Sunday, May 22, 2016

Where to Start With Teaching Core Vocabulary

We all use core vocabulary in our daily lives. We say it, read it, think it... "How are you?" "I am good." "I want to play a game." "I need to eat lunch." "I need to go potty." These are phrases we say every day with basic words that just come naturally.

While those phrases may seem primitive and automatic in your daily social interactions, for some students with special needs, this is where we start: Core Vocabulary.
But where do you start? What words should you begin with and why?

Let's start with planning...

The goal of utilizing core vocabulary instruction is to give your nonverbal and limited verbal ability students the ability to express themselves independently. 

You want your instruction to be as methodical and as beneficial to your students as possible. This is nothing new to you as a teacher. This is how you plan all of your lessons, except when teaching core vocabulary instruction, you need to be even more attentive to the needs of your students.

Determining which words to begin with can be challenging. If you Google Search core vocab lists, you'll find lots of articles and other already developed word lists... which, honestly, is kind of overwhelming. You'll notice that there is typically a lot of overlap in words from list to list (i.e., you'll notice a high percentage of the same words on many lists).
To help you out and save you a little bit of time in the beginning, here is a list of suggested words that I have developed and used to begin with when implementing core vocabulary instruction.

While it really begins with the child and his or her motivation to learn, you also need to remember to make the instruction and the learning meaningful to the individual. If the child is not motivated to learn new vocabulary, s/he may become frustrated and the instruction may become more challenging for both the teacher and the student.

Tips to remember when beginning Core Vocabulary Instruction (CVI)...

• The goal is not for the child to master the use of full sentences... in the beginning. You need to accept simple utterances, such as "I potty" or "want home" and interpret them in context.

• Communication is so much more than just words. There's body language, gestures, facial expressions... and you need to accept those, too, as the child communicating with you. CVI is not about making it more difficult for the student, it's about making the child independent... and if the child can effectively communicate with you by pointing to the bathroom that s/he needs to use the potty, accept that as a form of communication. As the child works more with CV and becomes more comfortable and confident in their AAC, you can then move to having the child express himself in that form.

• As with any skill you teach a child, you want to generalize the learning and the instruction. When my students are learning new CV, they are given multiple opportunities to use their knowledge across settings... in the special needs classroom, at lunch, in the inclusive setting, at home, at therapy in and out of school... everywhere.

• You can't just show a child a word and expect the child to learn it. You need to model and show the student what the word means... and what happens when they use that word. Reward them and give lots of praise! This is where highly rewarded activities work WONDERS with CV.

In Part 3 of this series, we will talk about Fringe Vocabulary.

You can read Read Part 1 to see how I have implemented CV in my classroom and daily activities to get students talking.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

What if a Shark Had a Party? ( Books Teachers Love )

Summer and sharks typically get grouped together. People go to the beach over summer vacation, and well, hate to break it to you, but sharks live in the ocean.

So for June, I always like to prep my students for their summer vacations and talk about sharks and all of the positive things about how important they are to our ecosystems, among other things. That's why I chose What if a Shark Had a Party?
First, let me remind you of what Books Teachers Love is. We are a group of 12 teacher-bloggers who bring 12 different read alouds to you each month, and then give you a chance to win a copy of 4 of the books we blogged about.
We are coming up on summer vacation, which is super exciting, but even teacher-bloggers want to relax over summer! This month's BTL will be the last post until we return in August, bigger and better than ever.
For my second book this month, I chose What if a Shark Had a Party? by Aleksei Bitskoff and Camilla de la Bedoyere.

I was super excited to be able to blog twice this month, because ya'll know how much I love sharks... and books! So a book about sharks is right up my alley. :)
Each 2-page spread asks a question like "what if a shark went to a water park?" or "what if a shark drove to school?"

I mean, realistically, man of these things would never happen. BUT it's a great book to get kids thinking outside of the box, and it's a great book for "what if" and problem / solution.
The biggest reason I love this book so much is that it includes real life picture of sharks and it gives them real life facts about sharks, which is amazing because you get the fiction and nonfiction!

You can grab this book here*:

At the end of the book is a 4-page Shark Gallery, showcasing many species of sharks and facts about each specie.

I like using this book at the end of the year because the kids are a little spent, and so am I... but boy do I get excited about sharks! And so do the kids! The topic of sharks really interests my students, at least enough to keep them engaged for Reading block. ;)
After reading this story and talking about different species of shark, we complete a can / have / are chart on sharks. Grab it FREE below.
At the end of the book is also a "The Parts of a Shark" spread. It labels the parts of a Great White Shark and tells a little information about each part. This leads us into labeling the parts of a shark.

