Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Systems Part 1: Data Binders!!!

Alright friends, I'm back in business...I'm working on a series of posts about different systems that I use - systems to help keep the kids organized, systems to keep teachers organized, systems that you might want to adapt and use in your classrooms.  So part 1 is all about....DATA BINDERS!!!  Now you may be thinking that those don't sound super interesting, but they are a critical part of being systematic with my kiddos and their IEP goals despite them being in a bunch of different rooms and each of them having a variety of adults who support them (myself, the general education teacher, service providers, and a variety of paraprofessionals).  I will take you on a little tour of my binder starting with the cover:

Inside I have a detailed sheet explaining my expectations for how to take data and when to submit the data to me.  This will, of course, be personalized for your class as your expectations are different, but if you want to take a peek at mine...just let me know!

THEN...I have a section in the binder for each student with a quick glance and data sheets.  Now I know you are asking, "can I see an example of those?" but unfortunately, all of mine are chock full of student information so I can't send them on to you.  You can look at the Quick Glance Template and Data Sheet Template on my TpT site - they are editable so you can customize them with information about your students!  They are best sellers on my site and they are on sale for this week only!  I use this data sheet for most of my students, but I do bring in different data sheets like Antecedent/Behavior/Consequence sheets or Scatter Plots when they are more appropriate.  Just giving you a starting place...

I also have a rule that we collect one work sample for each academic goal every week.  How do I keep track of those you ask?  With these handy Post-It notes that I created using Vistaprint!  We stick one on to the work sample with some notes about what sort of support students had on the assignment and then I know what I'm looking at when other staff members add samples to the binder.

In the back of the binder are the carbon copy of communication slips that go home.  Not all of my students are able to tell their parents what happened at school today so we use these slips to communicate that to parents.  The top copy goes home and the bottom copy stays with us.  I wish I could claim credit for these but they existed before I started at my school.

So that is my grand tour of my data binder!  Let me know if you have questions, suggestions, or if you'd like to have me feature a specific system on a future blog post.

Hoping this helps you out,


Saturday, September 21, 2013

One month in!

Wow!  One month in...it has been such a whirlwind!  Meeting my new students, teaching them routines, getting systems set up (behavior, communication, etc.) for kids who are having trouble interacting with the typical routines, having IEPs, meeting with parents, hiring and training new paraprofessionals, etc.  Oh yea, and teaching!  Sadly though, not blogging very much.  My apologies.  This week, I'm going to go through and take lots of pictures of the systems that I have set up for students for you to see.  Feel free to comment with your requests for specific systems you'd like to see.

Why the focus on systems?  Because some very brilliant people have spent a lot of time organizing and reorganizing the systematic way in which content and skills should be taught and have written them up as standards to guide instruction.  Inclusive special education has sometimes become a filtering down of those standards on a day-by-day or week-by-week basis.  I work with my colleagues to develop systematic instruction that connects with the general education curriculum but that has a strong strand of repetitive, systematic instruction as well.

Just a preview of coming attractions....can't wait for you all to see what I've been up to in the last month!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Back to School!!

Oh dear, I sort of disappeared, didn't I?  I wish I had a good reason, but I was really just having a wonderful, fun summer.  I spent lots of time with my little dog, went to the beach, went to the pool, cooked good food, saw movies, traveled (to Tel Aviv and the Bahamas), quilted, read good books, and just relaxed.  None of it seemed worthy of blogging about, but it has all made me so relaxed and ready for this next year of school.

Between all of my adventures and decadent time off, I did put a lot of time into this school year.  I worked 4 weeks of summer school and stayed late every day of summer school to get things ready for this new school year.  Because I span kindergarten and first grade, half of my students are familiar faces and getting their materials ready was fairly easy since I know the curriculum and I know them.  I got to meet a few of my kindergarten faces during summer school so I feel somewhat prepared for them.  I made picture schedules, collected fidgets, and spoke to all of my colleagues about their needs.  Tomorrow will be the true test of how well prepared I really am.........

Anyhow, I'm back to my blogging.  I'll take lots of pictures this year so that I can share all of my ideas with you.

