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Why I Love Teaching Special Education in the Summer and How I Plan!

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Teaching special education in the summer is without a doubt my favorite thing. A lot of summer school teachers might feel like panicking like they’re on their own. They don’t know what to teach. They feel unsure. But I think it is actually the best time for you students to progress on difficult goals and for you to get into some wonderful interventions!

You guys, I am so freaking excited for summer! Not because of summer vacation, I haven’t gotten one of those in years, but because summer is the best time to let my control freak, type A personality out and just go to town! 

Last February, I was on the phone crying to a coworker, my mentor and professional work wife. I was at my wits end because the unit the class was working on, just was not appropriate. It was too abstract for my student, too vague, and they had no idea what was happening in class. I had tried everything! 

My usual tricks to break down complex topics weren’t working. Scaffolding and intervention strategies had yielded no results. I just did not know what to do. My coworker said that there was nothing I could do. The expectations just weren’t appropriate for my student. The district had chosen this material, and someone had insisted it be taught to all students of a certain age. No one had done anything wrong. Everyone had tried their best. There was just a mismatch between what someone thought was appropriate for all students and what worked for my kid. It happens. I had to adjust my and my student’s expectations. Instead of stressing I made sure they understood the bare minimum of the unit and moved on to working on concepts they could actually master that would help them long term.

But the weeks of stress that came before that acceptance never happens to me in the summer because I am in complete control. I get to decide what my students need to work on!

So to help you avoid that panic, I’m going to walk you through the strategies I use to figure out what on earth to teach in the summer.

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First off let’s start with why summer school is important. If you are a SEIT with kids who have 12 months of services, it is important because just like the rest of the year, this is the time they need to grow and meet their goals. 

If your kids don’t have 12 months of services but you get to teach them in the summer anyway, make the most of it, because you have been given a freaking gift. You get extra time to teach your kids! How amazing is that! I never have enough time to shove all the knowledge I can into those gorgeous brains.

So it is super important we use this time wisely, after all, everyone, including you and the students, are sacrificing their summer vacation and free time for this, so you have to be respectful of that. You must engage your kids in meaningful activities, rather than just dilly-dallying and avoiding planning till regular school starts again and someone else can dictate what you do. Make the most of your special education summer!

  1. Individualized Education Plan: The first place to go to look for ideas on what to work on might seem obvious, but I’m going to mention it anyway. You have got to check their IEPs. Take note of what goals they’ve been progressing in. Find out what goals have they stalled in, and go from there.
  2. Your Notes and Observations: Have you ever watched a kid in class fail to grasp something their peers seem to understand? Or totally not being able to memorize their math facts? Was that thought immediately interrupted because some other school assignment needed doing or a new concept was being taught? Anything you wished you had the time to do during the school year you can do now! The blessings of the extra summertime!
  3. Their previous grade’s standards: If you have kids that are being held to common core standards, check the standards for the grade they just finished. What didn’t they master? That’s your priority.
  4. Expectations for the next grade: Make sure your kids know what expectations they’re being held to next year. Prepare them. If they’re going onto middle school do they know how to get from class to class on their own and collect everything they need at the end of the day? Are they starting fifth grade? Can they sit at a desk for longer periods of time than they did in Kindergarten? Teach these skills now to set them up for success.
  5. District Curriculums – Maybe you aren’t an independent SEIT like me, but a contracted teacher. You might still have a curriculum you need to work on and introduce from your district. That’s fine, but take advantage of the lighter workload you and your students have. Look over the expectations and prioritize what will help them learn and grow the most.

When teaching special education in the summer, I do like to make sure we have some fun things to do because students do want to have fun. I love to use crossword puzzles, and you can see my selection of crossword puzzles here!

Also, be sure to check out the My Favorites Page for a list of professional development books, toys, games, and children’s books. Click here to learn more!

Crosswords Make Great Special Education Resources in the Summer

Ultimately, since we have been given the gift of time with our students to work on their goals and skills, we owe it to them to use their time well! No matter how you decide on your goals, make sure you’re choosing meaningful goals that will have an impact on their lives. Enjoy the freedom that teaching special education in the summer offers and hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I do! 

Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list for my list of free and cheap websites to use with your kids! Click Here!

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