Monday, February 25, 2013

Our Cute Caterpillars Might Be Creepy Moths

So I took my adorable little caterpillars to school this morning and the kids were THRILLED! I told them all about how I found them while pulling weeds and you would have thought it was the most exciting story ever! At first I just told them I found an insect and I was going to let the kids make guesses. Then the first kid I called on guessed it on the first try!

When I left the house I discovered one was already spinning it's silk cocoon and I was like "Yay! Pefect timing to show the stages of the life cycle!" Then as the day went on I discovered there was no cute little chrysalis... the silk turned into a creepy spider web looking thing. The kids thought this was GREAT to get to watch with the magnifying glasses. I on the other hand was starting to realize these adorable little caterpillars may very well be creepy looking moths, not butterflies. I didn't get a picture because it's hard to see before it's done being formed. I'll post it soon, hopefully tomorrow.
I taught my lesson and we did out investigations and observations about what we saw in the caterpillar jar. Then I taught the kids the word "hypothesis" and they had to decide if there hypothesis was moth or butterfly, then draw it with the colors they thought it would have. I told them I have NO CLUE what this critter will look like, but we know it will turn into one of those two options, so there is no wrong answer as long as they don't draw a bird or a frog or something else impossible to come from a cocoon.

Here is their work on the wall, plus a close up of the one with the most clear drawing of their hypothesis. Not too shabby!

In case you missed my new mini unit last week, here is my St. Patrick's Day Emergent Reader Set now available in my TPT store. It includes: 2 emergent readers (ready for 2 sided copying), 1 vocabulary poster (full color), 1 brainstorming web, 3 different stationary pages (2 with prompts, 1 without)

Also, I made an ADDITIONAL St. Patrick's Day stationary page. Even if you go get the emergent reader set, download this too! This *~FREEBIE~* is NOT the same as the 3 included in my set!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Life Cycle of a Caterpillar

I was (grudgingly) doing yard work yesterday, which I generally HATE (strange considering I'm a total outdoors person, but I feel like adding work into it just ruins the fun). As I pulling weeds I saw 2 bright green wiggly things. I bent closer and saw they were CATERPILLARS!! I gently picked them up and found a third one. I ran inside and got a disposable plastic tub that previously had Safeway soup, and poked some holes in the lid.

I took the critters back outside with me a put some leaves and sticks in the tub for them to nibble and crawl around while I worked some more. As I pulled more weeds I took an extra careful look at each one. By the time I was done with my work I had 10!!!! Actually I swear there were 11, but I think one escaped.

So what does a teacher do when she finds a bunch of caterpillars! Decides her next science unit of course!! I would have titled this post "life cycle of a butterfly" but to be perfectly honest, my kids might be learning the "life cycle of a creepy ugly moth!" I really don't know what these will look like. But for now the little critters are pretty darn cute!

Two tried to escape... and I think a 3 was successful because I count one less than I thought I originally had. Or I was tired and forgot how to count to 10...either one is possible. 

Last year I ordered butterfly caterpillars and they all died. I'm convinced they were half dead on arrival because they only lasted 24 hours. Any tips on how to keep these critters alive? I decided fresh food from my backyard everyday might be the trick. The last critters didn't seem to like the "nutrient" stuff that came in their jar.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Free St. Patrick's Day Stationary

Ski Week is coming to an end. I've been sooo lazy and I love it! I had a blast meeting my friend's baby boy yesterday! He is such a cutie! Look, it's me holding him! The girls and I were late getting to book club because he was too cute to leave!

I had planned to go put my room back together after getting new carpet this week, but there has been a change of plans. Apparently the carpet is late arriving and I won't get it put in until NEXT weekend! I don't actually care about when the carpet arrives, but I do care that I no longer have time to go put my classroom back together now. I was going to go on our extra time off this week. Next weekend means I will arrive Monday morning to chaos and things in wrong places (which never goes over well for kids with autism!). Not looking forward to that little gem of a day! I'm thinking I'll stop by Starbucks at the crack of dawn and see just how much I can get done before the kids come in.

In my procrastination of lesson planning this week I made St. Patrick's Day Emergent readers. Then today I made an extra stationary page. There are 3 different ones included in the set. This freebie one is NOT part of my emergent reader set if you've already purchased it! Don't forget to download this little bonus too!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Readers and Activities

What should I be doing during Winter Break? Probably lesson planning! But which sounds like more fun 1) Lesson Plans or 2) Making cute things for my kids/TPT

I chose option 2!! I'm loving creating these little readers! I was going to make just one fiction story, but then I realized I wanted a non-fiction-ish story. Now you may be wondering, what makes a book non-fiction-ish? I wanted it mainly factual, but I didn't want to ruin the magic of leprechauns. I know some teachers use leprechauns as a fun little learning experience to set traps and things, so I don't want to burst that seriously awesome bubble. I refer to it as a "legend," then talk about how they are known for being tricky.

