Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Boxes

Happy Valentine's Day!! I hope everyone lived through the sugar and chaos every class party seems to bring!

This year my team has been sending home monthly "home projects" to have the students work on with their families. We have found this to be important because many of our students do not recieve homework so we wanted to make sure they still sat down at least once each month to work on something with their parents. This gives them a chance to show off how hard they have been working on those fine motor skills!

This month we had the kids make Valentine Boxes. I used this great letter from Jennifer at Empowering Little Learners which cut down on the prep time on my end (what teacher doesn't love that?!).

I was so pleased with a lot of our boxes and the kids were super excited to share what they made.

Here are some pictures of their creations:
Here are several of our boxes.

This student had the cutest dog house box complete with a life-size replica of his best friend (his dog Sky).
Here is a great box for a LaLaLoopsy Lover!
This is an adorable hugging monster box.
Complete with handy trap door (This student was ecstatic about this feature)!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Valentines Day FREEBIE

Happy Manic Monday and Happy (almost) Valentines Day!!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

I never used to make a big production of Valentine's Day in my classroom. We always focused on Feelings and made Valentine's Day more of a secondary theme. However, then I found this super cute book from the "If you give a...." series and now we do a whole unit on it.

This super cute book is great for talking about Valentine's Day but it is extra awesome for talking about friendship and why we love our friends because in the story Mouse makes different valentine cards for each of his friends based on what he loves about them.

To go with this theme, last year I had the idea to have the kids go around and say something they loved about each of their classmates. At first, I thought this may be a little difficult for some of my kids with poor verbal skills to do but in the end I was very touched with their thoughtfulness! It was a great activity to take a break to show our appreciation for our friends and at the same time it really made each student feel good about themselves. What is a better lesson than that?!

For this activity, I write the student's name on the line and then fill in each heart with something kind a classmate shares like in the example below. 

Click HERE for your copy of this cute group activity FREEBIE!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Teaching Shape Identification--A Multisensory Approach

I have shared many times how important I feel multi-sensory teaching is and my little group of needy learners reinforces my belief in this more and more each day.

Today we had a fun shapes review lesson and the kids did great!

We started off with this cute youtube video from KidsTV123:

I LOVE teaching with YouTube!! It is a great way to start off a lesson and get the kids engaged. I am beginning to use some of these KidsTV123 videos but I REALLY like the Super Simple Songs  youtube page... (for more about these songs and for free resources visit their website HERE)

For my the rest of my lesson, I actually used Super Simple Songs Shape Song and Shape Song 2. But I only have the audio. I haven't been able to find a video for these songs but they are simple and slow enough that my kiddos do just fine listening. I also make some manipulatives to go along with the song and reinforce shape identification.

For each student, I made a shape mat using Boardmaker clip art. I laminated each board and then traced the shapes with glue to make the lines raised. During the song the students used their fingers to trace the shapes (I tried this activity prior to making the lines raised and they just could not trace them!! The raised lines made a world of difference!!).

Then, I gave students foamie shapes to match during the song. The foamies were a variety of sizes and colors which made this a little tricky but they did great.

The combination of auditory, tactile, and visual input kept the kids engaged and they did much better on their assessment after the review than they did before the lesson! Wahoo!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Sensory Folders FREEBIE

Happy Manic Monday everyone!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

As I promised on Saturday's Sensory Folders post today's freebie is the print materials needed for creating your own sensory folders. All you need is two file folders and some velcro and you are all set! I used a calming color (blue) for the calming folder and an alerting color (yellow) for our altering folder.

If you want more icons I recommend using Stickids. They have great color-coded sensory processing icons.

Click HERE for your freebie!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sensory Saturday--Sensory Folders

Wow it has been a while since I have had a Sensory Saturday! But my classroom has been a sensory hot mess lately so I wanted to share the great strategy that I have began to use in the classroom that is both quick and easy--Sensory Folders.

 My sensory folders take into account two basic sensory needs: Alerting and Calming. To learn more about these sensory needs check out my handout on Sensory Supports for the Classroom. Unfortunately I cannot take full credit for this idea because my wonderful teaching partner also uses something very similar based on one of her student's needs.

I created sensory folders for two students in particular who have completely opposite sensory needs. The first student is typically a lump on a log! He is very low-tone and not really engaged in our activities most of the time. For him I made the yellow "alerting" folder.

In the folder, I provided a variety of alerting choice options such as spinning in the teachers chair, tactile brushing, or frog jumps.

The second student is a live wire! She is in constant motion all day--bouncing, rocking, flapping. Just watching her wears me out so trying to teach when she is so wound up is totally exhausting! She got the blue "calming" folder.

