Monday, August 15, 2016

Old Black Fly ( Books Teachers Love )

Books Teachers Love is BACK! And we are so excited to kick off the celebration to another school year by sharing 12 of our favorite read alouds with you.
As a quick reminder of how it works, Books Teachers Love is a group of 12 teacher bloggers who all share a love of reading and of children's books. On the 15th of every month, we each share our favorite children's book for the upcoming month, giving you lesson ideas and sometimes freebies. Yep, free stuff!
Old Black Fly is a story about a mischievous, old black fly that has a very bad day flying through the alphabet.
The human characters in this story chase the fly through the house, and the alphabet, as the old black fly coughs on everything from cookies to a parrot.

The illustrations in this story are magnificent and colorful, and the rhyming is superb and catchy. Your students will definitely be drawn to this book.
SPOILER ALERT: Especially once they see what happens in the end :)

You can find Old Black Fly here on Amazon*

This lesson is going to be a little backwards because we're going to have fun before we review... yeah, sometimes we do fun stuff in school. :)
I found an awesome pin that gave me the inspiration to create this activity for my students. Each student will get one alphabet print out on white paper. I'll let them choose up to 5 colors of paint and I will squirt little dots of each color onto their white alphabet paper.
Then I'll give them the fly swatter and let them have fun swatting the colorful "flies".
While our swatted flies are drying, we are going to begin reviewing Old Black Fly by sequencing the events in the story, as well the letters of the alphabet at the same time. I love having students sequencing events because it's such an important skill.
We will use these Old Black Fly sequencing cards to do that. Once we've put the story back in order, we can begin gluing the story pieces on to our swatted flies.
The end product will look something like this! I think my students are really going to like this, because let's be honest... kids love to paint... and if you're letting them splatter paint, oh man. #bestteachereveraward

Now is your chance to be our monthly winner and pick any 4 of the 12 books we suggested this month. Enter using the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This blog post contains affiliate links.

Friday, August 12, 2016

OOFOS Footwear for Back to School

The struggle is real ya'll... and I'm not just talking about getting my classroom set up for the new school year struggle. I'm talking about clothes and shoes shopping to replace a few items in my closet from last school year struggle (like those black pants that are now a nice shade of gray).

While the black-now-gray pants thing is a quick fix, shoes shopping is not. Well it wasn't. Enter OOFOS Footwear and prepare to have your life changed forever.
Let me tell you before anything else that I have lower back problems. I injured my back on a field trip 4 years ago, I've gone through physical therapy for it twice, and every once in awhile I get debilitating pain through my lower back and left leg. So when I buy shoes for every day wear, I have to take that into consideration.

When my OOFOS sandals and luxe clogs arrived, I was experiencing a mixture of excitement and nervousness. I was excited because deep down I knew these were going to be a game changer for me, but nervous because the last thing I want is to be locked down on a couch in serious pain.
You should know that OOFOS footbed is designed with tremendous arch support to take the pressure off of ankles, knees and hips, as well as your lower back. And the OOfoam absorbs more shock than the traditional foam, which helps to provide your feet and joints with relief and a chance to recover.

So less than a minute later, after putting on the sandals, all of the nervousness subsided. I started walking around my house in them and noticed an immediate difference between the shoes I was wearing and the OOFOS sandals.
I switched between the clogs and the sandals daily while working in my classroom. In those 2 weeks, I climbed ladders, I stood on desks (shh... don't tell!), I squatted, and I walked endless miles of hallway.

And at the end of every day, neither my feet nor my back hurt. At all. Just ask my husband, because on any typical school evening, he is massaging my feet or back because I'm in pain. He deserves an award... and so does OOFOS.
The flip flops are my absolute favorite!

If you aren't quite sold yet on giving OOFOS a try, OOFOS is letting me give away 3 pairs of winner's choice sandals or clogs!
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Helping Special Needs Parents Stay Organized

I am very fortunate to work in a school with very supportive parents. If a child is in need of something, the parents are on top of it right away, which helps not only the child, but me as the child's teacher.

A few weeks ago I was thinking about how I can return the favor and help them out. How can I support them as special needs parents? So I created a Parent IEP Binder.
My thought behind this all-inclusive binder was, "Hey, I have a caseload binder... my students have individual binders... I am sure that parents would benefit from having a binder too!" The complete IEP Binder for parents is a simple, effective organizational tool to keep all of a child's important IEP information in one, organized place.

