Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Modifications Checklist

It's almost that time of year for us...dun, dun, dun...report cards. IT'S THIS WEEK - I can't believe it! It feels like we started last week!

Anyway, one of the things we include with our report cards is a modifications checklist for every single child. Why do we this? Let me explain!

I work at a school for kids with learning disabilities. It is a unique private school in that every student enrolled has some type of learning disability or difference. Most of them do not have an IEP in a public school setting. But our kids need support, and when they come to us, they get it! Our mission statement is "If a child can't learn the way we teach, we need to teach the way they learn." Our specific mission states,

"Summit Academy of Greater Louisville provides a nurturing educational environment for children with learning differences, in which each child’s academic achievement comes to reflect his or her learning potential."

We are truly unique in that every child who attends our school has a learning difference! When they come to us, they have either been at another private school or a public school with minimal to no support, accommodations, or modifications. So one of our goals each term/semester is to maintain a list of modifications we provide for each student. We attach them to their report cards so parents can clearly see how their child is being helped in each class (in addition to their grades, notes, and comments from each teacher). 

This list is helpful to parents, but it's also extremely helpful to me. Here is why.
1. It helps me to make sure that I am truly providing the help that each of my students need. 
2. It helps me when I simply read the list when I need ideas of how to help each student get those extra little bits of support. 
3. It reminds me to make sure that I am truly modifying my teaching for each child. The checklist (done by me) for each child in the same class could be different. Most of them have the same actions marked, but for specific students/needs, I mark those specific actions that I take to help that child. 

Our parents have been told (usually) for so long, "Your child is not doing well in __" or "Your child needs to improve in __". But our principal reminds us to ALWAYS tell the parents, "Your child needs help in ___ (this) area, AND this is how we're helping them do/get __". The modifications checklist just supports this idea. 

I did not major in Special Education in college. I never thought I would be working at an all special education school, but I love it! The kids are amazing. The staff is amazing. I am always so touched by parent stories and even Summit graduates who return to tell us how awesome Summit was for them and their families. It feels so good to know that what you (and your school) are doing is truly helping a child - sometimes changing their lives!

Do any of you use modifications checklists? If so, I would love to hear from you. I'd love to know what you do to ease the parents' minds of those students who do need that little bit of extra support!

I have also made the Modifications Checklist a freebie in my store in case it can help any of you. You can check it out here!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Football Measurements

Ok, it's been a little while...again. I'm just gonna be honest with you all, I have taken on all KINDS of new roles this year and I am still a bit overwhelmed. I am teaching high school math and literacy, as well as high school technology, and 1st-8th grade technology classes. I do not have a regular planning time each day, and all of this is new to me. Since I've been teaching at the school where I am currently (9 years!), I have not taught the same two classes, and probably not even the same two lessons twice. Let that sink in for a minute.
It's really tough to get to know your material and get experience at teaching one area, subject, or skill super-well when you don't teach it every year. I haven't even taught a math class since 2010! Don't get me wrong, I love it! I have had a blast teaching it so far - finding new materials, fun games, and engaging hands-on activities for my math kiddos. It's surprising really, considering I was terrible at math growing up. It's much more fun to teach it than to learn it!

With all of that being said, I work with special ed students in a very unique school situation. My math class is a high school group and we're working on about a sixth grade math level. We're still reviewing some 5th grade level skills just to sharpen them before pushing ourselves!

Recently, I needed to review measuring to the nearest 1/16th of an inch. I teach Saxon math, and they titled the skill "Fractions & Mixed Numbers on a Number Line". Of course, my first place to look was TPT. (What did I EVER do without TPT????) Surprisingly, I didn't find anything dealing with measuring that small, so I had to create something. It had to be engaging and fun for my kiddos. Well, it's football season, and what better way to motivate them than to measure football items? I made a set of task cards with football items for them to measure.

As they went around the room measuring items, I played some college football fight songs on YouTube.

They loved it! They were roaming around the room humming and dancing - happily measuring, engaged, & active!

If you will be teaching measurement any time soon, you can get my Football Measurement pack here on TPT. It will be 50% off until Friday, October 9th. You can also get it by clicking on the picture below!

Happy Tuesday!!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Classroom Tour, #teacherweek15

I have been looking at everyone's classroom tour pics and LOVING them. I wanted to join in and share one of my classrooms - yes, one of them. I have TWO! So I'm joining up with Blog Hoppin' to share some classroom tour love!

Wow, I just noticed, it's been a while since I blogged! I promise there is good reason for it! The paragraph above sort of alludes to the fact that I've been a BUSY girl, unfortunately and sadly for me, not enough time for blogging! :(

Well, I'm back.

