So many varying abilities, personalities and learning styles means I must find a way to balance it all. That means a list of diverse things, getting organized and learning a new normal. You have to get organized and learn the best way to keep yourself ahead of the game. I like for each of my students to feel as if they are an important piece to the puzzle that makes up our classroom and I do this by giving them their own tools for success – sensory items.
Space is a Challenge
Being a special education teacher, I have a small room. This presents its own set of challenges, fitting the many different needs of my students into a petite classroom. This can be difficult, especially when each student needs different tools to be successful. One way I save space is by giving each of my students their own book bin. In these bins, I put my students’ IEP snap-shot, various assessments, task cards, sensory items and tools to meet their IEP goals. Some of the sensory items that I use in these bins are stress balls, play dough, fidgets and kinetic sand. I try to choose items that aren’t going to be a distraction to other students but are still going to be helpful for a student that may need a quick break.
One way that I work with my students to help them choose sensory items is by using a choice board. They usually keep that same sensory item for a week. I use this method because it allows my students to have some choice of what goes into their bin, and also because I am able to help them choose something that is appropriate for their needs.
How Students Use Sensory Items
We use the sensory items in a variety of ways. If a student asks for a break, I will simply set the timer, and let them go into their bin and pick out the sensory item. In addition, if we have completed a task, the sensory items allow them to take a break and decompress a bit before we need to get started on our next task or assessment.
Not only do the different tools meet their IEP goals, but they’re also used for practice with independent tasks. I want to ensure that my students can complete tasks independently when I need work with other students. I am always very cautious that the tasks or tools in the bin are previously taught material or something that they are working on currently. This way, they can avoid unnecessary frustration. Because I am unable to support them at all times, these tasks have to be something they can truly do independently. I love to see my students’ faces when they realize they have been successful at an independent task—it is pure joy.
How do you utilize sensory items?