Monday, July 27, 2015

Promoting Communication with TV Show Characters

For most children, you want to find something motivating to reinforce their learning. This is more important for some than others. Not every child is intrinsically motivated to learn in school, and for those who need motivators for learning some are MUCH harder to identify motivators for than others.

Whether you teach regular ed, special ed, have inclusion, etc. I can imagine just about every teacher has 1 child in their room that is SO challenging to motivate. It keeps us on our toes right?

When working with children on the autism spectrum I find it is so important to identify a variety of motivators for each child. Motivators or reinforcers-- depends on the teacher you talk to or the context of a conversation. I use them both interchangeably.

We need these items to reinforce appropriate behaviors, correct responses, and my number 1 in the classroom-- COMMUNICATION! 8 out of 10 children who enter my classroom have little to NO communication skills. Very few point to items or combine a point with vocalization to gain the attention of a communication partner.

They climb. They are incredible climbers. Why? Because they can't reach what they want, they don't know how to ask for what they want with expressive communication, their social skills are impaired as well so what do they do? They get it themselves! Very independent little guys :)

When you teach communication you naturally have a decrease in many un-wanted behaviors (i.e. climbing) because you've given the child a new skill. They can now communicate what they want so they don't have to climb for it anymore, or cry because that was their only former way to get your attention.

For the sake of this post I have to assume that you all know what a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECs) is. If you don't, let me know in the comments and we'll save that for another post. We mostly use PECS in my classroom, because, as I mentioned about 80% have little to no expressive language. But in order to start PECS you need a REALLY strong motivator. You have to make that child WANT to communicate with you to get what they want. If you aren't using a strong motivator, guess what? Little Johnny could care less about making a picture exchange with you, you don't have an item he wants!

99.5% of the time you can generally target a strong motivator that is a food item. (i.e. goldfish, mini m&m, raisins, etc.) that a child will consistently make picture exchanges for to assist with teaching the first Phase of a picture exchange. However, there's always that outlier who could care less what snacks you have. (Yes, I've had a few!) So in my classroom I've found another strong motivator for my kiddos are TV/movie characters. #helloThomas #helloCARS #helloBubbleGuppies ...really, the list goes on and on.

I have used Sterilite containers from this must haves list, to create themed containers for favorite TV shows or movies. I look for whatever I can at discounted prices to fill these containers. Those character toys can get expensive! I include books, stuffed animals, toys, bath squirters (not to actually squirt water), anything that fits the theme. Like I said, these toys get pricey. Shop yard sales, ask for donations! I sent out a district wide e-mail (after obtaining permission) asking teachers to donate any character toys they had that their children no longer played with. I explained why I needed them and honestly, had enough of a response to start my boxes out.

There are many more containers than what is shown here. We keep them across the whole span of the cabinets. Staff can reach them easily, children cannot. We are always adding new boxes it seems as new children start and interests change or new interests are added.

To promote communication with these boxes they are kept up high and out of reach, so the children cannot access them on their own. At their level are a variety of pictures that they can exchange to get a box. This reinforces the single picture exchange they have been taught, practices differentiating skills between pictures, and reinforces traveling to a communication partner. And IT WORKS! The kids love these boxes. All highly motivating and sensory items are kept out of reach so children have to request them.

I put two pages up on the cabinets for the PECS knowing we would most likely expand the amount of boxes we had. Sure enough by the end of the year we had about half of the other page full as well. 

We also keep parts of different toys out of reach. For example, we may put out the marble run, but no marbles. (That serves 2 purposes; communication and safety for the kiddos who mouth objects) Sabotage their play and make them talk! I promise they will :)

Are you doing anything similiar in your classroom? What are some of your favorite ways to promote communication with your non-verbal students? Let us know!

Don't forget! Today is the last day my store is on sale for Back to School!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Summer Cookie Trays and {Finally} a Tray Bundle!

I think I'm breaking an unspoken blogging rule here by posting twice in one day but I wanted to get both of these products out to you before my back to school sale ends tomorrow night. I finished up the Summer Cookie Tray Activities pack and as a result, created my first cookie tray bundle-- much requested!

First, let's review the Summer Cookie Tray Activities pack-- great if you are still teaching summer school -OR- if you head back to school in August these will be perfect to kick off with!

Here is a quick preview of the activity pages that are included in the Summer Cookie Tray pack.

Now that the Summer Cookie Tray pack is complete, I can finally bring you the first cookie tray bundle! I am super excited about this because I've had so many people ask me if I would ever be bundling these. This first bundle includes all four seasonal packs I created for cookie trays; Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. That's 258 pages!

If you purchased all four of these packs individually you would spend $20.00, but with the bundle you can save! Buy the bundle for the "introductory price" of $13.50! IT GETS BETTER! My TpT store is on sale today and through tomorrow (7/26/15-7/27/15) so you can get an additional 20% off that $13.50 price! 

Click {here} to check out the bundle.

Click {here} to head to my TpT Store. 

What other themes are you looking for for cookie tray packs? I plan on making smaller, more specifically themed packs throughout the school year-- and yes,  I will bundle along the way as I see fitting! :)

Got Back to School Blues?

