Saturday, March 10, 2018

My Little Dudes And Dudettes

I thought I'd take some time today to tell you about my students. It is always interesting to read and write about the activities and lessons we do in the classroom, but really, it is the students who actually make the magic happen. Obviously I am changing the names and I won't reveal any identifying details, but at least you can get the jist of who I spend my days with as of late.

My class is a Life Skills class for first through fifth graders.

Robin is a fifth grade girl who loves to draw and is very kind to the younger kids. She is a sweet girl even though she is always trying to be in charge of everyone... including the teachers! For instance when I was trying to teach her group some math, and I used a dry erase marker to make number bonds on the table, she interjected, in a perfect Mom voice, "Is that really necessary?"

Brant is a fifth grade boy who really likes building things. I love watching him build stuff out of Lincoln Logs. He spends a lot of time helping his dad build stuff around the house. He's the kind of old-fashioned kid who would rather spend his weekends riding his bike around the neighborhood, building something in the yard, and playing Hide And Seek with other kids, than sitting inside playing video games. He is also one of the more friendly and easy-going kids in the class, although lately I think adolescence is starting to get its icy grip on him, because he's been a lot grouchier lately.

Tern is a fourth grade boy who sometimes drives me crazy. He is very easily irritated and spends most of his time screaming at the top of his lungs because someone has somehow annoyed him by looking at him, talking too loudly, sitting too close to him, humming, etc. He's also one of the most friendly kids with adults. He always wants hugs and always wants to tell you about the interesting things going on in his life. He likes to ask tons of questions about us teachers, and he remembers the answers. He also has the makes and models of everyone's car memorized. He's always telling me that he saw my car in some parking lot or another.

Martin is a third grader who has a very low IQ and a very high level of social skills. He loves sports but would rather watch them than play them. His mom took him to see the Harlem Globetrotters once, and he got angry because "They're not being serious about the game! They're just screwing around!" It may take him the rest of his life to learn how to read, but he absorbs a lot just from experiences. He's very interested in the world.  He is another kid who has no interest in video games and would rather be out doing fun things in real life.

Noddy is a third grade boy who cannot, for the life of him, stop moving. On any given morning he is very likely to come somersaulting or cartwheeling into the room. He is the reason I bought a trampoline, a tunnel, and scooters for my class. He's very artistic and will spend hours painting, drawing, or making something out of construction paper. At the beginning of the school year his mom told me that last year she had to pick him up from school a bunch of times for having out-of-control behavior, but this year he's become a model student, often the first one to follow directions in the classroom. He's a neat little dude!

Teal is a second grade girl who, at the beginning of the school year, had a major attitude, did not know any letter sounds, and could not count. She spent most of her time screaming and jumping on the tables, which left very little time for learning. She still has a major attitude, but we've managed to tame it a little bit... and she can now read CVC words, can add one-digit numbers with almost 100% accuracy, and is learning to tell time. She's the kind of kid that makes you get tears in your eyes because you realize what you are doing is actually working for at least one kid!

Towhee is an adorable second grader who loves trains and hates to do anything anyone asks him to do. He spends about half of his time drawing trains, talking about trains, or playing with trains, and the other half of his time having conniption fits because he doesn't want to do any work. I somehow have a soft spot for him though, which is pretty lucky since none of the paras will work with him anymore. The majority of my time these days is spent trying to figure out ways to manage his behavior and get him to somehow learn something while he's at school. Every classroom has at least one kid like this, right?

Wren is our youngest member of the class. She's a first grader who is 7 going on 17. She's always trying to boss Towhee around and look after him. The two of them are like an old married couple. with her looking over his shoulder and saying, "No, you're doing that wrong! Let me do that for you!" We have to remind her to let him do his own work. The two of them are always either hugging and playing nicely, or biting each other's heads off.

That is my whole gang this year! They are very cool kids. Sometimes they drive me crazy... but every day, when I take them to the bus, they all hug me and yell goodbye to me as if it is the last time they'll ever see me. And every morning, when they arrive, they greet me so happily. They love to be at school, they try their hardest, and they make me happy to be a special ed teacher. There are many things that suck about special ed and about the entire school system in America, but these kids make it all worth while for me!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Two Simple Chinese New Year Activities

Hi everyone! I hope you are all doing well! In my little class we had an exciting week! We started out celebrating Valentine's Day and the 100th Day. (We ended up with a snow day on the actual 100th Day/Valentine's Day. Where we live, they shut down the town if we get one snowflake!) Then on Friday we did some Lunar New Year (aka Chinese New Year) activities. 

