Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween! Killing Them with Kindness!

Trick or Treat!! In the past my students have freaked out when I have worn costumes. This group seems to love Halloween so I picked a very cheerful costume where I look as much like myself as possible. I also gave the kids a warning that I would look different, and it was still going to be me teaching them. This seemed to help a lot. Today a pink and purple butterfly taught Lower El :) Note: the student who I said was missing yesterday has been found and is safely back home!

The kids were soooo adorable in their costumes! I had Iron Man, Darth Vader, a wizard, a doctor, and Percy the Tank Engine (from Thomas the train). We all know what Halloween means in teacher world...CRAZY!! So I was on a mission to make today as pleasant as possible.

Yesterday a parent gave me Howard Glasser CDs about "The Difficult Child" to listen to in my car during my commute. The student is BY FAR the most challenging kid I've ever had. He even puts ABA to shame. He sees people as toys and really couldn't care less about prizes, rewards, or any form of consequences. Not to mention the kid is brilliant so I can't even say he has to learn to get smarter, because he's already super 3 grade levels above his age smart. This kid has tested my every limit so I'll try anything. So I'm listening to these CD's and the mom is right. Glasser describes exactly her kid. Basically, people are like the coolest toy in the world, and who cares about everything else. Even consequences are rewarding because I think it's fun to make you do something (talk, scold, whatever).
One of the big concepts is basically kill the kid with kindness. I was already a believer in this, but what do you do when a  kid can go 5 hours without ever doing what is asked? This was where I had a revelation. Find the good, even when the kid is being awful. So today I found my mission: kill them with kindness. I figure if I can get this kid (and the rest of them too) to behave on one of the wackiest days of the year, then there really is something to this little scheme.

Here are a couple situations I had today:
  • Kid makes horribly annoying noises and I say "Wow! I love that you are keeping your hands to yourself"
  • Kid is completely off task and I say "It's really great that you're sitting quietly in your chair because it shows your classmates respect so they can focus on your work." (He usually grabs and annoys them)
  • Kid asks to read instead of color and I flood him with praise about how he's such a great reader and how it's a perfectly quiet activity for him to do instead
My super big "Ah Ha!" moment came when he made it all the way until recess on Blue (our best behavior chart color). This is super rare for him to accomplish. I also did this "kill with kindness" thing to the kids who were doing what I wanted when my focus kid wasn't. And the part that made me the most excited was how contagious it was. The kids started giving each other lots of complements too with zero prompting from me. At one point my tricky kid went back to his usual ways and dropped to the bottom of the behavior chart. Then when he earned his way off Red and on to Yellow the whole class started cheering for him!! It was soo cute! To any other kid Yellow is terrible, but for him it was a big step in the right direction. There have been times he's never gotten off Red during a day. I've been working hard to make sure this class doesn't hate this kid, because I've seen it happen. I love that they can find the good too, and celebrate it. It's called the Nurtured Heart Approach and I can already see it going in the right direction for the class as a whole. I haven't gotten to the "consequences" CD yet, so I'll try that another day.

Last but not least, gummy bear graphing was a huge hit and the kids were begging to graph some more. This was even the favorite part of the day for "tricky kid" when he originally was refusing to participate. Yay for gummy bears! If you want the blank graph, just go to yesterday's post.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Review Week Freebie!

It's a busy week in Lower El! Yesterday we went on a field trip to the pumpkin patch in Half Moon Bay. It was a great trip! I must admit, it was nice having another adult to help me out with my little wiggle worms! It's a huge pumpkin patch with tons to do! We rode ponies; took a hay ride; went through a hay maze; petted baby pigs, goats, sheep and bunnies; jumped in a bouncy house, and picked out our very own pumpkins to take home! It was a VERY busy day!
Finding our way in the hay maze

They LOVED the hay ride!

