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Tier 1 Classroom Management Strategies for Special Education Teachers

During our previous post in our Classroom Management Series, we discussed the fact that special education teachers should be intentional in their planning around classroom management and behavior throughout all the different tiers.  Let’s begin by discussing Tier 1, which is grounded in prevention.  

Plan Daily Routines and Procedures

The first thing that any teacher should do before starting the school year is develop a plan around daily routines and procedures.  It is important to set clear, class-wide behavioral expectations early in the school year, so that the tone and climate can be set earlier rather than later.  If we think through or try to establish these things too late, then we will find that it becomes more and more difficult (but not impossible) to reset as the year goes on.  

Routines and procedures should be explicitly taught to students, with opportunities for practice.   We can’t assume that all of our students have been taught or can recall the steps that it takes to line up for lunch, so we have to take the time to teach them each step.  

Initially, you are not going to be able to say “Ok, everyone it is time to line up for lunch!” and expect your students to line up like perfectly on day 1…or 101 even!

Simple Steps Create The Best Routine

Instead we would want to provide sequential steps for lining up:

  1. Inform students that you are beginning a transition (use a signal, timer, song, etc. to get their attention).

  2. Instruct students to put their things away and prepare themselves for lining up for lunch.  Some students may require teacher proximity, a reminder “Johnny make sure you put your notebook in your desk.”, etc.  

  3. The teacher may want student to wait to be called on individually or by group/table – make sure you inform them of this.

  4. Teachers says  “Blue team, go to your cubbies/lockers and retrieve your lunch bag.  After this, you may line up. “

  5. Remind students of additional expectations, “walk”, “keep hands at our sides”, “quiet voice”,  etc.”

  6. Provide support to students who get off track, require repetition of directions, etc.

  7. Repeat this daily.  

Model Routines and Procedures

All of this should be done with modeling by the teacher during the initial days of establishing the routine. Teachers may not always have to be this explicit, depending on how students respond, but they should plan to provide this level of support for your students for as long as needed.   

Also, when we consider the fact that we are special education teachers who may have students who require explicit instruction in behavior due the impact of their disability. By planning these steps for ALL, you are meeting many of the needs of your students who require behavior support as outlined in their IEPs.

Planning and Preparation

Special education teachers should think through every daily routine/procedure that occurs throughout the regular school day.  These can include bathroom breaks, whole group discussions, small group time, transitions between activities, going to lunch, going to other classes, etc.  It is also important to rehearse routines for unique situations, such as having a substitute teacher, fire drills, assemblies, etc.

By explicitly teaching our students how to behave in an academic setting, we are increasing their overall chances of academic success.  Special educators should view behavior as a curriculum that involves planned lessons, just like our academic subject. 

In Summary

By planning for student behaviors,  we can ensure that we plan ahead for places where students may have difficulty and be prepared to assist them when needed.  By approaching behavior in this way, we are creating a positive environment where our students with disabilities are able to thrive. 

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