Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Alphabet Songs!

With several students learning to recognize letters, or learning letter sounds, or learning how to write letters (or all of the above), I am always on the lookout for new, fun ways to teach and reinforce the alphabet in my classroom. Enter my new favorite, Alphabet Songs and Videos by Have Fun Teaching!

I love these songs and videos! Since we have been able to use our school's Elmo and projector lately, I have begun using them when we have the projector, and my kids love them too! Our letter of the week this week is "T" - here's the letter T song:

So much to love in these videos. Vocabulary (consonant and vowel), letter sound (love that the vowel songs feature both long and short sounds in the same song!), words beginning with or containing the letter (I write out the sentences - for example, "I take a train with my teacher to take a test." on sentence strips and we go over them in circle time for more reinforcement), and letter formation (writing uppercase and lowercase letters in the air - hooray kinesthetic learning!).

I especially love the repetition of the videos! So many alphabet songs go through each letter (and maybe sound) so quickly, and only once per song. Not helpful! My kids need LOTS of repetition, and these songs provide that. I also love that these are not "little kid-ish." My middle school-aged students are socially much higher than their cognitive levels, so they really don't care for most "children's" music even if it's at their cognitive/academic level. With the funky beat and chant style of these songs, they think these are "cool." Bonus!

Have Fun Teaching is hosting an awesome giveaway of all their alphabet video downloads - you can blog about them and receive them for free! Tomorrow is the last day of the giveaway, so if you haven't yet done so, definitely check them out! Details on the giveaway are here.

And speaking of giveaways, I am 2 followers away from 100! Planning a great giveaway for 100, so stay tuned! Thanks to all my wonderful followers :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

goin' to the zoo, zoo, zoo

First of all, are any Michigan sped teachers going to the MITS/REMC technology conference in Traverse City in June?? I'm almost 100% sure I'm going - just need to get final confirmation from the district that they're footing the bill and approving my conference days off. If anyone else is going, let me know! I'd love to do a mini-meetup!

Today we took the kiddos on a CBI to the zoo. It was PACKED with school groups, and I have to say, I give all you regular ed teachers with classes of 20+ kids major props for even attempting field trips. I counted kids All. Day. Long. and I only have to count up to 8! I think my blood pressure would go through the roof if I had to take a full regular ed class anywhere other than the school playground.

I am happy to report that we did not kill any zoo animals (almost been there-done that a few years ago!)...and we also did not encounter any rude kids like we did during our trip to the butterfly gardens/sculpture park.

It was a sunny day, gorgeous weather for being outside - the animals were all really active, so it was fun to watch. The one "incident" was a goat in the petting zoo area eating a strap off of one of my kids' wheelchairs - thankfully it was not an essential strap!!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Pick-Me-Up

The weekend is almost over...I'm always in need of a little pick-me-up on Sunday afternoons, when it seems I never got quite as much done over the weekend as I'd have liked! Here's something that will surely bring a smile to your face and inspire you today!

Have you heard of the PS22 Chorus? If not, you should! It's a 5th grade choir from PS22 on Staten Island...their teacher, Mr. B, posts videos of their rehearsals and performances on youtube and his blog, and these kids are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I know, 5th grade chorus, you're thinking...But these guys are incredible. They sing current hits, classics, and everything in between. They've sung with the likes of Tori Amos, Carrie Underwood, Katy Perry...been featured on TV, sung at the Oscars, won awards...

Only check out their blog if you want to spend a few hours listening to everything they've created over the years! (Really. Discovering them last year was kind of like the first time I discovered Pinterest!) This group and their teacher are truly inspiring.
I never had fun like that in my elementary school choir!! Their passion, commitment, and enjoyment of what they do is so apparent.

If you've got a few hours (ha!), check them out: - you won't regret it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Signing In (freebie)

I've always had my students sign in when they get to the classroom each day. When my students were younger, I just had them move their name card from the 'absent' board to the 'present' board. Now, they are way beyond mere name recognition - they all recognize each others' names, as well as their own - and I've still got the sign in boards up but don't bother having the kids do it anymore.

Time to change it up, then. I tried this out this week and it's worked well so far. Now I have a sign in notebook, and the kiddos have a choice of whether they'd like to cut and paste their name into the book, trace their name, or use alphabet stamps to stamp their name.
It's more time-consuming than the old method, but the kids really like it and, especially, it hits on letter recognition/word building skills, which most of my kiddos are working on. It's also an easy way for me to catch up on attendance - from time to time I've definitely been known to forget to enter daily attendance on the district website until it's due at noon each Friday (whooops), so I can easily look back in the notebook, instead of trying to recall if anyone was absent on a particular day.

To help the kiddos make their choice of signing in method each day, I have an "I Can" poster on the wall above the can download that freebie here (I have two versions in this download - the first is the one I use and the second includes "I can write my name" for those kids who are past needing the support of tracing):

(graphics from

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

winner, freebie, and other randomness!

