Thursday, August 30, 2012

Getting Ready

Well I've been in my classroom everyday this week and I still don't feel even close to being ready.  There are so many things I want to have done before Tuesday! My to do list seems to keep getting longer instead of shorter.  

I need to make my daily schedule or at least a flexible one for now in order to not have to get too angry if the specials schedule changes.  It's often frustrating that my class is last on the list of priorities when it comes to scheduling specials!! Kids with autism need structure so why are my kiddos last on the list when it comes to scheduling specials.  To make matters worse our specials keep getting scheduled first thing in the morning (except for one special that is the second period which makes things even more confusing) and many of my students arrive at school 15-30 minutes late because they ride a bus for over an hour.  Then my student who relies most on routines never knows what's going to happen when he arrives because he could get to eat breakfast or he could have to go right to Specials.  -Sorry for the mini-rant!

My to do list includes:
-Making a schedule.
-Finishing putting things away in my classroom.
-Making assessment binders for each of my students for their IEP goals that can be assessed via paper.
-Finish getting info together for my Gen Ed teachers I will be working with about the kiddos. (I'm also going to get folders together for my specials teachers which I didn't do last year.)
-Have my September lesson plans ready.
-the list goes on and on but those are some of the main items

I did get some stuff done this week though and I'm liking some things about my room a lot but wishing I could find more time to make other things better.  Slowly but surely I guess:)

My Word Wall!  I love it!  I painted my bulletin board black and I think the border is so cute:)  

This is a close up of the border.

This bulletin board sometimes gets ripped down by students so I kept it simple and put my feelings posters up.  We also use an old calendar pocket chart to organize our PECs for daily schedules.  These bulletin boards were painted blue by a previous teacher and they are ready for a fresh coat of paint but I think that will be a project for next summer.

This is my calendar area.  I'm going to add shapes on the left but I haven't printed them yet.  I'm trying to decide what to add along the top but I don't want to overwhelm my kiddos.  Even though I like displaying lots for calendar time I think visually it can be overwhelming so I'm trying to keep it simple.  I also bought that blue dot in a set a while ago, they are dry erase stickers that can be stuck anywhere!  

This is my calendar and I think it is perfect for my kiddos.  They really like the routine.  I got it at a workshop I went to and it's made by the county I work for.  However, I realized recently that I don't have September printed!!!  I must do that before Tuesday!!! (another list to add to the list!)

Here is the bulletin board in the hallway.  I saw an idea somewhere of putting the kids pictures by their names and I think I will do that next week.  The little owls have their names and the big owl says, "Mrs. Kaltz's class is READY!"

I bought these Cookie Sheet Challenge Sheets from TPT and I think they're so cute.  In the corner is a spice container that I bought at IKEA without a clear plan when I purchased them but this will be a perfect way to use them because they are magnetic! With the help of my aides and my sister I've been slowly prepping all of them (I bought 2 sets).

Well, I'm going to get some sleep so I can go back in tomorrow and then do some School Clothes Shopping!!  I was joking with some friends tonight about how it's fun that I get to go School Clothes Shopping for so long:)  

Sunday, August 26, 2012

One School One Book

This year will be my third experience with the One School, One Book Program.  The program is put together by Read to Them, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to have families reading together at home!

My first year of teaching was in a 1st grade classroom in Detroit, MI.  It was a constant struggle to get parents involved in their children's education in a more proactive way.  However, our reading specialist got a grant to have the One School, One Book program.  The book she chose was Because of Winn-Dixie and the families loved it!  The program was getting the exact result that it intended, parents who wouldn't normally read with their kids were reading with them every night and really enjoying it (who knew!).  While this program did not change every parent's focus on reading with their kids, it did change some and that's huge!

On top of the families reading the book, schools are encouraged to have a daily trivia question or questions.  During both experiences with the program, this was the case.  At my current school they really hyped it up and the kids were into it!  If you haven't read Frindle, it's about kids changing the name of a pencil to a Frindle.  Kids and teachers all throughout the school were calling pens and pencils Frindles.  There were also posters throughout the building about the book.  During lunch time teachers volunteered part of their lunch hour to read to any students who were not caught up at home.  Families filled out a survey at the end and many of them asked for a new book each month!  (The program is intended to be for one book to be read over the course of a month.)

