Sunday, April 10, 2016

Saying Goodbye to Elementary School {Making Middle School Transition Easier}

I have taught intermediate grades all 12 and a half years of my special ed teaching career and I have always had at least a few 5th graders ready to move on to middle school.

Cue the questions, crying, and worrying...and not from the kids!  I'm talking about the parents.  I can say this as a teacher of 5th graders and as a parent to a middle schooler; transitions are hard.  Many of my 5th graders I get to have for 3 years, so I really get to know them and their parents by the time they are ready to head to the middle school.  It makes it tough on all of us to let them go.  Take heed, mamas, they will be ready.  Middle school is like the great unknown, plus there are multiple classes and LOCKERS!!  How in the world will they make it over there!? 

Here are a few tips that can help you (as a teacher) make it easier for the parents and students that are moving on to middle school:

1.  Set up transition meetings
In my school district, I like that we are required to hold transition meetings on all special education students that are headed to our sister middle school.  Several people are involved in this meeting, including, regular and special education teachers from the elementary school, related service providers, a special education teacher from the middle school, the parents and a chairperson.  At this meeting we are able to talk to the parents about their concerns about middle school, speak about how the special education department works at the middle school, and update the IEP as necessary. 

2.  Transition Letter & Survey 
Prior to the meeting, send home I send home a transition survey for the parents to complete along with the notice of conference.  This survey allows parents to get their questions and concerns to me prior to the meeting just in case there is something I need to find out an answer to before the meeting takes place.  (I have included a link to my letter and survey at the bottom of this post)

3.  Transition At-A-Glance
Our middle school special education team meets with 3 different elementary schools in our district.  Before we have the meeting I complete a Transition-At-A-Glance form on each of my students to give to the middle school special ed. team.  After meeting on so many different students from different schools, I'm sure that it becomes a little overwhelming to keep everyone straight.  Our middle school sister school is great about keeping notes on our students and keeping the students best interests in mind, but I feel better sending off my kiddos when I know I have supplied the new teachers with something they can look back on.  (I've also included this at the end of the post)

4.  Breathe
It's hard on all of us to take a next step, to go somewhere new, to close a chapter and start a new one.  I read something recently that says (and I'm paraphrasing) that a new beginning cannot come without an ending.  Middle school is a time full of new beginnings and elementary school does have to come to an end to make this transition happen.  My best advice is to just breathe.  Be present in the change and look for the good in what is to come.

If you are one of my 5th graders parents and you are reading this, then this next part is for you:

LME parents,
I love your kids.  I have watched many of them grow for three years now.  I have had them since our school opened and they were third graders.  They have come such a long way and have made tremendous growth.  I cannot wait to sit with you on our transition meeting day and tell you how much your kid means to me and how much I am going to miss them.  I'm fighting back tears as I type this, because I have so many memories of what your baby was like just 3 years ago or even what they were like at the beginning of this year.  This group of 5th graders will forever have a special place in my heart.  They were a new beginning for me, as I began teaching in a new school district and in a brand new school.  As this chapter closes for them and for me, I want you to know just how big of an impact they have had on my life.  I love your babies, your families, and I will miss them as they head on to bigger and better things.  This group is going to do great things!  I love them and miss them already.
Sincerely,
Mrs. Hinton

Now...if you have stuck around through my personal letter and read my heart...here are the templates I promised :)

Transition Letter
Transition At A Glance

Friday, January 22, 2016

Five for Friday: Snow Week

http://doodlebugsteaching.blogspot.com/2016/01/five-for-friday-linky-party-january-22nd.html

I worked one day this week folks!  One day!  When it snows in Kentucky the whole state shuts down. :)  Monday was MLK Jr. Day, Tuesday we went to school, Wednesday-snow day, Thursday-snow day, and Friday-snow day!  I am not a huge fan of the cold or winter weather, but I love, love, love snow days!  There is nothing like getting that "school is canceled" text message or seeing your school district name scroll across the bottom of the news!  I know there are snow day haters and that's okay...haters gonna hate!  Haha!! Just kidding, love you friends!  I do want my summer break just as much as anyone else, but a day home out of the cold and under my blankets is just the way I like it!

It's been quite sometime since I've done a Five for Friday and this one will have little to do with my school week (since I wasn't there much), but I still want to share with you my top 5 faves of this week!
Enjoy this Snow Day parody to Adele's Hello :)




Here is how I spent Snow Day #1
Skipper and I thoroughly enjoyed cuddling together under my favorite heated throw and watching the snow fall!