Click here (or the first image) to get your copy of the St. Patrick's Day Emergent Readers & Activities Set

 This 16 page St. Patrick's Day Set Includes:
-2 Emergent Readers (1 fiction, 1 mostly non-fiction, 8 pgs each)
-1 Full Color Holiday Vocabulary Chart
-1 Brainstorming Web
-3 Writing Stationary Pages (2 with prompts, 1 blank)

Both emergent readers are made to print the 8 page stories on 2 pieces of paper. Printing instructions are included. They are also made as blackline masters to save on printing cost for you. I have all of these images in color, if you would prefer a color version, just let me know and I can add in that format.

Also, my Valentine Addition/Subtraction Puzzles are 50% off for a limited time!

I'm not teaching this week so you get a glimpse into my personal life:

Today is Girls Day! 

First I had a girls only CrossFit class. This is RARE! It's a dude dominated gym/sport/activity and there are more times than I can count that I was the only girl in the class. Today it was all girls, even the trainer! In fairness, it was a tiny class of 5 of us, but still... Girl Power! I start soccer season in 3 days, and I can't wait to see how much stronger I am on the field thanks to CrossFit!

Next up... Speech Teacher Kari (AKA the only person over 7 I talk to some days at work) just had her baby last week. A couple of the girls from work and I are going to see her and the little guy in just a couple of hours. I can't wait to see them! I made her a mommy basket! Kari, you better not be reading this post before I see you! I may be ruining the surprise right now... But I put together a basket of goodies like face masks, sugar scrub, bubble bath, and a few other little surprises.

Take a peek! Note the black paws you see under the clear glass table- That's my dog Cheyenne :)

Last but not least on girls day... Book Club! We started book club toward the beginning of the school year and I love it! We hang out, have some wine and chat. Some months it's a lot about the book, other months it's a lot of teacher chatter. It's by no means required to be a teacher, but teachers have teacher friends! I think we're a 3/4 teacher book club at this point. I am guilty of being a total chick lit reader! I love that book club makes me expand past Jane Green, Melissa Hill and Cecilia Ahern books! I'm a sucker for British/Irish girl writers! This month's book was The Art of Fielding and surrounded the life of a baseball player. Nothing I would ever have picked out on my own, but I enjoyed it. I spent all day Tuesday finishing the book. Perfect rainy day activity!

That's all for now! Have a great day!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Social Skills Cards and Behavior Management

My Social Skills Reminder Cards are flying off the shelves! Well if TPT had shelves that is! I was thinking about making a second set of reminder cards. There are currently 30 cards in the set and I'd like to create about 30 more. What skills/topics would you like to see? Is there something I left out of my first set that you'd really like added to your collection? I'd love to hear any suggestions you may have! You can also email me at

Behavior Management is a tricky thing in the classroom. What works for some kids, does not work for all of them. This is especially true in special education! I have tested, used, and experimented more strategies than I can count! I thought I'd put together a quick list for you. I honestly pick and choose from each system and use all my favorite parts of each one.
Resource Room Rules
I was reading a post on Jacqui's blog, Resource Room Rules,  and it got me thinking. Behavior is something that needs to be approached from many angles. Special education has taught me that every behavior a child exhibits has a purpose. Resolve the problem by giving the students a better way to react to problems.

Start with one consistent behavior system with rewards and consequences. I use a colored chart with velcro, many teachers have similar systems with clips. This is a school-wide system that I did not create, although I did some serious tweaking to make it work for my little guys! I teach at a K-12 school, so what makes sense for a high school system doesn't always work for the little guys.
Small version for consistency at home

Class Chart

I also use a point sheet. Every kid gets a point sheet every day. The kids get up to 6 points for each section of the chart: following directions, personal space, appropriate words/noises, respecting school community, staying on task, and stay in assigned area. I connect this to the color chart. All the points in a section = stay on blue or move up. Each point lost is a drop down on the level chart (with allowance for minor infractions). Then there are instant level drops to red for things like hitting.
At the bottom of the chart are personal goals for each kid. These allow kids to become aware of specific things they struggle with, but I don't punish them. For example, one kid had "think with your eyes" as a goal because the student has autism and wouldn't look toward people during conversations.

This helps with a lot of behaviors in the classroom, but not all of them. Then it's time to get down to business of how and why we need to behave a certain way. Links for many of these topics can be found in the tab labeled "Resource for Parents & Teachers" at the top of my blog. There are also more detailed descriptions of the resources.

