Monday, September 15, 2014

Brown Bear, Brown Bear Week {Monday}

Our first week of pre--school was basically about the routine and getting to know the students. Now that I know my group better and what their skill levels are (aside from just reading about them on paper), I can begin to plan in some more structured activities to our day. This will be a gradual increase.

This week, all of our large group activities will be based around "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?" I say large group, but I'll be honest. We only have 3 kids during large group time. It falls in between our morning kids going home and our afternoon kids coming in. Only the full day kids are still there for large group.

Here is something new we will be doing. On Mondays, we will read the book/story for the week. Tuesday will be a movement activity, Wednesday an art activity, and Thursday a music activity. All following along with the text/theme.

So today we read "Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See?" with adaptive text and storyboards for the students to follow along with. I posted on my instagram over the weekend of the book being converted. I found this idea on pinterest and the person who posted it has a few adapted books available on her blog for free. You can click {here} to download the images for brown bear and see the other books she has available.

With the skill level of this years group I am loving this accommodation. I will also pass out storyboards while we are reading. These help the students stay engaged and follow along with the text. Maybe with the same images on the pages of the book itself it will make following along with the storyboard even easier.

If you are interested in the storyboards you can check them out {here}. I didn't make them myself. I found this amazing file about 2 years ago and it has a decent amount of books included. I've since made a few storyboards myself to go with other books. It looks like she no longer has them as one large bundle, and instead is selling them in groups of 2. BUMMER! But the link will still take you to all of the options she has. {Yes, the black sheep is missing from the boards. Maybe she's since corrected that--I should probably check!}

And lastly, we will re-tell the story using these little "puppets". They aren't actually puppets, but I don't know what else to call them. I have a few sets of these in my classroom for a handful of books and our library has about 20 sets that we can check out. I know "back in the day" these were super popular with felt boards. I'm pretty sure felt boards are a thing of the past in most classrooms, but I'm taking it old school! I made myself a felt board this weekend and plan on using it a lot with this years group!

I hope you'll come back tomorrow to see what we did for Brown Bear Week on Tuesday! Have any fun ideas/activities you like to do with your group for Brown Bear, Brown Bear?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

2014 Classroom Reveal!

Ready or not, here they come! AND that they did! I've been back to work for 3 weeks now, but our pre-schoolers just did start this past Monday. The first hour of day one was a little hectic. We quickly realized the classroom is understaffed during that hour. 2 adults just won't cut it-- we've got to have 3.

My wonderful admin tackled that issue and we started off day 2 with 3 adults. Everything went SO MUCH smoother! We've definitely got our hands full this year, with a much, much, younger group of kiddos, but I think it will be a great year!

Now, are you ready for that classroom tour? There are still some things on my to do list, I'll certainly admit that, but here's what we looked like on day one!

Here's is the view of the room standing in the door way. Please ignore my crooked (and in some cases- missing) letters from around the ceiling. They won't let us use the ladders anymore, so asking a custodian to fix them the way I want is more work than I feel like addressing at the moment.

The table top with the polka dots is basically my daily "command station" if you will. This is where I keep the students' daily sheets to fill in throughout the day, my lesson plans, their communication books for parents, etc.

Then we turn to the right and look down the cubbies where students hang their stuff during our arrival routine. This view isn't really that exciting. And the picture came out lousy. But it will help give you an idea of the room set up.

You can see my desk at the end of the picture above by the window. The next view is from standing in front of my desk. We randomly have a mirror on that end of our cubbies and it is the BIGGEST distraction. I've even had children self-stim off of their reflections! So I've covered it up. With a poster that has since faded tremendously from the direct sunlight all day.

The small table above will be used for our morning sign-in when students arrive. I don't start this until week 2. We have enough going on during week 1 and with so many new students learning the arrival routine for the first time, sign-in can wait! Now...let's turn a little bit more to the right!

When students arrive we have table time (the toys on the table). It takes time to work on getting the students to stay in just this space. We made good progress during week 1. By the last day we were all staying at the table. :)

Behind that you can see where we keep our task boxes. There are names and spaces for task schedules on the table in front of them and the table to the left. The hanging trays will be used to write down each child's task schedule for the week so set up will be easy at the end of each day. I also have my data board by the smartboard. A clipboard with each students name where I will keep the data sheets for their IEP goals. Here's a close up of the data board.

I've since gotten another new student {of course} and now have nine kids. NINE! How am I supposed to add a ninth board to this set-up with my OCD?! I'll think of something. Eventually.

Next stop on the tour train: our circle time/greeting time/large group time/carpet time area. The angle on this picture is funny. I'm actually taking you on the tour in backwards order to how I took the photos.

I've had these cube chairs for years. I've never used them in my greeting area before. With this particular group of students they are perfect! It provides the young ones with more defined boundaries of where they need to be when we are on the carpet. I have students who I didn't expect to even be able to stay with us on the carpet during this first week, sit in these cube chairs and stay-- with edible reinforcement of course!

