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Sneak a Peek at What's Inside My IEP Meetings Binder

We are half way through the third quarter, and my IEP binder is about to burst!  Literally. I open it now and pray the rings don't pop open. I posted the photo above on Instagram, about two weeks ago, to share my nearly bursting binder with my Instagram friends.  I couldn't believe the comments and emails I received asking about what I have inside that thing - aside from a ton of papers. I was SO excited to share with everyone. But then... my gallbladder decided to bite the dust and I was in surgery the next day. Ugh. Now, finally feeling myself again, I'm ready to share a little peek into mine with you all! And please, don't be jealous of my lovely carpet background.

Let's get started. In the front pocket of all my binders, I keep note pages.  I like to have these readily available to me incase I need to jot something down super quick. My first official page in my binder is my Dates at a Glance page.  I like to have my IEP meeting due dates in the very front.  Mostly because they're easy to find if a teacher should ask me when a student's IEP is up, but also because I probably look at this section the most.

For confidentiality reasons I printed out a blank copy of my IEP Due Dates sheet. I list all of my students' names from my caseload, when their IEP is due, and circle if they also have a re-evaluation due. After each IEP meeting I cross the student's name off my list.

To the right of this page, I have a similar page for my re-evaluations that are due.  If I had circled "YES" on the IEP Due Dates page that a re-evaluation is indeed due, on the Re-Evaluation Due Dates page I list the student name and the date the re-evaluation needs to be completed by.
After my list of when IEPs are due, I have calendar pages directly behind to show when the IEP meetings are taking place, as well as other important dates pertaining to the meeting.  A few things I like to mark on the calendar pages include:
- when to send invitations home by
- when I sent invitations to the meeting home
- when I need to collect teacher input by
- when I sent the re-evaluation home
...and so on. I am currently in the middle of my tenth year being a special education teacher, and I learned very early on to write and record EVERYTHING.

Now for the reason my binder is stuffed full of papers and ready to burst open...

I guess you could say that the number of students on my caseload determines how large my binder is by the end of the year, haha! This year I have quite a few students, so this section is loaded.  On the opposite side of the Student Information cover sheet I like to keep a student roster. I list all of the students on my caseload, their grade, and their homeroom teacher.

After that it's ALL the info. In the past I've typically sectioned off my students' information by using fancy plastic dividers - keeping it nice & neat, as well as cute. When it looks good I just feel good!:) BUT - this year was different.  I had too many students and I needed all the room I could. So instead of cute dividers, I used just plain colored paper with each student's name typed up on it. I list my students in alphabetical order, making it easier for me to find them should I need to look up their reading level, their class schedule, etc.  I fill out a brief at a glance profile sheet for each student, and put it directly behind their divider sheet. After their profile sheet, I also include state and local assessments, transition surveys, teacher input, observations, report cards, parent input, etc. Basically, anything that I think is needed and important when developing their upcoming IEP.

I'd also like to add that it feels SO good to know it's all kept in one spot. Because let's be honest... sometimes my desk looks like it threw up papers, and other times papers go missing making me wonder if my desk actually ate them.

I guess my last peek for you all would be what I keep in my Extra Notes. When creating this binder, I specifically only made it as an "IEP Meetings Binder" for a reason. I wanted everything I needed for developing my IEPs to be in one spot - ok,  I realize everything is kind of impossible, but you catch my drift. My Extra Notes are basically everything else I need, but have nowhere to put. This is where I keep my daily schedule for meeting planning, list of important phone extensions, my contact log, student logins & passwords for taking online assessments, scoring guides, as well as much more.

Over the years, I've found that this is the best fit for how I feel I should have my binder set up, although I know there are many other ways it can be used/arranged!  For instance, the sections don't need to be in my order.  You don't even need to use some of the pages included in it. I don't, but I do still like knowing I have those pages if I should ever need them down the road. Maybe you don't like what I call the sections in my binder - like "Extra Notes." That's fine! I've included the option of creating your own cover pages. There are so many possibilities to play around with and test out.

