Friday, December 21, 2012

Final Day of Christmas Fun (for this year)

Teaching in a multi-age classroom gets a little tricky on special days like today. Some general education teachers invited our students to their classrooms so we actually ended up with only 3 students for most of this final half-day before Christmas vacation. We read The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst and let the students decorate their own gingerbread cookies. In this version, the girl is made with lots of candy to make her especially sweet so she won't want to run away. With so few students, we just let them have at all the decorations they wanted. This is what they ended up with:

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! Enjoy the holiday season with your family and friends and we will be back after the New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Santa's Workshop

Just some quick pictures of our gifts for the students parents. Santa came to visit us at our morning program and he read the book 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to the whole school. We made a mini-book for each student and re-read it together. Then we used baby food jars, construction paper and cotton balls to make a Santa face. We filled the jars w/ red tissue paper to give him Rosy cheeks.

We read Frosty the Snowman and again used baby food jars to create a decorative jar using the children's hand print wrapped around the bottom of the jar so each finger is a snowman. We did a similar craft last year using a plain bulb ornament.  

In order to safely wrap these glass gifts, we used a brown lunch bag and had the student cut Christmas images out of wrapping paper and printed gift tags made by Mrs. Moody. This was a great activity to work on cutting and planning for size and space usage.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

All Aboard! Polar Express Day

We started our day by reading The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. This is such an amazing story to read to students this age. To see the wonder and excitement in their eyes when we show the bell that Santa gave to us to share with them really sparks your Christmas spirit!

As a writing activity, the students needed to recall and choose a favorite part in the story. We really got the students to stretch their thinking to specific moments. Many of them liked the train or the bell. With encouragement, they were able to give the exact moment from the book such as when they drank hot chocolate on the train or when the little boy opened the bell on Chirstmas morning. We are working very hard on getting the students to meet the common core standards of supporting their ideas and responses with specific information from the given text. I was pleased to see how well they were able to do this with a much more complicated text.

We followed up with independent work that included activities for handwriting, cutting, word work, shapes and letter recognition.

For snack, we made Polar Express Hot Chocolate and train treats which were both inspired from pinterest.

The occupational therapist pushes into our classroom every other day and today was her day. We put a model of a train on our SMART board. The students needed to cut out given shapes and use those to build the train. Then could then color the train anyway they would like.

The following amazing bloggers helped us create this fun, festive and educational day!

Monday, December 17, 2012


This week is a crazy week in the world of a primary school. So we are embracing the excitement by celebrating a little differently each day with one of our favorite Christmas books. Today is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. We only had our K/1 students this morning because the 2nd graders were off carolling at the VA hospital.

We started by reading the story and making our own connections booklet. The students needed to identify the Grinch's feelings at the beginning and the end. They then made a page giving an example of what makes them feel grumpy and happy. This was a great writing activity and I was very proud that they were all able to come up with their own ideas and reasons to support their answers. We brainstormed other words we could use to describe his feelings as well.

We then watched the movie and with a little "pinspiration" I came up with a cute little craft that we turned into ornaments to be taken home. All you need is a small paper plate, green paint, red and white paper, a cotton ball and google eyes. The students painted the plate green to make his face, and then used their fine motor skills to rip paper to make the hat, eyes and mouth.

For math, I found 2 great math activities. One is a dice game for addition and the other is using the 100s chart to color a surprise (a Grinch face). I modified the dice game for my younger students by whiting out 7-12 and adding a 1. I gave them a dot dice to count sets and record their data. The other students used 2 die; one dot and one with a number to practice counting on for addition. They all recorded their information by coloring in one square for each sum they got until they filled one whole column. This is slightly different from the directions on the page.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Reindeer Games!

This Friday we themed our Holiday activities around reindeer. We started by reading the short story "Five Little Reindeer" The story is similar to the Five Little Pumpkins poem which helped the students follow along as we read it together. We were also able to review ordinal numbers and rhyming words.