In the folder, I provided calming choice options such as joint compressions, body sock, or weigthed ball toe touches.

You may notice that the same items can be used on both charts. This depends on the way you use them. For instance, I use a therapy ball to alert a child by having them sit on it and bouncing them while it is used to calm them by having them lie on the floor while I roll it over them providing deep pressure input. A hand massage with peppermint lotion is alerting while vanilla is calming. And while a student is lying prone on a scooterboard and using their arms to move forward provides calming, heavy work input having them lie prone and hold a jump rope while you "whip" them around in circles or in a erratic zig-zag motion is very alerting (but tiring for the teacher!!!).

Hope these folders gave my readers some good ideas about practical sensory supports. Stop by on Monday for a Manic Monday FREEBIE for everything you need to make some folders of your own!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mailbox Theme Kits

Last weekend I got a fabulous email from The Mailbox with an awesome 40% off deal on their already on clearance theme kits. I was able to get 3 kits for a total of $18 plus shipping! What a great, great deal!

Although the deal is no longer good. The theme kits are still available for 50% off so they are $10 each. I definitely recommend these kits for any Preschool-Kinder-1st Grade and/or Elementary SpEd teachers. They come with 2 themes per kit with 4-5 activities per theme. All of the materials are full color, sturdy and LAMINATED! If they came pre-cut I would be in heaven but they don't and I am still pretty darn excited!

Check out all of the kits and themes HERE!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Polar Animals

We had a hard time this week finding a cute, predictable story to use for our polar animals theme. It was my first time doing this theme so I did not have my usual bag of tricks! We ended up using a Scholastic mini-book called, Are You Cold?, with lots of new polar animal names that my kiddos surprisingly didn't know. The walrus was called an ostrich more than once! Like I said it was our first time covering polar animals!

The best part was the last page of the book had a slot that I could slip their pictures in to make them a part of the story. They LOVED this surprise ending!

This week there was definitely no shortage of ADORABLE polar animal crafts! There were so many that all of my teammates chose something different. My two favorites were this too cute walrus craft made from painted paper plates, yarn, and plastic knives.

Then, my students made this great ink blot penguin painting. Didn't they turn out so cute?!

To give a visual for the kids so they knew where to paint we used this example outline and provided an outline with marker matching the color paint they needed to use. Visual guides in art is SO important for my kiddos because most of them rely much more on their visual skills than their auditory (listening) skills. 

Finally, we filled empty glue bottles with tempra paint in order for the students to get a fine line to trace the outline provided. 

This was definitely one of my favorite projects! I love how each student's penguin turned out unique just like them!

We also made yummy polar bear bagel treats with our leftover bagels and cream cheese from last week's cooking activity and GIANT marshmallows! The kids were so excited about the marshmallows but they all enjoyed the bagels more :)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Snowy Winter fun

Since we have returned from break we have been enjoying lots of fun snow-related books and activities.

The first week we studied The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. I love talking about Peter and all the fun snowy day adventures he goes on. My favorite activity with this story is our snowball experiment. The kids LOVE getting on their mittens and making big snowballs to place in their pockets (inside plastic baggies). Throughout the morning we check on our snowballs to see what "state" they are in: snowball, melting, or water.

We have a recording sheet that we use with 6 boxes for 6 different observation periods (put in my pocket, after 5 minutes, after 15 minutes, after 30 minutes, after 1 hour, after 2 hours). I did not make the recording sheet and after searching all over the internet I wasn't able to find it so I am not sure where it came from!!

To go with our sheet I made Boardmaker picture options for my kiddos with limited writing and verbal skills. It was very easy. Unfortunately I was short an aide the day we did the experiment so I had my hands full and did not get a chance to take pictures :(.

However I do have some pictures of a couple of the other activities we have done during our snow unit:

After several weeks of holiday treats it was nice to have a healthy treat! We made these cute snowman faces out of toasted bagels with cream cheese, olive eyes, carrot noses (of course), red pepper lips, earmuffs made of broccoli and spray cheese.

How cute are they?!

Also, I have a student on a gluten-, dairy- free diet and he was easily able to make a similar treat with a gluten-free waffle. Usually we use powdered sugar to make it while but on this day he did not feel like it. He did however enjoy making vampire teeth on his snowman!

Another activity we did were these cute salt dough snowmen. The recipe for the dough did not go very well and they ended up very dry and then we added too much water and they were too mushy so we tried more flour and we never really perfected the measurements BUT the kids still had fun and it was definitely a learning experience! A few days later one of the other classrooms tried this activity and they added more water gradually using a spray bottle (a trick for pie crusts apparently!) and theirs had a much better consistency! After making the dough and creating the snowmen, the kids used yarn, pipe cleaners, sequins and buttons to decorate them.

