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    Friday, February 16, 2024

    Teaching About Feelings in the Special Education Classroom

    After all the talk about what students love during Valentine's Day activities, I always found a natural next step in my thematic units was to focus on feelings and emotions. 

    Check out some of my favorite Emotions activities:

    ELA Ideas

    • I first introduce feelings vocabulary. We use a variety of visuals including photos, icons, and even emojis. 
    • Next, we practice sorting emotions based on the vocabulary we've learned. These cut and paste worksheets are also included in my Feelings Thematic Unit

    • Then, we read stories to discuss each emotion in context. I love The Way I Feel by Janan Cain because it covers so many robust feeling words. I use the communication board from my Feelings Thematic Unit for students to participate.

    • Another favorite feelings story is When Sophie Gets Angry-- Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang. I love this story for introducing the concept of coping strategies to my students. 

    I love this story so much that I created an entire Picture Book Communication and Comprehension Supports resource which you can check out in my TPT store. It includes vocabulary, sentence building boards, AAC, comprehension questions, sequencing, and fill-in-the blank activities. Plus IEP goal ideas and progress monitoring sheets!


    Social Group Ideas

    • We practice our feelings vocabulary words by playing a game of charades where each student makes a silly emoji face and sees if their friends can guess them ๐Ÿ˜œ๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‹๐Ÿคจ๐Ÿ˜ฑ



    • We also practice our vocabulary with a variety of games including BINGO and this great board game board. 

    I use this universal game board from my Feeling Thematic Unit to practice a variety of skills depending on the needs of my students including: number, letter, or sound ID, reading sight words, answering math facts, or practicing other IEP goal skills in addition to our emotions vocabulary!


    • We also follow up our unit on When Sophie Gets Angry by talking about our own emotions, what causes them, and coping strategies for what we call BIG emotions. I created a book template for my students to use as a resource when they are having big feelings. It aligns loosely with The Zones of Regulation. This template is included as one of the 12 cross-curricular activities in my Feelings Thematic Unit.

    • This is also a good time to introduce our classroom Big Feelings Tools. I use the A Little Peaceful Spot book from the A Little Spot of Emotion by Diane Alber. After reading the story, I use a slide deck to introduce our Big Feeling Tools and model each tool and we discuss the expectations. 

    Our big feelings tools for moving our bodies include a Color Match Station which is a velcro board poster where students get vestibular input from bending down to get an Ellison cutout and then match it to the poster and a Heavy Work Station in which students match covered textbooks to corresponding colored Xs in the hallway.

    Our big feelings tools for resting our bodies include a Picture Reading Poster from S'cool Moves, a Calming Kit with small fidgets, and my Special Interest Deep Breathing Posters.

    Math Ideas

    • With so many different emotion icons, it can be a great opportunity to practice graphing. I have done this in a variety of ways. When we have more time, I have students sort and graph emoji erasers like these from Amazon:


    One year, my OT pushed in for a group and we actually had students make a collage with emoji stickers and then count and graph each emoji they used. These stickers were another great Amazon find. 

    For both the erasers and stickers, Amazon has a TON of options so you can certainly choose what variety works best for your students. 

    Admittedly, there have been years where I have needed to simplify the assignment so I pre-made a worksheet with various emotions for students to create. Of course you can find this in my Feelings Thematic Unit ๐Ÿ˜‰!

    • These erasers and stickers are also a great way to practice basic counting for students who aren't quite ready for graphing yet. I also made a fun emoji counting worksheet.

    Cooking Ideas

    • During our cooking time, my students loved making cooking activities with different faces such as waffles, rice cakes, or english muffin pizzas. 

    Interested in these activities and more? Why not bundle and save! 

    What is your favorite activity to teach feelings in your classroom? Which of these activities are you excited to try? 

    Monday, January 15, 2024

    Teaching About Animals in the Special Education Classroom

    Animals are a common special interest in my classroom so I have taken full advantage over the years of using animals to teach a variety of skills. 

    For my TPT store, I divided all of my animal activities into thematic units by narrowing down the topic including: 

    We had so much fun exploring books and videos about different animal habitats! I also incorporated learning about living and non-living animals. 

    ๐Ÿฆ‰ Vocabulary Word and Picture Cards

    ๐Ÿฎ Visual Recipes for Crunchy Birds Nests and Sea Turtle Snacks

    ๐Ÿˆ Weekend Reports for home communication (2)


    ๐Ÿป Reading Communication Board for Pond Circle, We're Going on a Bear Hunt, and Welcome Home, Bear


    ๐Ÿ Living vs. Non-Living Sort


    ๐Ÿฆ† Pet Habitats Base 10 Task Cards


    ๐Ÿฆ€ Crab Shape Matching


    ๐Ÿง Habitat Sorting Activity

    I admit that some of the higher-level biology standards like animal habitats, food chains, and animal traits were a bit tricky for me to teach in my elementary self-contained special education classroom. It was important to me to address these standards while also making the content accessible to my students.

