January Checklist

Welcome back! After the winter break, it is time to hit the ground running…the end of school will be here before you know it.

Assess your Students Again

Assess your students again, as you did before the break. Review your data from before the break and note regression observed over the break. Be sure to record the amount of time it takes for students to relearn any skills they regressed on over break. You will want to note this in upcoming ARD/IEP meetings as you discuss the need for extended school year services.

Transition New Students

Many times, new students transition to your classroom following Winter break. Perhaps their parents used the break to make a move. For effective transition, don’t forget to follow the same procedures you did at the beginning of the year with these new students. You must teach the schedule, rules and routines. A refresher is probably good for all students in your class. In addition, spend time doing a thorough record review and get to know the student yourself. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How are you going to establish yourself as a positive, reinforcing person to work with?

Indoor Activities

Plan Indoor Activities that Incorporate Movement

Finally, this weather doesn’t always cooperate, and students need movement. Plan some indoor activities that can take the place of recess or outside time. How about balloon volleyball, an easy obstacle course or just taking a themed walk within the school?


  • You could go on a shape walk – how many different shapes can you see (you might take a few shapes for reference).
  • You could take a “what’s it made of” walk. Is it wood? Is it metal? etc. (You might take some magnets to test the objects).
  • You could take a color walk or a counting walk and graph the different objects when you get back to class.

Incorporate Music

When choosing music, try to incorporate tunes that are age appropriate. We sometimes get in the habit of playing certain songs because we know our student likes that type (often nursery rhymes, etc.), but our job is to expand our student’s experiences. As in all things try to include access to non-disabled peers, whenever possible.

Add Movement to Educational Tasks

It is important to note the adding movement to instruction increases engagement and learning. In addition, movement can be added to a variety of educational tasks. We already know that many of our students cannot engage in paper/pencil tasks. 


Sample Lessons

Examples of academic lessons incorporating movement and engagement for students of all ability levels.
View Document

Add Sensory Area

You might also consider adding an easy sensory area that can be changed out often. Many of our students need sensory breaks in order to stay focused, and instruction can be extended to this area.


Student peering through a magnifying glass into a basket filled with twigs, leaves, and other natural materials.
Student standing over a tray filled with beans of a variety of colors and sizes, scooping beans by hand into a cup
Student reaching over a tray of buttons of variable sizes and colors.
Student sorting pom poms of various sizes and colors into a bucket and tray.

Find more ideas on Pinterest!

Motivate Students with Project Based Learning

Returning to school in the spring semester can be a challenge for both students and teachers. The routines that the students learned in the fall may have to be reviewed and practiced. After a few weeks off from school, everyone needs a little time to get back into the swing of things. This is a good time to motivate students and remind them of what they love about school.

Project-based learning is a great tool to motivate students about learning, but it’s not frequently used in special education settings. Special education teachers spend a great deal of their time teaching basic reading and math skills, as well as specific IEP goals. As special education teachers are also looking for ways to incorporate STAAR essence statement instruction into their lesson plans, project-based learning is one way that teachers can do this.

There is an article by Katrina Schwartz titled, What Keeps Students Motivated to Learn? (March 13, 2014). In this article, Ms. Schwartz discusses integrated projects that are interest-based and relevant, as well as hands-on. The challenge is adapting these strategies for students with special needs.


Let’s explore an example of how integrated projects can be implemented in a special needs classroom. Below you’ll see middle school TEKS in social studies, math and reading. For each TEKS, students in a special needs classroom are learning the prerequisite skills for that TEKS. Review the TEKS, and then read about how one integrated project can help teach multiple prerequisite skills.

(8.15) Government

The student understands the American beliefs and principles reflected in the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and other important historic documents. The student is expected to

  1. identify the influence of ideas from historic documents, including the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, the Mayflower Compact, the Federalist Papers, and selected Anti-Federalist writings, on the U.S. system of government; Readiness Standard
  2. summarize the strengths and weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation; Supporting Standard
  3. identify colonial grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence and explain how those grievances were addressed in the U.S. Constitution and Standard
  4. analyze how the U.S. Constitution reflects the principles of limited government, republicanism, checks and balances, federalism, separation of powers, popular sovereignty, and individual rights. Readiness Standard
Prerequisite Skills
  • describe the structure and functions of government at municipal, county, and state levels
  • explain how local, state, and national government services are financed
  • identify services commonly provided by local, state, and national governments
  • identify local, state, and national government officials and explain how they are chosen
  • describe the basic structure of government in the local community, state, and nation
  • identify how citizens participate in their own governance through staying informed of what public officials are doing, providing input to them, and volunteering to participate in government functions
  • identify ways that public officials are selected, including election and appointment to office
  • compare the roles of public officials, including mayor, governor, and president
  • name current public officials, including mayor, governor, and president the Bill of Rights; Readiness
  • describe how governments tax citizens to pay for services
  • identify governmental services in the community such as police and fire protection, libraries, schools, and parks and explain their value to the community
  • identify functions of governments such as establishing order, providing security, and managing conflict
  • identify and describe the role of a good citizen in maintaining a constitutional republic
  • identify and describe the roles of public officials in the community, state, and nation

(6.12) Measurement and data

The student applies mathematical process standards to use numerical or graphical representations to analyze problems. The student is expected to

