Wednesday, February 29, 2012

TPT and Money and Leap Year and...

For some reason, I'm having trouble sleeping what am I doing? Blog stalking and school planning and other things that are not exactly conducive to trying to sleep. But, anyway...

I'm so excited that I won Jeannie's 100 followers giveaway over at Class Full of Special Kinders! Spending money at TPT? Yes, please! Thank you SO much to Jeannie! Everyone, go check out her blog - she's awesome!

We are doing a lot of fun Dr. So-and-So activities this week, and I keep forgetting to bring my classroom camera home to upload pictures of what we're doing. So, at home I'm continuing to get ready for our unit on money for the month of March. This is a bit daunting for me - for some reason, money is a tough concept for my kids. We are going to be working on identifying and counting coins...but my kids also need something super-practical. How many times do you pay for something using coins, after all? (One of my kids' moms told me that her kid calls her credit card "money" and knows nothing about "real" money - wow.)

So, I created this little activity - it incorporates one to one correspondence and the kids will have to figure out if they have enough dollars to pay for certain items. My kids have been exposed to paying using "real" (paper) money when we go on outings to stores...but clearly they need some more practice. If you want to snag the activity, it's here on my TPT store. It's differentiated for kids who need practice with exact dollar amounts, and also those who can round up to the next dollar when there's change involved.

Speaking of TPT, if I did it right, my TPT store (all two not-free items, not much but it's something!) will be 20% off for Leap Day, all day Wednesday! If you add the TPT promo code L2P9Y you'll get an additional 10% off! I'm definitely going to be blasting through my about you?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Happy Birthday, Doctor Blahblah! (freebie)

So, there's a certain literary doctor who has his birthday on March 2...I don't dare type his name lest the bloggy police come get me! ;) But rest assured I'll be saying his name quite a lot in my classroom in the coming week.

Fun fact: It's also my birthday on March 2! I love sharing a birthday with the Good Doctor! It's great fun every year.

And here's a freebie to help you celebrate his birthday. Or mine! Or Read Across America (when will that phrase become copyrighted, do you think??).
Click here to snag the free dice graphing activity from my TPT store!

Backgrounds came from Ms. Rachel's Room and clip art came from KPM Doodles. Adorable stuff!

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss (oops!) Read Across America Day, everyone! I'm looking forward to seeing how everyone celebrates!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Permission to Pin

You have my permission to pin to Pinterest any image on this blog...or my TPT store...or anything from me, really! I love Pinterest - it's what got me into teacher blogging in the first place - and have gotten so many wonderful ideas from pins! I believe ideas are meant to be shared - so please feel free to share mine if you find them helpful :)

To find out more about Permission to Pin, and why you need it, please head over to Corkboard Connections. She has a great post explaining it all.

Also, I happened to click on my blogger dashboard this evening and discovered that I now have 52 followers! Color me shocked! Thank you so much to all of you who are following, who have commented, and who have posted such great things on their own blogs. You all are inspiring, and I'm thankful for every one! It's late, I'm tired, and I don't have anything great or fun like a giveaway for 50 followers, but I'll be sure to do something fun for 100! ;)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thinking Spring! and Kids Say...

I really could have used a snow day today, but unlike many of my Michigan friends, I was teaching today. The district I teach in is notorious for never closing, and even though Every. Single. Other. district in the area closed because of the winter storm we had, we stayed open.

Since my school services students from every district in the county, when we have a day where most districts are closed we have very few students (home districts bus their own students, so the kids from outside districts that have snow days don't have transportation). I had a grand total of two students today. It makes for a very looooong day. I have grand plans to get so much done, but it never seems to work out that way. And the poor kids who do show up get so much one-on-one work time that they are exhausted by lunchtime.

So, instead of having a snow day, we thought spring in my room! Earlier in the week, we made apple blossoms during fine motor time (apple blossoms are the Michigan state flower). Today, I had the two kiddos help paint a tree trunk/branches, and now we have a beautiful tree full of apple blossoms growing in our room!
 The closeup picture got a little blurry so it's hard to see details (used my crappy classroom camera) but I was so proud of my kiddos' work on their cutting skills to make the flowers! They did such a great job!

