Sunday, August 7, 2016

Bulletin Board Planning

I am quickly running out of time to set up my room so I sat down today to plan some bulletin boards.  I was trying to decide what font colors to use...I don't know about you, but I am a visual person.  I have to see it before I know what I like. I didn't want to do the bulletin board 2-3 times so I quickly made digital versions in power point.  

I put a black background and purple border because that's the colors on my board.  I quickly decided that white font was out.  I think I am going to go with each word in 1 color instead of each letter.  Now I just have to print and cut my letters and I'm all set for putting up my board tomorrow!  

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

New Beginnings

My last post was a year ago....a year!  And that makes me feel bad because I love blogging and creating things for my classroom and TPT but I have an 18 month old who is my whole world now so my time is spent with her.  I honestly have no idea how you teacher blogger moms do all of this! 

Speaking of not being able to do it all, I am switching positions this year!  I am leaving the 12:1:1 special ed room and going back to resource room.  While I loved having my own classroom and being my kids primary teacher, I felt too torn between giving my students what they deserved and coming home to my daughter.  I was going to stay a few more years but a resource room teacher retired and I had my opening to get into the school that is 1 minute away from my house.  I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing (I'm still not sure if we are being honest), but sometimes you just have to close your eyes and jump!

I am going to be working very hard this summer to get my life in and home!  Hopefully things I create for myself will help you too!  Stay Tuned!


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Meaningful Book Discussions

My baby is finally sleeping through the night and is going to bed before 10pm so I can actually get something done!  I'm starting to prep for next year and I wanted to share with you one of my favorite reading activities...Literature Circles.

When I did literature circles with my resource room kids, I was amazed at the discussions they would have about the book.  If you have never tried it, you should!  It's easy, I promise!

 I select a few books for a small group to choose from.  I let them vote to pick the book.  Then we section the book off into 6 sections and write down our page numbers in our packet and assign due dates for each section.  Next, we assign the jobs/roles for each section of the book.  There are 6 roles so by splitting the book into 6 sections, each student will complete each role.

The students will follow the schedule, reading the sections and completing their roles on their own.  When we meet, the students have a discussion about the book using their packets as their guide.  

The packet has built in supports so the students can be as independent as possible.  There are question starters and character traits for the students to refer to as well as a page for their roles and schedule.

This isn't a free for all discussion...there is an order and a heirarchy which keeps the students on task. The discussion director (one of the roles) is in charge of the discussion.  Only one person can speak at a time.  The discusion director calls on people to speak.  This took some modeling but once it clicked, they LOVED it!

I LOVED watching them (after we do one book together with a ton of modeling, I only watch the discussions...this is their thing!).  They all had a chance to be in charge and they knew that they needed to have their jobs done so that they could contribute.  They took ownership of their discussions and it makes all the difference in the world! 

Since I am a special ed teacher, I did modify this a little.  Instead of the students doing all the reading and writing on their own, we read the sections together and they also sat with me while doing the writing.  I would walk around and help as needed.

I can't wait to do this with my class this year!  Almost all of my students are 3rd graders now and they are all on the same reading level (F).  This is a great way to make their lower level books seem more like 3rd grade reading.

I have a few different literature circle packets available if you would like to try this.  They are all the same just with different themed graphics on them.  I just permanently dropped the price to $2!


Saturday, June 20, 2015

My New Life

It's been almost a year since I have posted!  I have a good reason though...Meet Ella!

She pretty much took over my life.

I am finally starting to feel like I am able to blog again so I *might* be back.

But have you seen that face?  I can't make any promises!

Happy end of the school year!!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Place for Everything

With the thought of being out on maternity leave, I am more determined than ever to get organized this year!  I know that paper piles up so quickly the second students show up (and even before) so I'm starting with creating a spot for every paper.  I stuck with the paper items that show up with students...not curriculum materials. I made a little checklist to help myself.  Feel free to use it!  Click on the picture to grab the PDF.
I KNOW there are some missing (like Take to the Office) so there are blank spots too.

Remember that you may not need all of these. All mail for students goes directly into their mailboxes (or just tossed on top until we have a second).  I keep my weekly progress notes and homework together by the mailboxes.  I also cut down on lose paper by making packets for EVERYTHING I can.  All my math units are in packets so I never have lose math sheets in my room.  As I actually get my room together, I'll post pictures!

