Monday, January 09, 2017

Using {Interactive} Books in the Classroom & Where to Find Them

Let me tell you the awesome thing about have pre-k, kindergarten, and first grade in the same classroom. You can do literally zero whole group academic instruction. Did I just say that out loud? You picked up on that sarcasm right?

Or at least I can't with the group that I have. I have used interactive books with my pre-school classes in years past and this year they play a huge roll in helping me differentiate my instruction.
I have students that it is not developmentally appropriate for them to sit and listen to a whole group read aloud. They need to be actively engaged in what is happening or else I have 0% of their attention.

We differentiate our whole group read loud time by splitting students into 2 groups. Group 1 are 3 students who read an interactive book and group 2 are 4 students who did a whole group read aloud with some of our favorite children's literature.

Interactive readers allow us to practice following directions, work on our attention to task, practice wait skills and turn taking. Not to mention whatever skill the book addresses is also being touched on too. They are awesome for my younger/lower group of students. We read 1 interactive book each day. AND they are also great for maintaining mastered skills. It doesn't matter if all the students know their colors already. Practicing color matching 1x/week is a great way to make sure they keep that skill too!

Thankfully I have TONS of these books prepped from last year so they are quick and easy to grab when planning. I have my go to sellers on TpT when it comes to finding interactive books. These are sellers who's books I know my students really like and that hit a variety of skills and sellers who offer a variety in their interactive books. (Sellers are listed in no particular order)

#1. Mrs. P's Specialties

Mrs. P sells her interactive books in bundles for an average of $5. Her books are simple and clean and at a great price. I'm always interested in a bundle since I'm planning 1 book for each school day.

#2. Adventures in the ATC

Adventures in the ATC sells their books both separately and in seasonal/common bundles. Her bundles usually include about 5 interactive readers. Again, I love to purchase her bundles since I'm planning lots of books.

#3. File Folder Heaven

This lady is awesome. She sells file folders AND adapted books. Two huge resources for differentiating instruction in my classroom. I also love that her adapted books include multiple activities when you purchase the book. Some of them include a version that allows for comprehension questions or a version that includes page matching. She also addresses a variety of skills in her books. You can also count on her for some good freebie books too!

#4. Michelle Breaux

Michelle's books are great and offer great variety. Her formatting really stands out to me and I love that she offers different versions for some of her stories. Some have longer, more detailed text and others are short simple versions. Again, excellent for differentiating! 

#5. Creative Curriculum Adaptations- Ginger Joyce

My favorite thing about Ginger's adapted books are that the sentences on each page also include visual support cues for reading. Then you also have your interactive piece to apply to each page.

And lastly-- myself! Every once in a while I find myself short a few books for the month. If I have the time I will just make them myself. If I don't have the time I know my go to ladies are always putting out new ones so I can usually find a book I don't already have when in a pinch.

Thanks to my snowy weekend and snow day I was able to make 4 new winter themed books to help get me through the month of January.

They're available for $1.50 each in my TpT store and the Counting Snowflakes one is FREE! :)

Do you use interactive books in your classroom? What is your favorite thing about them?

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Watch Us Grow! {A Monthly Activity}

August 12, 2013 I started this blog post. I'm not sure what happened and why I didn't share it. I've updated the product, added a little bit more and am finally hitting publish on this. I thought it would be fun to leave it as I had it a little over 3 years ago. Haha!

 So here it begins....

Last year I posted about Monthly Self-Portrait drawings I did with my students. Each month we would do Mat-Man by Handwriting Without Tears (kids love Mat-Man by the way, even if he does look like a monkey), and then we would draw a picture of ourselves. We would also write our name. A great way to show progress throughout the school year. These were some of my favorite items to look back on when the year ended.

When the 2012-2013 school year started I was working with a whole new group of students and an entirely different set of skills. Expecting them to be able to draw self-portraits was not developmentally appropriate. I just love these items at the end of the year though, so I knew I wanted to do something similiar.

I found this great product at the end of last year online and the light bulb turned on.

Teacher Created Resources® Mini Bulletin Board Set, Watch Us Grow

We would take a monthly picture of each student and see how tall they were. Then have the students write their names on the line. Just like our monthly self portraits, each page would be displayed on a bulletin board in the classroom. 

I used the small name tags that came with the bulletin board set and put under the green pages with student names on them. (Sorry that's not pictured)

Using the back of a bookshelf, I added bulletin board paper and made my own space for measuring student heights. I would have them stand there, get their height and THEN take the picture. Lots of wiggles happened between measuring and photos so I never relied on the measurements seen in the photos.