Next, we made reindeer food to help the reindeer find our homes on Christmas eve with oats, sugar and glitter to catch their attention in the snow.  (Hopefully, we'll have some by then)  We read Olive, the Other Reindeer by J.Otto Seibold & Vivian Walsh to keep us in the reindeer mood!

Then, we watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and made reindeer treats using a chocolate donut, a red peanut m&m, 2 white chocolate chips and a pretzel. The students made one to eat now and one to take home. This was an excellent activity to work on their fine motor skills, visual perception and planning.

We went on to read "Rudolph, Rudolph" which was a great little book to review color words and rhyming. We also used the coloring activity that required the students to roll a number to find the correct color. The students worked as teams to complete this activity.

We did not get to many activities today, but they will make great centers for next week. We had a great addition packet and color by number activity.  I also found a cute reindeer themed bump it game for math and a pattern activity. Check out the links below to get all these FREE activities from some great teachers!

The following people helped provide materials for these activities: reindeer snack , reindeer food tags, dice game, addition packetFive Little Reindeer book, , bump it math game, patterns, The Rudolph, Rudolph book came from, but I can't find the link to the exact unit and there is a bunch of great stuff in it!  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Think Win-Win: #4 of the 7 Habits of Happy Kids

Thinking Win-Win is a tricky thing for 5, 6 and 7 year-olds to understand. As we study the 7 Habits of Happy Kids, we are trying to find real situations to put the students in to help them practice these abstract skills we are teaching. Our school psychologist comes to our classroom once a week to teach a social skills lesson. Since she is expecting, we decided it would be fun for the kids to throw her a surprise baby shower and give her gifts. We talked about how they won't be getting any gifts because the party is not for them, but how they will "win" because it will feel good to do something for someone we care about. They were just beside themselves with excitement as we made cards for her with all the items they thought that she should have in order to be prepared (habit #2: begin with the end in mind) for the arrival of her new baby. (The cards were adorable!) She also is not finding out the sex of her baby so the kids made predictions and used pink or blue paper based on their prediction. She was so surprised when she came into the classroom and the kids just lit up because they kept the secret and the surprise was a success. They were also so proud to read their cards to her and help her to be prepared. What a great lesson!!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Snowmen Adventures

With so much excitement in the air about the Christmas season, we decided to use Fridays as our winter/Christmas craft day and incorporate a variety of language, literacy and math skills throughout the activities.

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner is one of my favorite winter stories. We used this book as the base for our first literacy and craft activity.

We read the story and while we made our pine cone snowmen we brainstormed ideas for the adventures each one would have. You can find the directions for the craft activity here

The students were then asked to write a short story detailing the adventures their snowman would take. We used printed snowmen to help them see that the character they chose will be the same character through the story. We then used transitional words (first, then, next, finally) to help lead their ideas and make a story. Here is an example from "The Adventures of Daisy" by Alexander. "First, Daisy will go sledding. Next, Daisy went skiing on a giant mountain. Then she went down the mountain to the finish line. Finally, she had hot cocoa and candy."
I will put the free template for the story on my Teachers Pay Teachers store soon.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

When I Grow Up I Want to Blog Like...

I will openly admit that Darcy has lead the effort on our blog so far. I am making it my new year resolution to be more involved :) I was very nervous to get started and to be honest, I don't really know what to write a lot of time! I will start with sharing some of the blogs that I follow. I get so many ideas from these lovely bloggers and most of them have a teacherspayteachers page that allows you to access all of their cool stuff!

Communicating With Families

Each week we write a short newsletter home to families giving tidbits about our week and what we are looking forward to in the next few weeks. We are beginning to wonder if this is truly the best way to communicate with families as these newsletters are often still in their take home folders on Monday morning. Starting this month we will be changing to a monthly newsletter. I've also been playing around with our classroom website available to parents through the district website. I'm trying to include pertinent information for our classroom that is included in every newsletter. We still only have one official blog follower, but I would like some feedback from anyone who happens upon our little blog. How do you communicate with families?

Also, check out our parent website. What would you add/change/remove?

Friday, November 30, 2012

SLO much fun!