Last year I taught at another Title 1 school and they were doing One School, One Book for the first time.  The book they chose was Frindle (another great book!) and while my parents did not get as involved in this program the school was very happy with the results.  While I will be encouraging some of my parents more this year to read the book to their children it is not practical for all of my students to listen to a chapter from a chapter book at this time.

That brings us to this year.  This year our reading specialist got a running start and chose the book and had it purchased for all of us in June!  It's our summer reading and she's asking for us to get involved in writing questions.   I recently finished the book, The Lemonade Stand, and it was very cute.  It seems like the kind of book that all kids can relate to in some way.  There are also a lot of topics that can be discussed with students from character traits to math concepts.  I'm excited to see how it goes this year.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wishful Thinking

Happy Friday Everyone!
I'm having a lazy Friday evening at home catching up on blog reading, Friday Freebies (one day I will have one to share too:), and making a wishlist for my classroom. I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing that I had an endless budget to buy all of my dream classroom items.  There are soooooo many things I want that I know would get used.  I think I could spend $1000 on Melissa and Doug products alone.  I'm browsing through their products right now and slowly making a dream classroom list.  I'm sure I will purchase a few things once I receive my classroom budget for the year but I will also prioritize and many of my wishes will not be granted.   Leave a comment with what is on your dream classroom wishlist!  Here's some of what is on mine:
I saw this at Lakeshore today and I almost bought it but I've gotten into the habit of searching on Amazon on my phone before purchasing things to see if they're cheaper and of course it was.  I will probably buy this soon.  I have another thing that has these tasks on it but I think this one is more cute.

 I would buy ALL of their community helpers dress up clothing.  I don't have any dress up stuff and I think it would really be great for my students to help them make connections to what we're learning.  They may not understand pretend play but they can better understand what a vet does through demonstration using the items with teacher demonstrations.
I think this is super cute and it teaches a bit of cause and effect.  I have some students who are very low cognitively and I'm constantly looking for good ideas to help them learn new things.

I like that this puzzle is two steps for each piece.  It would be good for my kiddos who are good at basic puzzles but struggle with puzzles where they are putting pictures together.  

I'm sure I could create this myself using things I have but I think this is fun.  This would be one I would talk myself out of.

Well, my list could go on and on.  Don't forget to comment and let me know what you would buy for your classroom!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Therapeutic Thursday

What do I do when I have a loooonnnnggg day?  The first thing on my list is usually to get together with some friends.  That always seems to change my mood.  I don't know what I would do without these people and many others that aren't in this picture.  Sometimes just with my nephew  who is holding my hand in the picture will turn my day around as well.  He is the cutest!

There are times though where a relaxing bath or catching up on the long list of TV shows I'm addicted to will do the trick instead.  

No matter what after a long day you will find me with one of these (and even plenty that aren't):

On another note I will be working in my classroom again.  I think will stop at Lakeshore Learning before hand.  I'm jumping on the chevron theme bandwagon and I think I'm going to combine it with small polka dots and owls.  But stick with a similar color scheme.  Hopefully it all comes together well:)  I will post pictures when I get it done.

Link up for Teacher Week at Blog Hoppin'!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Where I Teach Wednesday

I finally got in my room!!!  My husband kept saying he wanted to get things done around the house before he heads back on the road but I could not stay away another day!  We made a deal and we will work on the house all day tomorrow.  It felt good to put things back together and it's perfect timing for Where I Teach Wednesday:)  

For starters, I teach in Michigan near Detroit.  My classroom is a categorical room for students K-5 with autism.  The set up of my classroom depends a lot on what my students needs are.  This somewhat limits how I can use the space but I do my best to make it work.  Here are some pictures of what my room looked like when I left today (I still have to do all the cutesy stuff Friday and next week but just setting up the room makes me feel relieved.).

Here are two of my student's independent work areas.  My desk is in the background. My desk is in an L shape and I'm able to use the side for what we call 1:1 work in my classroom. 

