Sunday, December 29, 2013

2014 Resolutions

I can't believe it's almost the New Year (goodness, it seems like my students just got used to saying the year is 2013!). Jessica from First Grade Nest is hosting a linky all about our New Year Resolutions, so I'm joining in!
Okay, I'll expand on some of those:

My first resolution - work out at least 4 days per week. I did pretty well with this during the first part of 2013 but it petered out and I'd like to get going with the workouts again. I really want to be healthier and lose some weight and working out regularly will be a big part of this.

My second resolution - make a cleaning schedule and stick to it. I am a real procrastinator, and my house suffers for it. I tend to leave everything for all at once, and then get overwhelmed. I have been looking for a system for a while, and I discovered the "Daily Planner (My Personal Assistant)" from Amy Bayliss' blog (scroll down for the free, editable download!). I'm excited about personalizing it for myself and trying it out.

My third resolution - blog at least 2 times per week. I do consider this a professional goal, since blogging has completely changed (for the better!) my teaching. It keeps me accountable and also gives me so many great ideas. Blogging also includes creating products for my classroom and TPT.

My fourth resolution - finish my basement remodel. I started this last winter - making my unfinished basement into a completely finished area with a laundry room, workout area, and most importantly - a customized teacher work area! It is complete except for blinds on the window (I hate the fishbowl feeling especially when working down there at night) and carpeting. My dog is afraid of the bare wood stairs, so carpeting the space - especially the stairs - is essential. I can't wait to finish the space, organize it, and be able to do all my school work/creating/blogging down there! I'll be sure to share photos when I'm done.

My fifth resolution - learn to knit or crochet. This is always been something I've wanted to learn, but now that I'm going to be an aunt for the first time come May, I'm itching to create some baby blankets or something! I actually picked up some practice yarn and a crochet hook (I hear crocheting is easier to learn than knitting) this weekend and am looking up youtube instructional videos. I'm very uncoordinated, so wish me luck!

Now for some goals that aren't on my official resolution list:

Be a great cooperating teacher. I am going to have my first student teacher starting in February, and I'm looking forward to the experience. I met her already last week, and she seems pretty fabulous and excited about working with my particular population of students. I am really hoping to provide her a fantastic experience in my classroom - and also learning from her! "Letting go" of my classroom for a while is going to be my biggest struggle...I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to my class (haha).

I'd love to explore more of the places Michigan has to offer, especially during the fall and summer. I live here, and don't take advantage of it like I should. Beaches, hiking trails, camping etc...Now that I have my dog, too, I want to find dog-friendly, in-state vacationing spots. I know there are a lot of places I could take great long weekends close by!

I love food and love cooking. I love finding new recipes to try! I'm generally very willing to try any food (except meat; I'm vegetarian) but I'd love to find more ways to enjoy quinoa.

My weakness is salty foods - specifically, chips. I want to give up having a snack of chips/salsa or something similar every night! Replacing it with something would be okay with me - I just want to be healthier when I snack.

I want to take more photos - especially in the classroom! I used to be much better at taking pictures of whatever we're doing in class. Not only do the parents love it when I give out a pack of photos of their kids at conference time, but it's a great informal way to keep records for myself, as well as a way to keep track of what we have and haven't done in class...which is especially helpful when I have my students for several years in a row! Not to mention, it helps with that whole blogging resolution thing :)

You can link up with your own resolutions and goals here:

Friday, December 27, 2013

Parent Gifts 2013

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I think I'm really a fan of this year's Christmas break schedule, when we only begin break a couple days prior to the holiday - and therefore still have an entire week, plus, of break to go!

I'm sure my students loved giving their parents their presents this year, too. Each year, since I have the same students for several years at a time, it's always a challenge to find holiday gifts for my kids to make for their parents that they haven't made before, are age-appropriate, and that they can participate in creating. Last year, I had pinned these amazing tiles from Christina Bainbridge and knew they'd work great for my kiddos this year.

