Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday Made It- July 27th

It's Monday again! I'm linking up with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for her weekly Monday Made It. It was a busy week, but I did get a few things done for the classroom.

This week I saw these adorable little student birthday gifts that Learning is Something to Treasure had on her blog a while back. She even has the free printable! I got the cups and lids at our local Smart and Final. I took advantage of the free candy this week at Party City and filled the cups with a variety of candy. I then topped them off with a black and white zebra pencil for a 'straw', and a red Tootsie Pop for the cherry look. They turned out super cute and I know my students will love the goodies!

I am loving the many uses of vinyl in the classroom! The possibilities are endless! This week I created vinyl name labels for each of my student's pencil boxes. (And for the group of kindergarten students I work with in the afternoons during our Fairview rotation time. They share a box of supplies.) Then my daughters wanted in on the action, so they got some girly little hearts as well. I really need to invest in a Silhouette of my own. For now I am borrowing a friend's. 

While I had the Silhouette out, I also finished up this project. I have had these little foam squares from the Target dollar spot for a while. I decided to make a new alphabet center out of them for those new kinders coming up that I will be working with in the afternoons. I added some vinyl letters (See! The possibilities are endless!) to the squares. Now it's an upper and lowercase alphabet matching center! Super simple and quick. 

This project has been sitting in my living room for the past month and I am happy it's finally done! I had so many literature units that they no longer fit in my two crates. Really, the problem was that I kept too many copies of copies of copies. (Anyone else have that issue?) So I went through every single file and cleaned them out. It's amazing how much space I have now! I made some pretty new labels for the files and separated out the seasonal literature books that I use. Those dividers are super simple, but will be quicker for me when I am looking for a specific theme book. Another summer organization project complete.

My to-do list is still pretty long for my summer projects. But I am checking them off one by one.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

#SpedChatSaturday Back to School

Welcome to the first #SpedChatSaturday topic! Today's topic is Back to School and this linky party is hosted by the lovely Ashley at Lattes, Lesson Plans & IEPs. Today we talk about all things related to Back to School. Not that I am ready for school yet! I feel like I just finished ESY and the summer is just getting started.

But let's jump in. There's a lot to talk about! First up, what's on my To-Do list?

There is always a ton to do before school starts and those first few work days back. We only have two prep days before the students come. That means I have to have all of my general education communication materials prepped ahead of time. I want to be able to approach each mainstream teacher on the first work day back with my mainstream folders in my hands and be ready to talk about students. (I will be sharing all about my mainstream folders and how I communicate with general education teachers coming up on August 8th as I host #SpedChatSaturday - "Special Education and General Education Together is Better".) So before school even starts I prepare a mainstream folder for each student that will be mainstreaming. I also prepare a folder for each staff member (in my case, educational sign language interpreters) with information on the student they will be working with, expectations, schedules, etc.

On the first prep day I am at a half day Back to School meeting with my County Office. The second part of the day I am RACING around trying to sweet talk general education teachers into mainstream with my students. Seriously. Does anyone else feel super awkward about asking teachers to mainstream with your students? An extra student. At least 1 extra IEP to attend. An extra adult in the room. It's not always an easy conversation. Especially when general education teachers already have so much on their plate.

Usually this is not too much of an issue finding someone to mainstream with at each grade level. I tend to mainstream with the same teachers each year that I am familiar with and "get" my student's needs. I've already talked to several teachers before the school year ended and they have agreed to take some of my students. Our site principal does not place our D/HH students since we are a County program on a District site. It's a bit complicated.... and always a stressful process for me... since the responsibility is on me to run around and ask people to mainstream with my students, what their schedule *might* look like, etc.

After I have a general education teacher for each student in 1st-6th grade, I have a better understanding of what the schedule will look like. This means I can finally pair up students with sign language interpreters and start a *rough* schedule for the interpreters to work with that first week of school. Let's talk about schedules and juggling that many recesses, lunches, etc.! Holy moly. But you guys get that for sure! Scheduling is a whole other topic for another day.

So ALL of that happens on the first day back to work. On the second prep day I have a staff meeting with the sign language interpreters assigned to my class and my signing instructional assistant. I go over expectations, schedules, duties, which student they will be working with, student goals and individual needs, etc. At that time they each get their folder with information on the student(s) they are working with, expectations, and a rough schedule with their assignment and duties.

Whew! I am tired just thinking/typing about this whirlwind of Back to School! How do I keep it all organized?

Organization is my love language for sure! But let's be honest. You just need to make it through that first week back! So let's focus on that first!

Student Information: Each student is going to bring that huge Back to School packet of paperwork the first week of school. Before school starts, look through that packet and make a simple spreadsheet of what paperwork you need returned. As they bring back these forms, check them off. You'll know who has turned in what and what you still need. Sort these papers into stacks as they come in.

