Monday, April 29, 2013

Ocean Unit Begins! HUGE Giveaway!

Today we started our ocean unit!! I'm a HUGE ocean lover, so this is one of my favorite units all year! I LOVE dolphins more than any other animal in the world, and I just so happen to live near an ocean... I'm thinking there just might be a connection there...

So I'll be honest...I've been slacking as a teacher...sort of. One of the common core standards is to participate in research projects. This can be fine and dandy in a single grade level classroom where kids are capable of sitting in chairs and following simple directions. That just doesn't happen to be my class! I have 3 grades of squirmy kiddos and almost every day someone has a meltdown at some point during the day. April through May is just about the only time I have where I can get the kids working independently enough for this little project. Trying it in October when my kinder and 1st grade boys can't really read, just wasn't going to happen! This is my golden time for big independent projects!

Today my kids brainstormed things we'd find in an ocean habitat. This was the list they created with zero help from me! I'm really proud of them! I actually had to give it a time cap because they were coming up with so many ideas I was afraid we'd never get to our other projects for the day. Please forgive my messy writing, the kids were listing out animals faster than I could write! And yes, I realize I spelled "Narwhal" wrong. I told the kids I'd check the spelling later and then I forgot. PS~ Does anyone else thing it's crazy that my KINDERGARTEN kid came up with a narwhal whale?!

So I created a bunch of ocean clip art lately and suddenly I'm inspired to make a research project out of it. My thinking is that I can give them a bit of an outline for how to research their individual animals. This needs more thought. I'll post it when it's ready!

Last but not least, my bloggy buddy Gabrielle at Teaching Special Thinkers is hosting a HUGE GIVEAWAY! I'm one of many contributors. Be sure to check her blog out. It's one of my faves! Plus, I only have one of the giveaways listed here. There are THREE MORE on her page!! (My code isn't working right now, hopefully tomorrow you can enter right from my page!).


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Successful Saturday: Teamwork + Book Buddies

Happy Saturday! I feel like the closer we get to summer break, the more I look forward to Saturday! It's time to share this week's success stories.
Here is my success story of the week:
I teach at a K-12 special education school. We have pretty broad spectrum of kids in our school. The kids that come to us in each grade level are unique based on the general trends of successes/failures in the public school special education system and the types of resources we have available at my school.

My class is K-2, so I get a lot of kids who need early intervention. My students are the kids who don't need an aide in a small room, but they aren't very successful in a large classroom. They often have trouble with sensory stuff (noise, touch, etc.) and they struggle to learn concepts, but they can do it with some extra help. Appropriate behaviors are also a struggle.

The kids that come to my school when they are a little older are often jaded from years of failure in big public school classes. They have low self-confidence and poor academic skills. It's not uncommon for us to have kids come in the 4th or 5th grade and read at a 1st or 2nd grade level. We help them learn to read and do math, but really that's not the most important part. We have to build back all that confidence they lost over the years as they struggled in their old schools.

This past week I brought up the idea of book buddies to one of my fellow teachers. I did it with my friend Ali at my old school and it was AWESOME. My friend Jessica works with a 5th grade group who is more severe than our typical students at this school. They have really been struggling with confidence and social skills. My little guys love attention and need to learn social skills like paying attention and sharing.

We've started book buddies and it's been a big success! The big kids love being "a role model" and the little guys like trading buddies and having different big kids read books and talk about stories with them. The older kids often mumble and don't read with voice, so reading to the little guys encourages them to make the stories sound more exciting.

Here are the Successful Saturday Rules:

  1. Share your success story on your blog! 
  2. Link up your blog story with the linky banner and a link back to this post so others can share their great ideas and link up too.
  3. Go read at least 2 other Successful Saturday blog posts and leave a comment. I don't know about you, but I LOVE finding other blogs to follow, get ideas, and share successes! 
Link up with something that was successful in your classroom!

Aren't the pictures adorable?! Have you ever done book buddies?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Technology in the Classroom + FREEBIE FRAMES!

Today I did a little experiment with technology in the classroom and I LOVED how it turned out! One of the Common Core Standards is "CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.2.5 Create audio recordings of stories or poems." This sounds great, but my classroom has ZERO recording technology! Today I got creative and found a GREAT solution!

I took it upon myself to see just what I could do with my iPhone. I found a great little app for recording memos, lectures and meetings called SuperNote. I tried the free version but it only allows 4 recordings. Thankfully that was enough to discover just how handy this little app is! You can record things VERY clearly and take notes while it's recording. Then if your iPhone (or iPad I assume) is connected to your computer on the same wifi network, you can email yourself the recordings and notes and save it to your computer!

