2014-2015 School Year: Classroom Tour!

Happy 2014-2015 school year! Look at that, I found some time (and wine) to sit down and blog!

I wanted to give a little "tour" and inside look of our classroom this year! As a teacher of students with moderate to intensive needs, it's always quite the puzzle putting together my room. I must say, this is definitely my favorite setup to date! Love love LOVE it!

Before and after picture I posted to @myspeciallearners on IG. A lot of sweat and time put into that!! But always my favorite part of the process. :)

So I go back to school in July and this is what I find: all of that? That's my stuff. All stacked down the hall outside my classroom. That was not fun. HOWEVER...it made classroom set up a little easier! In previous years I found myself just moving stuff around to place things in the room. This year I started with a blank canvas!

This is what you see when you walk in my door. My classroom is divided up into multiple small areas. As a moderate to intensive needs teacher, much of my time working with students is 1:1 work. To decrease distractions, my students have their own "office" area. I have 7 students and 5 "offices" (1 student is slowly moving out of my classroom, and another came to me the day before school started, so she gets to share one for the sake of my sanity). Below is some more information about their office areas and the 1:1 work I do with them!

Here is just one of my kiddos "office" areas. In here, you will find independent bins filled with work that is mastered. This is done with the TEACCH method during their independent work time. You can also find reinforcers such as first/then cards, schedules, calm down checklists, etc.

Last year each student had their own rolling cart. However, I'm trying something new this year to help my sanity (why do I need a full set of time flashcards for each office?!?) and to make things a little easier. All of our rolling carts are now lined up, filled, and labeled. When I work 1:1 with a student, or if I have one of my paraprofessionals work with someone, we can just grab some sight words, flashcards, or counting manipulatives and take them to that student's office to get to work! Voila!

When doing this 1:1 work, we obviously need to take some data. Again, last year each student had their data binder in their office area. However, some of their IEP goals are covered during whole group or small group time, so this makes grabbing and jotting down some data a little easier on me! Their binders are in the pink bins and then below are some lower leveled readers for students to read and/or take home in the evening! (I spent a LOT of time this summer organizing and labeling!)

Here is our whole group area! This is my third year in this district and third year with a few of these kiddos and I must say, whole group was tough and honestly painful most days in the beginning. Over time, they have made so much progress that I've been able to incorporate multiple whole group and small group times into our schedule this year! AND! We are also using desks this year! Last year I had a huge kidney bean table (that I hated) and I am just loving the desks this year. I think this is such an important thing for my students, especially learning how to stay in your own space and look at your own work. The only issue so far (and it's still early, we're learning!) is keeping the things in our desk, IN our desk. Busy, busy hands going on here. We are working on Nutrition and the 5 food groups, Unique Learning, News2You, and some Starfall phonics right now in our small group and whole groups in this area! Busy bees. :)
The desks are also making transitions SO much more manageable. Last year, we would come back from Art or Lunch and there would just be kiddos running everywhere. This year, each transition involves us sitting at our desk and waiting on instructions from the teacher. We are also able to do morning bell work while everyone gets situated first thing in the morning. You can see some morning work pictured above, ready to be completed before we do lunch count and morning group!

Above are a couple more pictures of "areas" in my classroom. We have a computer area, play area (with a swing, finally!!!!), and sensory/quiet area. The quiet area is my new addition and favorite part of the new setup. We have some weighted vests, a weighted blanket, fidget toys, a trampoline, and some beanbags and books to help out with calm down or quiet times. 

So there it is! I love our classroom this year and am excited to see what this year has in store for me. :)

The Liebster Award

Hi guys! Popping in tonight because I was nominated for the Liebster Award by the lovely Erin over at The Elementary Darling! Thanks girl, I loved reading your answers and random facts!!

Here are the rules-
1. Link back to the blog that nominated me
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers
3. Answer the questions posted for me by my nominator
4. Share 11 random facts about myself
5. Contact my nominees and let them know that I nominated them 

Here are the questions from Erin! :)

1. What is your favorite thing about your job?

I think my #1 favorite thing from my job is seeing that lightbulb go off in my kiddos heads when they finally grasp a new concept! Teaching students with moderate to intensive needs, these new skills can sometimes take months to master, so that day is a very exciting one!!

