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How we work in our class Part 1

Welcome back! This part of my educational reflection brings you closer to my daily work in the special school. Here you can find concrete examples and explain how I follow the principles I bring up in the blog posts. During the academic year, I will add more Parts of these methods and practices to show how they communicate and work. In each part, I am going to bring at least one fundamental approach or model that I use daily.

These approaches and ideas are combinations of my practices and practices learned from others. From my first post, I want to say that most of the following ideas would not have been increased on that high level without collaboration and co-teaching. You can be the mastermind and creator of the idea, but you need people around you most of the time to fulfill the idea's full potential.

Part 1 provides an overview of the start of the academic year and shows the first baby steps of promoting optimal environments to develop self-regulatory skills, which leads to a more friendly classroom and enriches learning. The part is divided into THREE sections and provides different tools to achieve set goals. For your notice Section 3 is something that you can not miss...

It is not the strongest pr the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage changes. Charles Darwin

Section 1 Wanted behavior in a valued environment

  • The ultimatum goal. Understand that every emotion and feeling is valuable. Emotions are a big part of our decision-making structure and learning mindset. The fundamental skill is to notice different emotions and find the reasons for them. The next step is to let restricted emotions go and move to a more calm and positive state. On the other hand, if an emotional state is wanted, how to maintain it throughout the day.

  • While practicing soft skills, we want that our learning environment provides the best possible platform for learning and growing. In this case, I acknowledge that a learning environment can be seen as all things that can affect learners' security and safety.

  • Situation factors - guide and affect our behavior. By changing the situation factors, we impact the atmosphere and wanted outcomes.

  • Feedback - This is the most crucial tool that promotes wanted behavior in the future if used right. One great rule I learned from the Niilo Mäki Institution training session about managing a well-behaving environment was to have a ratio of 5:1 for the positive feedback. ( Five positive notions/feedback to One corrective feedback on unwanted behavior)


Section 2 Values and joint agreements

  • We have values and rules to follow, but the main question is how to promote and encourage students to commit to them? So, at the beginning of the year, we decided to announce five of the most important agreements to help us reach our commonly set goal, "Good classmate."

  • While thinking about the "rules" and agreements, I gave two directives to the class:

  1. You cannot use the words "Do not" or "You can not."

  2. The agreement should also have an example and explanation of why everyone will benefit from supporting the deal.

  • It was interesting to see how confused students were initially because I used word agreement instead of rules and encouraged them to avoid prohibition sentences in the seemingly learned way.


Section 3 Keeping up the agreements and wanted atmosphere

Visual Cues

  • Joint agreements in a written form and positive slogans with emojis are put on the walls.

  • Agreements are also written in every student's Google Sites Portfolio in the second section after introducing part where their strengths are highlighted.

  • Students are differentiated into three levels:

Welcome back! It´s nice to see you again.
Welcome back! It´s nice to see you again.
  1. A level- students who cannot read or write use mostly pictures and write from the model as part of the exercise.

  2. B level - students use singular words and write from the model as part of the exercise.

  3. C level - students who can express themselves with writing are guided with help questions.

"The Zones of Regulation"-sheet.

  • Each student has their sheet on their desk and is asked to circle their mood in the following situations:

  1. At the beginning of the day,

  2. After different exercises like breathing moments or sports activities,

  3. In the middle of the day.

It has been great to see students taking the initiative after three weeks of practice and marking their feelings whenever vital to them.

How do you feel today?
Let's see what kind of emotions we can have?

Self-assessment practice with Google Sheets

  • Together with The Zones of Regulation-sheet, we are using self-assessment created with Google Sheets. The idea is based on Pekka Peura's dynamic assessment tool, where students are guided to practice self-assessment. I have been adjusting and implementing this tool and approach to serve students with special needs better, but the sky is the limit with this relatively easy tool to implement in your class.

  • Students are evaluating five-set skills that can be used individually or while working with others.

  • Self-assessment activity has been placed on Tuesdays when students have had time to have situations where to practice and Thursdays where they have had a chance to reflect on their work and improve or keep up with the achieved level.

  • After one month of practice, some students have started to do the self-assessment whenever they are working with their laptops. I again see this as a great initiative and progress because they catch the moment and emotions simultaneously. In addition, this helps them reflect and understand better the reasons that have led to wanted or not wanted outcomes.

  • The self-assessment replica is also found from the wall to remind students about its importance.

Alone we can do so little: together we can do so much.


The game of being a good classmate

  • Behaviorist approach (an adult is the role model who encourages students to enhance good manners and positive behavior.)

  • In our class, students and adults are promoting wanted outcomes together by positive feedback. We both know that positive feedback is essential, but how easily do we fall into highlighting those individuals who usually need more support with positive and corrective feedback and forget to highlight the most polite and well-behaving students?

  • Like most teachers, I am making it visual to the class by transferring the idea to a more playful way. Our game is called "The game of a good classmate," where students collect positive feedback as a team and as individuals. A sufficient amount of gathered feedback leads to the freedom of choice from the list of activities explained further.

  • It helps me to remember to give everyone at least once a day positive feedback.

  • Most students like to compete against the teacher because when an individual or class collects enough positive feedback marks, they can use their "class coins" to have free time on their phone, get extra points in, or relax for 5min while others are working on their tasks.

  • Worth mentioning is that we are not using as any competition or race between individuals or teams, but some students need to see their names on the podium.

  • The game promotes wanted behavior and encourages students to highlight other's success and enhance to create friendship. Some progress has been seen in this area which is at least my goal for this year!

  • Students feel increased autonomy by deciding when, where, and how to use achieved advantages.

  • Social skills and making compromises for the good of the whole class are practiced while students are thinking about how to use their tokens.

  • Students can use their tokens individually or gather them for common use.

Co-teaching brings two creative minds together!

Will this currency make the world a more peaceful place to live?


Individual game:

  • One classcoin (Bitcoin is so last season) = two positive mentions

What can I get for my tokens:

  1. Five tokens - five minutes of free time during the lesson or extra points in (Limitation is that you cannot use more than five tokens during one lesson, and laptop/phone is not allowed).

  2. Ten classcoins - ten minutes of laptop/phone use.

  3. Fifteen classcoins - can stay inside for one break.

Team game:

  1. 30 classcoins - Tea/Coffee - time (As you see, my students like to drink coffee and tea.)

  2. 50 classcoins - Extra physical activity in the gym. This group would be the whole day in the gym if they were allowed. We have daily at least 30min activity time in the gym or outdoors in addition to our booked times for P.E or daily happening functional teaching moments. We still are having conversations about not being enough in the gym...

  3. 80 classcoins - Video game / Movie time

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