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10 Critical Components for Success in the Special Education Classroom


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Table of Contents

Preface Acknowledgments About the Authors Introduction 1. Physical Arrangement of the Classroom Rationale Benefits of a Well-Designed Classroom Well-Defined Areas Clarify Student Expectations The 10-Minute Rule Arranging Your Classroom Required Areas Home Base Group Instruction Area Teacher Work Area Transition Area Student Schedule Area Work Station Technology Area Additional Areas Arts and Crafts, Eating, and Cooking Areas Personal Hygiene Sensory Area Recreation and Leisure Activity Area Getting Started Summary Real-Life Applications 2. Organization of Materials Rationale Organizing Classroom Materials What supplies will you need? What stays and what goes? Where will materials be located? Group by academic subject Group by frequency of use Safety considerations Organizing Student's Materials Summary Real Life Applications 3. Schedules Rationale The Three Types of Schedules Building a Foundation for Your Schedules Daily Classroom Schedule Creating Your Classroom Schedule Posting the Classroom Schedule Using the Daily Classroom Schedule Staff Assignment Schedule Individual Student Schedules The Importance of Symbolic Communication Forms Creating Student Schedules Student Schedule Formats and Locations Teaching Students to Use Schedules Summary Real-Life Applications 4. Visual Strategies Rationale What Are Visual Strategies? The Importance and Benefits of Visual Strategies Creating Visual Strategies Consider the Student's Communication Level Using Visual Strategies As Reminders Schedules Calendars Behavioral Cues Communication Supports Summary Real-Life Expectations 5. Behavioral Strategies Rationale Determing the Need for Behavioral Inteventions Conducting a Functional Behavior Assessment Define the Behavior Gather Information About the Behavior Review Records Conduct Interviews Collect Baseline Data Look for Patterns of Behavior Make a Hypothesis about the Function of the Behavior Identifying Behavioral Goals and Objectives Developing a Behavioral Intevention Plan Defining Consequences Meaningful Reinforcers Edibles as Reinforcers Nonedibles as Reinforcers Punishment Strategies to Change Behavior Implementing the Behavioral Intervention Plan Summary Real-Life Applications 6. Goals, Objectives, and Lesson Plans Rationale Legal Foundation Annual Goals and Objectives Develop a Present Level of Academic Achievement The Need for Data Collection Methods for Collecting Data Special Factors and the Individualized Education Program Write the Annual Goals and Objectives Lesson Plans Lesson Plan Elements Monitoring Student Progress: Your Grading System Summary Real-Life Applications 7. Instructional Strategies Rationale Instructional Considerations Age-Appropriate Materials and Activities Variety Increases Interest Sensory Needs Instructional Methods and Strategies Direct Instruction Applied Behavior Analysis Grouping Students Social Stories Having a Substitute Teacher Work Stations Station Rotation Community-Based Instruction Summary Real-Life Applications 8. Communication Systems and Strategies Rationale The Speech and Language Pathologist Communication Throughout the Day Teaching Social Skills The Use of Schedules and Communication Communication and Assistive Technology Communication and Behavior Summary Real-Life Applications 9. Communication with Parents Rationale Setting Up a System for Parent Communication Student-Generated Daily Communication to Parents Keeping Communication Meaningful and Helpful Documentation Parental Involvement Summary Real-Life Applications 10. Related Services and Other School Staff Rationale Important Information About Related Services Related Services Defined Who Qualifies for Related Services? Direct Versus Indirect Services Service Delivery Models Other School Staff Summary Real-Life Applications Putting It All Together Resources Glossary and Acronym Guide Forms Index

About the Author

Marcia Rohrer lives in Houston, Texas, and currently is an educational consultant for Behavior Plus, Inc. in Friendswood, Texas. She has worked closely with school district special education directors on how to implement the 10 Critical Components in various types of special education classrooms. She has consulted with special education teachers who are now using these components in their classrooms. Her special area of interest and expertise is teaching parents and teachers the importance of using visual strategies and ways to structure the classroom and home to increase student success. During her 24 years of experience teaching students in self-contained and resource settings, she was a liaison between school and parents, presented numerous in-services and workshops to educators and parents, and served as an In-Home and Parent Trainer. She was also a founding member of an innovative district-wide team of autism professionals. She and her co-author, Nannette Samson, have presented in-services and workshops on the 10 Critical Components as well as other topics at the Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education, at the Texas State Autism Conference, and at Educational Regional Service Centers throughout Texas. Nannette Samson is an educational consultant for Behavior Plus Inc. in Friendswood, Texas. When she is not presenting the two day workshop based on this book with her co-author and good friend, Marcia Rohrer, she presents various parent and teacher workshops, conducts In-Home and Parent Training evaluations, teaches social skills classes, assists teachers in implementing the 10 Critical Components in their classrooms, and consults with schools and parents. As a retired teacher whose degrees include both Elementary and Special Education, she has over 26 years of experience teaching students with special needs in self contained, resource, and inclusion settings. Nannette also served as a district-wide consultant to general and special education teachers regarding implementation of students' individual education plans, behavior strategies, and classroom management. Her last five years in the public school system were spent as a member of her district's autism support team providing In-Home and Parent Training services, consulting with educational staff and parents, and serving as a liaison between parents and school personnel. Her special area of emphasis has been assisting students and their families with the transition process in moving from elementary to intermediate school. Nannette has presented numerous workshops and in-services throughout Texas at Educational Regional Service Centers, school districts, the Texas State Autism Conference, and the Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education.


