Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Card Exchange Finale

Here it is!!! All the amazing Christmas cards we received from our new friends! The kids had a great time doing this exchange and we had so much fun opening each one of them, reading about the other classes, and pinning them to our map on the wall! We are missing about 6 of them, and I'm sure they will be there when we get back, and trust me, my kids will be just as thrilled! Not sure how long I will keep it up on the wall though, as my OCD isn't handling it very well, lol. If anyone else wants me to post how you displayed them, send me a pic and I will post it here too.
And..... I'm officially off work for two weeks!! Can I get a 


Update: There were three more cards waiting for us when we arrived back at school this week!! Two had been opened? One so bad that it was just a mangled envelope in a post office baggie with a note saying "sorry". It's ok, we know you sent it! I would love to do this again next year as my kids LOVED it! Thanks again to everyone who participated!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bumps On A Log

Last Friday, my co-workers and I hosted a Christmas dance for our program. Since we don't have a building large enough to hold all of our kids and staff we were fortunate to be able to have use of a large building close to our school. Most of the kids were able to walk there, and the more fragile kids we transported. On the walk back from the dance I overheard an aide from another class telling my aide that the kids in her class didn't really have a good time. They just sat there at the table for the 2 hours looking bored she said. I found this very upsetting to hear. I did see these kids, many of them in fact, sitting at the tables surrounding the dance floor with their support staff sitting among them looking just as bored. Our kids bored? This is OUR fault not theirs.

Let's look at the makeup of my class. I have 11 kids. If I were to take my kids to a dance for the first time and allow them to choose how they would respond to this social event. Here is what I would see.

 3 of my kids would be dancing (nonstop).
 3 of my kids would be standing in the middle of the dance floor (not moving).
 5 of my kids would be standing or sitting on the sidelines  (looking bored). 

Having fun is a social skill. A very important social skill that needs to be taught especially with our kids. Sometimes I feel like my kids come to me having never learned how to play with one another. Having never been taught how to have a conversation with their peers. We are only half way through the year, and I have seen improvements in the way my kids have started talking to each other instead of just wanting to talk to staff. This is something that we can help them learn to do. I have mentioned before how important I feel these large social events are to our kids. It gives them a great opportunity to socialize with their peers and it gives us an even bigger opportunity to teach them how to socialize with their peers. 

So, how do we teach them? I like to prepare my kids in the classroom prior to any event. We talked all week about this dance. We talked about who they might want to dance with and practiced how we could ask them. Even though we dance every single Friday, my kids were totally jazzed about this party. I also have a rule in my room regarding my aides. I do not allow them to sit during any event where I wouldn't want the kids sitting. Now that doesn't mean you shouldn't get a sit break every now and then, but for the most part I want them up. I want them dancing with my kids. I want them guiding my kids into social conversation with their peers. I want them encouraging my kids to get out on the dance floor and even setting up dance dates. My aides are great. They know what I expect from them and I am so proud when I see them among the only aides out there dancing with groups of kids, starting a conga line, or encouraging a dance off among the students. 

I myself probably pulled 25 kids from chairs out onto the dance floor during the party. It's amazing how easy you can smuggle a kid into a group of his peers dancing and sneak off without anyone noticing. They need us to teach them how to do this! Out of my 11 kids I don't think I saw one sitting more than 5 minutes. They have come a long way since the beginning of the year. When I see the kids having fun and talking, dancing and laughing with their friends just like any other teenager would, it really makes me proud of who they are becoming. It also makes me appreciated my support staff who believe in me and what I want to achieve, even though I make them work twice as hard as any other aide in our program (I really do, lol).

We have 2 more big dances this school year. The next one being for Valentines Day. This gives us about 5 weeks of school to work on our moves! I look forward to seeing what improvements they make!

Take care,

Monday, December 15, 2014

Telephone Etiquette

After posting last week on all the worksheets I use for my telephone skills and role playing, I searched both on my home computer and at school for a digital copy of the one I have on telephone etiquette. Well, I couldn't find it nor could any of my coworkers, so the plan was to retype it up over the weekend. But, I forgot to bring it home. So, I reinvented it, and by golly I think it is 10 times better the second time around! You can find it in my TPT store here.
I hope you have a great week with your kids!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Money Skills Packet Additions

Hope everyone is having a fun relaxing weekend. Only 5 more work days left until Christmas break! Actually, 3 of those day I will get off early because of finals, which we don't even have! I am right on schedule getting things done that I had mentioned in an earlier post. I only have December medical billing, grades and benchmarks, and an assembly for perfect attendance. 
                                       I can do this!

I have recently added four additional worksheets to my money skills packet. If you already own it, head on over to my store and download the product again so you can get them! 
 Money Skills Packet

Friday, December 12, 2014

Teaching By Learning Styles

When I first started teaching it was for a small program funded through our local high school district and the Departments of Rehabilitation. It was a 2 year program for students ages 18 - 99. I had 30 plus students in my room at any giving time and I taught life skills, social skills, community awareness, job preparation, and family life. Looking back my students had either a learning disability, autism, or a brain injury. My first boss, who has since retired, was a great role model. I was the aide in this program for 2 years when the current teacher decided to retire. My boss really wanted me to take over the teaching job when she left. I finished up what I needed and had enough school to get my emergency credential and was able to start the Monday after she retired (this actually didn't happen since I got picked for a 10 week jury trial and had to have a sub start for me, but i did get there finally!). 

