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Saturday 25 July 2015

Summer SPED Blog Hop PART 5

Hey Everyone!  I hope you have been enjoying this series!  Today is the final post in the series and it's all about the first week of school!  Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with the first week of school.  I get excited to go back and start off a brand new year with new supplies and sometimes new students, but I also hate to see the end of summer!  I'm sure some of you can relate!  To make sure you are ready for the big day, I have some tips to share with you!

Most years, I have the same students returning to my classroom in September.  We usually start any transitions at that time, with the EAs from their home schools start with us for training.  We schedule students transitions to occur at the end of October, early November, so that we can work out any kinks that may occur one the summer.  There is a serious lack of summer programs for students with special needs in my community and as such, my students usually spend their summers at home with their parents, not doing much.  So every September, I am faced with dealing with the summer slide.

It's called the "summer slide," and it describes what happens when young minds sit idle for two months.  As parents approach the summer break, many are thinking about the family vacation, trips to the pool, how to keep children engaged in activities at home, the abrupt changes to everyone's schedule—and how to juggle it all. What they might not be focusing on is how much educational ground their children could lose during the two-month break from school.  According to the authors of a report from the National Summer Learning Association: "A conservative estimate of lost instructional time is approximately two months or roughly 22 percent of the school year.... It's common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills."

So, I spend the first two weeks of every school year, assessing my students.  I want to see how many skills they retained over the summer, if they have lost skills, or if they have gained any new skills.  We do this so that we know where we need to start teaching or re-teaching of  any previously mastered skills.  We also use this time to work on pairing ourselves with reinforcement.  Our students haven't seen us for two months, so it is important that we re-establish a positive relationship with them from the first day of school.  The first week is also spent teaching or re-teaching classroom routines and using their communication systems.

To be ready for the first week of school, I make sure I have everything prepared.  This includes all visuals that the students will need throughout the day, their communication devices, teaching materials and reinforcers.  I either meet with my parents or speak to them on the phone to get updates about their progress over the summer, their activities and any new likes or interests they have developed.  This is important information to have for the first week of school.  I spoke about this more in my post on forms which you can read here.

On the first day of school, when the kids arrive, I assign one person to empty backpacks and put all of the students' supplies away.  My students usually come with items needed for toileting along with their school supplies, so there is usually a lot of stuff that needs to be put away.  Assigning one person to do this, allows the other two to start teaching the students.

I also always ensure that I have my home/school communication notes ready to send home info about my students' first day.  Parents are usually anxious when their students start a new school year and want to hear how it went.  I also started using Class Messenger last year and will email or text parents a photo of their child on the first day with a little note.  I have found that parents really appreciate this and it helps to alleviate their anxiety, especially if you send it in the middle of the day.

How do you prepare for the first week of school?  What activities do you plan for the week?  I'd love to hear from you!  Leave me a comment below and don't forget to hop over to Superheroes in SPED's blog to see what she does for the first week! 

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