Saturday, November 16, 2013

I like it! (Things I like from the Math Modules)

We did an activity yesterday that I found really interactive and the students LOVED it. "This is the best game I have played in math yet!" was from one of my students who does not particularly love math.

It was called "Shake Those Disks". The students are working with number bonds for 6. They worked in partners and had 6 red/white disks. They would shake them in a cup and record the partners on their bar graph. They had so much fun and really learned the partners for 6!

Thanksgiving Crafts

With our new curriculum we are using our occupational and physical therapy time to do more hands on crafts and holiday related activities. The OT was here to help with tracing & cutting and the PT helped the students to move between stations using their gross motor skills and building their school muscles. They did bear walking, wheelbarrow walking and all kinds of other yoga poses while they waiting their turn at the craft stations.
The first project was designed by my student teacher and uses the students hand & foot prints to make a turkey. This activity required a lot cutting so it was excellent practice using their fine motor skills. It also required the students to plan how to put the parts together to make it look like a turkey. This was inspired by this pinterest post.

 This 2nd project was designed by my co-teacher's long term substitute. She mixed equal parts shaving cream and Elmer's school glue to make these puffy shapes. The kids loved getting all gooey to mix it together and create a blob on their paper. They then needed to rip paper feathers and stick them in the glue mixture in the shape of the turkey. The teacher added the eyes, beaks and legs to finish the project. We thought next time maybe we would have the kids stick googly eyes on the blob before it dries. When it dries, they remain puffy and soft.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Modules, Modules and More Modules!

Well, we are one week into the math modules and it is a little frustrating, challenging. The contents of the lessons are not terrible, but the amount of time I spend collecting, purchasing and creating the materials and correcting errors is a bit much. Since I teach a multi-age classroom I am teaching the kindergarten and grade 1 modules from the website. There are many simple materials and items that need to be collected for each lesson, such as an egg carton for each of my students. Thank goodness I read that lesson plan well in advance!

We have been told many times that although there is a script with this program, we should only use this as a guide for our instruction. There are however, no suggestions or recommended accommodations for students with special needs, only that need to be exposed to all of the content. The pace of the program seems to be the most challenging so far. My 1st & 2nd graders are working through the first grade modules and this week we are trying out splitting the lessons over 2 days so that we can ensure the students are understanding the concepts and not just getting through it. I also only have a 45 minute block and the lessons are set up for 60 minutes. The kindergarten group seems to be doing okay with the pace so far. Since we started late in the year and this first module is intended to start on the first day of school they have a good base of knowledge for these lessons from our work earlier in the year.

Check out the link to my TPT page for some of the materials I have made to help my students understand the concepts of the program. It really is NEW math!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ahh...It's October!

Wow! Here we are in October and I am just getting to this blog for the first time this school year! We have become completely overwhelmed with CCSS Core Knowledge Listening & Learning and will begin the math modules next month. This new curriculum has really cut into our ability to be creative with our students learning styles, but I'm not here to complain. We have done some really neat things this year and I hope to be sharing more regularly. 

First, based on my evaluation last year I needed to create a way for my youngest students to evaluate themselves. Since they really can only consider their effort I created these 1/2 sheet evaluations for them to complete on random activities of my choosing. With practice, this will hopefully help students to better meet my expectations and complete work that makes them proud. 

As a multi-age classroom, every couple years we end up with a large split in our classroom. This year we have 4 second graders, 1 first grader and 4 kindergarten students. This makes creating effective independent centers difficult. So we created a set of 5 centers for the kindergarten students and word work stations for the 1st & 2nd graders. We use their first day of school pictures as a management system so we know who has finished which centers. The small pocket charts are from the dollar store and I just used picture frame stands to hold them (also from the dollar store). 

 This is the beginning of our Alphabet Museum. I found this idea on pinterest and put my own twist on it for my classroom. We collect objects through the week that begin with the letter of the week and save them in shoe boxes. We also use our bodies to create the letters and take pictures to go in the box. This is a large bulletin board outside my classroom and it will be filling up as we move through the alphabet.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Last Day of School!!

It's the last day of school for the kiddos and boy are they excited! Mrs. Moody made these cute little end of the year treats to send home with them today.

Have a great summer SMARTIE Pants!!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Diary of a Spider

Today we read the story Diary of a Spider as a follow up to Diary of a Worm both by Doreen Cronin. The kids really enjoy these stories and I find them great for helping to teach the kids about perspective. During this language group, the OT often pushes in so today we did a craft that required them to cut and plan how to make their web. We just made cuts into a paper plate around the edge and made a hole in the middle to give a starting point. The kids then needed to pull the string around the plate and criss-cross the strings in order to build a web. We then just used a little puff ball, google eyes and pipe cleaners to make a spider for the web.

