Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Crochet Projects to Love

I absolutely love to crochet! I first learned as a little girl. My mom, grandma and great-grandma taught me. At the time, they made mostly afghans and baby clothes. Since then, I have been able to whip out a hat or a scarf really easily. At high school swim meets, I had a friend that would crochet socks in between her races! It seems like crocheting is really trendy right now and there are so many fun patterns to try! My husband works nights, so crocheting is a nice way for me to unwind after work. I can also shower people in yarny gifts.

For my husbands birthday, I made him a crochet cupcake! I called it his low fat cupcake.

I used this pattern:

I also made all my Christmas Presents!! Well, except my mom's fitbit. I tried to crochet one, but the pattern was just toooo advanced!
I really wanted to give handmade, thoughtful gifts, that were of high quality. I recently bought an AWESOME book of fun patterns. It's called Crochet With One Sheepish Girl, by Meredith Crawford. She has a blog that is a must-see for the crochet fiend.
I used her book to make personalized throw pillows for some family members, an apron for a friend that loves to cook, a tablet case for my brother. I even made a blueberry muffin for my teaching assistant! (She saw my husbands cupcake and was jealous.)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Content and Language Objectives

My first year of teaching, I went through a one-day SIOP training (Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol). I really felt like one day was not enough time to understand and apply all the information. This year, our training is on 3 different days. I am also taking the class for college credit, so I have homework to do in between classes.

I have really enjoyed my time in class! I teach in small groups and usually have 8 groups that I teach each day. My assistant also has 8 groups. So posting Content Objectives and Language Objectives can be somewhat overwhelming. We use Corrective Reading for a lot of our reading groups. So I am going through the Scope and Sequence of the curriculum and creating posters of Objectives that go with a series of lessons in each curriculum. When I am finished with them, I am hoping to post them on TeachersPayTeachers as a new product. My plan is to laminate sheets with the Content and Language Objectives on them and post them on the wall. When more than one group is working on the same skill, I will use a post-it to mark who is working on that skill that day.

As a side-note, I caught a cold from my husband. He works at the hospital as a phlebotomist and I work at a school. So between the two of us, A LOT of germs are coming home. It totally knocked me on my butt! I spent 2 weeks totally miserable!! It was a virus that was going around, so there was not much a doctor could help with. I have been using a lot of essential oils lately. I am trying them out to see how they help me stay healthy and deal with stress. So far, I LOVE using peppermint on my chest or neck. It usually helps my sinuses clear out. It's also supposed to promote focus. I find that I usually feel awake when I use it in the morning and I am more productive. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Exit Tickets and Push In Support

It is my 3rd week of pushing into a class of 20 students to provide SDI to my students as part of the Math Core. Everyday, I preview the math lesson that is being taught as part of the core curriculum. Right now the class is working on building arrays to solve multi-digit multiplication. It has been incredibly exciting to see that my students are very successful at this!! They are using a multiplication charts for some of the single-digit equations, but they appear to truly understand the concept. One of them even finishes first and asks for MORE WORK to do!

Yesterday the general education teacher put a problem on the board and had students solve it as an exit ticket. I was able to quickly sort them by who understood and who needed more review. Today I was out of the building for SIOP training. But tomorrow, I will be able to pull students who need more practice to the kidney table at the back and re-teach the concept. I am a big fan of exit tickets and find them incredibly helpful for modifying my instruction.

I've used post-its as exit tickets, asking students to write the answer to math problem or to answer a vocabulary question. I also have kids use "secret thumbs," to show me their level of understanding. I have them give me a thumbs up, thumbs down or in between. I use that feedback in the middle of the lesson to see if we need to cover an idea again with additional practice.