Social Thinking- Michelle Garcia Winner is AMAZING! It helps kids identify different ways they may act in situations using SuperFlex and the Unthinkables.

Nurtured Heart- I prefer to call this "kill them with kindness." Make the classroom fun and full of praise and complements so kids want to stay part of the group. even when a kid is making a bad choice you praise something (anything) that they are doing right. Then guide them to a positive choice. So a kid is off task but has their name on their paper? Say "Wow! I love how you're sitting quietly and already have your name on your paper. I can't wait to see how well you do on your assignment!" So you're secretly telling them to get to work, but not in a way they feel like they're being told what to do.

Zones of Regulation- This helps kids name their feelings and find acceptable ways of releasing emotional tension and calm down. My kids earn "tool cards" for using a tool to calm down appropriately. My kids use this so well that they are able to identify what zone a peer is in, then decide if it's a good time to try to talk to them. I also use the zones when the kids are starting to drive me crazy. I'll tell them they are "putting me in the yellow zone because their interruptions are making me feel frustrated when I can't finish my sentence." I'll also fake it and use a tool like belly breathing to "calm myself down."

Lastly, Kari the speech teacher and I came up with our opposite of Michelle Garcia Winner's Unthinkables. We wanted a positive behavior to aim for. We came up with Focused Fred and Independent Iggy for the kids who are easily distracted and the kids who ask for help they don't need. These are both freebies in my TPT store if you want the charts.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Presidents' Day Emergent Reader *Freebie* + DIBELS Info

Happy Presidents' Day!! I'm loving that this is just one of many days off for me this week! I love ski week! Technically I believe we call it winter break now that our school no longer takes a ski trip, but "ski week" just sounds so fun!! I feel like I'm supposed to drive up to Tahoe or something!

I made this emergent reader on my flight to Colorado last week, but then my class got so busy I never got around to reading it with my class. Darn! Maybe next year, or perhaps it will be a nice will be a quick and easy lesson plan for our first day back from winter break.

Check out this great little ~FREEBIE~ and download a copy here!! This book is made to print double sided with no extra copies of the book, even if you have an odd number of students. I included the directions in the download. All you need to do is select the pages with the book and print them double sided. Next, cut the booklet in half and put the top half on top of the bottom half. Staple and Ta Da! You're done!

I'm having a lot of fun making these little books. I think I'll make one for St. Patty's Day too! I also think my young guys would benefit from a couple math readers... that one will require a bit more thought.

I also made a character map for the two presidents. This is a quick and simple way for little guys to take notes about what they learn about each president. It is made to go with any president lesson plans you have! Both character maps and the emergent reader are included in the same download.

Progress Monitoring
I have a little secret.... I'm obsessed with progress monitoring! It's partly a way to hold myself accountable for teaching every kid, and partly a way to hold the kids accountable for their own learning. We have such a routine that the kids and I call it "timer reading" for 1st/2nd (fluency) and "how many sounds do you hear" for kindergarten (phoneme segmentation). I'll be starting nonsense words with kindergarten when we get back from winter break in a week. Only one kid was ready at Christmas time so I didn't start it yet.

My progress monitoring is going soooo well. One little guy THRIVES on it! I started the Phoneme Segmentation progress monitoring in January after we got back from Christmas break. One little guy fell into the "strategic support" section and was starting to fall behind. DIBELS saved him within a month! He was on a mission to do better and get to the "target" on the graph. When he started he was at 10 sounds correct in a minute, then he realized he wanted to beat his last score. We started working on little intervention games together for 5 minutes a day.

His scores went like this: 10, 10, 23, 35, 42

For those that don't know, 40 is the benchmark for the END of kinder! I swear all this kid needed was goal and he suddenly reached it within 6 weeks! Time to start nonsense words with him!

I use the DIBELS progress monitoring booklets. Did you know you can download them FOR FREE?! I currently use the 6th edition, but then I went to get the link for you guys and I discovered there is a NEW version called DIBELS Next. I need to take some time to review it, so maybe we'll start next year. I like to stick to one version during a school year so I know I have accurate comparisons between the beginning and end of the year.

Here are some helpful links:
Sign up for the 6th Edition DIBELS and download it here

Sign up for DIBELS Next and download it here

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Winter Break!

I'm officially on winter break!! This was the longest week EVER!!!! I don't even know where to begin... There were definitely moments where I wanted to SCREAM this week. I wish I could blame small children who can't control what they do, but sadly it was grown ups driving me nuts this week. Between the lawyers and the "powers that be" at work, I went a little nutty. The gym, bubble baths, and wine were the only things keeping me sane!

