Saturday, August 14, 2010

Summer is Winding Down...

I can't believe that in two weeks I will have finished our staff days and will be doing last minute preparation for Monday morning back to school faces.  Where has the summer gone?

I still have much to do but am also feeling good about what I've accomplished the summer.  This past week I spent two days in my room doing a major clean-out/reorganization.  I went through every little thing that is out and decided if it was something we were going to use this year or not.  If it was something we wouldn't use I organized it in to "get rid of" or "store away".  I then cleared out a couple of cabinets and shelves that we have a hard time getting to and put all the "store away" things there.

Then it was on to organizing the things that were left.  I sorted and shelved everything by skill.  To make room on the shelves and to make things flow easier during the year I took severl of our "programs" and moved them from binders and bins to file folders and put them in the filing cabinet (but I need another filing cabinet - lol).  All of these programs are step-by-step programs - you master one step and move on to the next - so it will be great to just be able to pull the file of the current step that a student is on and keep it with his/her programming materials until that step is done.  I did this with Edmark Reading, PCI Environmental Printing, Reading for All Learners Program, the Money Skills program that I created (loosely based on F.A.C.E.S. curriculum) and the Primary Phonics Program I've been working on this summer.  I am thinking I may also start organizing a few other things this way as well (all in good time).  I am also in the proces of taking all of the file folder activities, interactive books, matching cards, envelope activities and putting them in to bins based on skill.  Right now I have bins for Number/Counting, Addition/Subraction, Letters/Printing, Phonics/Sounds, Pre-academic Skills and Other.  I'm sure as these grow I will add bins and seperarte but it will be nice to just be able to grab what is needed.

Finally I carved out one whole shelf per student in the room.  This is where their binders and programming materials will go.  If they are working on a specific skill the materials for that skill can be stored on their shelf for the time they are working on it and then returned to the place it came from (which will be easy as it is all labeled).

I'm feeling good about the organization of the room.  Now I just need to use these last few weeks to get everything together in all of these individual programming binders that are in various states of completion (or more like incompletion).  Its going to be a haul yet but I'm feeling confident I can get it done in time for learning assistant orientation 13 days from now :).  Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Loving Unique's Transition Band!

Uls Back in June I decided to purchase Unique's Transition Band for this year with the hopes of perhaps learning how to ensure my older students are getting the program that they need to transition out of our classroom.  I was hoping to find a few things that would be helpful and figured I would call it good if I did.

It has been so much more than what I expected.  The program has "CORE TASKS" that you do all the time that is basically a lay out of how to set up your day.  The great thing about it is that setting up the day this way (with a few modifications) can work for all the different ages in my class (which is saying a lot given my span this fall will be grade 1 through beyond 12 as I have one student is staying an extra year beyond graduation).
Each month you get a set of "Instructional Tasks" in a few different categories.  They include "Lifetime Skills" (Communication, Money Management, Social Skills...etc.), "Job Club" and "Daily Living Club".  In the Job Club section there are lessons are building transition portfolios - something that I've been trying to get going forever but never really do a great job of it.  Now I have a place to start!  The Daily Living Club has articles and stories to read with questions in the same format as the rest of the Unique Bands but the stories are more related to older students in the community.

I am just so amazingly impressed with this resource that I had to share!  Well worth the money even after just one month :).

Check it out here:

Friday, August 6, 2010

Primary Phonics Workbook Interactive Activities

Primaryphonicsbook1 This year I have a couple of students who are ready for phonetic reading.  For the most part we have worked with students on sight word reading.  We do some letter and sound recognition stuff but haven't gone very far in to phonics.  Things are changing so I had to dig up some extra ideas to approach phonics but they had to be ways that allowed for some physical challenges in regards to writing.  So I stumbled across a post where someone was using this set of books as a starting point to create activities for their son.  I was so excited and I ordered the first book in the series to see if I could make it work for what I was trying to do.  And it does.
Here is what I have done so far with this book as a guide:
Primary Phonics Book 1 Tracking Form: I wanted to create a tracking form that could be used generically for all sections of the book.  I generally go with a mastery approach to academics.  When a student achieves a specified standard and can demonstrate that standard three times in a row they are ready to move on to the next step.  I'm planning to use the same approach with this.  So this is the tracking form that will be used for all activities related to this book.

