Sunday, April 29, 2012

Olympic fever

Since our curriculum always has the same unit for summer each year, I was surprised when I logged on the other day to see an announcement that this year's summer unit would be featuring the 2012 Summer Olympics! Cue me beginning to completely change my plans for this summer...Olympics it is! So if anyone comes across some great Olympic-themed materials, or clip art, or anything, point me in that direction! I haven't started searching hard-core yet, but I will be. I also think we're going to be doing our own classroom Olympics, of sorts. Should be fun!

I spent today with my mom, who is a former preschool teacher...I went with her to the Dollar Tree, and...would you know it, that one little store made her wish she was still teaching! Her words, not mine. She still works with preschool teachers, and filled her cart with some goodies for a gardening unit her teachers are currently working on!

I didn't come away empty-handed myself, of course...
Not Olympic related, but check this out! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle posters (our May unit is recycling) and some awesome card games - Matching (Memory), Go Fish, and Old Maid from the Animal Planet! We love card games, and even if we weren't to use these as games, the animal photos are really great quality, and all have the animal names printed on them, too.

Earlier in the week, I was at Target for the first time in a couple months, and really scored at the Dollar Spot, this time at least some of it definitely Olympic-related:
 Gold medals! And a horseshoe set ($2.50 at the Dollar Spot) and kites. Both will be used as events in our classroom Olympics.
Alphabet stickers (in the scrapbook aisle for $0.99), adorable metal buckets for sorting activities (going to use them first for a metal-plastic-paper sorting activity during our recycling unit), flash cards of traffic signs, and a bag of 50 spring-themed mini erasers for sorting/patterning/categorizing/all that great stuff mini erasers are good for!

Happy Sunday, everyone...I really need to get to bed now. Full week ahead. Tomorrow we will be going to observe our "adopted" tree for the final time in April. Last week was the first time it had its first leaves! The kids were sure excited about that.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What Do You Teach? linky party

Karla over at Life in Special Education is hosting a linky party for sped teachers to talk about all the things we must explicitly teach our students that other kids learn seemingly naturally...things that will never be on any sort of standardized test.

Sometimes I feel like these "other" things are what I teach most often, even though they are never officially measured (except, occasionally when applicable, on a student's IEP). So, if you've ever wondered just what it is I do all day long, in between the other "school" stuff, here's my list (not exhaustive, of course):

(All my students are 10-14 years old, and yes, these are all things I teach with this group of students.)

1. How to pull up your underwear before your pants in the bathroom.
2. How and when to wash your hands.
3. How to touch another person gently (read: how to not punch someone in the face when you just want their attention!).
4. For boys, how to pee standing up/use a urinal.
5. The importance of giving others privacy when they're using the bathroom.
6. The importance of not eavesdropping when someone else is on the phone.
7. How to ask questions of others during conversation (not just talking about your areas of interest).
8. How to select clothing appropriate to the season/weather.
9. How to use a spoon/fork/regular plate/regular cup.
10. How to ride a bike.
11. How to safely use stairs.
12. How to walk on uneven surfaces (ie, anyplace outside).
13. What side of the hallway to walk on so you leave room for others in the hallway.
14. How to show affection appropriately in different situations/locations/with different people (ie, we do not kiss at school, etc.).
15. How and when to ask for help.
16. How to deal with changes in routine/schedule.
17. How to wait your turn.
18. How to play with peers, not just alongside them.
19. How to make choices and communicate those choices.
20. The importance of being aware of what's going on around you.
21. How to handle and appropriately express emotions like excitement, fear, disappointment, anger, etc.
22. How and why to respect others' property.
23. The concept of personal space.
24. The importance of asking for permission before you touch someone else.
25. How to respond to greetings.
26. How to brush your teeth.
27. How to brush/comb your hair.
28. How to use deodorant.
29. Different strategies you can use to calm yourself down or be ready to focus.
30. How to follow a schedule.
31. How to express when you feel sick or are hurt.
32. What an emergency is and what to do during one.
33. What an emergency is not (a hangnail is not, for example, an emergency!).
34. Some alternatives to saying "I can't" when frustrated (our popular options are "I'll try," or "it's hard," or "I need help").
35. The difference between an old owie (scab or scar) and a new injury that actually needs immediate attention.
36. How to behave appropriately while in the community.
37. How to behave appropriately while riding the bus.
38. How to adjust the water on the faucet to a safe temperature.

