My Poem (#8): Pay It Forward

I recently helped a student who is in need at my school and it makes me feel good knowing that I “paid it forward” and “made a difference.”  I am positive that the student I helped will be thankful for it and put smiles on her face. My husband and my children are aware of this good deed as I am hoping to be a good role model for my children. As I “Pay It Forward,” I hope my children will do the same now and for the rest of their lives. The attached URL link is on and it is exactly what my poem is about.

I also thought about the movie, “Pay It Forward” made in 2000, based on the novel of the same name by Catherine Ryan Hyde. It starred Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment. A little boy did a good deed to others and they in return did good deeds to others and so on. If you haven’t watched the movie, it is a must see!

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Here is a picture of some things I collected of donations from various people for a student … paying it forward

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                              Pay It Forward

With all the negativity surrounding us, I tend to forget that there are positive and generous people out there,
There are people who want to “Pay It Forward” and show they care,

I pay it forward in hopes that others do the same,
Being humble, not wanting popularity, riches and fame,

I do one or more kind action to you and you do one or more kind action to another,
Maybe to a stranger, a friend, a relative, your mother or brother,

But I am making a difference and paying it forward to someone in need,
Putting a smile on my face and someone else’s, yes indeed.

So please, if you can, pay it forward to a person in need,
Because it will be a better world to live in, it is a good deed.

By: Mary Tran


Traffic Light (behavior management) Tweaked for Specific Student To Fully Understand the Concept


photo 2In my classroom of students with autism in grades Kindergarten to 1st grade, I have a few students who do not fully understand the concept of the traffic light used in my classroom. For consistency, I have adapted the traffic light and added visuals. Below, you will see sad/happy faces and thumbs up/thumbs down paired withe the appropriate color of the traffic light. Since this specific student likes to be spun on the playground in a merry go round like contraption and is consistently on it during recess, I thought he would like the spinning chair from IKEA. The chair was tested on the student, he was spun in the chair and he loved it! He was made to ask for more by signing and using his head to nod “yes” and we spun him more.

I created an individualized “reward board” for this student since he does not like to do paper/pencil work and has a hard time sitting down. I broke up the school day in two: morning and afternoon (see below). Josias gets two chances to be rewarded with the chair only if he is on the green light. If the student is following directions, sitting down for at least 30 minutes during a lesson and engages in the lesson, he earns a green light. By the 3rd hour of school , he is rewarded with the spinning chair if he has earned a green light. On the 5th hour of school (before school ends), he can also be rewarded with the spinning chair if he earns a green light.

On the green light picture, there is a happy face and a thumbs up visual. When he is rewarded with a green light, I pair the visual with myself giving him a thumbs up and smiling. If he is given up to two warnings, he is given a yellow light which is paired with myself giving him a sad face and a thumbs down. If he doesn’t listen at all, does not participate in paper/pencil activities and will not sit down, he gets a red light which is paired with myself giving him a sad face and thumbs down (see below).

He will only be rewarded with the spinning chair when he is on the green light. This behavior reward board is used consistently with his ABA, OT (occupational therapist) and speech therapist. Wherever the student goes, he takes his reward board with him. I have used this reward board for less than a month and he seems to understand the concept of the traffic light better.

Below is a file folder that is laminated with his picture on the front to personalize his reward board. When you open the folder, the different color lights and the picture of the spinning chair is velcroed to the left hand side of the folder. On the right hand side of the folder is a visual for the student that is broken up into the morning and afternoon of a school day (see below). 

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In this picture, Josias’s ABA asks him if he wants to be spun in the chair again by asking him to sign “more.”

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In this picture, Josias’s ABA is spinning the student in the chair that he is rewarded with by earning a green light.


Successful Behavior Management Continued…

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 As I mentioned in the previous post before this one, behavior management is successful in my classroom. It is successful for many reasons. One main reason is CONSISTENCY.

Consistency is vital when working with children with special needs. There is research that shows that children with special needs learn more effectively when things are taught consistently by everyone involved with the child. For example, if the staff at school is potty training a child a certain way, the family of the child should also be potty training in the same or similar way.  In my classroom, my paraprofessionals (teacher assistants), ABA’s, speech specialists and occupational therapists are all on the same page using the behavior plan that I use with my students. Some of the parents of my students are also using the same behavior plan (used at school) in their homes.  Children have fewer to no behavior problems when they know what to expect or when they follow a consistent routine.

Routine is also important to have when working with children with special needs. The classroom rules are reviewed daily during Morning Circle and at the end of the day. At the end of each school day, the students are rewarded or not rewarded depending on what color traffic light they are on. This has been done on a daily basis establishing a routine. My students have learned this routine because it is done consistently.  I have students coming to school and telling me they are on green first thing in the morning knowing what their expectations are. Some students tell me what the rules are in the class without me asking them.  