I loved Christina's "you light up my life" coasters! For ours, I found 4" white ceramic tiles at Home Depot for a whopping 13 cents apiece! Staff wrote the text and drew the black line with Sharpie. The kids chose their paint colors and used their fingerprints to make the lights. We did discover our classroom tempra paints flaked off the ceramic tiles when dried, so we had to figure another technique out. We found out that baby wipes cleaned off the tiles perfectly - even the Sharpie - so we could have another try. We ended up cutting pieces of white construction paper, had the kids recreate their light strands, and then Mod Podged the completed paper to their tiles. We finished with a covering of Mod Podge and then a spray of an acrylic sealer for extra protection. I also put mini adhesive furniture pads on each of the four corners of the back of each tile so the coasters would not scratch furniture at home.
Here are some of the construction paper light strands before we put them on the tiles. I can't believe I forgot to take photos of the completed coasters - they turned out great! Please excuse my messy attempt at blacking out my students' names - the bottom right corners of their coasters say "♥, [name] 2013"

We also had taken photos of the kids at our local garden/sculpture park's holiday tree display, so we decided to make those photos into a second coaster for parents, as well. The kids cut their photos out with craft/shaped scissors and we Mod Podged/sealed as we did the light strands:

I'm sure the parents loved receiving these special gifts for the holidays - the kids were sure excited to wrap and bring them home! Several were going to insist their parents wait to open their gifts until Christmas morning :)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Remember. Heal. Act.

As educators, we remember and honor our fallen colleagues and their students from Sandy Hook School. We honor them each day in our classrooms in which we continue their dream of teaching our children. We honor their memory with our service. Join with teachers everywhere in committing random acts of kindness to show our love for Sandy Hook.

Tasty "Tuesday," Jury Duty Edition

I had jury duty at the beginning of this week (actually got selected for a case, which was interesting to say the least!) and an all-day training at our ISD on Thursday, so I was in school for a grand total of one day this week. Jury duty was actually a mostly positive experience (very glad I did not get selected for one of the more major cases they were trying this week - a murder case and a rape case were up for jury selection, neither of which I would have wanted to be a part of), though sub plans for 4 out of 5 days, two weeks before Christmas break, was less than ideal! We have lots to do in the coming week!

This week, my class studied Kwanzaa. Last week for Hanukkah, we made latkes. This week Tuesday, they made sweet potato pie. This recipe is one we used last year, so I know it's fantastic! Many of my students last year had never had sweet potato pie, and many enjoyed it. They enjoyed it this year, too - I snuck some leftover pie yesterday, and it sure turned out great.

Below is the visual recipe they used:

We have studied Hanukkah and Kwanzaa for the past two weeks; this coming week we will focus on Christmas. We aren't going to do a Tasty Tuesday cooking class, as we will be too busy with other holiday preparations. We are going to our local botanical gardens and sculpture park on Monday to view their "Holiday Traditions Around the World" exhibit on Monday. We need to make our parent holiday gifts, set up and decorate our Christmas tree, make cards for our sister school buddies, wrap parent gifts, and have our class gift exchange. Whew! I'm tired already.

Full report to come on our week of Christmas study/celebration...Right now, I need to venture out into the snow to do my own Christmas shopping. I'm sure it's going to be crazy busy this weekend. Hope other people are full of the holiday spirit and not impatience and grumpiness!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Hanukkah, and December Currently!

In December, we study winter holidays - specifically, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas. Since there are three weeks of school this month, this works out pretty well to give us one week for each holiday. This week we are studying Hanukkah. We are reading I Have a Little Dreidel by Maxie Baum during circle time this week to supplement our curriculum text, playing the dreidel game during leisure time, and tomorrow we will be making latkes during cooking class.

We were meant to have art class today, but our art teacher was out and had no sub (which we didn't discover until we were in the art room at our scheduled time and there was no teacher!)...enter an on-the-fly art project that turned out rather well, if I do say so myself!
Using our curriculum text, "I Have a Little Dreidel," and some google images, we looked at a few examples of menorahs. We talked about how they all have nine candles, and also how an important color for Hanukkah is blue (it's hard to tell from this photo for some reason, but the menorah and candles are light blue).

We used this as a following-directions activity as well as an activity to practice cutting skills. Students were each given a piece of black construction paper, and a piece of light blue paper. They were instructed to cut a strip of blue paper from the "long side," then snip a short piece off the end of this strip. They glued the long piece and the snipped piece to their paper to form the base and stand for their menorah.