I am not completely sure how Lunar New Year works. I know that it lasts for 23 days, but I am not sure if Friday was the first day or the last day. I am pretty sure it is the first day, which means you still have time to use these activities if you'd like to. If its the last day. then maybe you can remember these activities for next year!
Anyways, I enjoy celebrating different cultures, and incorporating cultural holidays into our learning. Someday remind me to tell you about the Sight Word Dreidel game I made! For now, the first thing I'd like to show you is two different versions of our Yut Nori game. 

Yut Nori is a board game traditionally played in Korea, especially during Korean New Year, which is less well known than Chinese New Year but falls at the same time and is based on the Lunar calendar. I first learned about it when I was a caregiver for a child who was part Korean, and I wanted to help her and her siblings embrace her culture. I've heard that it can actually be as complicated as chess. If you want to learn more about the actual game, this website is a good place to start. It actually seems kind of similar to "Sorry." 

I simplified it quite a bit for my little friends, to benefit our varying amounts of time available and their short attention spans. I decided to use the game for math. I made two different versions. For the first, second and third graders, who are working on Touch Math Addition, I made a Touch Math Addition game. All I did was draw the game board on a poster board, write a Touch Math addition problem in each circle, and decorate one side of 4 craft sticks. (It is important to only decorate one side of each stick, and leave the other side blank.) 

The fifth graders are working on Touch Money, so I made a Touch Money Yut Nori for them. I wasn't sure how to make this, since I can't really just draw realistic looking coins. We have a huge tub full of fake coins that have come with various math curriculum kits over the years, so I decided to use those. I used a Sharpie to add the Touch Points to all of the coins, and then I hot glued them to the board. 

Here is how we played it. Each player puts their token in the blank circle in the bottom left corner. When it is your turn, you throw the four sticks into the air. (When I taught them this I was sure to show them the correct way to toss the sticks gently onto the game board instead of whipping them across the room!) If just one stick falls with the decorated side up, you go one space. If two, three or four sticks fall with the decorated side up, that is the number of spaces you go. If all four sticks fall with the blank side up, you go five spaces! The students had to solve the math problem on the space in order to stay there. 

Some people play the game using the rule that if you land on a space where another player already is, that player has to go back to start. For my kids this would cause a lot of tantrums. Good sportsmanship definitely needs to be addressed, but during math time my goal is for all of the students to actually do the math activity for as long as possible, so I changed the rule a little... if you land on a spot where another player already is, that player goes back one step. Going back one step is a lot easier for my kids to cope with than going all the way back to start, and we are more likely to keep everyone playing the game instead of having to stop and discuss the unfairness of it all. 

If a player lands on one of the spaces that leads to a path going across the board, they can take the short cut. The winner is the player who can get back to start first. 

The kids all enjoyed playing this game, and even requested to play it during their Independent Work time. I'd say that is a success! They also concentrated and paid attention the entire time. I was even able to get the third graders to circle the first number of each addition problem while saying the number, and then "count on" with the second number. (Usually they insist on counting every single dot on both numbers. No matter how we do math... using manipulatives, Touch Points, tallies, our fingers, etc... they really struggle with the concept of counting on.) I'd say it was a successful lesson!

During writing, we wrote about our New Year wishes. I explained how it was a little different from the New Year's resolutions we wrote about in January, because those were about improving ourselves and these were going to be about making a wish. The little kids just had to dictate and copy one sentence about their wish. The third and fifth graders had to write an opening sentence about their wish, three details, and a closing sentence. (The third graders mostly dictated and copied. The fifth graders had to at least try to write as independently as possible, although they need lots of help with spelling.) Each of them also drew a picture to illustrate their wish. We glued the pictures and paragraphs onto sheets of red construction paper. 

I also went to this site, where you can look up the Chinese symbols for your name. I looked each of the students' names up, copied and pasted them into a document, and printed them out. The students glued these to the tops of their papers. I added a gold string to hang them by. I wish we could have hung them outside, but it is cold and rainy here. So we hung them in the hallway instead. I think they look pretty cool! (By the way, you may notice that this writer claims that cats play video games. I was a little confused because he was actually wishing to have a cat. I asked him if he already had a cat and was wishing for another one, but he said that he didn't have a cat yet. Then one minute later he told me that his cat could play video games. I'm not sure if the video-game playing cat is the one he is wishing for or if he actually has a cat who can play video games. Remind me to ask him later.)

