Monday, August 31, 2015

100th Blog Follower Giveaway!

This little blog hit a BIG milestone this month! I finally hit 100 followers on Bloglovin'! How exciting! I am certainly a little fish blogger and I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my blog and cares enough to follow me. I started this blog more than a year ago to connect with other educators. I am excited that I have "met" so many regular and special education bloggers out there! 

In order to thank each of my followers, I have a fun giveaway planned for you! Several of my friends in real life and several of my bloggy friends have donated products and credits to their TpT stores.  Thank you guys for helping me celebrate this milestone!

So who is ready to win some products from TpT and a Target gift card? Enter below and spread the word! This giveaway will end on Thursday, September 3rd. 

Good luck! Check back Friday for the winner! 

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday Made It- August 10th

Ahhh.  My last week of summer vacation has arrived. *Insert solemn music here* I am getting my classroom ready as well as all of my curriculum for the school year this week. Fun! But for now, I'll show you what I made this past week!

I'm very excited about my pretty new student mailbox. I was pretty sick of the ugly green hanging files, so I covered them with scrapbook paper and added pretty new labels. Each side of the hanging file took one half sheet of black 12x12 paper on the bottom, and one sheet of patterned 12x12 paper on the top. I wasn't sure how much it would take to do the job, and could have made things a lot easier by getting enough patterned paper. But I didn't.... so I improvised. I added some white vinyl letters to the front of the file box using the silhouette, and done. Love, love, love the way it turned out.

This little stool sits at my writing area. The spray paint keeps chipping off, so I added some vinyl polka-dots and dressed it up. I seriously need my own Silhouette Cameo. Are you listening Santa? Or I could even partner with Silhouette America. I'm not picky. =)

Thanks to hosting #SPEDChatSaturday, I was able to get my mainstream notebooks ready for the school year. If you're a special ed teacher and want to see how I use these at the start of the school year, check out Saturday's post

This year I'm going to be coming up with 101 ways to use Post-it notes since I have a *slight* surplus in the classroom. (Due to my inability to check my whole cabinet before deciding I didn't have enough when I ordered supplies. I now have 1000's of them. No joke!) So I made these fun little IEP reminder sticky notes as well as my contact information on sticky notes for the mainstream teachers I work with. You can find these IEP reminders here on TpT as a freebie.

This is my favorite project from the week. It's obviously not for the classroom, but for home. I'm not a fancy, lots of jewelry kinda girl. But I have been adding to my collection recently and am trying to dress outfits up a bit more. So I needed a place to store all of my earrings and necklaces. I bought this $3.99 frame at the Goodwill. I spray painted it. My husband added some knobs and cut down the chicken wire for me. (By the way, the knobs cost more than the rest of the supplies combined! Geesh!) I added a little fabric to the back to match my bedroom. I love the way it turned out! Now clearly I need some more earrings to fill up all that empty space!

Okay, I'm on the home stretch. We'll see if I can get any real projects done this week with setting up the classroom and savoring the last few days of summer! That cute fabric garland is still on the to-do list!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

#SPEDChatSaturday- Together We are Better

Good morning everyone! Welcome to #SPEDChatSaturday. Today I'm host our topic on Together is Better- Special Education and General Education. We're talking all about communicating and collaborating with General Education Teachers.

How are your mainstream/inclusion placements decided? At my school, that is left up to me to approach and talk to the general education teachers. Since I have been on this campus for the past 15 years, I have a pretty good feel for the teachers on the campus and who would be the best match for our students. 

During my initial meeting with each teacher, I give them a Confidential Mainstream Notebook for each student placed in their class. 

This notebook contains the following: 
An opening letter
IEP at a Glance
General Guidelines for Mainstreaming with Deaf/Hard of Hearing Students

I fill out a student summary sheet for each of my students. It's a quick way for the general education teacher to get to know the student that will be coming to their class. I like to include a picture of each student. Sometimes our teachers "know" who are kids are on campus, but this allows them to connect their face to their name.

