Teaching self contained is a challenging but very important job! Are you up to it?

First year teaching in self contained special education

Most of the time, and especially in my program, special education courses are all lumped together. They rarely focus on self contained, or more severe students. This usually leaves teachers scouring the internet or coming up with everything from scratch!

So, it’s time to get prepped for teaching self contained. There is SO MUCH to do. But I’ll walk you through just a few big areas of focus. Be sure to read to the bottom to grab your First Year in Self Contained checklist!

Shown above is Visual Keychain

First year teaching in self contained special education


If at any way possible, as early as possible, try to meet with the team you will be working with. This is usually made up of a chair person, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, and whoever else might already have experience working with your new students.

Why meet with the team? Because they know your students better than anyone. They can give you some ideas on what is working, what isn’t working, and what behaviors and goals your students are focusing on.

Be sure to bring a notebook, take allllll the notes, and gather as much information as possible before proceeding with prepping for the year.

(( Can’t meet with the team? EMAIL THEM. Email the principal and ask for the emails of all the students team members. Tell the principal that you would like to gather information before leaping into the school year, they will be impressed for sure!))

Important tip: You DO NOT have to do everything that the classroom is used to. You CAN make as many changes that you see fit. You are in charge now! But it is good to learn from the team!

Download the meet with the team checklist here.

visual schedule made interactive with matching pieces


In self contained, your classroom will THRIVE on schedules. You will need schedules for your paras (check out the para binder to keep it all organized here), schedules for your classroom, individual schedules for your students, visual schedules, binder schedules… the list is truly endless. To be sure you are prepped for the first day, make sure you ask the team what your students are already familiar with. There is a free resource in my store for organizing visual schedules. You can find it here.

Shown above is Whole Group Schedules
Behavior management visual name tags


When I say visuals, a lot of teachers think I just mean schedule pieces. YES, you need ALL THE SCHEDULE PIECES (You can grab my set here). But you also need behavior visuals, token boards (you can grab my color coded set here),  routine visuals, bathroom visuals, spacial visuals, visuals for specials… wow are you overwhelmed yet? Don’t worry, you will know more about what your students need once you meet them! We become masters at gathering what we need at a moments notice. ((and I can’t tell you how many times I downloaded something for the same day that morning!))

Shown above is Functional Name Tags

First year teaching in self contained special education


Curriculum is IMPORTANT. You have to know what you will TEACH. A lot of schools don’t have access to specialized curriculum… but FIND OUT if yours does. I had to email all around the district to find out if we had any curriculums… turns out we DID, and no one in my school knew. I also was always willing to make requests. They can say no, but it shows that you care about what is best for your students. ((I was pleasantly surprised that my previous school said yes!))

Shown above is Simple Comprehension

First year teaching in self contained special education


I’m going to be REAL for a second. In order to survive you need to find a group of people that understands. Because the cold hard truth is that you may be the only one in your school or district teaching self contained, you may not have administration that “gets it” and it is going to get tough sometimes. I would love to welcome you into the Simply Special Community group on facebook. (just click here) or Simply Special New Teachers 2018 (just click here)Both communities will be filled with people who “get it”, people who can answer your questions, make suggestions, and give support (including me!)

Simply Special New Teachers 2018 will be starting up in June. 

In this group I go live weekly, talk about topics YOU want to learn about, answer questions, help you with classroom resources and setup, walk you through setting up a self contained classroom all for free.

To join, click here.

Finally, remember to focus on the First 10 Days of School first. THEN make adjustments from there. Above all else your students need to learn routines first! Here’s how I handle the first 10 days of school!

First year teaching in self contained special education

WOAH! That was a lot of info in a short amount of time! There are plenty other blog posts to read more about all of these topics! Check out the suggested posts below or use the search bar to find what you are looking for. Join my groups and ask questions in them! I’m also always available by email for help!


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