Meet Me

Hi all! I'm a self-contained special education teacher from sunny Arizona! I teach k-3rd grade students with Down Syndrome, Developmental Delays, Cerebral Palsy and everything in between. I have a passion for organization, lists, and creating hands on activities for my learners!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Sped Summer Blog Hop Week 2- Classroom Set-Up

Welcome to Week 2 of the Special Ed Summer Blog Hop! This week me and my fellow special educators will give you tips on how to set up your special ed classroom. Now that you have your schedule all worked out, you need to find places where all that magic can happen!

Here are my 5 tips to setting up a rocking self-contained classroom:
1. Schedule requirements- What in your schedule needs a specific place for it to happen?
     For my classroom, I need 9 student desks for whole group lessons and independent work, 3 kidney tables for small group work and centers, 1 rectangular table for workshop, and 2 cabinets for storage. I wish we had chairs at each station, but you can't have it all, right?!
2. Permanent items- What cannot be moved around?
    Your furniture placement is going to depend on the space you have available. My classroom has backpack hooks, a classroom suite door, a Smart Board, an angled wall, a teacher desk, and a section of tile with a cabinet and sink. Basically, my classroom is a giant square which makes organizing it really easy to set up furniture.
3. Roadways- Is there enough room to easily move around? Do any students use wheelchairs or walkers that need extra space? Is traffic flow clear and understandable?
    I have 4 students with wheelchairs and 1 with a walker. It is important to make sure that they can comfortably maneuver and that there is also room for additional staff to sit with them. We use center rotations for most of our academic work. Students rotate in a circular pattern, so, I do my best to make sure that there is a clear pathway to each center.

    The pathway from the blue to the red table is the most difficult because it isn't straight, but the students get used to it. In the beginning of the year, I put color coded duct tape on the carpet to remind students where they are going. I'd rather waaaay over do it with visual supports in the beginning of the year and scale them back then find out the hard way that they need more. Can you say rookie mistake?
4. Double duty storage- What materials do I need to access at each work space?
  I like my storage to pull double duty. The cabinet in between the green and blue tables holds materials I need for those centers and serves a divider between the tables. The division helps to clearly differentiate the centers from one another and limits distractions. The back of the red table cabinet is my staff command center (read more about this next week for my Working with Paras post). In short, this area is used my my paras, therapists, admin, and anyone who needs quick info about us!
5. VISUALS!- Say it with me... visuals! Visuals should be your best friend when setting up your self-contained classroom. Visuals let your students know where to find/put items, where they should be going, what you expect them to do, and give them opportunities to communicate. I am a visual addict. I'm going to assume that most special educators know about visuals and have their system of using them. That being said, I am going to list sometimes forgotten visuals that I use in my room:
                 -Footprints on the floor or some type of line-up visual
                 -Stop signs on doors to stop runners
                 -Cafeteria line sequence visuals
                 -Bathroom sequence in independent bathrooms
                 - Class Jobs description sequences

Remember, well defined spaces clarify student expectations. 

Breezy Special Ed
Check out Breezy Special Ed for more tips on setting up your special ed classroom!


  1. I love the idea of a color coded visual on the floor in the beginning of the year! Its better to have too much visual support then to rely on verbals all the time!

  2. I totally agree that visuals are SO important! The color coding you have going on is amazing! Great idea!
    Mrs. H's Resource Room

    1. I may have an obsession with color coding!