Monday, March 31, 2014

Autism Awareness Month!

Happy April Everyone!!

April is Autism Awareness month, which as you must know, is something very dear to my heart. Kids with autism are my favorite group to teach! They make my brain work in new ways, and constantly keep me on my toes. They also have a way of putting me in my place with their brutal honesty! Hahaha! Now it's time to spread my love of autism this month!

Autism Awareness Clip Art Set
In honor of Autism Awareness, I've created a brand new set of clip art! This set includes images with and without words.

Also, Chris at Autism Classroom News has TONS in store for you this month. She has already set up links for free autism related items!

Plus, I'm joining her in a special sale April 2nd and 3rd. All of my special education products will be 15% OFF!! Chris made the most adorable sale banner using my clip art!

Don't miss my latest post on A Special Sparkle about dyslexia!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

TPT Sale + Curriculum Piloting

It's time for a Spring Cleaning TPT Sale! Everything in my TPT store is on sale for 20% off!! My store is on sale Friday-Monday! To see the full list of sale participants, please visit  Georgia Grown Kiddos!

This would be a great time to pick up my new Insect Research Report for Primary grades!

My class LOVED doing this project and they turned out completely adorable when we did this earlier this school year! Your kids will love it too. It's my favorite way to introduce students to the world of research projects. I simply lay out a pile of books and teach the kids how to find the information, rephrase the information, and cite sources in the bibliography. The students feel like such "big kids" by doing a research project! This was part of a much larger unit. Be on the lookout for the full unit in my store soon!

Curriculum Piloting

This spring I am piloting not ONE but TWO different curriculum programs with my small groups. Each for a very different reason.

I love my reading group! They are sweet as can be, but they are also students with disabilities and need more practice than the average group of kids. I hit a frustration point about a week ago when I saw my kids making progress but not enough to move forward. We have practiced the material so many times that the kids started to memorize words and it made it impossible for me to tell when they were really LEARNING something.

I went to my assistant principal and voiced my concerns and out popped a new curriculum! Apparently it was already in the works to train some teachers on it, and we have some of the materials already. I was using Wilson FUNdations and it works for so many of our students, but not the ones with more severe reading challenges. Now I'm testing out the materials and using the Wilson Reading System. I am loving playing around with the program! Since I don't have the full system or the official training I get to make it my own for awhile! The kids think it's great because they get to do all this new stuff and they feel special that they are the only group that gets to do the fun new reading activities. Thankfully the two programs are by the same publisher and follow identical patterns and structures. It has been ridiculously easy to plop the kids into the new program!


SRA Number WorldsThis is the new math program I'm testing out. The other teachers trying it out already love it but the publishers didn't originally send materials for my grade to try. I just got the samples today, so I'm excited to try it out starting next week! Have any of you used Number Worlds? What do you think about it?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Presenting at Parent Education Seminars

This year I changed jobs and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. One of the perks has been my ability to expand my career horizons. As a teacher, it's very easy to see your life as A) being a classroom teacher forever or B) becoming an administrator of some sort. This job has helped me see that I have more options than that.

One such option I've been able to experience has been parent education seminars. I know this may not sound thrilling, but when my whole world involves talking to 7 year old students in special education, my world can feel quite small sometimes. Yes, I have a life after work, but 8+ hours a day feels like my whole world some days. These seminars allowed me to use a whole other portion of my brain. After so many years of education experience, I take for granted how much I know and understand about children, reading acquisition, special education, and the reasons for why kids learn certain ways.

My first seminar I was a small piece of a larger simulation. I loved every minute of it and would gladly do it every year. It had such an impact on the parents that I was simply in awe of how effective the seminar was for simulating the world of a child with dyslexia. Realistically it simulated almost all learning disabilities and the classroom challenges associated with it. You can read my full review and reaction to the experience HERE at A Special Sparkle.

My second seminar was "Does my child have a reading problem?" which was to help parents identify signs that their child may have more than a typical struggle with reading. This was my first seminar where I was the main presenter along with a coworker who did it with me. I was beyond nervous, but it went quite well! We had little quizzes to get parents thinking and even a paragraph written by a child with dyslexia that they had to "edit" and figure out what it said. The story got the parents thinking and gave a great example for me to present the ways children with dyslexia make errors in their writing and the reasons behind it. There were moments where they asked questions and I instantly had the answers, which made me feel good about all the things I have come to learn over the course of my career as a teacher.

There was one moment that caught me completely off guard and caused the room to go silent for a moment. One set of parents was Hispanic and raised their hand to ask a question. They struggled to find the words and ended up asking in Spanish out of desperation as they tried to think of the right words in English. Starting my career in Arizona, there were countless conferences I conducted in broken Spanish. When the parents asked the question, I repeated it in English and then spouted out the answer in Spanish without even thinking! They wanted to know if kids with Dyslexia had a harder time learning to read if they spoke 2 languages. After I answered that they may take longer, but of course they could learn, I had to giggle and explain to the rest of the group what just happened when I burst into another language without warning!

I have a whole set of slides to share about reading disabilities, but I need to tweak them before I can share them with you. Right now they have boring backgrounds and lack visuals on some of the slides. The marketing team wanted the focus to be on the 2 of us talking rather than the slides. I need to make it more visually appealing before I show all of you! More to come!!

Have you ever presented or attended parent education seminars? What was the topic?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Upcoming Special Ed Seminars

I have a couple seminars coming up that I'm really looking forward to. The first is about experiencing dyslexia by the International Dyslexia Association. They have created a series of simulations for teachers and parents to experience what it is like for a person with dyslexia to complete reading/writing tasks, especially in a school setting. My station is for parents to do a series of tasks with their non-dominant hand. In my case that would require me to do things left handed. Funny fact: I injured my right hand when I was younger and actually CAN do many thing left handed, but I'm certainly not good at it! I'm really excited to do this seminar and especially excited to see the reactions of parents!

The second one is titled "Does my child have a reading problem?" and I'm one of 2 lead speakers!! It's exciting and a little nerve wracking. I'm working on the PowerPoint for it this weekend. I know tons about teaching reading to kids. Some days I am caught off guard when I just stop to think about reading and how to identify a child with a problem. This has a tendency to happen when I have a student shadow in my class as a potential child for our school and I can usually tell within an hour what challenges they have without ever reading their paperwork since it often doesn't arrive right away. It's still strange to think I'm an expert presenter :)

Now I have to ask for YOUR help! If you were concerned your child had a reading problem, what type of questions would you ask?? I'm presenting and really want to know what information I should have ready in the presentation, and what info I should be ready to answer verbally during the Q&A session at the end.
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