All of this extra time allows for plenty of opportunity to cut apart laminated centers. 


It's Friday...officially...I wrote part of this post earlier in the week.  Look at me not procrastinating! Whoooo!  Anyway...the snow is here! 
And there we are!  Right in the middle of all of that!  I guess I'll see you in the spring, friends!

The snow leaves a dent in school pictures, so I've been spending a little (okay...too much) time on Pinterest!  Follow my board for some great special education ideas!


Follow Kim's board Mrs. H's Resource Room-Special Ed. Ideas on Pinterest.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Oh Appy Day: Tech on Tuesday...It's Back!!

Tech on Tuesday is back!!   I love sharing new technology with you that will help your students learn and stay engaged.  This week I have an app to share with you that was shared with me by a friend and parent of one of my students and a couple of my all-time faves!





https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/snaptype-for-occupational/id866842989?mt=8
click pic for link

SnapType is an app developed for students that have a difficult time with handwriting and penmanship.  Some students hate writing, because penmanship and the physical act of writing is just so overwhelming.  This app allows you take a picture or import a worksheet and then type answers straight on the picture.  Begin by taking a picture of the document or worksheet, tap to add text, then share as an image, PDF or SnapType document.  The reviews and testimonials for this app speak for themselves! *The app is free, but I suggest going ahead and getting the paid version for $3.99.  It allows you to save more documents.  The free app allows 3 saved documents*


https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/touch-and-write/id504319132?mt=8
click pic for link

Touch and Write is one of my all-time favorite apps.  Students can learn how to write each letter of the alphabet right on the iPad.  The best part about this is app is that you can choose to write in shaving cream, with pudding, or even using ketchup (all virtually, of course)!  Sixteen different writing textures and 28 different writing papers gives students choice and provides an engaging medium to practice letter formation.  Parents and teachers can use preprogrammed word lists to allow students to practice or sight words or you can customize your own word lists!  This app is $2.99, but keep a close eye out, because I've seen it free before!




https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/touch-and-write-phonics/id684029240?mt=8
click pic for link
If you love Touch and Write, then you will be head over heels for Touch and Write Phonics!  Also coming in at the $2.99 price, Touch and Write Phonics provides fun practice for vowels, blends and diagraphs.  Start by choosing the phonics component to work on and begin practicing color coded words that contain the phonics component you have chosen.  Again, this app has 18 different writing textures (with sound effects)!!  This is the most fun your student will have practicing phonics!  An added bonus...this app tracks progress of phonics skills practiced!! 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

My Week in Focus: Reading Resource

In an effort to be more focused this year in blogging, I want to return to doing some of  my favorite posts and adding a new post.  The new series of posts will be My Week in Focus.  Focus is my word for this 2016 and a way for me to stay focused in blogging is to commit to doing something weekly in relation to my blog.  My Week in Focus will be a post about something in my classroom that I focused on doing or fixing for that week.  So without further ado...


In the past I have taught several resources classes during the day, but because of the needs of the students on my caseload, I am doing more coteaching and less resource and one of my special ed team colleagues is helping with a majority of my resource times, because there is just not enough time in the day to do everything alone. 

In one of my resource class times, I have 3 students reading with a strong focus on comprehension.  I have tried several different resources with this group of students to help them learn and understand basic comprehension skills...some things have worked and other things have been a flop!  As a group, the comprehension skills of these students (all fourth graders) are at least two years behind their peers, but their reading ability (how they decode words) is at or above grade level.  This makes for quite the challenge, because I want them to read book that are appropriate reading ability, but not so far over their head in comprehension that they get no meaning from the story. 

I started out by doing a running record on each student and seeing what level they are on in reading and as I expected the reading ability was much higher than the comprehension skills.  If you are a longtime reader of my blog, you know my love for Reading A-Z and Raz Kids, and you know my love for technology.  After I determined guided reading level, I assigned each of these students to a Raz Kids account.  Each student uses Raz Kids at least twice a week during their time in resource with me and will use it at extra times when I need to work one on one with one of my students from this group.  I love the information I can get from progress reports online.  I know the exact areas of comprehension my students are struggling with and I can tailor my lessons to address these areas.  Below you can see one students comprehension skills report:
I can look at this report and know that I need to meet with this student to zone in on main idea and details!