Oops... one last thing. I switch up my binder themes at the beginning of each school year.  I like a fresh start. If flowers aren't your thing, check out my other IEP Meetings Binder themes in my TPT shop!

A Post: To The New Year!

What joy there is in starting a new year! New resolutions, new goals, new beginnings... and a new amount of times to write the year wrong.  I had only written it wrong 4 times today - and might I add I'm incredibly impressed with that low of a number.  BUT, with the joy of starting the new year, comes the sad end to another holiday break and having to get back into a routine again. *sigh* When I taught at the elementary level, I loved coming back and celebrating the new year with my students.  I loved hearing about what goals they had for themselves.  I think I've heard just about everything from - scoring 100% on all spelling tests to - not getting in trouble and having to miss recess.  Moving to the middle school last year changed that a bit, and it's not because they don't have spelling tests or recess anymore.  Now, they are "big kids."  Their goals and resolutions go beyond spelling tests and playing at recess.  I decided that over my holiday break I had to make something more "big kid" appropriate for my students to complete as a welcome back pack.  Luckily, being snowed in one morning allowed me plenty of time to do just that!  I decided to create a New Year "Welcome Back" Pack!

In this pack my students can review their last year's goals and achievements, as all as set new goals for the upcoming year.  My students can also write a note to their future self.  AND - because I finished and was STILL snowed in, I had extra time to make this for the 2018 and 2019 new years as well! Now, it's not like me to work THAT far in advance, but I just couldn't help myself. This resource, as well as other resources to get you ready for the new year, can be found in my TPT STORE!

I can't believe the first school day back from break is over already. I hope everyone has had a great start to their 2017 new year so far, and I wish for nothing but the best for the days in 2017 yet to come!

Managing Progress Monitoring

It’s that exciting time of the year again! Christmas music has already begun playing on my XM radio, and the first nine week’s progress reports have been completed, sent home, and filed away! OK, I’m actually only excited about the Christmas music. Progress monitoring has a way of stressing me out, especially at the beginning of a new school year. Some of the students are new to my caseload and I am just getting used to their goals and what data I need to be collecting. Whereas some of the other students on my caseload have been on my roster for four years, making it slightly easier. Over the past nine years I’ve come up with a few different ways to stay organized and on top of my data collecting, throughout each marking period.

During the eight years where I had my own pull-out classroom, my students had their own individual binders where all of their data was collected, recorded, and graphed. Oh how I miss doing this! I used data collecting sheets from my Progress Monitoring Recording Binder.  For this particular student (his binder is shown above), I collected data weekly – I didn’t fill in any information in the photos below due to confidentiality.  Sometimes I used tracking sheets with just the students’ goals on them, and other times I used the graphing sheets.  My students loved using the graphing sheets! They always wanted to see their progress and how they were improving.  On both tracking sheets, you are able to insert the date you collected data or Week 1, Week 2, …etc. Personally, I like to insert the date. Whichever sheet I choose to use, I keep documentation of the goal(s) being monitored directly behind them. Then, at the end of the marking period, I go through my Progress Monitoring Checklist to make sure I have everything I need to be completed. Over the past few years of teaching, checklists have become my best friend!

Now, that I am an inclusion teacher, I collect progress a little differently.  I collect data while in the regular class, because I unfortunately don’t have a time where I can pull them to come in to my office. All last year, as well as this current school year, I kept a Progress Monitoring binder.  This binder is part of my Inclusion/Co-Teaching Binder. I also have what I call a progress monitoring cheat sheet.  When I’m not in my office, it’s hard to remember what I’m monitoring for each student.  Some of the students in my inclusion class are on other case managers’ rosters. My “cheat sheet” reminds me of each students’ case manager, as well as their individual goal and any notes I take.  I use my Progress Tracking sheets to keep all students’ data in one spot. I create a different sheet for each class I am gathering student progress in.  I must say - this has been the best way for me to collect data, while co-teaching in the regular classroom!