To this day I still use many of the strategies he required from me when I took over the class. One of the biggest being that he wanted every lesson I taught to include each of the three learning styles. They all needed to include something the kids saw, something they heard and something they did. I've seen many teachers in my day who teach every lesson as a hands on project. Then there are the teachers who lecture and of course those who pop in a movie, or hand out a worksheet for each and every lesson they teach. Each is great, but really only to the kids who learn best with that technique. By implementing all three styles into a lesson, you will raise the the chances of every student in your room understanding and learning what it is you are trying to teach them.

For example, money is a big one in my room. Every morning orally, we count by 5's, 10's and 25's using the 4 foot visual on the wall. In the computer lab, they are required to work 30 minutes counting money or making change from Attainment's money skills program before they can play online. Weekly there are worksheets about money in their morning folders. And once a week I do a hands on lesson using fake money. They are also encouraged to make small purchases when we go out in the community.

That's kind of a broad one, so let's do another. 

Fire safety - We have a video on fire safety. I have multiple pamphlets (free) from FEMA I read to the kids. We do a basic worksheet on fire safety. We practice stop, drop and roll. We might even visit a fire station.

Mailing a Letter - I have a worksheet on mailing a letter. We watch a video on-line of how mail is sent through the US Postal Service. I do an example on the overhead. We address our own envelope and mail our worksheet home to ourselves.

I understand that this probably would not work in a regular ed classroom since there is a push to teach and move on. but for special ed, I really think it is imperative to their learning. Worksheets are easy enough to find, or make. Role play is free and doesn't require any materials at all. Putting together hands on projects can be costly and will take more time, but are worth it when you can. And, you can always find a video on-line that goes with the subject you are teaching. I don't always have the time to do all three when I teach a subject on a particular day, but I make sure I do at least two, and since I re-teach most of my subjects continuously during the year, I make sure I hit each of their learning styles equally.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Reindeer Hat Craft

Today we finished up the second of three Christmas crafts we will be sending home this year. These straw hats have been sitting in my craft cabinet for the last couple years and I finally decided it was time to do SOMETHING with them. 

I found this idea on Pinterest and fell in love with it. The kids glued on their eyes, nose, bow, and ears. They made hair with some yarn we had and cut and poked the twigs through the hat. I did have an aide glue gun the antlers from the inside to hold them up. 

Super cute, and here's a class photo of all of them! As you can see, they made them their own.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I Can Hear You...

I wanted to share this very powerful poem I found last week. Breaks my heart. You can find the post here Teaching Learners With Multiple Needs

Hope your week is going well!

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Round Table

I wanted to give you a visual of the "Round Table" I use for the majority of the lessons I teach. On this particular day we were painting Christmas ornaments, asking nicely to have one another pass the colors we need (I only put two of each color out on purpose so this would happen :-) and enjoying small talk, mostly initiated by me. We found out what each student was asking for for Christmas, a favorite gift they have gotten in the past and some of their family traditions. All while listening to "piano Christmas songs" my new favorite!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Role Play & the Telephone

If you don't have a couple of old telephones in your classroom, I suggest you pick yourself up some at a nearby garage sale. Years ago, when the district updated our phone system I asked to keep a couple of the old phones they were tossing to use with my kids. I use them multiple times during the year and they are a great teaching tool.

Here's how I use them:

1. Calling 911 - This is one of my favorite role play exercises. One kid is the victim, and the other is the phone caller. I am the 911 operator. The students have to push 9-1-1, tell me what's going, answer my questions, and depending on their level, their address and such. Even the lowest kids can learn to say "mom sick". The kids LOVE doing this! Everyone wants their turn being the victim and most don't even want suggestions on their injury. They are such good actors and actresses!

2. Calling in sick - I make my higher kids call themselves in sick when they are not going to come to school. I have cleared this with parents, and I do send a quick text to mom or dad on a couple of them. It's a great life skill for them to learn. Someday, if they get a job, they will need to know how to call in if they are not going to make it that day. We practice on the phones how to give a brief explanation. "Hi, this is Bob, I will not be coming in today because I am sick". I inform them that nobody wants to hear about liquids that may be coming out of them and to keep it short and to the point. The person answering the phone, has work to do.

3. Making appointments - We practice this a few times a year. Again, they call me and I try to set them up an appointment that they need. It goes something like this:

me: Good morning, Dr. Smiths office
them: Hi, I need to make an appointment
me: What do you need to be seen for (or I transfer them)

You get the gist. We take turns, so everyone is getting to hear the others and after each one we talk about what they did right and what they could do differently.

4. Taking messages - This is an important skill for them to learn. I have fake message pads and even send them home and encourage the parents to allow them to practice. I let the kids pretend call each other and leave messages for someone who is not there.

