Thursday, June 28, 2012

Oh Say Can You See...

Since we have the week of the 4th of July off of school every summer (I am now on my longest "summer break" - no more school until the 10th of July!), we celebrated Independence Day today in our room:

-We played Kelly and Kim's adorable Patriotic Cube Game in math stations.

-We skipped our usual free/choice time in favor of pulling up a YouTube video of last year's Washington, DC fireworks display and watched it through the projector on our wall. Most of my students have never and will never go in person to see a fireworks show - some for accessibility reasons, some because of sensory or behavior issues, some because of seizures that could be triggered by the bright lights, flashes, noise, etc. - so it was a real treat!

-And then we made our own fireworks:
This was a really simple project that turned out really cool: drop a dab of paint on the paper, then drag something like a toothpick or fork (we used the plastic sporks we get from the school cafeteria) through the paint, drawing the paint out in spikes all around the dab. We added glitter to get a better fireworks effect! These photos don't show the color well, for some reason. In person, they are really bright!

-And after school, a coworker and I celebrated our "summer break" by treating ourselves to pedicures!
I don't usually go for pink, but I really like how my toes are now bright and cheerful for summertime!

Happy early Fourth (and/or Canada Day), everyone!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday Made It and a nomination!

This is my first time linking up with Tara's Monday Made It! I am not "crafty" and never have been, and I probably would have just kept sitting this linky out...but seeing all the great things you all have been creating over the past three Monday Made Its has been inspiring and I decided to give it a go.

Of course I had to have one of those fabulous teacher toolboxes everyone has been making, so that was my project this week:
I snagged everyone's favorite blue beast (they only had blue) at Lowe's, and some Valspar spray paint for plastic. In white. Next time when the bottle says "no primer needed" I won't believe them. This baby took like seventeen coats to cover (maybe I should have chosen a darker color - but I love the bright, clean look of the white, so I'm not complaining!).

(Halfway through painting.) This project had the bonus of finally getting me to clean out my garage! (It had been a while, people.) I live in a condo and don't have a yard where I could spray paint outdoors, so I had to use my garage. One of my neighbors actually came over to make sure I wasn't moving out because the entire contents of my garage were out on the driveway as I swept it out. Teacher stuff organized? Garage organized? Check and check. Bonus!

The finished product! Don't look too closely at my paint job - it's nowhere near perfect; I got impatient when it could have probably used a couple more coats, and there are a few places where I got too close and there were drips. But I absolutely love how it turned out! I typed up my own labels using the dimensions Rebecca gave on Create Teach Share and used two-sided tape to affix them to the drawers. I can't wait to bring this to my classroom - my staff and I are always searching for "stuff" and now it all has a home!

Go link up with this week's Monday Made It - I'm heading out soon to run errands, and I'll definitely be picking up some stuff I need to make what I'll link up with next time :)

Also, I received an email last night that my blog has been nominated in the 2012 Fascination Awards in the special education category! Color me surprised - and honored! The post that got me the nomination was Field Trip Heartbreak - I'm glad that a negative experience for me and my students got people thinking. So, when voting opens up on July 2, remember my little ol' blog here, yeah?
Check this out

Sunday, June 24, 2012

What I Learned On My Summer Vacation...

Here are just a few tips and tricks and resources I gleaned from the MITS technology conference I attended last week:

(sorry these are not at all in any sort of order. but hopefully they will be of some use to someone!)

 -Shapedad on Etsy makes some really cool iPad stylii for people with various motor impairments, and "socks" to make chopsticks, etc. into stylii. Very cool!

-Q10 (only for Windows) and FocusWriter (for both Windows and Mac) are both great options for free downloadable software that creates a distraction-free screen for kids who need to minimize visual distraction while typing.

-Slater Software, a picture-based literacy software company (you may know their PictureIt or PixWriter programs) is going out of business because the owners are retiring - and all their stuff is on big-time sale until they close completely on June 30. So hurry and check them out!

-This document is a great read on that little box we all check on the IEP that asks if assistive technology has been considered. How often do we actually consider it?

-The Communication Matrix is a free, online communication assessment. I haven't looked at it extensively yet, but from what I saw at the conference, it looks like it would be really useful! I'm definitely going to try it out with at least some of my students next year.

-And some iPad apps I jotted down the names of - not sure if these are all free and/or inexpensive, but certainly they're all worth checking out if you've got students who would apply to the skills addressed:
>>educreations (this one I know is free - it's a screen/voice recorder)
>>Alphabet Tracing (just what it says - finger or stylus tracing of letters; handwriting practice)
>>Everyday Math (various apps under this one - some I liked for my students were called Name That Number and Top-It Addition - if you can't find them under Everyday Math, look under McGraw-Hill)
>>Doodle Buddy ( fun drawing app to work on finger control/fine motor)
>>Art of Glow (visually stimulating touch/finger control/cause and effect app)
>>Dexteria (app that works on fine motor, finger/hand skills, tracing)
>>Time Timer (the standard visual timer in app form)

This just touches the very small tip of the iceberg of things I learned about at the conference...Who wants to go with me next year??

