Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I hope that all my readers and supporters have a wonderful Christmas that's spent with family and friends!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Door Decorating Contest

My work had their first annual door decorating contest this year. I spent an afternoon about a week and a half ago preparing my door for the contest, basing it off one of my favorite holiday movies - "Elf" (starring Will Ferrel). 

Unfortunately, my door didn't win the contest. (I'm pretty sure the contest was rigged.) But I had fun…and I guess that's what counts?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Student Loans SUCK

So, one of the reasons I have been so busy the last few months is probably because I've applied (and accepted) part-time tutoring positions with three different tutoring companies. I'm a contracted tutor (which means I can pick and choose which jobs I want to take). I can make my own hours (after working a full day in the classroom) and can pick the areas I want to tutor in.

Right now, I've got four clients with one company and am tutoring 4-8 hours per week, outside of my regular work commitments as a full-time teacher.

My mom was a little concerned that I was stretching myself too thin with all of the additional work. (But with my student loans entering repayment, I'm in desperate need of some additional funds!) So after a talk with my step-dad, they agreed that they would pay for me to get my notary license. My mom recently had to get some documents notarized and was talking to the women who came by to notarize the paperwork. Apparently, you can get pretty decent wages working as a notary. She thought it might be a good alternative to having to work so many part-time jobs.

So, starting next month, I will begin my classes to get my notary license (thanks to my wonderful parents!)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Holiday Hustlin'

Deep breath in. Exhale. It's finally winter break and I feel that I finally have time to catch my breath and catch up on a month's worth of blog entries that never made it online!

My classroom has been on hyper-speed for the last three weeks, since returning from Thanksgiving break. I had two new students start in my classroom - including one student that seriously pushed me to my limits. I had a triennial IEP that had to get rescheduled…twice. Add the stress of being a BTSA mentor teacher and support provider, three school-wide winter program performances, a technology night I had to present at, and the craziness that a classroom winter party brings (along with the detailed coordination of a classroom Secret Santa gift exchange), and you have some idea of what I've been dealing with over the last couple of weeks.

But at least my classroom looked amazing through all the hustle and bustle! (This is my favorite time of year - especially when it comes to decorating my classroom!)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Keeping It Fresh

Not every teacher is going to be perfect.

I had to admit that to my OCD, anal-retentive self during my first year of teaching. Although I prize myself on my organizational skills and ability to create marvelous art projects out of a toilet paper roll, I do fall short in other areas.

Keeping up my classroom bulletin boards is one such pitfall. I lack the time (both to prepare what goes on the board and the time it takes to actually staple or put the projects/work up on the board) to keep changing my boards on a regular basis. I'm lucky if I get a few changes up each month. 

We have a writing portfolio wall which we produce writing samples for every Friday. This helps keep "fresh" work on the walls. 

Our science and social studies boards tend to revolve around our thematic units - some which take a couple weeks to get through. Work is put up at the beginning of a unit and taken down at the end.

And then there's my dreaded math board - the bane of my (bulletin board) existence! We started using Eureka Math this year which is a great program but there are a lot of hands-on activities - activities where my students are using manipulatives or whiteboards. I can't very well post those. 

So I started this week by asking my aides to review one of the "application problems" with their grade level group and have the students solve a similar problem. The activity turned out pretty good - it provided students who were struggling with particular concepts an additional opportunity for practice, while giving those that had it down the opportunity to be peer coaches (something my behavioral students really need!) 

Here's what our end product looked like…

It may not be "cutesy" or something out of Lakeshore Learning's catalog, but - for our classroom - it works.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's the first day of my week off and I just wanted to share some awesome projects that my kiddos completed in our classroom last week before leaving for our Thanksgiving break.

Our first craft was a corn husk wreath. We started by outlining the templates on construction paper which the students then cut out. On the cut-out corn pieces, they took Q-tips and blotted the pieces with paint (red, brown, orange, and yellow). Once they were semi-dry, we glued the corn pieces to the green husks. After that, we glued the pieces to the back of the paper plate and let them dry.

Our next craft was some pilgrim boys and girls - again using my favorite cheap dollar tree supply, paper plates! The kiddos had to cut out the construction paper pieces (we had prepped the paper plates already) and glue the pieces together. I think they turned out pretty cool...

Have a great Thanksgiving! I hope all my teacher readers are enjoying their time off from work!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


My friend Melissa over at The Autism Adventures of Room 83 texted me the other day and told me I had to check out TPT as I was featured on their home page as a teacher-author.