Staff Information: We all work with a lot of extra staff in Special Education. Make sure you have an area for a mailbox for each staff member. I also post the school's weekly news so each staff member is responsible for knowing what "extras" are happening that week. I don't have the time to tell each person individually about the upcoming fire drill or assembly.

Teacher Information: You know that huge packet of Back to School information you get from your County Office or District? Your class budget, the new rules and regs, etc. File that and get to it later in the month. You need to survive the first week and this is so not important right now!

Lesson Plans: Now *this* is where you will need to spend lots of time prior to the start of school preparing for! It will save your sanity when you are exhausted those first few days. Your materials will be ready and you can walk out the door and actually nap when you get home rather than stress about what you are doing the next day. You know which subjects you will be teaching. You might not know when, but you know what. So plan ahead of time. Also, plan lots of extra activities just in case. That first week moves really fast and you need to be prepared for extra time in the day. After you have spent a few days with your students you will be able to make plans for the second week.

I always spend way to much time trying to make my classroom look just right rather than having a plan for the first week. Not this year. I already have my first literature unit picked out and TpT units purchased. ;)

Now.... on to wishes. A girl can dream big, right?

Scheduling mainstreaming for grades 1 to 6, along with four staff to cover 7 kids is always a nightmare. I already know I don't have enough interpreter coverage. I just pray that the stars and moon align and the schedules work out perfectly. Enough said.

When you work with that many extra staff in Special Education there are bound to be staff issues. I am just hoping for an easier year than last year in this department.

My goal is to be proactive and prepared enough to be out the door and headed home by 4pm each day. We're contracted 8 hours a day. But who only ever works their "40 hour professional work week" as a teacher???

Speaking of... how do I manage my time?

Each day after recess my students have 15 minutes of free time in the classroom library. They can read, do puzzles, or build. During these 15 minutes I lesson plan for the following week. This way I can put together a to-do list for my assistant with copies or examples that need to be made. I don't get a "prep period". I constantly have students in my classroom.

Each of my students get at least 15 minutes of general education consult time per month. That means I am running around after school trying to catch certain teachers. This year I plan on scheduling these times in advance so I am not wasting time trying to track teachers down. Email is a beautiful communication tool meant to make our lives easier. I am constantly emailing teachers to set up a time to talk after or before school. 

How about a promise? 

This year is full of changes for our program. I have a new supervisor and will be working with new staff in my classroom. I just need to embrace these changes and not worry about things I cannot control. I often tell myself to just "shut the door and teach". Do what I can with what I have.

Here's to a great start to the 2015-2016 school year!

Back-to-School Link-Up

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tell Us About You Tuesday
Hi everyone! I'm linking up with Freebielicious today to tell you all about myself. I'm Kelly and this is going to be my 17th year of teaching Deaf/Hard of Hearing Students on the Central Coast of California.

Waaaaaay back in high school I volunteered at a summer camp for children with speech and language disorders. My younger cousin is deaf and had attended this camp when he was young. I already knew a little bit of sign language, but after voluteering that first summer, I just knew I wanted to work with deaf children. I took sign language classes at our local community college and ended up being paired with a deaf child for three more summers until I graduated from high school.

By my senior year it was pretty clear, I wanted to become a teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing.  Here in California there are two choices for schools with Deaf Ed programs. Fresno is WAY TOO HOT and Northridge was WAY TOO BIG. I ended up going out of state to tiny MacMurray College in Illinois. But the fact that it was literally a mile from IL School for the Deaf sold me. Hands down, going out of state forced me out of my little shell and I had an amazing experience in college.

But I ended up coming back and settling here on the Central Coast. This weather is perfect. (Except the last two days. I am melting people!) I couldn't find a Deaf Ed job right away so I applied to be an interpreter. At my interview the coordinator did a double take that I had just graduated Deaf Ed. She offered me a preschool teaching job on the spot. I took it! But I had to start a week later than school was starting since, um, I was getting married!!! First teaching job and getting married all within a week as a baby at 21.

I taught preschool for two years with itinerant as well. Then when a position opened up in the classroom I moved over to teaching 4th-6th grade. As our numbers decreased I expanded to 3rd-6th and now it's 1st-6th grade! It's crazy! Some days it feels like a one room school house. So many pros, so many cons. But I make it work and I try not to complain too much. I have a job I love.  

I have two beautiful girls who keep VERY busy when I am not at work.

Aubrey is seven and is simply a miracle. She was born at 29 weeks which was a scary experience. She was diagnosed at 2 with Childhood Apraxia of Speech and didn't even learn to talk until 3 1/2. Just by looking at her now and talking to her, you'd never know she was a preemie or had such great difficulty learning to talk! This girl is going to be taller than me by third grade!

Addyson is my spunky five year old. She has more personality than I know what to do with most days. But she keeps me laughing, that's for sure. I couldn't even make up half the stuff she comes up with. Always making me smile, that's for sure!

