Wednesday, May 7, 2014


I'm back! Can't believe it's been three months...Here's what's been going on...

First off, I have my store on sale as part of the Teachers Pay Teachers Teacher Appreciation Sale, so check it out and use TPT's code to get 28% off my store:
banner by The 3am Teacher

Also, my store is on sale through Thursday, so if you miss the sale or just forget to pick something up, check me out tomorrow for 20% off.

I have a few new products recently and they're, of course, part of the sale (click images to see):

Paying at Burger King - Money task cards...these include differentiated task cards to work on counting/matching bills, counting/matching bills and coins together, and the "next dollar" concept to figure out if you have enough money. Great for older special education students who are still working at a lower level, but need motivating and especially age-appropriate tasks.

Visual Recipe: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Breakfast Bars - my newest visual recipe for sped or early childhood - in the same format of my other recipes.

Visual Recipes Mega Bundle - all my visual recipes (7 currently) in a bundle - discounted! As I add new visual recipes I'll add them to the bundle, so if you buy now you'll receive any subsequent recipes at no additional cost!

A few other things that have been happening in my classroom (more details on some of this to come - I wanted to briefly mention them here so I'll have a centralized list of things I want to blog about - I really want to get back to blogging regularly):

-I have had my first student teacher in my classroom this semester. She is extra-fabulous; it's been such a great experience. It is her last day in the classroom tomorrow. We'll miss her! I hope to post a little bit about having a student teacher sometime soon.

-We did a great Mother's Day gift today (and also made one as a goodbye surprise for our student teacher, as she was off today on required visits to other classrooms)...I'll have to post about it more tomorrow, since I forgot to take photos today - will have to do that before we wrap them up to send home for moms!

-Our classroom has been part of a pilot in our school to adapt and implement the Balanced Literacy (Four Blocks) program. We have really been enjoying it, but are still trying to work out how it's best going to fit our population of moderately to severely impaired students.

-I have also spent time on our school curriculum committee looking at the new Essential Elements (Common Core modified for low-incidence special ed). Something else we're trying to work out how best to implement it for our population of students. It is going to be mandatory for us soon, so we are trying to get a jump start.

-Our May unit is all about life cycles, so I'll be posting about our work with that, too - I just received my "grow your own butterflies" kit in the mail today!

I'm heading out for a family dinner tonight, but when I'm back, I'm going shopping at the sale! My wish list is primed! I'm also looking forward to blogging and reading/commenting much more :)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

February Currently

Yes, I'm listening to the Super Bowl halftime show right now. Only watching the Super Bowl for the commercials, to be perfectly honest - I loved the Cheerios commercial!

And I'm loving the sunshine we in my city had today - we have not seen the sun in weeks. It was so great to see it attempting to peek out of the clouds today! I walked out of church and just basked in it! Everyone was so excited...even though it didn't last.

My thinking - wanting - needing may seem like they contradict each other. I do have a lot to do to prep for tomorrow, and I always wish I had another day of weekend! But, we have had so many snow days lately that I'm definitely hoping for a full week of school this week! I will have everything I need to have done for tomorrow, no worries...I just need to print a couple things and I'm all set. Here's hoping for a full week!

My two truths and a fib: 1. I saw Simon and Garfunkel in concert - truth. I grew up listening to Simon and Garfunkel, and my dad and I had the privilege of seeing them on their reunion tour in Detroit in 2003. It was amazing! Even at 70+ years old they could still bring it.

2. I eat peanut butter every day - fib! I can't stand peanut butter. It is the one food that makes me gag.

3. I've read 10 books so far in 2013 - truth...though, it's supposed to say 2014! LOL. I am too lazy to go back and change the graphic; even two months in, is hard to switch the year in my mind! But I've been reading...This doesn't count books I've read at school/to my students. I made it a goal of mine to read more - just for pleasure - in 2014. The 10 books have all been novels - and I'm sure it's been helped along by the end of winter break and several snow days in this year so far! But I'm hoping to continue reading as much as I can - for fun - this year.

