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Distance Learning Tips for Special Ed Teachers

March 3, 2021 by Janessa Fletcher

IEPs, 504s, Goals, and Objectives. Work Jobs, 1:1 Minutes, Oh My!

Questioning how to do any one of these things crossed my mind a million times when I first learned I would be teaching my kiddos with special needs on Zoom. How could I individualize on Zoom, meet needs, cover minutes, maintain progress, take data, and the other 101 tasks I do routinely in my classroom? I will be honest and say it wasn’t easy at first and even now, there are some days that I wish were easier. But the good news is that it can be done and we, special educators are doing it! 💛💙🧡 Here is my list of distance learning tips for special ed teachers…

Tip #1 —

Study your students’ goals and objectives and be realistic. Determine what materials, tools, and supports would be needed for each child at home to be able to work on with you on Zoom, at home with families, and during breakout sessions. Gather these materials and create more if necessary. 

Tip #2 —

Break these goals and objectives into smaller, manageable units. If you have a child working on responding to questions, for example, pick 1 or 2 types of questions to ask. A child identifying colors or letter sounds can have those work boxes focus on 2 or 3. Looking at how well a child follows directions? Take time sampled data during one session daily rather than all day with all sessions.

break IEP goals into smaller increments for distance learning

#3 —

Develop a team with your families and work together to see what is available in the home and what you may need to provide. Do they have the ability to watch taped videos of your teaching? Do they have materials and tools in their home to help create workboxes? Is there adult support available when the child is to be online?

Tip #4 —

Think about what you use in the classroom that helps that child succeed. Does the child work with a visual schedule? If so, help the family to create a workable schedule that is visual for the home. Does the child utilize sensory items or a calming area? Advise the family on how they can create something similar at home. 

#5 —

Communicate with parents regularly to go over assignments, explain work jobs, tweak existing plans, and give them support. Our families are experts when it comes to their children with special needs but helping their child do distance learning is an added stressor. Reassure them that you know they are doing their best. 

#6 —

If you are needing to work with children 1:1 or in small groups, provide online activities that other students can be working on at those times. Having a Bitmoji classroom isn’t necessary but you can definitely provide the families with several websites that their students can complete and a central location to access them from. Several times I have snapped a picture on my phone of a list of sites that I quickly can text to families, along with passwords.

during distance learning use small groups to take data on your students

Tip #7 —

Make videos of your teaching. Record all the things you teach on Zoom. I hate having tapes out there of myself as I am my own worst critic, but my kiddos love it. Families will appreciate the flexibility of being able to access some lessons at times that work for their child. We already know our kiddos aren’t always ready to learn when we are ready to teach. The families will learn this real quick! 

#8 —

Use your videos to take data. It is nearly impossible to take all of the data you need while on Zoom with your class. These videos will be so helpful for your reviews and IEPs.

building relationships with your students during distance learning

Tip #9 —

Relationships are key! Besides the relationships you are building with the families, the students need a strong relationship with you and their classmates. Having group time on Zoom that allows for interactions and continued bonding to start off each day will be great for them and for you. Put these relationships first over goals, objectives, and academics. Your students need you and your emotional support and they need their class family. I use Morning Meeting slides to start each day with a conversation and some learning.

Tip #10 —

Most importantly, take care of yourself. Self-care is a big buzz topic right now that I personally hate because it seems impossible most days. But find time for coffee, some laughter, or talking to a friend. If you aren’t at your best, your students will know. 

Hopefully, after reading these distance learning tips for special ed teachers, you found one or two things that can help you navigate through this time of distance learning. And hopefully, you’ve read several things that reassure you that you are doing some great things with your students already. For me, I have now built some amazing relationships with the families of my students that as I am moving back in-person, I see as a great asset for my classroom. And, best of all, these relationships will continue to be what is best for my students as well!

If you have any distance learning tips for special ed teachers, please share them in the comments below. I am always on the lookout for new ideas and activities I can use with my students both virtually and face-to-face.

Written by: Suzanne Kelley

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