We all know that summer doesn't just mean time to play around, but also time to learn some new things for a better school year. This summer I have so much I want to read and learn about. This week I've been in a conference learning about MTSS which is a layered system of support for identifying struggling students and helping meet the needs of all learners. It has been an eye opening conference and I am looking forward to the changes that will be taking place at our school.
Other than conferences I also have my own list of books I want to read this summer. I've already almost finished the book pictured below and it has been one of my favorite books related to students with learning disabilities.
One idea I love is the concept of literally picturing what success looks like in the classroom. The author suggests taking or finding pictures of what you think a successful environment looks like and putting them into a college. Then post the picture in your classroom as a reminder to always have positive expectations for students.
Below is a picture of my current stack of books I want to read this summer. Some books are rereads, some are just for fun and non school related and most are related to learning more about teaching students with disabilties.
What's on your professional development menu for this summer?
Last week was the last week of school for students. We celebrated in my room with a different theme for each day. Monday was math games, Tuesday was fun with reading, Wednesday was science, Thursday was reflection of the year and Friday was summer activities. My students enjoyed these theme days and overall were able to keep their focus the last week while enjoying themselves.
Reading in the dark on reading day
Getting to learn from a therapy dog on science day
Rain in a jar on science day
Started off our week growing grass. It sprouted in just a few days and the kids loved watching how much it grew each day.
I have had a lot of fun lately, with spring break and going to the Bahamas. I'm very happy to say the hardest part of this school year for me is behind me. I've got most of my IEP meetings done for the year and I finally feel like I have a good handle on my new job. I have grown a lot over the course of the school year as an EC teacher and it is nice to know feel like I know what I am doing. I'm especially happy that now all my students current IEP's are ones that I have written so I know exactly what I need to be working on.
On a non school related note, I had an amazing spring break in the Bahama's. I took a cruise with some girls from work and it was one of the best vacations I have been on. The food was wonderful and the whole trip itself was so relaxing. I loved having everything all in one place.
On the water taxi in Nassau
Our view as we left the port of Nassau
I also wanted to share my Walmart clearance finds. I went on a Wednesday night a week ago to Walmart to find my niece and birthday present and ended up with a cart full of toys and prize box items. I have birthdays and Christmas for my niece and nephew done! I'm not sure what day clearance items are put out but going mid week was definitely a positive for me.
$297 retail value for only $88! Lots of toys were more than 75% off.
I also wanted to link up with Sunday Scoop. Nothing too exciting is going on this week but I sure hope it stops raining so we will have a nice field day at the end of the week.
This post is the story of one of my students who I've worked with a lot this year, let's call him Tommy. He has really changed my thinking about my job and I am very thankful for that. Tommy is a young elementary student who I serve in my classroom for 75% of the school day. He does get to go to enrichment, recess, lunch and science with his regular class but the rest of the day he is with me. Often, it is just Tommy and I working together in my classroom. You would think Tommy would progress immensely with so much time working one on one with me. This hasn't been the case this year. We are still working on name recognition, counting to 20, letter formation and other IEP goals. During the first half of the year I was so motivated to do whatever I could to help him learn. One day I assessed him and he could recognize all of his letter sounds! We celebrated big time as this was a huge accomplishment for him.
After winter break, he came back to me and it was as if everything we had learned before break just completely left him. This was hard for me to accept because even after weeks of review, he still was not getting back what I once thought he had learned. For a while I kept trying new ways to teach him; visual cues, kinestic games, incorporating his favorite super heroes, anything and everything I could think of I tried. Eventually, I became frustrated that it seemed like he would never learn the basic things I wanted him to. I began to give up on him and thought things like, well this behavior support class is not the right placement for him, he needs a different placement where he can work on more functional goals and less academic goals. I started to lower the expectations I had for him. I would even get mad at some of the behaviors he presented just because I was upset I had to deal with him and the fact that he also didn't seem to be showing any academic progress.
Not long ago Tommy charged me with a hug and told me thank you for reading with him. In that moment, I felt very guilty for the attitude I had towards him lately. I thought, how can I be frustrated with a little boy who I know is 100 times more frustrated than I am. Have I tried every single strategy out there to help him? No, so I can not give up on him and I certainly can not be upset with him.
The point in me posting the story of Tommy is to remind us all to NEVER give up on a child. You may not even realize you have given up. It took me a while to realize my own attitude was affecting how much effort I was putting into teaching Tommy. While it may be true that Tommy will need a life skills class in the future rather than a behavior support class, it is my job now to try everything in my power to help him learn. It is going to take A LOT of effort on my part to come up with new strategies to teach him. It's going to take a lot of time, maybe even some money to buy the resources best suited for him, but I can promise little Tommy that I will always believe in him. Tommy waits for me at the top of the hallway every morning, counting on me to be there for him. I want to really show up for him from now on.
So my challenge to you is to think about your classroom and decide if there is a student you may be starting to give up on. Is there a student who you are allowing to sit and do nothing, just because nothing is better than arguing with him? Is there a student who you've stopped practicing multiplication facts with because he still can't pass his two's tables quiz? Is there a student who you send to another teachers room constantly because you just can't deal with his behavior another day? Trust me, I know how discouraging it can be to have tried what seems like everything and still not see progress. Whenever you feel like you've ran out of ideas, talk to someone else at school to bounce ideas off of. If that doesn't work, get online and research new strategies. I have found lots of twitter groups, facebook groups, message boards, etc for collaborating with other teachers. Don't let your students see you discouraged. Most importantly, don't give up on any child because you just might be the only person who believes in them.