As the most important advocate for a child, they too know how overwhelming all of the paperwork and special education jargon can be. Parents no longer need to feel stressed about a meeting, because they'll have all they need in one systematic place. The parents can fully concentrate on the meeting, making the meeting more meaningful to both the parent, the child, and the IEP Team.
I honestly think that a special needs parent deals with more paperwork than any special education teacher does. They go to doctors appointments, outside therapies, and well they are the parent of a child with special needs. No one knows a student better than the parent does. 

Not only are there places to keep track of a child's most up-to-date IEP information, it includes editable tabs for them to individual the binder to their specific needs.
The binder gives suggestions for accommodations and modifications, as well as a reminder of what each is. They can keep track of evaluation timelines and IEP due dates, as well as literally everything else that comes with special education services.
It comes with a support system that matches nothing else too.

Not only does it help them keep school information organized, but all outside paperwork organized in one place. This is great for IEP meetings too, because sometimes a parent has found success with something outside of school that the school may need assistance with. If a parent has their binder with them, they can easily flip through the binder to give direct supports to the school.
And let's not even get started on acronyms. As a special education teacher, acronyms stress me out a little bit because there are so. many. letters. We can honestly hold conversations in letters, so I know that parents must feel very overwhelmed when we throw out those acronyms in an IEP or ARD meeting.

This list of Special Ed Acronyms Every Parent Should Know was shared in a previous blog post, so don't forget to grab the free list there.

Suggestions for Parent IEP Binder implementation:
• Create a very small parent IEP binder and hand it out to all of your parents at the beginning of the school year.
• Let parents know that there is support out there for them. Point them in the direction of this binder so they can (or not) put this binder together to get organized.
How do you support your special needs parents?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Classroom Must Haves from

Teachers are always searching for different ways to keep ourselves, our students, and our classrooms organized. We love our tried and true methods, but we're always up for something new too. is quickly becoming one of my go to places for school supplies and organization, in the non-traditional sense. Let me show you why you need to start thinking of them when you're in school shopping mode.

*PS. Make sure you read to the end. *hint hint*
These magnetic storage pockets not only come in adorable colors that match my calendar center, but they are a lot larger than I expected.
Last year, to store all of our calendar pieces, I used those smaller magnetic cups. I would set the days of the week pieces on the ledge because they didn't fit. These magnetic pockets hold them! #ohsnap
The tops do Velcro (as you can see in the previous picture on the red and green pockets), but for the ones that I am using to store my calendar pieces, I just tucked it inside of the actual pocket since I will be using it everyday.

The Velcro is super strong too... like industrial strong, so when I go to pack up at the end of next year, I won't lose any pieces... and now I don't have to waste baggies on storing them.

When I first opened this, my immediate thought was... "this would make the perfect birthday chair cover!" You could put special birthday pencils, pens, all those special supplies in it (like Mr. Sketch markers!) and students would come in the morning of their birthday to this special surprise!
Then I put it on the back of one of my student's chairs and fell even more in love with it. Not only does this student utilize a core board that we struggle to fit in his desk in an organized manner, but we have certain things (like his blue body sock) that are specifically for his use only.

It fit on the larger chairs and the medium-sized chairs with no problem. Pictured is the medium-sized chair.
So now this student will have a special Chairback Buddy to help him stay more organized! School supplies haven't been delivered yet, so once they come all of his supplies will be added to the front.

It's made of a thick, sturdy material that seems like it will be super easy to throw in the wash or wipe down. I'm thinking this might be a huge must have for special education teachers...

By now your should know that my classroom is colored coded, well... then you already know that I would absolutely fall for these storage totes.
The boxes are a decent size - perfect size actually, to store on top of a cabinet or closet without the Fire Marshall dinging you for breaking fire code.
While I was organizing something else, my husband folded these boxes and put them together for me. They were super simple to put together (it took him all but 10 minutes to put all 6 together) and I really like that they have the box handles built in.
The obvious use is storing things, right? That's a given. At the end of the year, I plan on storing all of my stuff ... by my color coded system. #TypeAteacher
To give you a good size perspective, they are just a tad smaller (and more durable WITH handles!) than copy paper ream boxes... I was able to fit 2 entire month's worth of my adapted books inside of one box. That's 36 books people!

But my plan for these goes much deeper than plain ole' storage. Sure, by the end of the year we will be using them for storage, but at the beginning of the year... oh boy! Get ready for it...
To start out school and through the fall season, we're going to use them to increase our gross motor skills. Because these boxes are made of a thicker cardboard, they will be durable enough to withstand being picked up, carried, stacked, target practiced and hole in oned.

The last thing isn't necessarily a classroom organization tool... but they are so easy to store because they don't take up much space - Dry Erase Answer Paddles!