Last year the round table was my kidney table and we had snack and group at the table but this year I've moved my kidney table and I think I will still prefer having snack in this area.  The bulletin boards are still up from last year and most of them will be changed out over the next week.  I've mentioned a few times that I got my job right before the start of the school year last year and I put stuff up on the walls but it was not my priority   This year I'm really looking forward to making it more pulled together.

Here is where my kidney table is now.  My students sit for group activities much better if they have are in a chair with a table in front of them.  I'm also able to easily use this area for numerous activities.  My calendar things will move to the space behind the chair and part of the reason I've moved  this area is so I can use my Smartboard more!! (It's just to the right in this picture.)  I also inherited that almost bare bookcase at the end of last year and I'm sure it will be full before Sept. 4th (the start of the school year).  Last year I kept that other bookcase covered and had all the books that were in the room when I arrived on it (my books are organized in a separate area). My students who could read independently were allowed to take use the books but because one of my other students tends to grab things and throw them on the floor the bookcase was covered.  Hopefully, I can avoid covering it this year and organize it before the start of school.

This is an area for one of my students. We are working hard to teach him not to grab every thing and throw it on the floor but at times he makes it very difficult for us to do anything other than follow him around so we put him in this area.  It's like a giant playpen, he has toys he likes in there, the couch is not a mess like it is in the picture, and the furniture is low so he can see us and we can see him.  He generally manages to get out so it's not seclusion just distraction.  It's also right next to my desk so when I'm working with other students he is right there.

Here's a picture of my room from the back of the class.  I use these barriers to separate spaces in my room or separate two center areas from each other.  On the other side of the green one is an identical set up with a table and a 3 drawer cart.  In the back corner my husband is jumping on the trampoline.  I'd really like to get some cuter fabric for the cart on the left before the start of the year.

I will post updated photos when I'm done.  Let me know if you have any questions about my set up.  Please consider following if you haven't already. Thanks for reading:)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Catching up with Teacher Week

I missed Must Haves Monday (I was enjoying my last day in NYC before returning to reality). So I am doing both before I'm 3 days behind!

My Must Haves
1. Flats! I have a pair in every basic color and also a few fun colors:)  I wear them to work almost every day and they are perfect.  I tend to pick pairs that have rubber soles so they are easy to move around in. My MUST HAVE color is definitely silver because I can wear them with almost every color of pants.  

2. 3 drawer carts- I use them for storage all over my room.  I have a drawer for each student's personal goal work.  I have one for puzzles.  I have some for student task storage.  I also use them at my center areas.  At the center areas the drawers have pull off numbers and the students know to go through the tasks in numerical order.  This also makes it easy for task areas to be cleaned up independently by the students.  (I'll post pictures of my classroom soon!)

3. Velcro- I bet this is on every special ed teacher's list of must haves!  I use it like CRAZY!  I Velcro tasks, I Velcro signs, I Velcro PECS around the room, I make adapted books using Velcro, there's Velcro everywhere and I can't imagine how my classroom would be without Velcro!

My Technology Tip

Fortunately, I have an iPad for my classroom and also one at home! I use my iPad everyday in my classroom and it really helps engage my students.
Here are some of my favorite apps:

Personal Use:
  • HBO GO- you can watch full seasons of ALL of their shows, even new episodes!
  • Netflix
  • Hulu Plus
  • Vtok- this is basically GoogleChat for iPad
  • Flixster
  • Pandora
  • AppsGoneFree- a daily list of apps that are free, they are often apps that aren't very useful but keep checking because once in a while there's a great educational one

School Use:
  • All of their apps are great and a lot of them are free.  They also give options for differentiation on many of them!
    • Sight Words-Photo Touch
    • Things that go Together
    • I Like Books (a collection of 30 books!)
    • Tell Time
  • Bugs & Buttons- a ton of great games that teach fine motor skills, matching, patterns, and etc.  This app is worth the few dollars it costs.
  • Fisher Price apps- they're all cute and educational
  • Adding Apples 
  • Subtracting Sardines
  • I Can Write 2
  • Toy Story Interactive Book
  • TocaBoca apps -these are student favorites and they often go free you just have to keep an eye out
    • Toca Store
    • Toca Hair Salon
    • Monster Kitchen
    • Toca Doctor
A great newsletter to subscribe to for free & discounted apps is: Technology in Special Education 

Link up at Blog Hoppin' for Teacher Week!