After work I decided to be "good" and go to the gym despite my super duper tiredness from the field trip. This was apparently a dumb and dangerous decision! I'm a klutz and when you add that to being super tired from a field trip and a hard gym workout, you get injury! In this case I smashed my head into the cement during a run. I slipped on loose gravel which lead to me tripping over a curb and falling face first. OUCH!! I have a rather LARGE lump on my head and a huge headache. Thankfully no concussion! Oh, and in the process of trying not to land on my head, I ended up scraping up my leg and bruising my shoulder. Boy, can I tell you how excited I am to show those off at our school fundraiser Cocktail Party on Friday?! I'll be wearing a dress, so they can see the scrapes and bruises for the hardcore kindergarten teacher! Oops, I'm rambling...on to school stuff...

We only have 2 class days this week thanks to the field trip and parent-teacher conferences. I've declared it Halloween Review Week! Not that we are reviewing Halloween... more like we are using a Halloween theme for all of our regularly scheduled review work. It just makes things more fun.

Kindergarten Review:
  • Counting to 15 with objects
  • Initial concepts of addition (this was a jump ahead because they wanted to learn it 2 weeks ago and I'm not about to stop serious learning!)
  • Patterns
  • Graphing 
  • Reading Predictable Books
  • ABCs
One of the moms brought in our party decorations and candy this afternoon so she could help me set up ahead of time. She just so happened to bring baby bags of gummy bears! This gave me the great idea to do gummy bear graphing! Do you know what that means??? You guessed it! A FREEBIE! It's a black and white graphing activity with blank gummy bears. This means you can have the kids color the base gummy bears the same as the colors in their bags. I know there are several colors of gummies depending on the brand, so this has everyone covered, even clear :)
1st/2nd Grade Review
  • Numbers to 100
  • Place Value
  • Basic Addition/Subtraction
  • Graphing
  • Personal Narratives
  • Reading Comprehension Skills

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Letter T Craft & Other Adventures

I haven't posted in 4 days!!! That's a record for me. Does that tell you what kind of week it's been? Okay, so in a nutshell we've: finished our Pocket Books, Worked on Letter T, had SF Giants Day, and I did a Warrior Dash on Sunday. Read on for the full details!
My Pumpkin, Bats, and Spiders! Oh My! Numbers to 10 is on sale from now until Halloween for 20% off! (I've also tossed in a few of my hidden gems into the sale pile too!) If you like to plan ahead, my brand new Thanksgiving Numbers to 30 Hands-on Centers is now available in my TPT store. I'm only 13 followers away from my 100th Follower Giveaway and I'll be giving away the Thanksgiving Centers to the winner, along with other great prizes from awesome bloggers.
This week the kinder boys were learning the letter T and they loved it. One of their favorite projects was the T Trees! They kept the kids entertained for sooo long and it made me see how far these kids have come since I met them on the first day of school. They traced the T pattern without any help, which never would have happened last month! Then, without prompting, they colored (relatively) in the lines! I loved that the kids each turned them into fruit trees. Too cute! I had an apple tree, a lemon tree, and an orange tree. They looked so cute that I put them up on the Star Work board along with their apple projects. I thought fruit trees were a perfect addition to the board!

My kids also finished their Halloween and Night Creatures Pocket Books. They turned out great and the parents were quite impressed with them. I had this grand idea to take pictures of the complete books, but that never happened. I had one boy who had a TERRIBLE week, and it made my days extra challenging. Then I lost my prep period on 2 of the days this week. I was barely keeping up! The 2nd graders made really cute koala's out of paper to go with the koala facts they learned. It even had a cute little pouch :0)

Friday was San Francisco Giants Day at our school. That is our "home team" and they made it to the World Series, so the school decided to celebrate with a hot dog BBQ. Everyone wore orange and black to school. This was especially tricky for my kid who wears his clothes in rainbow order! Orange is Tuesday, and Green is his Friday color. He managed to break his routine to be like the other kids in his class. I was proud of him, and mom was a little shocked too! During lunch the door to the teacher's lounge was open and I was the only one in there. One of my boys saw me working and asked if he could come in because he had something for me. He took one of the hot dog buns from the BBQ area and brought it to me because he thought I might be hungry. Such a sweetie! I love how kids think it's totally normal to just eat a bun with nothing in it. Haha!

