One thing I struggled my first year of teaching in special education with what to do with the paraprofessional staff in my room. I use paraprofessional staff in instructional areas to make my life easier. You know a lot more about what you want to do with your students.
The one thing I knew I needed was a schedule. So I created one just like I do for my students for the staff in my room.
Using paraprofessional staff in instructional areas
Second, I took into account over the course of the last five years I have had one para that has been with me the whole time. The other position has changed people four times! This is something that can be very tricky when you have a high turnover rate!
You need to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the people you are working with so you can get the best out of them. We all like to do something we are good at or know that we can accomplish.
How did I start using paraprofessional staff in instructional areas?
So, I first started with very easy tasks for my staff and at the beginning of the year. They have to assist in teaching students how to independently complete work task boxes. All this meant was that they had to observe the student and let us know if it was something that they could complete independently. I had them take DATA!
After that was done it helped me understand some of the skills that my staff had. Then I was able to determine some tasks that they could do. These have all worked well depending on the person that was running it.
Train your paraprofessional staff in instructional areas
The biggest thing to understand is that you are going to have to train your staff. You cannot just give them a task and say “Go for it!”. They cannot read your mind. You can’t imagine they will know exactly how you want things done. This doesn’t mean that you are bossy either. You need to be confident that you are the person running this classroom. Each teacher knows what is best for your students.
(credit: The Autism Helper)
This station was inspired by The Autism Helper. I have found that every person that has run it in my classroom has been able to do it successfully. It is probably why I have had it in my classroom every year. It allows you to work on soooo many skills but in a discrete trial way and you get tons of DATA!! I take flashcards like the ones above. Some are fancy, some are homemade. I have my para run through them and take data. It really is a great set up! I utilize the IRIS storage cases and I then assign a color to each student. I also have a binder with tabs where my paraprofessional keeps the data!
This is not fancy AT ALL! Literally, it’s binders with worksheets that students can work on and I just create a schedule for what the para pulls from to work on. You can put anything in these from math facts, handwriting, comprehension, and more! I have included Edmark materials, Unique Learning Systems worksheets, and more!
Work Task Practice:
I always want my students to increase their independence and when it comes to working tasks that are the goal! My students work with a paraprofessional on work tasks that would normally be too difficult for them to complete on their own. I have them picked out so that the paras can work with the student and try to get them to that independent stage. The goals are to eventually take that task and add it to their work task time because they can do it on their own. Students will build the skills that they can do independently is if they work on them!
Life Skills/Hygiene Practice:
I have had paraprofessionals work with students on different life skills activities. These things would be folding clothes, hanging clothes, matching socks, vacuuming, wiping down tables, and other tasks that might be more of a vocational type task. I have also had students work on their hygiene skills with a para where they help read social stories. They also work on things like washing their hands, washing their face, brushing their teeth, combing their hair, and more! These students needed the practice and having something to model for them is just what they needed!
Writing Station using paraprofessional staff in instructional areas:
This station was centered all-around writing and handwriting depending on the student’s level. I had my OT work really hard with the staff that ran this station. They had the basic background information on what we wanted when working with students on their handwriting and this helped tremendously!
Paraprofessional staff in writing instructional areas
I had my para work with students on the Handwriting Without Tears materials. You could also incorporate some fine motor activities for her to do as well. When it came to my students that didn’t need the handwriting instruction. I would have my para work with those students on expanding their sentences and answering questions in sentences.
I could not do what I do in my classroom every single day if it was not for the paraprofessionals in my classroom. They are the backbone that keeps things running so that I can do my job.
Without them, I wouldn’t be able to accomplish what I do with my students. You should use paraprofessional staff in instructional areas!
I am so thankful for the work that they put in. I am so thankful that they value educating our students the way that they do!