Monday, August 25, 2014

Answering Questions About Question of the Day

After my post on my very-partial classroom reveal, I had a couple questions about my Question of the Day during our circle time, so I figured I'd answer them here:

Brie asked if I have a problem with students answering "yes" no matter what, as she has some students who would do just that!

I have those students, too, Brie! It's one of the reasons I started doing a question of the day in the first place. Some kiddos just default to "yes" (or "no," for that matter) for every question. To try to combat that, I always start with very concrete questions - such as "are you a boy?" "did you take the bus to school?" "are you wearing red?" etc. We can all call a student on an incorrect default answer if we all obviously know the answer they should give! I keep with the very concrete questions and explicitly choose questions those students have to answer "no" to, before moving onto more fun questions such as "do you like..." or "have you ever..." that staff may not actually know our students' answers to.

Peer pressure can also help here, to be honest. A girl who answers "yes" to "are you a boy" gets a chorus of "no, you're not!" from her classmates, we all have a (kind!) chuckle, and the student is invited to think about her answer and change it if needed!

You can also do an either/or question rather than yes/no, if that's easier for your students to answer - make a choice rather than answer explicitly. Sometimes I do this and then we label "Y" as the first choice and "N" as the second.

Another reader, Michie, asked about my system for Question of the Day (if I write students' names next to the answers on the chart, etc).

I don't write answers (but you definitely could!) but use velcroed name tags instead:
The question is written in the "Q" space, and names get velcroed onto the velcro strips in either the "Y" or "N" section. From there, we are able to count, tally, talk about less/more/same/etc. For the names, I just use standard name tags cut in half and laminated. They are easier for my students to see on the poster than just names written with dry erase marker on the poster.

In the photo below, next to the switch, you can see our container of name tags we use for the Question of the Day poster. All staff members have a name tag, too (and there's a blank one for any visitors to our classroom), because we all answer the question! This way, staff can model appropriate answering, as well.

Michie also mentioned that she has some very low-functioning students who would not be physically able to hit a switch to answer. I have some of those students too.

This is the yes/no switch we use. Some of my students cannot hit a switch physically. Those students can answer otherwise (eye gaze, smile or frown, nod or head shake, other movements, vocalizations, scanning techniques, touching an icon that is held farther apart than the switch is, other communication device, etc...whatever their communication method). For these students, I have them answer using their own communication method, and then assist them hand-over-hand to hit the button on our switch so they, too, get the voice output reinforcement of the switch.

If you have students who cannot yet answer a yes/no question in any way, I would stick with concrete questions you know the answers to, and assist them to answer until they are able to answer in some way themselves.

Also, in the absence of a two-button switch, I've often "labeled" (verbally) my hands in conversation with students. "Do you want _______, yes [wag left hand] or no [wag right hand]?" or, "Do you want option 1 [wag left hand] or option 2 [wag right hand]?" Students who do not have the fine motor function to hit a switch can often either look at the correct hand for an answer, or touch it (you can put your hands anywhere within their reach, further apart or closer together than a fixed switch, etc). This is also a great, versatile method of questioning if you find yourself without a usually-used switch or other communication method - like out in the community or in another room at school you've forgotten to bring along everything you need! I've made my students crack up before using this method for a four-option question by using my hands and feet, sitting on the floor and waving all four in the air at the mall as I wait for them to choose! "Should we go to the clothing store [left hand], the book store [left foot], the music store [right foot] or the food court [right hand]?" You do what it takes for communication!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Teacher Week: When?

**If you are here from the Special Ed Freebie Hop/Giveaway, click here for my post/freebie/to continue the hop!**

I missed yesterday's Teacher Week post on the "Why" of home too late from my weekly family dinner at my cousin's and just went to bed instead! So, moving onto today's "When"...all about scheduling!

I don't get my specials schedule until next week, and since there are a lot of specials that we go to as a whole class - and yes, I go with my class to every single special! (physical/occupational therapy, sensory, art class, music therapy, music class, adaptive PE, library, padded gym, life skills) and also those specials that only some kiddos go to or the whole class doesn't attend at once (speech therapy, swimming), I really can't create my daily schedule yet.

It makes me crazy, to be honest! I really wish I could have my schedule set and ready already! But, it is what it is. I did get this project done today - this is my usually unused white board in my circle time room, and it's going to become our weekly classroom schedule once I get it all set:
This is really going to be a schedule for me and my classroom staff rather than my students, as my students get our daily pocket chart visual schedule (and individual daily schedules as needed). This one is just going to be text. My plan is to type all our schedule items, laminate, and put sticky magnets on the back so I can move schedule items around as needed.