5. Last but not least, we practice basic phone etiquette. How to answer, how to be polite, how to tell them to hold while you get someone (immediately), how to tell them someone is not home, and especially how not to take over the conversation when the call was not for you, which is really hard for a few of my kids.
These are all important skills for our kids to learn on their road to independence. I have worksheets that we do prior to the role play so they get a double dose of the skill. If you are not doing this already, I highly suggest you give it a try. These are some of my favorite classes I teach!

Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

December Doings

So much going on and we only have 3 weeks to fit it all in! As much as I love December, and getting two weeks off, it's such a hectic month which I don't especially enjoy. 

1. To start things off, no one signed up to do a Christmas party for the kids, so the "Spirit Club" has taken over. We found a place near us that will allow us to use their facility for free, we just need to get some decorations together to spruce the place up a bit. I really had wanted to do tablecloths to cover the tables as it is an all white room and we are not allowed to hang anything on the walls, but those things are expensive! Even to rent they are 10 bucks each (tables are huge) and I need 18 of them so that's not going to happen. I am totally trying to not to stress on this!!! CHECK

2. Christmas Card Exchange is underway! I sat the kids down yesterday and we decided what we wanted to write (type) inside each card + our signatures. We ended up with 25 classes participating and I am so excited for them to get them back. Our goal is to get ours out by Wednesday. We have a map of the US on the wall and will pinpoint everywhere we get one from! CHECK

3. Decorating my room - Since I spend more time in my classroom then I do my awake time at my home, I love to make it a happy Christmas place! We put up our tree yesterday and hung our stockings along the bottom of the white board. I just have a few more things to do today and it will be complete! I even played Christmas music yesterday and it really put me in the spirit. CHECK

4. Christmas Crafts - My plan is to do 3 crafts for the kids to take home this year. A few years ago, the office staff was cleaning out an old classroom and found these straw hats that they were going to toss. I grabbed them thinking I could have the kids decorate them. It's now about 3 years later and they are still sitting in my craft cabinet! We are going to turn them into reindeer's to hang on the wall (I will post pics). I also have been making ornaments they will paint and am still trying to narrow down the third one.

5. Window decorating contest is Friday and I haven't a clue what I am going to do!!! CHECK

6. End of the quarter assembly will be the last week of school, I still need to get the awards ready and order the perfect attendance dog tags.

7. CBI - My focus group has until Friday to turn in our forms for CBI for the next quarter. We have an aide who has been setting things up, but it's a lot of paper work so I am hoping we get it done in time. CHECK

8. Medical billing - ugh, I just remembered this one. I haven't even finished November!!! November CHECK - December

9. January morning folders will also need to be out mid week the last week of school so teachers can get their copies made. Almost forgot about this one! CHECK

10. 3 IEP's! 2 DONE!

11. Grades and Benchmarks!

So basically, it appears that I will be working late most days in December, lol. Is anyone else stressed out during this time of year? Please tell me I'm not alone. I am totally going to need the two weeks off to recuperate!!

Have a great day,

Friday, November 21, 2014

Social Skills Strategies

I have observed some of the other classes in our program and oh boy is there a LOT of drama going on! "She's looking at me" "He's talking to my girlfriend", plain old kid DRAMA. I, on the other hand, have a completely drama free class this year! Now, that can be a good thing, right? Well, the reason we are drama free is that no one talks to each other! No one is friends, and no one wants to do things with anyone else. Now, we say good morning and please and thank you, and I am constantly trying to get them to do puzzles or play games together, which they will, they just don't socialize while doing it.

I really have been trying to bring them out socially all year. I have given them small tasks that requires them to be social. For example: Each week one of my kids is in charge of finding out who has money for the snack bar (which now we can go to once a week). This requires walking around the room with a pad and pen and asking each student if they have money and how much. In the beginning, some had a hard time, but now it doesn't matter who I ask, they all do a great job! I have two boys who deliver the newspaper each day to the other 18 classrooms. They are to walk in, say good morning and leave the papers on the first table they come to. They now can do it completely independently! Another of my boys has been doing the morning flag salute over the classroom Intercoms. He started out shy and timid, and now he is ad libbing so much I have to keep telling him he needs to keep it short and simple. He is so cute and mentions his whole name 2x. At the end he always says "This is John Michael Smith <---- fictitious name, then sings "this is how we do it". I can always tell when my phone rings immediately following his broadcast, that he went a little overboard, but I just love how he has come out of his shell! One of my girls takes the roll and outing sheet to the office where she has to post one and greet the secretary with the other. Another student passes out name badges every time we go off campus, which requires them to have to say the name of each of the other kids as they are called to pick them up. 

I've been working all year on this and as I am seeing improvements when we are together as a group and especially in their "jobs" they do, I am not seeing it much in their interactions with each other. I know it's in there, because some of them have absolutely no problem telling ME or their aides something they did or are going to do. For some reason they still don't see each other as social resources.

Here are some of the strategies we have been working on:

1. Include their peers in conversations - If a student comes to tell me something I stop them and try to include the whole class or at least another student by saying something like "Oh, I bet the whole class would love to hear this story" or "Kim loves dogs, I bet she would want to hear this too". 