Unrelated student quote for today: While looking at a dinosaur book during free reading:

Student: I really like the veggiesaurus!
Teacher: The what? Which dinosaur is that?
Student: The one that only eats veggies so they won't eat me!

Friday, April 26, 2013

We Love Spring!

We are so excited that spring is finally here! Our Physical and Occupational Therapists took the group outside today to collect objects for a reverse scavenger hunt. The students were asked to pick out 5 different  objects from the school yard. They found sticks, rocks, grass, bark, moss, pine cones & needles and even a little dog poo. (Yes, you read that correctly) When we returned to the classroom, they needed to spread out their items and create the scavenger hunt list of objects. This activity integrated their PT & OT needs as well as the classroom theme.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Pleasantly Surprised!

Today we gave the assessment for the core knowledge module we piloted. I was very nervous about the language and instructional style of the modules but the kids did great! It took them a few days to get used to the extended time being still and listening, but the number of opportunities for discussion throughout the lessons was enough to keep them engaged. Some students did thrive more than others, but based on the assessments they were all taking the information in. The students learned and were able to use words like nutrients, germinate and photosynthesis. More than any plant unit that I have taught in the past, I feel like the students really learned the parts of a plant, the plant life cycle and better understand the vocabulary involved.

We had spring break during the module so we did several review activities and read a couple additional texts related to the topic: The Secret Life of Trees by Chiara Chevallier and How Does It Grow: From Seed to Sunflower by Ian Smith. I also created a SMART Response activity to review the plant parts and evergreen vs deciduous trees.

I am still concerned about how this new instructional program will be effective over time in a multi-age special education classroom but I do feel better about jumping into the listening and learning modules in the fall.

Friday, March 22, 2013


I found this awesome number of the day idea on pinterest in the beginning of the school year. We have been doing it daily and I change it up every trimester. I'll post them to my TPT store if you want to check them out. Anyway....we have seen a huge change in our students ability to understand and use numbers this year compared to years in the past. Most of my students are now able to write numbers to 100 without a model and all (except my kindergartner who did get to 34) are counting beyond 100! I couldn't be prouder today!!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

My neglected blog, 100 days, Valentines, Phew...

February was a busy, busy month!!

I hate to share too much personal stuff, but I just bought a new house and it sure has kept me busy. What a crazy process that has become over the past few years, but I love my new space!

February always seems to fly by with our winter recess in the middle. We celebrated 100 days, Valentine's Day, learned about dental health and studied George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

We had the students work with the number 100 in so many different ways. They each brought in 100 items to share; we counted by 1's, 5's and 10's to 100; we did 100 exercises throughout the day

The kids had a great time creating special Valentine's for their loved ones. Valentine's day is always a great time to remind everyone how much they are cared for and mean to us. Hope everyone had a great day!

With all that candy we had to work with our class on brushing their teeth. We took a few minutes every day after lunch for the kids to practice brushing their teeth. We were able to get toothbrushes and toothpaste donated by a local dentist and sent them home with the kids at the end of the month. They really learned how easy and quick it can be to brush your teeth.

We will be attempting to teach a pilot unit from the Core Knowledge curriculum this coming week. Hopefully. We planned to do this past week but our SMART board projector broke. The part of the curriculum we are trying out is the Listening and Learning section. It is completely dependent on an interactive whiteboard. This makes me nervous for implementing this curriculum in the fall. We will be dedicating 180 minutes of our school day to it. What will we do if our technology fails us, like it is right now.

Check back for updates on how it goes! I've heard good things and am excited to see how my students do with the "new" instructional style.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Groundhog Day

Happy Groundhog Day!

Today we celebrated by learning more about Groundhogs. Did you know that inside their burrows, they create a separate location for sleeping and using the bathroom? This was just one of the very interesting facts our kiddos got a kick out of!
We used a really neat SMART board presentation to introduce the holiday and learn a little more about groundhogs. Then we did a groundhog craft. I got the idea here, but tweaked it a little bit to create the 3-D image in the pictures. The students used black construction paper and white chalk to create the "shadow." We then taped just the feet of the ground hog (face down) to the page and taped a pipe cleaner to the back so it can stand up and see it's shadow.
We read the story "Groundhog Goes Outside" from as a class and played a memory game matching objects with their shadows.  