I really want my kids to advocate for their own understanding and to feel comfortable asking questions. I have had students that were too intimidated or embarrassed in a group of 5 kids to admit that they didn't understand. I've had WHOLE GROUPS that were afraid to admit they didn't understand. It takes time and it takes trust. But if I don't teach students how to self-advocate, how will they learn to do that? How will they learn that it's okay to need help? That you learn more by admitting you don't know? I want my kids to know that when you PERSEVERE you learn about yourself, about school and you feel good know that you can do hard things! 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pushing In to Provide Math Services

This year, when I was making my schedule I had two options for 5th grade math: 1. Pull kids from Social Studies and Story Line or 2. Push in to the general education classroom.
Last year, I had to pull from Social Studies to provide 5th grade math services. It was very difficult because both teachers and students were unhappy about it.
I have mixed feelings about pushing in. I REALLY want to make sure it is an effective use of time for teachers and students. I also have to make sure that it is Specially Designed Instruction and meets IEP goals.
There will be 4 classrooms for 5th grade math. There are 3 full-time teachers and 1 part-time teacher who teaches Math and Writing core. Since each of the 3 full-time teachers send students to the part-time classroom, I was able to ask that some of my students go to the half-time teacher's Core. Some of them will still be in another mainstream classroom. That way one class does not look and feel like a "Special Education class," to the rest of the group.
I am really interested in Co-teaching. I have never done it before. But it seems like the most effective use of time and like it will be the best way to meet student needs. So I will be pushing into the half-time class. So far that teacher seems okay with Co-teaching. I think it will take a lot of coordinating lessons and planning, but I am very optimistic. We use the Bridges curriculum and I already have all the supplemental sets and intervention materials that I can pull as needed.
My Educational Assistant will push into the other classroom. The students in that room are my highest math students. So by pushing in to support them, my hope is that they may actually graduate from math services this year.

If all ends up going well, this could be an incredible way for me to get more experience in an inclusive Special Education model. Most of the time I provide academic services using the pullout model; with the exceptions of writing and behavior. I am really excited to see how it goes!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Crochet Agave

 I finally finished this beautiful creation!

I first learned how to crochet with my grandma and my great grandma. I have always enjoyed whipping out a scarf or a hat. Lately I have been trying more complicated and interesting projects. 

I found the pattern for this Awesome Agave on Click here for the free pattern. 
It took me a long time to make all of the leaves, but I have to say that I absolutely love the end result. This planter used to hold LIVING succulents. The succulents met an untimely end, but I still wanted to use the planter. I normally make crochet dirt, but for this one I just used the dirt that was already in the planter. Having crochet plants as house decorations is great! People don't realize they are fake at first, but when they do I always get compliments!

The greatest part: nothing to water, so nothing ever dies!

I hope you feel encouraged to tackle a fun project today!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Teaching Classroom Behavior to Diverse Learners

As I am setting up my classroom, I am organizing my space and thinking about how to set up classroom expectations.

One thing I have done to improve student focus during lessons is let them STAND!

Of course, like all things, I have a visual for this! And I teach classroom expectations. Some students are what I like to call "wiggly bugs." And for a wiggly bug, standing up behind your chair, with your hands on the back of your chair, might be what it takes to keep you engaged in the lesson. Or being able to stand while you complete a workbook page, etc. I recently read in the Summer 2015 issue of NEA Today that students are more on task by 12% when they are able to stand. The article also stated that that equals up to 7 extra minutes per hour of instructional time they are benefiting from. So for my wiggly bugs, we have an agreement: as long as you follow the expectations you can stand. They don't ask, they just do it when they feel they need it. If they don't follow the expectations, they may get a warning in the form of me pointing to the expectations. Or saying, "The expectation for standing is ____. Show me you can do that, or you will have to sit." But I have to say, I cannot recall ever getting past the warning stage (we have a 3 warning system). 

My go-to for behavior management, classroom expectations and teaching social skills is always WHOLE BODY LISTENING!!

Anyone who has ever sat in an RTI meeting with me will tell you this: Whole Body Listening is my magic bullet for what ails you. 