Feeling the back to school blues creeping up on you? I know I'm starting to! I have thoroughly enjoyed my summer off not teaching summer school and honestly don't know that I'm quite ready to go back! I'm sure once the wedding is over my brain will switch to school mode and I won't even realize it. 

How about a sale to take the edge off of those back to school blues?

Today and Tomorrow (Sunday & Monday) my TpT store will be 20% off!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

{Thank You!} A $200 TpT Giveaway!

Freebielicious would like to thank you for joining us for a week of linkies!  We had so much fun and appreciate you taking a few moments to pop in and see what we had to say!  We also have a bit of a surprise to share with you! 

How about a chance to win some money to spend at TeachersPayTeachers?  It won't take away any or all of your back to school blues, but it is sure to sweeten it! You could be one of our TWO $100 TpT gift card winners!  But you will have to be quick!  You'll want to be sure to head back to Freebielicious early tomorrow to see if you are one of the lucky winners!

Want to enter the giveaway? Head over to Freebielicious to find the Rafflecopter there to enter!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Throwback {Thursday} #bestthrowbackever

Personally I think I have the BEST idea for a throwback. Not going to show you an old product or anything like that.

I am throwing it back FIVE years ago and showing you pictures from my very first classroom! I began teaching in September of 2010, and began blogging in the spring of 2011, so if my memory works as well as I'm hoping it does I don't believe that I ever shared photos of what my very first classroom looked like. Don't worry though, because I have the photographic evidence!

Thanks to blogging and experience in the classroom things have come a long way since my first year teaching. I think your first year you are so excited about setting up a classroom and trying to make it perfect. At least I know I was. I learned some things along the way as I think we all do.

Also thanks to blogging and Schoolgirl Style I learned some amazing classroom set-up decorating tips. My favorite tip that I personally think has had the biggest impact on how I've transformed my classroom over the years is to work with the existing color palette. And this is from Melanie at Schoolgirl Style. Look at your furniture. If it's mostly primary colors-- work with that. SO much of everything I had in my room was already primary colors. I made the switch from a themed room to just using colors two years ago and it made me love entering my classroom so much.

How your classroom looks isn't just for the kids. YOU have to love it too. We as teachers spend SO much time in our classrooms that I think it's important to make sure it's an environment that you want to be in as well. I've always tried to balance my room too to not favor a "boy" or a "girl" theme more than another. By just sticking to colors I think it really helps with that.

Anyway, I think I went a little off topic there-- I'm going to share with you what my very first classroom looked like! It was a different room than I am in now so the comparisons can't be exactly the same, but the growth in classroom decor skills is obvious. If you need a refresher of what my room looked like last year for 2014-2015 you can click {here} to go on that tour.

I never really had a clear established theme for my first year. I kind of just bought what I liked and what I needed and also used a lot of what was left behind from the retiring teacher that was in the room before me. I'm not suggesting that there is a right or wrong way to decorate a classroom. I just know for me personally I've come to have a preference for more coherence. :)

I REALLY wanted buckets that fit inside my cubbies my first year, but they were expensive and the only place I knew to look for them was Really Good Stuff. I found these at the Dollar Tree and just put them above the cubbies instead. 

This picture shows an idea that I cannot remember where I got it from, but it's the best one! Storing your extra materials for your sensory table in a storage container under it. It's the roll under bed storage container. The kids know the container is not an option and I'm still using the same one 5 years later.

We used this space for table time, snack, art, and our writing area. Always have to multi-purpose the space in your classroom! 

I look at that train on the wall and remember how it used to drive me nuts! I'm fairly certain there is a shape missing because it was always falling down! And behind the computers make it a huge pain to try and fix it. 

My dad and I made my computer screen together. I needed something large to block this space when it was not available. The frame was made with PVC pipe and I just used a window curtain. Pull the curtain to the sides and voila, computer center was available. 

Those stuffed animals were a HUGE mistake. They were gone after day one! HA! A classroom management nightmare for me my first year teaching. I could probably easily have them in my classroom now but they are buried in our attic. You can see our daily schedule and calendar here. I bought that rug at Walmart because I didn't have a fancy student carpet. It never worked the way I had hoped unfortunately. I always also trying to manage a group of 12 4 year olds, 10 with IEPs. 

I didn't have an easel my first year so everything was flat on the board. Looking back at this, I REALLY appreciate the easel that I have. Like I mentioned, I used a lot of the materials left behind for me by the teacher who had retired. Weather bear was one of those. Weather bear was up but I don't even really remember using weather bear to be honest with you! Ha! My greeting time has done a complete 360 compared to what it used to be. I stopped doing calendar 2 years ago too! 

And now we are pretty much full circle around the classroom. Some similarities to the layout of my current classroom, but not exactly the same. This room looks so much emptier to me than my current classroom and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Hello, teacher hoarders. 

What do you have for a throwback? I'd love to see photos of other teachers rooms their first year teaching! Head over to Freebielicious to link up your throwback by clicking the button below!