Sunday, March 31, 2013

Freebies! Currently and MORE Freebies!

I am obsessed with doodling clip art now! Anytime I'm sitting in front of the TV I sit with my little tablet and doodle! This means you get some freebies! Also, I've decided to make it a tradition that every time I link up with Freebies on the 1st on Freebie-licious, I'm going to have all my freebies I've made for the past month in one place. I stole the image from March 1st so can write one big post now. I hope they keep the image the same this month, hehehe.

Normally I'd try to give you some tidbits from my classroom too, but I'm on Spring Break! YAY!! This week I'll be guest blogging instead :) I was on Autism Classroom News on Saturday, and you'll have to check back tomorrow to see the super amazing blog where I get to be a guest blogger on Tuesday!

Lucky for you, it happens to be Manic Monday, so you get a little pile of freebies today!!

Just click the images to get the freebies!

It wouldn't be the first of the month without Farley! Here is this month's currently!
Listening- It's about to rain and I live close to the bay, so the wind kicks up right before the rain comes in. I also happen to live next to an international airport and the extra clouds always make it sound louder.

Loving- Spring Break is the best! I have nothing really planned other than a dentist appointment and a haircut. It's so nice to have complete freedom!

Thinking- I have book club with my girlfriends that I really love, but every month I'm in a rush the finish the book a day or two before we meet. I'm going to try to finish it this week while I have all this free time. This is our book this month. I must say, the topic is a little close to home as a teacher (it's about a student who gets killed and it's a mystery if another student did it). I'm only about 1/5 of the way through. We'll see...

Wanting- I live in CA which leaves me many day trip options, but all my friends either work this week, or are already gone on their own trips. I need somewhere fun/relaxing to go! I'm deciding between a day trip to wine country or the beach!

Needing- Camping Gear! I am going on an OVERNIGHT field trip with my K-2 SPED kids. Fun, but hectic! I get to be a mom for 48 hours for 4 kids. My sleeping bag is stashed away in the garage along with my lantern... I need to dig those out this week. Oh! And glow in the dark necklaces were a big hit (and helpful for not losing kids in the dark) so I should go buy some of those too!
Advice- My favorite thing to do in the last 2 months of school is plan all my big units out and make all the copies. Then all I need to do is get last minute fun stuff ready. It makes it soo much less stressful during all of that end of the year chaos that happens! Two months sounds like a long time until you factor in field trips, testing days, field day, awards assemblies, etc.

Clip art is my main freebie of the day. What's your favorite kind of freebie to find while blog hopping?

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Happy Easter! Flash Freebies Today!

Happy Easter Everyone! I know I missed "Successful Saturday" because of the blog swap. Sorry! I was thinking about turning it into "Successful Sunday," but that just seems silly since many of you will be celebrating with your families today. I'll be having breakfast with my little family. Enjoy your holiday! Be sure to check out my Facebook page and I'll randomly be announcing a couple of flash freebies this Easter for one hour at a time!

These adorable little bunnies are from my Spring Freebie clip art collection!
Go pick them up and don't forget everything in my TPT store is on sale for 20% OFF for the rest of the day.

"Hoppy" Easter!!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Blog Swap with Autism Classroom News!

Hey guys! I'm not here because I just swapped blogs with Autism Classroom News! You'll find my post on Chris's page today!

Autism Classroom Newse
Visual Supports
My name is Chris and I am very excited to be guest blogging on The Lower Elementary Cottage blog today! I am a consultant and behavior analyst who works with schools/teachers/staff to support students with autism.  Working with students with autism spectrum disorders means working with students with a wide variety of cognitive needs and gifts as well as a variety of behavioral challenges.  It means working with students with difficulties in social understanding of situations, challenges in understanding the hidden curriculum of our society, difficulties understanding others’ communication, and difficulties communicating effectively for themselves.  If this sounds like it covers any special or general education students you have in your class who do not have an autism diagnosis—that’s not surprising.  These are characteristics that many students who struggle with behavior contend with, not just students with autism.  Consequently, strategies used for students with autism are often quite effective for all different types of students.  In thinking about this guest blogging gig, I tried to think about something I could bring to the party that is often used specifically for autism, but can be very effective globally with everyone—even adults.  And I came up with visual cues.