We met with our principal today to figure how to meet the states expectations for writing Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) based on tests that are beyond the skills of our students. Fortunately, our principal (and district, in my opinion) realize the reality of an actual classroom, specifically a self contained special education classroom. They listen when we tell them that the regional pre-assessments are not a true picture of what our students are capable of doing. There is no test to show the growth our students have made, from struggling to sit and attend for more than 2 or 3 minutes to being able to join a general education classroom and participate for 30 minutes or more without disruption. This is HUGE growth for these students but cannot be measured by any standardized assessment. As it stands however, we must try to fit our students into this given box and show rigorous growth according their standards, meaning only academic skills. I know my students will improve and I know that I will do all I can to get them to reach their goals (and the ones I set for them!) but it won't be because NYS says I have to write it all down and prove it, it will be because it is my job and I love it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

MORE Thanksgiving Fun!

This week has been full of Thanksgiving activities! We tasted a variety of Thanksgiving side dishes. The students got to taste stuffing, apples, mashed potatoes, homemade squash, apple sauce and cranberry sauce. Mrs. Neumann, our OT, did this in another classroom in our building and shared the idea with us. We were able to tie in our first grade science curriculum by having the students describe the color and texture of the foods as they tried each one. We tied in our math curriculum by collecting data about which ones they liked or did not like. We could have furthered that by creating a class graph comparing the information we collected. I'll keep that in mind for next year!
Then we wrote our own Thanksgiving recipe book. We tried to be as accurate as possible by remembering what we tasted and researching some recipes and pictures online before writing our own. This really helped the students to use more interesting language when writing. They used words like sprinkle, steam, boil, degrees, and stir. We were also able to discuss informational writing. We used the transitional words first, then, next and last. Each student will get a copy of this book to take home for their parents to read and enjoy. The kids did a fantastic job, but I hope they don't follow these recipes exactly! (PS: I posted my Thanksgiving recipes format in my TPT store)

We also made handprint Turkeys as a gift to someone we are thankful for. I found the poem on this blog. The kids always enjoy painting their hands for various projects.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving Fun!

The Occupational and Physical Therapists often push into my classroom during science or social studies this year. I only have 4 students at this time so we have been trying to incorporate more movement into these lessons. For Thanksgiving, I created an activity to help the students to identify some traditional Thanksgiving images. The students were given clues describing the images including details about not only what they look like, but maybe how they taste or feel and what they are used for at Thanksgiving. These are all details that we have been learning about in science as well. After being given the clues, the students were then asked to move in a variety of ways to find the hidden pictures in the room. They slithered like snakes, walked like a turkey, hopped like a bunny, did the bear walk and army crawl. (DM)

Check out the whole activity and more in my Teachers Pay Teachers store:

Clipart from:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My Favorite Things

On the radio the other day, they mentioned that this is usually the week that Oprah had her extremely popular "favorite things" episodes. Obviously, I'm not Oprah, nor can I afford to share anything other than my ideas, but here are a few of my favorite websites:

Reading A to Z  ( printable leveled books, activities, lessons, assessments, phonics, wordless books for writing

Pinterest ( If you haven't been on here, be careful; it's addicting :)  Follow me at Follow Me on Pinterest

Teachers Pay Teachers ( See my store link to the right

Teacher's Notebook ( My shop link: coming soon!

Math Fact Cafe ( online activities and free printables

ABCya ( great learning games for kids

Cookie ( another site for learning games for kids but also printable worksheets

A to Z teacher stuff ( a little bit of everything

Please add your favorites in the comments section below! I know my best resources are my colleagues. (DM)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Split Personality

My role in the OWLS classroom has me feeling some days like I have a split personality! Darcy and I joke quite often that she is becoming more of a speech path every year and I have become more of a teacher. We share everything... our space, our materials, our responsibilities and stress and of course the fun and excitement, it only makes sense that our jobs sometimes overlap. I have times throughout our day when I see kids for a more typical speech session. I have my own little area in the back of the room, with all of materials and I get to work on articulation or specific language needs... the rest of the time I am co-teaching or involved in a lesson as a helper or leading a lesson from science and social studies to math. 99% of the time I LOVE that my role in the classroom is so different day to day, but that other 1% of the time I sometimes feel like I have completely forgotten what it would be like to be a true speech path. Sometimes I wonder if I could juggle a massive caseload that has me running from one of the building to the other or if I would self destruct! I am hoping that I will be able to show you a little of what my life is like in the OWLS program. This section will have everything from how I organize my materials and record keeping to specific speech activities and lessons.