If you think of anything else...please let me know!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Organizing Student Data

Pregnancy and I are not friends.  If I'm not sick, I'm sleeping!  It makes it very hard to get ready for school, let alone blog about it!  I was motivated today to setup my Student Data Binder so I'm going to share with you exactly how I did it! 

It was pretty quick and easy once everything was printed.

This is my binder & cover (it has to have a cute cover right?!)

When you open the binder, you see the list of students with numbered tabs.  I laminated this page 4 or 5 years ago and just use wet erase markers to write the names each year. 

At this point, you will want to organize your students and assign them each a number.  I organize my kids alphabetically by grade level (since I have 3). 

The first page I keep under each tab is the At a Glance sheet.  This one isn't filled in for confidentiality but you get the idea.  It has basic information about the IEP so I don't have to flip through a 20 page document every time I have a quick question.  This does take a little while to complete BUT I do it when I'm reading the IEP before school.  Plus taking notes helps me remember the important information.  IEPs start to all blend together after a while! 

Next, I put my progress monitoring sheet.  I assess goals monthly and I typically have 1 reading, 1 writing, and 1 math goal.  I just write the goal in at the top and as I assess, I record scores and notes.  I have several versions of this in my teacher binder kit.  I hand wrote this one but I typically type the goals in before printing. To save time, just copy and paste the goal from the At a Glance sheet! 

Next, I put the IEP.

Then, I have my parent contact log. 

Finally, I have lined paper.  This is good for extra notes and documenting behavior.  Some kids need more notes than others.  Rather than trying to figure out how many pages everyone would need in a notebook, I just use the lined notebook paper.

There is plenty of room in the binder to also keep behavior plans and anything else that comes up during the year.

All of these forms and the binder cover (plus a ton of other forms and binder materials, including a sub binder-245 pages) are in my Colorful Dots Teaching Binders for $4.
Teacher Binders with Colorful Dots

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Star Homework & Freebie!

I am not a fan of homework.  My dislike has nothing do with whether or not it is basically comes down to management.  Coming up with assignments for 3 grade levels each night, copying the work, getting the assignments written in an agenda, all just to have maybe 1 student do it.  Then what?  Do I go over it when nobody did it?  Should I punish the kids who didn't do it or just reward the few who did?  Who has time for all that?!
*As a side note, my students generally come from lower socio-economic families and all of them have learning probably have a higher homework completion rate. 

Because of all this, I stopped sending homework home.  Do you know what happened?
I so wanted to send home the piles of blank homework from all of those kids with a note saying: 
"When you finish all the work you DIDN'T do so far, I'll start giving homework again."
But I didn't.

I came up with a system that works for me, the kids, and the parents.  It's super easy!
Homework is the same 3 things each night:
1. Journal Writing
2. Read for 20 minutes
3. Math activity

Each week they get a new bookmark in their folders
I had these printed, cut, and bound with that sticky stuff at the top so I can peel off each book mark (like a notepad).  I asked parents to initial next to each colored star to hold everyone accountable. 

Each month, I put the new journal in their take home folders.
I use these journals from Miss Kindergarten.  I like the list of monthly words at the beginning of each journal.

At the beginning of the year, the kids and I made math bags full of games I found for free on TPT.  We made dice, I had everything laminated and it took forever.  Then kids moved, new kids moved in and more than half the class lost their games in about 2 weeks.  Nobody every did the math games!  This year I am using these for the math activity: 
They are from Teachers Clubhouse.  I'm just waiting on the 3rd grade set and I'll have one for each grade level :) If someone loses these, it's easy enough to make up more.  I am going to add these to my math stations as well so the kids know how to play the games.  I also use reflex math in the classroom so that is always another option.  I will probably make up a card of math game websites to add to their game rings.

I made these posters to encourage kids to do their work.  We colored in a star for every star of homework the class did.  I'm going to be honest...I only used this the first 2 weeks of school.  Nobody was doing the work so I just stopped.

Why I love this: 
Easy prep...I can print everything over the summer and just add a new journal to the folders each month.  The parents who want to work with their children can but it's no pressure for the parents who just can't fight their children every night to do more work.  I don't have to check anything but journals occasionally so it doesn't waste my class time!

You can grab my posters and book marks here for free!

How do you feel about homework?  What does it look like in your room?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I'm still here!!