The kids wrapped up the morning with writing. They had to answer the question "If you were a groundhog, what would you want to see? Shadow or no shadow?" We reviewed writing a complete sentence using the words and details from the question. Then to see how well they understood the legend of groundhog day, they had to draw a spring or winter picture depending on their desire.

The students homework for the weekend is to try and find out if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not. We graphed their predictions on the SMART board and they can't wait to see if they were right. They voted 5-4 that he would see his shadow.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Core Knowledge and the Multi-age Classroom

So last week we learned that NYS is now requiring schools to adopt, adapt or align to the Core Knowledge curriculum. It is a new way of looking at the way we teach and seems to be a different approach than what I have experienced over the last 12 years of teaching. It is more theme based to ensure that students build the same knowledge base across school districts. I don't have much experience with it so far, but one BIG question is brings up for me is how do we use this new scripted (to the number of days for each theme) program into a multi age special education classroom. The themes for each grade level are very specific and build on one another. We are not a typical multi age classroom where the same set of students loop through, we have different students every year. How could I teach a 2nd grade theme when I have new kindergartners... All questions to ponder over the next few months as it seems our district is going to adopt this new program. Here is the link to the Core Knowledge website if you want to check it out. Feel free to share your thoughts or point me in the direction of more resources that help connect this to the special education world.

Friday, January 18, 2013


This week we have learned about how to treat people, choosing friends and what makes a good friend. We have learned about Martin Luther King Jr and his dream for our country. The students heard more about it at our schools morning program where the teachers presenting talked about choosing good friends and the characteristics of a good friend. Our school counselor has also been working with them on learning to be "bucket fillers" which is the idea that doing something kind for someone else makes everyone feel good!

Today we read A Visitor for Bear by Bonnie Becker. In the story a grumpy bear lives alone and likes it that way until a little mouse comes along and is very persistent and the two become friends. I found these great freebie friendship scenarios for the students to act out. It was tricky at first, but then they really got into acting out each situation to show how they can be good friends that are generous, honest, helpful and good sports. I saved the "compliments" card for last in order to transition to us writing our "friendship mini books" where the students each wrote one nice thing about what makes each student a good friend. They were then able to take home a book filled with compliments about what good friends they are. I only wish I wasn't missing three of them today. This is a hard activity to go back and make up for them.

Helping too much?

Do I help too much? I came across this article on facebook last night and shared it. Many of friends with kids all agreed with the article as well. Check it out and let me know what you think.

It got me thinking... Do I help too much in my classroom? Do I let them struggle enough to feel the joy of success and achievement? OR do I spend too much time modifying their work to prevent frustration? Finding each child's frustration point and encouraging them to push past it and take risks is really setting them up for life. Let's be honest, life can be frustrating but we all need to know how to push through it to reach our goals. Why shouldn't we start practicing this in primary school?

Friday, January 11, 2013

A new writing adventure!

Today we started a new approach to our writing instruction. Writing is a topic that has been kind of intertwined with other areas but we haven't been able to have a time dedicated to just writing. We adjusted our schedule a little and will have 40 minutes available every other day to do explicit writing instruction. Today we did a writing sample that we can use as a baseline. I scanned pictures from Lakeshore's "Photo Library" into SMART notebook so the students can all see the same picture. Today they wrote about a stuffed animal, using a web to plan their writing. Writing an extended piece like this independently is our goal. We also want to spend more time working with students on descriptions (using adjectives) and using the tools in our classroom for writing such as the word wall and personal dictionaries. Check back for updates on how this new approach works out for us!

We would love suggestions from any fellow teachers as well. Feel free to comment below!

Monday, January 7, 2013

On A Snowy Winter Day

We have a book shelf in our classroom for our theme books. Every few weeks we update the books in this area to seasonal, holiday, science, etc..related books. This gives the students the opportunity to preview books we will be reading or revisit books we have read as a class. Since Christmas, we updated this shelf with all of our winter/snow related books.

The first book we read from this group was Snowy Winter Day by Estelle Feldman. The kids loved all the activities in the book and it really got them thinking about what they like to do in the snow. As a class, we brainstormed a dozen activities that they enjoy doing on snowy days. Each student then chose one activity to write about and illustrate to make our own book for our classroom library. The story ends with the children going to sleep and more snow falling down. As a follow up activity, we had the students lay on the floor and draw night time snowy scenes using black paper and chalk (making the OT & PT happy).

I don't have a picture of the final product yet, as it needs to be cut out and put together still but I'll get to it! The kids love reading their own work.