I am excited to use these new IEP reminder post-it notes this year. It will be easy for the general education teacher to remove them from the notebook and place the sticky note onto their own calendar. It's quick and simple. The same with a teacher contact post-it. The general education teacher can place this near their phone for easy reference. I just uploaded these post-it notes to TpT as a freebie. Go download them and get ready for the new school year. There is also a template page included for you to create your own post-it notes to print.  

I also include guidelines for mainstreaming with Deaf/Hard of Hearing students. This is especially important reminders for teachers that have never mainstreamed before. I would suggest including general information on your population of students you work with.
This first meeting is usually a very brief as I recognize everyone is crazy busy before school starts. After I go through the student's needs and concerns, I schedule a follow-up meeting with the general education teacher to go into more detail after the first few weeks of school.

 Email is a special education teacher's friend! It's so hard to track down teacher's after school. I feel like I waste so much time looking for teachers. Scheduling a time to meet or at least emailing a teacher ahead of time that you'll be stopping will save so much time. 

My students each have at least 15 minutes a month of general education consult time written into their IEP. I try and schedule time to meet with at least one or two general education teachers a week. (Remember, I have 1st-6th grade... which is a lot of teachers to communicate with.) That way I have touched base with each teacher once a month. Sometimes this happens more often if there are issues, but we know how that goes. A lot of time is spent figuring out changes in schedules and trouble shooting equipment.

What do you find works best for you when it comes to ongoing communication with the general education teachers you work with?

 Collaborating with the general education teachers we work with is key! We have to be willing to go above and beyond to be apart of the team and make sure all of the needs of our students are met.  So what does this look like for you? For me, it varies from year to year, needs of my students, and time I have available.

  • Co-Teach or Teach a Small Group 
One year I had a student who was really struggling with reading and needed more intervention. I was able to go into the general education classroom for an hour a day a teach a reading group. This allowed the general education teacher to split her class into two groups and rotate the students. It also gave me a chance to really see my student in action during reading and give her support without pulling her out of the general ed class. It was a win-win for both gen ed and I. 
Some years I am able to leave my Special Day Class to go teach sign language to the general education classes we mainstream with. The students love it! It helps bridge the communication gap and it gives the general education teacher 30 minutes a week of prep time. 
  • Modify the Curriculum and Share
If you are modifying something for your student in the general education classroom, share that with the teacher. They probably have a student or two that could also use that same lesson in a modified format. One year I taught a modified writing group for some struggling writers from the gen ed class and my student. My student was able to be with her peers and get the specific instruction she needed, but it also helped the other students in that group.
  • Provide Extra Staff
We all recognize how large the general education class numbers have grown over the years. Some of our upper grade classes have 36 kids in them! Those are crazy numbers! When our sign language interpreters are not busy and our deaf/hard of hearing students are doing independent work, they assist the general education teacher. They grade papers, file, etc. I always talk to the gen ed teacher ahead of time and let them know that my student is that staff member's priority. But if they are working independently, it's okay for them to assist. Most teachers are very appreciative of the extra set of hands and like the assistance. 
  • Provide Supplies
I always ask if there is something that I can provide for the general education classroom. Sometimes my kiddos are one extra number that the teacher did not plan for when purchasing supplies. Every little bit helps and shows the general education teacher that you are a team. For one of my classes I take pictures each year for a special project. I crop, blow them up larger and print them for the teacher. It's one less thing she has to worry about and I'm happy to help. Any thing extra you can help with is always appreciated.

The only way we can educate the whole child is to do it all together as a team. That means we as special education teachers need to go the extra distance, do the extras, spend more time, be more flexible and put ourselves out there more. Our work is never done! But our students are the ones who benefit from this team approach. They are worth it!

I'd love to hear about how you communicate and collaborate with the general education teachers you work with. Link up below. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday Made It- August 3rd

Hello August! How did you sneak up on us so fast?! I'm linking up with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics for her weekly Monday Made It, as I feverishly try and get things ready for my classroom. I went in yesterday and my room has not been cleaned. =( The carpets were wet, but nothing has been cleaned. Ugh. So here is a little peek at what I have been up to.

