Sunday, December 28, 2014

Thank goodness for winter break!!

I am so relieved that Christmas is over and that I can now truly relax and gear up for school starting again. I barely made it through that last week, I was so tired. It was a stressful start to my school year, probably the most stressful of my entire career, but it has evened out now and I can honestly say I am looking forward to school starting again in January. As a result of this break, I am hoping to be a more consistent blogger.

It was difficult to switch gears from medically fragile to Autism in mid year, so I haven't really had a chance to make too many changes. In addition to my move, one of my Paras went on maternity leave, another is out for a few weeks for health reasons, and I had a new student start at the beginning of December. Arrgghhh, lol. Luckily the Para subs are fabulous, and my new student is super funny, so it all worked out!

Here are some pictures of what we have been doing since my move back to the Autism program in November:

 These were Anacondas we made as part of a Rain Forest unit. They put facts on the snakes and we put them out on the main hall bulletin board. They did a foldable on the different layers of the forest, and animal reports as well. I wish I had taken pictures of it, it looked nice.

 For Thanksgiving, we worked on the definition for being grateful/thankful, which was a difficult concept for my students to get. We did a collage project , cutting out photos or words of things we were grateful or thankful for.

One of my students has some drawing talent. He now gets to draw the menu board in the cafeteria each day, and he loves it, and what a great job skill for the future!

The following are a few of the crafts we did in December to celebrate the holidays. Stolen from Pinterest, of course.

We also did a unit on December Holidays around the world. These crowns are from St. Lucia Day in Sweden. We did a number of other holidays, as well.

 We lit the Menorah for Hanukkah.

 For social skills, we worked on several skills. I have the students in 3 rotating groups. One group works on their communication devices, one on more concrete topics such as manners, greetings, expected behavior, etc. This group is higher functioning and we worked on worrying, using Michelle Garcia's Social Thinking curriculum. We will continue this when school starts in January.

This was our last day. We had a small party to celebrate and watched a movie. These are fairly mellow students, so it all worked out.

 Anyway, I am glad for the break, and am hopeful for a great start to our new year!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black Friday Special Education Blog Hop

This is my first time participating in a blog hop. Of course, I have no idea what I am doing or if this will even work, but I am giving it a shot all the same.

Here's my tip. Or two. Because it's the season and I want to start it off with being generous ;).

I have worked with students with a wide variety of disabilities. Currently, I am in a self-contained middle school classroom for students with Autism. I pretty much teach every subject, and believe that middle school should be the transition into Life skills. Therefore, besides the academic subjects, I also teach pre-vocational skills and other life skills. Although I teach this in several different ways (community outings, daily skills, cooking, etc), a main staple in my room are independent work boxes.

These are boxes filled with a variety of tasks, from academic to fine motor, to pre-vocational, to life skills kinds of tasks. I change these out regularly. Currently, they are labeled with either double letters, or single letters and numbers. But when I am in a hurry, it's hard to remember what is what in these boxes. Many of the boxes are the same size and color and because I change them out, I was having difficulty with remembering what was in the boxes and whether they would be appropriate for a student or not. I don't have time to write them all down, and I don't have time to look in all the boxes when they are assigned. So I needed a system that could tell me instantly what kind of task was in the box, and the level of difficulty.

This new system is color coded for the type of task, and the lower numbers will be easier tasks for my lower functioning students and will increase in complexity for my students that can do more. When I change the tasks out, I just need to put it in the right colored box according to how difficult the task is. I go up to 10, but you can just use the numbers/letters you want.  You can find these here, if you're interested.

I teach in an international school, which is fun. We are supposed to infuse an international point of view into all we teach. For example, if you teach about Native Americans in the US, you can also teach that other countries also have their own indigenous people, and talk about how their experiences are the same or different from one another. I love this, especially since I am also an immigrant. But how to infuse it in my program, when my students are so concrete and don't necessarily have the breath of knowledge and reading levels of their peers?