Another resource that has become an invaluable tool in what I use during this resource group is the comprehension packs from Teaching Special Thinkers.  These are all picture books with accompanying visuals and comprehension questions.  The books are engaging for this group of students and the visuals help aid in comprehension.  As we preview the book, we discuss the title, characters and setting and while we read we add the visuals to the story map in the correct order.  Each comprehension question has multiple choice answers in word and visual format. 
Photo Credit: Teaching Special Thinkers
Get your copy: here

Finally, borrowing the idea from my friend at Teaching Special Thinkers, I use the story map to help aid in comprehension of grade level trade books.  Right now, the 4th grade class is reading Tuck Everlasting.  That book is pretty deep for any fourth grader, but especially for my students.  Listening to a chapter read aloud is hard for my students to do and make meaning from.  Most of the comprehension of this book comes from classroom discussion.  This can be difficult for my students.  I use adapted books and visuals for our story map to help them read and understand harder text and to be able to access same curriculum and texts as their peers.  (On another post, I promise to share more about adapting grade level reading text!)

~Kim

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A New Start


Does this look like a list of your resolutions?  There are some great ones on there for sure!  A new year bring about a time of reflection and resolution and new year is no exception to that rule.
There are two times of the year that are my favorite, and both times are a time for reflection, resolutions, and new starts.  The beginning of a new (calendar) year and a new school year allow me time to regroup and restart. 
Obviously, teachers love a new school year, because of a whole class of new students and a time to put all of that summer professional development to work, but the beginning of a new calendar year excites me even more.  I find it refreshing to be able to reflect on my teaching practices of the first semester of school and think about what worked, what didn't, and what kinds of new strategies or programs I would like to begin. 
Maybe you have noticed (or maybe you have not), but blogging has taken a backseat since this school year began.  Sometimes blogging can be difficult, because you get stuck in rut and I tend to think that I have nothing of interest to others to share.  As I thought about the new year and looking at blogging again, I thought about why I began blogging in the first place.  I began this blog for the simple fact that I wanted to share what it is like for a special education teacher that teaches in a resource classroom and is coteaching in regular education classrooms and in some ways I feel like I got away from that.  My blog turned more from being a personal look inside my classroom and my style of teaching into a scheduled posts of top ten lists or article type writing of what I thought was popular or what people wanted to know about.  Honestly, that is fine, but for me that made me not want to blog.  Feelings of being not good enough to compete with other celebrity teacher/bloggers creeped into my mind and made blogging a job to me and not a fun hobby that I can use to share my passion for teaching.
This year I have several resolutions and big changes are coming for me (more on those another time), but for now, my resolution to you my reader, is to get back to the basics and to show you what it is like to be a special educator and share an insiders look into my classroom.  I will leave you with this...this year my word is focus.  My focus, like many of yours gets pulled in so many directions, my family, friends, work, school kids, church, Facebook, blog, social media can all be important in some way, but when I spend too much time on any one thing, it pulls me away from someone or something else that could be a blessing in my life.  I am putting my focus on things that are important to me and what I believe to be eternally significant, so there are somethings I have had to get rid of in my life and other things I have had to commit to doing better at.  Blogging is one thing that I wanted to focus on, because it means a lot to me to help, inspire and encourage other special educators.  This quote helps me to put things in perspective:
Right now, I am taking another shot!  Friends and readers, I hope this time of year inspires you to take another shot, too!
~Kim

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide for Kids with Special Needs

Do you have a child with special needs on your Christmas Gift list?  I scoured the web for you to find some great gift guides for this holiday season!  These are my top 5 places to look for gifts for the special kids on your list!

1.  Here you can find a gift guide for children with special needs categorized by skills that the child may need to work on, such as Fine Motor Skills, Gross Motor Skills, Language and Speech, Social Skills and Self-Esteem, visual and Spatial Perception, Cognitive Skills, Sensory Processing and Oral Motor.
http://specialneedsgifts.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Skill-Building-Holiday-Gift-Guide-for-Children-with-Special-Needs.pdf
2. Silvia Phillips from faithfulmomof9.com offers a great holiday gift guide!  She chooses gifts from all price ranges and ability levels!
http://www.faithfulmomof9.com/2015-special-needs-holiday-gift-guide-3-99-179-99/


3.  Toys R Us is a great resource for finding toys for differently abled children.  They publish a catalog yearly that helps you find toys based on age or skill.  The catalog is beautifully labeled to help you find the perfect gift for your special recipient.
http://www.toysrus.com/shop/index.jsp?categoryId=3261680


brand
4.  While you're shopping at Toys R Us (or any other toy store for that matter) remember to check out Hasbro's website for games and toys that have modifications, visuals, and directions for making the games and toys more accessible to children with special needs.  This is a must have resource for parents and teachers!!
http://toyboxtools.hasbro.com/en-us/
5.  funandfunction.com is a wonderful website to find all of your special needs games, activities, and tools.  You will definitely be able to fill your cart up here!

