Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012 is in the bag

I think it should be a rule that Halloween at school is always celebrated on a Friday! I am exhausted! I almost fell asleep at my chiropractor's this afternoon (I love my chiro - I get a massage before every adjustment!); the lady doing my massage told me I should definitely go home, lock the door and turn off the porch lights tonight!

Halloween morning, the kids usually get to go trick or treating in the neighborhood across the street from our school, who set out displays and candy especially for our students. Because of the weather (rain and cold) this was postponed, so we did "regular school" in the morning! Is it bad to say I was kind of relieved for a relatively "normal" morning?

After lunch was costumes, parade, and Halloween dance in the gym...Then back to our room for some fun center activities:
"What's in the Witch's Soup?" roll and cover game by Kindergarten Faith - like my Halloween colored dice? (I found them last night in a stash from some conference swag a few years ago!) My kids used bingo markers to cover their numbers.

"Halloween Fun Counting Teeth" with candy corn by Learning and Teaching with Preschoolers

My kids loved both these activities, so check out the links for the 'em for next year if you're done with Halloween centers this year!

We also completed our pumpkin observations and put them together in our observation books:

We described the outside of our pumpkins, predicted whether our pumpkin would sink or float and then checked our predictions (the kids were shocked to discover the pumpkins floated!), measured height and width of our pumpkins with Unifix cubes, and explored and described the inside (always my favorite part - if only for the expressions on my kids' faces as they have to touch the "goop!").

We also painted our pumpkins, but I didn't get photos of that.

Glad Halloween is over for another year (even though it was a success and we actually had no meltdowns or seizures - I think a first for our room!!).

Happy almost-November, everyone!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Election 2012, Mercy Watson, and a sale!

Is there an election coming up soon in the US? I hadn't noticed! (I'm sure you notice my sarcasm!) I meant to add this to my post yesterday, but it slipped my mind. Here is a fun little activity we did back in September, when our unit was all about government and leaders...We made campaign posters!
We first looked at several different campaign posters from both Obama and Romney and discussed some common similarities that each poster tended to have. We came up with this list:
-The candidate's name (usually the last name only!)
-The candidate's picture
-The year
-The colors red, white and blue
-The American flag, stars, or other US symbols

From our list, we designed our posters...I printed each student's last name and the year in bubble letters (the font is called "Janda Manatee Bubble"), they put the letters of their last name in order and colored with their red and blue crayons. (We do so much with students' first names, so this was good practice recognizing and spelling their last names!) They added their photo, and then decorated with US flag stickers and painted with star sponge stamps. This was an easy, fun activity that connects so well to the election, and it looks great in our hallway, too! We have staff members stopping by to tell us who they would vote for in our class ;) For higher-functioning students, you could add a writing activity for the students to tell what they would do if they were president.

Switching your students love Mercy Watson? If you don't know about her, this is a series of beginning chapter books by Kate DiCamillo (author of The Tale of Despereaux) about a spunky, toast-loving pig named Mercy! Check her out! Her stories are tons of fun. And I've decided that after Henry and Mudge, the next chapter book my high reading group tackles will be the first in the series, Mercy Watson to the Rescue.

I created a packet of vocabulary, sequencing and comprehension activities to go with this book - it is the same format as my Henry and Mudge packet. You can snag on my TPT store by clicking the image below:

And...speaking of TPT, I missed this weekend's influx of Halloween sales...but never fear - I have put my entire store - including the new Mercy Watson bundle - on sale, beginning tomorrow through Halloween. 20% off though the 31st - just click below starting tomorrow (or in just a little while, if you're like me and still awake!):

...I'm still awake because the Tigers are tied at the bottom of the 9th in the game they must win to stay in the World Series! Go Tigs!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

What we've been up to...

It's been a week since I blogged last...October has been quite a month for us. We have had 3 fun outings this month but have (unfortunately) had to spend much of the rest of our time at school completing state testing...especially since the state told us mid-month that we needed to have tests submitted a week earlier than we'd first been told! I know I said I'd talk about the supplemental materials we've used for our food chain unit, but to be honest we have not done much with the unit past our existing curriculum materials...we just plain have not had time.

To top it off, my classroom has been short of my staff members had (planned) surgery, so she is out for a while...another had an emergency trip to the hospital due to a blood clot in her leg, so she has been out, too. We are always short on subs in our building, so we have had several days of not getting our needed sub or subs. AND I hurt my back in a major way last Sunday; visits to my chiropractor have helped a great deal but not enough for me to be 100% back to my usual lifting/bending/carrying abilities at school...CRAZY!!! I am ready for October to be over!

We have managed to squeeze in some fun fall things in between testing and staff shortages, though...
My lower math group took turns spinning a spinner to determine how many of each fall-colored leaves (found @ The Dollar Tree) should adorn the tree just inside our classroom door (and we added some fun "spider web" stuff for Halloween!). They graphed their results as they went.