 I decided to start with holidays, as most of mine are aware of, and love, Halloween, Valentine's Day, and the other staple American Holidays. I did some research on different holidays around the world, and will be teaching about them throughout the year. This also works well if you are restricted from teaching about just Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter, etc. If you teach them all, then it becomes a history lesson rather than just one teacher's point of view.

Here is a simple power point that I have put together describing  2 holidays per month that are celebrated around the world.  You can leave it as a power point, or you can print it out into a book and add icons, which I will also do. It's a lot of pages, so you can print out just a few at a time, or  shrink it down and make 2 or 4 images per page. You can find this book here.

I hope you found some of this useful.

Thanks for checking in.  For more freebies and tips, continue the trip through the blog hop by checking out ABCs and IEPs...just click the button below.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Special Education Blog Hop

Hi folks. I've been a little scarce as I try to settle in to my new job, which is going really, really well. After the last couple of months of chaos, and as we approach Thanksgiving, I am truly thankful for that!

I have finished my 2 lengthy IEPs that I had within the first couple of weeks at my new job, and with assessing the students. Now it is on to changing my centers and working on lesson plans. I will try to share more often now that things have settled down a little.

On Friday, I will be participating in a Special Educator's Blog Hop, which is my very first one. I will have a tip and a freebie or two to share and a link to the next blog on the hop. Be sure to check in!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Finally in my new classroom

It has been a stressful few weeks, what with packing up a classroom, and getting all the paperwork and details finalized on my old classroom, while lesson planning and organizing for my new classroom. And of course, this was for a move in the middle of the week. I burst into tears last Tuesday evening when I went into my new classroom with a cart full of boxes, and the other teacher had not moved yet, even though I had been told they would be gone. I had to haul it all back, and then I had to laugh, even if it was a bit hysterical. I contacted the Principal who assured me they would be gone the next day, and they were, even as they left a big mess behind. It was difficult to start without most of my things, but I managed. I moved one load each day and then on Friday, got the remainder. Then I went in both days this past weekend, and after a total of 13 1/2 hours everything was put away and re-organized. Thank goodness for Veteran's day as I can finally relax a little.

Here is my schedule for this school year, so far. I will tweak it as I go. Sorry for the size, too tired to fix it right now.

And we did have some fun, too. We made hot chocolate and pumpkin pie on Fun Friday. My guys were totally into it, and all of them ate their pie. I was really proud. I got the recipes here from the Autism Tank.

This next week I have 2 IEP meetings, and after that I want to focus on improving my centers.

I am so glad that is all over and am incredibly grateful to be back in a great school, with wonderful students and staff. I'm hoping to be blogging a little more regular now that I am settled. And I am looking forward to the remainder of the year.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Finally, resolution

I finally got an email this week stating I am starting back at my old middle school in the Autism program on Nov 5th. It was from the head of HR and there was an email trail from all interested parties agreeing to this date. Phew, what a stressful bunch of weeks and I am so glad it's resolved!

So now I am having to plan for when I start. I am going to stick with the curriculum map I did in the spring and which is posted on my old blog , which you can access here.

First up for science is rocks and fossils. I am still looking for resources, thank god for TPT, and am planning a trip to the Burke museum in Seattle to look at fossils to start the unit off.

 For social studies, we will be working on South America, and the geography, music, culture, etc of this continent. Looking forward to this one. Our field trip will probably include a south american restaurant, so we can practice ordering, money, etc. This will take place later in the month.  My goal is to tie our curriculum to community based instruction, twice a month all day, and do more local trips in our neighborhood to practice all of our life skills, three or more afternoons each month.

And finally, for social skills, we are going to focus on starting Superflex, and table manners for Thanksgiving. I am bummed that I missed Halloween, but it is what it is.

These are my main stations that will change monthly. The others are static or depend on IEP goals. Since I didn't start the school year with them, I have no idea what they've been doing except that they tried to follow my plan. So first up will be assessing their skills and then I will make changes once I have gotten the lay of the land, so to speak. I am so looking forward to this move and settling down in a program that needs me!!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Holiday freebie

I have been planning for a job I don't actually have. I was supposed to transition to it yesterday, but in the end my current principal refused to release me even though she had originally agreed to a transfer and a date had been set.  I will probably end up having to leave the district so I can find meaningful work in my teaching field, unless she miraculously changes her mind. So frustrating, especially since our contract says I can transfer at the semester without having to get anyone's permission. Of course there won't be any jobs then. One of my favorite sayings that actually brings me calm in stressful moments is, "And this, too, shall pass".  Looking forward to the time when this is actually true.