I live in a world (the autism world) where visual cues are part of our everyday life because they work for many of our students.  However, people often tell me that they don’t think our students should have to use so many visual supports.  You might have thought that at one time—or you may have tried to figure out how to respond to someone who said that to you.  I’m not sure why they ask me this, because all of us use visual cues every day in our environment.  For instance we all know what the sign below means (it’s one of my favorites because it means I can bike here!). 

And we know what this one means.  It’s how the deer know where to cross the road.  (Oh and I have to confess here how geeky I am—these are indeed pictures I took on my vacation—did I say I’m kind of passionate about this topic?)

So, since we can all agree that we use visual cues in our environments, let’s talk about how we can use them in our classrooms.

1.       To promote independence.  Giving students a list of tasks to do so that you don’t have to tell them each step is a great way to increase their ability to complete the task on their own and not have to continually ask for clarification.  When I teach graduate students, they have a syllabus—part of that syllabus is essentially a list of tasks for them to complete in the course.  For our students, it might look like the list of steps to finish a task, like below.

2.       To give expectations for appropriate behavior.  Ever been to the DMV? See the sign that says, “Wait here for the next available person”?  That’s a visual cue for us.  Here’s one we use in the classroom for elementary students, but I’ve used it with pieces of masking tape on the floor for older students if needed.  It tells students where to line up.  I always have said it is the simplest intervention I’ve ever seen—I put paper on the floor, and the students’ behavior improves.  But it works every time.  Here they line up as buddies.

3.       Visual cues can tell us where to be and what to do.  Anyone have a calendar?  If I took it away, would you be lost?  I know I would.  A daily schedule is a calendar for our students for the day—or a to-do list.  I love crossing things off my to-do list—don’t you?  Some students need pictures on their schedule, some can use a written schedule, and some can use the class schedule.  However, positive behavior support research indicates that having a schedule posted in a classroom promotes positive behavior for all students.

4.       Visual cues can teach us skills. Anyone ever used a video tutorial for assembling some piece of equipment you bought?  That’s a video model.  Video modeling is used successfully in classrooms to teach communication skills, how to complete tasks, and social skills by filming the behavior you want the student to model.
5.       To help us understand others’ communication.  When someone can’t hear you, do you find yourself adding gestures to what you are saying or writing it down?  Those are visual supports.  So if a student doesn’t follow our direction, sometimes it’s because it wasn’t understood.  Visual cueing cards, like those below, can be helpful to a student in understanding what you are saying.

6.       And finally, many of our students use visuals to communicate, just like we use writing if someone doesn’t understand us.  This can take the place of Picture Exchange Communication Systems,  speech generating devices with pictures, or choice boards like the one below.  It might also include something as simple as a break card (could be a card with word break on it) because when the student is so frustrated, his language escapes him.

There are a myriad of reasons to use visual supports in the classroom with all students.  The students with autism and other special needs just have a tougher time without them than others so we notice it more. Some of the behavior management posts that Lisa has written on her blog also provide good examples—like the color coded self-regulation system and the token system.

I hope this gives you ideas for your classroom.  You can download the art board above from my TPT store as a freebie and please feel free to stop by my blog Autism Classroom News for more ideas about working with individuals with autism.  How do you use visual cues in your classroom? 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Crafts! Free Clipart! Sale!

This might be a VERY busy post, but I have so many goodies to share with you! I am officially on SPRING BREAK!!! YIPPEE!!! We had sooo much fun with our Easter projects in Lower El and I somehow made every one of them totally educational. Yay me!

Before I forget: Everything on my TPT and TN store is on sale now through Easter for 20% off, including my brand new clip art!
Image from Krista Wallden

First up...Easter Bunny Bags! I had a mentor teacher back in Arizona who always had projects up her sleeve for everything this little gem was one of my favorites. I do it every year and then we use the bags for our Easter egg hunt on the playground. It's super simple and super cute!