I also won a raffle at the conference! Now I have my very own Hawk III communication device!
It's basic, but it's great! I'm especially excited because I have only ever had communication devices in my classroom that are on loan from our ISD lending library (you get them to try out with students for 6 weeks and then have to return them) or are students' personal devices. This one is my own, so I get to use it with my kiddos forever! I'm already making up some boards to use with our summer Olympics unit.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Getting paid to...

I am currently in beautiful Traverse City, MI, attending the three-day MITS/REMC technology conference! (Are there any of you teacher-bloggers also here? Let me know and we can meet up!) This was our view last night as we took a walk after the welcome reception/dinner...Most all of today's conference rooms overlooked the bay, too. Not a bad gig! The shock of my month was when I found out my district was paying for it all!!

The conference is pretty incredible - my head is spinning a little from all the information and ideas I've been furiously typing up. I'll have to post about some highlights once I'm home and have the info somewhat organized.

I have not been blog-reading much - the internet access has been sketchy at best here, due to some massive lightning storms that occurred both before and after the photo above was taken last night! Our hotel's router got hit by lightning and the conference center's internet was in and out even today (kind of a bummer for a tech-based conference, unfortunately!). I will have to catch up either later tonight or when I get home. We are done conference-ing for tonight and will finish up with more sessions tomorrow. I think we're off to the beach right's hot!

Before I left, I forgot to mention a little Olympic freebie I made up - Olympic-themed roll and cover games. You can find them for free here on my TPT store.

Friday, June 15, 2012


At long last, a winner of my 100 followers giveaway!
Congratulations, Holly! I will be sending you an email after I post this :)

I have my new computer now, and thankfully all my essentials got data-transferred over, as promised. I'm very relieved, despite still being unhappy it was necessary. I forgot to ask them to transfer my fonts, though, so I'll have to find all my favorites again...Which moves me to ask all of you - what's your favorite font? (I need to find that linky everyone was doing a while ago - found it! I will have to link up soon, I think!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New layout!!!

You guys, be sure to click out of Google reader and over to my blog so you can see my absolutely fabulous new blog design! Erin over at Creating and Designing did such a fantastic job in getting exactly what I wanted (even when I was wishy-washy and probably didn't explain myself very clearly!) into the design she created. Definitely go check her out if you're wanting a new look for your blog!

(And aren't the elephant graphics she found for me so wonderful?! Elephants are my absolute favorite animal, and seeing them in "real life," up close and personal last summer just cemented my love for these enormous, majestic creatures...I love having them on my blog! No, they are not a commentary on my memory, or lack thereof...or on my political leanings, for that matter!)

If you have my button on your blog, go ahead and replace it with the new, much more adorable one if you'd like:

<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="Sped-Ventures" width="125" height="125" /></a>

In some not-so-exciting news, I'm going to have to delay announcing the winner of my giveaway and getting the prizes out because...

My computer is dead. As a doornail. Will-not-turn-on dead. The lovely young man at Best Buy's Geek Squad seemed quite genuinely sorry to tell me that the motherboard was fried, and that since the computer was 5+ years old already, if it was a car it'd be "totaled," and I would be better off getting a new computer entirely.

Ouch. Wasn't planning on that! There goes most, if not all, of my basement-remodel plans for this summer!

Good news is, they should be able to successfully do a data transfer from the old beast to the new one, so I won't lose my stuff (people. Back. Your. Computers. Up. or you will have an almost-heart attack, like I did this afternoon, before they confirmed they could transfer). And I should have a brand-new, shiny, fast computer in my hot little hands by tomorrow evening.

Whew. (Still. The pocketbook is hurting right now. I swiped my card and wanted to cry. I'd expected a hundred or two bucks for a repair. Not...a new machine. They don't sell those for $200, it turns out! For shame.)

So, I'm sorry to delay the whole winner thing, but hopefully I will be able to post that tomorrow. (I'd attempt that tonight, but I'm using my backup computer, which is over 10 years old - got it at the beginning of college - and I'm honestly surprised it still connects to the internet at all. It will probably think very hard about it before letting me post this little entry, even.)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fry's First 100 Words packet (plus a freebie!)

I said I'd be sharing Olympics materials next, but as is typical for my ADD tendencies, I have been working on something for next school year, instead. Why not?

I like using Fry's sight words with my kiddos who are working on words...I know there are other lists out there, but this is my own personal preference! This packet includes flash cards/word wall words, I Have/Who Has games for each set of 20 words within the first 100, read it - trace it - write it activities, and ABC order activities. Click the image below to go to the packet on TPT - and if you download the product preview, you receive one of the I Have/Who Has games for free!