I am so so SO excited to try these out in my classroom since it's not something you would think to order when you're placing your supply order for a self-contained special education classroom, right?! WRONG.

My kids love writing with dry erase markers. We write on the tables, our classroom easel, and the front board (that one is a huge reward incentive)... but I am always looking for more ways to get creative and get my students moving around, even if it's at their seats.
We are going to get some serious motor practice going on with these... from writing on them with dry erase markers to picking them up off of the table and holding them in the air for a designated amount of time (to practice wait time and patience).

These paddles are a great reminder to think outside of the box when it comes to ordering classroom supplies for your special needs classroom, and is here to help you do that.
If you would like to order any of these school supply items, or anything else school related, above is a 15% off code to help you save up to $100.

*This is a sponsored blog post, but all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The First 2 Weeks in a Self-Contained SPED Classroom

The first two weeks of schools are critical in any classroom... especially in a special needs classroom.

We need to be on our game all. the. time - visual schedules ready, intentional and functional activities planned, and so much more than what actually gets written on our lesson plans.

Going in to my third year in Life Skills, though, it took me a few days to figure out what I wanted to focus on during the first two weeks of school. Like I said... functional and intentional.

The first thing I did when I was ready to start planning for the first two weeks of school was grab my Erin Condren Lesson Planner. You can read my review here and see the stickers here. It counts as my personal "functional".

I printed my district's calendar and put all of those dates in my planner first. I like to be prepared and I only like to do this once, so it's always nice to get that tedious task finished at the beginning of the school year.

My next step in planning was decided WHAT I wanted my students to practice for the first two weeks. What skills do we need to recoup and relearn, and what new skills can I introduce for us to generalize as the year progresses? So I made a list for each subject.
Core vocabulary is definitely the must have, must do, top priority. With nonverbal students in my classroom, this will be a huge focus for the first two weeks, and all year.

Read here about the core vocabulary activities we will be re-practicing during the first two weeks.
Of course the first thing I thought about what books I wanted to read with my students during the first two weeks. I love books, so this was the most exciting part!

And it's pretty much a given that we will be working with that pesky Old Lady who likes to eat everything. I will start with when she eats a shell and then do books the second week.

Something else we will be working on is obviously reading. Reading signs, reading classroom labels, reading each other's names, and of course reading books!
I bought these labels from Just a Primary Girl because as soon as I saw them, a work box / work task came to mind. I am going to use them as a sorting task... a very large, yet fun... sorting task. I will give the students a few "labels" of things they want to sort (giving them the power), and then mix all of those things on the table.
...and then just let them go at it!
It will be a good fine motor activity for them to pick up the pieces off of the table, as well as a good work bin. I'm pretty excited about this!
I went on a math manipulatives shopping spree at Lakeshore Learning the other week. It was euphoric. One resource I picked up were these foam, magnetic numbers.

During the first two weeks we will be practicing the basics with numbers 0-20, just to take baseline data on where all of us are and where we need to start off in relation to our IEP goals.

I will have them identify numbers and sequence them.
Then we will get out some counters to practice our 1:1 correspondence.
I really like these counters because they are stacking counters. They come in a couple of colors in the bin, which is nice. I can divide them up based on students' colors.
We will continue sequencing numbers with some picture puzzles... these ones can go up to 20 (I think), so I can have them work on 1-10 and 1-20. Differentiation!
Another really fun number activity I am so excited to play with my kids is this orange basket game. The kids take turns rolling a dice and counting oranges. The first to fill up their basket wins.
I was kind of worried about how small the die was, so I picked up a set of larger colored die. They're the perfect size for motor practice too, so we will definitely get our uses out of these babies!
And in true over-planner nature, I have these file folder games as a backup.
I picked up Meet Miss Parker's Number Sense bundle during the last TPT sale specifically because it works with numbers 0-20 and incorporates technology (something that my higher students will really enjoy).
I'm most excited about these 10 frames though because it's instant differentiation. Towards the end of the second week, we will *hopefully* be getting back into the swing of things and ready to tackle school. The activities from MMP will be a great transition for us from practice and data collection to showing what we know.
But let's #realtalk for a minute... I am sure that 96% of everything I have planned, will not actually make it off of the lesson plan.

My first year in Life Skills I was given some great advice: "As long as the kids eat lunch and get home safely, that's a successful day." And honestly, we all have those days (in regular ed and special ed). So even if you've planned like crazy and it all falls apart, just remember that advice.

It doesn't make you any less of the amazing teacher that you are.