Check out the other February Currentlys here:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Winter art and some things in the works...

Oh goodness, I've already failed on my New Year's Resolution to blog more...this is why I don't like making resolutions! (I actually say this in jest, though - people, be kind to yourselves regarding resolutions! I am a firm believer that they...and blogging, for that matter...should absolutely not add stress to your life!)

We've missed quite a few Tasty Tuesdays in our class due to many days off (5 already!) for snow/wind chill days, hence the lack of posting at least on those days. Hopefully we will be back with cooking class next week, so that will resume! I am working on a set of kitchen/recipe terms and work related to that which I'm pretty excited about, so that's coming soon - here's a quick preview of some of what I'm working on (a picture dictionary of sorts, among other things):

We did manage to have school for a whopping three days this week, though most in our area did not (I am actually really ready to have a full week of school by now). On Wednesday, we decided to embrace the cold and snow and do a wintery art project - that turned out great, if I do say so myself!

This was a Pinterst project, but right now I can't seem to find the original pin for the life of me. If I do, I'll come back and link to it. But basically, the students used masking tape on white paper to make their tree trunk/branches. Then, they used wintery watercolors (only using purple, blue, black and brown) to cover the entire paper. When it dried, we carefully removed the masking tape and this was the result -

Also, I've gotten a few messages lately asking about teaching a severe-multiple classroom, my daily schedule, Unique Learning System, and the like. I'm working on post(s) for those inquiries, so be on the lookout! I'd love to say I've done a lot towards blogging and finishing those posts with all the days off of school I've had lately...but that'd be stretching it quite a bit. Coming soon, though!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Creating a YouTube Playlist

A sweet reader, Michie, left me a message on my last post about my "Rights and Responsibilities" playlist. (Thank you, Michie - I'm always so thrilled to hear from other sped teachers!!) Among other things, she asked how I make our YouTube playlists - I thought I would share the "how-to" for anyone else who would like to know:

Note: I make my playlists on our iPad using the YouTube app, so that's how these instructions go. I'm sure it is a similar process if you use the website on a computer but I've never done it that way. Click the images to view larger screenshots if you wish.

First, you need to sign into YouTube (via the app). I created a just-for-the-classroom gmail account and just use that. Once signed in, you will be able to create and save playlists.

Then, search for a video you want. On the app, the search field is the magnifying glass icon in the upper right corner.

Once your video is playing, tap the plus sign (lower left side of the screen) and then tap "Add to Playlist..."

In the popup that appears, tap "Create New Playlist..." and then tap "Select."

Once you name your new playlist, the video should be added to the new playlist automatically. You will see this notification (checkmark with "Added to playlist"); if you don't, just try it again.

Search for another video; when you tap the plus sign and "Add to Playlist" this time, you should see your new playlist's name. Tap that, then "select," and the new video should be added.

Once you've added all the videos you'd like in the playlist, go to your login sidebar (to view it, just minimize any video onscreen) and tap "Playlists," and then select the name of your playlist.

Tap "Play All" (near the top) and your playlist should play through each video in the list.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Pre-Vocational Work Boxes

Well, I had planned on today's blog post being the return of Tasty Tuesday after winter break, but as we have yet another snow day today, that's going to have to wait another week. Instead, I'm going to share some of the pre-vocational work boxes we use in my classroom. I had brought a few home over break to replace missing pieces, re-do signs/instructions, etc., and some are new. (Yes, this is a long post...but it's mostly pictures, I promise!)

My students are pre-teens and teens, so I am always looking for new independent work activities that are age-appropriate while still at their level. I retired my old work tasks that feature those colored counting bears, pop beads, Disney puzzles, etc. several years ago. These tasks work on many of the same skills but "look" more "vocational," for lack of a better term. Many also look like TEACCH tasks, and would work well with that setup, though I do not explicitly use that system.