Primary Phonics Book 1 Page 1 (Recognizing and Reading Color Words):

This isn't really part of the phonics itself but the students I'm thinking of are well on the way to having these words memorized so I thought I would put it in here as it will be them closer to independently reading the task cards in other lessons.  Note that for this activity I have included my explanation of how this topic works.  I will be puttting each of these in a folders and then in a box and staff will just pull the file folder they are working on and the explanation will be in there (laminated) along with all materials needed.

Primary Phonics Book 1 Page 2/3 (CVC Words that End In "an" and "at"):  Here is the task set for page 2 and 3 of the workbook.  This one will be a long set as I have broken it down in to 4 steps that th student needs to complete before moving on.  Not all of the pages will take as long as these two. 

Note that I have done some more pages but have not done the staff explanation part of it. I'm loading the pages now but will come back at some point and put up the pages with the staff explanations and the rest of the book as well and then move this up as I update it.
Primary Phonics Book 1 Page 68 through 80 - Coming Soon! 

Wednesdays Weekly Comments: July 28 to August 3, 2010

New Position posted at Special Classroom: Very excited to follow this new journey on the blog :).

News from news-2-you posted at Excepational Students in the Classroom: I'm looking forward to seeing what changes are being made over at the news-2-you and Unique Learning pages.  We should be able to see it soon :).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Storing Homemade Materials Idea

A question someone asked me in response to one of my posts made me think to write a quick post about this.  I make a lot of my own materials with Boardmaker - things like matching cards and sorting activities.  I wanted a way to store them that allows me to label what they are so that we can get them quickly.
What I did in the end was going to Staples and buy some "mailer boxes" in different sizes so that I can store the items.  Since then I have found them for a significantly lower price online.  I'm including the link but realize its a Canadian Supplier.  I'm sure there is something similar in the states.  I'm also putting a couple of pictures of how I use these types of boxes in this post.

Hope this is useful to someone :).

The place I have found to order these boxes is called Uline.  This is a link to the page that has the box sizes and the prices.

Examples of how I use the boxes:


 Here are some boxes that I used to make "Alphabet Boxes".


Here is an example of a box that I use to store an activity with hands on items.


 Here is an example of a box used to store a card activity. Inside the box are a bunch of different sets of cards related to the concept on the outisde of the box.  I put the sets in envelopes (or half envelopes) with answers or content writen on the outside. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Color Coding Student Materials and Spaces

So I needed a break from "thinking" work and decided to spend a couple of days doing some decorating type of work.  With the evolution of my classroom and the number of students who are now ambultory and have functional use of their hands I have revamped things quite a bit in that they need to be able to take care of their own materials.  So I'm doing things like changing to individual pencil boxes rather than using communal supplies.  One of the other things I decided to do is color code each student's materials so that students are easily able to find their own.  So I tackled their binders first and just kept going.  In the end here is everything that I color coded for each student.  I didn't realize that there was so much stuff for each individual :).
Home-School Communication Binder: I'm using a binder rather than a duotang for written notes between parents and myself.  The idea is loosely built around "M.O.O.S.E. Binders".  I have broken the sections in to "Money and Notes" and put a pouch behind that section.  This will be used for things like lunch order forms, school fundraisers...etc.  The second section is the "Communication Log" and this will be pretty much exactly what I had put in duotangs last year.  Each day learning assistants fill in information that parents are interested in (each sheet is different) such as toileting, positions, aggressive incidents (basically I build this with the parents so that they get the information they feel is important). Then I put a note in saying how the student's day was. Parents can write a note back in the morning.  The third section is "School Newsletters" and I'm putting this in there because I always misplace the things and figured this might be a way if there are other parents like me out there ;).  The final section is just "L.A.P. Classroom" and I will put in anything relevant to our room like my contact information, extra forms, class and staff list...etc.

Personal Binder: This is something new that I'm adding this year.  I'm very excited about these. The idea came from the Unique Learning Transition Band (with some small modificatins to make it work in my room). This is a place for students to keep track of themselves.  The sections in this binder are (1) Personal Calendar, (2) Daily Schedule, (3) Personal Checklist and (4) Other Materials.  The Personal Calendar will be a place for the student to record things that are coming up in their lives.  Parents will need to assist with this.  We will be making or buying cards and mailing them to people when there is something important coming up for friends and family.  The Daily Schedule is just an outline of what is happening on that day.  Some of the students will also have running schedules that they use throughout the day.  I'm still working on the personal checklist.  In the Unique program its all based on getting paid but I haven't completely decided yet on how I'm going to make that work. 