Happy 2013-14 School Year!!!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

100th Follower Giveaway...And Happy July 4th!

While I creep along in my quest to hit 100 followers, I've joined in to celebrate with Lucy at Kids Math Teacher to celebrate her achievement of that goal!  Congrats Lucy!!

Head over there to enter her giveaway!  I've got some big plans for when I hit my 100 marker!!

Happy July 4th!!  What are you all doing with your time off?  I'm going up to the mountains for a nice long weekend.  I'm looking forward to watching the fireworks while eating watermelon sitting on the balcony.  Ahhh...relaxation!!


Saturday, June 29, 2013

My first Currently Linky!

Although one of my favorite linky parties to read about is the Currently Linky hosted by Farley over at Oh' Boy Fourth Grade, I have never participated.  I am so happy to be joining the crew.  All of you veteran Currently bloggers, let me know what you think!  I'm excited to join you.

So I'm listening to Pandora in my new car whenever I can!  I got a CR-V this week and it syncs up with the Pandora on my phone and that is just the coolest feature I think a car could ever come up with. I am loving many other aspects of my new car, but Pandora gets an extra smile from me!

I'm absolutely, without a doubt, 100%, completely loving this summer vacation.  This year was much harder than other years have been and I grew a lot as a professional this year, but it also makes me really appreciate some time for myself.  I have spent time with family, caught up with friends, planned lots of fun activities, cleaned through my condo to make some donations, cooked interesting food, snuggled with my pup, and rested!  I am trying to stay balanced and get a little work done, but I am so much enjoying this time for me.  There is a lot to love right now.

I am thinking about all of the wonderful, relaxing things yet to come this summer (a trip to the Bahamas!!) and also keeping one foot firmly planted in my summer school students and their needs and my eyes looking toward next year and how I can prepare.  I'm trying not to overdo anything this summer so I've been keeping lists (me...lists...no way!) to make sure that when summer ends, I am happy and well rested and well prepared for next year.

Because I have a tendency to focus on doing the necessary things now and relaxing later, I am wanting to make sure I make time for those wonderful activities that make me balanced and happy.  Spending time with friends, eating good food, doing new activities, resting, quilting, baking, all of those things that bring me to my zen place need to find their place in my to-do list for next year!

Are you seeing a theme here?  I need to make sure I stick to my promises to myself about relaxing!!

So my tips for getting that done?  A little bit of work and a little bit of fun every day!  It may be a little less adventurous when I plan out my fun time into a to-do list, but it makes sure that I am giving myself what I need and giving my future students what they need.  3 weeks in and I think it's been working really well so far.

What are you currently up to my fellow bloggers?


Thursday, June 13, 2013

An honor!

In this world of teaching where so much of what you do goes unseen by the world around you any appreciation and complements mean the world.  It's why I love reading the cards my students and their parents write at the end of the year - I get a glimpse into how they really feel about me even if it was primarily unspoken.  So imagine my surprise to be asked to be a "focus teacher" for Impatient Optimists - Bill and Melinda Gates' blog!

I was recommended by someone still unknown by me for my work in the classroom with my diverse students.  I don't have much more to say but that I am humbled beyond words and hopeful that reading this article makes others feel more comfortable approaching the CCSS with their diverse kiddos.  Happy Reading!


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Next Year Linky

What?  Next year?  Already?  Yup!!!  I'm linking up with Kim at Finding JOY in 6th Grade to set some goals for next year (that I hope you'll all hold me to)!  We are done with school on Friday so it seems more than appropriate timing for me.  When are you done?

The wonderful paraprofessionals that I work with take lots of data and collect work samples to supplement the time that I spend with students.  This is invaluable because I have four rooms and I bounce between them and inevitably, something exciting happens when I'm not there.  The data helps drive instruction and track progress toward IEP goals, but when I get in the room the first thing I want to do is spend time with the kids.  I need to get better at checking the data binder first!  I just get so excited about seeing where my little ones are and marveling at the progress they are making!!