Head on over to Karla's blog to link up!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Field Trip Heartbreak

Earlier this week, I took my class on a highly-anticipated CBI (field trip) to our nearby garden/sculpture park for their annual butterfly exhibit. My kids love this every year - an entire room full of beautiful butterflies, flying around and even, sometimes, if we're very lucky and stay very still, landing on someone's arm or knee! The butterflies did not disappoint - even though we did not get any "landers" this year, it was a sunny day which the butterflies love, and they were so active and fun to watch!
my favorite butterfly, the Common Blue Morpho

Unfortunately, I decided to usher my kids out of the butterfly exhibit sooner than usual (thankfully it was a nice day and we could walk outside at the rest of the gardens)...not because of my students' behavior, as I might have expected (those of you who were at the Michigan Blogger Meetup might remember my field trip horror story about feeding the birds at the zoo!), but because of some of the other kids from other school groups who were there.

Most of my students have very visible disabilities, and we are used to stares and questions when we go out into the community. I don't mind other kids looking and asking questions about and to my students - they are usually just very genuinely curious and it's a good opportunity to do a little education about disabilities. My students are used to this, as well, and generally like it when other kids ask questions about their wheelchairs, braces, etc.

This time, though, we got the stares, sure. But - and this is a first in my 8 years of teaching - we didn't get questions...instead, we got rude, hurtful comments. One of my students has some scars and sores on his face due to some pretty severe self-injury behaviors. And instead of just ignoring this, or whatever, several other kids we encountered felt it was appropriate to very loudly make comments like, "Eeeewwwww!" and "Look at that!" and "That's so gross!!!" while pointing at my student (who, by the way, understands perfectly everything everyone else says, even though he is nonverbal himself).

What made it worse was the teachers/parent chaperones who were with these kids did not address the issue at all. It seemed to be a non-issue with them. And they had to have heard their little darlings being so rude and hurtful. It's not like it was just one kid, either; it was several. I was appalled! If one of my students had been speaking so rudely about another child, I'd have sat them down right then and there and let them know it was unacceptable. Maybe even had them apologize, if I didn't think that would make the situation worse for the other child. I just don't get it! The kids were old enough (probably first or second graders?) to know better, and at the very least, the adults in charge of them could have said something. I was furious! And offended for my student, whose feelings were (very understandably) hurt.

I kind of wish I would have said something myself, but I was just focused on getting my kids out of there (and what I would have said "in the moment" probably wouldn't have been a good example of gracious correcting, anyway). I do wish I would have noted what school the kids were from...

Regular ed teachers: do you think I was expecting too much in thinking the kids should have known better? In thinking the adults should have addressed the issue as it happened? How do you prepare your students, if at all, for "different" kids they may encounter while out and about?

Special ed teachers: Have you ever encountered anything like this? What, if anything, do you think I should have done or said? Even a few days later, my heart is still hurting over this...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Henry and Mudge, and Facebook!

Sunday night...time to get back to the 'real world' after a great weekend of friends visiting from out of town!

I'm looking towards summer already...our program goes through the summer, but we have a shortened schedule of just three days per week. Since our curriculum (ULS) has the same unit every summer, my kids have done the unit activities before and I'm looking for different things to try out this summer. I've decided to do...dun dun dun...chapter books! with my higher reading group! I'm going to start with the first book in the classic "Henry and Mudge" series by Cynthia Rylant.

