Saturday, September 22, 2012

Still Here!

Well, hello!  I am so impressed by all of you bloggers who manage to start their school years and keep up on blogging.  Every night over the last few weeks that I've gotten home I've wanted to make an update but haven't managed to make myself follow through.  So here I am finally updating because I finally have a relaxing weekend.  

This school year has been challenging so far.  Last year was my first year teaching in a classroom for students with Autism but I was lucky to have kids that already had routines down and most of them were fairly flexible and able to transition to me, a new teacher, and the new ideas I had for the classroom.  However, this year I have a kindergartner who  is struggling with the transition to a new classroom.  She is adorable but exhausting!  

My class is very different this year and I've spent a lot of time making my classroom fit the needs of my new students.  I have my kindergartner that I mentioned and a 3rd grader (both girls!) as well as 4 students that I had last year.  All but two of them have different schedule needs.  

This is the schedule that two of my students follow.  It has two pages, one for the morning and one for the afternoon.  They are both able to follow it independently and know to switch from AM to PM on their own.  The blue chip can be moved from item to item in order to help keep track of where they are in their day.  While I put it on both of their schedules only one of them uses it consistently.  The other impresses us all the time with the memorization of his schedule.  He may not always go where he should go next but he can most often tell us where he should be:)  And it usually doesn't take more than a verbal prompt to get him to go where he should be.  Neither of these boys need to pull off the pictures and take them to where they are going.   

Kelly's schedule looks very similar to the boys but she needs 4 pages so that she only has one row of items.  She is still getting used to following a schedule and needs support to take the top item and take it to where she is going.  While there is a strip of velcro for a chip on the schedule, currently she is not using the schedule in this way.  Kelly cracks us up because it takes numerous prompts to get her to her schedule and then when she finally gets there she doesn't take the correct item, she turns to a page with "choice" on it and takes that instead.  It proves to me that she has the ability to understand how to correctly follow the schedule. 

As for checking in where she needs to be it looks like this and when she arrives she puts the picture in the corner on the velcro:

This is the schedule I use with Gabby.  She is my kindergartner and this is the schedule she used in preschool and she was not able to transition to the schedule I use with the other kiddos.  We prep the items for the whole day and put in the new ones once she has completed all 5.  Over the last few weeks she is becoming more independent in checking the schedule herself and transitioning to where she needs to be.  However, there are still lots of times that she refuses to go where she should be.  We are working on it!  Gabby does take each card wither her to where she is going and she puts it in a matching card holder that looks like this: 

This is the "schedule" that one of my other students uses.  We hand him the clothespin when it is time to go to a station and he matches it to the color cardboard hanging at the different stations around the room.  Previous teachers have tried numerous other schedules/ways to help him transition with him and this is what they found to work best so it's what I've stuck with.  

Here is what the stations look like once the students arrive.  There is a check in for everyone who needs it.  

It takes a while to set up everyone's schedule each day but it's worth it to make our day run more smoothly.  Most days we have the schedules ready for the next day before we leave which helps a ton!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Getting back in the swing

Well, I survived the first day and a half of students!  I'm feeling quite exhausted today but overall they went well.  My kiddos that were in my class last year have transitioned nicely back to the routine of school.  It's definitely one of the perks of having kids for multiple years- they know the routine of my room and can come back with little trouble getting back in the swing of school routines.  The little changes I've made for the year have not seemed to through any of them off so far because I've stuck with the same basic structure to my day.  I have two new students this year but can't seem to get one of them to come to school!  I talked to her dad and he said she would be in school today but that didn't happen:(  I met her last year and she's a sweetie though.  I also have another new girl in my room (2 girls out of 6 kids-we're beating the odds in my room!) and while she's also a cutie she has sure been pushing her limits!  I keep adding more and more visuals to try to meet her needs and I know that within the next week or so she will get the flow of the room.  She had me RUNNING today though and boy did she think it was hilarious!  

So here's my plan for this school year as far as my schedule goes:

8:20-8:45- Breakfast and work for my students who are at school. (We consistently have bussing problems.  3 of my students come from another school district that does not have their own ASD programming.  There are 22 students on the bus that needs to get to 8 schools ALL AT THE SAME TIME. The poor kids are on the bus for 2 hours and are still almost an hour late to school!)
8:45-9:35 - Specials (My kids get music & gym)
9:40- Breakfast for students who were on bus, Gen Ed Special for my Kinder, classroom centers (these are ABC center, Fine Motor, Job Skills, Independent Work, Work with Teacher)
10:25- Everyone will be in the room!! We are going to do a reading block for as long as possible- fingers crossed for a full hour:)
11:30- Leisure time
12:05- Lunch
12:35- Calendar (I wanted to do this in the morning but I only have one period with everyone in the am and I've decided that Reading is more important)
1:00 Outdoor recess if the weather permits
1:30 Afternoon Centers (same as morning but most kids don't get through all of them in the morning)- at some point my 3rd grader will be in Specials at this time when she is ready
2:00-2:40 Math Centers
2:40- 4th grader in Gen Ed specials, Rest of class finishing afternoon centers, group project like cooking, game, or art project
3:15 Classroom Jobs (once we get into a good routine with our bus dismissal time)
3:20-3:35 Home

I did not have a Math or Reading block last year.  I did Math in the morning at Independent work and Work with the Teacher and Reading in the afternoon for the same.  However, this summer I felt I really could beef up my Math and Reading time with my students.  I've also been considering changing how I do my Morning and Afternoon centers to what I saw on The Autism Helper.  It would be amazing because I'm constantly struggling with a good way to differentiate at these time or simply find something that all my kids can do without some speeding through them.  As I get my Reading and Math blocks fully figured out I will explain what's working and what's inevitably not working.  