Also, my 100 Followers Giveaway closes at midnight tonight...I will contact/post a winner tomorrow! Hooray! Thanks to all who have entered already - welcome to my 27 (!) new followers! I will have lots of great new-to-me blogs to check out :) You can still enter the giveaway by clicking here.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Happy Summer Break!

I'm officially on summer break until Wednesday when summer programming begins...this past week was crazy trying to wrap things up as much as is practical before summer, get IEP goal reports and report cards finished, continue to get materials together and ready for our summer unit, etc. My kids (and let's be honest, me and my staff, too) were obviously very ready for the break and our shortened summer schedule.

Here are a few things that actually came out of my mouth at school this past week (we have the joke about "things you'd only ever hear at [our school name]" around our building quite a lot!):
-"...and he walked out to the car and started licking the side of it!"
-"I do not need the poop commentary."
-"Guys, the full moon was on Monday. Today you don't get that excuse."
-"Next time, let's try not to announce our bathroom habits to the principal."
-"Kissing is for at home, not school." (repeat that one ad nauseum)

Other than avoiding bathroom commentary and trying to squelch kissing habits, we did have some fun experiences the last week of school:

-We had our final sister school visit with our regular ed friends. They came to our school and we did center rotations that included an art project, music/parachute activities, and a sister school-themed Bingo game. With a total of 52 students in the program (26 of our students and 26 regular ed buddies), I was afraid all the transitioning between rotations would be chaotic, but it all worked out and was a successful day! There were not many dry eyes as friends sang the goodbye song ("Shalom, My Friends") for the last time and gave hugs and took final pictures together. I will miss this group of 4th graders we've worked with all year. Hopefully next year's program will be just as successful and valuable. Real friendships were really formed, which is awesome for my kids!

-To wrap up our unit on recycling, we attempted to make recycled paper! I had picked up Bill Nye the Science Guy's Paper Recycling Factory for $8 at the Scholastic warehouse sale a few weeks ago, and we finally tried it out. Though the instructions that came with the kit were not at all clear, and we could only make two small pieces of paper at a time, we figured it out and the kids had a blast ripping newspaper, blending pulp, etc. And the paper actually turned out pretty well!
Our paper drying on the windowsill. It dried much lighter. We are going to perfect our technique, experiment with colors/designs, and try to make more either for gifts or even to sell next year. Not sure if we'll continue using Bill Nye's kit or if I'll try to make my own.

-Finally, last night was our district graduation ceremony for the four students who are aging out of our program. In Michigan, students age out of special ed services at age 26. It was a really nice ceremony and I am so proud of these kids...I cried, of course. My current students already know Miss Kara will cry at their graduation! The first students I ever had are now 16 and 17 years old (I started out teaching a younger group than I have now) so at least I have 9 years to go before one of "my" kids graduates. There's a lump in my throat even now just thinking about it!

This is a long post, sorry! I'll stop now, and will be back later this week to share some of the Olympics-related materials I've been creating. Remember you can still enter my 100 followers giveaway! Just click the image below:

Monday, June 4, 2012

June Currently

Congrats to all of you who are already finished with this school year! We have until Friday...and then go back for the beginning of summer school on Wednesday the 13th...but believe me, I'm looking forward to those two days off!

Despite the whole school ending thing, it's hard to believe it's already June. So, linking up with Farley's June Currently, of course!
I would love to go to Ireland! Actually, there are tons of places on my bucket list...but Ireland gets top slot at the moment. I went to Mexico with a coworker-friend for spring break this year, and to Denver to visit a friend for her birthday over Memorial Day weekend. And camping at Lake Michigan with my extended family is always one of the highlights of my summer!

Finally, thank you to all of you who have entered my 100 followers giveaway! I'm having lots of fun reading all your plans for the summer...and I admit to being a bit envious of some of your travel plans! Hope everyone has an incredible summer! You can still enter for the next week - just click the image below:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

100 Followers Giveaway!

I've reached 100 followers!

First of all, thank you to all my amazing followers and all the wonderful teacher-bloggers out there! When I began discovering and reading teacher blogs about 7 months ago, and when I decided to start one myself in January, I was in a bit of a rut/funk as far as teaching went. 8 years of teaching and I felt like I wasn't doing anything different or exciting anymore. Now, after reading blogs and learning and gleaning so much from all of you, I am newly energized and excited about teaching again! I would have never thought this experience would have been so valuable to me (nor would I have thought there would be 100 of you who would want to read my ramblings!).

To say thank you, I am having a 100 followers giveaway!
(The wonderful frame for this graphic is from The 3am Teacher.)

One lucky winner will receive:
-$20 gift certificate to your choice of either, Target, or Teachers Pay Teachers
-a t-shirt from the wonderful Hey Girl Teacher (t-shirt examples can be found here)
-my bundle of Health & Nutrition themed math and literacy activities (my most popular item on my TPT store, which will be prettied up and slightly edited soon for this giveaway)

Enter using the Rafflecopter below - yes, there are quite a few ways to enter - I figured, why not? ;)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You have a little over a week to enter :)
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