2. Which do you like better, instagram or facebook?

Hands down, Instagram! It's quick, I can post/check it easily, and if I go on Facebook it's for pictures anyways! Love LOVE IG! (come find me @myspeciallearners)!

3. Do you have a theme for your classroom decor? If so, what is it?

Sadly, I don't. :( My current classroom is set up with each of my 6 students having their own "office" with walls that are sadly yellow, red, green, and blue colors. It's very primary and basic, especially because I don't want to overwhelm my students with sensory issues! I love looking at pictures of pretty, decked out classrooms! 

4. How many siblings do you have?

I have 2 younger brothers! Oldest child syndrome here. :)

5. Who is your favorite clip art designer?

Krista Wallden on TPT! She has the cutest stuff! 

6. What is your favorite topic or subject to teach?

Math!!! Math was always my favorite subject when I was younger because of how concrete and cut & dry it was. I always hated how many rules and exceptions there were in Language Arts. I find myself always starting with Math IEP goals before hitting the Language Arts ones!

7. What is your favorite store to shop in?

Ooooh, tough choice between Target and Marshalls! Target is obviously a girl's paradise (especially for teachers!), but I do LOVE Marshalls as well! I'll call it a tie!

8. Do you have a favorite sports team?

Cleveland girl all the way! More into basketball and baseball than football. Go Tribe! Go Cavs!

9. What is your favorite children's author?

All of the Skippyjon Jones books by Judith Byron Schachner!

10. What is your favorite T.V. show?

Oh boy, another tough one! There's quite a few "favorites" on my list. If I had to choose ONE right now, I guess I'd say New Girl! I love Zooey and it's always lighthearted and funny after a long day at work.

11. Do you have any pets?

Not right now. :( My parents still have a dog Sophie that I visit every so often! Single apartment living isn't the best time to have a pet. Someday!

11 Random Facts About Me!
1. My birthday is on 9/11. I can never tell someone my birthday without them making some sort of comment!
2. I originally wanted to be a Middle School Math/Science teacher. Senior year of HS I observed Middle School and HATED it, then ended up falling in love with Special Education!
3. I've never had the chicken pox.
4. I was just stung by my first bee this month! (At the top of a mountain...thank God I wasn't allergic!)
5. I held the girls record for number of pull ups in elementary school for my grade level. Thanks, gymnastics! (couldn't do one now if I tried)
6. I ran my first (and God help me it BETTER be) my last marathon in October of 2013! I had bronchitis most of my training and never ran more than 14 miles before the full 26.2, but I was bound and determined to check it off my bucket list!
7. Next thing I want to check off my list: skydiving!
8. I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease on my 12th birthday, which inevitably got me into running half marathons through fundraising!
9. I took horseback riding in college for a quarter...it was the coolest class ever! 
10. I could quote almost the entire movie "A Cinderella Story" with Hilary Duff. Embarrassing.
11. I can play piano, saxophone, clarinet, & bass clarinet. I was in Marching Band and Wind Ensemble in HS...love music! Miss it every day!

My Nominees:

Here are the questions for my nominees!
1. What grade(s) do you teach and how long have you been teaching?

2. When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
3. If you weren't a teacher, what other career would you choose?

4. What do you like to do on breaks/summer vacation?
5. What is your favorite travel spot?

6. If you had to choose your last meal, what would it be?
7. What is your greatest vice?
8. Favorite children's book and adult book?
9. Who is your favorite blogger?
10. What is your favorite store to shop in?
11. Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks? Or something totally different?

Be sure to check out and follow these awesome blogs! :)

Autism Awareness Month

I'm a few days late in this, but happy April (YAY hopefully warmer weather!) and happy Autism Awareness Month!

For the last four years this has been one of my favorite months to be a special educator. I love any reason to talk about my job and spread awareness about Autism and all of the unique kiddos I get to spend my days growing with.

Meet Chase, one of the many students with Autism that I had the pleasure of teaching, growing with, and learning alongside on a daily basis down in North Carolina.