Happy Shopping!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Top 10 Tips for Special Ed Teachers

I am reposting this post, because it is so relevant for this time of year. Special ed friends, it is so important to know your kids and to be prepared for a new year!

Here are my top 10 tips for special education teachers:


.





1. Read those IEPs and psychological reports

Do you want to know who you kids are? Read their reports and IEP! These two very important documents give you (almost) all of the information you will need about your students. I say 'almost' because you can get so much great information from the paperwork, but some of the best information you will get on the students will come from the student's previous teachers and their parents! (More on this in a minute) As far as getting all of the pertinent information you will need the child's due process folder is the place to go. Oh, and don't just read...take notes! That's what 'good readers' do, right?! :) I suggest writing down the student's category of disability, due dates, minutes and location of services, related services, goals, and any information that is of extra special importance (behavior, programming, special transportation, etc).


2. Meet the Parents

Take the time to send a note, postcard, make a phone call, use a carrier pigeon ;) Just make contact with the parents. I have to admit that I used to be kind of nervous about calling parents, until I became one. I know that I want to know my children's teachers, so I figure other parents must feel the same way. Your students are going to know their child's classroom teacher, but are they going to know you? Make sure they do. Introduce yourself! You are taking care of their precious child's most unique needs. They deserve to know that someone qualified is watching out for and creating materials that will make their child be successful.


 3. Prepare Materials

After you have gathered information from paperwork and people, now is the time to prepare the materials you will need to make successful programming for your students. Some of your students may have sensory needs, need a visual schedule, or a behavior plan. Have something prepared for the first day, so the students know your expectations and are started off on the right foot. Remain flexible though, what you prepared may need some tweaking after you meet the child in person.


 This leads me to #4...


 4. Be Flexible

This should probably be numero uno! Special education teachers should take a class in flexibilty. Schedules, students, due dates, are constantly changing. You have to hang in there and roll with the punches. Find a way to get organized so when the times get tough, you are able to bend with change! I can not tell you how many times I changed my schedule last year to accomodate different needs, gaining students, losing students, etc. I have learned the best laid plans can come to an end quickly when someone starts having a meltdown at 8am or forgets to take their medication and you find out about it at lunchtime! Just keep a level head and go with the flow!


 5. Work WITH Your Co-Teachers 

One thing that is difficult for some teachers is to go into a classroom of another teacher. Some people welcome you with open arms and others feel like you are cramping their space. My advice is to feel the person out, find out their teaching strategy, study their classroom management and then figure out where your personality and strengths will fit in. I do not want to go in and take over another teacher's classroom, I want to feel like I belong there and feel wanted and needed. Saying that, you do have to be upfront with your co-teachers and ask what they are comfortable with. See if your coteacher wants you to have huge, medium, or small part in the classroom. Just remember to keep the kids in mind first of all.


 6. It's All About the Kids

Seriously! It is! Don't get caught up in the 'adult' junk! If what you are doing is not for the kids then is it worth doing. Do everything with the students in mind, not yourself!


 7. Is This Eternally Significant? 

Some "seasoned" teacher friends of mind always would say, "Is this (event, test, project) eternally signficant?" If it is isn't, then is in worth getting worked up over? Probably not. Keep things in perspective. Remember not to take things to personally, especially with "our" students. There will be days of meltdowns and tantrums, but so many times the meltdown isn't about you or even school at all. Keep a level head, take a deep breath, stay calm and deal with situation. This to shall pass.


 8. Get Organized 

Purchase a big desk calendar, and at the beginning of the year, write down all of your annual review due dates, re-evaluation due dates, and any other important dates. Make sure you look at this calendar daily and know what is coming up. Don't get behind, because there is no catching up!


 9. Get Organized #2

Find a monitoring system that works for you. Everyone is different and monitoring of IEP goals can be accomplished 5000 different ways. I like to use an excel document to plot my probe percentages that I gather from curriculum based measures, rubrics, and other assessments. Find your way! 


