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Early Start and 50 followers!

Okay, first of all, I am SOOOOO excited that I have 50 followers.  I started this blog as more of a journal and place to collect ideas.  Over the summer, I started reading some blogs and quickly became addicted!  That is when I started using this blog more as a place to share my ideas.  As a thank you to my 50 followers, I have a few freebies for you! 

As 2011 comes to an end, I have been reading everyone's new years resolutions...organization and planning seem to be two goals most of us have in common for 2012.  I have been wanting needing to come up with some forms that will allow me to do long range planning.  So I got an early start on my 2012 goals and made a few different sheets. 

 This is a general sheet you can use to jot down ideas for the future. 

This is a sheet I made that outlines each week in the quarter.  The blank section next to the week is for the dates.  You can get them both for free by clicking on the pictures or by visiting my Teachers Notebook store!  


2012 Resolutions

I'm linking up with  Tammy at Live, Laugh, Love  Everyday in Kindergarten to post my goals for next year.  I'll be honest, last year I had no resolutions because I have a hard time keeping them so I'm going to try to keep it attainable this year.  Maybe sharing them with my readers will push me to keep them :)

1.  Eat better than I did in 2011
2.  Exercise more than I did in 2011 (these two really shouldn't be to hard...the bar was not set high in 2011 haha)
3.  Get married (Odd resolution but I've been engaged for 2 1/2 years - it's time to start planning again!)

1.  Organize!!! (This probably should be a personal goal too but that's just not realistic) All of my goals for this year fall under this category so more specifically I want to:
      - Make a sub tub
      - Get my probe (assessment) books/kits made
      - Start and maintain a lesson planning/prep routine (long range to weekly/daily)
      - Organize lesson materials

Organization is such a hard thing for me and I don't know why.  With my upcoming grad school semester, I am going to need to be super organized so I will be getting started on this resolution tonight.  And as always, anything I make that may be useful to you, I will post here.  Now it is your turn!  Go post your resolutions and  link up with Tammy! 

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!  

Autism Tip

Since this is a special ed blog, I figured I should probably post something special ed related every once in a while!  This year, one of my students with autism has been complaining about the lights bothering him.  Fluorescent lights can be very troublesome to students with autism and these lights are everywhere!  The lights hum and flicker all the time, not just when they are about to go out, and it causes sensory overload for some kids.  While Christmas shopping, I grabbed 6 sets of cheap white Christmas lights ($2.70 at Christmas Tree Shoppes) and some command hooks and here is what I ended up with: 

I need to go back and make them straighter now that they have stretched out but these go all the way around my room.  It doesn't add a ton of light (it did in my tiny apartment bedroom) but it's a good start.  I'm going to look for cute, cheap lamps to place around the room as well.  These are not just for Christmas - they are staying up all year!  The student who was having trouble was ecstatic!  As an added bonus, I love being in my room when the lights are on.  If you have students with autism, you may want to try alternative lighting as well.  

On an unrelated note...I'M FINALLY ON BREAK! :) I need this time to get caught up on work and to reorganize before the second half of this year which will include: 
-Student teaching (for my masters)
-Two grad school classes
-Writing a research paper that must be submitted to a professional journal
-My 3-year district portfolio is due
-Applying for tenure
-& teaching! 

Merry Christmas!

Ready for break!

I am so ready for Christmas break!  Unfortunately, my first day off is Friday.  I had my plans all set for this week - a week of gingerbread activities from Erica Bohrer's unit BUT I took home all the game pieces to cut and ended up getting sick & not going to school for 2 days.  My poor students have had NO holiday activities this week and my poor substitute has to deal with hyper kids and boring assignments...I really need to get a better substitute kit made!  Between a very hectic final week of grad school and then being sick, I feel so behind.  Thankfully, all of you wonderful bloggers make units and materials to sell on Teachers Notebook or TPT that I use when I have no time to make my own materials!  Speaking of TPT, one of my favorite blogs (2nd Grade Shenanigans) is having a HUGE giveaway right now...she is giving away EVERYTHING in her TPT store....EVERYTHING!  
Head over there for your chance to win! 

Magnetic letters

I'm a sucker for a good deal...who isn't?  A year ago, I found alphabet sets at a ridiculously cheap price (I don't remember what it was now but trust me, it was good).  I got carried away and long story short, I ended up with 20 alphabet sets in a big zip-lock bag.  No kid is going to dig through 520 letters to make words so this was obviously a terrible storage solution.  I finally decided to sort all the letters and figure out a new storage solution. 

That was not an easy task so these sat on my windowsill until I thought of something.  I went to Michaels to see what kind of container I could use and here is what I came up with: 

Photo boxes!  Sorry for the sideways pictures...