Today I had one student practice retell and he read a passage, then told another student about what he read as I recorded the conversation. It was great! I can hear the kids clearly and then in the future I can compare their skills! How awesome is that?! Click here to listen to the audio file

The next thing I did was record the students on a "cold read" (something they've never seen before) and listen to their decoding skills. Then I asked them comprehension questions. This was mainly a test case for using the technology. My favorite part is the kid who read right before snack time and ends with "I'm hungry!" Too cute!
Click here to get the audio file of child1
Click here to get the audio file of child 2

Windows Media Player didn't seem to work, but these recordings worked great on Quicktime. This is my first time using a dropbox link on my blog, so I'll love if you let me know if it worked or not!

I really want to use this technology for my end of the year assessments such as the DIBELS. Sometimes it's hard to write notations as fast as the kids talk/read and I think this will be great for accurate scoring!

Next is a little freebie of  mine for a larger set I'm in the middle of making. I thought this little set of three would be an extra Friday treat for ya. DOWNLOAD IT HERE

What would you use this recording technology for? Do you have a different way of recording students? I'd love to hear about it!

Freebie Fridays

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Growing Plants! Wacky Adventures in Lower El!

It's been a wacky random week in Lower El! And it's only Wednesday! I have had so much going on in the last couple days that I don't really know where to begin since none of them are really related to one another. Take trip into two days of Lower El randomness...

We officially have growing plants! We planted radish seeds last week and the kids did a great job. I secretly have this terrible fear the plants are never going to grow! There is a reason for this... I have a black thumb! I literally kept exactly one plant alive in my entire life!

There is a story behind this plant:

In my 2nd year of teaching, my principal gave the staff each a spiral bamboo plant for teacher appreciation week. I happily kept it alive for 2 years before moving back to CA from Arizona. As I drive through the California border patrol I get stopped for this little bamboo plant in my cup holder. I forgot that you are not allowed to bring plants into California because they could have bugs that destroy the amazing crops and agriculture in our state. I almost cried when the border patrol lady reminded me of this. She must have seen it on my face. She made me hand it to her and show her it's just a tiny house plant. I told her it was the only plant in the universe I hadn't killed in a week or less. I had to promise that was the only one I had and that I would keep it inside when I moved here. Then she very nicely (and possibly illegally) gave it back to me. It is still alive today 4 years since I drove through that border patrol station...and 6 years since I got that plant! Although, it misses the Arizona sun everyday and isn't quite as bright as it used to be.

Anyway... the radishes started to grow!! Yay!! I was pretty nervous because a heat wave hit this past weekend and it was over 80 degrees Saturday and Sunday. I was worried the seeds would stop growing from the heat and not getting watered all weekend. To my surprise, multiple have sprouted! Whoo hoo!! According to the package, our radishes should be ready to harvest in about 15 more days!

This was our Earth Day book of the day: The Earth and I by Frank Asch. The pictures are the best part!! So vibrant! It also requires some inference skills because there are a couple wordless pages.

Yesterday it was one student's birthday and I discovered that autism and birthdays are not the best mix! It's a whole bunch of excitement and routine changes! The boy was a couple minutes later than usual and couldn't play on the playground so he sat outside and screamed that he wanted his birthday. I later discovered he thought his birthday was a like a holiday and he didn't think he had to come to school.

After a bit of bribery I got him inside. Then he kept yelling "I want my birthday!!" This is one of my less verbal kiddos, so it took some brainstorming on my part to figure out what he meant. I kept explaining it's still his birthday all day and coming inside the classroom didn't take that away. He kept insisting he wanted his birthday, then I figured it out! To him "my birthday" really meant "my birthday cupcakes!" I'm pretty proud of my inference skills on that one! We talked about how cupcakes are not for breakfast and we can have them after lunch. Problem solved! A wonderfully delicious set of homemade gluten-free cupcakes were eaten. His mom has AWESOME decorating skills. Aren't these beautiful?!

Next random story:
I am at a private school for special ed, and this means we don't have to take every kid who walks through the door. We have a bit of a range of what type of kids we were with because there are ZERO aides on campus. All kids have to be functional without a classroom aide, so they have to "shadow" a class for a day to see if this is the best place for them.

Today I had a "shadow" who had a VERY rough morning. I did my fair share of running, carrying him, and general "I love my job, I love my job, I love my job!!" chanting to keep myself going. Then he had these random bursts of the perfect example of how our typical (SPED) students act. Ya know, the totally not perfect, but a totally manageable amount of wacky for a K-2 teacher without an aide. Which had me a little stuck because I didn't want to say and instant "yes" or "no" on this kid. I reviewed his file and talked to mom and this seemed to be an extra bad day and pretty out of character for him. So we'll try again tomorrow. Take a peek at the destruction of the toilet paper roll in my bathroom... Anytime you hear the sink running while the toilet paper roll is moving, you know they are up to no good! This is what I found! Who knows how far he'd have gone if I didn't walk in and stop him!