Our school is a private school for students with learning disabilities, and for the last 20 years, we have been a K-8 school. We added preschool last year, and this year, we added a ninth grade! Exciting stuff! We're expanding and growing and providing services for our community that not many other schools around offer! I was assigned to teach 9th grade literacy, math, and technology. Let me just say, I am certified to teach K-5, and in some states K-6. I have been teaching middle school literacy for the last four years, which wasn't a huge step up from 5th (or 6th). But man, I was nervous and took a lot of preparations this summer to make sure I knew what I was doing come August 13th. I want to treat these students (whom I've taught for the last 8 years) like they are high school students, but let's face it, I'm geared towards teaching about....5th grade! Most of my students are on varying lower levels, so the material I'm teaching is stuff that I'm familiar with. I did have to make some changes though, including simplifying classroom decor.

Oh, and did I mention that I have two classrooms? LOL. I know I did. You're thinking that I didn't address that above. Well, here goes. I have the same classroom that I have had for the past six years. It is set up exactly how I want it. I know where things are and this summer I cleaned it out and organized it even more than it already was. Mary, from Teaching with a Mountain View, recently featured my classroom on her "Peek of the Week" series! SO exciting! I follow her blog and buy all of her stuff on TPT - you should too. I know that's a little off-topic, but seriously, check her out if you haven't already! You can click here to go see detailed pictures of my classroom on her post!

All of that said, it brings me to classroom #2. Technically, it's the high school teacher's classroom. He has his homeroom in that classroom. It's where all 14 of our high school students report in the morning for homeroom, and they all return there after literacy to spend the afternoon with health and career instruction from Ben, our high school teacher.
However, I am in there ALL morning - for math and literacy. I haven't taught math in over five years. I wasn't nervous about teaching it again. I actually like teaching math, despite the fact that I was terrible at math in school!
Anyway, I couldn't look at bare walls all morning every day. Plus, my classes need anchor charts and posters to refer to about current learning, etc. So here are SOME pictures of how the room is turning out now.
(P.S. Did I mention that I couldn't decorate this classroom until 2 days before school started because we were waiting on the carpet to be replaced? Aaaaahhhh!)

Closet door - posters were freebies on TPT!

Noggle - idea from TPT, numbers came (free!) from A Cupcake for the Teacher

our awesome new TV/Mimio/computer screen - it's completely like an iPad - all touch, but I use a pen to write with, even though it still looks a little messy!

small shelf from Target - I keep my students' math supplies on this shelf
I had to buy some pencil boxes for my math students to keep their pencils, calculator, and other miscellaneous supplies. They sit at tables and don't have anywhere to store materials like their GIGANTIC binders while in class. I hate them on the tables. It's a mess! This is still a work in progress!

Math word wall - vocabulary cards were free on TPT, I will add notes, vocabulary cards as we cover each topic!

I got this idea from Mailbox magazine. This week, we are reading a current events article about potential Oscar movies. I "polled" the students about which movie they saw this year that they feel should win an Oscar. "Jurassic World" and "Fantastic Four" were at the top of the list!

All of the high school students have Chromebooks this year. These are so nice. We are converting our stuff over to Google Classroom this year. This, too, is a work in progress. I'm learning right along with the students! :)

Student textbook and materials shelf

This is my "teacher area" - again, this is not my classroom so I am having to work OVERTIME to be more organized and only have out the essential materials. It's hard when you're a hands-on, teaching-with-engaging-games kind of teacher!

I read about this idea on Pinterest this summer. I belive Erin from I'm Lovin' Lit has mentioned it before, but it's a great way to connect with students and encourage the love of reading. I put up this poster, and I added one for Mr. Ben (the high school teacher) to show students that we are reading for pleasure all the time! Hopefully it will inspire my students to read for pleasure as well!

I will be back soon and I will add more pictures of how the room is arranged with our large round tables. Hopefully I will be adding that we have chair pockets or some type of organization for my kiddos who need it desperately! And for me to stay sane with all of our STUFF!

Check out Blog Hoppin' for #teacherweek15. Come on over and link up too! I LOVE looking at everyone's classroom!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Classroom Management Plan + a special announcement from Class Dojo!

Ok guys, it's been a while since I've blogged. I went on (a very needed and wonderful) vacation in Maine. We had a great time, saw and visited with lots of family members we don't get to see often, ate delicious food, and played at the beach! Ah! Then...on our way back home, my transmission died and we were delayed an extra four days while our car was being fixed. Ugh. Anyway, we made it back home and I just couldn't muster up the strength to blog. I've been getting my class lists for each subject I will teach, and there have been a lot of changes. But more on that later!