Then, they were instructed to cut 5 strips from the "short side" of their blue paper, and then cut each short strip in half. They now had 10 short strips. Since menorahs only have 9 candles, they were to count out 9 short strips and glue them onto their menorah (the leftover one was recycled). Finally, they dipped a finger into yellow paint to make the candle flames.

Worked pretty well for an unplanned, off-the-cuff activity when our schedule unexpectedly changed! I may have the students extend this activity later in the week by selecting and adding some icons that have to do with Hanukkah/symbolism of the menorah to their projects. And in fact, we might just do something very similar with the kinara when we study Kwanzaa next week!

Now, one of my favorites each month - Currently!
Listening - While I steadfastly avoid Christmas music before Thanksgiving, the day after I'm all over it!

Loving - My brother and sister-in-law finally announced to the extended family over the holiday that they're expecting! I've known since mid-October so it's been a hard secret to keep! I'm so excited to be an aunt for the first time - though I'm a surrogate aunt to my cousin's kids, this is the "real deal" and I couldn't be happier!

Thinking - I'm going to have my first-ever student teacher beginning in February. I'm kind of a control freak about my classroom, so I'm kind of nervous about the whole "giving the classroom up" part of it! Any suggestions and/or advice from those who have had student teachers before is very welcome!

Wanting - House cleaning is not my favorite - at all...Especially vacuuming. I will do laundry all day long, but I can't stand vacuuming. Would love someone to do it for me!

Needing - I don't have tons of Christmas shopping to do, but I hate leaving it for last minute! I need to get started!

Favorite Tradition - Ever since I was little, my family has had two Christmas morning breakfasts: one early, when we first get up, is a buffet-type casual thing with coffee cake and fruit. Then we open gifts...and then have a second breakfast of my mom's amazing French toast! Needless to say, we do not eat lunch (and have a very late dinner) on Christmas! Love our breakfasts. We have continued this tradition even now everyone is grown...just wouldn't be Christmas without them!

Go link up with Farley for your own Currently:

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cyber Monday & Tuesday...and some new products!

Happy December! I hope everyone had wonderful Thanksgivings!

My TPT wish list is primed for the big Cyber Monday and Tuesday about yours? My store will be 20% off during the sale, so be sure to stop by (and don't forget to use the code CYBER at checkout for a total of 28% off!). Click the sale image below to go to my store:

Here are a few new products I have ready for the sale (click images to go to the products):

Literature Study Packet for "Mercy Watson Fights Crime" by Kate DiCamillo. My students love Mercy Watson! This is another fun adventure in the same style as my other literature study packets.

"Mercy Watson Fights Crime" has been added to my Beginning Chapter Books Literature Study Packet Bundle, so if you own the bundle, make sure you go do your "my purchases" tab and download the updated file at no additional cost...And if you don't already own the bundle, the sale would be a great time to snag it!

Visual Recipe - Turkey Pretzel Treats...I neglected to post this for Tasty Tuesday this week, but this was a fun Thanksgiving recipe we made using our new visual recipe format! Thanksgiving may be over for this year, but it's not too late to snag it to keep on hand for next year!

Visual Recipe - Latkes...Stay tuned for this week's Tasty Tuesday which will feature this recipe! Great for Hanukkah studies or celebrations!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Scientific Method songs/videos

When I posted about our seasons unit, I shared some videos/songs we'd used during our unit. A reader, Taron, asked me if I had found any songs to go along with November's scientific inquiry unit. I apologize, Taron, for not getting this post up earlier in the month - though November is almost over, I hope these are helpful finds for anyone who teaches young learners or sped students about the scientific method.

I found a lot of other songs about the scientific method were way too detailed and involved for my students (probably meant for high school science). But these were on our playlist this month:

"Scientific Method Song" by Have Fun Teaching:

My students liked this version of the same song with a class of "real kids" performing the song:

"The Scientific Method Rap" - I like the actual examples of each step.

"Hypothesis Song" by The Science Pirates

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tasty Tuesday (on a Thursday, again)

Maybe I should just rename this Tasty Thursday...we're still cooking in the classroom on Tuesdays, though. Before I talk about what we cooked this week, and the visual recipe we used, on my last Tasty Tuesday post, Brie from Breezy Special Ed asked me for some suggestions for limiting "down time" during recipe-making/cooking as a whole class. I responded to her on the post, but thought I would share my ideas here, as well - think of this as a continuation to my how-we-do-visual-recipes explanation:

-While each student is "in charge" of a certain step of the recipe, that only means they are essentially the point person - they are responsible for gathering the needed ingredients and figuring out exactly what needs to happen and directing classmates as appropriate.