I hope you liked these two Chinese New Year ideas! Next week we'll be doing some President's Day activities and then delving into Black History. Check back soon! 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Starting New In 2018

I've always envisioned myself as being a teacher blogger, but when school started, I was so overwhelmed that I just didn't have time to work on this blog anymore. It sort of got bumped to the bottom of the priority list. But I've been making some great changes since the beginning of 2018... changes that have left me with a little extra time and energy to spare! I thought I would pick up the old laptop and give blogging a  shot again. 

Tonight I just wanted to share an idea I had. I know a lot of teachers use ClassDojo, and although I started the year using a different behavior system with my class, I was encouraged to try ClassDojo instead. I've been trying it, with mixed results. The biggest problem has been getting my paras to buy into it. It is hard because they have not been given iPads or computers, so they would have to just keep track of Dojo points in their heads and add them into the system later... which they don't. (It would be way easier if we had a SmartBoard or something, but all we have is an AppleTV connected to my desk computer, and they can't always jump up and go fire up the computer to add a Dojo point. 

So this weekend I created a very simple Dojo tracking sheet that the students will keep with them. All the paras will have to do is make checkmarks and tallies in the appropriate boxes, and I will add them into the system later. The chart looks like this.

 Tomorrow night I will try to blog again and tell you some more about my new class. Until then, I'd love to hear about how you make ClassDojo work for your class!
- Miss Butterfly

Monday, July 31, 2017

Unboxing of Elementary Box

I'm really excited to share my first unboxing video with you! I reviewed my Elementary Box, which is a subscription box for elementary school teachers. Let me know what you think!
- Miss Butterfly

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

FREEBIES... I Knew That Would Get Your Attention!

Hi everyone! During my massive amount of free time this summer (ROFL ROFL ROFL) I've been working on something I call Today's Special. In my classroom this past year we had Morning Meeting. As part of it, we did Today's Special. I would find out about a little-known holiday such as "Tell The Truth Day" or "Don't Step On A Bee Day." (These are real holidays that someone somewhere somehow declared.) I would write up a paragraph about it, and include a picture and a question of the day. It was just a way to add a little something extra to our Morning Meeting. (I found it challenging to come up with good Morning Meeting activities for my 9 and 10 year old students whose primary disabilities were emotional and behavioral... they benefited from the routine of a Morning Meeting time, but I couldn't do the usual circle time activities such as doing nursery rhymes or counting sticks, since they were well beyond that. In the future I will probably include checking the weather using the website, and things like that.)

Anyways, during last school year I did this day by day, but I am hoping to continue it this coming year. I have written up a whole month of Today's Specials for September, and I am giving it away for free on TPT. I will eventually write up booklets for October, November, and so on, and sell them for $1.00 or something to make a little extra school supply money... but for now I just wanted to give the world something for free!

I also have several other freebies in my store that I made during the school year  I have a set of Zones Of Regulation Problem Solving and Think Sheets, which I just found out has already been downloaded by 1, 425 people. That is impressive! It includes a guided problem solving sheet that you can work through with students to help them identify choices for solving a problem, and what the positive or negative consequences of each choice might be. It allows them to choose one to try, and later analyze whether that choice worked for them, and if not, what they will try next. It also includes two different versions of a "Think Sheet," which guides students to identify what event happened, what zone they were in, how they handled it, what the result was and whether that result was something they wanted and needed, and what they may need to do to get into a more comfortable zone. It also guides them to find ways to make a situation better... they may need to clean something up, fix something, apologize to someone, etc.

Then there is the Old Orange game, which is a spin-off of the classic Old Maid game. It is a rhyming game using simple 3 and 4 letter words. Like the classic game, the cards are divided evenly among players, and players first go through their decks of cards to find matches.. in this game, matches would be rhyming words. They then take turns drawing a random card from the hand of the player next to them, without seeing which one they are taking. In the end, when all of the cards have been matched up, one player will be left with the Old Orange... because nothing rhymes with orange, of course!

I do have one other thing that I am selling for $1.00. It is a book study unit for "Sideways Stories From Wayside School." When we were kids, my brother and I loved the Wayside School stories. So, when I was looking for a way to get a group of 3rd grade reluctant readers to practice reading comprehension skills, I thought of Sideways Stories. I created the book study unit, which is pretty simple. It consists of looking up some new vocabulary words for each chapter, and then completing a story map for the chapter. Each group of chapters also includes a special project or activity for students to demonstrate their understanding of the story and characters.