In my "spare" time I love to scrapbook. Both the traditional albums and also Project Life. I just love to document all the big and little moments in our life. It's a huge creative outlet for me. Plus retreats twice a year with my scrapbooking group keep me sane!

Some times I wonder how I fit it all in. Priorities. You always have time for things you love.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Monday Made It- July 20th

Hey everyone! I'm linking up with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for her weekly Monday Made It. This is the first time linking up since last summer! Boy have I been a slacker. I only got a few little projects done this week since I was working Summer School up until Wednesday. Our laminator at the office was also broken, so that stopped quite a few of my projects dead in their tracks. Hopefully they will get it fixed and I'll be sharing those projects next week. 
First up, I made myself a little savings jar for Vegas 2016. I watched all the fun that was happening at the TpT Vegas conference last week and decided I need to be there next year. Which means I have to start saving now! So I got a little glass jar at Michaels. I made a little cut file and cut out the shape on vinyl on the Silhouette. Now I can start collecting my pennies. Here is the cut file if you want to make a savings jar as well. 

I got this idea and free printable from Fun in First. It's a super cute first day of school activity and goody bag for your students. I filled the goody bag with Orange Crush mix in, orange straw, a Reese's peanut butter cup and an orange balloon. My students are going to love this and it will give us a welcome back activity to do first thing in the morning on the first day of school.

I was also able to finish up my Daily Folders for my students. I've used this home to school system for several years and it works really well! You can read more about how I use them here. This product is from Clutter Free Classroom. I just adjusted it to add Spanish for my Spanish speaking families. I use the sturdy plastic three prong folders and they last all year long without any issues. I still need to get my behavior calendars updated and our school calendar printed to add to the pockets. 

Last up, is my teacher binder. I was really sad to see that the seller who I got my teacher binder from several years ago was not updating it this year. That lead me on a hunt for a new one. Wow! There are a million out there on TpT and it was really hard to choose! I ended up picking the Editable Teacher Binder by Joey Udovich. I loved the editable calendar for the year and there were so many pieces to this binder that I didn't realize I needed until I had them. =) The nice part is there is also pages to make a sub binder as well. So not only did I update my teacher binder, but I updated my sub binder too! Now they are both cute and coordinating. We know that makes my teacher heart happy!

Now that I look back on the week, I actually did get quite a bit done. For summer that is. =) Have a good week everyone!


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Superhero Activities and Centers

This summer was the first time I have taught ESY in forever.  I knew in January when I decided to teach, that I had to make it fun and engaging for all of us. Historically, the attendance rate has been really low, and I knew my kiddos needed to be there daily. So I decided to go with a Superhero themed classroom and lessons. What do you know, my kids were there pretty much every single day. It's amazing how you can make something exciting and fun and they don't even realize they are learning in the process.

So I started to research and plan for my superheroes in training. Seriously, what did we all do before Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers? I couldn't find enough superhero themed centers to last throughout four and half weeks, so I decided to design my own unit. It ended up being a MEGA unit by the time I was done with summer school. I just kept adding to it as a new need came up.

Here are a few highlights from our superhero themed summer school:

We really focused on Language Arts since that is where the majority of my students struggle. The first day of summer school we talked about our classroom expectations. Of course, summer school is not the same as the regular school year, but it was important to be clear about my expectations for them. We also thought about what areas we needed to improve on and made personal goals and superheroes to go with them. I really felt like my students were more accountable for their work when they really focused on accomplishing their goal.

I was fortunate to have my same students that I have during the school year, with the two kinder kiddos added in. We made some getting to know you capes to practice answering questions and writing. I hung these on the backs of their chairs after they decorated and colored their capes. They turned out super cute!

We read two different picture books during summer school. First was Dex, the Heart of  Hero. Oh my goodness! If you have not read this one, go get it! It is very cute! It's about this little wiener dog who dreams of becoming a super hero. He trains and works hard. Then at the end of the book he saves the neighborhood tom cat and truly does become a hero. It was adorable! I found quite a few resources on TpT for this unit. We worked on spelling, vocabulary and writing related to the book. But this little writing craftivity was my favorite. So cute!

The other book we read was written by a 15 year old girl called, How to Be a Super Villain. We talked about the difference between a superhero and a villain.  The boys got a kick about our villains. They were very into it!  After creating our anchor charts, the kids did a comparison activity using flaps, where they wrote or drew about the difference between superheroes and villains. I had Kinder to 6th grade this summer, so I had to differentiate big time. They are all working from the kinder to early forth grade level in reading and writing.

The bulk of our day was spent doing centers. I made a fun superhero power point with the centers that literally exploded when it was time to rotate. The kids loved it and I did as well. It helped us stay on track and kept the time for us. I am thinking about making one for our Fairview Learning time to use during the regular school year.