If you're still reading I also wanted to share something non-teaching related.  I have tried making fish in foil a few times recently and both times it turned out amazing!  It is so easy.  I'm going to try to get my husband on board so in the winter when he doesn't travel as often he can make dinner!  Here's an example from Pinterest although it's not the recipe I made:

Monday, September 3, 2012

September Currently

This is my first currently since I've been blogging!!  If you're checking me out from the linky please consider following my blog:)  I'm a newbie blogger and appreciate all of my readers!

Listening:  We just got home from brunch at a little French restaurant in Detroit and I wanted to link up quickly before we go enjoy the perfect weather.  So, I'm listening to silence.
Loving: My husband is home for a week before he'll be gone for about a month without a chance to come home.  He travels for work and this is one of his busiest times because he will be working on all of the baseball post season shows this year.  I wish he were home a different week because I will be torn each day between staying at work (this will be my first week) or coming home to see him.
Thinking: I keep posting about all of the things left on my "To Do List" and while I've managed to cross some off I keep thinking of more.  I know that once the school year really gets going it will be harder and harder to get them done.
Wanting: There is this ice cream place near us that has homemade ice cream.  Our favorite flavor is honey cinnamon.  I think today is the perfect day to indulge:)
Needing: I think this needs no explanation!
Favorites: 1. I've been obsessively using my new laminator.
2. I went shopping the other day and found some cute stuff to start the year.
3. I love riding my bike and we are going to ride around Belle Isle today!

Thanks for reading!!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Common Core, Shopping, & Prepping

I made a post the other day but I skipped talking about my Professional Development I spent Thursday in.  We had a Common Core Math Crosswalk hosted by one of our CI (Cognitively Impaired) teachers and while of course I was itching to be in my classroom I did find it to be helpful.  I was unaware of the Common Core Essential Elements that have been established for us Special Education teachers to follow in Michigan.  In the document I have linked there is a list of the other states that are currently following these standards as well.  The Essential Elements are in most cases a simpler form of the Standard. For example, instead of needing to count to 100 by ones and tens in Kinder, students need to count to 10 by ones.  

At the PD we were also given an index card for each standard with ideas for activities, an assessment for our students to be given twice a year that relates to the math standards, and best of all a bin FULL of the materials needed to teach the standards in the way were being asked to!  What a great PD, we actually walked away with everything that we needed to begin instantly applying what we learned.  Oh, we also walked away with a 2" binder FULL of every Common Core Standard and it's relating Essential Element(s) for Math and Language Arts.  The binder is a bit much because I would more commonly turn to the internet to find standards but it was helpful to look at the different standards together as a group.  

On to shopping....

I found this set of two posters with position words on one and opposites on the other!  The position words will be hung right away, my kids are always working on better understanding these words. I also grabbed another pencil box, 2 plastic file holders for center materials, and a thermometer that I hope works.  I had a really hard time making weather concrete for some of  my students last year.  
One of my kiddos cracks us up because when it's time to put the weather up each day he gets insistent that it's actually something else.  For a while each day he wanted to put up "stormy" and would practically wrestle us to put stormy on our weather chart instead of whatever the actual weather is.  I showed videos of what a storm was and pointed out the window to the fact that it was not storming it was sunny (or whatever).  I took him to the window with the picture of the weather and tried to show him how it looked similar outside.  Unfortunately, it did not seem to click.  We will keep trying though and this year I've moved my calendar area over to the side of the room with windows so we can consistently look out the window to check the weather and I will be adding this thermometer to window as well.

I went in to Staples yesterday in need of making a poster size image. (I'm freaking out because I thought I had all of the months printed for my calendar but I'm missing September and October.  To fit on my calendar they need to be quite large!)  I am unwilling to pay what they are charging so instead, I wandered around the aisles.  There were indeed things on my list I needed and I managed to find almost all of them on sale.  It's time for some new crayons, glue sticks, erasers, and we can always use folders.  I'm stealing an idea from Miss Allison and making welcome back gift bags for my aides. So I bought the items needed for the gift bags.  I also grabbed those two pencil boxes for just a penny each!  

I have been laminating like crazy!  I hope that as the school year picks up my laminating habit will slow down:)  I love how thick the lamination is though and that I can get stuff done from home instead of waiting to go into work and laminate.  I am of course saving stuff to laminate there too.  But things that I think will be used again and again and last better with this thick lamination I'm going for.  

I also just peaked on Pinterest a minute ago and these caught my eye:
They would be great for my kiddos when they are mainstreaming (click the picture for a link to them at amazon).  A fidget that doesn't stand out.  I could also see every kid in the class wanting one of their own:)

Have an enjoyable Labor Day everyone!