I used blue painters tape to make the grid, after measuring and marking the grid with dry erase marker, and I must say it looks better than I'd expected! No, it's not perfectly straight (and yes, that's going to bug me at some point since I will be staring at it every day during circle time and guided reading!) but it's definitely going to work. I wrote our times with dry erase marker in half-hour blocks - starting at 8:30 because that's when all students are at school. They begin arriving at 8 and straggle in from buses until 8:30. I'm going to be making the magnet schedule cards this weekend. I used Laura Friedman's Editable Name Plates for Dots on Turquoise Lovers for the day labels on the corkboard strip up top.
View from the door of the circle/morning meeting room.

Until I can get my daily schedule figured out, I'm at least planning out what's going to happen our first few weeks (whenever each activity/lesson happens during the day) using a simple little template I made on powerpoint - I've been carrying this paper copy around with me as I prep this week. My sketch of lessons for the first week of school:
At the top, I have the date, our pattern (on our calendar for the month) and our curriculum unit title (ULS). The other categories at the left are the other lessons/subjects I have to explicitly plan for - so this schedule doesn't include other daily stuff such as IEP goal work, therapies, or other every-day routines that mostly stay the same. Also not included are our curriculum unit materials, since I'm getting together with my grade-level team next week to plan out those (materials that supplement the curriculum until will usually go into the last section - ULS extras - but for the first week of school we'll not be delving into that too deeply yet). You may also see some titles of products I've purchased from TPT recently or in the past! :) Those include:

-There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books activities from Primary Graffiti's Old Lady Swallowed Sub Tubs
-"I Have a Backpack" sight word reader from Maria Manroe's Bundle of Books
-What's In a Name graph from Erica Butler's Name Graph Freebie
-Name Chant poem from Deedee Wills' Poetry Station and Shared Reading Monthly Set
-writing illustrations using A Sketchy Guy's Blank Faces Clipart
-September quilt art from Reagan Tunstall's Geometric Math Quilts
-Math from Wayne County's Essential Elements resources I talked about in this post, as well as Breezy Special Ed's More/Less Task Cards and Maria Manroe's Comparing Numbers set

The check marks I've made say whether I've prepped the materials (first check) and set up the activity in the classroom (second check). I like this little template also because it's going to be super-easy to copy/paste into my official lesson plans once I do get my classroom specials schedule!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Teacher Week: Where I Teach

**If you are here from the Special Ed Freebie Hop/Giveaway, click here for my post/freebie/to continue the hop!**

Yesterday, I shared a little bit of "all about me" for day 1 of Teacher Week. Today, I'm sharing a sneak peak of my classroom for this year!

The thing is, for me, summer school just ended last week. My room is still a colossal mess. I was able to be in the classroom for just a couple hours yesterday (I left much earlier than I'd wanted to when they started testing the fire alarms!!). Today I spent most of the day in the classroom - mostly cleaning up from summer school and attempting to begin organizing for the new year. I did get a few areas in the room 'finished,' but it's nowhere near done. I'll be posting a full classroom reveal when I get it done (probably sometime next week).

I decided to ditch a "theme" for decor this year (last year I did Hollywood) and go with a color scheme instead. I fell in love with the "Dots on Turquoise" decor from Creative Teaching Press.

This is the bulletin board for our morning meeting/circle time. I'm lucky to have two side rooms off my main room, so this is one of my side rooms. I love how the turquoise pops against the black paper! Super classy.

Our circle time consists of (from left to right) calendar skills (we use my Patterned Calendar Pieces), weather (temperature bar graph - this fantastic idea was from Sasha @ The Autism Helper and we also use weather icons from A Special Kind of Class' Weekly Weather Graph), tallying the days in school, and our question of the day (the Q, Y, N poster towards the middle of the board). The question of the day is usually a yes/no question, and we use our responses to count, graph, and talk about more/less/same. The blank pocket chart is for our daily schedule - it is empty now because I'm redoing our schedule cards for the year. The two small posters at the top of the board are our behavior expectations - each gives guidelines for "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" behavior during group time.

Since we also do Guided Reading in this same room, the pocket chart on the far right is vocab and ordinal numbers/sequencing from the book for our first week of school, "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books." I purchased Primary Graffiti's Old Lady Swallowed Sub Tub Bundle at the back to school sale this year, and am excited about using these books and activities - not for subs, but for my own teaching, for fun, seasonal breaks from our usual curriculum units once a month during guided reading!

This is the supply/teacher table in our circle time room. It rarely looks this clean but I'm hoping to keep it this way! In circle time we also do social greetings (not pictured - we use the Go Talk Now app on our iPad for this) and the Pledge of Allegiance. You can see another guided reading "Old Lady" activity there with the book prepped for the first day. In the green basket are extra supplies for our circle time notebooks (not pictured - the notebooks are getting revamped tonight, actually! they usually live in a bin behind the clock on this table). You can also see our "yes/no" two-button voice output communicator that we use with our question of the day. The box behind the communicator is our Birthday Box - each student gets to choose a book and a sticker from this box on their birthday! And of course, we also have the requisite hand sanitizer and kleenex!

Another thing I got completed today was our ELA and Math focus boards! This is a room divider turned into bulletin boards on wheels! (The back side of these boards are also bulletin boards, which hold our days of the week and months of the year cards for circle.)

