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.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Symbol stix

Have you ever heard of Symbolstix?  It is one of my favorite tools and I use it compulsively!  Here is a sampling of icons from Symbolstix:


I know, they are so cute, right? Well, it gets better than that!  Symbolstix are a symbol set that are used in some communication devices (most notably Proloquo2Go on Apple devices).  I use these icons on almost every activity that I make for my students because it is a universal language that benefits my students who use AAC (alternative and augmentative communication) devices, it benefits my English Language Learners, and they are just so adorable!  I put these images next to new vocabulary words, I embed them in phonics activities, and I use them to build students' individual schedules and resources.  These images are all over my classroom!  Here are a couple of examples:

Here the Symbolstix icons are used to help a student with limited language visualize his expectations throughout the day and see what his end-of-the-day reward will be if he follows his schedule.

Here the icons are used to help a student describe their emotions during a particularly challenging emotional time in their life.  This helped my little one tell me how she was feeling more easily.

This is an accommodation to a phonics assignment (the WR Robot available at my TpT store) where the visual is there to help students identify the words more easily.

I am a little bit obsessed with Symbolstix but I think you now know why!  I even have a Symbolstix lanyard for my keys!!

Just a note: the items in my TpT and Teachers Notebook stores do not have any Symbolstix images because of their usage policy.  Just envision all of the fun items in my store full of these cute little images.  If you want to use Symbolstix with your students (which I HIGHLY encourage), you can purchase a membership for just $50 for the year.



Saturday, April 13, 2013

Listening Center and Some Thank You Notes!

Who doesn’t love Donors Choose?  My coteachers and I have enjoyed many wonderful classroom resources funded by the generosity of Donors Choose donors.  We have a very active parent community, but not everyone can donate lots of money so this website is a great way for us to rally together a lot of parents who can only donate a small amount of money and together they can fund the project.  We’ve also gotten lots of money from generous donors we don’t know whose care for my students is so appreciated and I wish they could see how much the kids LOVE what they have given us.

Most recently, my coteacher and I had a Donors Choose gift card burning a hole in our pockets so we posted a listening center project with a iPod, listening library, headphone splitter, and classroom set of headphones.  We had a few donors who we appreciate, but one extremely generous donor paid for more than half of the project and so my dear little kindergarteners were writing her thank you notes to show their appreciation.

You can see that even this task was differentiated (because we don’t really have any assignments that aren’t differentiated!).  Some notes had pre-written sentence starters to reduce writing demands and some were blank to offer more creativity in the students’ responses. We also provided a variety of art materials (stickers, dot markers, crayons, etc.) so that students could all create a beautiful card even if they don't feel strong in their drawing abilities.

Among all of the many state and common core standards, in the middle of our reading curriculum and math curriculum, between preparing for the carnival and preparing for student led conferences - it was so wonderful to take some time out to teach the kids to be grateful when other people do wonderful things for us.  The kids couldn't believe that this woman named "Deborah" would care so much about them as to buy all of these great supplies.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


Monday, April 8, 2013

Back to School

Where did spring break go?  We are so lucky to have two weeks off, but I'm always surprised when we find ourselves back at school.  The kids were all excited to tell me all of the exciting things they did over break.  My favorite stories:

-"I stayed at a vacation house and it had a piano but I found cigarettes outside.  Eeeeeeeew!"
-"I had a baseball game and my babysitter came!"
-"Hey, are we having a marble party today?"  No, sweetie, we had a marble party before break, we need to earn a lot more marbles before we come back.
-"I got a cold and I am still really sick!!!!  Look at my nose!!"

It's amazing what a little kid thinks is exciting news after 16 days not seeing their teacher.  They all seemed very happy to be back.

We've got some big exciting projects happening during the rest of the year that I cannot wait to tell you all about!  The Carnival (our big fundraiser) is this weekend and we're busy practicing our performance songs.  Next up: Annual Project and Portfolios!!

Happy Monday!


Friday, April 5, 2013

Five for Friday - April 5

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs for my first (of many?) Five for Friday Linky Party!  This week I have been on Spring Break so it's certainly not a typical week, but I'll be back to work very soon.