I rushed to my computer and - low and behold - saw that I had a spot, front and center, on TPT's opening page! I was so excited!

Just wanted to share my 15 minutes of fame with y'all. Thank you supporters and fans of The Write Combo for helping me along my TPT journey!

Friday, October 17, 2014

New Tech!

I don't know if I say this enough but I love, love, love the district I work for - especially when they bring me new technology!

Not only did I receive a cabinet full of iPads (stay tuned for that post next week) but I also received a 60 inch TV to use in the classroom to mirror my iPad!

I was so excited when they rolled this bad boy in. Sixty beautiful inches of screen and endless possibilities! (Hello, movie time!) 

I'm kind of disappointed that I'm losing so much of my dry erase board (that's all I have!) But I'm thinking (er, hoping) that the TV compensates for the loss.

Stay tuned for pictures of when it's actually installed!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

TMI But Oh Well...

So I have been absent from the blogosphere over the last week or so because I've been inundated by sickness, ailment, and a whole battery of unwanted stress.

I was admitted to the ER last Wednesday by my primary doctor because he wanted to "rule out appendicitis". Several blood and urine tests later - along with several medications given in the ER and four prescriptions to take with me - they still couldn't identify why I was admitted with the severe pains. But the medications they had given me were providing some relief, so they sent me home on bed rest for the rest of the week.

So the weekend came and I was feeling well enough to attend my aunt's surprise birthday party in Redlands with my family. Low and behold, my cousin (who was hosting the event) failed to mention his kids were sick with the stomach flu the day before and still had one sick the day of the party - and let the kids mingle with us adults. Fast forward to Sunday evening where I am draped around my toilet, hugging it like a pillow as I purge myself of everything I had eaten earlier that evening. Thanks, cuz.

Monday and Tuesday were spent either in bed or throwing up in the toilet - from both ends. It was HORRIBLE. I had a fever of 101 degrees and all the vomiting and dancing bowels had me dehydrated. I wasn't eating anything. Not very fun.

I went into work today (against my better judgment) only because I didn't want to miss my pre-observation conference prior to school starting today. Aren't I a great employee? Tonight, I am feeling only minimally better than I had been all day today…at least well enough to get this tale down onto my blog. 

I will be back to regular posts as soon as I can manage, friends. Stick with me!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Halloween Haul!

I love Halloween! I love Halloween Giveaways even better. Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs - one of my FAVORITE designers - is giving away some Halloween goodies on Facebook.

She's giving away some major Halloween goodies - a $150 value! Although I never win anything (ever), I decided to enter her giveaway. You can too by checking out the giveaway details on her Facebook page here. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Writers' Workshop - Where Do I Begin?

One of the many new programs that my district is implementing this year is Writers' Workshop and Lucy Calkins' units of study for writing.

While I was excited to jump in and (attempt to) try this program with my students, I wasn't sure where to begin…even with the three days of professional development that I had to attend. How does one even start this program? Let alone launch it with a group of students who aren't at grade level and have had few independent writing opportunities?

I started with the thought that I had to get myself - and the kiddos - organized. This meant putting together folders that they'd be working out of for the rest of the semester.

I started buying products from Teachers Pay Teachers left and right in order to supplement the unit materials and to help organize my students' writing folders that we threw together (literally!) I've found a few resources that have really helped my students get organized.

The first is The Wise Owl's Launching Writers Workshop - Set Up and Routines product. This was a great help when my staff and I were assembling our students' writing folders prior to our launch. She had a lot of folder inserts that we ended up using - including a monthly "word list" of commonly used words for each given month.

I also purchased Luv 2 Teach K's Writing Workshop - Individual Writing Office Folder. This also had multiple pages that I used for inserts into the students' folders - including pages for digraphs and blends.

We have yet to get into the unit of study and the "official" lesson plans…but I have launched our workshop and the kids have really enjoyed the time they get to write. At this point, we let them pick their first writing topic (after doing some group brainstorming) and they've been busy completing a first draft.

I have some kiddos who STRUGGLE with writing independently and we've been letting these guys use sentence frames to start out. My next BIG task is tackling how to adapt Lucy's lessons to best fit the needs of my particular group of students…especially those who struggle with producing independent writing samples. Challenge accepted!

Do you use writers' workshop? How do you best adapt the formal curriculum to fit the needs of non-independent writers?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Do you Dojo?