Our three outings included the trip to Meijer to pick out our new fish, a visit to our sister school to kick off the new year and meet our new buddies, and a trip to a local orchard/farm!

We got to hold and pet bunnies...
Feed goats...

And go on a tractor/wagon ride through the fields and orchards! This was a surprise treat...we hadn't paid for a wagon ride (I didn't even know it was a possibility), but the wonderful gentleman who works at the farm asked when we arrived if we would like of charge...and the wagon was fully accessible with a ramp and everything! The kids especially loved that it was extremely muddy so some of our teachers and friends got sprayed with mud as we drove down the farm roads! We still have mud on wheelchair wheels...I'm sure parents - and our custodians! - are just so happy about that!

Next week, we will be exploring (observing, measuring, describing, and eventually carving) pumpkins...

And very exciting news - we will finally be getting our classroom iPad on Tuesday!! We have been waiting a long time for this day!

Happy weekend, everyone!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

New Counting Product and...I've Been Boo'd!

Happy weekend, everyone! Last night I had dinner out and saw a movie with a friend (the local cheap theater was still showing Brave - have you all seen it? so good!), which was the perfect, uplifting/relaxing end to a really rough week. I'm feeling much better after some great company and entertainment!

My TPT issues from the other day seem to have been resolved, and I finally got my new product uploaded. I was writing an IEP for one of my kiddos, and was thinking about how quite a few of my kids need more practice with counting and quantities 1-10. Our unit next month is all about travel/transportation, so I decided to create a bundle of activities for numbers 1-10 with a transportation theme. You can check it out on TPT by clicking the image below:

In other news, I've been Boo'd!
I know you have all seen this fun linky party hosted by Cynthia at 2nd Grade Pad. Kate at Fun in ECSE Boo'd me - thank you, Kate! Check out her blog for some great ideas for special ed and/or early childhood classrooms!

Here are the rules for this linky:
1. Choose a fellow blogger that has MORE followers.
2. A blogger that has about the SAME number of followers .
3. Someone that has LESS followers.
4. Highlight their blogs with links to encourage others to check them out.
5. Don't forget to let your fellow bloggers know that you shared about them.
6. Lastly, leave them some love by offering them a goody from your store as their "treat."

So fun to highlight some of my favorite blogs...these are all special education blogs, but on every single one you will find great ideas, inspiration and info for teachers of all types!

-More followers than I have:
Erin from Creating and Teaching always has great ideas and adorable products I just love. And a bonus - on her other blog, Creating and Designing, she created the incredible design of my blog for me! I love it! Go give Erin a visit:

-About the same number of followers:
Becky from Lesson Plans & Lattes posts about great activities from her classroom, as well as shares her awesome organizational systems and tips. As organization is not my strong suit, I am always inspired by her posts. Check Becky out here:
Lesson Plans and Lattes

-Fewer followers:
Brie from Breezy Special Ed has a brand new special ed teaching blog! You may know her from her other blog, Breezy Pink Daisies. I'm so excited to hear more about her experience teaching a transitional-level class - and the first activity she posted about I'm definitely using in my classroom next month! Go give Brie some bloggy love:
Breezy Special Ed

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A New Addition

What a day. What a week! Meetings. IEPs scheduled and written and missed (by parents, not me!) and rescheduled. Severe seizures and new meds. Scary new violent behaviors. Incident reports. Round two already of the fall cold/sickness crap. State testing. Evaluations and observations and goal writing. I am beat. And it's only Wednesday!

And now I've been wrestling with TPT for far too long, and not having any success in getting my newest product uploaded (anyone else having problems lately??) so instead of posting about that, I'll share the newest addition to our classroom family, instead:
Meet Petey Phelps, our new Betta fish! Last week, our outing to the farmers' market was rained out, so we went to Meijer, our local supermarket, instead. We had been throwing around the possibility of a classroom pet for a while, and this seemed like a good time (it even kinda-sorta connects to our current unit on animals/the food chain/ecosystems). We had the kids pick our fish out, ask the young man working in the pet department what we needed for him, and then take him "home" to school and set him up in his new home!
They painted/colored an "under the sea" background for the shelf his tank is on.

Of course, we had to choose a name, too. All the kids and staff made name suggestions, we put them all in a bowl, and had a staff member from our neighbor classroom (we needed a neutral party!) draw one. Petey was the big winner (I was told later Petey had been suggested by a student because of Petey Piranha of the Super Mario games!).

Yes, I said above his name is Petey Phelps. I had suggested Michael Phelps as a name, and took the liberty of assigning Petey Michael's last name. Only in honor of his stellar swimming abilities, of course. ;) I'm the teacher, I get to do that!
Signs by Petey's tank: All about Petey, and the rules about him (look with your eyes, no touching/tapping/picking up the tank, only feed him when he's scheduled to eat)

It's one student's job each week to take care of Petey (feed him daily and clean out his tank once per week). We have this schedule chart to help us keep track of whether or not the care has been done yet that day. And yes, the spork has a Petey function - we cannot trust the kids to give him just a small pinch of food each feeding, so staff places an appropriate pinch of food on the spork and the Petey-carer then dumps said pinch into the tank :)

So far, my students love Petey. I'd love to eventually get a furry pet for our room, but this is a good start. One of my students has to go "talk to Petey" as soon as he gets off the bus every morning!

