Saturday, April 19, 2014

What They Have Taught Me

I was asked my to share about how I got my start in special education and how I decide that I wanted to teach students with special needs, specifically those with autism.

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I did not come from a line of teachers (I’m the only teacher in my immediate family), I did not have any family members with disabilities when I was deciding what I wanted to be, but I did have a group of kids that changed my image of students with special needs.   When I was a senior in high school, my mom took a job as paraprofessional in the self-contained special education classroom at my high school.  During that time, I rode with my mom to school every day.  Some mornings I would stay in the classroom as the students came in or I would go in at the end of school.  The kids in that class made an impact on my heart.  They were so loving and loved having me around to help them.  Their teacher was always more than willing to show me strategies that worked with kids and would let me play educational games with some of them, to cook with them, and to just have a conversation. It was then I knew that there had been a special calling put on my life to help students with disabilities.  I wanted badly for those students to learn and love.  I wanted to advocate for them and teach them everything from academics to social skills.  I knew when I chose my major the next year in college that special education was what I was meant to do. 
Over the years, students with special needs have taught me so much! Here are the 3 things that I learned that cannot be learned in a college classroom.
11.  Each student has a unique story.  I have never met two students that are alike, even if they are diagnosed with the same disabilities.  There are so many factors that make each child special. 

22.  Kids just want to be heard.  I’ve heard over and over that behavior is communication.  I’ve learned through trials and celebrations that each child has a different way to communicate.  Some kids can use their words, others signs and gestures, and still others behavior (sometimes undesirable behaviors).  This is why a relationship with my kiddos has been so important to me over the years.  If I want a student to communicate in whatever way works for them, then I need to build the relationship of trust first so that they will communicate wants and needs in a way that is effective and appropriate.

33.  All emotions with a special needs student are strong, but especially love.  I love my kids…that is why I do my job.  When I get bogged down in meetings, paperwork, behavior plans, IEPS, I have to regroup and remember the love.  I think it is incredibly important to show each student love.  I make it a point to get to know each student as an individual.  I want to know their strengths, their weaknesses, what their hobbies are, about their families, what makes them tick, what makes them cry, and what makes them smile.  At the end of a school year, what I what to do the most is that I have touched  a kid’s heart, even more so than reading, math and writing scores!

I’m still learning everyday and appreciating each child that I have the privilege to teach and hopefully leave a lasting and positive impression on their life.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tech on Tuesday: Autism Apps

In honor of Autism Awareness Month I want to share with you some of my favorite apps that I use for kids with autism.  This is a list of some of my favorites :)  

Graphics by 3AM Teacher

Social Skills:
iModeling App-a favorite to use for video modeling!

Too Noisy-This app tracks noise and gives visual cues showing when it is too noisy in the room.  Sensitivity can be set depending on the student.
Brain Works App-Great for sensory breaks!

AAC & Communication


Touch Autism has great apps that include social narratives, timers, and assessments.

And for fun :)  These are a couple of my favorite special education/autism TPT stores that I've purchased so many great resources from!

Do you have favorite apps that you use with students with special needs and autism?  I would love to hear about your favorites!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Currently

So I lied yesterday!  I feel compelled to blog April's Currently before I leave for the mountains with the family.  Everyone here is still asleep, so I was just having a little quiet time when I saw the new Currently by Farley being posted on some of my favorite blogs! A girl can't miss this! :)

Listening:  I love days when I get to watch the Today Show.  During the school year, I rarely get to see the Today Show unless it is a snow day.  Well, thankfully there is no snow on the ground anymore and it is Spring Break!  This has been a long awaited spring here in the Bluegrass!  

Loving:  Two words:  Spring Break!  No explanation needed here!

Thinking:  Sticking with the Spring Break theme...we are headed to the Smokies!  I can't wait to spend time with the husband, kids, and no agenda!

Wanting:  I am craving some Starbucks this morning!!

Needing:  I need to pack :)  Nothing like waiting until the day of, right?

Hours and Days:  Our school day is from 7:40-2:55.  It usually is only until 2:35, but starting on March 24 we have added 20 minutes to the day to help make up the 19 snow days we missed this year!!  We will get out of school on June 6!  

Have a happy April!!! :)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Spring Break!

I'll be taking a little break from blogging this week!  It's time to enjoy Spring Break with my family! :)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Five for Friday: March 28

This is it!  The last day and Spring Break is here!  I am so excited!!  This has been a crazy, busy, blessed week!