A few years ago, my district decided they wanted us to send home not only the IEP progress reports, but also charts and graphs that display progress. So, I created graphs on Excel to do just that!  My Progress Monitoring Charting &Graphing in Excel is very user friendly, the teachers I work with love using it!  I created a “How to Guide” to go along with it, that shows exactly how I use this for progress monitoring in my classroom.  I save each Excel document separately, with the students’ initials in the title.  I input all information about the student’s goal at the top of the spreadsheet.  Then, when I input the data I collected into their chart, it’s automatically graphed! Yes, it’s THAT easy. Unlike my other forms of data collecting, not everything in the Excel document is able to be edited - due to the fact that I had to lock the graph and data table so the formatting wouldn’t be accidentally messed up.  I must say, out of all of the different ways progress can be reported and mailed home to my students’ parents, they love receiving it in this form!  It also makes me feel on top of my work when I can pull out graphed student progress during a meeting!

Alright, I’m not done yet. I couldn’t just stop there! I had to take collecting progress just one step further, mostly because it was at the request of one of my colleagues. I feel that I, as well as a few other teachers I know, have a love/hate relationship with post-it notes and progress monitoring. I LOVE using post-it notes as reminders and to scribble notes down on, but I HATE that they’re stuck all over my things and that sometimes I forget what it was I wanted to remember. Ugh. So, to try to help get rid of my hatred, I came up with Progress Monitoring Sticky Notes! These sticky notes will help you record data for 5 days, 9 weeks, by trimester, by quarter, and/or monthly.  They make data collecting easier, when you’re in a pinch, as well as taking notes on progress. I don’t find myself questioning what my scribbles meant.  I’ve been loving using them so much, I’m making them free for all!:) Knowing firsthand the agony that can come with collecting data and recording progress, I am all about finding different ways to make it as painless as can be!

How to Stress Less as a Special Education Inclusion/Co-Teacher With the Help of Just My Binder!

This year will mark my tenth year as a special education teacher. Yes, my TENTH! I swear it feels like I was just getting my very first classroom ready for my very first day. It's CRAZY to think about. In those ten years I've taught in a few different schools, I've taught both learning support and emotional support students, and I've had experience teaching every grade. Seriously though - kindergarten through twelfth grade. EVERY SINGLE. GRADE. This tenth year marks my fourth year of being an inclusion teacher, in both middle school ELA and math classes. 

I can't lie - I was nervous at first teaching alongside a veteran teacher in THEIR classroom, but now I couldn't see myself teaching any other way. I love seeing my students achieve their goals, while in the regular classroom setting. They love knowing they are, too! Co-teaching has so many perks. However, I felt the stress of not being in my classroom and not having everything I needed at my reach. There was also the stress of being responsible for students who are on another special education teacher's caseload. I didn't know them as well as I knew the students on my caseload. 

During my second year of inclusion teaching I HAD to do something to help cope with my stress. Eating chocolate between class periods could only do so much. I decided to create a binder that has since saved me from running from the inclusion classrooms to my classroom about fifteen times a day, as well as pestering other special education teachers about students on their caseload.  This is probably one of my most favorite products in my TpT store! I could sit here all day and tell you how HUGE of a lifesaver my co-teaching/inclusion binder has been for me these past few years, and tell you all that's included, BUT... I'd rather show you!

When I had originally created my binder, I didn't set it up in a way that it HAD to be used.  In fact, the order in which I set my binder up last year, I didn't do it the same for this year.  Each binder comes with a list of what's inside, and a list of different ways I have used mine.  So in saying that, I hope you read this post as more of a guide in how to use your binder, based on how I use mine.

As soon as I open my binder, I like having my notes and my schedule right on top! Co-teaching schedules can be a bit crazy.  It takes me a few days at the beginning of the school year to get used to mine.  When I have a substitute they always thank me for leaving my schedule right on top.  I make my schedule to be as detailed as possible, but I have also created a simpler schedule option that can be used. 

Right behind my daily schedule, I put my "Important Extensions" page.  If there is an emergency, or if I need to contact a specific teacher a student might have had the period before, I like to be able to easily access the number - without flipping through all of my binder pages.  I keep my "Contact Log" sheets right next to the important extensions.  If I don't write down who I called and the reason for the call right away, chances are I will have forgotten - sigh.  Been there done that TOO many times. 