Okay, it's time for early bed for me tonight...Hopefully I will be back tomorrow with the aforementioned new TPT product, and I've recently been Boo'd, so there will be that, too!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Focus Windows...and a Halloween freebie

After each chapter of Henry and Mudge, the final activity in my students' reading workbooks is a sight word search using sentences from the chapter. As you can see above, they look for each word (in this case, they were told to look for 'and,' 'a,' and 'to') and highlight it.

Sight words for my kiddos are a novel thing. "You just read a word!" is the source of much joy for them (even though they have "just" matched the word on the page to the written word flashcard, or remembered which word they need to say when we point to the highlighted word)! I love it.

My students' needs are such that they can't focus on all that text at once. So, you know the drill I'm sure - we staff do the whole cover half the paper with another paper, make a window for the words with our hands, etc. Sliding around four separate pieces of paper to cover all but a few words, which is what most of my students need, is cumbersome and awkward. Not sure why I had never considered this before (and it's certainly not a new concept), but...
Enter Focus Windows! I whipped out a few of these babies tonight and I just know my kids are going to be so much more successful with them...and my staff are going to love them, too! These couldn't be easier to make:

 Cut a piece of dark colored construction paper (to ensure no "see throughs") to 8 1/2x11 size (to fit in a laminator). Decide what size window you want and cut it out (I chose 5" by 1" for my students).

Laminate the whole thing, then cut out the window to either decrease glare and/or allow students to work in the space provided - I used an exacto knife and cutting board - and voila, you have your Focus Window! You could make these any size that works for entire line of text, a small box to just show one math problem...anything! Instant differentiation without having to change the original printed version of a given activity. I can't wait to try these out!

Switching gears, I mentioned in my October Currently that my favorite fall book in the classroom is The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything. I also mentioned Melonheadz Illustrating's new Build a Scarecrow bundle. I couldn't resist creating a fun activity using this awesome clip art to go with this wonderful book!

(It drives me nuts when I can't rotate a photo on Blogger. I swear I used to be able to and it was simple! Anyone care to remind me how?!)

This is a roll or spin a scarecrow activity...roll a dice or spin a spinner to add the scarecrow's body parts! I have both a large version (pictured above) that fits on a poster, or a small/individual version which fits on a standard piece of paper. Also, each dice or spinner page is in your choice of image/color or text/black and white. For our group center activity, I made the above version by laminating the pieces and velcroing to the poster. We will do this in math centers the week of Halloween. You can grab the activity for free here:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Henry and Mudge and Currently!

My students are diving into their first-ever chapter book, Henry and Mudge. They are loving it and are doing really well! Yes, even kids with severe cognitive impairments can experience chapter books!

Here is some of how I have been modifying my Henry and Mudge Literature Packet for my students:

{I originally got the idea to try chapter books with my kids, and this basic format, from Eat Pray Teach.}

They each have their own reading workbook to work in. The simplest things make my kids excited!

We talked about what an author and an illustrator do, and a bit about the women behind Henry and Mudge.

Vocabulary words from chapter 1.

Characters, setting, and sequencing the events from chapter 1.

The images we use are from Boardmaker, so I can't share these files - but this is the basic format we are using and it is working well. We are also doing the comprehension questions from my pack on TPT, but just informally now as a part of the chapter discussions...I will use them more formally when we finish the book as an assessment.

And now...October's Currently! I can't believe it's time for this already...
-Yes, orange shoes! My brother and his wife are having an "orange and black" party at the end of the month - that's my kind of Halloween party, as I'm not a big costume person. I think some cute orange flats would be fun to wear with black pants and shirt and some orange jewelry :)
-I'm teaching Sunday School tomorrow and procrastinated on planning the lesson during the week, so it's crunch time today.
-I love this book and so do my students! So excited to see Melonheadz Illustrating's new graphics bundle, too :)

If you haven't already, go link up with Farely and share your fave October book...and remember her rule of 3!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tasty Tuesday 3

We didn't cook last week because Tuesday was our day for our outing to ArtPrize, and we just didn't get to it another day! We are back this week with a fun, easy recipe. A coworker saw this idea on Pinterest and we just had to try it! Mozzarella sticks that aren't deep fried? Can we say Super Bowl snack, anyone? Most of my students (as well as the staff) really enjoyed both making and eating these.

Here is the visual recipe for Baked Mozzarella Sticks, free for you on Scribd:
Cheese Sticks

On another note, we began state standardized testing with our kids today and I know some of you all are also in the midst of or soon anticipating The Test...I found this funny I thought we all would enjoy:

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