Meet the Teacher with Pete the Cat

Thursday, August 10, 2017 / Leave a Comment

You know my love for all things Pete! My students adore him and his fun stories year after year. This year for meet the teacher night, I wanted to mix things up a bit and do a theme. Thankfully, a Pete the Cat theme wasn't too hard to incorporate thanks to Learn 365 from Oriental Trading. Below you can see how I used a lot of the items from bulletin board sets from their website to incorporate into my meet the teacher theme. Best part, I can reuse them for class decor during the year (class tour coming!).

Of course a classroom door is in order. I got the button decals and Pete on his skateboard from the Learn 365 website. 

Photo backdrops are so fun for Meet the Teacher night! Parents can snap pictures of their kiddos, or you can snap pictures for your classroom. I love to use pictures to help my students learn each other's names and to set up a display for their work. I used the fadeless clouds paper, shoe cut-outs (stringed on garland), musical notes, blow up guitar, and sunglasses for the photo booth set up - all from Learn 365. With all their pictures, I plan to make a "Rockin' in Our School Shoes" class book. 

The garland for the backdrop was super simple to make! I just punched holes in the shoes and strung some string through. Shoe cut-outs are from Learn 365 at Oriental Trading. Easy Peasy!

Depending on your school, parent donations might be necessary. I got these little Pete's from the Pete class jobs bulletin board set from Learn 365 at Oriental Trading. Since I don't need all of them I decided to use some of them to write down some supplies we always run out of throughout the year. It would be super easy to laminate them so you can write with a dry-erase marker and reuse them. Parents are usually happy to help!

 Meet the Teacher night is usually crazy. Parents want time to talk to you, so setting up a little coloring station is easy and gives you some one on one time with the parents. These coloring masters came with one of the Pete the Cat sets from Learn 365, so I just made some copies and set out crayons for coloring.

Please note: While I did receive these item at no cost, all opinions in this post are 100% my own.

When I found these little shoe keychains at Oriental Trading, I was ecstatic! What could be more perfect for students to take home after meet the teacher night?! I made some tags to go with the shoes that you can grab below for FREE!

I can't wait to share my Class Tour with you in a few short weeks! 

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Math Rotations in a SPED Classroom

Monday, June 26, 2017 / Leave a Comment
By the end of this year, after changing our math rotations around about a bazillion times, I FINALLY feel like I figured out the perfect combo of stations to help my students learn, practice, and master skills. 

My favorite part of this system is that it worked seamlessly without me killing myself over prep or differentiated plans. 
It just flowed. 

In this years classroom, I was blessed with color coded tables, so it was super easy to designate tables for rotations (blue table, black, yellow, red, orange, green..). Since we moved to a different town and I'll have a new position next year (probably without pretty colored tables), I believe I'm just going to tape the edges of tables with colored tape to help the kids learn the stations. I've seen others use shapes, numbers, and pictures, but for some reason the colors have always worked best for me. I'm such a visual learner and so are a lot of my students, so I'm sticking to colors!

For transitions, I used kitchen timers from the dollar tree from day one. We work on appropriate transitions all year long, but by the end of the first quarter, my students knew to stop when they heard the timer, clean up and MOVE with minimal disruptions. At the beginning of the year, I would reward anyone doing this with an extra token (which would cause them to earn a break sooner), so this shaped their behavior pretty quickly!

Back to rotations... here is a lovely visual of how they flow. I tried to snap as many pictures as I could before and after school to help you see the setup.

Our classroom this year was super small, so our tables were set up in close proximity to each other, which made transitions much easier. 

Blue Table: Teacher Time (taught new skills)
Black Table: Math Journals (guided practice with newly learned material)
Yellow Table: Technology (math websites)
Red Table: Independent Work Binders (mastered skills)
Green Table: File Folder Tasks (mastered skills)

At my station, students learned new material. I always try to use a ton of hands-on and engaging activities (that I typically get from Pinterest) to keep my students' interest's peaked and to keep their brains alert.

I use a huge binder with plastic folder tabs to keep my students data sheets, upcoming lessons/work, and their finished work went on the back side. On the data sheets, I generally put what we worked on each day and jotted down notes about their progress. The simple sheet was my favorite, and I used it throughout most the rotations to keep track of progress. Once a sheet was full, it went in the student's individual data binders, along with copies of any important work samples.

After working with me, students went to the black table with my TA. Sometimes, I would send a student with work to finish from my table or she would do cut and paste math journals on the skills the students just learned to give them some guided practice.

At the yellow table, the students could do math technology activities.

For my students at first grade level and above, I had Prodigy accounts for them to access and do during this station. My younger kiddos worked on interactive games (coming to TPT soon!) or on ABCya's Pre-K/K level math. 

At the red table, each student had a colored binder with his or her independent work already tabbed off. At the beginning of the year, we taught students the procedures for this table, so they were eventually able to get to the table, get their binder, open to Math, and flip to the tabbed work page to complete. If I wanted them to do more than one page, I would add a STOP post-it on the specific page I wanted them to work until. At this station, a lot of the their independent work came from my Math Workbooks, which don't require a ton of different directions to follow, just simple math practice.

At the green table, I organized all of my file folders by math topic. The levels in my class right now are about PreK - 2nd, so I start with Numbers and go all the way through Division and Fractions. I use file folders from my Math Skills Megabundle, so I know that I'm covered for all the skills I will be teaching throughout the year, even though I have so many different levels in my class.