10. Document, document, document & Save 

In special ed, "they" say, "If it isn't written down, it didn't happen." Document everything! Parent phone calls, meeting notes, co-teacher conversations, work samples...everything! Save that documentation and also save work samples. You will need these at some point in your career. I like to keep my documentation in a binder that is tabbed for each student. I keep work samples in a file folder box with a lid. Each student has a labeled hanging file folder that stores weekly work samples for each IEP goal.


 *And a BONUS*


Become One with the Paperwork

Since I first mentioned becoming a special education teacher, people have groaned and told me that it is so much paperwork. They weren't kidding! There is a lot of paperwork. You have to find a way to stay on top of it (maybe that's why I have 2 tips for being organized)! I like to make one afternoon about logging in my monitoring probes and filing paperwork. If you don't do it, then you will be spending so much time at the end of the year filing and worrying. Don't do that to yourself. Get a system! :)


I hope you have a wonderful new school year!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Organizing the FILES (Sped Help)

The beginning of a new school year brings so much joy, anticipation, excitement and PAPERWORK!  Ahhhhh!!  A new school year is a great time to reorganize and decide what has worked for you in the past and what no longer works.  For years, I have a had a Special Education binder that included a copy of my students' IEPs, IEP at a glance, accommodation checklist, progress monitoring, and parent communication.  It was helpful that all of the documents were in the same place, but it could be some cumbersome to carry home when I needed to work on a student's IEP for a meeting.  This year I was inspired by my blogging friend Erin at You Aut A Know and how she organized some of her files.


The first thing I thought of was how awesomely beautiful the color coding looked!  After I got past the initial beauty and realized just how great this would work for me, I knew I had to get right on doing this for this school year.
Hanging files in my desk drawer
What's inside a hanging file


This file is ready to hang

Here's a little explanation of what you will find in each folder:
 Each of my students has one hanging file folder and inside that hanging file are three matching manilla folders.  Folder number one is a copy of the current IEP, folder number two hold monitoring sheets (completed and blank ones and copies of progress data), and folder three is copy of parent notes and other communications.  I like this organizational system so much better than my binder, because it allows me to grab just the one folder I need.  I can take this one folder to a meeting or home to work on it without lugging around a whole binder.

Of course, I couldn't totally do away with a binder, so I do still have one binder I use for progress monitoring.  This binder is 1 1/2 inches and only contains data sheets for current data I am tracking.  I also keep my accommodation checklist in this binder, a copy of my schedule and my para's schedule, and a copy of the IEP at a Glance.  I like to have this information on hand at a moment's notice to check if a certain student receives a certain accommodation (hello...it's the beginning of the year and I don't have this all memorized...YET!)  This binder is much thinner and easy to carry with me from class to class while I am coteaching.



Good luck getting the beginning of the year paperwork filed and organized!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

SPED Summer Blog Hop: Week 5 The 1st Week of School

This is the fifth and final week of the SPED Summer Blog Hop!  Thanks so much to Kyle at Kinderspedventures for being such a wonderful host!




This week's topic is The 1st Week of School!


The first week of school is always such a blur!  It's a time to get to know your students, to make contact with your parents, and get your schedule figured out!

 I also like to bring my resource class kids to my room, so they can become familiar with it and so they know where to find me if they need me for something within the first few days of school.  To help my students get used to my room, I created a Back to School Scavenger Hunt.  The scavenger hunt has two parts.  The first part is about hunting for items in the room.  This allows they to explore the new space and find where all of the important stuff is located.  The second part is a get to know you activity where the students have to find a friend that fits the characteristics listed in the box.  You can download the scavenger hunt for FREE by clicking the picture below!


We only have 7 weekdays left until we are back to school!  Wow! This summer really flew by!
How much longer do you have left for your summer break?

I hope you have enjoyed the Sped Summer Blog Hop!  Don't forget to hop on over to Pam's Blog:
Mrs. P's Specialties


Monday, July 20, 2015

#weteachsped Back 2 School Ebook {Freebies and Giveaways Galore!}



I am so excited to bring this special treat to you!!  20+ of my best blogging buddies and myself have compiled a BTS ebook great for special education (and regular education) teachers!!  Each page is written by a different blogger and features a tip for back to school and FREEBIES!!  That's right!  Freebies on EVERY page!!!

To get your copy of this amazing e-book, click on the ebook cover image below!


And for some more fun...
My giveaway features a $20 TARGET gift card!!
Enter the giveaway below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway