Thursday, October 29, 2015

Incorporating Language Arts into Independent Centers

Let's face it, our jobs are tough and as much as we want to teach whole group it can be difficult! I am ALWAYS looking for activities that my students can work on independently. I had to find ways to keep my kids busy while I worked with their classmates. I came up with this fun and differentiated language arts activity that can be used in a variety of ways.

With this alphabet writing activity students can work on a variety of reading and writing skills depending on their level.

Students can sort words into different categories. For vowels they can sort initial sounds, long and short vowels. For consonants they can sort initial and ending sounds. Depending on the independent level of your students you can pick and choose what you want them to do. Some ways I use them are: sorting all words into all of the categories, reading words for 1 category and saying them into the iPad (or other voice recording device), direct matching words.

After students complete the reading portion I have them write onto the appropriate leveled sheet. I have 3 levels to select from.

Level 1-On this level students write down exactly what they see. I use this level for my students who are working on letter formation and building their writing attitudes. This activity takes the "thinking" out of writing. This level also includes boxes for the students to write in so they have a defined/outlined writing space.

Level 2- On this level students will still write down exactly what they see like in level 1 but there are 3 more spaces for them to add words that match the sound they are working on. I use this level for my students who are able to do limited independent work. This level also includes the boxes for a defined writing space.

Level 3: For this level students will continue to copy exactly that they sorted but they will have to come up with 6 additional words to match the sort. I use this for my highest level of independent workers. This level does not have writing boxes. Instead I have only included a line.

If you have those kids who are great independent workers and finish early ALL of the levels have the opportunity for coloring :)

Grab Letter A writing/sorting here to try it out in your class!

If you want to purchase the entire product check it out here!

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Monday, October 26, 2015

SPED Tricks and Treats Blog Hop

Welcome to the SPED Tricks and Treats Blog Hop. I am so excited to share my tricks and treat with you!

Introduce technology into your T.E.A.C.C.H work tasks. Take pictures of various building or pattern tasks. I like doing these because it allows our students to use technology as a tool rather than a choice time activity. I also like this because it is super easy and quick to make changes for future tasks or on the fly. I store the iPad in the drawer with the task itself.

Use Wiki Stixs to engage your readers in the lesson. I have some students who struggle to do paper pencil tasks. I do this to allow him to show me he knows the answer. If I need to have documentation of his work I simply snap a picture, print it, date it and put it in his file.

Ever have students who are doing everything they can to get your attention? Do you struggle to ignore them because all you can think about is how difficult it will be to clean up their mess? Well...if you take the time to label EVERYTHING in your classroom, your students can clean up all of their mess themselves (or with little prompting). Here is a mess that was made in my classroom while a student was wanting nothing more than my attention.

Yes those are all little pieces from 5 different file folder activities. Instead of having to give in and give the attention the student needed I didn't sweat it. I know that cleaning up what could be a daunting task won't be that difficult (for me :)). I label the backs of every piece in my file folders. I put a code (usually an abbreviation) on the backs of the little pieces. I put that same code on the file folder and baggie that holds the pieces. That way, if something like this was to happen everyone knows where the pieces go. It is also good practice because sometimes those darn little pieces just fall out! (I forgot to take pictures of the little icons to show you can example :( )

That was it for my tricks now it's time to grab your treat!

The treat I have shared with you is an Interactive Reading Comprehension File Folder.....Don't forget to label the pieces :). Grab the full product here!

Hop on over to see what Kate from Fun in ECSE has to share!
Fun in ECSE

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Reading Block Activities

Reading instruction can often times be difficult in a special education class. There are so many fun and engaging reading lessons posted on Pinterest and teacher blogs but they are mostly geared towards the general education population.

Let's face much as we try, those don't work in our classrooms. When I read a lesson I think, if I do that Johnny will walk away, if I do this Susie will act out etc. Now don't get me wrong, I do not limit my students and I challenge them daily, but I have had to find different ways of doing this.

I teach reading two times a day.  The students in my first group range in reading levels A- I (Fountas and Pinnell) and my students in the second group are still working on emerging reading skills.

For this post I am going to focus on how I structure my reading block for the first group. During this time I have 9 students and 2 para professionals. Here is a picture of my schedule break down during this time. My paras run the table work center and monitor independent reading while I teach group time.
Now you may be thinking I don't have names on this for confidentiality reasons, but honestly, this is what it looks like in my classroom too. I am always changing who is in which group so it is just easier to color code the schedule, rather than moving the kids names and reprinting each time.

Group Time: Here is my weekly outline for my lessons.

On Mondays I introduce the book to both groups. I use the Unique Learning Systems N2Y library to get my reading materials. I like the leveled library because a lot of the books have the same theme but are different levels.  I am also very fortunate to have a SMARTboard so I can just project them right on there but you can easily print these books or pull them up on iPads.

I read the book to the students and do a lot of "thinking out loud". Depending on time we may re-read the story. For my higher group I will have them taking turns reading a page. For my lower group I will select 1-2 words to have them help me with.

On Tuesday and Wednesdays I break apart the book and focus on the main skills needed for each group. My high group struggles with comprehension and my low group struggles with phonics. Here are some activities I do with the groups.

Group 1:

We first focused on identifying what "who" means. "Who tells a person or animal".

What I also love about using books from the N2Y Library are that I can grab the symbols used (or similar symbols) using Symbol Stix. I print and laminate picture cards for added visuals. After we go over the words I pass them out to the students. Some kids can handle having 2-3 cards while others can only have 1. As we read the story I ask questions and the students who have the answer are supposed to respond. This has been a huge hit in my classroom and I LOVE when I see the kids jump or start to wiggle because they realize they have the answer. This is a great way to keep them engaged during reading.

I also use that same skill but take the book away and pull phrases or sections from the story without the added picture supports and see if the students are still able to answer the questions. As you can see this week we had a strong focus on answering "who" questions.

Group 2:

We focus A LOT on phonics. This week we focused on the "th" sound. Hooked on Phonics has a ton of free videos on YouTube so I am always sure to check there when we are working on specific sounds. We may be cool but let's face love videos :)

We then practice the skill by adding the particular sound onto words.

We then generate lists of words that have the "sound" that we worked on. Most of the time the kids end up using the same words we just practiced but that is OKAY!! they are recalling information.

On Thursdays we re-read the story. This usually doesn't take very and it is a great time to work on comprehension with my low group and phonics with my high group. 

Table Time:

I find extension activities that correspond to the skill we are working on. Sometimes these are paper and pencil and sometimes they are more hands on. We also through in some time to work on our spelling words!

These are just a few activities that work in my classroom. I have found that using the same routine from week to week has allowed the kids to be able to develop a routine. Being able to know what is expected of them helps them regulate their behaviors. 

What kinds of whole group/small group reading activities do you do in your classroom?

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Classroom Reveal 2015-16

Only 2 months late but it's finally here! It is not as clean as I would have hoped but I thought it was still important to share!

Door into classroom. I usually have our craft displayed. Here is our bee we made from Teaching Special Thinkers Art Packs. I also have our Severe Weather and Evacuation plan on the top of the door.

Right when you walk in I have student mailboxes, homework turn in bin, daily journals and Check In and Check Out Schedules. I also have my homework printed, copied and ready to go for the entire year in the black file crate. I use the Leveled Homework Bundle from The Autism Helper

On the wall on the right, when you walk in, I have our schedules posted. This way anyone who comes into my room (paras, ancillary, HS helpers, admins etc.) can figure out what we are doing or where the kids are. Even though my students spend the majority of their day with me, I do not teach in a self-contained classroom. All of my students have a different general education teacher, which all have their own schedules. Everything is posted here!!

Below our schedules we have a "How are you getting home" pocket chart. The kids put in how they are getting home. I like the students to do this to help build independence in their dismal routine. If they know how they are getting home they are more likely to be able to complete the task independently. It is also great for staff and subs to reference if needed.

This is my main teaching area. I always choose to have a u-shape for my student desks/tables. This allows for the kids to have their own personal space but I can also easily access their space if needed (for instruction or behavior management). I also like that there is still space in the middle for the kids to come and sit on the carpet. It provides a more intimate/contained space.

Behind our desks is our supply center. I have all student supplies (paper, crayons, markers etc.) on the left and all of our math supplies (counters, money, quick tasks) on the right. Our writing journals are located on top of the shelf along with our finished work bin, pencils and Clorox wipes :).

I am lucky to have double sided shelves. These shelves house our writing centers and table time tasks. I use table time tasks as "when you finish tasks" as well as for my students who have graduated from traditional T.E.A.C.C.H. tasks but still need structured activities.

Our middle table is used for word work and para instruction. My students complete the work work center independently everyday. Some tasks we do here are build words with magnet letters, play-doh and writing them on dry erase boards. Para professionals also work with students here during reading. I split my kids into 2 groups for reading instruction. They work on paper pencil tasks while I am teaching the other group.

Having a dedicated technology center has been great this year. Everything is in one location and the kids know that work is supposed to be done on the devices rather than play since they are sitting in desks. 

In the back of the room I have my teacher cabinet. That little picture of me is so powerful. The kids never even try to open the cabinet. Inside I have all of my teacher books and activities.

Teacher Center. This is where I house our visuals and laminator. I just used a tool organizer and labeled it with letters. It is so easy to locate what visual you are looking for :). 

This is our kitchen area. We make coffee for our Food Cart (that takes up most of the counter :).

Break area. This is where the kids spend their break time. They are able to pick games from the cabinet or hang out in the chairs. Here is a post about what I have in my choice cabinet and how it is organized. 

Our library. The students are able to pick books from the white bins. We use Fountas and Pinnell leveling system in my district. I have a list to the right that lets the kids know what bins they are allowed to choose from. The baskets at the top house our adapted books, theme books and teacher read alouds.

I used book shelves, filing cabinets and wall partitions to create a cozy work space. This is where my students do T.E.A.C.C.H.

We use this space for more independent work centers. As you can see we also store all of our bags for swimming and one of my students walkers. I let the kids work at the desk as well as on the floor as some tasks require a lot of space.

Our reading nook is one of the kids favorite places. They love that papasan chair...don't mind the hideous pattern :). We also have all of our book boxes in this space.

The last space in our room is my teacher area. I didn't take a picture of the desk because um...well it's a disaster!! But you get it, its a kidney shaped table :). This picture however is how I organize my students IEP goals/objectives work. Let's face it, not every task/lesson we do solely focuses on their individual goals. This is the way I have found that works for me. I work with the kids daily using these baskets. I put a page that has their goals and objectives listed as well as a few corresponding tasks. This is also a GREAT and easy way to be able to get data.

Thanks for taking a look at our classroom. What is your favorite place?

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