Monday, May 7, 2018

Flower Theme Writing And Craft

Hello again! This week we started our plant theme. Sometimes it is hard to find new and engaging things for my kids to do for writing. Of course I use writing prompts that I think they'll find interesting, but they struggle to write a paragraph about any topic. Just simple things such as writing a complete sentence with capitalization and punctuation is still hard for them. Coming up with ideas is also challenging. I've also been trying to teach them about adjectives. The concept is so abstract to them... they just can't understand what I'm saying when I talk about "describing words." If you ask them to describe something, or tell you about something, they'll tell you a bunch of nouns related to the item, they'll tell you facts about the item, they'll tell you things the item can do, and they'll throw in some random words for no apparent reason... but it is so hard for them to come up with actual adjectives!

So for this project, we pre-cut flower pieces for them. (They got to choose the colors of the petals for their flowers.) They had to do the writing for the project and then assemble their flowers. First they wrote their names in the middle of their flowers. (In this picture I've covered up their real names.) Then on each petal, they had to write a sentence describing themselves. Robin came up with, "I am silly," "I am smart," "I am nice," "I am kind," and "I am friendly." Three of those are pretty much similes (nice, kind, friendly.) The other two, I really had to drag out of her. I gave her choices such as, "Are you serious or are you silly?" Brant came up with "nice" and "good" on his own, but his other petals ended up as 2 nouns and something he likes. Even describing themselves is challenging!

The rest of the flower parts were a little easier for them. On each leaf, they wrote something they liked. (Robin likes her mom and dogs, and Brant likes recess and lunch.) On the stems, they wrote something they wanted to do. (Robin wants to have fun, and Brant wants to go camping.)

For Teal and Towhee, who are only in first and second grades and are still struggling with just writing alphabet letters, I simplified it a little. They only had to write single words.

Here are two of the finished products. We hung them all out on one of our bulletin boards, with a background of grass and sky and sun, and the words "Watch us grow" above them. Feel free to use the idea, if you like!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Our Rain Forest Bulletin Board

Hi everyone!  I thought I'd show you our rain forest bulletin board! I was trying to think of some sort of rain forest themed art project that all of my kids could do. I couldn't really find something that I thought was simple enough, but also let them be creative and show their personalities. Then I came up with the idea of making monkeys and putting their faces on them!

I drew my own monkey pattern on a Dr. Pepper case and cut it out for the kids to trace. Then all I had to do was supply them with construction paper of every color. They got to pick out the color for every body part, trace it and cut it out, and glue their monkeys together. While they were working, I took pictures of their faces and printed them out. They then glued their faces onto the monkeys' heads!

We also made some tissue paper flowers to brighten up our bulletin board. Here is the result! (I edited the picture by covering up the monkeys' faces, for confidentiality and all that,)

My favorite is Noddy's monkey. He was absent when all of the others made theirs, so I let him do his today. He loves art, and he also loves superheroes. After the kids had gone home today, I found Noddy's monkey, and realized that he had added a few personal touches to his monkey... a superhero cape and an "S" on his shirt!  (Also do you get my "Hey, hey, we're the monkeys" reference?)

I was so proud of Noddy and Martin today. We've been practicing counting money, using Touch Math, every day for the past few weeks. Most of the time we've been practicing by playing my Save The Rainforest Touch Money game. I knew they have both gotten good at counting coins using the Touch Points. For Independent Work today, I gave them a packet from the Touch Money curriculum, where they would have to count the money without actually seeing the Touch Points. (They could draw in their own Touch Points if they wanted to.) Well, both of the boys completed the entire packet within half an hour. It turns out, they can both count money, without having the Touch Points already added for them, with at least 80% accuracy! 

This is HUGE! These are two boys who were not at all familiar with money just eight weeks ago. If you gave them a pile of coins, they just counted the number of coins, whether they were quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. (So if you gave them 2 quarters, 5 dimes, 2 nickels, and 4 pennies, they would tell you that they had 13 cents.) For them to now be successful at counting coins without even using Touch Points? I could burst! 

