Saturday, January 14, 2017

Milk Delivery with an Academic Twist

Several months ago,  I shared a few of my favorite classroom jobs.  Today I bring you one more jobs- Milk Count!

Originally, my students were doing one to one correspondence with the milk visual below that sat inside dish tubs.  Students would deliver the dish tubs to the three kindergarten classrooms at snack using our delivery cart.  (NOTE: There are more than 12 students in each kindergarten class but only those that choose to pay for milk do 'special snack milk'.)

At semester I realized it was time for a revamp.  Although the students the job was designed for have not mastered one to one correspondence, with 100% accuracy they needed a change.  After a little brainstorming with my friend Tasha, we came up with this.

Now my students are able to work on looking at a chart for information. . .

Then transferring that information to a number line on our delivery cart made of duct tape and a permanent marker. (Note the number line only goes to 10 so our students have an opportunity to do real world addition as they count out snack for Kindergarten C since they need 12 milks.  Also note the numbers on the chart are written with a vis-a-v so my staff and I are able to change the numbers on the count if students are absent or if we want them to use a different set of numbers to get to 12 as many of my students will start to memorize that 7+5 is 12.)    

After finding the number they need on the duct tape number line they mark it with a bulldog clip.  

The students then simply line milk up to that number.   Next they have a second opportunity to count as they errorless-ly put the milk lined up on the number line into the three milk tubs (one for each classroom- Kindergarten A, Kindergarten B and Kindergarten C).  

The milk then gets put in our fridge until snack time.  Then our kindergartners deliver the milk to the corresponding classrooms yet another opportunity for academics as they match milk tub A with classroom A, and so on and so forth.  

Our delivery cart gets used for many other jobs throughout the day!  The cart is simply a repurposed technology cart that I added weights to- to help ground the kids, keep them from going to fast and give them some sensory input!  Stay tuned for more ideas using the cart as well as another job Tasha and I modified for this semester.

Best wishes, Lindy

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Power of Flexible Seating for Students with Autism

Do you have students who struggle to sit at their desks?  If so this post is for you!

This year, we started the school year with several students who struggled to sit at their desks, let along do desk work and participate in classroom activities. As my colleagues and I began to brainstorm how we can help these students, we began reading about the Flexible Classroom.   

In taking this concept a step further, I began to think about students with Autism.  Many students with Autism have overwhelming sensitivities and preferences within their environment.  For example, one of my little gals hates hard surfaces, every morning when we start group she resists joining us.  For several reasons, number one their are too many people, number two it can be too loud and unpredictable, and number three she hates being confined to a desk with a hard cold chair. By the way I didn't come up with this conclusion just by watching her behavior, I also had a little help from Naoki Higashida after reading his book, The Reason I Jump.  

In the book Naoki shares many examples of why children with Autism have certain preferences and unusual behaviors.  After reading it, I had an overwhelming sense that our students with Autism do the best they can in each moment but sometimes the environment is just too much!  

By offering alternative seating, we can take some of the discomfort and hardship away so they can perform even better in each moment.  For example for the little girl I described above, we introduced several different chair options.  In doing so we learned that she prefers to sit in soft chairs that have some give and allow her body to sink in.  We started allowing her to use a Saucer Chair pulled up to her desk.  The chair itself was super comforting for her but when pushed up to the desk, she wanted nothing to do with it so instead we offered her a Big Joe Chair from Wal-Mart.  

It worked like a charm but was not conducive to being pushed up to a desk so I bit the bullet and removed her desk completely.  I say bit the bullet because this was a big step for me.  I am very type A and I want everything to be in perfect harmony.  By having one student sitting on the floor in a different seat than her peers what would others think, how would that look.  But after getting over my own personal feelings the chair turned out to be the best thing ever!  

The student is now able to participate in group comfortably and share what she knows in a whole group setting.  Her verbal skills have started to blossom in front of her peers and she is able to manipulate the Smart Board and use her morning lap book more consistently. Prior to adding the chair, she would either hum loudly, chew on her chewy and stim or be so overwhelmed by the whole experience that she would request a break.  