Today, I wanted to share with you what I plan to do with Class Dojo this year. I teach eleven different technology classes each week with first through eighth graders. This year, our school is adding on 9th grade, so I will be teaching (sped) high school technology as well. Whew! I'm a little nervous, considering I don't have a technology degree, and I was just chosen to teach technology a few years ago because "I was the person in our school who knew the most about technology". Funny. I mean, I'm comfortable navigating computers, the internet, social media, etc. for myself, but teaching others...not my best area. However, I try to make the classes useful, engaging, and fun for my kiddos.

I used to struggle with getting my students to follow technology lab routines each day. I would have at least four different classes each day with 10-12 students in each class coming in to the same 12 computers in an already tight space. So, I created something called a "Correct Exit" (so fancy, right?) because I wanted them to leave the computers ready for the next class to come in and start.

We talk about them a lot and practice the routines at the beginning of the year, and I award a Class Dojo point for "correct exits". The steps are
1. log off computer (blue screen)
2. headphones returned to CPU
3. push chair under all the way (again, the space is tight in between my two computer tables)
4. stand behind your chair and wait to be dismissed

Last year, I started using Class Dojo in my technology classes, and what I would do is after students would reach 5 points, they could get a prize from the prize box or candy. I'm not crazy about giving out prizes and candy, but when you only have a class for 30 minutes twice a week, or for an hour only once a week, it's difficult to have authentic classroom rewards.

I decided to change it up a bit this year. I checked out a few blogs today as well as TPT for some ideas with Class Dojo. I found this blog post by Nasreen at Upper Grades are Awesome! It gave me just the inspiration I needed: BRAG TAGS! Then I found this FREE brag tag (Class Dojo) product from A Trendy Teacher on TPT. You don't get much better than free! :)
 I decided to go with the 10-point system. After my students reach 10 points, they will get a small prize (maybe a pencil or sticker) and a brag tag (10 point winner!). At 20 points, they will get the 20-point brag tag and a small token or prize (bouncy ball or candy). At 30 points, they will get the 30-point brag tag and a little "nicer" prize. I got a bunch of the little finger lights that my kids LOVED last year. I got mine at Oriental Trading, but you can find them here much cheaper. (I originally started using them with Flashlight Friday, which I think was an idea from Diane at Fifth in the Middle - I could be wrong about that - please leave me a message if you know who started Flashlight Friday.)

I printed out enough for each student to get to all levels (I'm positive and hopeful!), and then I laminated all of them. My husband helped me cut them out, what a sweetie!

I'm actually VERY excited to start using this positive reward system in my tech classes! My kids will love showing off their awesome behavior and rewards throughout the school!

Now, I mentioned in my title that there is a special announcement from Class Dojo today....are you ready? Class Dojo now has "group points"! So many of us put students in pairs or groups to collaborate (and listen:) It only makes sense that groups can earn points just like individuals can!

I love how Class Dojo keeps things simple. The purpose of CD is to manage a class by encouraging positive behavior and keeping negative behavior in check. I LOVE LOVE LOVE how easy it is to share how a student is doing with their parents, and even more so, I love how easy it is to message parents on CD. I keep my phone with me all the time, even at home, so if a parent messages me or asks me a question, it pops up on my phone and I don't have to worry about missing a school email and the information is relayed quickly and easily!

This is how it works, according the Class Dojo:
ClassDojo Groups enables teachers to group students any way they like: table groups, reading
groups, house teams, project groups and more. Teachers can easily encourage a team for any
skill important to their classroom with just a single tap. Each group will keep its own running
total, which students love to maintain a sense of accomplishment and a desire to keep going!

Group points will still show up on student profiles alongside their individually award points, so
that students can see their progress from home and so can parents without any extra work.

So basically, Class Dojo just added a feature that has been requested by teachers for a while, and they complied! If you have reading groups, or if your students are grouped by tables, then this will make your life easier! That's what Class Dojo is all about!

If you haven't started using Class Dojo, put down those punch cards (save yourself from getting carpal tunnel syndrome), and put away those clip charts (somebody is always going to be moving below the others :( ). Try it out today. You will love it. Your students will love it. Your parents will love it. I call that a win-win-win! :)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Winner Winners!

Just a quick post before I'm away from blogging and social media for a week or so...I wanted to let you know the winners of this last week's giveaways!

Mr. Potato Head:
Kristy Smith

Week 4, Back to School Products Prize Pack:
Allison M.

Congratulations to the winners! They have both been notified!