The only down side is they slide REALLY easily on the carpet. So we have had issues with the kids pushing them back. Intentionally and unintentionally. I added a strip of rug tape to the bottom of them on Friday. We will see how that works to stop the sliding.

Right now our greeting time is quick. We sing our Hello song and pick a song from the song book. Music really holds their attention the best right now. This week we are going to try stopping to spell our names too.

To the left of our greeting area, we have the house area.

I debated a lot with this center over the summer. I'll be doing a more detailed post on it with better pictures in my next installment of saving dramatic play. You can get caught up on those posts by clicking {here}.

Next to dramatic play we have the toy area and the block area. I liked having these centers together this year. A lot of times there are toys in each center that the students love to combine. So instead of bringing something across the room, we have them right here together.

Another bonus to having most of the play areas this close together is that when we start tightening up our routine a little bit, it will be easy to monitor the children at centers with 1 one adult when they are all together. On the other side of the block shelf we have our cots, then the sand table. The sand table has been closed for week 1, and will be for week 2. We have a lot of "throwers" in this group and we're not quite ready for sand. We'll get there. Just not yet!

And last but not least, I think I skipped this area in the tour. It would have fit better following picture 2, but oh well. I went right instead of left. If I had gone left this is what you'd see.

This is a multipurpose area. Mostly because it's the only table we have on the tile floor. We need to use it for certain things that would otherwise be a huge mess on carpet. This is where we have breakfast, lunch, and snack. It's also our art area. You can see that students have name tags on this table. This is based on the amount of support they may need during meal times. You can also see in this photo that our bathroom is to the right.

Well, that's about it for the classroom tour. I have extra photos of some areas so if you have more questions about what you see it may be something I either can elaborate on in another post. Thanks for following along!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

$25 J.Crew Giftcard Giveaway!

I’m so excited to be teaming up with my favorite freebie-friends for a BIG giveaway to help get you going this school year! Over at the Freebielicious blog, we’re giving away a BIG, GRAND PRIZE (scroll down to the bottom of this post to read all about it!) and right here on my little blog, I’m giving away $25.00 to my favorite store to go school shopping: J.Crew! 

I'm lucky to have a J.Crew outlet less than 3 miles from my house. (Which can at times also be dangerous!) It's one of my favorite places to shop. I can find work appropriate clothes, and also clothes to wear outside of work. The beginning of every school year I buy a fresh pair of pants in each of these colors: khaki, black, and navy. I get so much use out of them throughout the year.

My other favorite thing about J.Crew is, I know my size there! I don't have to try everything on if I don't feel like it. Which is nice when you're in a hurry. 

I haven't done my back to school shopping there yet, but here are a few of the items I've had my eye on!

I have those same red shorts in navy already and wore them so much this summer. I also have that grey tee in about 6 colors already. (I do that a lot) but it is perfect for work, or outside of work. It goes great with a cardigan or by itself.

The flower pants are different and fun. They have an elastic waist and look like a cross between MC Hammer pants and pajamas! hahah, but I look at them and they scream comfort! I'd have to try these on though because I have large calves. Sometimes they get in the way with pants like these. 

You can never go wrong with a few t-shirts and dresses. I love dresses that you can transition through seasons by wearing by themselves or pairing with a cardigan and/or leggings in cooler months.

And last but not least everyone should own a chambray shirt! They go with everything! This one is different with the two tones and no collar. 

Then there's my "J.Crew Secret"

 Menswear. Specifically mens button downs. 

J.Crew carries a size x-small in men. I love button up shirts, but what I don't love about them is that they are often short in length (in my opinion) so I don't like wearing them un-tucked. BUT if you shop the mens section, they are long enough! My chambray button down is a mens x-small and I LIVE in it. It's my favorite shirt, I probably wear it once a week. So I always give the mens clearance section a good scan before I head to check out.

P.S. Clearly I'm on a camo kick. I love pairing masculine with girly!

Please enter with integrity, using the Rafflecopter below. I’ll choose a winner a week from today.

But, wait! That’s not ALL!
The Freebielicious ladies know how much of your own hard-earned money goes into buying supplies, tissues, books, and classroom d├ęcor to get your classroom “kid-ready,” and we want to be able to put some of that money right back in your pocket. Over at the Freebielicious blog, we are giving away a $300 Visa gift card! YES…YOU READ THAT RIGHT! $300!!!
To enter the BIG GIVEAWAY, click HERE or on the button below!

Also, while you are there, be sure to check out what the other Freebie-ladies are giving away. Be prepared for some AMAZING prizes. Take a peek at some of them below!


