Friday, November 14, 2014

Supporting Transitions with a Ready Not Ready Visual

Greetings, Everyone! 

It has been a little over a week since my last post...and wow, have I gotten smarter!!   Last week, I was in Dallas at NAEYC.  Despite the lost luggage, the conference was amazing. I learned more than I could have ever imagined.    

First off, I had the opportunity to present with Jenny Spencer. 

What a wonderful experience! You definitely need to check out her blog, Ignite Learning.  The confidence she had in me and her positive energy re'ignited', my love for Conscious Discipline.

Which leads me to the second opportunity NAEYC provided me, getting to reunite with Dr. Becky Bailey, the creator of Conscious Discipline. 

Her presence alone reminded me of why I went into education in the first make a difference in the lives of children, families and staff. 

In speaking with her, I created a revamp to a post I did in February 2013 and one I shared during our presentation at NAEYC, the ready-not ready visual.  I added conscious language to support staff in consistently helping students with transitions using the visual. 

Transitions can be very hard for children. At which time, they tend to be in the brainstem with limited verbal communication. By teaching a student to communicate “I am not ready” the student is more likely to communicate his/her need for more time without hitting, kicking, biting, etc. 

So here is how it works:

One minute before it is time for a student who has a difficulty transitioning, set a one-minute timer, take a deep breath and prepare your student by saying “One more minute then it is time for . .” as you set up this table tent.

Then when the timer goes off, take three deep breaths, open the table tent and say “all done it is time for. . . are you ready or not ready.”  

If the student pulls the not ready icon and/or says not ready, celebrate this appropriate communication by saying “Good for you, you said you are ready." or "good for you, you said you are not ready, you may have one more minute.”  Then reset the timer and set the table tent up without putting the not ready icon back in.

When the timer goes off the second time, take three deep breaths and say ”all done time for...”  This time the not ready icon is not an option as it is time to set the limits.  Your student may still be reluctant to transitioning but the idea is that you are supporting them in making a transition and self-regulating as you give them the words to say they are not ready the first time and then helping them through the transition process the second time as you set the limits and tell the student it is time to transition, using empathy and positive intent.

“It is time for...  This is hard for you. You feel sad. How can I help you?”

Then turn the visual support to the back so the student can communicate his/her needs and/or you can help them communicate his/her needs.

For example, with this visual a student could request help or a break or you could communicate “This is hard, do you need a break? Hug? Deep Breath?” as you model the visuals use. 

I love the addition of the conscious language but please do not feel obligated to use this specific language.  It is just words to get you started.  A big thank you to Dr. Becky Bailey for suggesting this tweak!  Looking forward to hearing how this conscious language helps your students and staff. 

Click hereto print the document and get started!  Believe me..."YOU ARE READY!"

Best wishes, 



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Creating an ECSE Art Center That Puts the "Fun" in Functional

Finally...a detailed look at our Art Center!!

Over the years the art center has evolved based on student needs and staff growth.  Nope not the size of staff members or an increase in the number of staff, but rather us getting better...thinking smarter not harder! 

Like all the other centers, the students rotate through the art area for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on each student or group of students’ interests and abilities).  See specifics about center rotations by clicking here.

When the students come to art, they always have work to do from Drawer #1 of a three drawer Sterilite system followed by art choices in Drawer #2. 

(Drawer #3 houses specific items for snack as snack is also done at the art table later in the day. The little book bag icon on drawer one is a velcro prompt to remind students to put their finished art work in their book bag.) 

Originally, the idea was work first; then make an art choice.  However over time we recognized, that theory was not always doable. For some of the small groups, all the kids in the group needed one-on-one support to complete the day's art project. Instead we moved to a model in which one student started on the art project of the day, while others did art choices first then the art project of the day.   

As we got going with this technique, Miss Penny, our fabulously talented para whom ran art, became very skilled in knowing which students needed to do the art project first so not to lose their attention and which students needed to have some choice time first and then do their art project.  In some cases, this gave students a chance to see other students doing the art project of the day before it was their turn. In other cases, it reinforced students in working hard on the art project of the day to get to preferred art activities like painting and watercolor.  

If needed she would use our trusty sand timers from to prep and prime students for when it was time to change activities!

So let’s dive in with an example of how all this works! With Christmas just around the corner, I decided to take last year’s Christmas art projects as the example.  It is quite the detailed process so stay with me as I share. In the end, I think you will find it very helpful.

First, at the beginning of each thematic unit, we explore thematic art choices. For instance, during our Christmas unit we used holiday cookie cutters, cookie sheets and spatulas to play with play-doh.  