The Dollar Tree is my favorite place to look for ideas! Sometimes I just wander up and down the aisles there looking for things I could make into work box tasks. (Um, wandering around The Dollar Tree is dangerous!) I always look for items that come in multi-packs (more for your buck!) and of course, containers to go with them.
I always use the Dollar Tree "box A" (shoe box size) containers to store the work tasks. That way they are all uniform and stack well. Just a caution - the lids on these bins come off very easily, so no carrying by the top like you are able to do with more expensive bins! Small price to pay...

Each bin has an outside label - velcroed to the bin so I can change them out if needed - and a visual instruction card inside. Since these are designed so most of my students can complete the tasks independently (or with only physical assistance for some, due to motor impairments) the instructions are picture-based. My students can look at the instruction card and hopefully be able to complete the task with little to no staff verbal instruction.

My students know the first thing they do when they receive a task is to take everything out of the shoebox container and spread it out so they "know what they have to work with." (They are usually either working at their individual desks or only 2-3 students at a larger table at a time, so we have the luxury of taking the space to do this.) Then, they look at the instruction card and get to work. We've found digging around in the bins mid-task just causes extra confusion and losing track of what they're supposed to be doing.

Here are some of the tasks:

School supplies packaging - there are four pencil pouches, and they must put a scissors, a marker, and two pencils in each pouch. Also some fine motor for those who are able with unzipping and zipping the pouches.

Sock rolling - both a matching and a motor task. I just grabbed a bunch of multi-packs of Dollar Tree socks in different patterns, colors and sizes. Super easy setup!

Toiletries packaging - same concept as the school supplies packaging one. If I'm remembering correctly, these cute polkadot toiletries bags actually came in a 4-pack at TDT, so there are 4 packages to make. Again, fine motor with the zipper, too.

Flashlight assembly - this is a really difficult task that I only give my highest functioning kiddos. Not only do they have to unscrew the flashlight, insert batteries, and screw the top back on, they need to make sure they put the batteries in the right way. It's hard to see in the photo, but the instruction card gives step by step photo directions on proper placement.

Simple color sorting with pom poms. These cute little containers came in a package of 10 for $1! I simply labeled the tops with Boardmaker color icons. If I want to make this task a bit more difficult I can change it up and have them put one of each color in each container (there are 6 pom poms of each of 6 colors, and 6 containers - so either way works out well).

Pill box filling - A very functional and relatable task for my kids, as most of them will be taking medicine all their lives! Of course, they are not filling the pill box with real meds - the "pills" are decorative jewels. **My students know never to take or even handle medication without knowing what it is, that it's theirs, that they're taking it at the right time and right amount, a doctor/nurse/parent has given it to them, etc. If your students do not understand this caution, I would not suggest work tasks that have to do with meds, no matter how unrealistic the "medication" looks!

Curler assembly - putting together two different colors/sizes of curlers. Fine motor and matching.

Silverware sorting - pack of plastic silverware from the Dollar Tree and three skinny "drawer organizers" for the baskets. Have to make it fit into my shoebox container (aka, a traditional silverware tray would not work)! These little baskets are also nice because I could twist-tie an example of the silverware to the bottom of each. I can also make it less concrete by using pictures or words.

Bottle cap name spelling. I have a set of bottlecap letters and a name strip for each of my students' names, and they spell the names with the cap letters, with the name strip as a guide if needed. The way this task is set up now, each name has its own baggie in the task so they can do just one name at a time. For my higher functioning kids, I combine a few of the bags so they first have to sort out the letters for the name they're working on.

Toothbrush holders - Ready made task! I found these toothbrush holders packaged already with 6 toothbrushes! This is a little more than 1:1 correspondence, since each holder has more than 6 slots for toothbrushes. Students have to make sure they have 6/an equal amount in each.

Occupation tool sort - I found Dollar Tree plastic play sets of pots and pans (chef), hairdresser tools, and doctor tools. And I'm sure everyone recognizes those Dollar Tree yellow bins! Love those.

Cleaning supplies packaging - obviously, the same concept as the school supplies and toiletries packaging tasks. In each little bag goes a dish scrubber, a sponge, two gloves, and a cloth.