During the week the students rotated through several different centers. They read with me, sight words (for the younger kids), word work, sentence building, grammar, writing, ASL, iPad, and computers. Within each of the centers I had to differentiate for their levels. That's why I ended up with such a huge centers unit.

It was so nice to have all of my centers created and ready to go for each week. It meant I was able to walk out the door each day feeling like I could focus on spending time with my own children at home. Such a concept, right?

The students were encouraged to come to summer school each day. At the end of the week, if they completed at least six of the centers they got a little treat on Friday afternoon. That was a big deal to them. Whatever works, right?

But naturally, the iPad center was their favorite. Before summer school I explored quite a few apps and made some tutorials on how to make comic strips to go along with our superhero theme. The kids took pictures on the iPad of them in superhero poses, then they completed the tutorial. They added a cape and mask as well as fun words like Pow! Zap! etc. They really enjoyed this for sure! I need to make more tutorials using new apps for the regular school year. It gives the iPad center a sense of purpose and incorporates following directions all in one. 

At the end of our four and a half weeks, we had a fun superhero party on the last day of school. I bought some fabric and taught the kiddos how to sew a basic bag on the sewing machine. They used their bags to take everything home with them.

I set up a fun laser maze in our library area. They got a kick out of this for sure! It was pretty easy to create. I hung a few pieces of really long red yarn from the ceiling and then strung it back and forth at different levels. We watched Megaminds, made superhero masks, colored star picture frames that had a picture of the class, cleaned up the classroom, and then said goodbye until August.

I was pleasantly surprised with how easy and quick summer school actually was. I might just have to do it again next summer!

Check out my Superheroes Mega Center and Activities Unit. It is jammed packed with centers for Kinder to 2nd grade and a ton of activities for your own little superheroes in your classroom!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Minecraft Day

So I have quite a bit of catching up to do. Although the school year is over, file this activity away for next year when you need an end of the year filler.

My students are crazy for Minecraft. Partly because I went to a workshop on Minecraftedu back in May. I introduced the game to my students and we went through all of the training modules that Minecraftedu offers. Friday afternoons for the last hour we did Minecraftedu. I will be purchasing the licenses for my classroom this year. It's a one time purchase for the amount of computers you are using, not the number of users.

When I was looking for some fun theme days for the last week of school I just knew that we had to do a Minecraft day. Of course, TpT to the rescue! I found this great STEM Engineering/Minecraft Engineering unit.  I printed it out and gathered a few simple supplies for the tasks.

These activities lasted  It was perfect. I was able to get paperwork completed and get my room organized while the students worked. Most of all, it was great for my students to work together as a team on some of the activities. They had to communicate and figure out some of the tasks together. Group projects for my students is quite a challenge and something we are working on in general.

I also used some of the left over supplies from a Minecraft birthday party that a few friends and I helped throw for a friend's son. The students used 1x1 inch squares to create a Steve face. I loved how they each turned out so unique!

I might just have to repeat this day again at the end of the next school year! That's how much the loved the activities.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


This past week tons of educators flocked to Las Vegas for the Teachers Pay Teachers conference, SDE conference and the iteachK-2 conferences. Hundreds, if not thousands of teachers took over Vegas.

As I taught ESY this week here at home, I couldn't help but feel a little envious of all the cool things those educators were learning about and doing. There was tons of chatter about a new social media app called Periscope. A few teachers were using Periscope to show us live what was happening in Vegas. Which was so cool for people like myself who could not attend. 

Basically, this is a video app where someone hosts a live broadcast about a topic and followers are notified that a broadcast is happening. You can login and view the broadcast live. What's different about this video app is that people can comment and ask questions as you are broadcasting. So it's pretty interactive. If people like what you're broadcasting, they can tap the screen to show you a little love and hearts pop up.

So I joined. I was really inspired by the teachers I saw broadcasting, that I decided to turn the camera around and try it for myself. I did a little introduction and was nervous as all heck! But I did it! And I survived. I might have said a few too many "ums", but I did it.

One thing I do not like about the app is that anyone can join the broadcast. Random people popping in that are able to comment. I am sure there are privacy settings in there somewhere. I have a lot to learn about this new app for sure!

Today I had my second broadcast where I shared about my Word Work Centers for Any Word List. I just reached 100 followers on my Instagram account (@aviewintomyclassroom) and am giving this unit away to a follower.  So I pulled out all my center activities with recording sheets and went through them one by one. I got some great feedback from the people who were viewing the broadcast, which is always nice.

I can really see how this new social media app is going to bring educators together in new and different ways. Rather than sitting behind a computer screen, typing words, people are literally interacting with people live. I am excited about all the possibilites!

So you if have not joined Periscope, go do it today! Search for your favorite bloggers, watch and learn! Come follow me on this crazy journey as well!