2. The round table - I LOVE working with them at the round table, which really is just two kidney tables pushed together. We all sit around it and instead of a traditional lesson where I stand over them and they try to not fall asleep, we have more of a class discussion, where everyone get's involved in the subject. We swap stories, we share ideas, and we take turns reading and giving answers. I prefer this way of teaching even if we are following a worksheet.

3. Role Play - We role play in almost every social skill lesson we do and quite a few life skill lessons too. The kids love it, and they actually get to practice the skill.

4. Use the worksheets as a guide - Reading a student a social skills will not help them learn the skill. Talking about it, explaining it, role playing it and practice, practice, practice will.

5. Work in groups without support - I have my kids broken up into 3 groups of 3 and one group of 2. These are the groups they stay with on outings (with their assigned aide or me). Each group contains a writer, a reader (sometimes that's the same person) and usually someone with a behavior (gotta even those out). Sometimes I feel my kids become reliant on their aides, so I kick them out on occasion and make the kids work in their groups alone, usually this has been after an outing and I want to see what they learned. This requires them to talk! And the whole time I walk around and encourage it.

6. Play games - Games are a great way to get them talking and having to converse with their peers. My kids love UNO, they love Left Right Center, and last week we sat at our round table with their writing boards and played Would You Rather, which was great fun!

7. Peer help - Many times when a students will ask me for help I will send them to another student first. Usually someone sitting close to them. This requires conversation!

8. Encourage togetherness - I try every opportunity I have to pair my kids up for activities. If someone wants to go out and play basketball you bet you're going to hear me say "can you think of anyone that might want to play too?' "why don't you ask them". One of my sweet boys who I just love to death says "NO" every time I ask him if someone can sit by him for a puzzle or game, lol. He will allow them, won't speak to them, but will allow it, which is a huge milestone compared to last year!

9. LET THEM DO IT - If they can do it, let them! This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I was shocked today to find out from an aide in our program that she saw one of my kids at a pharmacy, picking up her own meds! Her living staff was no where to be found according to my staff, which is a little scary, but she did it ALL BY HERSELF! It made me so proud. So, let them order their own food, let them ask at the store where an item is, let them ask for directions to the bathroom, let them ask the teacher next door if they can come over after lunch, I could go on forever, but I'm sure you understand.

10. Don't hold them back - Most of our kids need a little push to interact with their peers. I have 4 big social situations that happen daily/weekly in my program. Breakfast, lunch, outside break time, and our Friday dancing. In my room these activities are NEVER optional. I also do not allow my kids to eat in my classroom, they eat in the cafeteria, and I want them to choose their own seat. We are not building our social circles if we are sitting with the same 10 kids we sit with all day in the classroom. Same with the dancing and outdoor time. About half my kids would much rather sit in my room all day in their little safe bubble away from all the chaos and noise of the program. But I would be doing them such a great disservice if I allowed that.

I hope this gives you a little insight on how I do things in my room. As you can see, I am pretty passionate about this. I only have them for four years before they head over to the adult programs our community offers. It's my job to prepare them for that.

Have a great weekend and a blessed Thanksgiving if I don't talk to you before that.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thanksgiving Wreaths

 I'm kind of picky about the crafts my kids do while at school. Since they are adults, I want them to do crafts that adults would do. In my 10 years of teaching I have never had a crayon in my classroom. Now, we have markers and colored pencils, but there's just something about having them coloring that I feel is doing them an injustice. I want them to feel like the adults they are when they are in my room, and even though I do enjoy an occasional coloring with my granddaughter, I would prefer we keep them out of the classroom.
I found this idea to make these autumn wreaths from another teacher in my program and decided it would be great for my kids to do. I went to Walmart, where material is around $2.50 a yard and bought 2/3 of a yard of 5 different fall colored materials and some wire hangers (10 for $1.58). All together I spent about 15.00 dollars which included the burlap for the bows. Pretty cheap right? I cut all the material in 7" by 1 1/2" strips and helped the kids bend the hangers into a wreath shape. They figured the pattern they were going to use and we got going putting them together.
Unfortunately, 2/3 yard of 5 materials is only enough to do 5 wreaths, so I did have to head back to the store and buy more. So much for this being a cheap craft, huh? All of my kids except for one was able to do the tying with zero help. One of my boys just couldn't seem to do it so I had him following the pattern and handing the right colored strip to his aide and she tied them onto the wire. We had the kids help make the bows, glued and tied them to the hanger, and sent them home to hang! I love the way they turned out, and the kids were so proud of their work! All together I used 1 and 2/3 yards of 5 different material. This was enough to make 12 wreaths.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Life Cycles

I was looking for a worksheet for the kids to do about planets last month and found one where they could cut and paste them to a timeline. I am not sure where I found it, but the quality was terrible and it looked as if it was a copy of a copy. So, I just went ahead and made one. This then led to someone asking if I could make one for a frog life cycle which then lead to a request for the butterfly life cycle which then lead to someone requesting one on a pumpkins life cycle! Thank goodness it was super easy to change them. These were very easy to make and although we have only done the planet one in my classroom, I am sure the others are just as fun!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Life Skills - Planning A Party

We had a student in class last month that was planning a party for her birthday and wanted to invite her classmates. I had talked to her mom, who was pretty open about it, and I told her we would talk about it during class.  That night I decided to put together a little one page (which turned into two page) worksheet to help give her and any other of my kids who may plan a party someday some suggestions. The kids got really into this and were great in coming up with ideas. This also reminded me about a student I had a few years ago who had offered her home to another student to hold her birthday party at. They planned it and even sent out invitations to many other kids in our program before I caught wind of their plan. I called the mom who's home was hosting the party to make sure she was ok with this, and guess what? she didn't even know about it. We ended up having to inform all the invitees that the party was a no go and had a big lesson on asking permission!
You can pick yourself up a copy HERE

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Spot it!

