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,