1. Tomorrow we are celebrating my grandparent's 60th anniversary with a huge family party with people from Oregon, Florida, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Tel Aviv, and Maryland! I've been in town all week with my extended family and although we are not a large family, it sure feels wild and crazy when we're all crashing at my grandparents house.  We've been gearing up for this party for months so we're all very excited that the day has finally come!

2. I created a Teacher's Notebook store!  I've had a Teachers Pay Teachers store for months and I love sharing my products with teachers around the country so I figured another outlet for sharing would be doubly fun!  I don't have many products up yet, I'll be working on loading some of my favorites in over the next few days.  Please share comments about what you'd love to see me add to either store and I'll jump on it!

3. I FINISHED!!!!  Well, kind of.  I finished writing up my last reflection for my last entry for my National Board Certification! I still have to edit and upload and submit and study for the test, but it feels like a big accomplishment nonetheless.  It has been a very long road so this feels like something worth celebrating.

4. Gearing up! I've spent quite a bit of time on this vacation just relaxing, but I got my head back in the game over the last few days and prepared assignments, worked on an IEP, e-mailed some parents, and just started mentally preparing for being back.  I'm sure Monday morning will still be a shock to the system, but a good one, of course!

5. SKUNKED! My sweet little boy, Harper, decided to make friends with a skunk visiting the backyard and he got sprayed.  This little rescue dog of mine gets startled very easily and this all happened while he was staying with friends of mine who proceeded to wash him repeatedly so I'm expecting to come home from my trip to a very sad little man.  I'm hoping he will be recovered by the time I get back to LA!

That's it for me...what a busy week! I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else has been up to this week.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Who inspires YOU?

I'm on vacation in DC right now which is where I had my first teaching job as a 5th grade general education teacher.  Today I had lunch with the fabulous lady who used to be my special education co-teacher back in the day - it was such an amazing treat.  I remember sitting on the floor of the hallway outside my classroom meeting with her to discuss the students we were going to share for the rest of the year.  I learned so much about special education from her and I think of her very often in my current role as being a special education teacher supporting students in a general education class.   Ms. Lemus is certainly not the last colleague who inspired me, but seeing her today and talking about our former students (now high schoolers!) was such a flashback.

I am so lucky to have so many teachers at my current school who inspire me all the time.  We plan together as a grade level team (3-4 general educators and 2 special educators) and truthfully, I don't know how I ever planned curriculum alone!  No idea that goes into our plan books is ever thought up by one person.  We plan with AT LEAST one teacher logged into Pinterest, one teacher logged into Brain Pop Jr., one teacher logged into YouTube, one teacher referencing last year's plans, and one teacher referencing our teacher's guides.  I always knew how smart and talented my teams were, but a weekly brainstorming session with them is always a fabulous reminder! (If you don't believe me, check out one of my stupendous colleagues, Vanessa, at her blog: Kindergarten Schmindergarten)

As I mentioned in my last post, my kids are an incredible inspiration - I love seeing how hardworking, accepting, inquisitive, silly, compassionate, creative, and all around AMAZING they can be when we give them the chance to show off their awesome selves.  (Yes, we're getting to that point in vacation where I miss my students!)

Who inspires you? Leave a comment and share!


Monday, April 1, 2013

Autism Awareness and a Linky to go with it

Autism. What a powerful word. So many of us have been touched by family, friends, and students with autism - probably everyone knows someone.  I have had the pleasure of teaching many students with autism spectrum disorders in my career and I can say, it is definitely a spectrum disorder! Each of my students with autism has taught me so much about compassion, creativity, and hard work.  I was so excited to see this Linky Party in honor of World Autism Day (April 2), which is part of Autism Awareness Month.

Now here is a wonderful freebie for you - a Desk Mat!  

Print out these pictures and add velcro or magnets to the back and you can make a model for students of how their desk should look.  This can help teach organization of materials, it can make directions visual instead of just auditory, and it can be a great reference to teach students to use.  The initial letters are also highlighted so students can work on letter identification, initial sound identification, or they can begin to memorize sight words from the environment - depending on their ability level. You can download it from Google Drive by clicking here

There is so much left to learn about individuals with autism and I take such pleasure in teaching all of my students to value each other for who they are to focus on all their similarities instead of their differences.  The world can lean so much when awareness is increased!