Here's my 5 for this Friday!

1.  Sometimes just a little email from a parent can really make your week.  I received a sweet email from a parent this week just to say thanks! It honestly made me cry!

2.  My sweet girl wore a University of Louisville shirt for me today.  If you are following the NCAA tournament you know that UK versus U of L tonight and this is a huge in state battle!  This is a hard game for me to choose between.  We live very close to Lexington, but I went to school at U of L!  House divided!  My kids at school know my love for UofL and this sweetie wore her shirt to support my team today!  Love her!  We had to take a selfie! :)

 3.  Kasey's last day! :(  Kasey has been my student teacher since January and her last day was Wednesday.  I miss her like crazy!! She is an amazing teacher and is going to be wonderful teaching LBD!

3.  Another of my sweeties made me a birthday card. :)  It's not my birthday! :)  Made my heart skip a beat, nonetheless!

4.  I've been busy in preparation for Autism Awareness Month in April.  Here is a little screenshot of the work in progress:
A kid friendly Autism Awareness Brochure :)  If you want a copy, head over to my TPT store.

5.  And finally, it's Spring Break!  It is sooooo time for some rest and relaxation!  We're headed to the Smokies this coming week.  The Smoky Mountains are one of my favorite places to visit!  Can't wait to eat at the Old Mill and Apple Barn, do some shopping at the outlets, and enjoy the beauty of the mountains.  I'm praying for warmer weather so we can be out and exploring!

Happy Spring Friends!!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Social Skills: Zones of Regulation App

Ok...I know it is not Tuesday, but I have a great app to share!

It goes with the curriculum, Zones of Regulation, that I use with my social skills group.  So, without further ado...
Zones of Regulation

The Zones of Regulation app costs $4.99 and it is worth every cent!  I use it with my social group as a review when we have completed a lesson.  The kids were so excited that their Zones were part of an app.  :)  One kid even asked me to write down the name of the app so that she could get it for her home iPad.

The object of the game is to move your avatar through the little city.  You will see blue, green, yellow and red zones and once you enter that "zone" you will be asked a question related to the zone.  You gain points by answering questions correctly and by moving through levels.  It is a great summative assessement to use with your students.  I knew by using the app that the kids know and remember all about what we ahve discussed.  It is difficult to assess social skills, so this is perfect to meet that need.

Try it out!  Let me know what you think?  Are you using Zones?  Do you have any great activities?  I would love to hear about how you use it!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Oh "Appy" Day: Tech on Tuesday-Calculator Apps

There are two calculator apps that I am in love with right now!  

The first one is MyScript Calculator (thanks to my sweet friend Cyndee for showing me this one)!

 I became hooked on this app from the first moment that I touched the screen!  It has an amazing "cool" factor that your students will love.  This calculator app recognizes your handwriting and converts it into script/type and then solves the math equation that you write on the screen.  This app helps to eliminate the need to "learn" to use the calculator. If your student can write numbers then this app can solve the problem!  One of the best features???  It's FREE!!

My second calculator app came out of pure necessity as we are working on fractions in every grade level that I work with right now!  Talk about being sick of fractions! This girl is done!  Anyway, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions have soooo many rules and processes to remember, but this app can help solve those dilemmas!  
Fraction Calculator Plus FREE is the app you need for teaching fractions.  I have been letting my fifth graders use this app to solve their fraction problems!  My students do know the process for finding the answers to problems involving fractions, but are still having a difficult time simplifying, so I have them work on the problems on paper, then they can use the app to get the answer in the simplest form.  Works perfect!!

Get these great FREE apps today!! 
And join me at this Techie Link Up!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Five For Friday: March 21st Edition

It's Friday!!  Why are the longest weeks only four days long?  We missed school on Monday for yet another snow day, but this was a week that Friday couldn't come soon enough!  I think the cold and snow is just getting me down! I am over it!  My kids, thankfully, are great though and I love seeing them everyday! They are the best!!

So this week's top Five:

1.  My daughter went to Battle of the Books...a quick recall type of book battle.  The participants had to read several books (I believe 25 books are on the list) and they are asked different questions about the books.  They play tournament style against the other elementary schools in our district (8 total elementary schools).  Here is their cute little team!  Go LME! My Chloe is the girl in the back row!  Great job kids!