At my K-8 school, we have some wonderful opportunities for big kids and little kids to connect and build relationships.  We have had a couple of kindergarten students who need help on the play yard - finding things to keep them busy, figuring out how to interact with their peers, solving little scuffles, etc.  We recruited some "big buddies" to hang out with groups of kindergarten students and help with those challenges, but having a more formal program next year would be fabulous!  The upper grade students (6-8th) have the same lunch time as the little ones (K-1st) so it works out well.  It makes lunch time so wonderful for kids who would struggle otherwise, so I want to make sure we have a great program next year!

Great things happen every day and I want to share them with you but I keep coming to the problem that there are no pictures to show you.  My cell phone is permanently attached to me so I just need to get better at taking those pictures to show you!

And then I'll be able to blog more examples of how I teach students with a variety of disabilities with my many diverse students who don't have disabilities.  I appreciate the supportive comments you've all given me, and it just makes me want to show you more!

What are you going to do next year??


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Adios National Boards

Alright, alright, I know I've included my National Boards in more than one past post, but this is hopefully one of the last posts on the topic! I took my comprehensive exam yesterday (the do-you-know-everything-about-special-ed test)!!! It was 3 hours, 6 essays on different topics and it was exhausting!!! I hope I was able to show everything I know on those essays!!

So that's it...for now! Sometime around Thanksgiving I'll find out how I did. You don't have to hear about it at all between now and then, I promise!

Is anyone out there starting in on the process now? If you WANT tips for getting through the process, I'm happy to share my wisdom! 

Feeling much lighter today!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Linking up to Share my Summer Bucket List

What?  Summer already?  We have 11 days of school left and most of the "big stuff" is all done.  I still owe you pictures from our fabulous Annual Project day, but for now, just trust me that it was amazing. This week we have "Buddy Days" where the future kindergarten students come visit for the afternoon and they get a campus tour from a current kindergarten student!  Just signs that the year is ending! So.......I'm joining the Summer Bucket List Linky Party over at Miss Kindergarten!

1. Yoga!  I know I shared how much yoga has been helping my recent back injury and I'm so excited to keep going and become stronger and healthier!

2. Read for fun!  I want to catch up on all those books sitting on my Kindle app just because it is fun for me.  Any recommendations for fun books to read?

3. Check off some Pinterest cooking/baking/DIY projects!  I got a lot of organizing done over Winter Break but I have pinned many things since then.  Top projects to complete: Finish my quilt and start a new one!  Which one do you like best?

4. Travel!  I'm going to see my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in Israel in June and a new cousin will be born while I'm there :).  I'm also going on a one week trip with my other grandmother to London just for fun.  My best friend and I always plan a trip - we're considering Florida and Oregon, what do you think?  AND I want to make it out to Texas to meet a dear friend's new addition!  That's a lot of time at the airport, eek!

5. Hit some milestones - 100 TpT products available.  100 blog followers. Any others I should aim for?

6. Do lots of fun things that aren't on my bucket list!  I just want to enjoy LA in the summertime and see friends and eat good food and relax by the water and hike.  Unexpected adventures are the goal!

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone else's plans for summer!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Budding Blog Linky Party

A Linky Party for Budding Bloggers? That sounds perfect for me! I can't believe I've been blogging nearly 2 months now. I have enjoyed it so much, I can't wait to connect with more amazing bloggers and make myself a better teacher!  So I'm linking up with Jess over at I {heart} Recess for her Budding Blog Linky Party!

1. Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging because my friend and colleague, Vanessa from Kindergarten Schmindergarten, kept raving about it and about the amazing people she was connecting with through their blogs.  I started two months ago when I had some time (thank you, spring break!) and I haven't looked back since.  I love it!

2. What is your favorite subject to teach and why?
I have a general education and a special education credential, but I LOVE being a special education teacher.  I have the opportunity to collaborate with some amazing general education teachers to figure out how to help all of our students access the curriculum.  For some students, this means providing them with some accommodations, but for other students this can be a complex puzzle with no easy answer, but after trying different options and learning about my individual students, it feels so wonderful to find the way that best meets their needs.