Now all we have to do is keep on practicing so that maybe it will stick permanently in their brains by the time summer vacation starts. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

How Is It Almost May Already?

Sometimes being a special ed teacher is exhausting! 
It is that time of year where, on one hand, I can't believe the year has gone by so fast, and on the other hand, each week seems to crawl by at a snail's pace. I haven't had the energy to write in this blog lately.

One of the things I have been dealing with is that one of my students (Towhee) has such severe behavioral issues that he now has to be taught in a separate room, with not one but two paras with him. It has been very frustrating because they gave us a 1:1 para for him, but he requires 2 people with him, and at least one of them needs to be trained in CPI (crisis de-escalation and restraint). This has meant restructuring our entire classroom lives so that Towhee can have the majority of our time, energy and resources, while the rest of my students get whatever is left over. Before Towhee was given a 1:1 and before the special ed director moved him into his own tiny classroom, it was even worse, because the expectation was for me to work 1:1 with Towhee in the empty classroom next door all day long, while the paras just ran the rest of the classroom on their own.  I do love Towhee, but it is just frustrating that it is always the students with the most severe behaviors that take priority over everything else. Last year when I worked in a different school, my classroom was similarly hijacked when the special ed director there decided that the 23 students on my caseload would get to work with a different random substitute teacher in another room every day for the rest of the school year, while I devoted all of my time to two students with severe behavioral issues, one of whom actually punched out a screen and jumped out the window and another who regularly busted holes in the walls and the bathroom door. My other kids made zero progress because they couldn't even have a steady teacher or para... just a string of subs... while my whole job was just to contain these two kids who weren't even allowed to leave the room to go to specials because their behavior had become so unsafe. I didn't get lunches or planning time that school year... I was expected to sit and eat lunch with the students, because they couldn't go to the cafeteria. So at least this Towhee situation is a little better than that. But still. I feel bad for all of my other students (last year and this year) who also have special needs, who really require structure and stability and consistent instruction, whom we struggle just to figure out how to serve because we are so busy directing most of our time and attention towards the kids with behavioral issues... in this case, Towhee. There have been days when I've had to send some of my students to their gen ed classes, literally to be babysat (they just brought some worksheets to do or books to read while they were there) because I didn't have enough staff to supervise them in the classroom. I didn't even have enough staff to have a human being in the classroom with them, let alone enough staff to actually teach them their reading lesson!

But I digress...

I think next year is going to be a lot better. I will have a much better idea of what I am doing, and I will have the whole summer to get my classroom organized and ready, instead of just a few weeks like I had this year. I sort of wish I could fast forward through the rest of this school year so I could get a fresh start!

At any rate, I have three new games I made using Widgit online, and I am sharing them for free at TPT. The first two are train-themed  CVC reading games.  Both involve simply rolling a die, moving around a train track, and reading CVC words.

Regular "Go Train Go" has CVC words with pictures.

Level 2 Go Train GO has CVC words without pictures.

The next game is a money game with a rainforest game. To play, you roll a die, move around the board, and collect coins. (The coins have Touch Points on it because that is how my students are learning money, but you don't have to know Touch Points to benefit from the game.) If you land on a rainforest animal, you can adopt it for 50¢.  If you land on the stop sign, you have to donate 10¢ to the cause, and put that money in the middle of the board. If you land on a present, you get any of the money that is in the middle of the board. The winner is the person who adopts the most animals. Like Monopoly, this game can go on forever. My 3rd graders, Noddy and Martin, have actually begged to play it every day at math time, so we've been writing down how much money and which animals each player has at the end of each math session so that we can pick the game up again the next day. This game has really given them a lot of practice at counting coins and spending money, and has also been a great way for me to assess their progress. And you can have it for free! It is called Save the Rainforest Touch Money Game. I hope you like it!

I will try to update more regularly if I can. Thanks for reading, everyone!

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