Sunday, October 04, 2015

Apples & Pumpkins, Oh My!

It's like it's new product Sunday or something. Actually it's more of, it rained all weekend so all I did was laundry and sit on my computer.

Last weekend I finished up my Apple Cookie Trays and made some Apple Shape Sorting cards. I didn't get a chance to blog about them since the timing was a little late I just wanted to get them out there.

This week I worked on Pumpkin Cookie Trays and Pumpkin Shape Sorting cards. This way something would actually be timely for once. (I'm well aware of how terrible I am about that!)

With all of my seasonal cookie tray packs being completed and *almost* every holiday having it's own pack I've decided on making smaller packs (25-30 activity sheets) with a specific theme, i.e. apples and pumpkins. The idea is for these to be smaller packs that you can use for 1-2 weeks while you focus on a specific theme. The smaller pack size also allows me to make them quicker and get out more themes.

The shape sorting cards are so versatile and I am loving these fun themed shapes! You can turn these into file folder activities, add magnets for cookie trays, add velcro and use them in a task box too! I will be using these in task boxes with 2-3 shape cards in each box. Click the images below to go to my TpT store and purchase the shape sorting sets, each priced at $1.25 (with a bundle being offered in the near future).

Here are some previews of the activity pages included in the apple and pumpkin cookie tray activities. You can click the images below to head to my TpT store to purchase them.

Thanks for checking out my latest activities! I've got a holiday themed cookie tray pack to get working on so I can offer a holiday bundle to you soon!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

How I {Currently} Organize my PECS

Over the years I've tried several different ways to organize my PECS pictures. Each time I have a new idea I think it's the final one. I'm finally set on my organization system and I'm sticking to it. I once organized them this way, then tried 2 more ways, and went back to this one.

I think there are so many great systems out there for this, it's just all about finding the perfect fit for you and your classroom.

In 2013 I wrote a post on my first storage solution. You can read it {here}. I loved these little containers but I basically out grew what storage I had available and I couldn't find anymore. I've since seen more of these in the stores, but I gave these containers to another teacher to use once I stopped using them.

I was contacted by a company a while back to do a review on a need product they had created-- The Success Box. I LOVED it. This is a really awesome tool and the binder they create is awesome as well. The company also employees adults with special needs which makes them even more awesome. The success box fit our needs well, I was able to combine most of the bead boxes I was using prior, into 1 success box. I had intentions of using the binder for when we did home visits, but I never set it up for that. I think the binders are perfect for storing other manipulatives that you might use during a calendar or greeting time with your kiddos.

Inside the Success Box are tabbed dividers with pockets attached to them-- how cool! The binder is the same thing, just with holes to insert it into the binder. 

 If you click {here} it will take you to their website to see some usage examples fot the Success Box. There are some great ideas-- things I had not thought of!

After some time with our Success Box I decided bead boxes it was. I purchased more of them since our stock pile had grown and sorted them all back into the boxes. I'll be honest, I forgot to take pictures of my boxes for this post so these are old pictures. Currently my boxes are labeled on the sides with colored masking tape and stored on a shelf. All the food boxes are with one color tape, classroom items another color, related service items a different color. You get the idea. When I do my classroom tour photos, I'll try to remember to snap a close up. 

There are so many more ideas out there for PECS storage. I tried the baseball card holder thing for about 20 minutes and then returned the baseball card sleeves to the store. I keep all my extra images pre-laminated so I quickly put them to use so they slid out of the card holders even more easily.

Here are some great ideas from Erin at You Aut-a-Know


and Caitlin at Learning Ahoy


Do you have any other great ideas for storing PECS pictures? We'd love to hear them! Share a link in the comments if you've blogged about your system too!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What's in my Work Boxes {Part 3}

I haven't blogged about my work boxes since back in March, but I'm ready to bring you part 3 where I'm sharing with you the various matching activities that I currently have in my work boxes. If you missed part 1 and part 2 you can catch up on them by clicking the links below.

As I've mentioned in my other posts on work boxes, it is important that your tasks have a clear start and stop to them, be activities that your students can complete independently or almost independently, and since the age range of my students varies greatly, I need a variety of tasks at a variety of skill levels. It's very easy to differentiate amongst types of activities, whether they are put in, sorting, or matching. You can always have some easier than others, and some that are harder than others.