I'm super-duper excited to have my higher kiddos tackle chapter books instead of picture books! They're going to be excited, too. Because of their severe cognitive impairments they have never encountered chapter books in school before, but I think they are ready. Starting with "Henry and Mudge" is going to be a good intro and a definite chance to be successful, and from there I'll be able to see if they're ready for some longer/more involved stories.

(I first got the idea to tackle chapter books with my kids from this post at Eat. Pray. Teach, which I think is fantastic!)

We will be going chapter to chapter, and I created a packet of vocabulary, comprehension and reader's response activities for each chapter of The First Book and it's on my TPT if you'd like to snag it to use yourself:
(Click here to snag.)
And I will note that while these are the exact activities we're going to be using, it's not the exact format I'm using with my kiddos. They are all non-readers and non-writers ("highest reading group" refers to their comprehension/vocab skills, not mechanics) so I will be modifying to use a lot of picture support - but since I'm using Boardmaker images, I can't share those.

Also, I finally figured out how to make a "page" on Facebook, so you can now follow Spedventures on good ol' FB. My page is here @ Spedventures. Let me know, also, if any of you have Facebook pages and I'd love to "like" you. That new timeline is a bit confusing, but I'm working on it!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

iPad apps

Today, I was lucky enough to attend an all-day "iPads in Special Education" training at our ISD. I don't have an iPad in my classroom yet, though I'm hopeful to have one next year, and let me tell you, I'm now more than tempted to purchase one myself before then. I was also lucky enough to go to the training with my next-door classroom neighbor, who has two iPads in his classroom (he wrote a grant for one, and the other a parent gave the classroom. Gave!!! What?!) Anyway, his two iPads meant I had one to play around with at the training. We were downloading free apps like fiends!

Here are some of the resources we discovered today. Though I've at least checked out all of these, I haven't used them (won't get to access them again until I borrow neighbor's iPad for my classroom next), so these aren't hard and fast recommendations, but they are definitely you-should-check-these-outs. (I tried to highlight (bold) what you'll put into the app store search, but some I didn't write down the specifics, so I tried to give enough info for you to do a search.)

Sped-Specific Apps - communication, basic skills, and/or life skills

-First of all, there are a bunch of autism-related apps that are FREE during the month of April. Do a search for ABA on the App Store, or - all apps there are free because of autism awareness month. There are some great ones with noun flash cards, alphabet flash cards, 'what goes together,' categorization, etc. I did play around with quite a few of these and thought they were fabulous for basic vocab, categorization, and the like. Nice real photographs and voice support/prompts.

-See.Touch.Learn. by Brain Parade. I can't remember if this was a free app or one my coworker had on his iPads to begin with (but it's pretty safe to say that if he's got it on his device it's free or close to it!). Different lessons using real photos and (computerized) voice prompts with categorization and/or qualities ('touch each one that is round,' etc.).

-Answers:YesNo HD is a very simple/basic communication/AAC app. It's $3.99, and would be good for very low-functioning students who are at the level of just answering yes/no questions or making choices between two. It's a basic two-step communicator (two buttons on the screen - red yes, green no) and you can customize up to 30 pairs with your own photos, your own recorded voice for two-choice selections, etc.

-Sono Flex Lite is a FREE communication-device type app. You can build phrases and sentences with Symbol Stix figures with voice output, quite similar to (from what I could tell) a Dynavox-type communication device. The Sono Flex Lite is the free version, and our presenter told us the only difference between Lite (free) and the paid version ($99.99) is that there are a lot more 'context' options (ie, sets of words/phrases bundled as related to certain contexts such as beach, school, art, etc...) with the paid version. My coworker has Lite on his iPads and for the little bit I played around with it I was impressed!

-Model Me Going Places 2 is a FREE app. It's 6 different social stories in slideshow and voice output. Yes, there are only 6 social stories, all related do going different places (specifically, hairdresser, mall, doctor, playground, grocery store and restaurant) and it's uneditable - so it's quite limited, but it's free and the stories are well-done and use real photos, so I'd probably download this one!