I was in LA over the weekend at a shoe store of all places wandering around looking at some games they had. I was intrigued by these cute little games inside tins. They had quite a few to choose from. My friend asked me if I had ever played it before and proceeded to tell me how much fun they were. I went ahead and purchased this one here "On The Road" as it would fall within our "Community Awareness" domain. Yesterday I got a table full of kids and a few staff and we pulled the tin open and began playing. There are numerous different ways you can play the game and we actually tried 3 of them, all very entertaining. The one the kids loved the most was very fast playing and wouldn't have worked with all my kids but these guys did great. 

Here's how it worked: Everyone had a card face up in front of them and there was a stack of the remaining cards in the middle of the table. The object was to find a picture on the top card in the center that matched a picture on your opponents card, call the picture "police car" grab the card and place it on your opponents card in front of them, now changing what their top card is. When the center pile was depleted, we all counted our cards and the person with the fewest in their pile was the winner. We also played it the opposite where everyone had 6 cards face up in front of them and there was one card face up in the center. On "go" you had to call and place your cards on the center card to match a picture on there. Sounds easy, but every time someone places there card before you the top card is changed so you have to start looking through your pictures again. 

I know as soon as I get to work today they kids are going to want to try some of the other ways to play. I believe there was 7 in all. I am positive there will be or can be slower ways to play where the kids maybe take turns that will accommodate some of our non competitive kids. I think I might actually pick up a different tin if I find them somewhere local!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cooking Terms Bingo

I have posted in the past regarding the educational bingo games I use with my kids. They are on bathroom items, kitchen items, cooked foods, and fruits and vegetables. My kids love doing them and I have had to limit it to once a week since we have a ton of other things to learn and they would literally want to do this all day if I let them. Not only are they learning but since they think they are playing a game, it's a win win situation. Last week we were working on cooking terms and it came to me, why not teach them the cooking terms in a Bingo game? That night I went home and put one together. I laminated each of the 15 cards and also the cards I will use to call. We haven't had a chance to use it yet, but I know they are going to love it and what better way to learn, right? Things like this can be thrown together in about an hour and are virtually free for teachers to make. 

I would love some other ideas that could be made into a Bingo game if you have any!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Award Assemblies

Sorry it's taken me a couple weeks to post on this. The end of the first quarter ended a little over a week ago in our district. In the past, we didn't really acknowledge it except to send them home with a paper stating how they were doing on their goals in their IEP, exciting huh? This year, with the new Spirit Club implemented, we have decided to make it a little more special and have an award assembly just before we do our weekly dance hour out in the quad area. Each teacher was given two Steps for Success awards to fill in. The awards could be given for anything they felt the kids had done to help themselves move forward to a successful life. With 19 classes that was close to 40 awards. I really went back and forth about adding more so each kid could get one during the year but kept going back to the fact that we are supposed to be teaching them about the real life, and in the real life, not everyone gets an award, buzz kill I know.
We also wanted to acknowledge the kids with perfect attendance. I have always done something special for the kids in my room as I wanted to let them know how important this is. I found these cool personalized dog tags at a store on line and ordered them for 32 cents a piece. Out of 175 kids we had 42 with perfect attendance! I had 6 out of my 11 kids, which I'd like to think is a reflection of my teaching :-) The kids loved them! Now, 8 days post assembly, most of the kids are still wearing them. We plan to continue with these each quarter and buy a different style each time so they can add to their collection. If your are interested in seeing all the things they have, check out their web site here School Life. I am really glad we decided to do this. My staff said the kids were just beaming when they received their awards. I am curious to see if our attendance increases next quarter because of them.

Hope your week is moving along as planned, 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Amazing Karaoke!

I love DonorsChoose and over the past few years have been blessed to receive many wonderful things for my classroom. I usually pick what we need because well, I'm the teacher. But this time, with our weekly electives looming over my head and needing to pick what I was going to do, I left it in the hands of the kids. And they wanted karaoke! I REALLY had to think long and hard about this because I know my kids and frankly I kept imaging long hours of sitting in my room listing to one Disney song after another off key, but I gave in and we posted the project. It's all about them right? An hour and a half after it posted, my amazing angel friend from New York paid for our karaoke machine (we love her). Three days later it was in my classroom (the joys of ordering through Amazon)! 

You are not going to believe how amazing this little machine has been for my kids. Remember me talking a few weeks ago about one of my boys with autism, who only repeats my last word? And how he got up in front of the room and recited the entire Pledge of Allegiance? Well, he can sing! And I don't mean in key by any means, but he knows all the words to the songs and gets right up there and sings for us. Another of my boys who also is almost non verbal is amazing to watch! He not only sings, but he dances as well, and his facial expressions are priceless! 

