Sunday, August 14, 2016

Give a Cheer for the New School Year!

I love the beginning of a new school year!  It brings hope, opportunity, and excitement.  It is a time to make new plans from the reflections you made about your teaching and profession in the spring.  It's time to take what you know about best practices and summer professional development and put those plans into action. 

My new {school} year is really brand new and the first two days of school have already shown me that this is where I am supposed to be right now.  Over the first two days of school I was able to tour several of the schools in our district.  I met so many new people.  Everyone I talked to was excited about the new year and ready to take things head on.  New schedules were being made, new students were being assessed, and plans were coming together.  It is such an exciting time of year!  I am lucky this year to be able to work with teachers across my school district on instructional strategies for students with special needs.  I anticipate not only sharing what I know, but learning so much from the wonderful special educators in our district.  I cannot wait to share all of the great things happening!

I wanted to share some great quotes that I have found with all of you about the start of a new school year!
This one is for the new teachers:

This is for those of you needing a little inspiration for a new year:

This is for those of you needing to improve and start a new habit:

This is for all of you that make a difference everyday:

A sweet reminder about what a teacher is:
I challenge each of you reading this to find an area that you need to grow, change, or improve upon.  The beginning of the school is a great time to develop new habits and to grow as a professional.  Just the end of the school year you are going to be so amazing a one thing (or maybe lots of things) because you started today!!

I hope you each have a blessed new school year!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A New Beginning

Wow!! It has been quite a while since I have blogged and so much is going on!  I am super excited to let you all know that I will be beginning a new position in the fall.  In fact, I've already been working this summer and loving it! :)  I will be working for my school district at our Central Office.  I will be working with our Director and Assistant Director of Special Education.  I will be doing some diagnostician work for the school I have been working in, as well as, coaching/consulting/leading special education teachers in our school district.  I don't really know what my official title is yet, but that doesn't really matter, because I am so excited that I have this opportunity.  I am also back in college now working on my Director of Special Education certification.  So exciting!!

Yes, I am going to miss teaching, being in the classroom, and most of all the kids, but my hope is from this new position, I will be able to work with teachers and help them impact students all across our district.  This has really been a dream of mine for such a long time and I literally have to pinch myself to see if this is really happening. 

As far as this blog goes, I will work to continue to bring you content that you can use in your special education classrooms.  It may not be directly from my own classroom anymore, but I hope to share ideas and great things with you from all across my district!  We have great teachers here doing great things, that I hope the will allow me to share!  I will also be conducting trainings on various special education topics, so there is always a possibility that those trainings are something you may be interested in as well. 

I am so looking forward to this new school year and  I am excited to bring you along on this journey!


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.
Mrs. Hinton

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

Transition Letter
Transition At A Glance

Friday, January 22, 2016

Five for Friday: Snow Week

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!
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*
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!
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!)


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!