3. Describe your teaching style.
I believe every student can learn in a room with their peers.  The world we live in is a diverse place and learning to work together and value each other's strengths builds a community full of compassionate, resourceful people.  My little people know that everyone learns in their own way and at their own pace, but that everyone deserves respect for their hard work and everyone should be proud of their own achievements.
4. Give three interesting facts about you.
-I love traveling around the US (especially road tripping!), my best friend and I plan at least one trip every summer going to a new destination.  We haven't figured out our summer trip for this year yet...any ideas?
-I grew up in New England (4 years in Boston, 5 years in Connecticut, 9 years in Rhode Island) and no matter how many years I spend in LA, I will always be a New England girl at heart!
-I didn't learn how to whistle until I was in college.  That is not for a lack of trying, but it took me that long to figure it out!

5. Do you have a TpT store?
YES!  I have a TpT and a TN store.  Check them both out!

Looking forward to meeting other Budding Bloggers!


Word problems in action!

Sorry I've been MIA for a little while!  I hurt my back very badly a few months ago and I just started taking yoga classes to help me heal.  They are so amazing for my back that I go every chance I get so I've been neglecting my blog a bit - sorry!  I'm back now!

Do you remember my differentiated word problem curriculum (available at my TpT and TN stores)? I blogged about it here.  Well I finally have pictures for you of my kids working hard to solve word problems at their level.

This picture shows the book that most of my kindergarten students were using. It had a word problem with the key information underlined to help cue them in to it.

This picture shows a table of busy bees each with their own pile of word problems and their own solving book.  Each student could pick the problem they wanted to do next, glue it in their book, and solve away!

This student was so proud to show me that she found a problem with cookies in it!  That made her really excited to solve the problem!  Mmmmmm!

This student was able to read the text of the problem independently and was so proud to sound out the words to figure out how to solve.

These two friends were working side-by-side solving word problems at their own level.  You can see one student has a simplified problem, but they are good friends and wanted to solve problems sitting together and now they can despite their different academic levels.

I've had happy solvers for several weeks as we've been working on these books.  We are just about to do our post-assessment to determine how our students' scores went up over the course of this IWT cycle.  I think the results will be really exciting.

Off to yoga class again!


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Week and a Memorial Day Craft

I'm not sure why, but my school celebrates Teacher Appreciation Week at the end of May, but I'm still so excited for (and appreciative of) all of the amazing teachers out there who get to feel extra appreciated this week.  You all deserve it and a million times more!  I hope every teacher feels the love from students, families, colleagues, and the community. Entering this new bloggy world has connected me with even more teachers to appreciate.  So in honor of all teachers, I'm throwing a TpT sale!  (I know this is not an original idea, but this is one of those times that joining in the crowd is a GREAT idea!)

Starting tomorrow (Monday), everything in my store will be 15% off.  Enjoy stocking up on all of those products you have been eyeing.  You deserve it!

I also posted a new product for Memorial Day - a craft and writing assignment all in one bundle! Everything you need to make a wiggly star person waving an American flag is included in the first page. The next four pages are cute, Memorial Day themed writing pages (one is blank lines and the other three have different sentence starters.  Match this with a Brain Pop Jr video or a Memorial Day book, and you've got your Memorial Day lesson ready to go!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!!!!!


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

New TpT Seller!

I was chatting today with a dear friend and former colleague, Alexandra Marques (the extraordinary and fabulous) and she said "Have you ever heard of TpT?  You might find something there!"

Have I heard of it??? I'm addicted!!! I told her she should get her little self on TpT and start sharing her amazing tools with others.

A couple of hours later, Mrs. Marques has joined the TpT world!  She is a long time middle childhood teacher with great differentiation strategies and creative activities!  Check her out at her new store here.

Welcome, Alex!!!  Check her out and tell her I sent you :)


Monday, April 29, 2013

New Donors Choose Project

I am always so excited and full of anticipation when a new Donors Choose project gets posted.  I co-wrote a project with one of my kindergarten co-teachers for a listening center that we got funded very quickly and then my other kindergarten co-teacher asked to co-write a similar project with me.  So here is: Listen Up!  A Listening Center for All Students.  I hope this one gets funded quickly because we are  giving the kids a little preview of Daily 5 (before they start it for real in first grade) and a listening center will really help that along.  I am (of course, as any true Donors Choose addict would be) thinking of what future project I could write.  I am thinking of writing a project for a bunch of iPod touches so the kids can access edmoto during Daily 5 time to practice technology literacy.  Thoughts?