Obviously a Halloween one, but many of my kids like "creepy crawlies" so much we keep it in the rotation all year. I found the Halloween cups in a pack of 4 for $1, and the little party favor things as well. Again a "packaging" type task.

Wrapping presents! This would have been fun to have in December, but I just put it together over break - definitely can be a year-round task, though, as there is nothing explicitly Christmas about it. I found a package of different shaped little gift boxes and a package of mini bows at TDT, and the "presents" are little toys from the party favor section. This is a more involved/tricky task - students must first find a box bottom, choose a toy that fits, find the matching box top, and then choose a bow. I velcroed the bows to the box tops so they can be re-used over and over. It's a task that could require some trial and error, too, because some of the toys will fit in some boxes but not others!

Many of these are not my own ideas. Here are some of the many places I get ideas for pre-voc work boxes (other than wandering the aisles of the Dollar Tree!):
-Awesomeness and Autism (1)
-Awesomeness and Autism (2)
-Awesomeness and Autism (3)
-Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs (1)
-Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs (2)
-Shoe Box Tasks
-Considerate Classroom
-more on my pre-voc/life skills Pinterest board

These two books are fantastic resources, as well:

Monday, January 6, 2014

Rights and Responsibilities

This is officially the longest winter break I've ever had - not only did we have a snow day on the Friday before break, we have another today - and I just got the call that my district has already closed for tomorrow! I'm using these extra days to put the finishing touches on prep/printing/laminating/planning for January. Nice to be able to get even more done than I'd expected - and in my pajamas, no less! ;)

Our January unit is all about Rights and Responsibilities. I've said before that I try to make a youtube playlist with our unit theme each month, to be played while we have arrivals/breakfast time each morning. Here are some videos I've found for this month:

"We've All Got Rights" by UNICEF - catchy! It also touches on issues of refugees - as I have a refugee in my class this year, this one will be good to talk about.

"Rights and Responsibilities of Children" - not a song, but I love how it pairs each right with a corresponding responsibility. The images in the video are a bit young for my kids, and I usually would not use a video like this because of that, but the info is so excellent and in language my students can understand, so I'm keeping it in.

"Here I Am and I Have Rights" - not sure my students will love this one, as it's not as catchy a song as they usually like - but it has a great message/information. The images in the video would be great discussion starters for higher-functioning students, too.

"All About Responsibility" - gotta love Harry Kindergarten! My kids will certainly be singing along to this one.

"Rights and Responsibilities of Citizens" by brainpop  - another one that's not a song, but excellent!

"I Have a Dream" song for MLK Day - how perfect that we're studying rights and responsibilities during January this year!

I also wanted to share about a book I found at the library over break that I'm definitely going to be using in class:
We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures by Amnesty International is a fantastic picture book! It uses a simplified version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many different artists contributed illustrations for each of the articles.

I'd never read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights before, but I love how this book starts: We are all born free and equal. We all have our own thoughts and ideas. We should all be treated in the same way. These rights belong to everybody, whatever our differences.We all have the right to life, and to live in freedom and safety. And it ends: We have a duty to other people, and we should protect their rights and freedoms. Nobody can take these rights and freedoms from us. What a great summary!

Since the book is rather long (there are 30 articles in the declaration) and my students will not be able to focus on it all, I'm planning on using it during our group circle time but skip pages here and there (the articles that either my students don't have a frame of reference for and/or they would have trouble understanding) and further simplify the text on others. I'll use it in my higher group to discuss further.

I'll be sure to share other "rights and responsibilities" things we do as the month goes on.

Also, don't forget to hop over to Tasha's blog to check out my guest post from yesterday, too: Adapting Books @ A Tender Teacher for Special Needs :)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Guest Post!

Just a reminder that I'm not posting on this blog today - I'm over at Tasha's blog, A Tender Teacher for Special Needs! Click her blog button below to see my post about adapting books - and while you're there, be sure to check out the rest of her great blog!

A Tender Teacher For Special Needs
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