Organizing The Special Needs Classroom: Evaluate

July 19, 2012


Whether your church has had a a special needs ministry for one year or whether your church has had one for the last 15-years, it’s always a good idea to evaluate your special needs classroom on an annual basis.  I think it’s simply good practice to take an objective look at the way you organize and structure your classroom and make any productive changes that you deem necessary.

Although you can evaluate or assess your classroom anytime during the year, it may be best to conduct your evaluation during the summer, before you get ready to roll again in the fall.  This way you can begin the fall special needs ministry kick-off on an organized footing.  I know you may be thinking:

  • Are you kidding? 
  • Have you seen my room? 
  • I don’t know where to begin!

No problem.  I’m going to give you 3 simple steps that will set you on the right path to ensuring you have a productive start in organizing your special needs ministry classroom.

3 Steps To Evaluating A Special Needs Ministry Classroom

Step one is easy.  Grab a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle of it.  You now have two columns.  In the left column I want you to write:  “What’s Working!”  and in the right column I want you to write: “What’s Not Working!”  Now go stand at the front door of your classroom.  Look around.  ALL around!  Look up above the cabinets and shelves, look beneath the tables, look at the walls and bulletin boards, look in the corners and closets of your room.

Now, while you are looking around your room, think about the kids in your class.  Perhaps you have a lot of learners or maybe you only have a few.  You may have students with Down Syndrome, Autism, ADHD, or other needs.  Your room may be a self-contained classroom or an inclusive special needs ministry room.  Regardless of what your room looks like or the kids that occupy your room, you have to have a plan to evaluate your room, and the first item of business is to –with an honest eye (grab a volunteer if you need to!)–objectively determine “What’s Working?” and “What’s Not Working?”

Step two is to clean the clutter!  Clutter is a visual distraction (especially true for kids on the autism spectrum), makes your room look unprofessional, and potentially leaves visitors with a negative impression.  The best idea that I’ve come across is to make 3 piles and place each item in your room in one of these 3 piles:

  • Get Rid Of It:  the stuff that goes in this pile gets thrown away because it’s broken or no longer works.
  • Share It: the stuff that goes in this pile are things that you have in excess and that others can use.
  • Keep It:  the stuff that goes in this pile are the things that you use on a regular basis or will use in the near future.

Go through all of your closets, cabinets, desk drawers, bins, containers, and your desk.  Do you have 6 partially completed crafts from last year?  Get Rid Of It.  Do you have 10 packs of blue construction paper that you don’t even remember that you had? Share It.  Do you have multiple copies of intake forms for new families?  Keep It.

Step three is to evaluate your room.  An evaluation/assessment form is a useful tool to help you paint a true picture of how you feel about your current special needs ministry classroom.  The typical classroom evaluation form will cover a variety of aspects of the special needs ministry classroom:  physical environment, communication, curriculum, visual supports, and teaching to name a few.  If you have a special needs ministry classroom evaluation/assessment form go grab it and fill it out.  If you don’t have one then you can download the one that I use by clicking on this hyperlink.  Be honest as you complete this form.  It will help you identify the areas where you should focus your efforts for change.

If you’d like to specific ideas on the physical classroom environment, you can read our post here.

Make sure that you either subscribe to our blog or “like” us on our Special Friends Ministry facebook page in order to be notified when our next article is published!

Michael Woods, M.A. BCaBA CPI

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About Michael Woods

Christ-follower, husband, chocoholic, and peanut-butter lover! I'm a father to triplet boys...each on the autism spectrum.

View all posts by Michael Woods


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