What is your favorite Donors Choose project that you've had funded?


Friday, April 26, 2013

Five for Friday for 4/26

I really look forward to joining up with Five for Friday every week now, it's such a nice way to process all of the wild and crazy things that happened to me during the week!  Thanks Doodle Bug Teaching for giving me this fun opportunity!

1. I SUBMITTED MY NATIONAL BOARD PORTFOLIO!!!!!!!!!  I know that the weekly updates have maybe not been the most fascinating part of my blog posts, but it has been very motivating to me to post for all of you to see where I'm at.  So the portfolio is 100% submitted.  I have my 3-hour test on May 24th so I've just got some studying left for that...

2. The great divvy!  How do you all figure out how to send students up to the next grade?  We just sat as the kindergarten team and hashed out our first draft of the class make ups for next year.  It is such a delicate balance of students' academic abilities, behavior challenges, students with IEPs, students who need high levels of intervention, English Language Learners, boys and girls, making sure everyone has a friend with them.  We all just sat in front of a Google Doc and moved kids names around until we felt like the lists were as balanced as possible.  Since I will be going up to first grade (in 2 of the classes), it was fun to see what my new classes will look like.  I'm always curious though, how you make your lists!  Please comment and share.

3. Sunshine!  You can take the girl out of New England, but you can't take the New England out of the girl!  I am so used to brutally cold winters and unbearably sweaty summers and that makes me most appreciative of the LA sunshine.  My sister and I went swimming last weekend and I definitely plan on doing the same this weekend.  We have this perfect, beautiful sunshine with no clouds that just warms you from the inside and makes you feel so cozy.

4. On that note...I spent a lot of time planting this week.  I have a mixture of flowers, herbs, and filler plants.  You can see a lot of basil, mint, rosemary, parsley, and thyme (my favorite fresh spices to use).  I'm also trying to grow tomatoes again (this is a yearly fight with the sun on my patio that I usually lose).  Then I just have some perky flowers that make me smile when I get home.  Everyday, I come home, cuddle with my little Harper in an oversized armchair staring at this beautiful scene.  I have had a black thumb my whole life so to be fairly productive in my garden now is a big accomplishment.  (Maybe that's because I used to garden in New England and now I'm doing it in LA...maybe?)

5. My coteacher and I posted a new Donors Choose project - it is very similar to one that I posted in conjunction with a different coteacher earlier in the year, but I'm still excited.  It's a listening center for my other kindergarten classroom and now that I wrote it up, I cannot wait to get these new books and all of the technology to back it up.  I'll link it up after it gets approved in case you're interested in donating :)

Have a great last week of April!!!!


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Word Problems: Differentiated for IWT!

Do you have IWT (Intensive Workshop Time) at your school?  We just started it up this year and we are definitely still figuring out how to make it work for our very diverse students because it is a really valuable intervention for some of our struggling students.  In kindergarten, we create IWT groups as our center groups and when students get to the teacher-led center, we give them their intervention time. That's not the traditional way to implement IWT, but it's an experiment we've tried the last couple of months and it's been going great.  Our next round is going to be all about word problems!  We have some students who are masters at word problems already and we have some students still struggling to use addition when they see + and to use subtraction when they see -.  How do we help them?  Differentiated instruction, of course!

I created a pre-assessment so we could appropriately place students into their IWT groupings - they had to answer addition and subtraction problems.  Then, they had to do a page of mixed problems.  Last, we gave them 2 word problems just to see if they knew how to do them.  You can see the grouping system we used at the bottom of the rubric.
So once they've been grouped, they each get their very own solving book to fill up with word problems!  I printed  up lots of copies of the solving page shown here and I used the booklet feature on our printer to make them little books.  Why solving books?  Students can choose which problems to solve in which order so they have maximum buy in - they chose their own problems!!  Also, students can work at the pace that is appropriate for them without "finishing" a page so quickly that they don't feel challenged or "not finishing" a page and feeling unsuccessful.  However many problems/pages they finish in a day is fabulous for them and they can feel good about it.

