided to move classrooms when one become available, simply because of the sink and cabinet space! In a life skills classroom, it is VERY difficult to not have a sink, so I am so thankful for this year! As you can see, I use curtains with stitched on velcro to cover up areas that are busy, I really don’t like much decor or busyness around my classroom, it is such a distraction! Black backgrounds work great for keeping this to a minimum!

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This is the hub of our life skills area. Data sheet clipboards are easily accessible! My life skills center of the month is hanging up, but the plastic covers from the Target Dollar Section make it easy to pull them down and check the visual directions off the list, erase, and throw back up!

The bins on the right are where we keep all our ADL supplies! Each kid has a drawer and it contains toothbrush, toothpaste, brush, and deodorant🙂

This year we will be focusing a lot on recycling! These bins are AMAZING, they are small, and just perfect for what I was looking for. Keep an eye out for a blog post on how I will be using these, but in the mean time, you can grab them from Amazon (affiliate link) here!

I hope you enjoyed this year’s Life Skills Classroom Tour! Be sure to check out last years tiny classroom tour here. In the next few weeks I will be going into detail on my schedule, and how I run each classroom center and work block! Any questions? Ask away!



Simple Math Curriculum


I have been working ALL summer to finish part one of my simple math curriculum! I am so happy to say that it has finally been released! (& at a short time discount!)

IMG_1077.jpgAfter years of working to modify curriculum to meet the needs of my kids who need to be taught with direct instruction, I have finally got it right for the first 7 topics! I hope you enjoy these units that are available separately, and as a bundle (larger discount). These skills are all needed for beginning math instruction, and are directly taught, with little on each page to distract.


How do I store ALL OF THIS? This bundle has over 600 pages, and has a TON of information! I like to keep each unit in a separate binder. You can use post its to mark where each student left off as you make copies for weekly math folders.

You can also laminate or put pages in page protectors and have kids work through like a workbook with a dry erase marker at their own pace.

There is no particular order for success, start where your students are, and move on as appropriate. Have students repeat worksheets if they are not generalizing the skill on generalization pages.


Keep in mind that each number, letter, and word is directly taught on separate pages. We aren’t teaching numbers 1-10 all at once! Perfect for your kids that strive with discrete trial teaching or direct instruction. With 6 pages for each skill, you can easily repeat these pages as the skill is becoming mastered.


The seven units included in this curriculum are targeted towards beginning math learners- but the binders are appropriate for students of all ages from pre school to high school! Work on the skills your students need, with appropriate materials!


This curriculum is going to make a huge difference with my lower level students this year, and I can’t wait to build on even more skills as the year goes on. Any requests? Leave them in the comments!

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Have you been able to check out my Simple Science curriculum? I can’t wait to show you what’s in store for Simple Life Skills this September!