Now she is participating at a level equal to her peers, especially since we added this velcro white board to use as a table top for her to write.  (To make it my husband purchased a White Panel Board from Home Depot and cut it to size, then I added heavy duty soft velcro on the chair and hard on the back of the board.)  

We still work on in seat desk behavior other times throughout the day as we know at some point she will be in a general education classroom and other environments where flexible seating is not available for one reason or another.  But we no longer expect in seat desk behavior from her during large and small group activities because at this time these activities are hard enough without adding the element of a desk.  Instead we expect in seat desk behavior during preferred activities such as looking at alphabet books and using the iPad.  Over time the success of sitting at a desk for preferred activities will hopefully generalize to other activities throughout her day.

Until Next Time, Happy Flexible Classroom Making!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

An Inside Look at My Classroom Centers

I often get asked how I keep up with it all!  Sometimes I actually wonder this myself, but I will say one of my key timesavers is the way I organize my classroom centers. 

Each week we focus on a letter and a number.  Each day, we do fifteen to twenty minute rotations at the literacy center, math center, and art center to work on concepts related to the letter and number of the week. 

As you can see in the photos each center is also detailed with a color. Red is literacy, orange is art, and blue is math.  This helps our students know where to go for each activity as the colors are used on the schedules of students who are not yet readers.  

At the literacy center the students practice writing the letter of the week (with the help of Heidi Songs and Handwriting Without Tears concepts).  Then they make and read a story about the letter (with the help of The Printable Princess). Then they identify words that start with the letter (with the help of Crystal McGinnis' I Know My Alphabet Sounds).  These three steps are done using a three drawer worksystem so students know how much work, what work, and when the work is finished as suggested by the TEACCH model.  

Students know that their work is done when they have completed the work in drawers A, B, and C.  For most the drawers themselves are enough for them to understand how much work but for some we add a picture frame to mark off each activity or a match to match icon system for those that need movement, as they stand up and match the icons to the drawers, then bring the contents of the drawer back to table and sit down to work.

Notice that each drawer also has a detailed description of what to do with the contents of the drawer this so staff can support students at each center in a consistent manner.  

But how did we make it simple to switch out materials at the end of the week?  By filing them in a Letter of the Week Bin that is stored on top of the metal cabinet at the literacy center that doubles as a magnetic letter wall and storage for other letter and literacy materials.  

Also inside the bin are letter of the week interactive letter books by Gabriella Dixon from Teaching Special Thinkers for the library center and art projects that are made at the art center each day.   In order to have the materials for the art projects ready for each week, I put them in my staffs' to do tube to work on during free moments a week or two before each letter is the letter of the week.  Then they go in drawer three (the STOP THIS IS FOR TEACHERS drawer) at the art center for future use. 

In drawer one, we have each day's art project and in drawer two we have art choices for the week that  students can play with after they finish each day's art project.  Note on Mondays the students do not have a daily art project as they simply learn how to use and play with the art choices of the week.  Then on Tuesday they do an art project with the capital letter, on Wednesday they do an art project with the lowercase letter and on Friday they make an alphabet zoo letter to add to their alphabet book.  
(On Thursday's our students have the privilege of doing adaptive art with our building's art teacher!)

Note the Friday art projects are stored in a small file system on the cabinet by the art center so we can simply begin alphabetizing each students' book as we complete it page.

That's all I have time for today, but stay tune for how I organize the math center and other classroom areas!

Happy Organizing, 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Great Resource: The 2017 Hanen Calendar

Recently, I had the opportunity to preview Hanen’s 2017 Calendar: Building Language and Literacy Through Powerful Conversations.  Wow!  What an opportunity it was! 

The calendar is a great addition to any home or classroom that supports young children with social and communication needs. As stated on the inside cover of the calendar, “quantity of words matter, but the quality of the interaction matters more!”   When we are in the middle of a busy day, this concept can unfortunately be forgotten as we rush to get the students to the next activity, cook supper for our family, or prepare for the next day.

As parents and educators, we can become overwhelmed with daily to dos, shoulds, coulds, and have tos!  The Hanen Calendar is a great way to keep perspective about what really matters, the conversations we have with our students and children.

