Friday, July 11, 2014

Special Education Blog Hop

I am so excited about the linky Jamie from Tales of a Carolina Girl is hosting. Blogging is something I have really gotten into this past year and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE finding other special ed. bloggers. Networking is a huge part of my success and I love hearing from those who do what I do day in and day out. With that said here is a little information about me:

Any teaching job, gen. ed or special ed., can be stressful at times. Getting advice from those who are in the same situations as you can be one of the most helpful and comforting things for me. My advice for anyone in the special education field is just to be patient and not give up. Our students are creatures of habit. If they have eaten lunch before recess for the past 4 years and now are expected to have recess before lunch a problem will more than likely arise. It is important to take the time to help your student understand the change in routine and show them that it will be ok. This may take 1 time (lucky you) but in my case it took me about 1 month to get this under control this year.

Another thing is to be consistent. Kids are smart! They know how to push our buttons and manipulate situations. Don't let up on your directive. Keep pushing yourself to stand firm and your students will learn. Again be patient, but they will learn.

I would also say to make sure to celebrate accomplishments. One of my students during melt downs last year was very destructive. At the beginning of the year we were tearing down book shelves, ripping bulletin boards down, breaking baskets and at sometimes getting physical. I worked very hard to educate my staff on using common language. After meltdowns, when the student was back to a rational state, I would talk to them about what happened. I would then teach the replacement behavior. I would want this particular student to say "I'm angry". We worked long and hard at this. The destructive behaviors continued to get smaller and smaller until one day (8 months into the school year) my little guy said "I'm angry" and noting was destroyed. I am not kidding you when I say I was so happy I cried. It was that moment that told me everything I did, the countless hours of preparation, reading up on interventions, finding dinosaur materials etc. was totally worth it. No accomplishment, big or small, should be passed up. Celebrate and share what you and your students are doing.

My final note is to have fun and laugh. Our jobs are tough. If we don't make ourselves enjoy them we will get burnt out. I laugh daily and teach my kids it's ok to make mistakes and laugh at ourselves.

I am so excited to do some blog hoppin' and meet up with some other SPED's!! Make sure to get in on the action too, just click here!

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Start of Summer School (+ Freebie)

Today was the first day of summer school. I had know idea what to expect. We had a roster with 16 names on it...that's it!! We didn't know what grade they were in, what (if any) disability they had, if they required a para professional...nothing! Oh and to top it off the teacher I run the program with couldn't be there because she had to be at a class of her own. So here I am with 16 students (per class), 3 volunteers and my lifesaver best friend who stepped in to co-teach with me while my counter part was gone. Having my bestie there was the best thing that could ever happen. We are pretty much the same person and know what the other person wants just my looking at each other. She was able to follow my lesson plans, my bullet points, my 3 minute oral directions at the beginning of the 3 hour class to a tee!

Our summer program "Explore" focuses on reading, writing and math improvement for students with an IEP or who are considered at-risk, grades K-5. I love working in the summer because I get a chance to work with the "littles". They are just so stinkin' cute! Don't get me wrong, I love working with my drama filled, boy crazy, sport loving 4th and 5th graders. But it's just something about the littles that makes my heart melt. Maybe it's the pure innocence of everything in life. Every moment is a teachable one.

Alright, alright enough of that...let's get onto what we did. It was a jammed packed 3 hours but it couldn't have ran more smooth. Someone was a little shy to enter the room, he sat out there for a good 50 minutes until he got enough courage the come in...or until he couldn't wait any longer to eat the goodies we had laying out for him.

For math we started off by having students make the number they selected 10 different ways. We had the older students make sure to include at least 2 number sentences for an added challenge. The younger students had pre-made tally marks, ten frames and number words to choose from. The differentiation for this task was perfect and allowed all of the students to achieve the same objective in the same room.

It was then time for a tasty snack so we pulled out some M&M's. For this activity we had the older students go to our other room, since this task required more direct instruction. I had the littles sort their M&M's on sorting mats.

We then made a graph together. I called the students up 1 by 1 and had them color as many spaces as they needed. This was a great task because it required the students to count up from a specific number instead of always starting at one. Some of our kiddos were even able to add 10 quickly. I was so impressed.

The older students completed the same task but they had their own graph and answered questions about their graph individually instead of whole group like the littles.

Once we finished with a color they were allowed to eat those candies....they said we were torturing them by making them wait soooo long to eat them.

For reading we focused our day on Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes. I absolutely adore his stories and couldn't have selected a better story to start off the summer. I started off by introducing a pink paper heart. I told the students that throughout the story they would hear some hurtful words. We were going to take turns passing the heart around and every time they heard a hurtful word they would have to crinkle up the heart. As I read the story the students did a nice job passing the heart around and only crinkling at the correct times. I asked questions and did some partner shares during the read aloud to keep them moving and engaged. At the end of the story we tried to "iron" out the wrinkles but no matter how hard we tried it still wasn't perfectly smooth/mended. This was a lot of fun because it allowed a visual representation of how someone's heart may feel after being hurt. Visuals are soo important for our little fellows, especially those with autism.

After reading the story we filled out our anchor chart together. I was very interested to see how this went but surprisingly the older students allowed some think time and gave the littles a chance to respond.

Once we had an understanding of feelings, worries, kind words and traits, we went on to creating our own, About Me pages. Most of the K-2 students required adult support to complete this activity but they did a nice job.

And I had to slip this one in here because apparently he has no worries in life :)

During writing we talked about bucket lists. We made a giant list of all of the things we would like to accomplish before we "got old" together.

 I then told the students that we were going to make a summer bucket list. I showed them an example of mine. I created 3 different size paper templates for our varying ability levels. Instead of sharing my summer bucket list as a whole, I split the kids up by ability levels and shared my "just write paper" story with each group. I thought sharing it in small groups would allow the students to focus on exactly what they were supposed to do instead of seeing all of the examples and ask why they couldn't write less.

They worked hard creating their bucket lists and then colored these cute bucket and shovel pictures (available here in the clip art pack). We cut them out and pasted them to a large piece of construction paper next to our summer bucket list stories. These will be great to have on their wall during the summer. We thought about putting a sticker next to their item if they completed it. Get your very own FREE copy of our bucket list activity here!

All in all I would say our first day of summer school went great! I am looking forward to 6 more weeks of fun filled, jammed packed days! What summer activities do you do if you teach during the summer?

***Just for fun, who doesn't like cowboy boots, in Michigan, on a humid day with basketball shorts?

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July Currently

I was worried about keeping up with blog post this summer but have found joy in joining many linky parties. Today I have linked up with Farley from Oh' Boy 4th Grade for July Currently. I promise once I get started teaching again more tips and tricks from the special education world will be shared, but for now here is my currently.

I start teaching summer school next week for grades K-5. It should be a fun time, reading, writing and math for 3 hours in a hot, humid room, who wouldn't love that? Make sure you head on over to link up and share your July currently.

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