Monday, June 25, 2012

Toolbox Tuesday: Token Economy Boxes

I wish I could say that I have been using a Token Economy System with my students for years, but in all honesty, it wasn't until this past school year that I began to understand them and therefore could use them with the students. I always thought, "token economy's are hard to enforce" or "my students can't even sit down for 2 minutes long enough to earn a token, never mind 4 of them", or even, "my students need immediate reinforcement, they can't wait for tokens". Is it any wonder why one of my favorite slogans is, 

"If I only knew then what I know now..."

And here is what I know now: Token Economy Systems work for ALL types of students, no matter what their academic or communication  level! Here is how I utilize them in my classroom:

First thing you should know is that my students work in  small groups and also have individual work stations and the Token Economy Systems work in both settings.  Each of my Para-professionals have one of these:

This is the Token Economy Box. It's a simple clear container with Velcro on the top and bottom of the lid.  The tokens are stored on top while on the inside of the lid are the picture icons for the items inside the box. And of course inside the box are a variety of reinforcing items based on my students preferences. I try to have both edible and tangible items in the box. 

Question: What kind of tokens should I use? I recommend anything sturdy and durable. I choose to use plastic quarters because they are readily available to me AND whether you know it or not you are actually teaching money skills while using the Token Economy System with quarters (4 quarters = a dollar, you need money to buy items etc.). I prefer NOT to use smiley faces or check marks since they have little meaning or value. 

Also housed inside the box are the students Token Economy Boards. At the beginning of each work session each student get's to chose what they want to work for, they simply choose the picture that corresponds to the item they want. 

Question: My student can't discriminate picture icons, how do I know what they want? That is perfectly fine, here's what you do: let the student reach into the box and pick out the actual item that he/she wants. Then you give them the corresponding picture icon to put on their Token Board. 

If you want to make it a little more challenging and encourage more communication skills here's what you can do: Give them a "CHOICE" icon (see picture below) and when they have earned all their tokens have them request with their current communication level and method, for which item they want. 

Students can earn tokens in many ways but here are the 2 primary ways to earn them

Option #1- one token for each task completed. When first introducing the Token Economy I started by having each student complete the easiest, shortest task that they could so they would earn tokens quickly and gain an understanding of how the system works. As they got better at it, the task length and difficulty increased. In a typical 30-minute work session each student usually goes through their Token Board 2x's giving them the opportunity to earn 2 reinforcers. (When it was first introduced to them they averaged 5-6 cycles through their boards in a 30-minute session). 

Option #2- the timer method. This method works best for students who have a harder time staying seated. Start at intervals of 10-20 seconds and gradually increase the time. Each time the timer goes off if they are in their seat they get a token with the praise phase "Good Sitting" (or other specific phrase, just avoid saying the generic "good job") so that they know they are getting the  token for sitting. 

Here are a few more tips, tricks, and random Token Economy Information: 
  • Give the token to the student to put on their boards, avoid doing it for them. 
  • When students have earned all 4 tokens have them count them back to you one at a time, this helps teach one-to-one correspondence. If your students are non-verbal, you say the numbers as they  give you each token one at a time. 
  • When using food reinforcers, use discretion in portion control- if you know they are going to cycle through their token boards 4-5 times in 30 minutes and they are working for skittles, then give them 1-5 skittles each time they complete their board. If they only complete their board one time in 30 minutes because the tasks were longer and more difficult, give them a "snack pack" size bag of skittles. 
  • Students do NOT earn tokens while engaging in negative behaviors OR immediately after  negative behaviors. If the student is displaying a negative behavior to avoid work or because the work is too hard then try doing 3 easy fast tasks followed by 1 slightly harder task. The hardest task should always go last since it will be closest to earning  the reinforcer. 
  • If you need to travel around campus but need to use the Token Economy System and feel like the box is too bulky to carry or you need to have your hands free then wear a waitress/ waiter apron and transfer everything into the apron pockets. If you think the kids will try to reach into your apron pockets then wear the apron pocket side in, closest to your  body. 
I hope this has been a helpful Toolbox trick that you can use in your classroom. Since this is the  first edition of Toolbox Tuesday, I would love your feedback on the layout and format. Do you like the Question sections through out? Was it easy to read and understand? Would you like more pictures or examples? Is there anything you would like to see in next week's Toolbox?


New School Year, New Posts

I was pleasantly surprised last night when I opened my e-mail and saw that I had been nominated for a 2012 Most Fascinating Special Education Blog Award. This has lit a fire under me to continue this blog with the intentions I had last year when I started it. Share what I know, don't know, and everything in between.

I had a lot of success in the classroom this year and I'd like to toot my own horn about it if I may. I'd also like to hear from other teacher bloggers to see if any of the tidbits I share have been helpful. So, with the official end to the school year only 5 days behind me, I'd like to re-introduce Classroom in the Corner. 

Here are my plans and what I hope you will look forward to:

Tips and tricks on everything from data collection, classroom structure, student work boxes, and more!

Information and examples of how to use forms of student communication such as Picture Exchange Communications, Ipod's, Ipad's, signs, and more!

Everything and anything related to food in the classroom (and sometimes at home), from getting kids to eat new foods, using food as reinforcement, or following dietary restrictions such as Gluten Free/ Casein Free in the classroom. 

These three categories will be the base of this blog. If I can manage to post once a week in each category then I'll be a happy camper...I mean blogger. I hope you'll join me as I start my blogging adventures once again!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Where has the time gone

Wow, and to think that my last post was written the morning of the first day of school. There are now only 5 1/2  short weeks left to go. Where did the time go? As the year winds down I am finally finding some time to sit down without falling asleep immediately.