Have a great weekend everyone!!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Top 9 Uses for a Mr. Potato Head, a FREEBIE, and a GIVEAWAY!

I have been inspired by my 2.5 year old son's love and fascination with "Toy Story" lately to use my Mr. Potato Head as a classroom management tool. I don't use it often, and I certainly can't use it the whole year. It loses its novelty after that long. But I thought it would be perfect for the end of the year. It is novel. It is fun, and the end of the year is a little more laid back than ...March (standardized testing, dun-dun-dunh!).

However, Mr. Potato Head has MANY uses in the classroom, and I wanted to share just a few of those with you. Some are my examples of how I use them, and others are from fellow Pinterest users (genius, how did we ever live without Pinterest?).

Here are 7 uses for Mr. Potato Head in the classroom. (Make sure you read all the way to the end of this post. You might have a little surprise at the end!)

1. As mentioned, CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT (whole class)
I like to bring him in and set him at the front of the class. Almost always, students are familiar with exactly what it is. I let them name him and then I explain how he will help us behave for x amount of time. This can be the last 20 days of school or the last 2 weeks before a holiday or break. You can use it at any time of the year.
I've done this two ways - you can do a positive, add-on approach. Take off all the Mr. Potato Head pieces, put them all in a box or container and as the students earn behavior points each day for following the rules, being kind to one another, or just keeping it together before a holiday or break, I add one piece at the end of the class (or at the end of the day).
Or you can do a take-away approach. You can deck Mr. Potato Head out in all that he can wear, and if he keeps all of his clothing, accessories, and parts, the class earns x reward. This can be a popcorn party, or even just an extra recess at the end of the day or the end of the week. The rewards must be geared towards your kiddos - do what works for them and motivates them!
picture found here

picture found here

This is similar to the classroom management approach, except he's just a member of the class. You can have your kids name him, dress him, make accessories or signs for him. Use toothpicks and tape to hold signs to his hands. You can decorate him according to seasons or holidays. It's just an extra, fun way to encourage classroom community. He could even be a buddy to read to, or if you want at times, he can be a reward to sit on someone's desk for extra good behavior for a day or so.

For younger students, this is an excellent way to start labeling and spelling body parts.
For older students, you could use this as a spelling/vocabulary activity. For example, they could find synonyms for "shirt" or "shoes". You could easily do a "shades of meaning" type of activity with this - you could have students find versions of clothing from casual to dressy.
I created a very simple FREEBIE for you to use. You can get it here, or click on the picture.

I saw an example of this on Pinterest. I even thought of the line "I'd give an arm and a leg for a good book!"
(picture from Pinterest - Enokson on flickr.com)
Younger children could learn the 5 senses and list something you do with each sense.
Older children can write creatively using adjectives to describe what Mr. Potato Head (or Mrs.) might see, smell, taste, feel, and hear!
I have found that teaching students to write a diamante poem is a great way to get them to express and describe the 5 senses creatively!
picture found here

You can take pictures of each step in "building" a Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head. Students could follow the steps and directions and complete it in a center. You could also take pictures of completed Potato Heads and have students "build" him/her and write down the steps/order they followed to build the Potato Head.
picture found here

I wouldn't advise having students just color to color (well, maybe only a few times a year), but you could use coloring sheets to have students practice a variety of skills - sequencing, labeling, spelling, writing, etc. Also, if you are using a center like I listed in #6, you could have a coloring sheet as a follow-up activity. These could also be used as morning work. You could use them as an entrance or exit ticket, having students write a new word they learned or one of the 5 senses they've learned about. 
There are tons of coloring pages out there. You can Google it or search on Pinterest. Here are two I found. 

picture found here

picture found here

If you teach health or food/nutrition, you could have students create a "Healthy Mr. Potato Head". Here is one example I found on Pinterest. 
picture found here

Ok, this was just cute. It's not necessarily academic. If you have a toy class theme or your kids like "Toy Story" or just Mr. Potato Head in general, this would be so cute. 
picture found here

I hope you can use some of these in your classroom. If you want to enter to win a Mr. Potato Head, I'm giving one away. This is only a 24-HOUR GIVEAWAY, so if you want this little guy, don't wait! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for stopping by! Don't forget to enter this week's Birthday Blowout giveaway. It's "BACK TO SCHOOL" themed products! You can enter that giveaway below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, June 22, 2015

Top 3 Back to School Prep Tips

Ok, let's be honest, our back to school prep lists are probably over 100+ items long! I know! I know! And, we keep adding to them constantly. If you're anything like me, the list keeps growing every time I finish an item on the list, and then I never finish it. I've found B2S To-Do lists at the end of the year that were only half-checked off. Oh well, such is life. We can't do everything.