-Many steps have several components to them, so other students are also involved. A recipe step that may say "add ingredient x, y, and z and stir," automatically involves at the very least 3 students (to measure/add each ingredient). Any time we need to stir, mix well, etc...we pass the bowl around to each student to stir or mix, so we are sure things get mixed well and so everyone gets a chance at working on most steps of the recipe.

-Higher functioning students are also in charge of either cleaning up prior steps of the recipe or prepping future steps while lower functioning students are working on more simple aspects of the recipe.

-When we measure, everyone is involved in checking the "point person's" work. For example, if someone has to add 4 tablespoons of an ingredient, we all count tablespoons out loud together.

-Higher functioning students/readers could be in charge of reading the recipe text steps to non-readers.

-Sensory is also a good way to involve everyone at various steps. As each ingredient is introduced, we look at it, we feel/touch it (if appropriate!) and most importantly we smell it. My students have now smelled cilantro, onion, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc...Many things they do not have much prior experience with. We use descriptive words to talk about what we feel, see and smell which is a nice way to get some literacy work in.

If anyone else who cooks/bakes with their class would like to give any other suggestions, or share what cooking looks like in their class, sped or otherwise, I'd love to hear!

This week, we had fun with a Pinterest-inspired recipe - Mini Tortilla Pizzas! These turned out great, and were fun to personalize for each student. I personally would have added some veggie options to the toppings, but knew I had no students who would choose them. As you can see, most of my students chose to add pepperoni, but some chose to stick with a plain cheese pizza.

You can get the visual recipe from my TPT store by clicking the image below:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tasty Tuesday Returns (on a Thursday)

I promised the return of Tasty Tuesday, and we did have cooking class this week on Tuesday. Just getting around to posting about it now, though, since late nights of parent-teacher conferences the past two days meant I didn't even turn the computer on once I got home.

Our wonderful school nurse, Jill, went apple picking with her family last week. She is often in our room during our weekly cooking class, since she does a tube feeding for one of my students at the time we usually cook. She thought of us as she was apple picking, and brought us back a big bag of delicious apples! Thank you, Nurse Jill! We had to make something with apples, then...Apple Bread it was! (The recipe is from one of my fabulous classroom staff members, Lizzie, who is an incredible cook/baker!)

First, I want to share my new way of doing visual recipes for my students (and this is the format each Tasty Tuesday recipe will be in from now on) - they are so successful and more engaged with the visual recipes!

I have each step of the recipe printed on a strip of cardstock and laminated. Before we start, the students work together to put the steps in order numerically in our pocket chart.

Then, we need to get out our ingredients and tools (utensils, equipment, etc.). I have each ingredient and tool on strips, too. Students match each ingredient/tool to its strip so we know we have everything we need.

After we get everything set out on the table, I put each ingredient or tool strip behind the corresponding recipe step in the pocket chart.

Finally we're ready to begin cooking. Each student is responsible for one (or more, depending on how many) step of the recipe. When it's their turn, the student sets the recipe step strip on the table and places the ingredient and/or tool strips below it so they know exactly what needs to happen during their step. When one step is completed, we keep it out of the pocket chart so we know what we have left to do.

I'm loving this new way of doing visual recipes. We used to just have everything on one page - and that basically meant staff were reading and directing the entire thing. Now, staff do still read the recipe steps and ingredient names, because all of my students are non-readers. But, the students can do so much more and be so much more involved this way, because they begin to recognize the pictures for both the actions and the ingredients. It's much more engaging!

I forgot to take photos of our completed apple bread, or even photos during cooking (the above photos were taken in my own kitchen as I reenacted the process, haha). Conference week does that to me! But trust me, it was fun and delicious!

I decided to put our visual recipes on my TPT store, so if you'd like them, they're available! I also included a recipe review worksheet and a worksheet for students to recall ingredients that are and aren't in the recipe. If you want visual recipe for apple bread, check it out:

Friday, November 8, 2013

Four seasons in a year...