  1. represent numeric data graphically, including dot plots, stem and leaf plots, histograms, and box plots; Supporting Standard
  2. use the graphical representation of numeric data to describe the center, spread, and shape of the data distribution; Supporting Standard
  3. summarize numeric data with numerical summaries, including the mean and median (measures of center) and the range and interquartile range (IQR) (measures of spread), and use these summaries to describe the center, spread, and shape of the data distribution; Readiness Standard
  4. summarize categorical data with numerical and graphical summaries, including the mode, the percent of values in each category (relative frequency table), and the percent bar graph, and use these summaries to describe the data distribution. Readiness Standard
Prerequisite Skills 
  • organize a collection of data with up to four categories using pictographs and bar graphs with intervals of one or more
  • use data to create picture and bar-type graphs
  • collect data and organize it in a graphic representation
  • draw conclusions and generate and answer questions using information from picture and bar-type graphs use data to create real-object and picture graphs

(6.7) Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Literary Nonfiction 

Students understand, make inferences and draw conclusions about the varied structural patterns and features of literary nonfiction and provide evidence from text to support their understanding. The student is expected to

  1. identify the literary language and devices used in memoirs and personal narratives and compare their characteristics with those of an autobiography. Supporting Standard 
Prerequisite Skills 
  • establish purposes for reading selected texts based upon content to enhance comprehension
  • make inferences about text and use textual evidence to support understanding
  • ask literal questions of text
  • retell or act out important events in stories in logical order
  • establish purposes for reading selected texts based upon desired outcome to enhance comprehension
  • make connections to own experiences, to ideas in other texts, and to the larger community and discuss textual evidence
  • monitor and adjust comprehension (e.g., using background knowledge, creating sensory images, rereading a portion aloud)
  • retell or act out important events in stories
  • make inferences based on the cover, title, illustrations, and plot
  • ask and respond to questions about text
  • discuss the purposes for reading and listening to various texts (e.g., to become involved in real and imagined events, settings, actions, and to enjoy language)

Reading/beginning reading/strategies

  • use ideas (e.g., illustrations, titles, topic sentences, key words, and foreshadowing clues) to make and confirm predictions
  • ask relevant questions, seek clarification, and locate facts and details about stories and other texts and support answers with evidence from text
  • establish purposes for reading selected texts and monitor comprehension, making corrections and adjustments when that understanding breaks down (e.g., identifying clues, using background knowledge, generating questions, re-reading a portion aloud)
  • confirm predictions about what will happen next in text by “reading the part that tells”
  • ask and respond to questions about texts read aloud
  • predict what might happen next in text based on the cover, title, and illustrations


Integrated Project: The Voting Process
  1. Provide students with adapted books about the government. You may need to adapt the books for specific student needs (symbol/text, text-to-speech programs, enlarged text, etc.) When reading the books, ask the students to respond to questions about the text, make connections to their own experiences, and use illustrations within the text to show understanding.
  2. Once time has been spent reading about government, tell students that they are going to do a project to learn more about how citizens participate in their own governance through the voting process. Allow students to be a part of setting up a voting booth outside the school library. Students can set up the table, ballot box, ballots, pencils for voting, signs inviting students to vote, and directions explaining to voters how to vote and what they’re voting for. Try to find a job for every student in your class. If you don’t have even one student in your class, for example, who can write the directions for the project, then support the students by preprinting those for them.
  3. Create the election based on student interests. One of the best ways to do this is to ask students in your class to submit their own ideas on what they want the election topic to be, and ask your students to vote on the election topic. Let’s say that your class has decided that they want their election to find out what your campus’ favorite soda is, and their choices will be Coke, Pepsi, Sprite and Mountain Dew. Let students identify if they are a part of the dark soda party or clear soda party. Hang signs around the classroom and ask students to gather near their party’s sign. Open up a dialogue about which party is more popular in your classroom. Ask students to infer whether or not the same results will be true when the whole campus is allowed to vote. Remind students that just because, for example, your class’ more popular party is the dark soda party, that might not be true for the whole school. (Remember to include every student. Provide choices for your non-verbal and non-ambulatory students.)
  4. Leave the ballot box outside the library for a week, and take your students to gather votes from the box once a day. This gets the kids excited about the process, as they open the box once a day to see all the ballots cast. When you return to the classroom with the ballots daily, ask students to count how many votes were submitted. Provide students with their needed supplemental aids (100s charts, number lines, etc.). Make every student a part of this process, no matter their ability level. There is a math skill that every student can get out of this process, whether it’s counting to 2 or counting to 50, adding votes, or even grouping votes and practicing multiplication skills.
  5. If there’s a vote that didn’t follow the voting rules, open a discussion with the class. For example, if a voter cast a vote for every soda, ask the students if the rules were followed (review the rules for voting if needed).Ask students if the vote should be counted or disqualified.
  6. At the end of the week, have students take a final tally of the votes. Count all dark soda party votes versus clear soda party votes to determine a party winner. Finally, take a count to determine the overall soda winner. Students will then graph their findings. Students can do this on paper, or you can project Create-a-Graph on the Smart Board and create the graph as a class. Discuss all the findings with the students.
  7. Finally, ask students to write a summary of the project and the findings. This can be done in many ways, depending on your student’s ability levels. Some students may be able to work with minimal prompting, some may need to work together in a small group with a teacher, some may need their words transcribed, some might be able to complete this task with text-to-speech software, some may order pictures taken during the activity, etc.

Your students have now completed a project that has incorporated three TEKS addressed in the STAAR Alternate 2, and many prerequisite skills across subject areas. The students participated in meaningful learning, and they are motivated to learn!