There are some great giveaways going on right now.  Click below to enter yourself!

Thanks for reading and please consider becoming a follower if you're not already.  My app is new but I am excited to be entering the world of blogging as a blogger.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thirsty Thursday

Not that kind of thirsty....  I'm thirsting to get into my classroom!  My husband and I got married on July 28 and since then we've been all over the map.  We had a mini honeymoon in Traverse City (our favorite place to be and also where we got married!!)!  And now I'm following him on the road for work, first we were in Toronto and now we're in New York.  I'm sure it sounds fun and it's great spending time with him but as it gets closer to the school year beginning I just want to be home getting ready.  I've bought so many great products that I can't wait to make and I have an idea of the theme I want in my classroom and I've been collecting ideas of how to pull it off!  I also know from my brother, who is house-sitting, that all of my great buys from Amazon have been slowly arriving.  So, I'm calling today Thirsty Thursday!

There are also a gazillion pins on Pinterest that I'd like to create for new tasks for my students.  Here are my Top 3 that I'd really like to get done before September 4th when school starts for my kiddos:

Positive Behavior Support:
Token Economy Boxes- This idea came from Classroom in the Corner and I think it's perfect for my students. She has one for herself and each of her paraprofessionals.  They are filled with all the things that motivate her students as well as visuals for expectations and the coins they can earn while working.  I could see it being a good place for a social story about behavior as well. 
(click the picture to link back to my PBS pinboard)

Getting to know you activity:
Student & Staff Memory- This idea I came across last year from A Place called Kindergarten but I never used it.  This year I'm going to use it in two ways.  First, I will create a memory game of just the students and staff from our classroom.  Then, I will create a memory game of the other important staff members my students should know around the building.  With my more verbal students I will urge them to say the student/staff members name each time they flip a card.  For my non-verbal students I will work on having them match the picture to the actual person in the room (this will most likely be a hand over hand activity but that's okay), hoping to help them make the connection.  
(click the picture to get to my September pinboard)

Reading Area/Break Area:
I have a lot of limitations in my classroom as far as set up because there are many things that need to be accounted for.  I would love a cozy reading area like the ones I see in everyone's classroom pictures but for now that is just not possible in my room.  However, I think I found something that can serve two purposes:
(click the picture to get to my classroom setup pinboard)

I also want to share that Erin & Leslie at First Grade Fanatics are having a great back to school giveaway and I'm really hoping I win!  I find lower elementary curriculum to be perfect to use or modify for my class. Click the picture to get enter yourself!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Unique learning system

Let me start by celebrating the fact that I just found out that Scotch Laminators are on sale!!  I couldn't help myself and I bought one (I chose the one I did because it comes with a variety of sleeves for laminating and I figure I can decide which works best for me and invest in them in bulk in the future) as well as these goodies for the upcoming school year:

I've decided to teach manners in September alongside Rules and People in our school.  Hopefully I get through it all!  I have a plan but my students may not agree with it (behaviors often limit how much I get through)!
Lite Brite!!!  I'd like to use this for my stations (in my classroom it's basically centers).  I've seen some great ideas on blogs and Pinterest and I'm excited to use some.

I saw one of these books at Target and immediately bought one but ended up gifting it to my nephew because he liked it so much.  They will be great for my kiddos because they are very reinforcing.

I bought these to go with I Spy activities in this packet I bought from the sale at Marsha McGuire's TPT store.  It's way more than I need (I only have 6 students) but I'm sure some will get lost throughout the years.

ALRIGHT, onto some more helpful information for those of you reading (I hope there's some!).  Last year when I got my job I was starting from scratch.  While there were plenty of resources in my room for teaching from they were all over the place and I wasn't sure where to start but I just did my best until...I found out my district purchased this amazing curriculum: Unique Learning Systems (the link will take you to a sample Elementary unit).  This curriculum is put together by the same company that publishes News2You if you're familiar with them.  If you're not, they're pretty great.