In the meantime, I was planning for a unit on Holidays around the world, starting with Halloween. We are an international school, so this is one way to incorporate some world culture into the curriculum throughout the year. I have purchased some TPT products to teach from, so these are just extra. One is a Power Point presentation, that can also be printed out as a book. You can find it here. Holidays included are Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day, Easter, Ramadan, Obon. I will likely add videos and an art project to each, but haven't gotten there yet since I am still in flux. Hopefully I will actually get a chance to use them.

The other one is a picture sort of these same holidays. They can be used as a stand alone, or to make this book interactive. I also have some questions that go with this (but they are at work, so will likely post them tomorrow), where these sorts can also be used. Just print out multiple copies of what you need. You can find it here.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

God bless SLPs!

My job is still in flux. This has been the crappiest start to my new school year, by far. Yesterday morning I was set to start my new job on Monday, and today that move is dead in its tracks. I have now gotten the union involved and am hoping for resolution soon.

In the meantime, my current students are a joy. I have just 2, and then during our 1st period every day, I have an older girl, an ex student of mine actually, who is doing some transition work in my room. She acts as a TA and levels books, cuts laminate for me, and does odd jobs I need done. She also works with the kids and they really respond to her! In the photo below, she is in the one in orange, taking a break and enjoying the musical interlude.

This past Wednesday, the SLP came into our room and brought her guitar.  We formed a small group and she played all kinds of songs. It was a truly  wonderful session and my students absolutely loved it! In this picture, the SLP is playing, my one student held her wrist the entire time she was strumming, and both students had beaming smiles. It was such a fun moment, and then to see my students respond and be so focused, it just made my day! God bless our service providers for the excellent work they do to reach our lowest students!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014 this the last CHANGE??????

because my heart can't take anymore, lol.

Talk about long, drawn out start to a new school year. I interviewed last Friday for a k-2 position in an autism program. They called my middle school principal for a recommendation. He texts me and asks me if I am looking for work, because there is an open position at my old school. I tell him only if it is in the autism program. He does his magic and there is suddenly a vacancy in the autism program. (No people were harmed in this decision). Then I get a call from the Elementary school, offering me the K-2 position. Then the AP in the school I am currently in calls me in and tells me she heard that I might be going to the middle school, how can she keep me at the high school. This all happened in the last 24 hours. And all of a sudden I have to make a decision about 3 different positions, and make it by 4 pm today.

 My heart has been palpitating all day, to the point where I have a greater appreciation for folks that suffer from panic attacks. At 3:30 I  had a meeting at the middle school that ended with a full blown interview, with people that I had worked with for 6 years so it seemed weird to me, but that I was not prepared for. And right after this was when I had to call folks and let them know my decision.

 Even though it was stressful, stressful, STRESSFUL, I made the decision to go with what is easiest for me at this time of the year, and that is the middle school autism program that I put together last year, and left at the end of the school year for my current, about-to-end position. I know the staff, students, and the program, and have curriculum maps for the year.  Soooo, after I made that decision, and the calls, I was second guessing myself. What if I made a mistake?????? Don't you hate that??? But the decision is made, so that is that. I went from feeling very job insecure, and rightfully so, to having jobs coming out of my ears. And that has been the start to my school year. Now I need to

 do some deep breathing,  and go to my happy place.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Changes AGAIN, argh!!

So I had major plans to post at least once a week, if not more, with this new school year. But alas, there have been too many changes, and next to no district funding (can you say deja vu?), for me to feel settled and get into a groove. And now there are even more.