-iDress for Weather is $1.99. When you are connected to the internet, it connects to your local weather and shows a closet with appropriate clothing for that temperature. That's all it does, but it's excellent for teaching how to make appropriate clothing choices. I'd love to use this in my morning circle when we talk about weather! You can also edit the closet photos by replacing with your own photos (so, take pictures of your students' clothing and place them in the appropriate temperature range, for example).

Early Literacy/Reading Apps

-ABC Magic - if you search this in the App Store, there are TONS of free or $0.99 apps related to early alphabet, spelling, phonics and reading skills. My coworker and I downloaded every free one available and I'm really going to be able to use a lot of them with my students. There's letter recognition, letter sounds, word building, drag and drop spelling. etc.

-LetterSchool - there is a paid version that's just $2.99 and a lite version that's FREE. I honestly don't remember the difference, but I'd be willing to pay the $2.99 if that's what it took! If you have students learning how to form/write letters, this is great, in my opinion. It supports Handwriting Without Tears, D'Nealian, and standard handwriting. Kids go through different activities and levels of prompting to form letters with either a finger or a stylus. I thought it was pretty awesome!

-iWrite Words - I honestly don't remember much about this one specifically, but I have it starred on my course handout, so it must have been notable at the time ;) It has a $2.99 and a free version. More handwriting practice/games.

-Toontastic - FREE. This is a fantastic app that lets students create a cartoon story. Covers story elements such as setup, conflict, challenge, climax and resolution. Characters, setting, emotion, etc. are all emphasized. You can either draw your own, or select from premade animations. Then you get to actually move your characters onscreen and speak for them; it's all recorded. Very, very cool - I can't wait to do this with some of my higher kiddos!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Parent Communication

I am linking up with Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies' linky party about parent communication. Being a center-based/self-contained special ed teacher, communication with parents is an essential part of my job. Since two of my students are completely nonverbal, and the rest all have varying degrees of (mostly severe) speech and communication impairments, most cannot communicate effectively to their parents about their school day without support.

Thus, the "home-school notebook" is a staple in the special ed world! When I started teaching, and until a few years ago, I used the standard composition notebook and wrote longhand notes to each parent each day. These included paragraphs listing the activities we did in the classroom each day, how their child felt or behaved or performed, as well as additional notes regarding needed supplies such as diapers, tube feeding supplies, etc., or reminders of upcoming events such as community-based instructions (field trips to the regular ed crowd - we shorten to CBI).

Needless to say, these notes took me ages every day. I barely ate lunch (not an exaggeration) because when the kids were eating or having free time after lunch I was busy writing in notebooks. Enter my idea of a couple years ago - why not have the kids write their home-school notes? I created the form below, which we now use daily instead of those cumbersome, time-consuming notebooks:
(This is an old version, the only hard copy I had at home to take a photo of, but you get the idea - our current version has been adapted to replace some activities with academic centers, etc. now that I have higher-functioning students, but it's the same format. The picture icons are from Boardmaker, so I can't share the template.)

The students use bingo daubers/Dot a Dot markers to indicate which activities they did that day, and how they felt...there's a place for staff to write notes if needed (but I don't need to do that every day for every kid!) and below the icons there's also an "other" line to write in if the kids did something not on the sheet. Even though many of my students need hand-over-hand assistance - or at the least, supervision and prompting - to complete their Home Notes each day, it is much quicker (5 minutes versus 30-45 minutes) than the old longhand teacher-written notes, and is a good memory recall of what they did each day, too.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tax Day, anyone?

I'm breaking the bloggy rules by posting twice in one day, and for that I apologize! This'll be quick - just wanted to let everyone know that I've set up a sale on my TPT store for tomorrow, which just so happens to be Tax Day here in the States. 15% off! I got the idea and the adorable graphic from What the Teacher Wants, who says you can snag both the idea and the graphic if you want to hold a Tax Break sale on your own store. Who doesn't like a tax break, after all?
My store is here; visit tomorrow for 15% off :)

Earth Day/Tree Observation Journal and...I've been tagged!