I'm also linking up with the Kids Say the Darndest Things linky party over at Kindergarten Lifestyle. This one from one of my guys last year had me and my classroom staff rolling on the floor during standardized testing - it's sometimes so easy to tell what music parents listen to at home! But I admit, Vanilla Ice is one of the last artists I'd have expected to hear in my classroom!
If you haven't already, link up to this's so fun reading all the crazy things your students say!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Michigan freebies

Michigan has been on my mind lately - of course because of our fantabulous Michigan blogger meetup this weekend! - but also because our unit of study this month is the fine state of Michigan. Among other things, we have been talking about and learning the official symbols of our state. Tomorrow we are making some great apple blossoms (our state flower!) to decorate our classroom. And I uploaded a couple Michigan symbol activities we've been working on in centers/work boxes as freebies on my TPT store. They are:

Click the links to snag the freebies for yourself!

Also (unrelated to Michigan), those great number birthday candles I got at the Lansing Target? I was able to put together the activity we planned for it...Picked up some floral foam at Michael's this afternoon and this is the result:
Most of my kids are working on either recognizing numerals, ordering them, or counting...or all of this is going to get some major use at work box time! (The counting blocks are from the Dollar Tree a while back.)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Michigan blogger meetup!

What a great day! I spent a fabulous few hours in Lansing meeting some amazing fellow Michigan teacher bloggers! It was such a great time talking, laughing, sharing school horror stories, talking about blogging and technology...I feel like I have 8 new friends - and since some of the blogs I didn't know about, I have some new ones to follow, too.

Here's who was there:
Lisa and Beth from Made in the Shade in Second Grade
Amy from The Resource(ful) Room
Rachel from Ms. Rachel's Room
Christina from Mrs. Bainbridge's Class
Jessica from Apples and Papers
Holly from Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade
Andrea from Stepping Into First Grade
Holly, Beth, Lisa, Amy
me, Andrea, Rachel, Christina, Jessica

I am still a new blogger, and these ladies are all so encouraging and inspiring! Thanks especially to Amy for organizing the meetup! I had such a great time, and if you weren't able to make it today, join us next time!

After the meetup, Rachel and I hit up the Lansing Target. I came home with some awesome Dollar Spot (and non-Dollar Spot) finds - and how much fun to indulge in my obsession with a fellow teacher!! We have big plans for our purchases (and we're also going to try and get our classes to be able to Skype - how fun would that be?!)
 Dollar Spot stuff - clearance ($0.30!!) file folders, some other filing clutches, popcorn containers I always eye - Rachel convinced me to pick them up! - magnetic clips, spring/Easter sprinkles, eggs for color sorting or patterning.
The non-Dollar Spot stuff. Easter activities, you see those birthday candle numbers? Do you SEE them?! We have such an awesome idea for those. I'm so excited to get it set up (and will share when I do, of course).

I feel re-energized now...I hope everyone who has tomorrow off for President's Day has a great day! I have a full day of PD, myself. Hopefully I'll have some classroom work time in there, too.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

L is for the way you look at me...

Everyone is posting all the cute, fun things they did yesterday on Valentine's Day...and what did I do? Completely forgot to get the camera out all day! Bad teacher! We had a fun day yesterday, despite the lack of photo evidence!

We had a normal Tuesday morning, and our Valentine celebration began after lunch. The kiddos passed out their Valentine cards to their classmates, and then we did two fun Valentine centers - my Conversation Heart Sort and Rachel's Valentine Roll and Color. We read a few Valentine stories, and then it was time for the all-school Valentine dance! Our class was "hosting" the dance, so we helped decorate the gym, picked out CDs to play, made and sold popcorn, and ran cookie decorating and face painting (painted by staff!) stations during the dance. It was a big job, but our kids were proud to be helping out.

As my students are pre-teens and teenagers, there was the inevitable "romantic" drama to referee, too. One of my students in particular has a crush on a girl in the classroom across the hall. He was very excited that he was going to get to dance with her yesterday afternoon! He brought a special Valentine for her and everything. There was near-disaster when her class had a late start and didn't show up to the dance until it was almost over! Disaster was averted, however, when she was rolled into the gym and the two finally got to dance the "Macarena" together. Oh, middle school drama!

It was a fun day, but...I wouldn't be lying if I said I'm ready to not have another Valentine's Day for another year!

The highlight of my Valentine's Day actually came today - we had music class with our awesome music therapist, and one of the songs we sang was Nat King Cole's L-O-V-E - and one of my kiddos already knew all the words and sang it with such feeling...said he learned it from his mom who sings it to him. Cue me melting!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

You know you're a teacher...and upcycled storage!

What a weekend! It was one of those I felt like I didn't get time "off" at all. I think I sat down less than I do when I'm at school! Whew. Why does Sunday evening have to come so soon?!