Monday, September 01, 2014

Student Information Forms

At the beginning of every school year there is always essential information that we need to collect from parents. Contact info, allergy information, bus info, etc. When I first started teaching pre-school I began with this form, found for {free} in my TpT store. Important Student Information Sheet

This form has been downloaded a lot and I'm frequently asked about a version that does not include the potty training information. Unfortunately, this page is free, so I'm not taking editing requests.

Over the past two years as my student population has changed, so have my information needs. Working with students with autism, I find myself in need of MORE information. Really, the more, the better, especially when students are new. The better understanding I can have of your child from week 1, the better the transition will be for them into the classroom.

I've also decided that I don't necessarily need the transportation info asked for on this form. I get transportation info from the office when we are given bus numbers, and typically are informed of any before or after school care placements during the IEP meeting.

I've created some new forms to ask for my families to complete. Total there are three forms with a cover page that they will get in their child's folder.

{Photo soon to come.....once I get more black ink! OOPS!...or print at school. That will probably happen first!}

The first page, I did include two options for you. One with potty training, or one without.

AND if you are using the form without the potty training information, most likely you aren't in need of collecting some of the other information included on the other two pages. Therefore, I replaced the potty training section with a simple favorites section.

If you are interested in using the other two form options, let me tell you what information they request. "Help Me!" page one, includes a few favorites questions, a section with favorites where caregivers check the box next to the item if it is something their child likes, and lastly- communication. How does your child communicate certain things to you? I love this section-- a lot of my students have low communication skills, and it will be great to have this information up front rather than sending home another form to the families a few weeks later.

"Help Me Con't!" includes more questions for the caregivers to fill in. This page asks about edible reinforcers and sleeping patterns. Two more sections of info I love to get from the families as soon as I can.

We use edible reinforcement frequently, in very small serving sizes. This will help give me a head start to what to include in a reinforcer inventory and allow me to identify the strongest reinforcers for each child early in the game. This form also gives families the option to place limits and restrictions on what their child gets as an edible reinforcer-- which I think is very important.

I always ask my families how their child sleeps at night and ask them to let me know in our communication books if their child didn't sleep well the night before. Maybe they were up and down all night, or they simply woke up at 4am and never went back to sleep. This is really helpful for me, so that when their child appears sluggish during the school day around lunch time, or their behavior goes a little south, I can remind myself that they didn't sleep well.

I'm looking forward to getting a jump start on gathering extra information this year and sending parents home with this packet at open house. Hopefully they'll return it the first day of school! I've put this info pack up in my TpT store. It's only 3 sheets (4 including cover page), but these forms were very time consuming to create, therefore, this is a priced product, not a freebie. I hope I've priced it accordingly.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Save the Dramatic Play {Part 2}

If you missed {part 1} of this post, you can catch up {here}. Once you are all caught up, come back and join me for {part 2}!

Back? Okay, good, glad to have you! Now that are you are all up to speed, you see that the first thing on my project to do list is to tackle the space. Do I re-arrange, reduce the amount of furniture, bring in new shelving? We'll let's start with some current photos.

Here is how my dramatic play center is currently set up for summer school. When I first "staged it" it looked a little better, but once the kids start playing, I usually don't re-stage. It becomes their space. They clean it up at clean up time (with some help of course) and my biggest thing is that they are cleaning. If they don't put the beach towels back exactly where my OCD self had them to start, I let it slide. Just as long as it's close enough.

As you can see we have a "BBQ/Beach" with a fun grill, hot dogs and burgers, beach towels, sun glasses, pretend cameras, and even sun screen!

I often feel like I'm trying to squeeze way too much into this space. It's a relatively large dramatic play area, but there is a lot and I have limited storage space for things like the baby bed, rocking chair, and high chair when we aren't using the babies.

So the first thoughts on re-arranging this... closet. GET. RID. OF. IT. I've had this thing since I inherited this classroom 4 years ago. The door at the bottom has always had a missing hinge. I finally ended up taping it shut. We do use it to hang costumes, but the kids ALWAYS need help with the hangers and for some of them, they can't reach the rod to even hang them. The other down side-- the kids want to hide in it! We spend a lot of time reinforcing the fact that we DO NOT sit in the closet. At least 2-3 children end up in the thinking chair throughout the course of the year for this. Sorry closet, you're getting the boot.

Next on the list, this table. The table is clearly a listening table. 2 or 3 years ago every teacher got one of these for our classroom.s And they are awesome-- when they are used as intended. For a listening table it's great. (Minus the bolts loosening pretty easily and the table becoming wobbly and needing to be tightened) I don't have a listening center, nor do I have anywhere to store this table. So it became our table for dramatic play, but honestly, it's way too big. And I want to open a listening center. Buh-bye over sized table.

We went back to school last Tuesday and I got my room re-arranged the way I wanted it too. I love that I was able to create a listening center and re-work my dramatic play. I'll be back with {Part 3} once the new dramatic play center is completely up and running....we aren't there yet!