And then holiday stamps, stickers and red and green construction paper as another option to make Christmas cards for friends, teachers and family members. 

Thifty Teacher's Tip: I often pick up crafty holiday items after each holiday at 50% off or more. 

We also try to be creative with art choices for other thematic units. For example, during our dental unit, we used pink play dough and lima beans to make pretend mouths as a counting and fine motor activities.  

(Please use your imagination with this photo as it was taken at home 
and my boys rarely use pink play dough! :) )  

As a second choice, we laminated a large tooth and had the kids draw pretend food on it based on the pretend food they ate on the flash cards and then wiped it clean with a toothbrush.  This idea was adapted from the great work of Tracie Betz. Thanks Tracie!

Thematic choices are provided as well as other constant art materials like colored pencils, markers, watercolors, glue sticks and scissors.  Students can use an aided language board to ask for specific art choices.  

Notice we can mark off materials that are not a choice for the day or we can simply slide in the theme-based choices over the top of our traditional art choices.  

We have found it helpful to have a few constants and then change it up with a few new options related to the theme.  The new options are always introduced and taught on the first day of a new theme.  That day the art choices are housed in Drawer #1 and there are not any choices in Drawer #2.  This is helpful so Miss Penny can model how to play with the choices and expand on creating and making. 

After day one, the art choices move to Drawer #2 and we dive right into art projects for the day.  As I share the art projects we did each day during our three week Christmas unit, I will also share a picture of the prep for each activity. 

I try to be a theme or two ahead so the prep supplies can be in the "to do bucket" for staff.  

Staff then cuts and prepares the art projects for each activity when they have a down moment whether it be an absent student, a student or two receiving speech, occupational, or physical therapy at the same time, or even between classes.  Note: I write exactly how many of each item I need and any other notes on the items for prep and then paperclip them or put them in a Ziploc bag with a sample of the project so staff knows exactly what we need by going to the to do tub and don’t need further instructions while I am working with students. 

Also note it seems like a lot of work, however art projects from year to year are stored in the theme boxes so as I prep for themes I have a lot of examples to pull from.  

It is a process! Over the years I collect more and more ideas for each theme.  We try not to do very many art projects two years in a row as we often have returning students but some of our favorites get used each year and thanks to Pinterest there is always room for improvements and updates.  

Art Project Day 1 - Snowman Count Down: (adapted from a wood project I found on Pinterest)

Snowman Countdown Prep:

Note:  The students’ art projects are not about being the same.  We always have a model for students to look at but we focus on the process rather than the end product. 

We want the students to have a finished project they are proud of but each finished product should have it’s own personality with the student's name on the back.  The beauty being that each student gets practice writing his/her name in a purposeful way almost every day!

I try to plan the art activities so that the ones that can be hung in the hall will be done at the beginning of the theme unit so they can be up for most of the season or theme.  

Art Project for Day 2- Christmas Tree Project:

Note:  This one includes math concepts as the students have to roll a color di to see which color painted lights to put on. 

Christmas Tree Prep:  

Art Project for Day 3 and 4- Santa Claus Project:

Santa Claus Prep:

Depending on the amount of steps in a project, sometimes we divide the project into two days.  For example for the Santa project, on day one the kids cut strips for Santa beard and then clip them together with a clothespin that has their name on it.  Day two they pick out their clothespin of beard strips and glue the Santa project together.

We try to model and support students in using appropriate amounts of glue with these supports as it is a life skill to only use what you need and gain impulse control!  For students who need it, we will use Elmer’s glue stick that goes on purple and dries clear.  Before student use, we will support them in where to put the glue by marking lines or dots with a purple marker to match to.

For students who need help with liquid Elmer’s glue, we will either put some on a paper plate and have them dip the product into the glue or for paper gluing we will use gluebrushes from Discount School Supply or tap and glue caps from Classroom Direct.  

Art Project for Day 5-  Ornament Wreath Project:

This project had the student’s school picture in the middle and was hung on our school Christmas tree in the office.  It is a tradition to have an ornament made by each student to be put on the tree. 

Ornament Wreath Prep: 

Art Project for Day 6- Staff Christmas Cards:

The front:

The inside:  

Note: Staff and students sign one master copy. Then we make 20 to 30 copies to deliver with Christmas cheer (and sometimes Christmas carols) to service providers, other special ed teachers, office staff, cafeteria staff, janitor staff, school nurse, paras, subs, and bus drivers and monitors. 

Staff Christmas Card Prep:

Art Project for Day 7- Wreath Project:

A great one for fine motor as the students put mini red sticker dots on the black dot spots.