I have been pleasantly surprised that every one of my kids really seems to enjoy the singing. All 7 of my boys with autism have done it, multiple times. It has helped some of them to have my aide up there singing along with them, as some of them don't read and this way they stay in line with the lyrics.    

We haven't started our bi-weekly electives yet, but word is spreading about room 6's Karaoke machine and I have been having a few "visitors" after lunch all week. And my aides, that's them in the picture, I think they are enjoying it almost as much as the kids!

Enjoy your weekend,

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Earthquake Preparedness

 Millions of people worldwide will practice how to Drop, Cover, and Hold tomorrow 10/16 at 10:16 a.m. during the Great Shake Out Earthquake Drill. I put together a little slide show today that you are more then welcome to use with your kids tomorrow. There are 22 slides, mostly things I copied from different web pages. There are also some pictures of earthquake damage. Nothing too scary as I have some sensitive kids.

Earthquake Slide Show

Here is the link to Google Docs to retrieve it. Sorry, to big to email or upload. Be sure to save it before using it. For some reason it comes a bit jumbled, but once saved, it's fine. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Halloween Dance & Skeleton Matching

In the past our program has put on a large Halloween dance for the kids which included pizza, pies, drinks, games, face painting, and plenty of snacks. We actually own a sno-cone machine, a nacho cheese dispensing machine, a popcorn machine and a cotton candy machine, all which we can no longer use with the new food rules. We also had about 6 games that one of our teachers borrowed each year from her church, which she can not get again this year. Soooooo, basically our large dance has been downsized a LOT! Since no teacher signed up to do the dance, the Spirit Club offered. 
Seriously, besides dancing and face painting, we are at a loss of what else we can do to make this special. Had you asked me in the past years if our Halloween party revolved around food I would have said NO way, but.... I guess, technically it did. If anyone has ideas of "free" or close to free ideas for 175 kids in an outdoor quad area (not to mention what might happen if it rains!) I would love to hear them! In exchange I am giving away a fun matching skeleton worksheet. You can pick which level you want to do with your kids. Please, please, please throw us some ideas, we are desperate!!!

You can pick up you free copy here

Hope your week is going great so far!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Job Interest Assessments

Since I have still been unable to locate a job site for my kids, and because finding a place that wants 15 extra people in their establishment working is quite difficult, we have decided to take a different approach this year, Job Interest Assessments. We will be doing this every other Monday and I really like how the first one went. I put the kids into four groups, three students per aide, and I take my two girls (who are the biggest handful). Each group had this worksheet shown, and were told to observe employees during our hour there. They were to write down on their worksheet (I had one writer per group) a job that they witnessed an employee doing. Well, the kids did a great job! They were encouraged to ask the employees what it was they were doing (if they didn't know), and we even learned a new work term! We then answered a few additional questions about the workplace. 

Back at school, while the kids were at lunch, I made 2 extra copies of each groups worksheets. In our afternoon class, I passed them back out to their groups and we listed all the jobs on the board that the kids observed and talked about each one. I was worried they would have a hard time coming up with 8, but there were so many they observed that it was not a problem. We then finished the worksheet with everyone answering the rest of the questions based on their preferences on their own worksheet.

 For the last question, we all got around my computer and went to Hobby Lobby's website. We found the link for "Careers" and following it. We read their introduction to working there and also found out they if you would like to apply for a job there, you will have to apply in person as they do not do online applications. 

I am really looking forward to doing more of these this year.
We have Winco and Subway Sandwich coming up in the next month and I can't wait to see how they do!

Friday, October 10, 2014

California Map Lesson

I found a cute worksheet on Pinterest last week that I thought would really help my kids not only work on map skills but also get a great lesson on the state that we live in. Unfortunately the worksheet was for Texas. So, what does one do? Make one for California!

Let me know if you would like a copy. I will send it to you in PowerPoint and you can add your city to it too!

Have a great weekend! I'm OUT OF HERE!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Teacher Meltdowns

It's busy busy busy at my work this week! I had two aides out today for starters, and this Friday is the end of the first quarter. Benchmarks and grades are both due. Come to find out today, they have changed the way to post them so I was on that all morning trying to figure out what we needed to do. I am also organizing an assembly for the kids on Friday to hand out their "Perfect attendance" dog tags (I'll talk about this more later) and trying to gather the "Steps To Success" awards (later too) that I handed out to all the teachers to fill in and need back by tomorrow afternoon. And to top it off.... I will be absent Friday for the whole thing!! That's ok, our spirit club team is amazing and I have delegated appropriately. After all of that, and while my kids were in the cafeteria eating, I went in to talk to my boss about an issue with getting my new projector mounted in my room. Now, I can't exactly explain what happened while I was in his office, because frankly I do not know. We talked, he wasn't mean or condescending, there is just a glitch (and maybe too many people telling me different things) in the path to getting my new projector mounted. No big deal right? Well, I left his office and just burst into tears! I tried walking it off and took the long way back to my class doing deep breathing exercises the whole time to no avail. I seriously considered getting into my car and just taking a drive, but I didn't have my keys on me! I finally got back to my room (luckily without being seen) and had myself a little meltdown. You know, the big tears, runny nose, hard to catch your breath... yep, that's what I had.  I was finally getting over it when one of my co-worker friends walked in and it took all I had to not restart the whole thing again. Seriously this went on for about a half hour! And every time I saw one of my friends I could feel the tears welling back up again. Well, I calmed down, the kids came back, and we finished out our day. THANK GOD! Does anyone else ever have days like this? I am hoping today was "my" day and that I will not be needing anymore of them for quite some time. Thanks for letting me talk about it, I think I feel better now.