   For those of you who are not familiar with Whole Body Listening, check out the Social Thinking Webpage. I was first introduced to this program when I was student teaching. When I was working in a low-income school with challenging student behaviors, my mentor teacher suggested it to me again. It has been both life-saving for me and incredibly effective for teaching my students. 

Here's how I use it: 

Step 1: 
Set up the visuals!
I have large "Whole Body Listening Larry" posters in each space where a group is being taught. 


Step 2: 
I do a read aloud with EACH GROUP of students. 
For 5th graders, we may do a refresher or try to "grow up" the content a bit. There are a lot of resources for this on TeachersPayTeachers. One of my favorite teachers found a visual with a slightly older looking girl. Woohoo! Why should Larry have all the fun? 

Step 3:
For younger students or those that need frequent reminders, I teach with a small visual on the table in between me and the students. If a student is not "listening with their eyes," by looking at me, I just point to that icon on the visual as a nonverbal reminder. For those who need it, they can get stars for doing what is expected. That way, I can TEACH, REMIND and REWARD all at once. I also LOVE that it can be nonverbal.

This visual appears in the back of the book, to be used as a teaching aid. 

Step 4:
I collaborate with mainstream teachers!
Over the years, many teachers I work with have begun to use this book and the visuals in their own classroom. The visual from step 2 can be used as a centerpiece at student tables or on the corner of a student in need of frequent reminders and teaching around classroom behavior. It's incredibly adaptable and translates easily into PBiS expectations and goals on behavior cards. I even go as far as talking to my students during reading group about how we "listen with our brains," by sounding out words in our head before we read them out loud. 

My first year teaching, I had a very challenging 3rd grade math group. I had my mentor come and observe and she tallied how many praise statements I used: 35 in 28 minutes. I rely heavily on praise, because research (and my heart!) shows that when you praise a student, they will continue to seek that positive reinforcement. It also makes kids see YOU as someone who is encouraging and wants the best for them. But anyway, back to the point. By the end of the school year, we had worked SO HARD on Whole Body Listening that the students were engaged in the lessons, excited about learning and most exciting of all their general education teachers told me they REALLY SAW THE DIFFERENCE! That's what we want, right??? Our kids to generalize what we teach them and take it outside the special education classroom! 

I am in no way affiliated with SocialThinking, but when I find a teaching tool I love, I share it with the world! I can only hope that this changes your classroom the way it has mine. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Lets Get Down to Business

Unpacking For Fall

   My husband and I went on a FANTASTIC road trip last week. We saw new towns, friends and family. The picture above was taken in front of the Santa Barbara Mission. 

   But now, the Honeymoon is over folks! Rick went back to work. I went to my classroom. So it begins!

   Last school year, I packed up my classroom because I am moving to a different room. I would have unpacked my whole room BEFORE my road trip, but that was not an option. So today I walked into a classroom full of boxes. My furniture is not yet in my room, since it is being used for summer camp. I am also going to be sharing my classroom with a part-time teacher. This teacher has not been hired yet, so I am trying to leave them space in the room as best I can without leaving all my things in boxes. 

Good news! My first day back to work is not until September 1st. I've got time! And after today, more empty boxes than full ones.

So here is my mantra for this new adventure:

   Sounds simple enough, right? Well it's not simple for me! I could easily spend so much of my free time at work. I often stay late and work during the summer.  BUT it is equally important that I: workout, spend time with my husband and RELAX.

   When I first decided to become a teacher, my mom (who is also a Special Educator) said, "Try to leave work at a decent hour. You will always think you have to get it all done before you can go home. There is ALWAYS more to do. Make lists and go home." 

   To create greater balance I am starting by setting a time that I HAVE to leave by making date for an activity at that time. Sometimes it's a hike with a friend or workout class. Sometimes it's just meeting my husband on his lunch break. The kicker is that it is always FUN!

First list of the School Year!

Tune in next week to see how it goes....