October's ULS unit was all about the seasons. Of course we did focus, by default, on fall - but we did talk all month about each season, why we have them, the differences between and features of all four seasons. (Thanks to Michigan's crazy weather, we pretty much got to experience the 'typical' weather of all four seasons throughout the month, too!)

I wanted to share a quick art activity we did last month. It's the typical "four seasons trees" project; here's what we did:

Each student got two large pieces of white paper, and a sheet of brown construction paper to start. They folded each white paper in half and essentially got four quadrants, one for each season. Art is always a great place to incorporate some fine motor work, so to make the trunks and branches of the trees, the kids had to use pincer grasps to rip and tear strips of their brown paper. You can see some students have more advanced skills in this area and can be more precise than others - I think the variety makes each tree look so unique!

I also like to use somewhat unconventional mediums/tools in our art. We decorated each tree according to the season:

Winter: painted glue with fingers (sensory!) and attached pulled-apart cotton ball "snow"
Spring: used the bottom of empty 20-oz. pop bottles to stamp "flowers" in pink paint (a pinterest idea)
Summer: used dish scrubbers dipped in green paint to stamp "leaves"
Fall: Dollar Tree fall leaf foam stickers (incorporating math - kids rolled two dice, found the sum, and used that many leaves on their tree - and yes, I just noticed one of kiddos in the photo I took added a few more leaves than is possible with two dice - whoops)

We also love music in our room and I often make a youtube playlist that pertains to our unit that we watch on our projector during arrivals/breakfast time. The youtube channels "Harry Kindergarten" and "Have Fun Teaching" are great resources to find videos. I always look for videos that appeal to my middle-school aged students. We don't do Barney, typical "kids' songs," or other cartoons in our room. Songs with a rap beat always are big hits! Our playlist for October included:

"If You Need to Know the Seasons" - the kids' favorite! This one is still in my head.

"Seasons of the Year" - another favorite.

"Four Seasons in a Year" by Harry Kindergarten

Ronda Crigger's "The Seasons"

"Four Seasons" - breaking my "no cartoons" rule for this one, but I liked the "tell me what season it is?" combined with a visual/scene of the season - several of my students really got into that.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

November Currently

It's hard to believe it's already November! We are finally done with state testing at work, and now we're approaching report card and parent-teacher conference time...Anyone else feel like this school year is going slower than molasses in January and faster than ever, all at the same time?

Listening - While everyone else in my area is all excited over a certain football game today (Michigan vs. Michigan State), I really couldn't care less, and am happily running old episodes of Gilmore Girls as I get some work done today!

Loving - We have an entire day of records on Monday, and Tuesday is election day - I don't have to go in at all on Tuesday! My entire district's schools are polling places, so we cannot be in buildings on November election days. Love that little gift of a bonus day off!

Thinking - Our November unit is called "Science Fair," so we get to spend the month being scientists and doing all sorts of fun experiments! I'll be sure to post details! Soup is also on my mind, as it's a chilly, damp fall day. Soup is one of my favorite things to make in the winter. This weekend I'm going to make a bunch to freeze and have on hand. And going for the alliteration trifecta...I know a secret that I'm very excited about...just waiting for it to go "public/official" and I can talk about it finally!

Wanting - Soup again...Might have to be soup for dinner, instead, because...

Needing - I desperately need to go grocery shopping. It might be time to get out of the sweats and venture out to the store. I just love lazy Saturdays snuggled up with a blanket and the puppy on the couch but it's time to join the land of the living and be productive!

A Yummy Pin - In keeping with the soup theme, this pin is one I haven't tried yet, but is on my list to make this weekend (after the grocery shopping, of course). Click the picture to go to the source/recipe:

In other news, my plans for the near future of blogging/teaching include reinstating Tasty Tuesday and redoing how I create visual recipes both for my students and the blog. Here's a preview of a recipe I'm working on for next week (which might end up being the week after, because of our days off this week):

So, stay tuned! And go link up with Farley's Currently, if you haven't already:

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Congrats, TPT! Sale!

As has probably been obvious, I've been a bit absent from the blogging world lately (plans to change that soon!) so I missed until now the exciting news that TPT has reached 100,000 followers on Facebook! Congratulations, TPT!