2.  Thursday was a make up the hours evening for teachers.  We had to stay 3 and 1/2 hours later to make up some of the hours we have missed due to snow.  Although staying after school isn't my idea of a fun evening, I did actually have fun and I got to hang with amazing people!! :)  Look at our little staff!! We all fit in the same conference room!
Family Dinner ;)

3.  Math stations are going amazingly in both 3rd and 5th grades!  My coteachers and I have started doing minilessons and math stations.  This has been a great way to differentiate instruction and also allow us to learn what the students know and don't know!  The kids are doing a great job staying on task and are self assessing!  I'm proud of them!  I hope to post about math stations soon!

4.  My kids are doing learning their multiplication facts!! I am so proud!  My resource math class is a group of 6 boys!  It has been a challenge to find something that interests them and helps them learn multiplication facts!  This product has changed the way my boys feel about learning math facts!! They are little math ninjas!! :)  Click the link to go to the TPT seller!

5.  And finally, I get to have my first meeting with the Learning A-Z team!  If you have read my blog for very long then you know how much I love Learning A-Z and their products.  Recently, I was named to the Reading A-Z Advisory Panel!  We have our first meeting in about 30 minutes to learn all about what my duties will be for this! I am beyond thrilled!!

Have a great weekend!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Oh "Appy" Day: Tech on Tuesday: FarFaria App Review & Giveaway

I was recently contacted by the owners of the app FarFaria and was asked to review their storybook app for the iPad.

FarFaria is an iPad app that provides a story time experiences for children ages 2-9 with more than 600 + children’s stories to choose from, plus 5 new stories are added each week. The app opens up to a fairy tale world complete with different kingdoms to choose from (the kingdoms are all different genres of books).  

Mt. Make Believe is one of the kingdoms that you can choose books from.  There is something for every child, from make believe to animals to fairy tales.

There are also books for the youngest readers.  Preschool Playground contains lots of great books made just for the little preschool tikes!

My favorite features of the app include:
  • More than 600 stories to choose from (there is something for everyone-boys and girls)
  • New stories added every week.
  • Interactive and engaging stories with bright colors and detailed pictures
  • Stories can be read aloud with the Read to Me feature with clear voices and engaging fluency
  • Reading-level badge on every story cover.
  • You can go offline and still read your favorite stories.
  • No ads or hidden fees
While trying out apps to review, I have allowed my very own children (ages 6 and 11) try out each app.  I thought it would be great for you to get a kids opinion on each app that I review.

My 6 year old says, "This is a cool app!  The books are fun to read.  I really like the Animal Kingdom."

My 11 year old says, "I love fairy tales and these are fun to read!  They have a huge selection of books and I love looking for just the right one!"

Classroom Applications:  In my classroom I will using FarFaria during reading resource.  I use a modified Daily 5 schedule during my reading group.  This app is great for Listen to Reading or Read to Self.  The books are highly engaging and interesting.  

The app is free to download and you can read one book a day, but to access all of the books, you must subscribe.  A 6 month subscription is $23.99 (or just $3.99 a month) and so worth every penny!  Want a subscription?  Thanks to the creators of FarFaria, I have one to giveaway!  FarFaria is giving me one 6 month subscription to giveaway to one of you lucky readers!  This is my very first giveaway, friends!! I am so excited about the giveaway, but even more excited about this app!  It is a 5 Star App!!!

And just for fun...I'm linking up with a great Techy Blog that I love!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Oh "Appy" Day: Tech on Tuesday: March 4

Today's app is FREE (Hurry's free for Read Across America Day)!!  And wonderful!!!

When I began this year, I had to buy all new books for my classroom library because I've never had a classroom of my own.  I've always inherited whatever classroom library books were in the library and therefore didn't own many of my own books.  When this year started, I had to stock a whole classroom library.  Most of the books on my shelves come from ebay and from yard sales!  Great books and even better deals!

With that being said, we didn't get into our brand new building until just right before school started.  I put together my library, but I had many more pressing issues to organize and work on to be ready for the first day, so the ole library was thrown together and forgotten about. :(
That is until I found this app and this resource!  Match made in picture book heaven!!

Literacy Leveler is a book leveling app that helps students choose books that are on their reading level.  It gives you information Lexile levels, DRA levels, and Guided Reading levels!  I am so excited about this!  I cannot wait to level all of my library books!  All of this information is at your fingertips when you scan the bar code or type in the ISBN number on the book!

This resource is available on TPT (click the image to be directed to the link).  I recently purchased this beauty and now I'm ready to print and label my book bins!  

I can't wait to share my new and improved library with you guys!! :)