This year, if we have time within our schedule (since we get out of school in early, early June), here are a few ideas I found on Pinterest that we may do:
{ Credit Link }
Enter to Winner's Choice of 4 books, which could include this book!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

An InLinkz Link-up

*affiliate link*

The Night Before Summer Vacation ( Books Teachers Love )

June means summer. Summer means vacation... and there's nothing better than summer vacation!

Except the waiting. and the packing. and the forgetting of stuff. usually lots of stuff.

I love reading The Night Before Summer Vacation with my students in June to remind them of all of the fun they're about to have this summer.
First, let me remind you of what Books Teachers Love is. We are a group of 12 teacher-bloggers who bring 12 different read alouds to you each month, and then give you a chance to win a copy of 4 of the books we blogged about.
We are coming up on summer vacation, which is super exciting, but even teacher-bloggers want to relax over summer! This month's BTL will be the last post until we return in August, bigger and better than ever.
 The first book I chose this month was The Night Before Summer Vacation.
It is a super adorable book by Natasha Wing ( illustrated by Julie Durrell ) that is about the excitement of packing for summer vacation, and the fun of remembering past vacations.

You can grab this book here*:

First, we will talk about different places we want to go on vacation. I'll probably use the projector to Google search for images of the places they name (i.e. the beach, Disney, Six Flags... you know, all of the normal places they love to go).
I can then transition that conversation in to a writing activity. Print pictures of the places they want to travel to, and have them write about it using the 5 W's.

{ Grab the Summer Vacation Writing FREE here. }

Here's a list of other ideas I will be creating and/or sending home with my students for their summer vacations:

Enter to Winner's Choice of 4 books, which could include this book!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

An InLinkz Link-up

*affiliate link*

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Erin Condren Lesson Planner Review

Ya'll... it's here. The day has come where I have decided that I need to be more organized.

Now I'm typically a very, very organized person. I know where most of everything is at all times, even in my classroom when I have 2 kids in specials, another at therapy, and another in the nurses office. I can keep all of that straight. But lesson plans... now they get the better of me.

Let me just say that I hate lesson planning. Yep, I'm a teacher and I hate lesson planning. I'm more of a fly by the seat of my pants (is that even the correct expression?) person when it comes to lesson planning. I'm notorious for mentally coming in to work on Monday and saying, "Let's do butterfly life cycle this week!" Now I'm so organized in every other aspect of my life, that I'm told I make it look easy and you'd never be able to tell. But I can tell.
So I ordered something to help me be more organized when it comes to lesson planning. Do you recognize the box?

Enter the new and improved, Erin Condren Lesson Planner.*
I've always loved the presentation of your goodies when you open the box. The EC Team really takes the time to make you feel like they appreciate you.
Okay, so I ordered a little bit more than just a lesson planner. :) Let's take a look!
This is my second lesson planner and I'm on my second life planner... and I have always wanted to try these pens out, but I've never purchased them. So I did this time, and I'm pretty excited about it.

I tried them our briefly to write my name in each color, and they are very similar to Flair pens.
Now since you get A LOT of stickers in your lesson planner (without paying extra for them), I didn't want to order more stickers or customized stickers. I can make them myself and save money.

But one thing I did want to try out was these sticky corner pockets. They are absolutely precious, and I can see how they will definitely come in handy to keep track of the multiple To Do lists I have going on at one time - all the time.
And I had to order matching notepads with my name on them. I still have the ones I ordered from my original lesson planner, but there isn't much paper left. So these will definitely get used. I like that they come with sticky spots on the back so you can insert them into your lesson planner if you want.
Let me just take a minute to laugh for a second - LOL! This shirt is the reason why I ordered all of the extra stuff. It was free when I spent $100, so of course... I spent $100 to get this free, adorable t-shirt.

It's super soft and is loose fitting. It'll be perfect for casual Fridays!
There she is in all of her glory! The new and improved Erin Condren Lesson Planner.

The cover is customizable to add your name and school, and you can also buy extra covers to switch them out if you like.
Among other things before it, you'll find the year at a glance at the beginning of the planner. I really like this aspect of it because...
... it leads right in to your calendar.

One of the new features is being able to start your calendar with any month you choose. Since we start school in August, naturally I chose August as my starting month. So my calendar goes from August to July.
There are inspirational teacher quotes between each calendar. You could easily turn these in to posters when you're finished using the lesson planner at the end of the school year.
After your full 12-month calendar spreads, you get to the lesson planning pages!