It has been a long but fun St. Patrick's Day for this Carolina girl. I had a little too many activities planned today for my kiddos and some we didn't get to, but lots of learning went on in the CBS room today. Next time I will try to do better at taking pictures.
1. We started our day by learning why we celebrate St. Patrick's Day. We used getepic.com to read a nonfiction book called St. Patrick's Day. This book was great because it had mini chapters that each explained why we do certain things on St. Patrick's Day. We then wrote a summary of each chapter on shamrocks.
2. We listened to the story That's what Leprechaun's Do by Eve Bunting. We then created our own Leprechaun's and will be do a writing activity with the book tomorrow to talk about what we do if we were a leprechaun.
3. We used Magic Stars cereal to count and graph the marshmallows. Tomorrow we will look closely at our graph to answer questions about what we had the most of, etc.
4. We did not have time today to get to the pot of gold hunt I had planned for outside. I have a list of directions for my students to follow in order to find the pot with gold coins inside. I know they will enjoy this so I will try it tomorrow.
Today I'm linking up to an awesome new link up I found called Worship Wednesday. In this linkup you just share any scripture, verse or experience that has encouraged you during the week. I've been reading a great book recently called You'll Get Through This by Max Lucado. A quote that stuck out to me this week while I was reading was "Hard hearts never heal, spongy ones do." I have been pretty bitter about certain things that have happened to me recently and let certain people harden my heart. Reading this was a wake up call that I needed to let go of things that were weighing me down.
It is so easy when something bad happens to want to run from God instead of draw closer. There are times when I have thought, how could God let this happen when I feel as though I'm doing everything he has guided me to do. Then I came across this verse:
Even in the depths of despair, God is still there. When I feel like running because nothing seems to be going right, God is still guiding me. It look me a while to realize that I needed to open my heart to what God was teaching me, but when I did I found a lot of joy. God is always with us, even when we may feel like he has left us all alone.
Has someone hardened your heart? A co-worker, friend, or someone from a past relationship? If so, don't close your heart to God. His intent is for us to shine and be filled with happiness. Show the negative people in your life that your light shines regardless of how much they try to break you down.
I must say I'm pretty stoked about being able to post today. It is a snow day here in North Carolina and for what seems like the first time this year I am caught up with work and have some free time. I'm sorry it seems like I keep disappearing, learning this new job has taken a lot of extra time. For those of you who are new to my blog, this is my first year as an elementary behavior support teacher. This means I have a classroom of students who come in and out during the day that has behavioral disorders. I've worked really hard this year at trying to find ways to engage my students. Here are some things I've done recently in the classroom that have helped it run much more smoothly.
1. More imaginative play.
My students love pretending to be someone different. One of my students love playing chef so we opened up a "Red Ranger Restaurant." I made some foods with sight words and numbers on them and a menu to go along with it. Every week we read a new story and make a character who then we serve in our restaurant. I will play the role of the character who is making out their order and my student will find the right word or number and cook it. We then work on adding and subtracting by figuring out the customer's total and how much change they will get when they pay. This is just one example of imaginative play but I love it because my students are engaged and they are learning multiple content areas at the same time.
Another idea I did with an older student was opening up a "Shape Shop" where the student had to serve me the polygon based on the attributes I gave.
2. Sensory Play
It took me a while to realize how much my students benefit from sensory breaks. I have used sensory bins with sand and objects inside for students to investigate. I have also done sensory science projects like in the picture below. We made Valentine's Day slime and after making it my students had to write about what would happen if their slime came to life. I found the slime recipe here.
3. Organized Independent Activities
We had another snow day earlier this year but it was a teacher workday. I decided to completely organize my back shelf which has helped me so much! I have file folder games, puzzles, sorting games, flashcards and all other activities grouped by what skill the activity focuses on. The picture below may look like just a bunch of random things, but having manipulatives grouped together has saved me so much time!
4. New Classroom Management System
At the start of the third quarter I introduced a new reward system to my students which has worked wonders! It is based on constant positive reinforcement. With my class, you never know when a student will come in and have a day when they don't even want to write their name on their paper. This is where this system comes in handy. Students earn gems for everything. Green gems have the lowest value and have to be traded into blue gems in order to be worth anything. If a student is having a rough day, I can simply say "Have a seat in the blue chair" and then give them a chair when they comply, then "Can you write your name on the paper?" and give another gem. Once they earn 5 green gems they get a blue gem which can be spent on a reward like 5 minutes of reading time or 5 minutes of coloring. They can also save up blue gems in order to get an orange gem. 3 blue gems earns an orange gem which is good for 10 minutes of iPad time, prize box or 10 minutes of playing with magnetic blocks. There is also a special gold gem that can only be earned when they have made a 90 or above on a quiz or test. Students each have a door in my room they keep their gems on until they decide to spend them. Then they put them in the treasure chest on their door for everyone to see how many gems they have earned. It may sound a little complicated at first but it has been the best reward system I've tried so far.
5. Common Curriculum
I've started using a new online lesson planner. It's called Common Curriculum and it has so many options in setting up a lesson plan template. What I like best about it is, you can search for multiple standards on the same screen and then click to import them into your lesson plan. You can also invite people to view your lesson plans and then can enter comments. This has been great for me and my assistant. She pulls up the lesson plans on her iPad and can add a comment to let me know how certain activities went with my students. In the picture below you can see that I have it colored coded by who is doing what activity. Did I mention this site is free? Check it out here.
What things have been working well with you lately? I really hope to be able to start posting more now that I feel much more settled into my job. Happy snow day!