However, I wanted to share with you 3 things that I do each year to help me keep my sanity while preparing for my kiddos to return. You probably do some of these things too.

1. Teacher/Curriculum organization
That's probably a no-brainer, but surprisingly, many of my fellow teachers start the year back in their rooms with little to no change in their organizational strategies. Some things you do, you keep from year to year. BUT, for me, each year, I teach something different, and I teach different kids. Now, I know what you're thinking, "I teach different kids every year too." No, what I mean is that I haven't taught the same spelling, vocabulary, reading, writing, etc. curriculum over the last 9 years. I've mentioned it before, but I teach at a private school for students with learning disabilities. Our math and literacy classes are grouped according to student ability, so depending on the students enrolled and how many each class can handle, that is how our groups are created. There are also no more than 12 students in a math or literacy class. We use a lot of the SRA (special ed) materials, MUCH older versions of Houghton-Mifflin and Steck-Vaughn materials. Plus, we have to wait until late July-early August before we get our class groups and curriculum. They change all summer depending on enrollees, and we get new students all through the summer. ANYWAY, I'm going on and on.

Once I find out what my curriculum is for each area (spelling, vocabulary, reading, and writing), I decide on how I'm going to store all of my materials for the year.

Various organizational strategies I've used for curriculum supplies and daily supplies:

2. Student Organization
One thing I've done over the last 5 years or so for student organization is use the large paper magazine holders. I let students decorate them and they put all of their notebooks and textbooks in those boxes. I have a shelf next to our meeting area, and they come in each day and pick up their "literacy box" with all of their supplies in it and take it to their desks. That way, they have all the supplies they need for class.

Here's the ones I use:

They are the larger ones so they can hold more than the regular magazine file holder. You can get either the 4" or 6" depending on how many books and supplies your students have. I found this website where you can get them for cheap. The 4" 3-pack is $5.97. I use these boxes for 2 years, just covering the name tags on the fronts. You can check the pictured set above here
**Note, I put packing tape on the bottoms and front of the boxes. This helps them last longer and gives them strength on the bottom. I also teach students how to pick up the boxes and hold them on the bottom! If you teach your kids to take care of these things, they will last longer!

3. Choose, Design/Decorate, & Create my "Teacher BIG Binder"
One of the most exciting prep activities is choosing a fun color BIG binder to put all of my important teacher "stuff" in for the year. There are about a hundred options to choose from on TPT for Teacher Planner/Binders, but mine is so individual, it would be hard to create a generic example for others. I teach a literacy class, 10 technology classes, and I have lunch duty, carpool duty, and recess duty. My schedule and the information I have to keep up with is MASSIVE. I literally look at my calendar/schedule every single day to keep up with which classes I have that day and which kids are in each class. I have to plan about 8 different technology lessons each week because the range of my kiddos' knowledge and abilities are so vast. 

I will share some of my sections in my binder:
*To Do List (one page with post-it note squares)
*Lesson Plans
*Monthly Plans
*Yearly Plans
*Student Grouping Lists (homerooms, math classes, literacy classes)
*Current Info/Planning
*Important Info (tech log-ins, important school memos/notes, etc.)
*Special Ed resources (depending on the student population, I keep quick lists of how to help these students with their specific academic, behavioral, and emotional needs
*Professional Development (I keep copies of certificates and PD hours for the year)

As I said earlier, my list is so long. This is only my top 3 important prep tips. What are some of your Back to School prep tips? I'd love to hear what you do!
Link up below and share with your teacher/blogger friends! Feel free to use the picture at the top of this post in your blog post! 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Final Week of the Birthday Blowout + Week 3's Winner!

Congratulations to our Week 3 winner, Emily Levine! She won the Holiday and Seasonal products prize pack!

Emily has been notified and is excited to get all of her amazing prizes!

On a bittersweet note, this is the final week of the month-long Birthday Blowout. It's been a great month! I've met so many wonderful teachers and shared some great experiences! Thank you all so much!!! I'm excited for this week's events, but I'll be sad when it's all over. 

This final week's giveaway and celebration events are all about BACK TO SCHOOL PREP. Take a look at the sponsors and prizes for this week:

If you want to enter to win the Back to School Product Prize Pack, you can do that here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I will be back tomorrow with my Top 3 Back to School prep tips. Be thinking about 3 things you do each year to get ready for those kiddos to return. They can be simple or just ritual to you. (I'm sure we all do a lot of similar things, but who knows, someone might get a great idea from you!!!) You can link up with us on tomorrow's blog post! Until then, take it easy and Happy Father's Day!