I like that they are after the calendar. Now I won't need to use paper clips to keep my page. I'll be able to flip open right to the calendar or right to that week's lesson plans.
At the end, you'll find a dual-sided folder. It's bound in to your lesson planner, so it won't fall out. It's made of thick material, so it shouldn't tear or bend easily.

It's also full of color and absolutely gorgeous and functional.
After the folder comes another customizable aspect of the planner. These are sheet/page protectors. You can pay a few more dollars to add more of these, which is what I did to get 3.

I paid to get a few extra so I can include my classroom schedule, student schedules, and other important information that I might need as I'm lesson planning... but probably don't always bring home with me.
I also bought an acrylic stand for my lesson planner. Wohoo! I had a $10 off coupon, so it was free (at least that's what I keep telling myself)... and I figured if I could display my planner, it might make me want to actually use it throughout the whole school year and not just the first few weeks. :)

So I mentioned I had a $10 off coupon. Well I have one for you if you'd like to order your very own Erin Condren Lesson Planner. Simply click on THIS LINK* to take you there.

*This blog post was not endorsed by Erin Condren and I was not compensated for writing this post. Any opinions within this post are my own. Any link within this post is an affiliate/referral link.*

Monday, April 25, 2016

iPad Apps for Guided Reading {Smashing Strategies}

The teaching world has come a long way with technology since I was in elementary school... I remember asking to stay in for recess to get computer time just so I could play The Oregon Trail... those were the days.

Today, many classrooms have a set of classroom computers and some very lucky teachers are 1:1 with technology.

Last May, I won a grant through my school district to purchase 4 iPad Minis for my life skills classroom. So since September, we have been very fortunate enough to have 4 classroom computers and 5 classroom iPads to accommodate 7 students.
Before purchasing the iPads with the grant, I searched and trialed and bought some apps on my personal iPad to make sure I was going to get the most out of my classroom iPads. Here's a list I created and shared. Those apps continue to be beneficial to my classroom, but are not necessarily beneficial when it comes to Guided Reading.
Since many of my students require moderate to intensive 1:1 attention, utilizing the iPads is frequently a life saver. Here is a list of 5 apps I use with my students during Guided Reading rotations.
Rhyme to Read
This set of books within the app are fantastic. There are a total of 20 books within the app that you can purchase as in-app purchases or you can purchase them all at once (which makes it great for school POs).
The program emphasizes on word families, which are all color coded in the app. Plus the books build on one another as your child moves through them and masters specific word families.
Disney Storytime
I love this app simply because my kids love it... and it reads to my kids while highlighting the word as it's read, modeling how to read. Students know the characters and the stories, so they are always of high interest to my students.

I'm pretty sure you only get one free story with the free download, and after that each book is a few dollars. I've only purchased 4 books for my students (all of which were purchased as an incentive to complete work), so it's worked both ways for me.
 Once a student selects a story, the child can choose to have the app read the story to him or her... or "read it myself".
When the story is read to the child, the word is highlighted as it's read. I love this part because it helps to model reading for my students.

Bob's Books
If you haven't heard of Bob's Books you may be living under a rock. Did you know the program has apps now too?! I love these apps... so much that I own all three apps created by Bob. I typically have students work in one of these apps two times per week and I will rotate through the apps so they don't get bored.

App 1 is for great for early-stage readers. App 2 works on words and letter sounds. App 3 includes games and works with 30 of the most common Kinder-level sight words, having students read and spell them as they work through the app.
 This is the first story inside of App #1. I like that the story stays black and white until the child works through the page. They click on the words to have it read to them, and to read the sentence.
Some words come with a fun game to play while they read, which helps reinforce spelling and letter sounds (since the app sounds out each letter as they put the word together).
Once they finish reading the page, the page comes to life! The image moves and shows a pictoral representation of the sentence they just read.
PhotoTouch Sight Words
This is a great app to practice sight word recognition. The app presents 3+ sight words, telling you to find a certain word. The student chooses the correct answer and the app congratulates the student. If the student chooses incorrectly, it makes a noise (no words) to let the student know that choice is incorrect and to try again.
As the child gets more and more sight words correct, more answer choices become available for the student to decipher between.
PhotoTouch ABC
If your students aren't quite ready for sight words, you'll want to try this app for alphabet recognition.
It's made by the same app designers as the sight word app, so it works the same. Students are present with 3 alphabet letters to start, and as they progressively get more correct, they get more answer choices to choose between. 

What are your favorite apps to use in your classroom for reading / language arts?

I was compensated for including app choice #1, but all opinions are my own. App choices 2-5 were chosen by me and included based on my honest opinion. I was not compensated for apps 2-5.