What a year!  I've taken a big break from blogging for a lot of personal reasons.  I usually stick to just school topics but I wanted to share a few things.  First, I got married!  Dave and I have been together 10 years this July and we've been engaged for 6 years...yup 6 years!  We are not center of attention people and we are terrible dancers...traditional weddings were not for us!  We ended up doing a small wedding with about 17 people and went to dinner after in a private room in a nice restaurant.  It was no stress and perfect for us!  I would have pictures to post but my photographer/best friends computer was destroyed when lightning struck his house so I have to wait until he gets the computer fixed and re-edits all the pictures.

The next big news is we are having a baby!!  
(11 weeks)

It has been a rough road.  I got pregnant in February and miscarried in March.  We accidentally got pregnant again in April.  My hormone levels were very low and the doctor didn't think the baby would make it.  I started taking Progesterone pills twice a day and my levels went up.  To check your levels, you have to do blood work every 48 is extremely stressful waiting to see if my numbers were doubling.  Then I started getting all the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy so I had an emergency ultrasound.  They could see the gestational sac so all was good.  THEN I started bleeding which is terrifying for anyone but especially someone who just had a miscarriage.  I went in for another emergency ultrasound.  They found Subchorionic Hematomas...a fancy word for clots of blood in your uterus.  The clots can move up and separate the placenta from the wall causing miscarriage so I was told I could go to work and come home to lay down.  During all of this, I couldn't even begin to think about blogging!  I had my first regular appointment the day after school ended and we saw the baby flipping around and the blood clots are gone!  So hopefully I'm in the clear now and I can stop worrying all the time....well that last part isn't true, I'll always worry.

This has been my motto for the last few months.

Thankfully, now that I am less worried about the baby, I am starting to think about school and blogging again!  I can't wait to start sharing about some of my experiences over the last year!  Stay tuned :) 

Monday, April 21, 2014

New Teacher Binder!

I am so excited to show you guys my new teacher binder!  I made a meal plan binder cover that I fell in love with so much that I HAD to make a teacher binder set to match.   So join me on a tour of my teacher binder(s)! 

My first binder is my planning binder.
It's hard to tell but there is a blue background outside of the printer isn't printing the blues well :(
In this binder I keep: 
A student birthday list
All my lesson plans
Weekly & Monthly to do lists
my curriculum maps
And grade book forms.

I have another binder that REALLY has helped keep me sane this year.  I call it my Important Things Binder.  Basically, I throw any important things into the binder that we use throughout the year but not frequently.  

Each pocket/divider holds information on things like Star assessments, dibels, report card dates & samples...those things you have to have handy but only a few times a year.

My next favorite organization tool that I started using this year is a class list book.
 Inside the book are a bunch of blank class list easy to keep track of who owes what!  

I also have a Student Data binder which I left at school over break so I'll do a separate post on just that binder later.  
I don't have all my binders at home and I didn't use everything I included in the binder kit so here is a better look into what's included:

If you'd like to grab this binder set for yourself visit one of my stores!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Currently!

I'm linking up with Farley for her April Currently!

Listening...I am never home alone and if I am, the tv is on or someone is calling me.  For the first time in a long time, I'm alone and it's quiet :) 

Loving...the idea of adding a sand/water table to my room!  I was going to write a grant for one but a co-worker has one that she doesn't use so she is *probably* going to give it to me.  Obviously, I am now pinning a billion ideas for sensory play :)

Thinking...about our field trip!  Many of my kids are from low income families and they don't get opportunities to go to different places in the community.  There is an amazing science center about an hour away and my principal gave me the green light to take them there!  I can't wait to see them running around and exploring!!

Wanting...state tests to be over...I'm sure you feel me on this one!  Today was the first day of our ELA test (how appropriate..April fools day).  We have 2 more days of ELA and then 3 days of math at the end of the month.  The tests are MUCH harder this year with the common core :( 

Needing...spring break.  Seriously guys, 2 more weeks!  That is so.far.away!  Going from January to mid April with no real breaks is just a little too long!

Hours...I have to be at school by 8:30.  My kids get there around 8:40.  I have to stay until 3:40 (usually I'm there until 4:30 at least).  The kids leave at 3:20ish.

Now I'm off to read all of your currentlys :) 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Guided Math Made Easy: Practice Path

We are almost to the end of of my Guided Math Made Easy series!