I've blogged before (see this post) about using the app Class Dojo in the classroom. It's an amazing classroom management app that focuses on increased participation and motivation among students. I use it in my 2nd/3rd grade combo classroom and my kiddos love it!

This week, I got the opportunity to teach other teachers in my district about this app and how it helps with classroom management at any grade level. We had teachers from elementary and middle school at this professional development session and it was great to hear that even the middle school teachers could see the benefits of using Class Dojo in their classrooms.

I love that I'm a "Class Dojo Mentor" and that I have the opportunity to share Class Dojo to other teachers who might be wondering how to get their students engaged and motivated to learn.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Focus on Fairy Tales

I've been trying quite a few things in my classroom this year. One of my new classroom projects is having a "focus wall." For the first few weeks of school, my focus wall was centered around our classroom rules and "how to be a great student."

This month, we are starting our unit on fairy tales so I decided to change our focus wall to reflect our new material. First up to bat is our dearest Cinderella...

I found these wonderful genre posters on TPT for FREE - got to love that! I printed them all out, laminated them, and will be using them this year.

And finally, some vocabulary words to go with our unit! I tried to pick words I thought the kiddos didn't know or couldn't figure out with context clues.

Do you use focus walls in your classroom? How do you use them and what do they look like?

Monday, September 1, 2014

CCSS and What?

So like many of you, I am one of many special education teachers across the U.S. trying to navigate the jungle that is known as CCSS. When I first learned about CCSS several years ago and the move toward a more cohesive standards approach, I was overwhelmed to say the least. Three years later, not much has changed.

While I've learned a bit more about the CCSS and how it directly affects my students with special needs, I still see a huge gap between what the school district's expect with implementation of CCSS and the realities of implementing such in a special education classroom. Has anybody else come to the same realization?

We began implementing CCSS in my classroom last year and have slowly been finding ways to modify what is expected into something more tangible and realistic for my kiddos.

This year, I started something new - posting CCSS objectives on my front board and discussing our learning objectives in kid-friendly language. I found some objectives headers on Teachers Pay Teachers (which I cannot find now that I wanna share them!)  I posted the headers on my front board, along with some sheet protectors. Inside the sheet protectors, I've placed "kid-friendly" learning objectives for the day/week. Next to the objectives, I have pocket charts with the Common Core standards for both my 2nd and 3rd grade students.

My students have enjoyed reading the objectives and learning about what they're going to be working on each week. We review these objectives each morning during calendar routine and throughout the day - specifically when we get into our small group centers. I try to bring back each activity we do and tie it into an objective.

I hope that the kids get something out of this (and get excited about learning!) and that they might take a little bit of this knowledge home with them. And maybe it will bring us a little closer to meeting those standards in the classroom.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sweet Treats for All!

It's that time of year again - a new school year and a new theme for my classroom!

After having a jungle theme for the last two years, this summer I realized I needed to change things up. So I invested in some new classroom decor and started making what I didn't have. 

Here's a quick tour...

My humble classroom
My front board with our calendar routine
My "sweet treats themed" clip chart 
Our daily schedule

You know it's a good first week back to school when you can get a whole group lesson in with very little distractions/disruptions from the kiddos. We read David Goes to School by David Shannon - a book the kids loved. We had a discussion (that went with our classroom rules and expectations) about what kind of boy David was. We created a graphic organizer together (that the kids copied onto worksheets of their own).

After creating our graphic organizers, the kids used them to create their own writing with them. Here's a sample of what one of my kiddos came up with.

After our writing we completed a David craft - the kids LOVED this! As with most art projects we complete in our classroom, I enjoyed how each one turns out a little bit different and unique.

We also completed portraits during our first week of school. I have a very artistic bunch of kids this year!

I made these for my clock as well - my kids love our unit on telling time and these visuals help them with identifying the minutes.

 I also found this FREEBIE on Teachers Pay Teachers - I printed it out and laminated and we will be using it as our classroom rules for this year. I like how each rule was positively stated.

One of the many things I did for my classroom this year - I changed the desk configuration around! My teacher's desk used to be by the front dry erase board and the students' desks were in a u-shape. We'll see how this configuration goes.

We also use Class Dojo in my classroom - an app and computer website that facilitates classroom management (a must in any special education classroom!) I created these posters for the classroom token economy that goes along with the Dojo points; students can "buy" prizes once they reach 20 points.