Monday, July 2, 2012

Sometimes, It's OK to Cheat

To continue working on, Better Juggling My Many Hats of Special Education, I’ve created another organization strategy that will hopefully help myself, as well as the other professionals working with my upcoming kiddos, to manage student paperwork.

As a Special Education teacher, you know the binder-sized packet of information that accompanies each student. I’m not sure about you, but I have a very strong love-hate relationship with the countless stacks of information I’m handed every year.

On the one hand, this paperwork offers you key insight into your student’s family life, academic abilities, behaviors, and personality. I think of it as an extremely undecorated scrapbook of the student year’s past, as well as a projection into this year’s future. 

Of course this information is incredibly helpful. How you decide to differentiate your lessons, seat students in class, and assign groups may be contingent on the contents of these files. Not to mention, it makes you feel as though you already know and understand your students before you even meet them. There is no denying that this paperwork sets you ahead of the game in the planning and preparation of your Healthy Classroom Environment.

Yet, on the other hand, these student scrapbooks can be downright overwhelming. For my students in the middle years, that’s about 7 years of academic and behavioral past to sift through. And lets not forget the IEP’s of which are about 15 pages each. So many times have I skimmed files to find an important document or piece of information, only to wind up pulling up a chair, losing a half hour of my life, and still turning up empty handed. 

And I’m not the only person with mountains of paperwork to read and follow. I know particularly for paraprofessionals with large caseloads or special area teachers whom see almost the entire school in a year, they are swimming in seas of paperwork alongside me.

We need a lifesaver. Stat. 

I realized that what I wanted was to have that, "pull up a seat and lose a half hour of your life," to happen only once. And that one time would be my initial reading of all the important documents. Because from there on, I would create a simple document containing all the important student information that I, as well as other teachers, could reference throughout the year.  I like to think of it as a way to transform those lengthy scrapbooks into simple, photo snapshots.

So I’ve created Student Cheat Sheets!

A one-page summary of:

·      Student information
·      Special Alerts
·      Related Services
·      Daily Living Skills
·      Reading, Writing, Math, and Social Skill Levels
·      Modifications and Management
·      Testing Accommodations

Here is a blank document:

While this Cheat Sheet can really be designed to highlight any aspect of the student scrapbooks, these were the areas I found to be most important according to the level of my upcoming kiddos. 

I think these sheets will not only quickly and easily assist me in placing students and creating differentiated lesson plans, but I can hand a copy of this to any professional also working with my students. While they may not have time to sift through an entire scrapbook like me, they will have time to skim this quick Cheat Sheet. In a way, these sheets are a guarantee that everyone working with my students will have a base understanding of who they are.

I can also edit these sheets throughout the school year to ensure they are constantly reflecting current levels, and complete a final updated version at the end of the year to share with next year’s teachers.

And of course, copies of these sheets will so neatly tuck into next year’s Me Binders as well!

I hope you find this idea helpful!  Please feel free to share any ideas you have for managing student paperwork!  


  1. Very cute cheat sheet! I made one last year to give to all my caseloads teacher! I make them during the summer and pass them out in folders to their teachers. I tell the teachers to use the folders to keep any evidence they think is important.
    Special Teaching in the Middle

  2. Love your cheat sheet! Thanks for sharing. I'm also passing on the One Lovely Blog award to you :) There's more info about it on my blog at Toad-ally Exceptional Learners

  3. I was unable to find the link to download your IEP cheat sheet. I have two special needs students in my room this year and would love to add this to my binder.

  4. I can't get it to download in a document. All I see is a jpg.

  5. Any link to download? It is a great resource, but I need to be able to input may create my own version. Thank you!