    ๐Ÿชถ Vocabulary Word and Picture Cards

    ๐Ÿชถ Visual Recipes for Animal Mix 

    ๐Ÿชถ Weekend Reports for home communication (2) 

    ๐Ÿชถ Reading Communication Board for I'm Going to Eat You and Who Am I?

    ๐Ÿชถ Animal Traits Sort

    ๐Ÿชถ Skip Counting by 10s Sequencing

    ๐Ÿชถ Comparing Sets Cut and Paste Worksheet

    ๐Ÿชถ Food Chain Sequencing

    ๐Ÿชถ Animal Yoga 

    ๐Ÿชถ Animal BINGO 

    The zoo theme is definitely a favorite for my students! 

    ๐Ÿฆ Vocabulary Word and Picture Cards
    ๐Ÿฆ Visual Recipes for Lion Crackers and Animal Face Pizzas

    ๐Ÿฆ Weekend Reports for home communication (2)


    ๐Ÿฆ Reading Communication Board for Dear Zoo and The View at the Zoo


    ๐Ÿฆ Zoo Board Game


    ๐Ÿฆ Zoo Cage Animal Cookie Counting Task Cards


    ๐Ÿฆ Lion Shape Matching


    ๐Ÿฆ Comparing Sets Cut and Paste Worksheet


    ๐Ÿฆ Dear Zoo Class Book Writing Activity

    We have several farms in our region so it was always fun to plan a farm field trip as a culminating activity for this fun thematic unit!

    ๐Ÿฎ Vocabulary Word and Picture Cards

    ๐Ÿฎ Visual Recipes for Pigs in a Blanket and Haystacks

    ๐Ÿฎ Weekend Reports for home communication (2)

    ๐Ÿฎ Reading Communication Board for The Big Red Barn and Mrs. Wishy Washy's Farm

    ๐Ÿฎ Egg Additon Sentences

    ๐Ÿฎ Piggy Bank Coin Counting


    ๐Ÿฎ Farm Following Directions Cut and Paste Activity

    ๐Ÿฎ Farm BINGO

    ๐Ÿฎ Farm Animal Charades

    This is another favorite unit for my students. We love watching live feeds at the National Aquarium and even watching Finding Nemo!

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Vocabulary Word and Picture Cards

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Visual Recipes for Tortilla Crab Sandwich, Peanut Butter Banana Fish Toast, Sand Dollar Cookies

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Weekend Reports for home communication (2)

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Reading Communication Board for Way Down Deep on the Deep Blue Sea

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Goldfish Cracker Counting Task Cards

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Ocean Counting Worksheet

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Fill-in-the-Blank Ocean Writing

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Ocean Bingo

    ๐Ÿฆ€ Vocabulary Fishing

    One of the most relatable habitats for my students was the forest because we have the metroparks and several wooded areas close to our school. Students loved going into the forest to look for the thematic vocabulary... especially the animals!

    ๐Ÿป Vocabulary Word and Picture Cards

    ๐Ÿป Visual Recipes for Pine Cone Bird Feeders and Brown Bear French Toast

    ๐Ÿป Weekend Reports for home communication (2)

    ๐Ÿป Reading Communication Board for Bear Wants More and Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?

    ๐Ÿป Bear Wants More Sequencing

    ๐Ÿป Bear Wants More True vs. False Game

    ๐Ÿป Base 10 Forest Animal Habitat Matching Task Cards

    ๐Ÿป Hiding Foxes Subtraction Worksheet

    ๐Ÿป Forest Animal Memory

    Across these thematic units, I have created over 70 different activities for reading, math, cooking, science, communication, games, writing, and more! Here are some of the common features you can find across all of my thematic units:

    Every single activity has a corresponding lesson plan with ideas for implementing the activity for different group sizes and differentiation tips for accommodating or extending each lesson.  

    Also included in each unit there are reading communication boards for popular picture books (12 books total across all 6 units), but I decided to dive deeper into two of my favorites,  and  and created comprehensive Picture Book Communication and Comprehension resources which have picture-supported supports, progress monitoring, and IEP goals for a variety of elementary communication and comprehension skills!

    Just like my thematic units, every single activity in my picture book units has a corresponding lesson plan with ideas for implementing the activity for different group sizes and differentiation tips for accommodating or extending each lesson.  

    I also included IEP goal ideas that can be used across picture book units and are easily monitored with the included progress monitoring data sheets. 

    Don't worry, if your students love animals too and you can't decide which unit to start with, you can find everything bundled and save some money too! You can get the  or the  too!

    Still not sure? See what other customers have said... 

    I hope these resources help you in your classroom as much as they helped me in mine!