Anyway, I'm linking up with two fun parties/projects tonight. The first is the "You Know You're a Teacher When..." linky party over at Kindergarten Lifestyle. I'm sure we are all pretty good at spotting a fellow teacher - and here's a couple of my own reasons why:
 I go with my class to all specials, and on the days we have art class, I definitely have a wardrobe that doesn't get worn on my regular teaching days. Because no matter how "washable" tempra paint professes to be, it's not...paiper mache glue leaves grease marks...clay is a beast, too.
Okay, so I promise I don't regularly talk to inanimate objects. Living creatures are, however, not known to be exempt from my teacher-voice!

Next, this week's challenge at the Clutter-Free Classroom Project was all about creating classroom storage for free - "upcycling" containers into usable storage for the classroom. Since I desperately need to overhaul my table work/goal work cupboard, I decided to go with something for that.

Here are a couple "before" pictures of my table work cupboard, just for reference's sake:

The bins are what I'm looking to change. I have one for each student, but they take up way too much room, and I don't need them as-is. Right now, I keep things in them related to that individual student's IEP goals, but that's really not necessary or practical. What would be more helpful is bins categorized by skill area, rather than student (as you can see, my miscellaneous skill area materials are a hot mess in the rest of this cupboard!). I do still need something for each student, as I also place any missed work or projects in their bins, if they're absent a day or something. I still need something that functions for that.

So, I decided to create something more like mail/paper sorting files for each student where I can put any missed individual work, or things that are only specific to them (ie, personal info such as addresses). I found this idea several places online - I used Priority Mail boxes, wrapping paper, and colored duct tape.

Now, first of all: yes, we all know you can get Priority Mail boxes free from any US Post Office. However, it's illegal to use unmailed boxes for anything other than shipping things Priority Mail. So, use boxes you've received in the mail. Or something. *whistles innocently* Um, yeah. That's my legal disclaimer.

Also, second of all: I'm very craft-impaired. And my visual-spatial skills leave something to be desired. So this photo is my first-try, very imperfect attempt. I'm going to make some more that look much better! You know, measure and everything. I'll use this one - just not anywhere it's always visible in my room! But I'm pleased with the way the concept turned out, even though the look is kind of sloppy. I'll need three of these units total, and they'll fit perfectly (and take up much less space) in my table work cupboard:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Valentine freebie

Here's a Valentine's Day freebie for all you wonderful people: a color sorting (+graphing and counting) activity using candy conversation hearts. Just one of the Valentine centers we're going to have on V-day...If my kids don't eat the hearts before they get to the sorting, that is (though I think conversation hearts taste rather gross...anyone else with me?).

Go ahead and grab it at my TPT store here for free...enjoy!

Monday, February 6, 2012

February currently!

I used to do more seasonal/holiday-themed activities in my classroom before we started using the Unique Learning System curriculum. Now, we are much more focused on activities that have to do with our monthly unit theme...but I still like to do some fun holiday activities as we celebrate. On Valentine's Day, we're going to skip any unit activities and instead do a day of fun Valentine's-related stuff. In addition to things I've gotten from some TPT stores, and activities I've created, we're also going to make Valentine cards similar to this one (found on Pinterest; image credit to this website) for our sister school friends:
I think it's going to be a big hit to include the ASL sign for "I love you"...we use a lot of sign to supplement communication, and our sister school friends always want to learn more. I can't wait for my kids to make these!

Now, my February currently! I love these!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What I Love...and Staying Healthy activities

So, is there a big football game going on today or something? Just kidding...though I honestly have no idea who is playing in the Super Bowl. Not much of a football fan.

I'd rather talk about what I do love. Who wouldn't? I'm linking up with Funky First Grade Fun for the What Do You Love? linky party:
The Africa brother was in the Peace Corps in Africa, and I went to visit him there last summer. Best trip of my life! So incredible. I'd go back in a heartbeat (though I'm so glad my brother is home now - I missed him way too much!).

I also love remembering to bring my files back and forth from school so I can finally put together the activities I created for January's Staying Healthy unit...I was finally able to get them up on TPT. This is one of the activities - sight word work:
I put the whole bundle of activities for sale on my TPT store. If you grab them, I'd love to know what you think, since this is kind of a first for me. Thanks :)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Homework, my way

First of all, I took this photo on my way home from work yesterday, and it basically means I'm (my wallet is, really) in big trouble:
Yes, that's a sign that says "Dollar Tree - Coming Soon." I found out it's opening on February 12! AND it's right on my way home from work. Danger, Will Robinson! I envision a lot of Dollar Tree in my future...