This week my kids also did lots of Halloween themed activities. One of them was this great ABC matching ghost game I got as a freebie through my blog hopping. Sorry, but I have no idea which blog it came from, but I know it can be found on the From the Pond linky for the Halloween Ghosts. This is another activity that caused a fit at the beginning of the year, but the kids did with ease this week. Matching upper and lowercase letters used to be so much harder. I like that these are black and white so I just printed them on regular paper and gave the boys the set to take home when they were done with the activity.

 Last, but far from least... I was in a Warrior Dash yesterday! So much muddy fun! I have a friend from high school who became very overweight in the last few years. He was on a mission to get healthier and do this obstacle course run and I happily joined in. He lost 150 pounds!! Isn't that amazing! We had sooo much fun! I really want to go again next year! Have a laugh at our "before" and "after" pics!
I'm the girl on the far right
My shoes, medal, and race bib. They all came clean with a hose!

I'm on the far left

I looks gross, but it was soooo much fun (I'm on the far left)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wacky Wednesday! My Halloween Freebies!

Wacky doesn't even begin to cover it today! Every kid in class was in a total funk today! I swear it became contagious. Days like this make teaching special ed a real challenge. In a regular class, kids can keep going about their business if one kid is out of wack. My little guys need so much help that if one kid is having a tantrum and I get held up, the other kids get thrown off because they can't figure out what to do without specific instructions. I saw 3 sets of tears today (from different kids), several bursts of yelling, door slamming, and a large amount of "NO!" being said (by both them and me!). Did I mention today was Open House and random strangers were touring our school to see if they'd like to bring their kids to our school?! Thank goodness they came in between chaotic moments because of course they had lots of questions about how I run my program and I'm telling them how great it is.

(This is the point where I begin to babble about life as a SPED teacher, so if you don't want to laugh at the thought of me squishing a kid on purpose, you're welcome to skip down to the freebies at the bottom.)

At one point I was laying on a kid to help him calm down. He asked for it, I wasn't punishing him! Some of my kids have autism and crave sensory stimulation to calm down. After a full day of hitting, grabbing, and other inappropriate touching a boy finally asked "Can you squish me?" I about squealed with cheer that he figured out what would make him feel better and asked for it!! I can't do it unless he wants to, or it just makes him more upset. I've tried suggesting it in the past, but he refused. So for math today my little guy laid on the ground on his tummy with a weighted blanket on top of him. Then I laid across his back and he got a full 2 pages of math done without a fight! This was the ONLY completed work out of the entire day, and the only time he didn't touch other people. His mom told me the OT sat on a bean bag on top of him the other day and he liked it, and I could do it too if it would help anything. I'm going to make a reminder card for sensory stimulation so maybe tomorrow he'll ask for it a little sooner if he needs it. I'll post it when it's ready. If you are a SPED teacher and want a modified version of the choice list, just let me know. I realize we all have different equipment/gear in our classrooms.

I'm linking up with Think, Wonder, Teach for Halloween Freebies! I've made a few to share with you. They have become spread out in a few different posts, so now they are all in one! Just click the images!

If you like my Halloween materials, my Numbers to 10 set is only $2.50. I've used the materials in several ways for the last 2 weeks. Feel free to look at other posts to see how I've used them.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Halloween Pocket Books & My Prize Arrived

This kids are obsessed with our theme pockets this month! They come to school begging to work on the next project. I told a boy we couldn't do it in the morning because I still needed to make the tracing stencils for them and his response was "OH!! OK!! I'm working now! So now you have time to make them! GO! GO! GO!!" Soo cute! The kids have learned when they are working hard, I work on other things for them until they need help and I stop what I'm doing to help them. His thinking was if he gets to work I have time to prep his Halloween project. Love it! Especially since music was cancelled and I lost my prep period today, so I was still able to be ready in time for our project.

NOTE: Blogger is giving me HUGE trouble lately! I can't control where my pictures go and they end up in the wrong places. I also can't add captions. Please forgive the photos that are out of order or in the completely wrong place. I'll fix it when this starts working properly.