This first photo quality is not the best, I didn't realize it didn't turn out great, but you get the idea. Students match pretend vegetables to the pictures on the strips. This is relatively simple, but I like that it's object to picture.
 We also use a lot of puzzles for matching activities-- this one is a little more challenging. I have a few students who can complete this task. Next year I do not believe I have any so this may be a box that I change out.
Here is another matching one like the vegetables, only with fruit.
This box I created using number popsicles from Learning Resources. I love buying activities like this because they are great for task boxes. I broke this one up and create two boxes with it, numbers 1-5 and 6-10.
I made this activity by printing familiar environmental print that my students would know and having them matched with velcro. This activity could use some re-vamping as it has been well loved and some of the matching cards are falling apart! Eek!
This is last food to picture matching box I have. Dessert! This one is a quick and simple box since there are only 4 food items to match instead of 6.
I'm pretty sure I found this activity on clearance in Marshalls. It had 4 matching cards with wooden squares that matched up. Again, I split this activity into two boxes, with 2 matching cards each. Depending on the stamina of your students you could probably do all 4 cards together too.
These alligators have capital and lowercase letters on them for matching. Again, this was a box that I split up into more than one box. You could make this box more challenging by putting all the letters of the same color together.
This is a sight word match that I made for some of our higher students. (You can see I used recycle paper for the matching cards haha). I have two of these, different sight words. This may be another box I switch out this year because my students who could complete it have moved on to Kindergarten.
This one is a letter match to spell the cvc word. I have two of these, with 4 cards and 4 different words. This was really simple to make. Just trace the magnetic letters onto construction paper so students know where to match them.
Here is another puzzle one that we use. This one can be matching letters, or putting a picture together-- whatever the student prefers is fine with me, just as long as they complete the task.
 This is one of my favorites. I went through all of the counters I had in my cabinet and pulled out different ones to create a matching activity. I found the images that matched each one on Boardmaker and created a bingo style card. Students place each counter on the correct picture.
I had these pattern and activity cards that went with a set of counters and I figured why not use them in a task box! On one students have to find the correct color bug and type of bug to match and on the other just place a bug of that color. These cards are double sided so I simply taped a piece of black construction paper over the side I did not want them to do to make these usable in a work box.
This next box is another great example of using/re-purposing something you may already have in your classroom. I took two bingo cards from this number bingo (that we don't play in our classroom) and turned them into a matching work box. Students simply match each card to the correct picture/number.
This next one is the same as above, only with a shapes card. I just did one in this box to make this a simple matching activity, but you could always had more cards to increase the level of the task.
And lastly, one with letters. I put three cards in the letter matching one. Again, we were not using these so why not re-purpose! And I still have more cards in the box, so I could technically still do a Bingo game with a small group if I wanted to.
I found this activity on Teachers pay Teachers, I wish I could remember from where. It makes another simple shape matching activity.
This is another puzzle one that I would definitely place in the more challenging category. I had two students last year that could complete this one independently. Again, another one to switch out for this year.
This matching activity is obviously seasonal but I still leave it in a container-- why not, great matching! I also found this on Teachers Pay Teachers, I believe it was a freebie, but I don't remember from whom unfortunately. I can see that there is something in the bottom corner of the cards (can't read it from the picture), but I can check once I get back into my classroom. ** UPDATE you can purchase the penguin cards below {here} on TpT! **
So there you have it- 19 matching activities from my workboxes in my classroom! I've now shared put in tasks, sorting tasks, and matching tasks. I know I have more, not sure if there are ones I could classify. Maybe I can do ones with a fine motor focus next? I will be working on creating new boxes this year as well since my student group/skill level will be very different from last year.

Hope this post has been inspiring to you for creating your own boxes!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

First Day of School Stories {the Bad}

A few other bloggers and myself got the great idea to blog about a story, or multiple stories from the first day of school-- the good, the bad, and the ugly. We all have first day of school stories, whether they are successes or (in our minds) failures. Lets face it, we're just as nervous as the kids are on that first day, if not more, only the kids don't know any different so they can't tell.

The classroom might fall apart and crumble, but the kids can't tell. You might have forgotten to copy something you had planned on using so you skip it, but the kids can't tell. You might have goofed the words to your hello song as you tried to present yourself as a stellar vocalist to your class, but the kids can't tell.

I always remind myself of that when I'm teaching. Even if I goof, the kids don't know. They don't know what I had planned for them to do that today so the secret is always safe with me.

BUT regardless of what the kids do or don't realize, WE know when something goes wrong, and let me tell you-- something went wrong this day! And unfortunately I wasn't the only adult in the room and this secret was NOT safe with me.

I'm sure we all have bad stories from our first year teaching, but I will never forget this one. It was the very first week of school, in my very first classroom, and I was being trusted with 12 little ones, 10 with IEPs and I only had an aid with me for part of time. Meaning, I was on my lonesome a good chunk of the day with 12 four year olds.

At that time our school district was referring children with autism out to another program. The protocol called for 2 people from that program to come to our school and observe the child in the classroom. First week of school, in my very first classroom, and I have 2 people observing me on my lonesome with all of these littles.

It was center time and I was doing the best I could to show what was at each center, manage sending students to centers after they made their selection, and manage what was going on in each center. Shew I'm sweaty just thinking about it.

I was ambitious. I was going to have the best centers. Students were going to LOVE centers. The toy area was filled with toys, the book area had awesome giant Winnie the Pooh Characters, the house area had dress ups, the block area was filled to the brim with blocks, the sand table full with shovels and buckets, and I was even letting them paint in the art area. I was awesome. Did I mention I was by myself?