Have I really not blogged in a whole week? It was slow getting back into the swing of things after spring break...add to that I had an IEP this week on our brand-new IEP system (I was the first teacher in our building to complete an IEP on the system and there are glitches galore!), then a team from the district came to film my class and a few others for a promotional video - and of course, my students were so distracted and excited by the video cameras that they just stared at me blankly when I asked simple questions like "what are some words that begin with the letter L?" Of course. Next week will be better!

(...This weekend is already much better, since I finally joined the rest of the world and got to see The Hunger Games last night!! Amazing.)

My students have "adopted" a tree on our campus for April/our ULS "plant" unit/Earth Day and are going to be collecting our observations all month. They are really getting into it - they even had to tell our principal that he can see "our" tree from the window in his office! We are going to be observing changes in our tree at least once per week for the month (and maybe longer - they are really liking this so far). I put the journal on TPT here if you're interested in it for your class:

In other news, I've been tagged by Valerie at All Students Can Shine! Thanks, Valerie!

Here are the rules to this tag game:
* Post these rules
* Answer the 10 questions that the tagger posted for you
* Create 10 questions of your own to ask the people that you're about to tag
* Tag 10 people and link them with your post (and let them know they've been tagged!)

Here are Valerie's questions and my answers...she went with a "would you rather" theme with her questions:

1. Coffee or Tea? Coffee! I have a bit of a coffee addiction. And I drink it black only!
2. Teachers Pay Teachers or Teacher's Notebook? Teachers Pay Teachers for me, if only because it's the one I'm most familiar with. I've thought about putting my products on Teacher's Notebook, but I don't really know much about it - anyone care to share pros and cons?
3. Dog or Cats? Dogs! I love dogs and really want one, someday...I grew up with a dog, but haven't had one since she passed away five years ago. I have cats, but I always say I love my cats, not all cats.
4. Summer or Winter? Summer! I really don't like cold weather and snow. I love when I can have the windows open, be outside every day, stop wearing heavy sweaters and coats...and though our program goes through the summer so I don't get the usual teacher perk of a true summer break, I really like our reduced schedule of three days per week June through August.
5. Back Pack vacation or Beach? Hmm...this is a hard one! I love both! I just had a beach vacation, though, so I'm going to have to go with backpacking for this one. I have not been backpacking in about six years when my dad and I backpacked on Lake Michigan's North Manitou Island.
6. Book Reading or Blog Stalking? I blog stalk much more often, but I love book reading and need to take more time for it.
7. Meat or Veggies? I'm vegetarian, so definitely veggies. Love them!
8. Married, Single, Engaged, or other? Single.
9. Giveaway or Freebies? I love both, of course, but probably freebies, just because you're guaranteed to get those! ;)
10. Nightlight or Darkness? (don't laugh... I'm VERY afraid of the dark! lol) Darkness. I can't get to sleep if there's too much light.

I am going to have to post my questions and those I'm tagging later.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

April Currently and...

Too soon, I'm back from hot, sunny Mexico...Back to school on Monday already! Where did this spring break go? I had a fabulous week, got slightly sunburned while snorkeling, spent hours catching up on my reading on the beach, hung out with my friend/coworker who went on the trip with me, ate really, really well...Now it's back to real life - and let's just say this spring break was not productive in the way it usually is - but I'm not complaining!

I'm slowly catching up with some of the blog posts I missed last week, but I think it's safe to say I won't be able to catch up with them all! I did manage to put together my April "Currently" - can't miss that!

And in case you haven't seen it yet, the wonderful Rachel over at Ms. Rachel's Room is having a giveaway...for a Luna document camera! Oh man, I soooo want one! Go over and check it out here at her blog!

Time to get something to eat for a late dinner, finish some laundry, then it's off to bed for me...I spent last night "sleeping" in an airport, so I'm beat.
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