I teach at a private school where logic and functional school standards don't always exist. In some ways this is awesome! If I think of a great idea, I can just do it. I have free reign over every aspect of the inner workings of my classroom. I even got to pick my curriculum. But with the good, there is always the bad.

They were about to enroll a PreK kid in my class for the rest of the year. I had a fit! I teach 3 grades at once as it is, add in a 4th and I might cry! Honestly... I did! Actual tears were in my eyes for a moment. The idea of preK, kinder, 1st, and 2nd grade all in the same room together all day with one teacher = nightmare! The kid is AWESOME and has my overwhelming approval to start in the fall, but just not right now. It would have made the age range 4-9 years old in the same room, which is just absurd! The range of standards for those grade levels is sooooo big. There is no way to teach the same concepts to these kids. Then add in special needs, so even teaching them separately doesn't work because they need a bunch of prompting and additional help. I was beyond happy when they told me late yesterday it was decided the student will wait until the fall to start.

Then add in the day after Valentine's Day... There was yelling, crying, and chair throwing. Breaking routine is NOT good for kids with autism and other struggles! They are apparently replacing the carpet in my class this week while I'm on break. This meant I had to move a bunch of stuff so I can find it when I get back on Monday. My kids did not do well with things moved around. My ENTIRE class is on carpet, the idea of coming in Monday with everything in a different place makes me nervous! I moved all the copies and lessons for the first day back, and I'll do my best to go in before break is over to put the room back together. I'm at the mercy of the carpet installers and worker bees.

The one bit of fun this week was our candy heart graphing! We were so busy on Valentine's Day that I never got to it. It turned into our Friday afternoon surprise! Then the kids yelled at me that this "isn't math" and this is their "fun surprise!" I slipped and said "when you finish your math, you can use computers" and they didn't agree with me. Let them think graphing is fun, just don't let it slip that it's math in disguise! We even compared our data using "greater" and "fewer," then we added up our total numbers into a class data chart and compared the information again.

I made a President's Day emergent reader that I never got around to teaching my own students. I'll have it posted for you guys before the weekend is over. Someone might as well put it to good use. It might as well be you! Also, I think I may take my time off to relax with some new TPT creations. I honestly really enjoy making this stuff! It's a chance to zone out and make things with cute clipart!

I'm so excited to relax after this crazy week! I did some bridesmaid and wedding dress shopping with my sister today since she is getting married later this year. Plus, my good friend the speech teacher just had a baby that I finally get to meet this week! And there is book club AKA an excuse to drink wine with friends and maybe talk about a book for while. Which means I should probably finish the book... I have 4 days!

A couple pics of our graphing! Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Teacher Goes to Court! Valentine Freebies!

Today I had to officially testify in court about a SPED case. It was the most nerve wracking hour of my life! For almost a whole hour I was being questioned, cross examined, and redirected. I felt like I was on a boring episode of Law & Order. My case really wasn't exciting, but it was still such a weird experience!

It made me so anxious to have the student's family right there and knowing every word I say can hurt or help them. I answered every question honestly, but it was still SO stressful to know my every word was being recorded. Plus every paper, report card, and document I ever wrote about the student was called into question. It really made me think twice about all my future report card comments I ever write!

They took my resume and put an evidence sticker on it, which was kinda funny actually! The judge was super nice thankfully and told me not to be nervous and nothing was going to happen to me. It didn't really help, but it was nice of him. I had to laugh on my way driving to the hearing because I realized I still have purple fingernails from my trip to Colorado this weekend! Ooops! Haha! At least my clothes were professional!

After this crazy day and being pulled out of my class, it was hard to get my class to act normally after I'd been gone for the whole first half of the day. I made myself go to the gym to cheer up/calm down my nerves. Then a trip to Lululemon...oh boy that store is dangerous for a girl in serious need of retail therapy! My logic- It's gym clothes that motivate me to keep working out, so shopping is good for me! haha!

Okay, here are my silly Valentine things:
We made critters out of hearts today. They are far from perfect, but the kids get to be creative. They use a heart as the body/head/ears etc. We read the book The Night Before Valentine's Day and you can look at the illustrations to see examples. I didn't make any samples because I wanted the kids to use their own brains. Here are the pics of today's creations:
A Frog
A Pig
A Mouse (I think)
A Frog (the scribble at the bottom is the feet I'm told)
On Valentine's Day we'll be doing some conversation heart graphing. Feel free to download this little freebie!
We're also working on Valentine letters. I made some stationary and one of my kindergarten boys blew my mind with the amount of words he wrote! He filled the entire page!!! This is a freebie too!
My favorite new creation is my addition and subtraction puzzles. These kept my kids busy for soooo long this past week. They are working on common core math skills and loving every minute. Awesome!

Last but not least- Alphabet matching freebie!

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