Each month, the calendar provides strategies for making the most of conversations during daily activities, play time, book reading, and on the go.  

Not only does the calendar provide practical strategies for daily life but it also divides ideas up into to two stages of development: those who are learning to talk, and those who are talking to learn. 

I am so excited to hang the calendar in our class library center this year to help my staff and I stay accountable for quality conversations with all of our students both those who are learning to talk and those who are talking to learn in the literacy center and beyond! 

To purchase a calendar of your own click here! 

When you are over at the Hanen site check out all their other amazing literacy and communication products and be sure to like them on Facebook for updates, training opportunities and so much more!

Until next time best wishes, 

Welcome DEC Participants!

Click below to get the handout and resource page from our session.  

Did you miss the conference?  Click here to learn more about conference.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Meaningful Classroom Jobs in a Special Education Classroom

Now that we are a few weeks into school and things are starting to come together, I want to share a few functional classroom jobs that have been added to our classroom this year!

I have always had classroom jobs but this year I have added a few new ones to the list since I am now working with students from Kindergarten to Fifth grade all day versus preschool students half of a day.  (To see previous posts regarding my preschool jobs click these links: Arrival Jobs, Snack Jobs)

As Dr. Becky Bailey shares through Conscious Discipline, it is important that students have jobs that contribute to something bigger than themselves and this is even more important when working with  special needs students.  Often times students with disabilities are the receivers of help rather than the givers.  By giving students with special needs meaningful jobs they can contribute and begin to realize that they matter!

Let's take a look at a few jobs in our classroom that do just that!

Menu Helper- Students look at the monthly lunch menu and copy what is for lunch on the chalkboard.

NOTE: If a student has the skill of writing and copying but cannot write the entire menu for the day.  We will have them simply copy the main dish or a few items from a white board list.

Students that don't have the skill of writing, simply find the icons for what is for lunch in our alphabetized lunch icon binder and velcro them on a lunch tray that is mounted to our wall with removable mounting tape.

Quote Helper- Students put up the quote of the day on our window facing the hallway.  Higher students google search for a quote or look through quote books to find one they like and then write it on a white board and clip it on the clipboard in the hall.

Students who do not have the skill of searching the internet or a book for information, simply pick a laminated quote out of our quote of the day tub and clip it to the clipboard.

Box Top Counter- Students check our class mailbox for any boxtops and pop tabs that other classrooms have delivered to us.

Then they get the supplies they need off our errand shelf to sort, cut out and count boxtops into sets of 50 so they can be submitted to Box Tops for Education for money!!

For this activity some students match up 50 boxtops on a box top template for one to one correspondence practice, others practice counting 1 to 50 using a number chart and other student who are practicing money match each box tops to dime icons and then total the amount of money the class made.

After counting box tops into sets of 50 the students bag them and deliver them back to the classrooms that 'mailed' them to us, which provides an opportunity for students with special needs to show the contributions they make to our school!

Until next time strive to find meaningful jobs for ALL students!  And remember everyone has something to contribute to our classrooms, our schools and society as a whole:)

Best wishes,  Lindy      

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Work Tasks from Around the House

Check out these functional tasks that are so simple and cheap to make, using old containers around the house (or classroom)!

TASK ONE: A Squeeze Jelly Fine Motor Sort

Could be used as a sorting and fine motor task or a simple fine motor task.  It is just scrap pieces of felt that need to be fed through the lid using a pincer grasp.  

TASK TWO: A Sandwich Assembly Task

Perfect for pretend play in a dramatic play center for younger students or for practical practice of making sandwiches in a life skills class.  I used scrap pieces of felt and old sandwich containers but you could use scrap fun foam too.  

TASK THREE: A Play Dough Can Sort

Great for students, who are tactile defensive to start experience play dough in a nonthreatening way first with just the play dough container and pom-poms.  Then with the play dough container and little balls of play dough to put in, then eventually with any luck actually playing with play dough.

What tasks have you come up with this summer?  Please share below I would love to hear about more tasks I can make out of random things around the house before the school year starts!

Best Wishes, Lindy