For the Working With Letters/Words part of our balanced literacy this year, I've decided to do a sound of the week. Our first sound is M, so that's what the left side is. I made an "M" puzzle (top left) and at the bottom is a pocket chart with "M" sounds at the beginning, middle, and end of words. Students will either match picture to word, or identify where the "M" sound is in the word, depending on ability. I like doing a sound of the week, rather than initial letter, since it really hits on auditory discrimination - something my kiddos who will not be readers can definitely benefit from, too! The alphabet sound chart is a freebie from Maria Manroe @ Kindercraze!

The right side is our math focus board...We have been asked to use the Common Core Essential Elements for our math instruction this year, which is quite honestly too high functioning for most of my students. But, the wonderful folks at the Wayne County (MI) ISD center-based programs have created some fantastic resources to help make sense of the Essential Elements and level them for low-incidence students - perfect!!! They have even created pacing guides that give a month-by-month suggested focus! Well, if someone has already done the work for me, why reinvent the wheel?? For the grade level I'm using (I have 6 grade levels in my class so for our main math focus I just picked the one in the middle) September's focus is fractions and more/less. The Angry Birds question comes directly from a monthly assessment Wayne County put together - I just made it bulletin-board size for my kiddos!

(I'm planning a post on the math Essential Elements and how I'm using Wayne County's resources soon, so stay tuned!)

I saved the best for last - and it's best purely for what's NOT yet in this photo! Here is our computer station. On the left is a pocket chart with student names - kids use the computer to sign in each day and many need a guide to be able to type their names. Obviously I still need to paper/border the right side, but that will hold our computer use guidelines. And on the desk is our classroom laptop (old as the hills, but it still works!), and this is the best will soon also hold OUR NEW KEYBOARD!!!

Yes, that's right - for those of you who are followers of mine on Facebook, you know I recently wrote a Donors Choose project for a large-key, high contrast keyboard and metal keyguard! AND IT HAS BEEN FULLY FUNDED!!! You guys, I am so excited! My students are going to FLIP. We have had this same keyboard on loan from our ISD's lending library for the past several months but had to return it on our last day of school :( And now we're going to have our own!
I just...I can't even. I'm so overwhelmed, still, and it's been a few days since I got the notice that we were fully funded. I cannot wait!

So, there's my sneak peak of my classroom this year. I know this post got wordy...sorry! When I post the full classroom reveal, I promise there will be more photos and fewer words! :)

We Heart Special Education Teachers Giveaways and Freebie Hop!

I'm so excited about this post! I'm honored to be a part of a massive special education GIVEAWAY and FREEBIE HOP! Be sure to check out the awesome products you can win in 5 different giveaways - and be sure to scroll all the way down to snag a freebie from me, and to go to the next sped blog in the hop! Have fun!

Did we mention how much we love special educators??! 
Well just to show you how much, 24 of us have joined together to help you start your new year out with a BOOM! 

We are beyond excited and even more excited for you! Ok, maybe even just a wee bit jealous! :)

These 24 awesome special educators, including me, have put together 5 fabulous giveaways and a freebie hop with over 20 freebies just for you!! 

Shall we get this party going!!? 
Are you ready?

The first 3 giveaways are split into 3 categories; early childhood, primary, and intermediate! So be sure to enter the one for your grade level! You can click on any of the pictures to view the product in their store or to wishlist it in case you don't win!!{wink}

Here's a look at everything one teacher will win in the Early Childhood Pack!

Here's a look at everything one teacher will win in the Primary Pack!

Seriously!!!!?? Are you feeling the Love?!

Here's a look at everything one teacher will win in the Intermediate Pack! As you know, it can be a challenge finding resources on TpT for this level, but we did manage to put a few things together that we think you'll love!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

But wait! There's MORE!

David at "Attainment Company" was generous enough to give two lucky teachers a copy of this e-Book for their iPad.
(This e-Book is compatible ONLY for iPad, so if you do not have an iPad do not enter!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How many of you have seen this book, or are even using it in your classroom to assess and determine presents levels??

Brigance CIBS

Last year a new and improved updated version was released......

Brigance CIBS II

and we're super excited that Robin at "Curriculum Associates" has generously donated it for us to give to one of you!! Folks, this is a $339.00 value!! Now this one definitely makes us just a wee bit jealous! 
(Our apologies, but this one is for U.S. residents only)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
And now it's time for a...............

Freebie from Spedventures:

I'm offering my "Paying at Burger King" money task cards as a freebie just for this blog hop! Enjoy! (Be sure to download it below from scribd - it is a paid product on TPT so it's only a freebie from this post!)

**While this freebie blog hop is over, my freebie is no longer here! :( But, good news - you can still purchase it from my TPT store! The product I offered is Paying at Burger King: Money Task Cards for Special Education. Click the link or the product image to check it out!
Paying at Burger King - Money Task Cards for Special Education

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