I have several very low readers in my class. Last year several of my older kiddos struggled to read our job chart. So I remade it this summer with clipart. I just love the way it turned out! I use clothes pins with name labels hot glued onto the pins. This job chart is apart of my new Simple Black and White Classroom Decor set that's on sale right now.

Those same kiddos that are having a hard time reading the job chart, also struggle with reading and writing their numbers. I really needed a reference for them to use whenever needed. So I created a number banner and hung it around my room. This was an empty space before, and now it is filled with something very useful (and cute) for my students. I just added the Number Banner to my TpT store yesterday. If you're looking for a specific color combo to match your classroom decor, just let me know.

I have a few little guys in my class coming in that cannot reach the soap at the sink. I've needed a stool for a while, so this week I made that happen. I got a little wooden stool from Joann's with a coupon and spray painted it black. Then I added my signature polka dots. That's my daughter, shown a little #redbootlove while I was taking pictures.

Each summer I donate the fabric and sew the quilt for Camp Hapitok. This is a summer camp for children with speech and language disorders. I worked there as a teen and as a staff member for many years. This summer I did a little consulting work and enjoyed being apart of it in a small way. Each camper and teen pair make a quilt square. On the last day they raffle off the quilt to one of the teen volunteers as a fundraiser. This is just my tiny little contribution to a program I hold dear to my heart. 

Whew! What a busy week! Throw a little mini vacation in there and I'm not sure how I got it all done. Two weeks until school starts. Ahhhh!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bulletin Boards

Thank you Ashley and Angie for hosting today's #2getherwearebetter gathering of all things Bulletin Boards. I'm excited to share with you how I use my bulletin boards in my classroom. My classroom is located in a portable and I am fortunate to have cork-type walls that allow me to staple things from floor to ceiling.

First off, I use only material on my walls for bulletin boards. I hate that rippled look that paper leaves after a while. Plus, it's hard to work with to hang and always gets wrinkled.  My OCD side can't handle that. Fabric is so easy to pin, level it, then staple it. Easy peasy.  The cheapest option for fabric is flat sheets. Yes! Sheets! It's way cheaper than fabric at the fabric store and you can get the sheets in a variety of sizes for the size of the bulletin board you're working with. Just cut off the seams and you're good to go. Plus, if you make a snip, then pull the fabric, it will tear in a perfectly straight line. No guessing at cutting in a straight line! True story!

I have a variety of bulletin boards in my classroom.  If you're curious about what my whole classroom looks like, check out last year's classroom reveal. I haven't even been into my classroom yet this summer. All of these photos are from last year.

At the front of my classroom I use one side of my white board for a focus bulletin board. This is where I hang anchor charts for the language arts topic we're working on in that moment. Most of the time this is our current literature book with vocabulary and related work.

 Some of my bulletin boards are informational. This was part of our science board where we had science tool vocabulary posters as well as the steps to the scientific method. I don't do informational boards very often, as I feel like my students gloss right over the information and the space is better used for other types of boards.

 One of my largest bulletin boards is our calendar wall which is interactive. I have our daily PE and Speech schedules that I change out daily so I know who is going where at what time. During calendar, we do today is, yesterday was, tomorrow will be with words on velcro as well as sticks in the pockets. The students add how many days we have come to school on our hundreds chart and they write the number on the white board. Next to that is our lunch calendar.  One of my favorite additions is the Question of the Day. My kiddos have low language and this is a great vocabulary building activity as well as being able to answer a question. We have our job chart with clothes pins with each student's name. In my classroom we use a clip chart system for behavior. All of these things are easy to access here at the back of the classroom.

Most of my bulletin boards are dedicated to displaying my student's work and artwork. I just love what they create and it's fun for them to show off their work. It's very clear when you walk into my classroom what we are currently learning about and what we have learned recently as my student bulletin boards are changed out all the time.