Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Our Morning Routine

I thought it might be interesting to share with you what our morning routine looks like. Especially since I am working with Pre-K through First Grade students! Currently at the time of this post this is my classroom breakdown:

1 teacher (hey that's me!)
1 para-professional
9 students in the classroom full time: 2 preschoolers, 3 kindergarten students, and 4 first grade students

Obviously the needs and expectations for this group vary. A lot. Starting with how the students get to school.

Pre-school students ages 3 & 4 ride to school on vans. My other students all ride to school on a bus-- the same bus thankfully, but the vans and the buses drop off students in two different locations. My para and I split this duty. She goes to the vans and I go to the bus.

We each bring our group back to the classroom. Generally she arrives back before I do. When all students arrive in the classroom they place their back packs and their coats in this basket.

Step #2, they sign their names in.

Step #3, if they go the cafeteria for breakfast they grab their name tag and walk down. At this point in the school year most of them (that go to the cafeteria for breakfast) can navigate to the cafeteria independently and into the line. My para will go down and meet them and provide the supports as needed.

I remain in the classroom with the students who do not go to the cafeteria for breakfast and the students who chose to bring their breakfast back to the classroom. Confused yet?

My 2 pre-school students stay in the classroom during breakfast and my para brings their breakfast back to the room when she returns. I have 1 kindergarten student who usually arrives late, she will also bring that students breakfast to the room if he is there. The remaining 6 students all go to the cafeteria for their breakfast. 2 of them, depending on the day, may decide to bring their breakfast back to the room. They can independently do that so I'm flexible with them and am in the classroom with the other students either way.

As students return from breakfast/finish breakfast they are to hang up their back packs from the basket and then go and use the bathroom.

While they have been eating I've hung up their coats (for the sake of not forgetting who came in with what) and pulled their notebooks and folders from their backpacks.

We do not have a bathroom in our classroom, but thankfully we're close to it in the hallway. Students who can go independently are sent down after breakfast and those who need to be walked down are taken once my para returns from the cafeteria.

Students have free choice/social time while we complete bathroom breaks, take attendance, and get all the ducks in a row for the day. This is great for students who request out of reach items we can embed that first/then opportunity in there and have them get their bathroom break in. This is also a great opportunity for students with social goals on their IEPs to interact with their peers or take turns during games. My para also takes her 15 minute break after all the students have finished with their bathroom break. When she returns, its our cue for the clean up timer and then clean up song to start our day.

As students are added to our classroom our routines are forever changing and being tweaked, but currently this is what's working for us. Are you a breakfast in the classroom or a breakfast in the cafeteria class?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Generalizing Rote Skills

There's a small possibility that topic might have you scratching your head. While rote skills come VERY easily to most of our students on the spectrum, there are usually a few who they don't. I have one student in particular who is working on identifying capital letters, lowercase letters and numbers more consistently. Student appears to know them, but does not identify them on a consistent basis.

To address these skills we're doing discrete trial training with flash cards and a strong reinforcer for each skill. Each time the student correctly identifies an item they receive a reinforcer. If it's incorrect, no reinforcer. Each time we use flash cards they are shown in random order. The student can count and sing the ABC song so if we showed them in order it would make it appear that the students does in fact known their letters and numbers.

Another key component to making sure that these skills are generalized is that we use multiple sets of flash cards. It would also be easy for our students to learn the skill but only in the context of the flash card if we're using the same set each time.

I wanted to make sure that I was using different sets of cards while working with my student so I went ahead and made multiple sets of cards so I could easily grab a different set each time we were doing trials. I made 3 different sets for capitals, 3 different sets for lowercase, 1 set of each with a picture cue and 3 different sets for numbers 1-30.

I used these photo storage cases to store each set. This keeps them together and makes it really easy to grab whichever one I need.

The mixed bag cases are where I combined different cards from each capital set, each lowercase set, and each number set to make a "mixed bag" set of flash cards.

I also created a data sheet that allows me to keep track of how many letters and numbers the student has been identifying on each trial. I can fill in the date of the trials at the top and also mark which flash card set that I used.

*This is not an actual students data- duh.

When I met with the parents of the student they were surprised to know that at school their child was not consistently identifying letter and numbers. They practice them at home all the time and the child is able to identify. Through our discussion we found that they were using the same set of cards each time. We talked about generalization and I pointed out to the parents that they needed to use multiple sets of cards.

Through frequent trials at school and at home said student can now identify 26/26 capital letters and 24-25/26 lowercase letters! I am so excited! I even went 3 weeks (that time includes winter break) without assessing him and upon our return from break he hadn't lost any progress!

Next on our agenda: focusing more on number recognition.

Need some flash card sets? You can grab a pack from my TpT store that includes all of the sets that I made. Click {here} or on the photo!

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!