Thanks to everyone who gave me opinions on their document cameras and projectors! I really appreciate it! And we have a winner for the $10 TPT gift certificate...
I will email you soon, Kelly :)

Also, we are trucking along in our recycling unit...I tried to get a CBI scheduled to tour our city's main recycling center, but transportation didn't work we've been saving recyclables in our room, instead. We sorted them today into paper/cardboard, plastic, metal and glass. I have a freebie for that if you're interested:

We are going to do the graphing and response page tomorrow, since we ran out of time today.
 Halfway through I thought to take a photo of our sorting setup, with examples in front of each bag and the "pile of trash" to the right. The kids thought it was hilarious when I just dumped a garbage bag full of trash right out onto the floor!

Granola bar box goes into the paper/cardboard bag.

And...going with the theme of my I-need-document-camera-advice giveaway, look what else we got to do today!
 Yes, that's one of my boys sharing a book on an Elmo! I was finally able to get the school's lone Elmo to try out for an hour really is so easy to use! I didn't know I'd get it today, or I'd have planned something more for it. I will have it for an hour or two each day until June to "try out" because I'm on The Money I'm really excited!
I know this is a weird picture and kind of hard to see, but I love it...three of my boys playing around with the camera, seeing themselves projected onto our side room wall! They were so excited, and I can definitely see this being such a motivating tool for speech and social skills practice!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

12 on the 12th!

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching's 12 on the 12th Linky Party! I think this is such a fun idea for a linky...I love the peek into other bloggers' "real lives." Yes, I realize today is the 13th...but I promise I took all these photos yesterday! I just ran out of time to post them last night.

1. Birthday Kitty #1 lounging. My cats' arbitrarily chosen birthday is May 12, since the vet estimated they were about 2 months old when I got them from the shelter on July 12, 2007. They turned 5 this year!!!
2. Birthday Kitty #2. He's actually quite a handsome cat, but does not photograph well. His eyes get scary. Happy birthday, crazy eyes!
3. Trying to look for a flight to Denver over Memorial Day weekend that doesn't cost an arm and a leg! I want to go visit a good friend for her 30th birthday...but flights are crazy-expensive and mostly full by now. That's what I get for not planning ahead.
4. Local asparagus is in season at the market!! I loooove me some fresh asparagus. This sign made me laugh, because the bottom part says "Please don't break the asparagus! Asparagus Tips $19.99/lb." I guess they have problems with people doing this? Who knew.
5. Made some salad dressing for a salad I took to my mom's for our Mother's Day cookout.
6. The view out my back deck. It was cloudy and chilly for most of the day, and when the sun came out for a whole 15 minutes I ran outside and snapped this photo.
7. Typical Saturday...laundry day.
8. A bit of reading on my Nook...I've just started reading The Maze Runner by James Dashner - it's really good so far!
9. I treated myself to my very favorite salsa at the market (where I got the asparagus). Chips and fresh salsa as a snack while reading? Yes, please.
10. It wouldn't be a Saturday with some laminating and cutting going on. This is halfway through putting together Learning and Teaching With Preschoolers's adorable Say It, Count It, Add It, Write It activity.
11. Putting together some quick Olympic-themed patterning strips using stickers from address labels.
12. A workout video before a shower and bed.

I spent today with my mom, grandma, and other family, having a Mother's Day cookout at my parents' house. What a great day! I hope all the moms out there in bloggy land had wonderful days!

Psst...just one more day to enter my giveaway! :)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

a few things

Here are our completed Mother's Day gifts - I think they turned out so cute! My kids were so proud to wrap them up and bring them home for their moms :)
Happy early Mother's Day to all the moms out there - I hope you have wonderful days tomorrow :)

Here's another reminder to enter my giveaway for a TPT gift certificate! Thanks so much to my lovely friends who have already given me details on their document cameras...I'd love to hear more! You can still enter for two days - go here for more info.

And finally, I'm linking up with Hadar, Teri and April for the Summer Bucket List Linky Party!

I work through the summer, but only for three days per week! So, my big plans for the extra time off include:

1. Revamp my Morning Meeting/Circle Time. I'm stuck in a rut and have some ideas to change it up that I want to work out before next school year.
2. Finalize my plans to do chapter books with my higher reading group. I was going to start Henry and Mudge with them this summer, but due to some classroom changes, we're probably going to have to push it back until the school year, so I'm going to have some more time to decide how exactly to go about this new venture.
3. Organize my unit plans and materials. I'm not the world's most organized person, and I really need to get things out of piles in my guest room and into a better organizing system, either at home or at school or both.
4. And my biggest summer plan...partially finish my basement! Right now it's just laundry and storage and empty space...My dad, brother and I are going to hopefully make a space for all my lesson planning/creating stuff and another space for working out. That's the plan, anyway!

Click the linky party picture above to link up with your summer plans!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mother's Day and Giveaway reminder!