Centers started out well, they were observing, I was busy and they could tell, but managing. Kids were playing I was bouncing around from center to center assisting as needed. Maybe running from center to center I can't remember. The student they were observing was playing trains- his favorite. He was content. Until someone took his train. Then a child ate paint. Students were most likely fighting over the stuffed Winnie the Pooh characters, and I believe a hint of whining was happening at the sand table.

I didn't have the best centers. I couldn't manage it. I couldn't be all places at once (well no teacher can), but this group of kiddos certainly required more support that I could provide by myself. But it was the group I was given with the support (or lack there of) that was available to start the school year.

While I tried to maintain composure and address all issues as best I could, the very sweet ladies observing looked at me and said, "Where's your help?". They chuckled, to make light of the situation I believe. I felt they could tell I was trying my best, but they knew as well as I did that more support was needed.

I'm unsure if they had a word with the principal on their way out or not, but shortly there after a second part time aid was hired and I had help in my classroom for a majority of the day and I was beyond thankful for it.

I'm sure there are worse horror stories out there, but for me, this is the bad and I'll never forget it. These other bloggers are also sharing some of their First Day Stories with you! I can't wait to read them!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Promoting Communication with TV Show Characters

For most children, you want to find something motivating to reinforce their learning. This is more important for some than others. Not every child is intrinsically motivated to learn in school, and for those who need motivators for learning some are MUCH harder to identify motivators for than others.

Whether you teach regular ed, special ed, have inclusion, etc. I can imagine just about every teacher has 1 child in their room that is SO challenging to motivate. It keeps us on our toes right?

When working with children on the autism spectrum I find it is so important to identify a variety of motivators for each child. Motivators or reinforcers-- depends on the teacher you talk to or the context of a conversation. I use them both interchangeably.

We need these items to reinforce appropriate behaviors, correct responses, and my number 1 in the classroom-- COMMUNICATION! 8 out of 10 children who enter my classroom have little to NO communication skills. Very few point to items or combine a point with vocalization to gain the attention of a communication partner.

They climb. They are incredible climbers. Why? Because they can't reach what they want, they don't know how to ask for what they want with expressive communication, their social skills are impaired as well so what do they do? They get it themselves! Very independent little guys :)

When you teach communication you naturally have a decrease in many un-wanted behaviors (i.e. climbing) because you've given the child a new skill. They can now communicate what they want so they don't have to climb for it anymore, or cry because that was their only former way to get your attention.

For the sake of this post I have to assume that you all know what a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECs) is. If you don't, let me know in the comments and we'll save that for another post. We mostly use PECS in my classroom, because, as I mentioned about 80% have little to no expressive language. But in order to start PECS you need a REALLY strong motivator. You have to make that child WANT to communicate with you to get what they want. If you aren't using a strong motivator, guess what? Little Johnny could care less about making a picture exchange with you, you don't have an item he wants!

99.5% of the time you can generally target a strong motivator that is a food item. (i.e. goldfish, mini m&m, raisins, etc.) that a child will consistently make picture exchanges for to assist with teaching the first Phase of a picture exchange. However, there's always that outlier who could care less what snacks you have. (Yes, I've had a few!) So in my classroom I've found another strong motivator for my kiddos are TV/movie characters. #helloThomas #helloCARS #helloBubbleGuppies ...really, the list goes on and on.

I have used Sterilite containers from this must haves list, to create themed containers for favorite TV shows or movies. I look for whatever I can at discounted prices to fill these containers. Those character toys can get expensive! I include books, stuffed animals, toys, bath squirters (not to actually squirt water), anything that fits the theme. Like I said, these toys get pricey. Shop yard sales, ask for donations! I sent out a district wide e-mail (after obtaining permission) asking teachers to donate any character toys they had that their children no longer played with. I explained why I needed them and honestly, had enough of a response to start my boxes out.

There are many more containers than what is shown here. We keep them across the whole span of the cabinets. Staff can reach them easily, children cannot. We are always adding new boxes it seems as new children start and interests change or new interests are added.

To promote communication with these boxes they are kept up high and out of reach, so the children cannot access them on their own. At their level are a variety of pictures that they can exchange to get a box. This reinforces the single picture exchange they have been taught, practices differentiating skills between pictures, and reinforces traveling to a communication partner. And IT WORKS! The kids love these boxes. All highly motivating and sensory items are kept out of reach so children have to request them.

I put two pages up on the cabinets for the PECS knowing we would most likely expand the amount of boxes we had. Sure enough by the end of the year we had about half of the other page full as well. 

We also keep parts of different toys out of reach. For example, we may put out the marble run, but no marbles. (That serves 2 purposes; communication and safety for the kiddos who mouth objects) Sabotage their play and make them talk! I promise they will :)

Are you doing anything similiar in your classroom? What are some of your favorite ways to promote communication with your non-verbal students? Let us know!

Don't forget! Today is the last day my store is on sale for Back to School!