Saturday, September 28, 2013

Parent-Teacher Conferences

October is the time for parent-teacher conferences! I have always had a love-hate relationship with these conferences. I really enjoy the opportunity to work and talk with my students' parents.  I love having parents come in and tell me that their child is loving school and has blossomed in my classroom. I love hearing how they have seen a change in their child, how their skills have improved, how they are happy to be in school again. 

However, I also get parents who couldn't care less about meeting with their child's teacher. Or - on the opposite end of the spectrum - I get parents who come into my classroom and attempt to dictate what I should and shouldn't teach. (No joke - I had a parent try to tell me what books I could and could not read aloud in my class!) I can already tell I have several parents like this in my class this year.

Conferences are next week and I'm trying not to stress. I have five conferences on Monday, three on Tuesday and that's just the start of them. I also have one IEP next week that I haven't even started writing goals for yet. Ah, the life of a special education teacher.

In order to ring in the conference season, I decided to FINALLY put up my first product on Teachers Pay Teachers. It's a conference take away handout that I created - especially for the fall season. (I will be adding one for spring conferences as soon as I have time!) Hope you enjoy it - it's FREE! To download it, click here

Happy conferences! Until next time...
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Sunday, September 15, 2013

SIPPS Program

General education teachers ask me a lot of questions about what kind of intervention programs I use in my classroom, specifically in the area of language arts. One program that I am particularly found of and use on a daily basis is Dr. John Shefelbine’s program, Systematic Instruction in Phonemic Awareness, Phonics and Sight Words (SIPPS). It is distributed and sold by The Developmental Studies Center here.

SIPPS is a program that targets both new and struggling readers and is used with students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The program offers a systemic approach to decoding that helps students gain reading fluency and comprehension. For younger students, the program provides structure and systemic lessons that beginning readers need. These structured and sequential lessons are particularly helpful for students with special needs. 

There are three levels to the  program - Beginning, Extension, and Challenge. I've used the Beginning level in my kindergarten SDC classroom for the last two years and just began using the Extension level with my 2nd/3rd grade SDC class this year. Even without prior use of this particular book, I was able to pick up the manual and start teaching the lessons on the first day. 
The thing I like most about the program is that each lesson is highly scripted. The teacher’s manual tells you exactly what the teacher should be saying and doing, as well as what the students’ response should be. This is great for when I have a substitute in my classroom. Even if they are unfamiliar with the SIPPS program, the sub could easily pick up the manual and teach the lesson with my students. This ensures that our daily routines are followed and that they continue with their expected lesson (this consistency is key in a special education classroom!)
I’ve been given the opportunity to attend a SIPPS refresher training this Monday, which I am very excited about. I will also be traveling to Sacramento later on this week for a SIPPS conference with Dr. John Shefelbine himself, which is amazing! I am a firm believer of this program and I’m excited to learn more. 
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Friday, September 13, 2013

Classroom Organization and Projects

Where does the time go? I can't believe that we are already half-way through September and that I've already been working over a month in my new job! I haven't been able to blog as much as I have wanted to because of work and graduate school but I'm trying to keep up!

I have found my students calming down (just a bit) and I am settling into my own at my new job. I don't feel like I have to search for another job at the moment and I am liking my school and district the more I participate and get involved. I am so relieved that - at least at this moment - the administrators, program specialists, and principal are behind the decisions I make. My principal has given me a few compliments, which I am very grateful for - I feel appreciated and welcomed at the school. It's a change that's been three years in the making.

I'm beginning to see positive changes in the kids. I'm very happy that they are settling into our daily routines and they understand that we mean business - very different from what was expected (or not expected) of them last year. 

I did want to post some more recent pictures of my classroom. Things are coming together. I still have one bulletin board that I am working on and I still have boxes and bags laying around that I would like to get organized and put away.

Here are some before and after photos - clearly, still a work in progress!

With the help of my aides, we got some more bulletin boards up - a news/information board for parents and a social studies board. 

Here are some more pictures of my classroom projects - trying to get organized!

Homework board 
My "junk corner" - need to get this organized ASAP! 
Working on getting this bookcase organized
We've been working a lot on guided writing with my students - and it's one of the few activities we do as a whole group. Each morning after our ELA centers, my kiddos take out their ELA composition notebooks and I give them a topic to write about. Yesterday was a hard day (behaviorally) for a few of my kids, so we tailored the writing to reflect that. My students dictated the sentences to me and I wrote them on a piece of chart paper. They crack me up sometimes. It's always the ones who have trouble behaving who can verbalize exactly what they need to work on. 

 Thinking Maps is also a program I use in my classroom - I will be dedicating a post all about them in the near future and how I use them with my students with special needs!

Writing portfolio wall
Classroom organization really is key in a special education classroom! I am so particular about my things and keeping things in order - it's borderline OCD! My friend Melissa over at The Adventures of Room 83 recently blogged about some drawers she bought at Big Lots. Knowing that Melissa shares my affinity in organization, I went to Big Lots this past week and picked up three sets of drawers for my classroom - one for each of our center areas. My aides and I - along with the help of our custodian - began putting the drawers together today. 

The final product
I know what I will be working on next week! Until next time...

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Using Technology to Motivate Students

I was recently introduced to the classroom behavior management tool, Class Dojo. I had heard about the program a while back but didn't know what it was exactly until I created an account and started playing around with it. I found out that it's behavior management software that allows students to accumulate points for good behavior and lose points for misbehavior.
Although I have a behavior management clip chart in my classroom and use a multitude of other incentives with my students with special needs, I've been struggling with my new class to find something that would work for all my kiddos. I'd been researching classroom token economies when a colleague of mine reminded me of this program. I thought I would check it out and see if it was a viable system to use in my SDC classroom.

It was incredibly easy to register and begin using the program on my iPad; they make you register from a computer but once your account is up and running, you can use it from an iPad or iPhone. I quickly put in my students names and could immediately begin to use the program.
Example of what class screen looks like
Once you have your class compiled, you can customize what you are going to give points for and what behaviors you're going to deduct points for. I changed their default behaviors to things I want my kids to be able to do in class - raise their hand to speak, stay in their seat while working, keep hands to self, use time wisely, etc. 
I think one of the great things about the program is that you can track student behaviors - both positive and negative and see which areas need to be improved upon. It also allows you to see what areas the classroom, as a whole, needs to work on. Class Dojo also allows parents to log-in to the website (using a unique ID number for each child) to see how their child is doing in the classroom. 
Teachers can use Class Dojo as a way for students to collect and accumulate points to earn themselves incentives and prizes. The program cuts down on the paperwork, the tickets, and the plastic coins of traditional token economies and streamlines it into a clean, user-friendly program for the iPad. 
I've created classroom posters that you can use in conjunction with Class Dojo. 

You can get a copy of them here. You can customize and edit it as you please - I just ask that if you use them and have a blog, please link back to my blog here! Thank you! (EDIT: I converted the PPT to PDF so that you guys can see the fonts that I used - it's all about the typography!)
Now, go get your Dojo on!
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