Now, I'm linking up with The Lesson Plan Diva to share how I do homework in my class.

Homework is a tricky beast for me. We do not give grades at our school, or even have requirements the students must meet (other than IEP goals and the like - which if they don't meet, it's on me as the teacher and not the students, of course), since we are a center-based special ed school and none of our students are diploma or certificate-bound. Before this year, none of my students had ever had homework from school before.

I knew it would be a hard sell when I began homework this year. My students are all moderately to severely cognitively impaired, and all need some degree of assistance from parents or someone else to complete anything I send home. And I can't require they do anything! I knew going into it that there would be some kids who never do their homework - because no matter how hard I sell it to the kids, the parents have to be involved to get anywhere. And I knew that was a losing battle with some (despite the wonderful, cheerleading letter I sent at the beginning of the year, extolling the benefits and virtues of homework, and reiterating to parents how much little time and effort it actually would require of them).

So, here's what I do: On the first of each month, I send home one homework sheet for the entire month. On it is six activities the kiddos are to do at home. If they complete three of the activities during the month, they receive one point, if they complete more than three they receive two points, and if we meet our class homework point goal, the whole class gets a reward. I always have an alphabet-based activity, one or more to do with our monthly unit theme, one where all they have to do is color a picture I attach, and the rest get changed up as I see fit. Each item is on the easier side for my higher kiddos to ensure even my low kiddos can participate at all, but everyone will always need some assistance, even if it's just reading the directions and recording their answers. An example from January is below (if I can get the embedding to work):

Homework January

Out of eight students, I have two who turn in their completed homework every single month. Three others have turned it in maybe once or twice all year. One always says he does his homework, but has never turned it in to me, so I have no idea if he's all talk or not. I have never heard "boo" about homework at all from the remaining two students or their families.

It's still a work in progress, since I just started this school year. I want to continue it, since I do think it's valuable for the students and families who participate, but I wish I could figure out a way to get more involvement. I'd love to individualize it more to each student's needs and goals, but that's kind of not worth it to me with such low participation. I don't know...I'd love to hear ideas, especially from teachers who can't require homework and/or who have lower-functioning students.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

TGI(a)F...Thank Goodness It's Almost Friday!

I just told one of my cats to "let me know when you're ready to make the right choice" as he was scratching the couch.

Yeah, it's been one of those weeks.

I had crazy-tough days at school yesterday and today. I have been spit on, bitten, and pinched/scratched way too many times to count (it's days like these I just forget about behavior tracking because it gets counterproductive and escalates the problem...I estimate at the end of the day, instead...conservative estimation gets me in the hundreds, for most behaviors the past couple days). It's literally constant, all day long. Yes, this is one student. Yes, he's in my group this week. (This is not unusual behavior for him - but it's unusual in its frequency and deliberate-ness. He's having a tough week right along with me!)

We are required to fill out staff injury reports for anything related to the eye (check...spit in the eye) and anything that breaks the skin (check and check a few times over, bites and scratches). I don't find it necessary - this happens too often for me to go to the clinic each time, so what's the point? - but policy is policy and so I've had LOTS of extra paperwork. In addition to putting out other fires with the other students who are - surprise, surprise - quite distracted by all the behaviors. I don't feel that we've gotten tons of learning accomplished, though I'm so thankful to my classroom staff for being so able to step in with the other kiddos while I deal with my friend.

And then there was the irritation of my principal spilling coffee all over my IEP goal reports, so I had to re-print them all before I could send them home. A small irritation, sure, but on top of the spit (that, and not the biting is, for some reason, the hardest to deal with for me) it was just One More Thing.

But then, I got home yesterday and found out I WON the Stars and Stripes Pack Giveaway from Diane and Kelly over at Made for 1st Grade!!!! I was jumping up and down in my living room, I was so excited! I never win anything, and this is just great! I've just started to look through the massive pack of center activities, and they look awesome - I can't wait to use them with my kiddos! The giveaway also included a President's Day and US Symbols Unit from Rachelle at What the Teacher Wants - another awesome unit that I can't wait to use! Thank you, Diane, Kelly and Rachelle!!! I'm still really giddy about that!

Okay, must gear up for one more day. Hope everyone has a fantastic Friday. I know I'm really ready for the weekend! Anyone else?!
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