Each day, I would pull 2-3 folders out and place them in the student's colored bins. They've held up great! I only place mastered skills in a students bin, so that they can do them completely independently.

During rotations, the students just pull down their color, complete the tasks, and put them back in the bin and back on the shelf when they are finished. At the end of the day, or whenever I have time throughout the day, I check their folders, take the data I need, and reset the station for the next day.

Sometimes I mix in flip book tasks to this station as well...

I have seen crazy growth in my math levels this year, and I truly think this system has helped that significantly. Throughout the year, I know students are continuously learning new skills while still practicing previously mastered skills for maintenance. I'm so proud of my little math super stars!

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017 / Leave a Comment
At the beginning of every year in my classroom, well usually ALL year, I have students that are working one to one correspondence, identifying numbers and counting to 10. For my students that take a lot of practice to get this skill, doing the same counting activities over and over again can cause them to become burnt out on the idea of learning to count before they even master the skill. 

To keep things fun and engaging during our Math Rotations, I like to use a variety of different manipulatives. This year, I got a ton of stuff to use at my station during math, and it kept my students eager to come back to me everyday (hellllllo reinforcement).

My all time favorite supplies to use during math are dice and multicolored counters. I got the ones included in this post from Oriental Trading. Did y'all know they had school stuff?!

Students rarely do worksheets when they come to my station of our math rotations. I want them moving, engaged, and having fun, because that’s when they LEARN!  Of course, I have them practice their skills again independently at other stations through fun file folder activities, independent workbooks, and cut and paste activities, but when they are with me, WE HAVE FUN with math! Of course, all the other stations are still fun, too!

I love using math mats and number dice during instruction. I can gear them towards my students’ high interests to keep them motivated to work, and then I let them earn free time with the “toys,” or math manipulatives. Below are a few favorites of ours - you can grab them for free at the end of the post!

To start off, I use dice for literally every activity we do. Not only can I use the dice for my young babes still learning to count, but I can use them for my older kiddos that are working on place value, addition/subtraction, multiplication/division, money, time… AH SO MANY SKILLS. 

You guys… they honestly make every possible kind of dice on Oriental Trading's site. I have regular dice, number dice, number word dice, number sense dice… BIG DICE, little dice, and the list goes on and on (#diceobsessed)

Please note: While I did receive these item at no cost, all opinions in this post are 100% my own.

Back to the counting mats… here are a few of my favorites (and they are free downloads -woop woop!)

Download the printable below and grab those rubies from here.

My students are seriously obsessed with using the gems. 

They will do anything I ask to get to play with these guys. (PS - they make amazing sensory bins for shapes, colors, or just like… fun).

Download the printable below and grab the raceway erasers from here

This one is definitely a win for all my boys. I like that I can sneak in some math stories when doing this mat with students (i.e. There are 2 red cars and 3 blue cards on the race track. How many cars are there altogether?).

Download the printable below and grab the google eyes for super cheap here.

I mean, even I’m obsessed with google eyes. My students go nuts when they roll a higher number and the monster’s face is covered with eye balls! 

As with any of these mats, if you have more than one kiddo at a group or even if you are working one on one with a student, prep two copies of the mats and play war! It’s a perfect way to introduce more/less concepts!

Download the printable below and grab the colorful stacking chips from Oriental Trading here

This one is definitely my personal favorite. I’m obviously obsessed with rainbow colors, so the fact that I can use rainbow colored chips just makes me the happiest. 

This is another one that I like to sneak in some basic addition/subtraction. 

Side note: These stacking chips from Oriental Trading came in a box of something crazy, like 500 maybe, and could be used for so many different activities. For my more advanced students, I have been having them stack them into tens and doing place value practice. 

Click on the image above to grab your free MATH MATS! Be sure to tag me @teachingspecialthinkers to share how you use them!

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3 Easy STEM Centers Using Wacky Links

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 / 1 comment
My students love building. Legos, pattern blocks, playdoh... basically anything that is hands on. I love incorporating any type of manipulative into their learning, so I was super excited to give Wacky Links a try. 

In the past few weeks, we have done three different STEM activities using Wacky Links and they have been all the rage in our classroom.

Before I introduce any new manipulatives into our independent rotations, I let them explore them a bit. This way, when I actually want them to do a structured activity, they actually do it. 

Wacky Links are super easy to use and SUPER easy to take apart and reset, which is a big deal for this busy teacher. You can cut them, wash them, and reuse them over and over again, OR you can let students make their creations and take them home to show off!

The first center we completed was building 2D and 3D shapes. A few of my kindergarten students just finished up their Geometry unit, so it was great timing to see how their learning would transfer over. 

In this center, the students had flashcards to reference, and they had the challenge to try a 3D shape. You can grab these shape flashcards for free at the end of this post. 

I was SUPER impressed with their abilities!

I pulled out our 3D shapes and noticed some of the students using them to figure out how to assemble the 3D shapes. I get so excited when I see their determination and the wheels in their heads turning!

The second center was introduced during our reading rotations. The students had to make their names out of the Wacky Links

I loved seeing how they recreated the letters.

Sometimes when they got stuck on the letter it helped to write it down so they could visualize a plan for creating it. 

The most common center I've used is "Free Build."

Please note: While I did receive these sets at no cost, all opinions in this post are 100% my own.

During our math rotations, I have two centers that involve independent tasks. Students have a specific amount of work to do, and then they get to do a choice STEM activity. 

I'm sure you can guess which activity they like to choose.

If you want to grab the printable I used for the centers, click below.

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