I put one complete alphabet in each box.  Every student can grab their own box and work independently. There is probably room to keep 2 sets of letters in each box but I think that may be too many letters to sort through for many kids.  I plan on making a set of task cards for each box as well.  I'm keeping a few alphabet sets for those times when kids need 2 of one letter.  I can't wait to reveal these to my kids next week!

If you have a different way you store your magnetic letters, please share in your comments!

Introducing New Reading Strategies

I was writing a post about how I am using my readers's notebooks and I started to explain how I introduce strategies but I think this deserves it's own post!

I stick to the Modeling, Guided practice, Independent practice layout.  First, I tell the students the name of the strategy and a 1 or 2 sentence definition of it.  Next, I model how to use the strategy with a picture book & a think-aloud.  I select places to stop & use the strategy in each book.  The first few stopping points I model how to use the strategy with them.  The next few, I let them try and I guide them.  The last 1 or 2 stopping points I have the students write down how they would use the strategy (Independent practice).  If we have time, I let them free read and practice the strategy more.

I realize that may have sounded confusing so here is my lesson for Checking for Understanding:

Intro: "Today, you are going to learn a new reading strategy called Check for Understanding.  When you check for understanding you simply make sure you understand what you are reading as you read.  After you read a few pages, stop and retell the story to yourself.  If you can do that, keep reading.  If you can't go back and reread.  I think this is one of the most important but simple strategies you will learn.  I'm going to read The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers and show you how I check for understanding while I read."

Modeling: I will read 2-3 pages and then stop and re-tell what I have just read.  If I can retell the important parts, I keep reading.  If I can't, I stop and re-read that section again.  

Guided Practice: I will continue reading and stopping but instead of retelling the section myself, a student will.  

Independent Practice: The last 2 stopping points, I have the students write down their simple retelling.  We go over the first one together and I assess the second one.  

Closure: I have the students share their final retelling and explain what checking for understanding is or how to do it.  

The next day, I introduce the strategy card and sentence frames for that strategy.  The students practice using the strategy independently & writing think-marks for that strategy.  I don't have them write think-marks for checking for understanding so they would read and I would stop everyone a few times and have them check for understanding by writing their retelling - just so I know they are using the strategy.  

This isn't the most creative way to introduce strategies but my students need structure and consistency so it works for me! 

Reader's Notebooks

A week or so ago, I posted about my new reader's notebooks.  I wanted to share with you how my students are using them.  

First, I am introducing the notebooks slowly.  The first day we created Do's and Don'ts, took a tour of the notebook, and decorated the covers.  The next day, we read the Cafe menu and created reading goals.  Since I only have 5 students at a time, one worked with me on choose a goal or two while the others filled in their reading interests.  

For the next few days, we practiced using think-marks.  The students reviewed a strategy a day (5 minutes) and I showed them the sentence frame(s) for that strategy.  They independently read and filled in a practice stop & jot page (not one in their notebook, I wanted to give them time to practice and make mistakes).  We went over their use of the strategy and their writing until I knew they understood the strategy and how to write about that strategy.  

Now that my students have a few different strategies to write about, they read a book and used their notebooks to document their thinking.    We will continue to do this until Christmas break.  In January, I plan on introducing the reading response journal section.  

I am using paperclips as bookmarks for the response section and the stop & jot section.  The paper clip goes on the page the students are working on so they can quickly find the correct page.  

I might add ribbons to the paperclips to make them a little more fun.  

You can purchase the Reader's Notebook at my Teachers Notebook store.

Writing Center

Every year, I say that I am going to focus on one subject (reading, writing, or math) and perfect it as much as possible.  Apparently, that is impossible for me to do.  Two weeks ago I decided to focus on reading, then I switched to math for a few days and now I'm working on writing.  

So here is a picture of my updated writing center - it's nothing fancy but it was completely empty before! 

I stapled colorful file folders to the wall to hold some resources.  The Brainstorming folder holds our favorite graphic organizers, the revising and editing folders hold the revising and editing checklists.  On the table there is a tissue box with writing prompts in it (the box says "I've caught the writing bug" on it).  Next to that is where the different types of paper are stored (first draft, publishing paper, notebook paper).  Finally, in the plain magazine file, I keep my spiraled copies of Banish Boring Words! which is an excellent book for word choice!  

(Click the picture to view it at Amazon)

I also keep a list of 200 commonly misspelled words in the magazine box. My kids can use it independently and it's organized.  It's just a start and I know I could make it 1000 times better but it will work for this year. 


12 Days of Christmas

Have you heard about the 12 Days of Christmas giveaways?  They sound AMAZING!  Head over to Oh' Boy 4th Grade to check it out!  Here is a list of the bloggers doing the giveaways:

& Congratulations to both of my giveaway winners Gladys and Manda!