"10 Critical Components for Success in the Special Education Classroom is a must have resource for experienced as well as new special education teachers as well as school administration. The book offers easy to use and practical ideas for organizing your physical classroom space, materials, student and staff schedules. Readers will also receive well thought out strategies that will definitely aid in the ultimate end result; student success!" -- Avis Canty, Special Education Teacher
"Finally, the book that should be consulted when new ESE classrooms are created! This book provides the blueprint to setting up a successful self-contained classroom for both beginning teachers and experienced teachers." -- Karen Kozy-Landress, Speech/Language Pathologist
"The path to success for students with autism and intellectual disabilities starts here, when their teachers implement the essential critical components outlined in 10 Critical Components for Success in the Special Education Classroom." -- Renee Bernhardt, Learning Support for Special Education and RTI

"Raising expectations is what the 10 Critical Components is all about! Not only does this system provide a 'map' for teachers to provide appropriate instruction with high expectations for students, it also gives a systematic and clear method for administrators to evaluate teachers in the Special Education classrooms. Put it all together, and you have a system that will ensure students are receiving structured and meaningful instruction that will prepare them for the future."

-- Bonnie Haecker, Director of Special Education

"I have had the pleasure of working with Marcia and Nannette in two school districts. I first met them while working as Dean of Instruction at a high school campus. These two ladies were hired by our Special Education Director to come in and 're-haul' our Life Skills programs. I sat back and watched in amazement as they worked their 'magic.' The classrooms transformed into learning environments right before my eyes. As the 10 Critical Components were taught to the teachers, a significant impact was made not only on the staff, but most importantly, the students and their parents. The 10 Critical Components encompass the needs of the whole child from the necessary physical arrangement of the classroom to individualized IEP's as well as parent communication. After leaving that district and becoming a Special Education Director in a neighboring district, I realized my Life Skills classes were in need of a "makeover," not only in classroom arrangements, but also in instruction, communication, individualized behavior plans, and curriculum. I immediately called upon Marcia and Nannette, and they began the process. I am currently in year two of the 10 Critical Components. The teachers who have begun this process are amazed at the progress of their students along with the simplicity of the components. Once the components are in place in the classroom, everything comes together, and the students thrive. We still have a lot of work to do to fully implement the 10 Critical Components in my district, but with Marcia and Nannette by my side, the classrooms will be instructional learning environments where all students in this district will experience success and reach their full potential. I cannot begin to thank Marcia and Nannette for all of their hard work in working with my district."

-- Cynthia Peltier, Director of Special Education

"Our teachers have been very happy with the training on the Ten Critical Components and feel that it has assisted them in being better prepared to meet the needs of their students. In fact, the question I get most often from teachers is, 'When can they come back?'"

-- Laurie Goforth, Director of Special Programs

"I will never forget my first year as a Life Skills Special Education teacher! I had two brand new empty classrooms and absolutely no idea how to set them up for success when the students arrived. Thank goodness my director sent Marcia and Nannette and their 10 Components! They taught me how color coding makes the classroom structure come together. Now each year the first thing I do is choose a color and appropriate icon/picture for each student. I label everything 'theirs'- desks, work boxes, place in line, picture schedule, etc. with that color and icon. It makes the first days and lessons so much easier! Students identify what's theirs, and learn to respect what belongs to others. Excellent and 'essential' for the Special Education Classroom."

-- Shelley Hyde, Life Skills Teacher

"I was excited to attend Marcia and Nannette's workshop on the 10 critical components when I found out who the presenters were. They both have so much to offer teachers and parents of ALL students with learning differences. My first year as a self-contained special education teacher would have ended very differently, and much sooner, had they not been there to 'reorganize' the way the classroom was set up, as well as the way I approached teaching. That was an extremely difficult year, but they got better. I do believe I learned from the best."

-- Laurie Moreno, Special Education Teacher
"This is a formal thank you for introducing me to the 10 Components. Before I was introduced to Marcia and Nannette's methodology, my self-contained classroom, in my opinion, was running smoothly, as I was receiving excellent appraisals from my principal. Although it was taking me 10 to 11 hours a day, I was 'juggling' my classroom pretty successfully one would say. My initial introduction to the 10 components was not readily accepted. In fact you might say I resisted change. One day I received a new student with behavioral issues, and consequently the behaviors of my current students changed as well and not for the better. Marcia and Nannette revisited my classroom and refocused me on the methodology of the 10 components. That refocusing literally saved my school year, and everyone reaped the benefits. My students were totally happy to have a dependable schedule, my paraprofessionals were more at ease and comfortable, and of course the classroom ran more smoothly. Various other aspects of the 10 components were equally as important, but the one mentioned above was very key to my classroom situation at the time. I am happy to report that I ended the year working from 8 to 9 hours per day including getting administrative tasks completed as well. You made me a believer in the 10 Components." -- Portia J Bogaert, Special Education Teacher

"Marcia Rohrer and Nannette Samson have provided the Special Services department with outstanding services through the years. The training they provide on the 10 Critical Components enable teachers to structure their classrooms in such a way that behavioral concerns are minimized and time on task is increased. This outstanding training is then coupled with individualized assistance with classroom arrangement, staff and student scheduling, behavioral management, and delivery of instruction to maximize student progress. These specialists have also provided our parents with thorough and in depth evaluations and targeted goals for in-home and parent training. These comprehensive services enable staff to increase their positive energy and productivity so that students attain maximum educational benefit."

-- Gloria Roach, Special Services Director

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