So now: the problems! I created four levels of problems so that all students can be challenged but not overwhelmed.  Here is the same problem at the four different levels so that you can see how I did that.

Students in the advanced group showed an ability to already solve word problems and now I want them to solve word problems with three numbers in them.

 In the proficient group, students have shown strength in adding and subtracting and in differentiating between the two operations on a mixed solving page.  They need to learn how to read word problems for key information and determine which operation to use.
 Students in the emerging group are still working to master adding and subtracting in a mixed solving situation, so they have visual cues built into the problems (the same problems as the proficient group) to help them focus more quickly on how to solve the problem.
 The at-risk group is for students who are still not consistently solving addition and subtraction problems.  They still need to learn how to solve word problems, but they need the task as streamlined as possible.  Therefore, they are only exposed to the phrases "are left" for subtraction and "in all" for addition.  They also have significantly decreased reading demands and very repetitive, predictable language between the problems.
So what about my students who are working on alternate curriculum?  They get to have a fun book too!  These students will be working toward IEP goals of counting to and identifying numbers.  They will choose a problem like their friends, glue it into their books like their friends, and count to find the answer.  Here are the modified pages for those friends:

I have to admit, I spent a lot of time cutting out all of the word problems and making little packets for each of the students to use as their bank of word problems.  But the prep time was totally worth it, because all of my kids will get to feel like smart, talented mathematicians!  What else can I ask for other than a class full of inspired learners?  I promise to post pictures of my little solvers at work.

You can get Differentiated Word Problems in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Happy solving!


Friday, April 19, 2013

Five for Friday on 4/19

I hope everyone had a good week. I look forward to hearing what everyone was up to. This is what was up with me (in no particular order):

1. I'm ready to upload my National Board portfolio! For those of you who've done it in the past, they changed it all around this year and we have to digitally upload it. Anyway, everything is written and edited so now I just have some hours of uploading left!

2. This week I mourned the loss of a dear friend who was killed at Virginia Tech 6 years ago. I always spend a day remembering him peacefully by hiking or cooking or something else he loved to do. This year felt so different because I was also worrying for my many friends in the Boston area. Although I'm a California girl now, I spent 4 years as a kid living inside Boston and 9 years as a teenager/college student living less than an hour away from Boston. I have so many friends still out there and they were in my thoughts too. It was an emotional week for sure.

3. State testing!! Boo!  I understand and appreciate the idea of accountability for teaching all students - I'm all behind that part of No Child Left Behind (which is actually a very strong piece of special education legislation for that reason).  I am glad to see that someone thought about the kids who usually get left out of standards based programming.  BUT...this is a big but...the tests we have available to offer our students with disabilities miss the mark in allowing them to show their knowledge.  I couldn't be prouder of the kids for their hard work this week.  They are all rockstars!
4. Laughter!  I know I described some pretty tough stuff this week, it's been a very trying week, but......if you cannot learn to have a good laugh, you cannot survive the bad days.  Some of my favorites this week: Little Miss J was sharing her experiences with police officers during our community unit when she announced to the class that when the officer pulled her dad over, he told her and her siblings to quick buckle up before the officer saw they were unbuckled - I doubt Dad wanted that shared!! Little Miss S raised her hand and when she got called on, she looked at her hand with confusion wondering how in the world it ended up in the air to begin with.  It seems like we were laughing through the tough moments and then laughing some more.  I wonder what my little ones will say next week!

5. I met with my executive director this week and he told me that I'll be in the same position next year! Yay! Again, I will have two first grade rooms and two kindergarten rooms to coteach. My coteachers were so happy to find out the news and that made me feel even more excited to spend another year together.

P.S. Do you like my use of Symbolstix in this post?  They are such great pictures!  Read all about my love of Symbolstix here.