Practice Path is the last of my 4 stations and it's my favorite!  This is the station that gets totally blown out of control when it comes to management and set up.  To me, this is where I truly make Guided Math easy!

When students are working on Practice Path, they are working on math station games.  I have seen people make monthly station kits that give you 5 or 6 activities per week and I LOVED that idea.  I even bought one or two but I never ended up using them because of the amount of prep work and storage involved.  I would be prepping 20-24 stations per week for my 4 groups who are all at different levels.  That's 80-96 stations to print, cut, laminate, re-cut, and find homes for each month.  I don't have space in my room to store 800-960 math station games.  Not to mention the cost to print everything in color on card stock plus laminating pouches and storage containers.  Obviously, if you have 1 grade level, this is much more manageable for you!  Please don't be offended if you are someone who has made these!! I think it is a genius idea and I so wished it would work for me!

Since this is guided math made easy, I tried to keep things as simple as possible for myself, while still keeping it fun and fresh for my students.  My students all love my dice activities in my sub tubs so I decided dice are a must for these stations.  I wanted to mix it up and add playing cards as well.  So I set to work making activities that my students can do using those 2 items.

I bought both of these items on Amazon.  A set of 12 playing cards was $12 and the dice were about $4.  I love using these foam dice because they are colorful and they make no noise when the students use them.  Each group you see can get a bucket or a drawer in a 3 drawer cart.  Here is a sample of a station I put in their drawers:
The activities allow the students to choose whether they want to use dice or cards.  Each activity is one full page like the one above.  There are no small pieces to cut out...just print and laminate!  Most of the page is black and white to save on ink but the titles and a few graphics are in color (I did not make black and white versions at this time but you can certainly print them in black and white and on colored paper).  I've made about 12 different themes to keep everything looking fresh throughout the year.

These games are the foundation of Practice Path.  Once you teach the games, they pretty much stay the same all year with very little prep on your part.  As you see additional games on Pinterest and Teacher's Notebook or Teachers Pay Teachers, add them to the students baskets!  But if you are having a rough week/month, there is no need to add more games!  If you have a sub, the students are left wondering how to play the new activity in their baskets...they always have activities they know how to use.

The activities are open ended because the students can just keep making their own problems.  This means that there is no "I'm done!" because there is no end point.

Set it up:
You will need decks of cards, dice, wet/dry erase markers, and containers. And the games!
Print and laminate the games.
I store my decks of cards in these snack containers from the dollar store (2 for $1).  Number the containers!
Next, I had my aides (you could use parent volunteers) number the back of each card in the deck.  I made a deck for each student so I know who has kept their cards neat and who hasn't.  You could make a deck or two for each group.
While numbering the cards, we changed the queens to zeros and made the aces ones.
Then I just through everything in a few buckets (although, now the cards are in their drawers).
And the games go in the drawers.  Dice and card buckets are on top.  I use Martha Stewart whiteboard labels for the drawers so I can change their groups easily.  I wiped off some of the names before taking the picture.

Organize it:
I place my stations in 1 gallon Ziploc bags.  I have a bag per theme/month.  The bags get tossed in my monthly boxes.  When a new month rolls around, I simple gather all the old sheets, put them in a bag and back into the monthly box.  The new games get pulled out and tossed in drawers.  It seriously can't be easier!
For non-monthly games, I store those in bags or envelopes in my cabinet according to concept.

Using it:
The students can choose any activity from their drawer/basket.  It's that simple!  As with the Computer Cabin station, Practice Path has a no-warning system.  The students are explicitly taught that they are to work together to play the games.  If they are fighting, yelling, and not working on math, they are given a worksheet from "The Binder" and they must sit at their seat and complete it.  If they do not clean up their stations properly, the next time they also get a worksheet from the binder.
I get the worksheets from  

I love the simplicity of my guided math set up!  I was able to get the basics of each station up and running quickly.  After a few weeks, everything was running smoothly and I felt like I had the time and energy to make and add in some more games to the math drawers.  On the other hand, March was a crazy month and I didn't have time to include any additional activities.  My class didn't even notice because they still had a bunch of activities in their drawers that they know how to use.  I didn't feel bad because they were still practicing the skills they need to practice the most!

If interested, you can grab my games here or here.

I hope you found some part of this series helpful!  Is there anything that you do differently that you love?