Next up are my monthly calendars.  I keep track of all classroom assignments/due dates, tests, projects, field trips, etc. here.  Since I don't carry around my IEP Meetings Binder, I also write down when all of my IEP meetings are. Quite a few times we have had to reschedule classroom tests because I had a meeting during the same period that day and would not be available for my students who require being pulled out for testing. I used to keep my calendars at the very back.  This year they worked themselves up to the front!

You will see that I keep lesson plan notes and accommodation notes, but before all of that I like to put my "Monthly Plans & Projects" first.  Sometimes the teacher and I will use a project year after year.  Other times we will create from scratch.  I like keeping this open as a place to write down notes of upcoming monthly projects and the accommodations that will be needed. Sometimes all four of my inclusion classes have huge projects due during the same month! This really helps me stay on top of them all. 

FINALLY - this is where I go into the classrooms, but before I do that I list my "Co-Teaching Model" page first.  I use this as a personal reference, or if a substitute is reading my "Collaborative Plan" sheet they know the method of co-teaching I am referring to. Each class I co-teach in has their own cover page.  I keep it simple - i.e. "Math 8." Behind that I have pages for the student roster. On the roster pages I only list students' first names and last initial - for confidentiality reasons. I also write who their homeroom teacher is, in the event I need a student to finish work for me the following morning, as well as I circle if they have an IEP or not. I know all of students on my caseload, but at times other special education teachers have a student on their caseload in one of my classes. I have pages for keeping notes on lessons and accommodations I will need to make and I have pages to keep notes while collaboratively planning with the teacher I am co-teaching with. I look at this each morning so I know what to take to which class - it helps us all stay prepared! I also keep an attendance log for each class.  I like to know when my special education students were absent. It helps me stay on top of make-up tests/assignments for them and making sure they do not fall behind. 

Each class' section also comes with a modifications and accommodations check list. This reminds me which student receives what classroom accommodation - at a glance. It's such a useful tool! I also only list students' first names and last initial here.  In the off chance I am absent, and the regular classroom teacher is too, I like having a quick list for the substitute to be made aware of and be able to easily use.

Also included in each class section - but not shown - is a discipline referral sheet. I like to keep notes for IEP purposes in the event a behavior problem arises. 

In between each class sections, I insert the classroom rules, syllabus, assignments, tests, notes home, etc. Whatever the students receive, I make sure I have a copy of as well. It's shocking how quickly an important note home can vanish off a student's desk! However, for graded assignments, the teacher will give me the assignment or test beforehand so I am able to adapt it if needed. 

After all class sections, I keep cover sheets/dividers for make-up test/assignments and modified test/assignments.   I am fortunate enough to have a testing period built into my schedule to allow for students needing extra time taking tests or for making up a test. Having these two sections located in this binder are a HUGE help.  No more lost tests or assignments all over my desk! 

I know you other inclusion teachers probably feel my pain. I used to carry around make-up assignments for a few periods in a row actually thinking I wouldn't forget them on another teacher's desk - WRONG. 

I conduct progress monitoring weekly. I use my Progress Monitoring Recording Binder in my room for keeping track of my students' progress, but a checklist for me keeping track while I conduct progress monitoring in the inclusion classroom was NEEDED. I make Progress Monitoring a section all of its own, but keep checklists for all classes I co-teach in there. 

I keep a very brief at-a-glance copy of the IEP students’ information at the end of my binder. I like to be aware of their birthday, ability levels, if they have a related service, and any important medical information I should be made aware of. Again, for confidentiality reasons, I only use first names and last initials. This binder is never out of my sight and always located in the regular teachers’ desk drawer during instruction, but I still like to keep student information as private as I possibly can.  

As I said earlier, the stress of needing information that you know is in your desk drawer, down the hall, and three flights of steps up is eliminated with just a simple binder always on hand! 

I hope I have helped you stress less about inclusion/co-teaching and have helped guide you in how you want to set up your Inclusion/Co-Teaching Binder! As always - if you have any questions, never hesitate to contact me! 

This binder and others are all located in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

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