Yours Truly,

Monday, October 6, 2014

3 Lessons In One - Art~Table Setting~Nutrition

We have been working on this activity since last week and I have been so anxious to see how they would turn out. Last Thursday I gave the kids each a piece of white paper and had them create a place-mat for themselves. Art is taken different for every one of my kids. Some of my kiddos will finish art in 2 minutes and need a little prompting to add a little something extra here or there. Some of the others can create for hours. As you can see from the photos, some of them are very talented in this department. So, place-mats done, we did a lesson on casual table setting on Friday. We all sat around our work table and went over each part of the setting and where it goes one by one on the place-mat. We glued them on as we talked about each piece. We raised our left hands and raised our rights just to make sure we were getting the right sides.

This morning (day 3) we did a lesson on creating a well balanced meal. We have done this in depth already this year along with some My Plate resources so this was just a refresher. After lunch we got working on putting the meals together. We passed out magazines to them and had them locate, cut, and paste the meal of their choice along with a drink to their plates. The end results were FABULOUS!! Here is one that one of my more artistic boys put together. He spent a lot of time on his place-mat, but wouldn't you love to eat on it? 

This was a really fun lesson for all of the kids. No one fell asleep, and it was after lunch.... Success!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Circuit Maker

It's surprises me every year how my whole classroom shifts on what they like and what they don't like to do. The last two years, not one student has touched the puzzles on my shelves. This year, it is like the hot ticket activity. I even had to buy a couple extra so there was enough to go around. I remember about three years ago my box of pattern blocks was what everyone wanted to play with. The last couple years no one seems to care for them at all. 
Last week a co-worker of mine bought a Circuit Maker set for his students and called me over to check it out. I was pretty sure my boys would love it as they are really into putting things together this year. I picked it up over the weekend and introduced it to the kids yesterday. I don't know who is enjoying it more, the kids or the staff (me included). It starts out pretty easy and will build as they start making more.
It says ages 8 and up on the box and so far a couple of my boys were able to do it on their own. some of them needed help with the layering (which is clear on the instructions) but they were able to snap them together fine and follow the grid. I have only allowed them to each do two as I wanted everyone to get turns making them. So far we made a circuit board that turned on a light and one that made a buzzer sound! I can't wait to see what the next pages will bring!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Holiday Activity Worksheets

Lately every time I click on Pinterest, I keep seeing my Columbus Day Activity Worksheet I put together last year. Every time I see it, it reminds me that I have 9 other holiday worksheets patiently waiting in my "need to work on" folder. It's one of those things I have been trying to get to for the past few months and then just forget about. So much so that I have even missed the holidays they were meant to be used for. So, I have spent the last week finishing them up and this morning I finally posted them in my store! Each worksheet has 4 -5 activities for the kids to do. I hope your kids enjoy them!

You can find your copy here in my store!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Just Dance!

Can you believe there are only 2 weeks left in the first quarter!!! OMG where does the time go?? We are still school bound except for 1 day a week when we are getting to leave campus to attend PE. I am still hopeful that CBI will begin the week of the 6th and am keeping my fingers crossed. 

To try to fill up some time with the kids we decided a few weeks ago to turn the music on in the quad, get a DJ (one of my aides, who btw is fabulous at this) and let the kids dance. What started out as a one time thing has now been repeated the last two Fridays and the kids are just having the best time. We play the music for an hour, and let me tell you, they dance the WHOLE hour! They slide to the left, they slide to the right, there's hopping, stomping, cha cha-ing.  I even learned me a little gangnam dancing today! What a bunch of happy faces! I was trying to get a pic to show you,  but with over a hundred kids out there boppin I would have had to apply way to many happy faces to cover up their own beautiful ones that I can't show on here.  Every time a new song came on they screamed like they were at a concert, I couldn't help but just stand there and watch the joy they were having. Even our students who are deaf were up front center dancing to the music they could feel coming from the speakers. Don't you just stand there sometimes, looking at your kids and say to yourself..... "Yes, this is why I come here everyday." Well today I had one of those days.

Hope you have a safe and fantastic weekend,

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Personal Information Activity

Twice in the last couple of days I have ran across activities where the kids need to match their name or their phone number from paper tiles onto a sheet of paper. I decided to come up with something similar for my two boys who are still working on this skill and add all their personal information into one activity. 
I have them printed and have cut out each of the letter and number tiles so far, but haven't had time yet to laminate them and add the Velcro dots. I am hoping to get that done sometime this weekend. Here is a how they should work when I am finished with them. These boys are pretty sharp so I am pretty sure they will be able to master this in a short amount of time. Since I only have 2 kids I am doing this for it's pretty "doable". Not sure I would want to do this for 12 of them though. 