Kinder Halloween Pockets:
Yesterday we made mummies. It was mainly just for fun and fine motor practice. The kids traced the person outline, cut it out, then glued on cut up bits of gauze bandage that I stole from my home first aid it...I should probably replace that before the next earthquake hits!

Today we made torn paper candy corn, and they turned out SUPER CUTE!! The kids practiced fine motor by tearing up paper scraps from our other Halloween projects (we like to re-use). Then we traced the stencils I made from old file folders. Next, the kids spread the glue (one section at a time) and put the scraps on the different sections of the candy corn outline. They loved every second of it. Tomorrow we'll make an acrostic poem with the words "candy corn" to complete the project.

1st/2nd Grade Night Creatures Pockets:
Yesterday the kiddos compared owls and bats using a Venn Diagram. They had pictures of both in front of them to help inspire ideas. They did shockingly well with this project! This group really struggles with comprehension sometimes, so I got really excited at their success.

Today we worked on Koalas. They cut up mixed up facts and had to sort out the sentences. I tried taking a picture, but it just looked like kids with scraps of plain white paper, and who wants to see that?! I'll just explain... each square had half a fact and they had to match it to the other half of the sentence. Example: "Koalas are not bears," was matched with "they are marsupials." There were 9 different facts so 18 squares all together. They did pretty well, and once again... even better than I expected. Hands on projects really seem to be the key with my guys who struggle with verbal/written skills. A HUGE reason why I like theme pockets!

Last, but surely not least...I got my ALEX toys prize that I won! It was on my porch when I got home from the gym and I thought my new laptop case came early, but discovered it was the book I won! Thanks ALEX toys!!! It's a Jungle Party book with little projects to go with it. Super cute! I think I might squeeze this into my day for the kinder kids tomorrow!

PS~ Did I mention I'm typing this blog post from my BRAND NEW laptop I bought with my first TPT check?! It's just a small little notebook that I can tote back and forth to work. Nothing fancy, and it was pretty cheap. I could never have gotten it without AMAZING followers like you on my blog and TPT store! You're the best! THANK YOU!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Manic Monday! Scarecrow Sight Words Freebie!

Who doesn't love a good freebie?! Grab my latest Freebie- Adorable Scarecrow Sight Words! There are 31 sight words, plus a few blanks so you can add some of your own words if they are missing. I based them on the Kindergarten sight words, but they are also great for beginning 1st graders.

I'm only 15 followers away from my 100 Follower Giveaway!! I already have 3 fellow bloggers donating products for the giveaway fun. If you'd like to join, please let me know through a comment or email me at

It's the first rainy day of the school year, and a Monday! I'm going to consider anything better than complete chaos to be a success!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Numbers to 30 Hands On Centers

It's been a great and busy weekend! In the last 3 days I've had a friend's birthday party, my 10 year reunion, shopping with my first TPT check, a soccer game, and lesson planning! Wow! I think I need an extra day in my weekend! I'm super excited to see I'm only 15 followers away from my 100 Follower Giveaway! I already have 3 blogger friends joining in the fun, so there will be not 1 item to win, but 4!!! If you'd like to join in and be part of the giveaway, please let me know by shooting me an email to

I've just finished my newest item for my TPT store. It just so happens to also be the item I'll be putting up for grabs during my giveaway. I had every intention of waiting...but I was so excited about this new hands-on learning center that I couldn't wait to tell you about it!!

Pilgrim Hats: Counters
Turkeys with Solid Numbers:
Write the Room
Counting Practice using Pilgrim Hat Counters
Cornucopia with Dashed Numbers: Tracing Practice (laminate and trace with dry erase markers)
Write the Room Student Response Sheet
Count and Match Game

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Thank you! Time to Shop!