Why do I love Unique Learning Systems (ULS)?!?!
*The lessons are aligned with the Common Core Standards!!  Each lesson tells which CCS(s) is being addressed!!!!
*They incorporate Science, Social Studies, Math, &  Language Arts
*They include 3 levels for many of the lessons (and the levels fit most CI or ASD students!!!)
*There is a new theme each month that I can easily supplement if necessary. 
*The curriculum is revolving- there are 3 years worth of lessons and then you can either repeat them or move up to the next level.
*They have a lot of literacy experiences for the kiddos.  
*Recipes, science experiments, games, and etc.
*Many of the lessons also have online options.
*I could go on and on with all the great features of this curriculum.  And I'm not writing this to promote the company for any reason other than it's a great curriculum and I am so much better off because of it.

Let me know if you have any questions and I can do my best to answer them!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Back to School Shopping!

I just bought 8 items!  My wishlist was twice that size but I decided to hold off (8/12-I may give in and buy the rest tomorrow- 8/15- I did buy more before the sale ended!).

Here are some highlights (please excuse the images, I'm playing around with PicMonkey):

Playdough Fun! (Literacy and Math Center Activities)

I've had this on my wishlist since I came across it in June in Alessia Albanese's Store.  My students last year loved play dough.  It was an activity that would keep them engaged for quite some time.  I never gave the activity too much structure because I was surprised by how freely they were able to explore and create on their own.  Often times students with Autism struggle with open ended activities.  This year I'm going to try to balance free play with some more structured time with play dough to take advantage of how much they like the stuff!

Here's another item that's been on my wishlist for months.  Last year I was hired for my classroom RIGHT BEFORE the start of year.  I was in another mind set (I was going to be teaching K in a different district) and I didn't do a word wall!! I know it sounds crazy but I was not sure of what my students would be like and how many were reading and etc.  This year I WILL HAVE A WORDWALL and this product is going to help make it super cute!  I started fooling around with it and it's very easy to edit so I can use all the Dolch words that I get to this year and beyond!

I came across this unit Friday at Kreative in Kinder's Store and I think it will be perfect.  I don't have a science curriculum of any sort so I'm always looking for new resources.  I think this will be perfect!

I bought Bead It from Marsha McGuire's Store, to extend and give more structure to the center activity.  I usually just write words or sentences on index cards for the kids to bead but this takes things a step further.  I look forward to starting this at my Fine Motor station in the fall!

I've been waiting for this sale all summer and I'm glad that I was able to take advantage of a lot of great deals.  Thanks to all the creators of these great products.  Maybe I will eventually get to the point that I can create such amazing curriculum too.  

There are still some sales going on so it's not too late!
Happy Shopping:)

(click the images!)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hello Blog World!

I've been wanting to start my own blog for a while but decided to wait until I was no longer planning a wedding (I got married July 28th!).  Well, it's been a few weeks since then so I think it's time.  

I discovered the teaching blog world in June 2011 and was upset I was missing out on all the wonderful resources and people for so long!  However, now that I've been a blog reader for over a year I feel that I am a better teacher because of all of the amazing teachers who are sharing their knowledge and ideas.  I hope that I can be as inspirational to others as other have been to me.

I am currently sitting in a hotel room while my husband (crazy using that word!) is at work.  He travels for his job and I decided to come along for a little while to keep him company.  I've been taking advantage of all of this time on my hands to get ready for next school year (it's been on my mind since before I finished last school year but I had to focus on the wedding).  

I started reading the link-up for Daily 5 and I was especially interested in the Special Ed teachers with self-contained classrooms who were finding it to be a successful teaching tool. As a teacher of students with Autism I'm constantly looking for new ways to help my students learn and make connections. 

 I've been working on finding a way to incorporate the Daily 5 with this amazing curriculum my district has purchased for us: Unique Learning Systems and I think I can do it! 

I feel like my first blog post is already too long but I will make my next few posts about how I will be improving my classroom for next year (last year was my first year teaching in an ASD room)!

Thanks for reading,