To celebrate, they are throwing an impromptu sale! Use the promo code FB100K at checkout to receive TPT's 10% discount. And as of right now, my store is joining the sale, too - shop my store to receive an extra 20% off, for a total of 28% savings. Great time to grab some items from your wishlist!

Click to shop at my store:

Everything in my store will be 20% off through Monday, including...

Beginning Chapter Books Literature Study Packets Bundle - a steal! I don't usually put this one on sale since it's already discounted!

10-Month Patterned Calendar Pieces - my newest product! A school year's worth of 3"x3" seasonal, patterned calendar pieces.

Thanksgiving-Themed Math Centers - crazy how it's already time to start thinking about November! well as everything else in my store, of course. Happy shopping!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Taking apart trade paperbacks for laminating

This is something I've always kind of wanted to do - take apart trade paperbacks and laminate them - but always thought it would be quite the process. Turns out, not true! I did a little google search and watched a youtube video or two, and came up with this method.

But first, why would you want to take apart books? Well, the main reason would be durability. If you have students who handle books excessively, put things in their mouths, have spastic or otherwise tight grips, you are going to have a lot of ripped and ruined paperbacks on your hands. Laminating saves a lot of books! Great for early childhood and special education teachers alike!

Another reason would be adaptability. Making already-published books interactive is an easy, inexpensive and effective way to get at some literacy skillls, IEP goals, and general accessibility. And that's just plain easier when you've already laminated the pages.

So, here's how I do it - super quick and easy:

First, get out your hair dryer. Put it on high speed, and on the highest heat setting. Slowly blow the air at the inside binding of the book. Paperbacks are held together with glue, so this softens the glue for easy disassembly. I needed maybe 30 seconds (if that) of blow drying for this book, a "step 1" reader. I'd guess you'd need more - but not much more - for a thicker book.

You know you're ready when the binding starts to peel away. You should be able to remove the front and back covers at this point (sometimes the first and last pages stick to the covers - you can carefully peel them off).

You should now be able to easily peel the pages apart from one another. If this is at all difficult or you are ripping pages, do more with the hair dryer - the glue just needs to soften more. Once the pages are separated, you can easily pick any excess glue off with your fingernails.

Now you should have all the pages separated, ready to be laminated and bound. I like to use book rings for binding - both because I don't have a book binder at home, and because I think book rings hold up better than the plastic spiral binding.

I wanted this book - an opposites book with a "Cars" theme - to be interactive, so I printed boardmaker icons for each of the opposites words and affixed them with velcro to the laminated pages. Students will now have to select the correct icon that goes with each page. So much quicker and easier than creating my own book from scratch - not to mention, many of my boys love the Cars movies, so this will be a highly motivating activity for them.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

a first day Currently!

It was kind of a rough first day of school for me. Transitioning to a new classroom was/is so very hard for my new kiddo - and by extension, all of the kiddos I've had before - who struggle to understand why their new classmate is so loud and disruptive all day when they have known the routine and rules and expectations of our room for several years already, and just want to get back into the swing of school! Lots of discussions about "he needs help to learn how we do things in our room," and "you can be a good example for him," etc. It took us about twice the time it usually takes to get anything accomplished...Not to mention I (still, at 10:30pm) have a pounding headache from the noise...

Bless my kiddo with severe behavior/anxiety issues, though. I told him early in the morning (when he was already getting tense and agitated by our new class member's noise/not listening/disruption) that the noise and not listening was bothering me, too, and he and I would have to help each other stay calm today. He really took that to heart! He has several self-calming techniques he uses - the most effective are deep breathing ("in through your nose, out through your mouth") and a kind of mantra he says quietly to himself ("calm...calm...calm..."). Several times today he specifically got my attention and then either did his deep breathing or said "calm...calm..." and I did them with him! It really helped - honestly. Those self-calming techniques we teach our kids aren't just for them! And I was just so pleased that my kiddo not only remembered his techniques, but thought of me and even recognized when I had had enough. What a sweetheart. I am going to pull him aside tomorrow morning and thank him for that (of course I thanked him today...but I certainly want to reinforce that behavior!).

Okay...but all you're here for is the Currently, isn't it? I missed August's, so I'm so happy to be back this month!
Listening - I've recently become rather addicted to watching HGTV. My favorites are actually "Room Crashers" or especially "Kitchen Crashers" - I'm strongly (but not so seriously...I'm realistic, after all) considering just hanging out all the time at Lowe's or Home Depot and waiting for them to come and offer to redo my kitchen for me!

