Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Back to School Books for Week 1: All About School

Below are the books we will be reading for the first week back to school. My district goes back to school the last full week of August, so we will be focusing on "Back to School" topics for the first three weeks of school. The following books focus on school supply vocabulary, people and places at the school, as well as school actions and rules.

Incase you missed the intro to this series, click below to catch up:

First Day Back:

You're Finally Here by Melanie Watt

This is the PERFECT book to start off the first day of school. As teachers, we prepare for MONTHS for back to school time. When the students finally arrive on the first day it's so exciting! We usually have circle time shortly after the students arrive and eat breakfast/complete morning routines, so I plan to read it to them at the beginning of this group time. 

Literacy Activities:

There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books

I love using this book at the beginning of the year to review school supply vocabulary. We complete comprehension activities, sequencing activities, & math activities based around this book. 

Pete the Cat: Rockin’ in my School Shoes by Eric Litwin

Pete the Cat rocks my socks. This book was a hit last year, ALL YEAR, and I know it will be a hit again this fall. I love using this book to review school places (classroom, library, cafeteria) and actions (reading, writing, adding, etc.). It's also a great social skills lesson on worrying and staying calm. 

Social Skills/Rules:

David Goes to School by David Shannon

Poor David just can't catch a break in this story. We will be reading this story and using it in conjunction with some of my social stories to discuss proper school behavior, and good choices versus poor choices. 

Social Stories from my TPT Shop:

Transition Books:

I love reading books during longer transitions, such as before lunch, after recess, packing up, etc. Below are some fun books that go along with the literacy lessons for the week, and are just the right length for reading (5 minutes). 

Monsters Love School by Mike Austin

My Best Friend is as Sharp as a Pencil (Different People in the School)

I would only read 1-2 pages at a time during a transition for this book, then let the students look at the picture that goes along with the page. 

School Bus – Donald Crews
Pete the Cat: Wheels on the Bus - James Dean

We will be reading this short books right before we make school buses for art and for our cooking activity on Friday.

Friends at School – Rochelle Bunnett

This is a cute book to show different actions at school. 

We will be these Back to School Interactive Vocabulary Books books from Speech Room News during literacy centers and transition times as well. 

Remnant Book Activity:

Follow the Line to School – Laura Ljungkvist

Last year, we did weekend remnants where the students brought in an artifact from their weekend (restaurant receipt, picture, movie stub ticket, toy box, etc.). Their parents would write a note with the remnant and we would do a little show and tell every Monday to discuss what each did over the weekend. It's a great activity for building language and connections between students. For the first week of school, I will have the students bring a remnant from the summer to show off. Follow the Line is a great book to read before we introduce our Summer Remnants, as the book ends with "Follow the line back to the classroom, it's Show and Tell time!" 

The first week of school is so important for setting the stage for the rest of the school year. I love that each of the books on this list are getting the students back in "school mode" while keeping the material fun. I will be going in depth about what I have planned for my literacy lessons and centers once we get close to school, I just wanted to give ya'll a chance to check these books out and give you plenty of time to check them out at the library or purchase them before you will need them. Be sure to come back tomorrow to read about what we will be reading during the second week of school!

Back to School Books Series

For this coming school year, I've decided to plan WAY ahead. Hence, I'm working on back to school plans and it's the first of July. Last year, I created a personal goal to create a literacy rich autism classroom. I used to be daunted by read alouds in my classroom because sometimes they were a total flop and threw the kids off. When I started to create a daily routine of completing structured and routine literacy lessons, reading books during transitions, and basically exposing my students to a variety of literature throughout the day and in each center, read alouds slowly became one of my favorite activities to do with my students. I researched each book before we read it to ensure the length and set-up was appropriate for my learners, and I always tried to "adapt" the materials to create a more interactive experience versus "teacher reads" and "students listen." Once I got into this routine of planning for a literacy-rich classroom, my students also began engaging more during stories and behavior wasn't an issue during these group read activities. My students developed opinions about the books we read and had favorites they wanted to hear again and again. 

For this three part series, I am going to share with you the picture books I plan to use in the first three weeks of school. Some books will be used during our literacy group time to work on comprehension skills and some books are just for fun and perfect for transitions. I also have a few favorites I like to use to teach those very important school norms that our students need to practice right off the bat to ensure they do not get in the routine of making poor choices. 

My district goes back to school the last full week of August, so we will be focusing on "Back to School" topics for the first three weeks of school, and then we will dive right into Apples (book list coming)!

Here is how I grouped my themes for those first 3 weeks back for my classroom:

Week 1: All About School

These books focus on school supply vocabulary, people and places at the school, as well as school actions and rules.

Week 2: Animals at School
These books focus on different animals going to school. I like to do a lot of pictographs with this unit, to give students a chance to voice their opinions. For example, "Do you think Pigs should be allowed to go to school?" or "If we allowed one animal to come to school, what should it be?" These books are fun and lighthearted!