Another student got a giant sticker stuck in his hair. It was thankfully removed rather painlessly, but it was a VERY sticky sticker!

Did you have any random adventures in your class today? I'd love to hear them! I like knowing I'm not the only teacher with a day full of wackiness!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Earth Day To Be Continued... SPED Collaborative Blog

So my kids loved the Earth Day activities so much that we will be continuing them tomorrow. Finding the Recycle Rex video was the best part. The kids loved it so much they want to watch it again tomorrow. It's only 12 minutes, so that's an easy request to fulfill. There was a swear word in the original video description, but the person fixed it when I nicely explained I was a teacher who wanted to use it for the classroom. Niceness gets you everywhere!

Here is a pick of my kids sorting Earth Day words from my Earth Day Activities Set. They had great team work! I was shocked to see how well they were able to also sort ideas into "reduce," "reuse," and "recycle." In fact, the only ones that were "wrong" were actually just thinking about the concept from a different perspective such as "use Popsicle sticks for a picture frame." I can see how this is "reuse" like they said, and recycle like I was thinking because it becomes something new.

One kid told me he "learned so much from this book!" So I thought I'd share it with you. If he says he's learning, then I'm not about to argue! Whoo Hoo! Honestly, this might be one of my favorite Earth Day books!

We'll be doing the rest of my plans tomorrow!

Also, I'm starting a SPED collaborative blog this summer. This is a very new idea and we're still working on getting contributors together. If you are a special educator and interested in being one of the authors, please let me know by sending an email to

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day with Recycle Rex

I'm a California girl! While we are known for sunshine and beaches in my state, we are also HUGE on recycling and saving the planet! When I moved away to Arizona for college, I about had a heart attack when I couldn't recycle at my first apartment. I threw away things that I would have been yelled at for not recycling here in CA. Eventually they caught up and I could recycle things after a couple of years there. I just remember it feeling so WRONG to thrown plastic and glass bottles away. It was drilled into my brain from childhood.

When I started teaching I thought...where did I learn this? Then I remembered RECYCLE REX!! He's this adorable little dinosaur that teaches all about recycling and saving the planet! (which now makes me think of the Captain Planet cartoon...)
When I was teaching about Earth Day in my first year as a teacher, I just HAD to find Rex! And after many hours of scouring the web, I found him! There are soooo many educational resources on the Recycle Rex page that are ready to print and go. They have things for kids of all grade levels.

CLICK HERE for the Recycle Rex main page!

Click Here for the Recycle Rex Activity Book!

There is also a cute Recycle Rex video you can watch. I found the full video on YouTube which is great, but Be Warned some of the comments have swear words! I plan to show the video on my computer by not show it until it's in full screen version just in case!

What is your favorite Earth Day activity?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Earth Day Activities! Exciting News! Fun Frames + Symmetry Clip Art

Happy Sunday Folks! This week my students will continue their plant unit and working on their special areas of need (fine motor, verbal, comprehension, etc.). I've hit the point in the year where I'm trying to decide how many units to fit in before the end of the year. I have about a week or so worth of materials left for the plant unit. Plus, tomorrow we'll be doing Earth Day Activities from the set I made a couple weeks ago. I better print them out and laminate them today!! 

I could have sworn I posted about this when I made it, but apparently not! Here are a few snapshots from the set.
It has 6 activities:
-Classify conservation methods into 3 categories (reduce, reuse, recycle)
-Earth Day writing prompt
-Blank Earth Day stationary page
-Earth Day Vocabulary (for use in writing station)
-Vocabulary Matching Worksheet
-Vocabulary Picture Matching Cards

Sort by Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

I got an exciting message this morning!! I was contacted by Howard B Wigglebottom (yes the bunny!) this morning! He wants to do an author visit via Skype with my class!!! The kids will be sooo excited when I tell them. The original time they suggested was 9:00 EST which would make that 6:00am here in California! No matter how excited my kids are, there is no way they would start school 2.5 hours early! Howard was kind enough to change the time to later in the morning. We will be chatting in the end of May!!! Yay!

I'm not completely sure how I got this lucky, but I think it is a combination of  my blog and the response activities I made to go with the book below. My kids just LOVE Howard! I can't wait until I have it officially scheduled to chat with the author and I can tell them the great news :)

Next up I wanted to let you know about some of my latest clip art creations. One is a set of Symmetry Clip Art I did as a special request from Mary at Teaching with a Mountain View. She wanted some real life objects that show symmetry.

 These are a couple new sets of frames I made yesterday. There are 8 colors of each frame, plus a line art copy included in the sets.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Successful Saturday! Come Link Up Your Success Stories!