Loving - I'm a huge fan of fall! The evenings have been cooler lately, and I love it! So does my puppy - he is much happier on our evening walks now!

Thinking - See above. Definitely starting new tomorrow. It's a new day! The first day is always rough -- right?!

Wanting - What teacher couldn't use more hours in the day?!

Needing - Again, see above. I'm really needing a new perspective on things as I go into work tomorrow. Praying for my new kiddo tonight!

Heart - For me, three things I'm going to attempt this month:
1. I had my basement finished over the winter. It's complete, except for the floors. I need to get carpet ordered and installed. This is essential for me, as my new sweetie (Desmond the rescue greyhound) is afraid of the current stairs to the basement. His weird center of gravity and his super long legs make him slide around too much on bare wood stairs and he freaks out. I can't carry a 75-pound dog up the stairs! He navigates the carpeted stairs to my second floor just fine, so all I need to do is carpet the basement, too. Then I could finally use the new basement teacher work area (so fantastic!) as I meant it to be used!
2. Unplug - it's my goal to have one day per week that I don't have the TV, computer, phone, etc. on at all at home. Talk about freedom!
3. New recipes - I love to cook, but I haven't done much of that lately. I'd love to discover - and actually cook - some great new recipes this month. If anyone has favorite recipes to share (vegetarian only - no meat, but dairy, eggs, etc just fine) I'd be so excited to try them out!

All right, this is a crazy-long post - thanks if you've made it this far - bedtime for this girl. Hope everyone's first days (if that was today - hi, Michigan friends!) went well! And link up with Farley's Currently! It's always my favorite linky!

Monday, September 2, 2013

winner, winner, chicken dinner!

...or winner, winner, TPT gift certificate, that is.

Congrats to Jannike, who is the winner of my bloglovin' giveaway! Thanks to everyone who entered and has followed my blog on bloglovin'! Jannike, I've emailed you with your gift certificate code and the pdf of the certificate, so check your email and happy shopping!

My first day of school is tomorrow...yup, still doing last-minute prep. Good luck to all of you who are starting tomorrow, too!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

making curriculum readers interactive

First of all, there's about a day and a half left to enter my giveaway for a $10 TPT gift certificate! Go to my last post to enter!

I'll be spending this holiday weekend getting last minute things done for the first day of school on Tuesday (the laptop, printer and laminator are even coming with me to my parents' cottage tomorrow). I know things will get done and what doesn't get done won't be essential...but I am kind of feeling the crunch!

One thing I'm doing is working on modifying our curriculum books for our first unit. As much as I love Unique Learning System, the readers that come with the units are generally super dry, simple to the extreme, boring...the highest level works really well for the purpose of simple comprehension/recall/sequencing that my kids need...Otherwise, I've never used the readers much. This year, I'm going to be changing that and making the stories interactive, for a different purpose:

First, I printed two copies of the book. I'm using the middle difficulty level provided in ULS, with just one sentence of text on each page. I changed printer settings to print 2 pages per sheet, so the book will be half-page size. (I just figured out how to do that a couple weeks ago, so there's the settings I use if you don't know how to do that, either.)

For the first copy of the book, I laminated the pages back to back and bound the book. For the second copy, I simply cut out the pictures and laminated them separately.

Then I added velcro to the pictures on the book and the separate pictures. My lower reading group will either simply match the pictures, or listen to the text without seeing the book, and select the picture that fits with the text.

One of the things my higher reading group works on is letter sounds, so for them:
I typed out a key word from each page, laminated and affixed with velcro. The students will listen to the text, identify the beginning letter/sound for the key word, and select the correct word for the page. I put both activities on the same book since my higher and lower groups have their reading groups at different times. Also, my higher group can use the velcroed pictures to work on sequencing after they listen to the story, etc.

This took very little time and I'm pleased with being able to use these boring stories in a more purposeful way. You could easily do this with any simple reader - all you'd need are two copies of the book.

I linked this post up with The Dynamic Duo's speech and special ed Wow Us Wednesday Lesson Plan Linky Party! Link up your great lesson ideas here:
The Dynamic Duo: Adventures in Speech & Special Ed
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