There were supposed to be 2 med frag programs in my school because of a large influx of new students, because the caseload limits for a med/frag program are 6 students, and we were getting 11. This is also one of the only special ed programs in the district that is not allowed to overload. So I thought I was set. But my classroom is now down to 2 students, and the other is down to 4, all through attrition such as kids moving out of district, staying home, changing medical status, etc. That is only 1 program worth of kids. Since they haven't funded it, there is a good chance they might pull the plug, leaving me without a job.

One of my admins, god bless her, said I shouldn't worry, they can try to patch something together. But I am not a patch kind of gal. I am a mod-to profound self-contained teacher by education, training, experience, and desire. I am not a resource teacher, nor do I have the desire to be one. I also believe that if I case manage a student, I should have the student in at least one class so I can get to know them and write the IEP from first hand knowledge. My union rep said in a worst case scenario I would be displaced. That is not going to happen because I am in charge of my own destiny. So now I am on a job hunt again.

 There are several jobs in my district still open that look interesting, all autism/severe profund, but at the K-2 grade level. EEEKKK. I have never done primary before, so it both terrifies me and excites me at the same time. Anyone else out there done both? How different are they? Anyway, I have put in applications, and now it is a waiting game. Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Update and a couple of freebies

I got through the first three days and that first one almost did me in. I only have 3 students, but they are a handful. I still don't have any permanent Paras in my room, I am supposed to have 2, however they are hiring. I have one now that I am hoping becomes permanent. In addition to these 3, I case manage 4 students with Autism who are included in general education classes, and some resource, depending on their needs. I will only see them for 1/2 hour every Wednesday and Thursday when we do block schedules and  mentoring. My 3 students will fold in with one of the Autism programs for that time period.  I have no idea how those other students are doing, since they and  I have both had subs.

 It has been a slight learning curve for me. My 3 students are both lower and higher functioning than their IEP led me to believe, and I am still working only with the supplies I brought with me, although some supplies have started to trickle in. When they showed me the list of supplies I was getting for my classroom, I noticed that it said elementary Med/Frag classroom and I pointed out we were high school. They said they would adjust for that, but apparently it didn't happen since I got elementary supplies including finger paints and very small art aprons, and a teeny tiny blue chair that came all by itself. I giggle every time I see it.
I did get a CD/Tape player and headphones so we can listen to music, which has been nice. I still don't have any switches or iPads but I have been told they are coming. In the meantime, I have been scrambling to find work to keep them busy. I made a bunch of simple work tasks, and I am sharing 2 of them today. I have also had to adjust our daily schedule quite a bit since the first one I put together didn't work at all.  I will share that in another post.

The first item I'm sharing is a clothespin task working on simple AB, ABB, and ABC patterns. Simply cute and laminate.

The other item is a book I adapted from Tar heel reader called 12 Days of Halloween. This one needs to be laminated, or put in page protectors. Then add velcro to the squares outlined on the pages, and the icons on the end.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Workbasket Wednesday

Today I am linking up with  Autism Classroom News to share some quick workbaskets I made the other day for my students.
Workbasket Wednesday at Autism Classroom News

 I wasn't quite sure what my students were going to be able to do, so I made an assortment of tasks to keep them busy the first few days of school while I wait for my materials to arrive. Today was my first day of school, and it was a disaster (tomorrow will be better), except for these tasks. I only have 3 students, but one can do most of these tasks with assistance, one can do the simple put-in tasks, and the last child threw their container all over the room in a lightning quick motion before I could stop her, lol. So I will be making more and figuring what to do for this last beautiful child.
 One of my students has a thing for fries and he loved this workbox. I got the containers at the dollar store and the little rubber food items at the party section at Target.

 Simple sorting of big and small ghosts.

 A fine motor skills, putting the correct color on the pipe cleaner.

 Counting squares and putting the correct number of them in the muffin tin.

 Sorting frogs and skateboards.

 Finding the correct matching half, putting a pom pom inside, and closing them up.

 Another seasonal task, sorting leaves and acorns into the tins.

 I thought I had colored hole protectors, or whatever they are called, but need to get some more. In the meantime, they can put the cleaners in whatever hole they want to.

 Another simple put in task.

 Sorting pom poms.

Different container, same put in task.

So there you have it. I will be making a bunch more in the next week or two and will share again.