  • white paper bags (I found them at target hidden behind the brown ones)
  • glue
  • cotton balls
  • construction paper
  • stencils (make them out of old file folders- see below)
1) Make these 2 stencils. I put the paper bag on top of an old file folder and traced it, then made the ear shapes. I cut it out for the kids to use as stencils, and the bow was done free hand.

2) Trace the bunny ears on the bag, no need to trace around the bottom, it's already bag shaped

3) Cut it out. Don't forget to cut off the side flap. I usually do this for the kids because I learned my lesson when a kid accidentally cut off an ear and cried!

4) Cut out construction paper shapes for the whisters, eyes, ears, and mouth. Use the stencil to have kids trace the bow. Bow above the eyes looks like a girl, bow under the mouth makes a boy bunny. If you want dots on the bow like my example at the top, just use a hole puncher on construction paper and glue on the "holes."

5) Glue all the face shapes on, and add a cotton ball nose in the middle. Staple the tops of the ears together. You're done!


I was in a super good mood when I got home last night. The first night of spring break is like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders! How did I choose to celebrate? Sitting on my couch with a glass of wine and doodling this little *freebie* for you! I also made a big set that include some cute little flower pots :)

Here is a peek at our week in pictures:
This was our Easter egg hunt learning activity. We sorted, tallied, and graphed our jelly beans

Sight word practice! The kids get the word out of the egg, read it, and copy it in the same color on their recording sheet. I got it out of a Scholastic resource book. I think it's called Super Spelling Centers or something like that.

Practicing short vowel words with this little freebie gem from Angelia at Extra Special Teaching!

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Giveaway Winners!!!

We have the winners! (Not sure why the image looks like the ghost of my Easter Time pack, but I think it might having something to do with the crazy ghost that seems to have taken over my crazy class today!). Winning emails are being sent right now!

Winner #1 is Crystal S. @ The Lamppost in1st Grade Math!
The Teacher Wife
Winner #2 is Wendy M. @ First Grade Fireworks!

If you didn't win, don't worry, I'll be having another giveaway very soon when I reach 200 followers!
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Easy Way to Teach Social Skills + Bunny Craft

Happy Tuesday Friends! I only have 3 days until Spring Break freedom!

Totally random: Anyone want to blog swap? We can guest post for each other! Just let me know if you are interested :)

If you just want the craft and not the social skills idea, skip to the bottom. Although I teach SPED, I know even in a regular class there is always the kid who plays alone. This would be helpful for "that kid" even if he's neurotypical (fancy word for normal, not SPED).

Social Skills: A big challenge in my class! Get a bunch of kids with autism/other disabilities on a playground together and NONE of them play together! They wander in circles talking to themselves or grown ups. This week my class is the only one on the playground while the other classes are away at Gold Rush camp. That means it's time for social skills interference at recess!

The Solution: A BALL! Super simple, but totally effective!

Today the speech teacher gave me a beach ball and one kid was "assigned" the task of asking another student "will you play ball with me?" My goal as the teacher was to facilitate this process. I had the ball in my hand until the student was done with his snack.

Joining a group or Initiating Play: This student struggles with verbal skills so I modeled how to ask me for the ball, "Lisa, can I please have the ball?" Then I modeled how he could ask the other student to play with him, " _____ would you like to play ball with me?"

Of course things don't always go as planned... The kid said "No" so I actually had to go prompt him too. I went and chatted with him about how the kid who asked him to play never asks to play anything and it's a big deal for him so he should say yes. Thankfully he went back and told the boy, "Sure, I'll play with you."

Turn Taking: Once again, an important social skill that can be totally lacking! My guys tend to get distracted right in the middle of the game or just walk away without ever saying anything. As the two boys took turns passing the ball back and forth, I prompted proper play etiquette. I reminded them not to toss it so hard the other kid would have to run for it every time. Then I also prompted one kid not to "stim" (rocking and humming) in the middle of the game because it's "unexpected" (Social Thinking) and the other person may think you don't want to play anymore.