Consistency isn’t just about having clear classroom rules or routines, it is about the way those rules are carried out. In order for a home, a school or a classroom to run successfully and smoothly, consistency is needed across the board.  Everyone involved need to understand and be on the same page about what the rules are and how they are to be implemented for each student. Each student is different and may need various implementations.

I believe there are several ways to achieve consistency and routine. Some of them are: communication and team work. Genuine teams respect each other and communicate with each other. Teams ask questions and find solutions, respect each other and are open minded to other’s opinions and thoughts. They collaborate and come to agreements based on everyone’s ideas and opinions. This creates consistency in the classroom, home and in schools.

Achieving consistency can be a hard task. It requires effort from everyone involved with the child (ren), communication, teamwork and sometimes patience.


The Behavior Management Plan That Makes My Classroom Successful

After the month of September, my behavior management plan has been tweaked and adjusted. After consulting with my team (my paraprofessionals in my class), we have come up with this new and improved traffic light (see below). The traffic light includes the faces (happy and sad) and the rules in the classroom which are: nice hands, listen, sit and quiet. It also includes clothes pins for each student in the classroom. After every period or every other period (depending on necessity), the clothes pins with the student’s names are moved to a different color light depending on whether or not the student is following the classroom rules. By the end of the day, if the student is on green light, the student is able to have a full 30 minute recess and earn a sticker. If a student is on yellow light, the student loses 5 minutes of recess only getting 25 minutes of recess and sits on the bench for 5 minutes. If a student is on red light, the student loses 10 minutes of recess resulting in 20 minutes of recess and sits on the bench for 10 minutes. We are now in mid- October and most of my students have learned this and what the results are if he should be on a different light other than the green light.

Furthermore, each student has his own copy of the traffic light and of the classroom rules in front of him to remind him what the rules are (see below). It is also easily accessible for the teacher in the classroom to access when needed to remind that particular student of their behaviors. Most of the students in my classroom understand what the rules are and understand the concept of the traffic light. The individual rules and individual traffic light for each student is laminated.

Below, you will also see a star chart that is titled, “We Are Stars.” On the left of the chart are the students pictures. In the chart, the students automatically have stars each day of the week (Monday-Friday). At the end of each day, the students are rewarded a star only if the student is on the green light. If a student is on a yellow or red light, a star is taken off the chart for that day. The goal is to have the student earn all 5 stars for each day (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday). The student will only earn all 5 stars if the student is on the green light at the end of each weekday (Monday-Friday). By Friday, the student earns a big reward of preference or choice. One of the reward choices is the iPad and jumping on a trampoline. By mid-November, I believe all the students will understand this concept.

This may work in your home. Traffic lights were made for some of my students to be used at home because it works in school and for consistency.

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What Some of Math Looks Like In My Classroom (K-1st grade autism)

Sometimes, when students hear the word, “Math,” they are not interested, think it is too complicated or just plain boring.  I have high expectations for my students whether they have disabilities or not and have confidence that they can complete a task with adaptations. Some of my students are not at a level where they are adding but I thought of different ways of introducing it. As I have mentioned in my earlier posts, my students learn through “play” or use materials that make learning fun and enjoyable. Below, you will see magnets of various vehicles (boats, trucks, planes, cars, etc.) used as manipulatives during my Math class. This was perfect as I have all boys in my classroom and this was definitely high on their interest list. I use these vehicles in my Math curriculum to keep the students engaged and to keep them motivated. I told them we were playing a game where they can choose what vehicles they would like to own but before they took ownership or had some free play with the magnetic vehicles, they needed to add them first using the proper addition equation. The object of the game is that the students first choose the vehicles they want to use in their addition equation, add the total number of vehicles at the end of each row and create an addition equation using the proper addition and equal signs (See below).

Furthermore, the last row of pictures shown below is a different day and also the week after the math activity with vehicles manipulatives were used. The pictures show my students drawing circles (creating their own visuals) instead of using the magnetic vehicles.  This shows significant student progress and better understanding of the addition concept without using manipulatives. My next Math class would be a simple 4+3=    and see how the students solve the problem themselves.

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Individualized Handwriting Curriculum Created for Learners On Different Levels


After assessing the students (see the previous blog post), I created worksheets based on the student’s levels. Some are learning to write using the correct grasp with the writing tool, other students are learning to write their names using lower case letters and other students are learning to trace and make lines. I was able to create individualized name worksheets from: http//www.handwriting 

To save ink and paper, I put the worksheets in page protectors and had the students use dry erase markers to complete their individualized handwriting packet. The students were able to complete their packets (5-8 pages) learning to write with a marker and using an eraser to erase. Depending on the student’s level, some students had more worksheets in their packet than others. 

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