Welcome to another round of successful Saturday! This was one of those weeks where I'm really glad I created this little linky. We had some major ups and downs in Lower El this week. I really need to focus my energies on the positive things. In case you missed it, my 200 follower giveaway has ended, BUT I've put all of my products on sale for 20% off from now through Sunday, including my brand new clip art!

Before my regular Saturday post I wanted to share an important blog post with you. My friend Jen at Runde's Room is having a special weekend in her TPT store. A child who is a friend of her family has been diagnosed with cancer. She is donating all of her procedes this weekend to his family to help pay for his chemo. Stop by her blog to read the full story!

My Success Story:
Honestly, I already wrote about my biggest success on Wednesday in my post Autism Leaps and Bounds so I had to pick another success!

This week my biggest success (other than my post the other day) was finding each student's weaknesses and begin to work on them! I've decided that for the rest of the year each kid will work on whatever is their biggest challenge in between regular academic tasks.

One thing I noticed his how poor the vocabulary skills are of one of my students! I was working on inference skills and he couldn't name basic objects in the pictures when I was having him use the "picture clues" in the story to help him make inferences. To help him I started doing a TON of work on basic vocabulary every chance I got! I turned writing time into descriptive writing about a toy from the play area. I added an activity of Earth vs. Mars words (non-sense words) and had him define the Earth words for me verbally. I think I may add in some basic object naming cards next week.

Two other kids have HORRIBLE fine motor skills. I added in more scissors work and cutting odd shapes into our lessons (vegetables for our plant unit, sentence sequencing in reading, etc.). Next I added some pokey pin (Mrs. Miner) activities. I also added in some fun hands-on centers. The first was using tweezers to move beads into a cup. When the children got better I gave them smaller tweezers. After they mastered that I gave them corn kernels which were smaller and more slippery.

Here is my minor success:
We've been learning about plant parts and life cycles. Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens is by far my favorite book for this unit! The kids ALWAYS love it. It teaches a moral, parts of a plant, and the parts of a plant that people like to eat. The kids were cracking up. Thanks to autism, one boy thought the hare was the meanest character ever for cheating and didn't understand that the bear should have worked harder or at least asked what was being planted before picking tops or bottoms. I tried to explain this, but he was stuck on the unfairness. HAHA!

Then we cut out various fruits and veggies and glued them based on whether they were "top" or "bottom." This was another example of our motor practice. Take a peek!
This linky is for ALL GRADE LEVELS and BOTH General and Special Ed blogs!

Here are the Successful Saturday Rules:

  1. Share your success story on your blog! 
  2. Link up your blog story with the linky banner and a link back to this post so others can share their great ideas and link up too.
  3. Go read at least 2 other Successful Saturday blog posts and leave a comment. I don't know about you, but I LOVE finding other blogs to follow, get ideas, and share successes! 

What's your success story?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

200 Follower Giveaway Winner!! TPT Thanks for Being a Follower Sale!!

We have a winner!! Congratulations to Rachael Schauer for winning my 200 Follower Giveaway!! She was one of my many new Facebook Followers! I am contacting my giveaway participants and you should receive your products soon!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to all of you who participated in this giveaway! As a special thank you, I am having a TPT and TN sale to say thank you! Everything is 20% OFF!! I've added a bunch of new clip art this month, so be sure to check it out. A few of you have wishlisted things and this would be a great time to go pick them up!

I am sooo thankful to all of you who follow my blog and my stores! I have learned so many things from you and I love sharing my teaching adventures with you! I am the only primary grade teacher at my school and talking to my blog readers and other bloggers is the only way I have of swapping lessons, ideas, and stories. I feel like becoming part of the blogging world was one of the best decisions I've ever made!! Thanks for being a part of it!

Today was one of those days that went by in a whirlwind! I can't hardly remember what we did...

I've decided the entire last quarter of the school year will be dedicated to each student's deficits. I will do my darndest to make sure we fill in those gaps! I teach special ed...there can be a lot of gaps. REALLY random ones! One kid needs lots of vocabulary for naming objects. Yesterday he had no clue what celery was and last week he couldn't think of the word zoo when looking at a picture of one until I gave him a full 5 minutes of prompting. One kinder kid has whizzed through every scrap of kindergarten curriculum I own, but his fine motor sucks. We are doing 1st grade academics with lots of motor skills tossed in between activities. Another boy has most of his academics but still struggling with attention and verbal, so we're working on that. My goal for my last kid is to work on adding longer days. He's on a half-day schedule because his behaviors are too severe when he's doing a full day. He's crazy smart (genius level) so academics aren't a concern. I want to slowly build up his school day length before he moves on to 1st grade.

What are your goals for the rest of the year?
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