Each month we would display the new page on top of last months.

At the end of the year we bound them into books for the students to take home. It was so neat to see how much they grew throughout the year. They change so much at this age too! I wish I had taken a picture of the finished books this year. I guess I was too distracted by the fact that I put 2013-2014 on all of the covers instead of 2012-2013 so I had to re-do all of them....

...and there it ends.

In my first post reference above I shared about how we drew self portraits. That page includes a link to purchase our monthly self portrait pages. I went ahead an gave that pack a MUCH needed make over and also included pages for using photos and a growth chart if that's more suitable for your class.

You can purchase it in my TpT store, or re-download it if you already have it!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year & 2017 Goals!

I blogged 15 times in 2016. FIFTEEN. That's pitiful. So now it is time to make some goals for 2017 and try somehow to hold myself accountable for them.

My blog was a little out of sorts there for a while. I finally took the time before the new year to clean it up a little and "re-brand" it if you will. My blog name always has been and always will be Creating & Teaching. I added a tag line to hopefully help with my branding. Since I've been working with students on the autism spectrum for the last 5 years now I thought "along the spectrum" would be a great tag line.

When I first started writing this blog post I went a total different direction with it. It was a bit of a downer. I'm glad I didn't hit publish. I thought about it some more and then I decided instead of being gloomy about why I haven't kept to my blog much this year I want to be positive about 2017 and set some goals!

I've decided on 3 Resolutions for blogging/TpT for 2017.

#1: Be more engaging.

I want to/need to interact with you all more. Be more responsive to questions, posts, comments. In order to do so I need to be posting more! Not just here on my blog, but also on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook and Instagram are the quickest ways to engage with my followers/readers. By simply posting more I can create more opportunities for engagement.

#2: Write more.

This one is kind of a no brainer. I need to blog more! I'd like to be at a minimum of 15 posts by March of 2017, not for the whole year like last year! This is my first post of 2017 and I have another post scheduled for tomorrow so I'd say I'm off to a good start there for sure. 

#3: Share more.

If I am accomplishing goal #1, I guess in a way I'm also accomplishing goal #3. In order to engage more with my readers I'm going to HAVE to share more. One strategy I'm using to help with this goal is scheduling facebook posts. I can set aside time here and there and schedule multiple posts and schedule them out whenever I need to. I won't feel like I don't have the time to share and I can engage with the comments and questions as they pop up based off of my posts. 

I'm going to need your help to keep up with these goals. I don't think I can do it without you all. You've helped get me this far in blogging and I know I can count on you to build it back up again! And also since this happened yesterday.....

I don't think I'm off to a good start.
{Thanks Mrs. Hoffer's Spot for sharing the picture!}

Do you have goals in place for 2017? I've never been a big resolutions person but I need to make some changes with my blogging patterns for sure!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"How We Center"--with some help from Oriental Trading

Coming to a final routine/procedure for our centers were going to run in my classroom was not an easy task for me. Having taught pre-school for 6 years I was used to planning play centers, but I never required them to rotate through the centers and stay for any designated time. They were free to explore and spend their play as they chose to. I also wasn't planning literacy and math center activities either.

Teaching a K/1 class was about to be a different ball game. My philosophy for my special needs classroom has always been to make the classroom reflect a typical setting as much as possible. If our goal is to prepare students to be able to handle that setting some day, why teach them in a drastically different environment? Therefore our center rotations were going to reflect literacy and math centers you might find in an inclusion room, but provide the supports and accommodations our students need to be successful.

Through some phone collaboration with one of my best friends who teaches a similiar class at my former school and some amazing resources by Autism Adventures in Room 83, a center routine was established!

In the morning we have literacy centers and in the afternoon we have math centers. We have three tables which are our three centers. We use color coded baskets for each table which helps me and the students stay organized.

We use these center rotation cards from Autism Adventures in Room 83 and they are life savers! They truly helped my students learn/master the idea of centers and the rotation. Students earn a star for each table when they're finished, and they placed a visual of what they were working for at the top of their cards.

I made this page for students choices, but as you can see, we also had our moments when we might just need to write something in if a photo wasn't handy. :)

When we first started students had 10 minutes at each center and then 5 minutes of earn time between each one. Once we mastered that, then we delayed our earn time til the very end of center rotation. If they finished their work at the center before the 10 minutes was up, it just meant they had some extra earn time.