As I reflect on the past school year I can really only recall the good moments. While there were plenty of rocky days, I can only seem to remember the good ones. Some of my favorites were: the day one of my students spoke (actually sang) his first communicative words, the day  of the Holiday Show  when all my kids participated on stage and the audience went nuts with applause, the day of the talent show when my shy and quiet kiddo sang "We are the World" with clarity into the microphone in front of 100 people, and so much more.

I take a lot of photo's through out the year,and at the end of the year I always put together a CD for each child's parents. So now I am sitting down going through them all and I have taken WAY more than  I remember. I have beautiful kids. And I think the last few weeks of school are my favorite, not because I look forward to summer vacation, but because I can look back at pictures and remind myself of how much progress the kids made and that I had a hand in that. It inspires me for next year. And yes, I am already planning for next September..actually August since we will start early next year.

I hope to return to blogging regularly in the  next few months. I hope you will join me.



Monday, September 12, 2011

First Day Jitters and Guilt

Today  is the first day of school for the kids and I have the jitters. Despite the fact that I have spent the last 5 weeks working in the classroom and prepping, I still don't feel done. I brought a  bunch of stuff home with me this weekend to work on while sitting on the couch, but I admit that I didn't touch it at all yesterday and now I  feel super guilty.

And, I forgot to set my alarm this morning.  I meant to get up at 5:00 AM, but I didn't get up until 6:00 AM instead. I woke up at 4:15 this morning and contemplated getting up then, and I should have. Now I feel rushed. Well, obviously not that rushed if I'm sitting here typing this...

Wish me luck on my first day back.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Weekly Features Coming Soon

In an effort to increase my daily blogging I've created 2 NEW weekly features that will be coming soon!

Parent Teacher Conference (PTC) will feature some of  my favorite Parent and Teacher written blogs. Each week I'll choose one from each category and share them with you. I'll also use PTC to share idea's and methods of facilitating good communication skills between school and home. 

Teachers Tool Box Tuesday will feature DIY style posts on  how to create and implement everything from student work boxes, behavior plans, easy IEPs, classroom organization and structure, art and supplemental activities, and much more!

I hope you'll join me each week for these 2 NEW features coming soon! If there is enough interest, I'd be more than happy to open up a linky each week for you to join in and connect!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Starting with a Sketch

I've never been much of an artist and I'm not much of a doodler either, but when it comes to physical classroom structure I always start with a sketch. Last year I did it the old fashion way with paper and pencil but this year I got a little more "sophisticated" and used Microsoft Excel to help me. 

The first thing I do is measure the room, which is quite easy since the floor tiles are 1'x1' squares. This year my room is 23' x 20'. The following sketch is the room as is, without movable furniture. 

Here is the first sketch I had drawn up. When I inherited this room it came with 4 tables where the students sat for everything from work to lunch. I really wanted desks for the students instead of tables so I designed my room based on  desks. The area between the permanent dividers had been previously used as a quiet area for the kids, but I opted to make it another work station and intended to create an alternate quiet area in another area of the room. This design would also require me to obtain 2 move divider walls...which I planned on grabbing from my old classroom anyway. Oh-and it required the bulletin board to be removed. This design was based on having12 students. 

But as with all good plans comes bumps in the  road. I was unable to obtain desks in place of my tables from the school so I then had to redesign the room based on tables. This design also would require me to obtain 2 additional divider walls. This design was also based on having 12 students. 

And then I found out that I will have 14 students and I had to start planning from scratch. It actually worked out perfectly, and I decided to implement the TEACCH method in the design. I purchased 8 desks from IKEA (with my own money) and my husband helped me build 2 dividers for the room. This design also only required me to obtain one additional divider from my previous room as opposed to 2 for the other designs. 

So, I have implemented this sketch as my room design. There are a few pieces off missing furniture from this sketch such as the book bag cubbies, the lunch table area, and the shelves that hold work boxes, but this is the general idea. 

I'll be heading back in to the classroom this week to finish up the structure so that I can focus on curriculum design next week. Make sure to stop by next week to see pictures of the completed room and see how it all came together. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Three for Thursday

I'm not going to play by the rules today...but then again, I rarely do anyways.

Since I've never actually downloaded a font in my life I don't have a link to share. Instead, I'm going to share a video. This is my favorite Teacher song of all time and it makes me smile (and sometimes cry) when I hear it. I hope you enjoy.

**Side note: The video is larger than the width of my text area and it really bothers really bothers me. I'm a little OCD and I think it  looks sloppy when it overlaps on my page. But the  video is sooooo good I'm willing to grin and bare it just so you can enjoy the video too

Next, I really can't pick one teaching blog that I love so instead I'm sharing my favorite parent blog. This mom is rising twin boys who have Fragile X. Her honesty and outlook of life are inspiring and it helps me get a glimpse of what the parents of my students go through on a daily basis. I love reading her blog and she takes amazing photographs that capture her children beautifully. The blog is The Fragile X Files written by Bonnie.

And last but not least, my favorite on-line resource...I don't really have one. If I had to pick based on what site I go to for information and idea's then I'd have to say my favorite online resource is my Google Reader. Each morning I get up early and enjoy my morning coffee in front of the computer and browse all  the teacher blogs that I follow.

So there you have it,  Little Miss Rule Breaker participated. Don't be shy, leave me a comment, they make me happy.