Ending Play: You mean running away with the ball isn't an appropriate way to end a game?! I made the kids come back and end the game appropriately like, "thanks for playing! I'm going on the playground now." One boy liked the idea of counting "points" which seemed to be the same as number of turns, and then the game was "done" when he hit whatever number it was. This forced him to play a little longer than he might have naturally (which would have been about 3 seconds!).

If you want some social skills picture books I'm OBSESSED with the ones on the right side of my blog by Julia Cook. They are sooo great. I've bought at least 7 or 8 of them!

I love crafts! The kids can all participate, no matter their academic level, and it's great for fine motor and sensory integration. This one is SUPER EASY!!!!

2 paper plates per Bunny
Cotton balls (I used way less than one small/average size bag to make 3 bunnies)

1) Cut 2 ovals out of one paper plate and staple them to the top of a full plate to make a bunny shape.

2) Pull apart cotton balls to make them extra fluffy (this saves you cotton balls and makes the bag last longer)

3) Cover the bunny with glue. Stick the cotton balls all over!

4) Cut out construction paper shapes to make a face. I did not help my students at all with this process. I let them be creative. I doodled a bunny face on the board, but they had free reign for colors, shapes, and sizes of their construction paper. I found it funny that all 3 kids chose one color for the whole face. And you're done! The whole thing took around minutes and the kids could do it pretty independently.

Share your thoughts!
What games do you like to play to get kids engaged with each other?
What is your favorite Easter craft?

Monday, March 25, 2013

NEW Earth Day Clipart! Giveaway Reminder!

Guess what! The Spring Break countdown has begun!! In 4 days I will have 10 whole days of freedom! I'm super duper happy about the fact that our break starts on FRIDAY! In lieu of spring conferences, our school opted to extend spring and winter break by a day. Whoo Hoo!

Although, I'm an over-achiever and will likely schedule simple conferences after school with my parents next month anyway. Secretly, spring conferences are my favorite! I LOVE showing parents how much the kids have learned. I'm super particular about keeping work samples and parents get so excited to see the jump in their kid's abilities and see how much they have learned.

This week my kids will have the ENTIRE playground to themselves! Our school does overnight trips twice a year and 3rd-6th grade will be gone for 3 of the 4 days this week!

My class will be going on our trip the week after spring break. Yep, you read that correctly... I am going on an OVERNIGHT field trip with K-2 SPECIAL ED! Oh geez... it's super fun, but I pretty much don't sleep. My record is 1 hour of sleep, usually I get about 3-4 hours. Between middle of the night bathroom trips, "I miss my mommy!" "what's that noise?" and my general paranoia that a kid will wander off into the woods while I'm sleeping, I just don't sleep. My buddy (extra chaperone/counselor) usually brings a car adapter coffee pot for the two of us! More on that when the trip gets closer... Have you ever done an overnight trip with your students? How did it go?

My class will be doing a whole bunch of Easter activities this week. Be prepared for lots of pictures of cute little bunny and basket projects! I really love letting the kids decorate with the cotton balls! Is it just me, or do cotton balls instantly make projects cuter?!

I am a crazy person and signed up for the CrossFit Games Open and did that yesterday, plus a full game of soccer this morning. If you're curious what that is, you can see it here. Anyway...I'm so sore and tired that I could hardly walk around the grocery store today. This lead me to being a bum productive person on my couch all afternoon. I am having SOOOOO much fun creating clipart with my new Bamboo! I want to make a new Earth Day emergent book and some hands on activities so I decided to make some new Earth Day clipart! The clipart is available for you to use for your projects too! I drew them all myself, and I'm pretty proud of how they turned out. Not too shabby for my first weekend as a clipart artist! All those years of doodling in class has paid off! Haha!

Yesterday I made my very first clipart set and it's TOTALLY FREE for you! I know the Manic Monday Rule is not to link to TPT, but small problem...this file is too large for my Google Docs! I don't figure you'll mind too much! Just click on the image below! I'd REALLY appreciate some feedback if you use it, just in case I need to improve some things. I was experimenting with different techniques and programs. Also, I'd love it if you sent me the links to things you create!

Also, don't forget to enter my Easter "Time" giveaway! What you'll win here!
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Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

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