I found these great colored baskets from Oriental Trading. I ordered 2 sets of them so I could have AM (literacy) & PM (math). They come in a set of 6, so that gave me 2 sets of 3 extra colors. I'm able to use these on individual cases where a student might need a center differentiated for them. I place their activity in a different colored basket and they know what to look for. 

Click {here} to find these baskets on Oriental Trading's website. 

Our tables are also labeled for their color with these signs from Especially Education. I used her same signs to label our baskets as well. They are perfect to include on a student's visual schedule if needed as well. 

I thought I was at a total loss when it came to trying to plan centers from my students. The center cards from Autism Adventures were truly life savers. I knew I couldn't go wrong by adding a little colored bin organization either! How do you do centers in your classroom? Any special tips or trick to add? Leave a comment! 

*Disclaimer: I was sent products to use in my classroom in exchange for this post.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Lunch Room Supports

Sometimes I wonder if the idea of taking a group of students on the spectrum into a large sensory overloaded room also known as the cafeteria is some sort of joke being played on us. I don't think an autism friendly cafeteria exists out there. The closest you might find is a lunch room in a designated school for students with autism, but still, in my experience, these schools are located in older buildings/older schools and these lunch rooms were still never created for this intention.

I'm pretty sure we all cringe inside a little bit thinking about taking our classes to the cafeteria. Now don't get me wrong, we also WANT our students to be there. To be with their peers, to learn the routines, to gain independence navigating through the lunch line. BUT there are still MANY challenges we face on a daily basis entering the cafeteria.

Waiting, loud noises, crowded spaces, high ceilings, sounds of others eating, carrying a tray, making choices quickly and on demand. Understanding that we HAVE to take something that we know we don't like and won't eat. I mean the list goes on.

Last year my students ate both breakfast and their lunch in the classroom. When I started working at my new school in August and I realized this, I thought no way. That's not fair to them. Let's give them the opportunity to show us that they can learn the routines and handle 30 minutes in the cafeteria before we seclude them to the classroom. And even then, why make them all eat in the classroom if all but 1 or 2 can handle the cafeteria?

So I made sure we were prepared to tackle this adventure. Thankfully our cafeteria is smaller than most I have been in, but it still has the super high ceilings and any of the sensory concerns you could possibly think of. Our trips to the cafeteria involve 2 things.

1. Get there early
2. Bring the cafeteria bin!

We get to the cafeteria as soon as we can to be closest to the front of the line for breakfast, and at lunch we always walk down a couple minutes early. I'd rather stand for 2 minutes with my students waiting for them to start serving, versus waiting behind a line of 20+ kindergartners. And we're first lunch which is also another bonus.

My students have really caught the hang of going through the lunch line. 2 require the most support, but they are also the youngest. Some finger fidgets to hold while they wait and some assistance with their trays from an adult and they make it through. All of the students love scanning their lunch tags at the end! :) I also created this super helpful visual to use to get us through the line.

One student does great going through the line, but I feel like we're always giving him a million verbal prompts to get through. This visual is great for him. We show him each prompt card through the steps and he can make it through the line with a bit more focus.  I'm thinking about creating a visual that shows all the steps in one line. This would be small enough for him to hold with him as a cue and place on his tray after he's picked his drink. That's not currently something that's included in the pack, but you can buy editable prompt rings in my TpT store by clicking {here}.

Our last and final life saver for the cafeteria is this yellow bucket. I take it to the cafeteria every morning before the students come in and we take it with us every afternoon for lunch.

The best thing in this bucket are the small toys/fidgets we bring with us for when students are done eating. All of our kids eat at different rates and then some are stuck waiting for a loooong time until lunch is over so we make sure this bucket is stocked with highly preferred items to keep them occupied at their seats until it is time to leave. Playdoh and silly putty are super popular choices. Finger fidgets like tangle toys and squishy tentacle fingers are also interesting to a few. Then we might toss in a few matchbox cars, or a random Buzz Light Year if someone was interested in him prior to leaving for the cafeteria.

We also keep extra utensil packs from breakfast (they don't get straws at lunch, but these have straws!), germ-x, and baby wipes-- never know what you might need. I also keep copies of the lunch menu for students whose parents have circled their choices for us and any behavioral support visual we could need.

We also find this bucket helpful for sneaking back those snacks that go un-opened, but will come in handy when nothing preferred is served for lunch!

How do you survive the cafeteria? What does lunch look like for your students? I've included some links below for suggested items if you want to create your own cafeteria bin. **The amazon links are affiliate links**

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