BUILDing Math Skills

We spent some time this fall trying to figure out the best way to meet the extremely diverse math needs of our class this year. I LOVE pinterest so that was my first place to research some new ideas. We came across this blog with the BUILD math centers from the Daily Five program. We used that idea and adapted it to fit our classroom. This is what we came up with. We use name tags to move the students through each center. They only work at one station per day which makes it much easier to manage. While the students are working, I can pull 3 math groups to work on specific skills. (DM)

Thursday, November 1, 2012


This year our school selected themes for our Halloween Character parade. We had community helpers in kindergarten, Disney characters for first graders and story book characters for second graders. We didn't have a lot of money to go out and buy costumes so we made our own this year! Kristin blew some pictures up using an "old fashioned" overhead projector and we colored the rest. Such fun!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tattle Tongues

Casey Imrich is our school psychologist and comes to our class once a week to teach social skills lessons. This week she focused on the difference between telling and tattling. She read and discussed the book A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue by Julia Cook. The students then made their own tattle tongues as a reminder. We are now able to refer to the book and activity when students are tattling.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Number of the Day

I use this as a warm up to get us into math. We use today's date as the number and the students need to finish the rest. The activity addresses number identification, place value, sequencing, number words, addition, subtraction and mental math. I have also considered using it as center work. I have this on the SMART board as well as a worksheet for the students. Check out my store on Teachers Pay Teachers to get them. (DM)

Watch as my reading GROWS!

This is our first year in many that we do not have an aide assigned to our classroom so we needed to find a new way to run our ELA stations while we saw guided reading and speech groups. I came up with the acronym GROWS and we made a chart: G is for guided reading, R is for reading to self, O is for on the computer, W is for word work and S is for speech. Guided reading and speech groups are pretty regular but the middle three change frequently.
At the bottom we planted a reading garden with a flower for each student. As they make progress towards their reading goals we add petals to the flowers. Hopefully in the spring we will have a beautiful garden!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Reach for the Stars!

Our school is slowly integrating the 7 Habits of Happy Kids program. One of the habits is to "begin with the end in mind." So in September we had the students really think about something (school related) that was hard for them and set a goal. Each arm has their goals written on it. The stars will hold their many accomplishments that they reach throughout the school year. We are hoping to fill the board and maybe even the wall. They are so excited to "add a star" when they have succeeded at something that was once very hard!

UPDATE: June 20,2013

The kids had a great year and many of them reached their goals. We created a little poster with their pictures from the first day of school and yesterday in front of the star board. It is amazing how much they grow in just one school year. They had fun re-reading their goals and celebrating their achievements!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall leaf people

Mrs. Moody did a great language lesson about falling leaves today. She read Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert and then the students needed to follow directions to complete a leaf person. This required a lot of fine motor skill to fold the paper, align the pieces and glue them together. You simply need 2 leaf cut outs, 4 strips of paper and fun google eyes.

Fear and Blogging....

I can't (and won't) speak for Kristin on this one, but there is something a little terrifying about blogging for me. I am so passionate about teaching that is feels very personal to share it all. I am always hitting the internet for new ideas and I've wanted to find a way to share my ideas, lessons, etc..but there is a little fear in it for me. For instance, I have yet to share this blog on my own facebook page, the one place where all the people that care for and support me are located.