Will update on our progress! Tomorrow's FRIDAY!!!! Have a great weekend if I don't talk to you before then!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Getting Organized - Curriculum By Subject

Every year I tell myself "self, you need to be more organized this year". As my curriculum grows I find it harder and harder to keep track of what I have done and what I need to do. 5 years ago I would just create a worksheet when I needed one, then save it in my computer in the hopes of remembering I had it for the next year. I was so overwhelmed with having to create everything I used that organization was out the window. 2 years ago I started printing out everything and placing it inside binders by subject. Last year I tried teaching in the order of the binders, but then I would get pulled, or the school would plan something during my class time, or some kid would keep picking his nose and the lesson on food storage was put on the back burner as we worked on Nose Picking 101. By the middle of the year, I couldn't remember where I was or what I had done. 

This year I have created a worksheet with all the lessons I have and taped it to the wall next to my desk. So far, 4 weeks in, I have done an amazing job at marking off each lesson after I teach it. I am going to try REALLY hard this year to STAY ORGANIZED! Does anyone else do something similar to this? How do you keep yourself organized? I would love to know.

Here is what I have been using. I am sure I will add to it when some new issues arise, but for now, this will have to do. Wish me luck :-)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Pledge of Allegiance

Happy Tuesday! I am going to admit right now that I have been doing a terrible job at having the kids recite The Pledge Of Allegiance each morning. It was one of my plans this year and so far I have been slacking. My new boss has decided that we are going to start doing it every morning as a whole and have different kids lead it from the office onto the speakers in our classrooms. I was super excited as now it can get done even if I'm busy with something else at the moment. So, yesterday I got the kids all up one at a time and had them recite it in front of the class. Even though 2 declined to even try the others knew it by heart. Even one of my autistic boys who really only repeats what I ask him with a "yes" or "no" added at the end recited the whole thing????? Crazy. After listening to them I got to thinking if they really even understand what it was they are saying? There are some pretty big words in the Pledge of Allegiance. I went home last night and put together this little slide show and today I handed out this worksheet and we got to work dissecting The Pledge. I think the kids have a much better understand of what they have been saying all these years. I used very basic definitions and did elaborate and give examples as we went over each word. A very successful lesson if I do say so myself  :-) 

Monday, September 15, 2014

ASL - Finger Spelling Our Names

We have one classroom in our program that accommodates the deaf students who attend. One of my good friends is the teacher in that class so we get the kids together often for fun activities.
I think it's important to try to teach my kids some sign language so they can try to communicate with the others kids when they are together. My friend does "Sign Time" with a few of the classes during the year and last year it was even an elective the kids could sign up for. Today we learned how to finger spell our names doing this fun activity. 

My friend turned me on to the Enchanted Learning website where I was able to find the fingered letters. I saved each one to my computer and pasted four to a page so I would have the whole alphabet for later uses. After counting how many I would need of each, we made copies and cut them apart. I laid the letters out on the table and had the kids walk around finding each letter in their name. They colored and cut them out, then pasted them onto a piece of large white paper. My friend had a sheet of the regular alphabet available for them to color their letters and they cut those out and pasted them below their finger letters. 

Everyone had to go up to the front of the room and practice signing their names before we hung them up for all to see. This was actually a pretty long activity. From start to finish it took them about and hour and a little longer for a few of them. All in all, a great time was had by all!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Changing Curriculum & Coin Stamping

 Every year my classroom has a little shift in the students I spend my day with. Last year I had a lower academic group of kids join us, even to the point that I had to go out and purchase a few Melissa and Doug items for them since we weren't much above counting and colors. The information we get from the high schools that the kids are coming from is not always accurate so where they get placed is sometimes a little off. Occasionally we can make small shifts at the beginning of the school year but other times I just like to think there is a reason I was chosen to spend the year with them. This year brings me a couple new kids who are a bit higher then those I have had in the past. So, I am needing to change up my curriculum to adjust to them. 
 I am changing out some of my activity boxes to add ones that are a bit more challenging for these guys. Here is one I added this week. Since I will put a huge emphasis on money I thought these coin stamps, (which by the way have gone down in price since I bought them a week ago!) would be a great addition. I made up a couple worksheets for them to use the stamps with and so far the kids have really enjoyed working with them. If you can see in the picture, it says the coins and the amount needed (ex. 2 dimes, 2 nickels, 3 pennies) and the kids stamp the correct coins then add the total to the page. 

I am on the lookout for more, so if you know of any other good money activities please share.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Putting Away Groceries

Here is a fun life skills lesson on putting away groceries. I have this lesson in a cut & paste worksheet already but since Velcro is my new best friend and any cut & paste worksheet can easily be adapted into a Velcro book, here you go! There are 33 food pieces and three options of were you can put them, 12 pantry, 9 freezer, and 12 refrigerator. I used clear Velcro, cause it's my favorite! I am giving this away for free in my store to anyone who promises to comment on my blog at least once in the next year. No pressure, lol. Here is the link to pick up a copy for our kidoes. I would love to hear how they liked it.