After The Snowy Day, we read The Jacket I Wear in the Snow by Shirley Neitzel. Our focus was winter clothing and we had fun dressing up in different winter clothes and making this cute class clothesline of clothing that the kids painted with watercolors and decorated with anything they could find in our art cabinet (buttons, cotton balls, foamies, glitter glue, etc).

We also made these cute flip posters. All of the kids colored the poster of the boy or girl any colors they wanted. Then, my kids who were writers used a color word bank to complete the sentences and my kids who are non-writers used my modified sentences where they had to just color in the circle to match the clothing item named. The kids really enjoyed this activity and they turned out super cute!

 Next week we are learning all about polar animals so check back then to see our cute polar animal activities!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Liebster Award

Brie from Breezy Special Ed and Hailey from The Autism Tank both nominated me for the Liebster award! Thanks girls, and sorry it's taken me so long to accept! :)
Here are the rules:
1. Post 11 random things about yourself.
2. Answer the questions that the nominator set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for the people you nominate.
4. Choose blogs with fewer than 200 followers to nominate and link them in your post.
5. You cannot “tag back” the other blog, but leave a comment on this post with the URL of your Liebster post so I can learn more about you & see who you nominate.

11 Random Things about myself 
1. I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio
2. I just got 3 different personalized bags from Thirty-One and I am obsessed!
3. I love cream cheese jalapeno poppers, vanilla bean ice cream, and tacos
4. Martha Stewart is my organizational, entertaining, cooking, and decorating idol
5. I love Big Bang Theory-- Sheldon and Amy crack me up!
6. I hate snow.
7. I love reading.
8. I LOVE pink!!
9. Getting my hair cut is my favorite "me" activity. 
10. Taking a hot bubble bath while reading Real Simple or my Kindle is a close second.
11. I desperately want to go on an all inclusive tropical vacation this summer
11 Questions: 
1. What made you start a blog? My friend Megan at Mrs. Wheeler's First Grade did a presentation about her awesome blog last year at the school we both taught at. I knew nothing about blogging but loved it as soon as I started!
2. What’s your favorite thing to do on the weekends? Relax and spend time with my boyfriend and friends. 
3. Name one person you admire and why. My mom because she rocks and she's my best friend
4. Do you like sports? If so, what’s your favorite team? I like watching sports! Football is my favorite. Go Browns!
5. Why did you choose to be a teacher? While in college I started doing in-home ABA therapy with two little boys with autism and I fell in love with working with kids with autism. Then I worked at a summer camp for kids with multiple disabilities and from that point on I knew I wanted a self-contained special ed classroom. 
6. If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do with your money? Buy a house and then fly to Europe. 
7. What is your most memorable moment so far in your life? Good question. 
8. What (DID) you want the most for Christmas? a nice relaxing break!
9. Do you like to shop? Where’s your favorite place? not really but I love Target and Pier 1
10. What are three blogs you constantly read? I'm cheating on this one.... I couldn't pick just 3!!! say The Autism HelperSped-ventures, Keeping it True in K-1-2Simply KinderWe are ALL Special!
11. What are your future goals? Professionally - eventually get an ABA or similar masters degree. Personally - eventually get married and start a family

(Feel free to answer the same questions I answered!)
Blogs I am nominating:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Take a Break Tuesday- I hate Windows 8!!!

As I mentioned in my post yesterday my boyfriend bought me a new laptop for Christmas. I LOVE the laptop but I HATE Windows 8!

Is anyone else using Windows 8? What are your thoughts? I am usually pretty tech savvy but I am really struggling. Plus I got a new computer for my parents too who are in no way computer literate so the transition has been a big struggle for them as well!

My biggest pet peeve is the whole app concept and the on screen shortcuts. I just can't figure out how to make them more user friendly.

Any tips would be appreciated!

Monday, January 7, 2013

I'm Back!!!! and with a freebie!!

I know! I know! I have been a bad blogger this quarter! Between some changes at school and the holidays I have just been swamped and have hardly made it to my computer each night let alone onto Blogger!But I am back! My wonderful boyfriend surprised me with a laptop this Christmas so now when I am zoning out after a long day I can still log on so hopefully you will all be seeing more of me this winter! I would like to start the year off with a freebie :) And I have linked up with Classroom Freebies for their Manic Monday.
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
I made these cute number cards to post next to our classroom calendar to help the kids remember which number to use when writing the date. This has been very helpful this year so I hope someone else finds them useful as well. If you don't need them for your calendar you can always use them for number ID or sequencing too!

Enjoy!! :)