I will let you know when I update things in my store! I try to keep everything either free or for a fairly low price, because I know how much I, as a teacher, appreciate not having to spend a lot of money on things to enrich my students' education. So, go download stuff, and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

First Day of Rec Camp

So, Rec Camp started yesterday. I have not been feeling very enthused about Rec Camp this year. It is a huge commitment with a lot of work involved, and what I really wanted this summer was to relax and recover from the awful school year. I eventually compromised and said I'd help organize Rec Camp but take 3 weeks off in the middle.
On the first day, though, once the kids started appearing, I realized how much I love Rec Camp! It is a day camp like no other. Ruddy was there for the first time, and he seemed to be having a lot of fun. We had about half kids that have been there in the past, and half new kids.
At Rec Camp every camper has a 1:1 counselor. Being one of the organizers, I don't have a 1:1 kid, and I spend most of my time just floating around and making sure everything is going smoothly. At one point, though, one of the new kids, a 5-year-old named Liam, went "number 2" and asked his 1:1 counselor to help wipe his butt. The teenage counselor was squeamish about that, so I went in to do the, um, duty.
When I went into the bathroom, Liam was still sitting on the toilet, so I waited outside the stall while we had this conversation.
Liam: "Can you go get a book and read it aloud to me?"
Me: "I can't leave you alone in here. Does your mom read to you when you're going poop?"
Liam: "I don't know. I've never pooped for this long before. I must have eaten a lot. When we were driving on vacation, I had to pee and poop so many times, my mom said next time I'll have to wear a diaper! Isn't that funny? Sometimes I get diarrhea! One time I had diarrhea coming out of my mouth and my other place!"
Me: "When it comes out of your mouth, that is called throwing up."
Liam: "Oh, I was throwing up and had diarrhea at the same time!"
(Sound of something dropping in water)
Liam: "Did you hear that? Did you hear some plopping sounds?"
Me: "Yes I did!"
Liam: "That was just my poop coming out!"
Eventually the enthusiastic little chatterbox finished up, I helped him wipe his little butt, and we went on about our business. The teenage counselor who was working with Liam thanked me profusely for doing the dirty work.
Me: "When you've wiped as many butts as I have, it is no big deal anymore!"
Teenage counselor: "I don't think I'm going to get to that point. I'm happy just wiping my own butt."
Gotta love Rec Camp!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


As the year is coming to a close, half of me is so happy to be getting ready to put this place behind me. The other half is sad to go. I have made good friends here. Miss Meanie is evil and I hope I never have to see her again, but many of my colleagues were awesome.

The kids were awesome too. Even when they were wreaking havoc.

Today I had to break the news to Persius that I won't be back next year. Persius is still upset that I haven't been able to run the academic groups since January (because I suddenly became the full time behavior teacher) and he asks me about it every time he sees me. "Miss Butterfly, I just have one question," he'll say. "When are you coming back to teach us?" Usually I've just replied, "I don't know, buddy," or "It's not up to me," because I was still holding out hope that they'd let me go back to my academic teaching duties and hire an actual behavior teacher. When I told Persius before that it wasn't up to me, he marched to the principal's office and demanded to know if he had made that decision. (He hadn't. It was Miss Meanie.)

So today I went into the academic room to get a stapler, and Persius was in there doing his reading group. When he saw me he asked me, "Will you come back and be our teacher next year?"

I'd been dreading telling him this. I sat down next to him and said, "I'm going to be teaching at a different school next year."

He jumped into my arms like a little kid and hugged me, rocking back and forth, saying, "But I don't want you to go! Why do you have to go?"

I didn't know how to explain it to him except to say, "I just have to." I tried to tell him, "But you can write me a letter if you want, and if you give it to any of the other teachers here, they can mail it to me."

"And can you come over to my house? Everyone I like is going to come over in the summer!"

I kept on telling Persius that I wouldn't be too far away, and that all the other people he liked would still be there next school year, and eventually convinced him that everything would be okay.

Tomorrow I have to tell the little kids, which should go over a little easier... they'll be sad but their attention spans are significantly shorter and they'll be more excited about summer break. I'm not even going to tell Ruddy until over the summer... he's going to be at Rec Camp with me, so that will give me some extra time to break the news to him slowly.

Which brings us to the good news... I got a new teaching job! I will be an Adaptive Classroom teacher! The elementary school I'll teach at is only a few minutes from my house. I'm so excited about it... it is a fresh new start.

I just wish I could bring Persius and Ruddy with me!