This is the third year in a row I've had most of my students, so I had to come up with something different this year for Mother's Day...two years ago we made picture frames, last year we made flower pots and planted daisies, and this year we made (are still kind of snuck up on me this year!) little trinket boxes.

Today the kids cut or tore colorful tissue paper and glued them to their heart-shaped boxes ($0.99 each at my local craft store). I took them home today and Mod Podged them to seal and make them shiny...Tomorrow, the kids will pick out letters to spell M-O-M (or M-A-M-I or G-R-A-N-N-Y, depending on their own special person's name) from my collection of small foam letter stickers to decorate the top. They will also decorate a bag to 'wrap' it in. And voila, Happy Mother's Day! I think they'll be super cute when they're done.

Figured I'd take a photo tonight, since I will most likely (as is typical) forget to take photos at school tomorrow.
Heart-shaped boxes and tops waiting for Mod Podge to dry. (You can see the bar code stickers on some of them because those are the bottoms and it didn't matter if they showed through.) I'm glad I didn't have the kids help with the Mod Podge...I hadn't used it in years, and had forgotten about the fumes! Good thing I didn't have more to do, or I'd have passed out in my guest room doing them tonight!

And here's a reminder to enter my giveaway! If you tell me about the document camera and/or projector you use in your classroom, you can enter to win a $10 TPT gift certificate! Click here to enter...there are four days left.

I'm so glad it's almost's been One Of Those Weeks, if you know what I mean...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Document Camera Advice...and a Giveaway!

(no, I'm not giving away a document camera! I'm sorry! I wish I could! I wish I had one for myself! I wish...I wish...but read on for the actual story.)

So, my school is very limited in the technology we have. For example, I technically have a computer for student use...but it sometimes boots up past the Windows start screen. It sometimes connects to the internet. There's a touch screen attached to it, but the touch screen hasn't worked for 4 years. We have switches to hook up to it, but the computer can't really handle that, so it freezes when we attempt. Yeah, we're tech-impaired. Which is pretty sad, especially for an all-special ed school. Money, and all that! We are an urban, high-poverty district, with all that that implies.

But, my school has recently gotten an extremely significant donation in the form of an estate...and we're able to look seriously at investing a lot, and spending just some on tech (among other pressing needs). I'm on a committee to decide what to do with "The Money," as we term it...We're getting some iPads, laptops (see: non-working student computer)...and we've been talking a lot about document cameras. Our school has one Elmo, but it's hoarded by one teacher and no one other than her has really been able to use it (don't get me started on that whole mess!).

I'd love to come to my committee with some real-teacher recommendations of different document cameras and projectors. So, here's my request: Give me recommendations! Give me anti-recommendations! What do you use in your classroom, what do you wish you had to use in your classroom...What are the pros and cons of the specific document camera and/or projector you have currently?

And for those of you who do help me and my committee and my school out...yeah, there's a little giveaway involved. I'm planning a bigger giveaway for my 100th follower celebration (I'm at 87 now, so getting closer!), but this is just a little something to say "thank you" - if you comment to let me know about the doc camera/projector system you use, you can enter to win a $10 gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers! The giveaway is open for one week.

There are a few other ways to enter, too - this is my first time using the Rafflecopter, so I hope I'm doing this right!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, May 5, 2012

May Currently, and a SALE!

I can't believe it's already May! Wow...
Link up here to Farley's May Currently!

Yeah, I have a new student starting on Monday. I'm stressing over it a wee bit. It's part of some of those 'upcoming classroom changes' I need to have a better attitude about...I'm not upset about the student himself, but about how this change came about...Without going into details, it's just not a good situation. Hopefully come Monday, things will go more smoothly than I'm anticipating!


Now for something exciting...As we all know, Teachers Pay Teachers is having a Teacher Appreciation Sale! Hooray! I definitely have my wish list all primed and ready to go...and like many of you, I'm also holding a sale in my TPT store - 20% off of everything in my store, to add to TPT's 10% off! (And can some math teacher out there explain to me how 20% + 10% = 28% and not 30%???)

So, from Sunday through Tuesday, visit my TPT store to get 20% off my products; use the TPT code TAD12 to get the additional 10% off!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Olympic fever, part 2

Our curriculum (Unique Learning System) has just released their summer unit today - all about the 2012 Summer Olympics! As always, their summer unit is FREE to anyone, even if you are not a current ULS subscriber. I know there are a few of you sped friends who have been looking at the curriculum either personally or as a sped staff, so this would be a great time to check out what a unit actually looks like. Also good for any sped teacher who's teaching summer school/year round/ESY. Hey, even if you use just a couple of the lessons, free is always good, right?

{This plug is of my own volition and ULS has not given me anything for it nor requested I promote their curriculum ;)}

Click the image to check it out:

Also, the fabulous Nikki at  has created an absolutely adorable Olympic-themed graphics bundle - check it out here!

The weather here is extremely summery today, after days of chilly, stormy I'm definitely ready for real summer!

What is your favorite Summer Olympics event? Mine is gymnastics, followed closely by track and field :)
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