A couple years ago, I took this great writing workshop. It was a really neat experience that was not as much about teaching writing as it was about writing, finding inspiration and creating interesting experiences for our students. I have never felt so vulnerable when participating in professional development. This helped me realize how my students may be feeling when I ask them to write and share. It feels like a huge risk to perform when I am unsure how the audience will respond especially when it is something I feel so passionate about. I have to keep that in mind when I'm working with my students who lack confidence and find ways to build their confidence.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Our LARGE word wall. For years we used a typical sized bulletin board for our word wall. We noticed how disruptive it was during a quiet writing time to have students getting up to look up words, sometimes having several students at the board at once. We decided it was worth it to use a large portion of our classroom as our word wall. Now the students can see the words right from their seats and our writing time is much more productive!

These are the simplest posters I could make to help my students remember what is being asked for when using WH question words. I have used these in all subject areas and refer to them frequently during guided reading. These are FREE and in color in my store.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Co-Teaching...what's it really all about?

Kristin and I have been teaching together for 10 years. This seems to be a unique situation in education today; I know it is in our district. Special education teachers move around as much as the students do, which makes developing a solid co-teaching relationship very difficult. This is how I would break it down: Co-teaching is a bit like a marriage. In the beginning you are dating, you want to get along, please each other, show off what you bring to the table and are very careful with the others feelings. Then you get serious, an exclusive relationship. You are more comfortable, your personal philosophies become stronger and maybe you disagree a little more. Debate is important. Then maybe you have a rough patch because after all, we are teachers and therefore total control freaks! (This is my personal observation, of course) But in the end you realize how much better your classroom is because you are both there. You are now married, Congrats! You realize its okay to say "that lesson really stunk today" and not feel like a failure (burning dinner). After all, you have a partner to help make it better tomorrow.

I have a partner to bounce my ideas off. I have a partner to help me visualize & create my off the wall, middle of the night ideas. I have a partner to make those ideas better! I have a partner to fill in my blanks and balance my weaknesses. AND I have a partner that allows me to run to the restroom whenever necessary. (Super important while I was pregnant!) 

My advice to a new up, get personal and be honest. Share the workload and balance your strengths. Discuss everything and your roles will fall into place. It takes time to get there and I hope you all have that opportunity. Remember, your unique talents are what will make your team great. You can still have your own ideas and opinions and they don't always have to be the same.

Any questions about co-teaching? We have been through a lot and would love to share our experiences. (DM) 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The OWLS Team!

Darcy Meyer: Special Education Teacher
Kristin Moody: Speech and Language Pathologist

OWLS is an acronym for Opportunities with Language and Speech. The OWLS Program was started back in 2004. Our school district was in need of a program for those students that were struggling academically due to moderate to severe speech and language needs. Darcy was already working in the district as a special education teacher when the idea for this type of program was first brought to the table. Kristin was hired to fill the position of the speech therapist in the program. As the first school year moved on we knew we had something special. Throughout our years together we have come up with so many lessons and ideas that we needed a way to share them. We hope you enjoy our Blog as much as we have enjoyed all the experiences that make it up!

A little about Darcy...
I always thought that I wanted to be a teacher and then had a silly idea that I wanted to make more money. When I went to college I tried out several majors but nothing seemed quite right. I took my first education class, spent some time in a classroom and was hooked! I recieved my Bachelor's Degree in elementary and special education in 2000 from Niagara University, then taught for 2 years in Florida before returning to NY to earn my Master's Degree in special education from Nazareth College, finishing in 2005. In the 2008-2009 school year, I began the process to become a National Board Certified Teacher. I achieved this certification in 2009. I am thrilled to be able to start sharing all the work I have done over the past 12 years!

A little about Kristin...
Growing up I had always wanted to be a chef. I always saw myself going to Culinary school and becoming the next big thing on the Food Network. Instead I decided on a school where I could continue playing sports, unsure of what academic path I would take. As I researched the schools that were interested in me as an athlete I came across the Communication Disorders Program at Elmira College. Being a child that spent many hours with a speech therapist, fixing an /r/ distortion, I knew I found my place. My first placement was in a classroom working with children with hearing impairments. I fell in love with ASL and adored that population. I went on to earn my Master's Degree in Speech and Language Pathology at Nazareth College and was awarded my Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech and Language Pathology in 2010. I consider myself a very fortunate person to enjoy my job as much as I do. I hope you enjoy reading about it!