Week 3: ABC's, 123's, Colors & Shapes 
I have a lot of young learners in my classroom, so during this short week due to Labor Day, we review these topics through fun books and activities. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015


I could not survive without velcro in my classroom. We use it for EVERYTHING. Schedules, work tasks, choice boards, visuals.. literally everything. I also order in bulk for my classroom supply order (that the school pays for) and then I purchase even more (with my own money) to keep at home so I don't have to bring it back and forth. My favorite place to order Velcro is Feiner Supply. I have found that you get the most bang for your buck there, and although it feels expensive at first, it will save you multiple trips to Walmart to buy the measly 1 foot pack for nearly a million dollars (exaggerating, but it's not cheap). I like to order a few of the adhesive backed tape rolls (1/2 inch), and the adhesive backed coins (1/2 inch). I will say that we use more SOFT (loop) velcro than HARD (hook) velcro, so I usually buy twice as much of the loop roll as I do the hook roll (i.e. If I get 2 hook rolls, I'll get 4 loop rolls.
I am an organization freak.

It kind of comes with the territory of teaching students with autism. I need my room and center areas to be free of clutter and crap so my students can focus on the task at hand instead of my mess in the corner. Over the past several years, I've accumulated quite a lot if plastic bins. I use them to organize tasks at every center, classroom supplies, monthly materials, etc. I usually purchase these at Target when they are on sale for under $1.00 and then I can use my card to get an extra 5% off. Bins are always at the top of my supply donation list at the beginning of the year!

For some reason, we go through these things like wildfire in our class. I use them for any task that involve pieces, sending tasks home, dividing treats we make, the list goes on. At the beginning of this year, I plan on buying in bulk at Sam's Club because I know we will need them (quart size and gallon size).

We are doing a lot of worksheets on a daily basis in our room. Almost everything we make needs to be protected so we don't have to remake it year after year. I love the personal Scotch Laminator. It's cheap to buy, and if you purchase these laminating sheets from Amazon, you can save a ton!

I use a glue gun almost DAILY. We glue task pieces onto clothespins as well as to create workboxes. I probably have about 4 glue guns by now, and I always make sure I'm stocked up on glue sticks from the Dollar Tree. 

We have clipboards everywhere in the classroom! I have one for each kiddo to collect data, in most of my centers for data collection, and we even use them as behavior charts. I've purchased a ton from Dollar Tree and love how I can reuse them year after year. 

Book rings are great to keep flashcards together and "bind" adapted books. I love using adapted books I've made or purchased from TPT, and I have even adapted some paperback picture book favorites after laminating the pages to protect them from daily wear and tear. I stock on book rings from Amazon because they are so much cheaper to buy in bulk! I know some other teachers use a book binding machine to keep their books together, which is a great alternative to book rings. 

If you've been following this blog for a while, I think it's pretty obvious I have a serious love for clothespin tasks. Clothespins are SO cheap and I love that my students can work on academic/functional skills combined with fine motor skills practice at the same time. I used to buy my clothespin packs from Dollar Tree, and they were about 36 in a pack (I think), BUT I've discovered that Walmart sells a 100 pack for around 2 bucks - SCORE! 

Although Velcro is my favorite thing in the world, it RUINS scissors. I like to have a few pairs of scissors designated to Velcro cutting only (I usually keep them in the same basket as the Velcro). I've also recently discovered non-stick titanium scissors which are pretty darn cool. Also, for those of you that will be doing A LOT of cutting like me, these spring action scissors are amazing for reducing hand strain because the spring opens up the scissors after each cut. Finally, I've investing in a paper cutter for when we are cutting books, prepping art activities, and basically for anything that can be cut in straight lines and in bulk.

I use a color coding system for my students in the classroom. You can read all about it here on a guest post I did over at Mrs. H's Resource Room. I purchased 2 packs of Astrobrights paper and my supply stack is still going strong after 2 years of using paper from the same packs! 

What are your must haves for your classroom?! 
I'm always looking for new things to buy in bulk and hoard! :)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Long Live the Library

Contrary to popular belief, teachers do not have summers off. As soon as that final bell rings on the last day, our wheels are already turning about back to school. In my classroom, I have students in K-2, so I don’t like reusing the same lessons year after year, because I don’t want to bore my little buddies!

I love picture books; however, finding appropriate books for my students can be tough. For this next year, I plan on having a plan waaay ahead of time. This way, I can be sure that I have appropriate books and lessons ready for story time instead of scurrying through hundreds of pictures on Pinterest looking for something that might work, and then being 2 pages in a story and having my students be totally unattached to what I’m reading them.

One of my favorite summer activities to do is to hit up the public library. I know, what a dork! BUT - it’s seriously a gold mine, and the perfect way to plan for the new school year without breaking the bank. If you are a new teacher, the library is your new best friend. With the technology libraries use today, checking out books is amazingly easy. In my town, I can go online and put all the books I want to look at on hold. I get an e-mail when they are ready and pick them up in a neat little bundle. I take the books home, read through them, and then decide which ones I want to actually buy for the classroom. I love that I am essentially “trying out” the product before I go through the hassle of purchasing the book. Really, you might want to just try them out with your students first to make sure they are a hit. In this teaching business, every penny counts. This system works great for me, because I have so many books I’ve purchased that never get read because they just aren’t appropriate for my students.

I just got all my back to school books checked out, so I will be posting a list soon! My goal is to do a monthly book list that I’ve researched myself, so I can hopefully help others that teach similar populations find books that will work for their students as well. I am hoping to help bring more literacy into your autism classroom!