Going into my first year of teaching in a self contained Autism classroom, I had no idea what to expect. Over the two years I spent in that classroom teaching those wonderful children, I learned more than I ever thought possible. These children were funny, happy, unique, loving, smart, among many other things. There were tough days with meltdowns and there were the best days, like hearing a student tell his mom "I love you" for the very first time, or hearing another read his very first book. Those days are the reason I continue to love, advocate, and work for these individuals each and every day. There has not been a day that I've left school without learning something from these amazing, unique little wonders.

What can you learn from them?

Patience. There have been days where my patience has been tested, I've needed to step back and take a few deep breaths, and re-enter a new attitude. These days do not happen every day, but they do happen. It often takes looking at the situation through their eyes and finding a different way of understanding and resolving whatever the problem may be.

Respect. People can be mean. They can be critical. Judgmental. Sometimes these children with Autism can't express their emotions, whether it be anger, sadness, happiness, etc. and it comes out in a different way than you & I. Meltdowns, flapping, stimming, tapping objects, jumping, clapping...these are just some of the different ways that people with Autism communicate their emotions. Instead of making comments or weird looks, try to respect these individuals and their unique way of communicating.

Laughter. Most of all, I have learned to laugh. If I wasn't able to laugh, I wouldn't make it through a day as a teacher. Not only that, but these little souls are sometimes the sweetest, most giggly & happy children you will ever meet. I can't tell you how many hours I spent laughing just with Chase as he would make silly faces at me or just laugh for seemingly no reason at all.

And really, what is life if you can't spend it laughing?

Spring Break Sale!

Celebrating the beginning of my Spring Break with a 20% off sale over at my TPT! Click the picture above to check out my store and grab some goodies for your special learners! :)

Also, don't forget to enter our giveaway HERE!

A Very *Special* Giveaway!

Huge thanks to Sara over at Miss B's Special Education Classroom for including me in this giveaway! My very first!! :)

I'm teaming up with these two amazing special education teachers to give you some pretty awesome goodies!

The lucky winner will win some wonderful prizes!
You can win the following:

from Katherine Lang

from Miss B's Special Education Classroom

from Kayla Coffman

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy World Down Syndrome Day!

Grab a kleenex and smile along with me. My students with Down Syndrome are some of the most wonderful, shining, sweetest people I have ever met. There are many days I feel blessed to have them in my everyday life. :)

Happy Friday y'all! :)

Learning To Read: PCI Reading Program

One of the tough things about being a special education teacher is that we don't have a total comprehensive program to teach our kiddos how to read. I wish that I was given a "curriculum" to go by with my little guys, but there isn't (yet!).

One of the many things I use to teach my students to read is also one of my absolute favorite programs to date. My senior year of college I was at the Council for Exceptional Children Conference in Nashville and saw the PCI Reading Program being demonstrated. I wanted that thing for my first 2 years of teaching and once I moved back to Ohio, I was able to get that baby through my district! *Insert happy dance*
All the goodies that come in level one!

What We've Been Up To...

This has been one seriously LONG winter y'all. I know living in Ohio that winter can be pretty rough but whew, I'm so done with this one. My kiddos have all started to really go stir crazy and need some nice weather to go run around outside and let out some of the ants in their pants!!

Back in December I said I was getting back to the blog, but obviously that was a lie. Christmas break came around and afterwards was a slew of snow days, new behaviors, meetings, and the daily fires to put out. I'm now scheduling myself at least one day a week to sit down and blog about new ideas and all of that. I love learning new things from all the blogs out there! Just another way to make myself a better teacher. :)

So here's what we've been up to since I last popped in...

Christmas counting by 10's practice

How CUTE did their elf applications turn out?!

Working on time through bingo is WAY more fun! :)

Some afternoon chores to help me keep the classroom clean!

Ahhh my favorite program: PCI Reading. A blog about this to come!

St. Patrick's day positional words practice, the love this thing!

St. Patrick's Day counting by 5's

Celebrating Read Across America!

Target dollar spot comes to the rescue again, making subtraction FUN!

Cuddle up and read day in matching skull jammies to end out Read Across America!

That's just a little of what's been going on in our room. I promise I'm not going anywhere this time! Happy Wednesday from snowy, cold Ohio!
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