I have to say a great big THANK YOU to all of you!! Today I got my very first check from Teachers Pay Teachers!!!! Excited really doesn't even begin to cover it. I'm downright giddy! This wouldn't be possible without WONDERFUL followers like you!! I'm a big saver, but I think I'm going to use this for fun money :) I completely hate my barely functioning my work computer, and it seems to hate me back. It's a mutual dislike. So I think I'm going to go pick up a cheap laptop to keep at work (or go back and forth to my house). I have a computer, but it was never one I intended to use anywhere other than my couch, so it's big and bulky. I think it's time for a smaller, lighter laptop/Netbook. You guys are the best. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I'm only 17 followers away from my 100 follower giveaway. I have one person already offering to join in. Please let me know if you want to be featured on my blog and donate one of your products to the giveaway. I'll add your info to the rafflecopter.

Yesterday's in-service was rather useless, but fun. An expert on "emotional learning" came in and we played with Tinkertoys and built towers. Then we played a game where we made up an imaginary suitcase and all of us got to add a cool feature and the person next to us made up a goofy reason why that thing was necessary. By the end it had wings, a refrigerator and a self-packing device among other things. By lunch I hid in my classroom and did a bit of prep work, then left early since none of our administration was on campus.

Last night was my 10 year high school reunion. It was more fun than I expected, but I stayed our far later than I have in years! Coffee was a necessity this morning! There's a pic down below. I'm in the blue dress. Also, check out the Tinkertoy tower. Sadly, I'm in the middle with my eyes closed. Oops!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Freebie Friday!!

Happy Friday! It's such a busy day for me, so this will be short and sweet. It's a teacher work day today, so no kiddos! I also have a b-day party and my 10 year high school reunion to go to. Crazy!! I love my class, but days without them are so calm and stress free, and I certainly need that on such a busy day! I teach at a K-12 school so when we have an in-service they are pretty much useless for half of the staff. We all have to listen to the same speaker, and clearly the things I use with my kinder kids are not the same as the high school teachers. Odds are I'll be working on creating my Thanksgiving learning centers while I sit in the back of the room with my laptop! My plan is to give the centers activities away in my 100 Follower Giveaway. I'm only 20 followers away from it!! If you'd like be a part of the giveaway, please let me know. You can donate a prize and be featured on my blog. The more the merrier!

Today's  Freebie is one I featured earlier this week, but I've learned linking up with Freebie Friday lets more people know about great goodies, so I'm posting it again. I bought these cute purple plastic bats at the Target Dollar Spot (they are actually $2.50) and my kids loved them. They were only supposed to learn numbers to 9 this week, but they liked it so much that we went to 20 this week because they kept asking for more. I wasn't about to say no to learning!!

My Full Numbers to 10 Centers at TPT

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Learning Through Halloween!

My kids are going nuts over all the Halloween activities. It's amazing how all I need to do is add a bat or pumpkin to a very mundane activity and suddenly they think it's the best thing ever! I'm taking full advantage of this. I picked up more little bats at Target tonight for our counting activities. One kid who usually hates working had a tantrum this morning because I wouldn't let him count pumpkins during reading time. How funny is it that telling a kid "you can't learn math now" turns into a 20 minute pouting session?! Looks like I need to add more pumpkins to reading time. For today, the bats initial and final sounds activity worked pretty well.The initial and final sounds came from here at First Grade Parade. The bat picture/number cards to 20 were a freebie I posted yesterday. The kid who was working on them begged for them ALL DAY after he found the new cards this morning!

The pocket books are a continuing work in progress, and the kids are still completely loving them. The best part is how eery quiet they are while working. The kids are so excited about each project that they get a little disappointed when I tell them to put it in their pocket and wait until all the pockets are full to take the book home. They just want to rush home and share the projects with their parents. Too cute! It was a rough afternoon for one little guy, so no pics of the project today. In a nutshell, the kinders drew pictures of their Halloween costumes and practiced writing the name of their costume. The 1st/2nd kids read about owls and started a mini owl report. It still needs some work, so that will take attempt #2 tomorrow. I was busy with the rough day kiddo, and couldn't help the boys, so they did the best they could with zero examples or scaffolding. Tomorrow will be a re-do day for them.
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