Wreath Prep: 

Art Project for Day 8-  Family Christmas Card: (another great Pinterest find by Jill Dubien).

Only prep is to copy the template on card stock and then fold in half.

Art Project for Day 9-  Our Gift to Families, A Traditional Handprinted Glass Ornament:

** It was a class tradition to paint a different glass ornament each year.  You can see past years here. 

Art Project for Day 10 -  Wrapping Paper for the Glass Ornaments:

NOTE: Last year we did patterning with smelly markers. Some years we paint our paper, stamp it or add stickers to it.  Tip: We always precut the paper so it is already to go for the kids at the art center.  Usually, it's butcher paper or old wrapping paper turned inside out.  

Art Project for Day 11 - Wrap Gift  

Instructor's Insight: To help with the wrapping of family gifts, we often use the wrist tape bracelet by Scotch tape.  The staff person wears it and the students pull off each piece of tape.  Not only a great fine motor activity, but it also makes wrapping the gift more independent!

Art Project for Day 12 - Candy Cane Project:

Candy Cane Prep:

And there you have three weeks of Christmas crafts at our first-then art center!  Remember we were a four day per week program with Fridays being a day for consulting with families and daycare centers, as well as IEP meetings and a little planning time. 

I know it seems like a lot but by planning and prepping ahead the kids can be so successful and learn so much.  Just think of all the skills that were taught in this little ten to fifteen minute time of the day: writing their name, counting, matching color, following directions, cutting, coloring, painting among many other fine motor experiences!  Not to mention the opportunity to request.  

For several of the art projects, we will slip the materials needed in these I want bags so the students can point to "I want" and then touch the item in the bag.  

(Note:  In some situations we should change the "I Want" bags to "I need" bags.)

We also use PODD books or our mini language books to support requesting specific colors of materials and writing tools.  

That is it for now!  Until next time happy gluing, cutting, writing, coloring, drawing, and creating!  Get Creative! :)

Best Wishes, 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Seasonal Handprint Painting Ideas for Pre-K Children

Hello Everyone!

I am in the process of putting together a post about our classroom art center. Well, ladies and gentlemen, you will have to wait at least one more week for that post.  In the meantime, I want to share this seasonal hand painting book idea before I miss the next three holidays!

The kids painted one page of this book every week from mid-October to Christmas break a few years ago.  It was a fun counting, art and sensory project as the kids had their little hands painted with a brush to make the following designs.

So without further ado...I give you "Look What My Fingers Can Do!"

The Cover:  Look What My Fingers Can Do!  

Page 1: One finger makes a pumpkin, 

Page 2: Two fingers make a candy cane, 
(on 3 by 4 inch construction paper)

Page 3: Three fingers make a ghost, 
(on 3 by 4 inch black construction paper)

Page 4:  Four fingers make Santa, 
(on 4 by 4 inch green construction paper)

Five fingers make a turkey,  

Six fingers make a tree, 

Seven fingers make two Native American Indians,  

Eight fingers make a spider,

Nine fingers make a Christmas tree,

and ten fingers make a reindeer!

There you have it...what 10 little fingers can make!  

To download the pages of the book click here.  A few housekeeping tips for making this ongoing project:

1. Store the finished pages in a file folder system by the art center.  I got mine at Wal-mart a few years back.  It has been a lifesaver.  Label a hanging folder for each student.  Then, as the students finish each page, you can file them in their folder for easy book making at the end of the project.

2.  At the end of project, have the book making scheduled in your lesson plan as an art activity so you or a staff person do not have to take extra time to put it together.  The students will love helping and it adds a numeracy and literacy activity to their day, making them have more ownership of the book they made so they will go home with excitement to read it to their families!  

3.  Have a plan for what students will do when they are not painting their page.  For example in our classroom, the staff person who is doing art will set all the kids (in her small group) up with open ended art activities from the art shelf such as markers, watercolors, bingo daubers, or play dough and then have each student paint their page one at a time.  This eliminates down time by giving the students something to work on while they wait.    

It also offers them choices by allowing them to choose an art activity either verbally or with an aided language board.  

Tip:  If you put the aided language page in a plastic frame you can use 
a dry erase marker to mark off art materials that are not a choice for the day.  

Choices make the world of special education a much better place.  By offering two choices you are okay with, the students feel they have some power and we are not giving up too much power.  For our reluctant painters, just saying, "Do you want to paint first or do (play dough) first?" Helps their anxiety toward painting go down as they have a choice!!  

We will get into this more at a later date.  For now I am going to sign off to work on the BIG Art Center Post that will be coming out SOON!  

Until then, happy painting!  -Lindy