Religion Binder: This is just a place to keep all materials related to our Religion Class.  Some of what goes in here is just pictures of students doing religion activities.

O.S.C.A.R. Binder (in my closet and for my eyes only):  I found this term when looking up information on M.O.O.S.E. binders and was at first going to use it as home-school communication but then figured it actually applied more to the personal binders that I keep for each of the students.  These are binders that are for my eyes only and are locked away.  I put copies of what is needed information in student binders.  I put these together a couple of years ago and they have been so helpful in keeping everything organized!  This binder is broken up in to the following sections: (1) Current I.P.P., (2) Parent Contact, (3) Consultation Notes, (4) Program Planning and (5) Other.  I record notes about any parent contact that I make (in person, on the phone or e-mail) in section 2.  Consultation notes are any notes from meeting with therapists, psychologists, behavior intervention workers, outside agencies that work with the student...etc.  The 4th section is just so I have a place to store ideas when I think of something I want to implement for a student.  I check off things that are done in this area or make notes if I change my mind or if we tried a version and know it won't work.

Transition Portfolio Binder: My older students are working on Transition Portfoios.  This is meant to be a "picture" of the student that can travel with them to the agency that takes over their adult programming.  It is a work in progress!

Individual Programming Binder: This is the binder that much of the day is built around. I have posted about this several times and am in the process of completely revamping these this summer.  Its a huge process.  Basically this is an outline of goals, activities and tracking forms related specifically to the student.

Lunch Program Binder: A few of my students do an individual lunch program every day.  This program has the planning their menus for a week at a time, checking their items and then making grocery lists and then going shopping for the items.  I am creating binders this year to keep everything for this program organized.  More about this soon!

Visual Supports Binder: All of my students have binders that have their personal visual supports in them.  These are the ones that we use throughout the day.  Some students have loaded binders while others only have a few pictures in there.  I started this last year and its been a great way to keep all these visuals organized.  On a funny note: we have one student who loves books and he will go in and take people's "library" PECs every chance he can get so that he can request library about 40 times a day ;).  I do have this binder broken in to sections and sections vary from student to student.

PECS Binders: This is for the students who use the formal PECs program and it is their personal binder.

Morning Meeting Binder:  I used these last year and there are some great things in there but I'm thinking to retire them for at least the first part of the year as we will be covering everything in them during morning meeting.  If I'm finding I need to use them WITH the morning meeting later in the year they are ready to go. I'm pretty sure though that the personal binder will do just fine.

Theme Duotangs: I made duotangs with each of the seven movies we are studying for each of the students.  We will store any activities we do in this duotang.  Visual recipes will be sent home in case parents want to recook them at home.  A lot of this duotang will be response types of activities - did you like the movie, did you enjoy the game type of thing.  We will also do some voting and graph making in this duotang as well as some science experiment notes.  Each duotang will be sent home at the end of the theme.

Pencil Box: Moving to pencil boxes instead of communal supplies (although communal supplies will still be available).  For those who can't get out their own materials due to physical challenges this will be an excellent time to work on functions of objects!  I ended up buying black pencil boxes and sticker paper and making large stickers in the student's color to go on their box.

Programming Materials Box: Our students do not have desks.  To keep things organized, I have always used large boxes for their materials.  I have put large colored labels on the sides of these boxes.

Coat Hook(s): They are still supposed to change my coat hook area.  It is in a very small corner of the room and layered 4 layers high.  Up until a year ago we only had 2 students who were able to hang their own coats so we just gave them spots that were easy to get at.  This fall, we have 7 of the 10 and its not set up for that.  They are supposed to come in and spread them along an entire wall.  Each student will have two hooks (one for coat and one for backpack/lunch bag) and I made lablels for these.  I would like to get lockers but that might be a year or two down the line.

Hygeine Bag: I want the student's hygeine bags to be color coded this year as well so I'm on the hunt for large clear hygeine bags that I can label with their color codes.  I still need to put some thought in to this because the labels will need to be able to withstand water and what not ;).

Visual Schedule (Binder or Board Dependent on Student) and Reinforcement Cards: Some of my students have these and I have also modified these so that they are in the student's colors.  Note tihs visual schedule is beyond the one that we will use in the personal binder.
Its been a busy but productive couple of days. Later in August when I start posting pictures of my classroom I'm hoping you will be able to cearly see the shelves full of colored materials :).