Sunday, September 14, 2014

Storytime Talk: We Love Pete the Cat!



This year, my students are LOVING story time. I have tried my best to pick books that are shorter (wink wink), "action" packed (think music/melodies), and that are repetitive. In my classroom, we read a book several times to the point that the pages start to wear, but I wouldn't have it any other way. To have 8 little ones (& all boys at that!) so into a story... AH! Be still, my teacher heart....

How do I keep them so engaged, you ask? I turn every book into an "adapted" book by adding pictures, props, music, etc., and by following a very structured routine for storytime. Don't be afraid of adding a little velcro to your precious storybooks.. your students will benefit!

Here are a few pictures of our first book this year - Pete the Cat: Rocking in my School Shoes






We've also been reading The Wheels on the Bus, so I had them do a simple following directions activity as well. 


I found a TON of freebies to go along with Pete the Cat books over at 3 Dinosaurs. Unfortunately, I cannot share the clipart images I used with our book, BUT there are some images in these packets you can use to make your own.



These printables are PERFECT for independent work tasks, homework, and basic skills practice!






Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Back to School Activities & Plans



I absolutely adore doing "themes" in the classroom. This month, of course, has been all about "Back to School." We have been learning all about the rules, classroom objects, our school, etc. All of the activities in our centers are based around this back to school theme. I spent a majority of my summer creating materials to use this year, so that I wouldn't feel like I got slapped in the face come September. If you are interested in seeing all of our monthly themes this year, check out the lovely little chart below. Of course, we will still be doing holidays, just not obsessing over them all month. 


I am formatting this around my centers (teacher time, language, workshop, writing, etc.) so if you aren't familiar with my centers, click here to read all about how I set them up. 

Teacher Time: For most of my activities in teacher time this month, I have been reviewing basic skills with my students and collecting a lot of baseline data on their beginning of year levels. I have tubs set up with all the tasks I want them to do for the day, and I always have assessment sheets handy to take notes along with their data binders (coming soon). All of the activities I have been using come from two packs I have in my store: Back to School Basic Skills and September Work Tasks. These packs cover nearly every skill I want to assess in the beginning of the year, from matching colors to counting to telling time to addition/subtraction and so on. To work on one to one correspondence and counting, we have been using my One to One Correspondence Pack

 












Language: For language at the beginning of the year, we have been using our Smart talk language card reader (shown below) to learn all about colors, numbers, ABC's and school supplies. 


Writing: We will be working on sentence structure as well as "WH" questions based on back to school pictures of students working and playing from my Back to School Sentence Builder Pack (shown below). Students will also be working on fine motor tasks such as tracing and cutting using the sheets included in my Basic Skills Pack (shown below).





Workboxes: A lot of our beginning of the year tasks are put ins, matching, and sorting by colors/shapes. I'm trying to get the students back in the swing of "independent" work, and I know all of them can do these tasks by themselves. Here are a few examples:



Workshop: Lots of back to school related tasks!



Literacy time/Story time: We have been loving Pete the Cat: School Shoes, Pete the Cat: Wheels on the Bus, and There was an Old Lady who Swallowed Some Books. I'll dive deeper into the activities I am using and how I adapt these books in another post. :)









Monday, September 8, 2014

Establishing Routines at the Beginning of the Year


Back to school for our kids means back to a routine, schedules, and rules (yikes!).


My classroom is broken up into very structured areas/centers (click here for a tour). We have 8 students and 8 centers. Throughout the day, we rotate through these centers, and also have group times. To view my beginning of the year schedule (I say beginning of the year, because it will adapt often), click here!

In a classroom for students with autism, you have to start establishing routines on the very first day of school. This shows your students that you mean business and it doesn't leave any time for unwanted behaviors to occur.

Here are a few of our classroom "routines" that I try to have established in the few weeks of school to ensure the most independence out of my students.

Unpacking/Packing Up

The very first routine that is essential in having a smooth morning is getting students to be independent in the cubby area where they unpack their backpacks and get started with their daily schedules. By having the area clearly defined with visuals so that students know exactly where their items are to go, you can really help them learn the routine quickly. If you need some visuals, check out my Cubby Area Visuals Pack on TPT. I always stress with all the adults in the classroom (& myself) to let the students be as independent as possible and try not to rush their process. Although it might take a little longer to have them unzip and put away their items in the first few weeks, they will eventually learn the routine and be able to do it by themselves quickly, which is the goal!







Lining up

My biggest pet peeve is a messy line! Four essential things that have helped me teach my kiddos about walking in line are visuals on the door, duct tape, a walking rope. I will not open that door until they are standing correctly in line and they are quiet. :)

 

Bathroom

This one is a given, but having visuals that clearly define bathroom and hand-washing routines can really be useful in prompting students at the beginning of the year. TPT has tons of FREEBIES for bathroom visuals - click here to see!

Center Rotations



For the first few weeks of school, I don't even do teacher time. I replaced that part of their schedules with workboxes. This gave me the flexibility to help my students re-establish utilizing their picture schedules and completing work independently. We are going into week three and I am still working on this. Why?! Because if my students can't work at a center independently, we will never get anything done! Four out of our 8 centers are run by an adult, so I try to assign each adult to "zone" two centers, meaning they run one center 1:1 (one on one) with a student while monitoring another student at a nearby independent work center. When the student they are working 1:1 with is finished and can choose a "choice" center, they can set up for the next student, as well as unpack the work done at the independent center (work tasks, assembly activities). Once all the students learn to stay in an independent area without a ton of prompting, we get a TON of work done throughout the day, which makes me a happy girl!


Here is an example of what I mean by "zoning" two centers. I run teacher time and also monitor workboxes because it is the closest in proximity to teacher time. Before the center rotations begin, I ensure that the workboxes are set up for the student scheduled to be in their. I also have tubs set up in teacher time with tasks and activities to work on with each student per their IEP goals. When we are transitioning into a center rotation, I make sure my student gets to teacher time and I give them some type of "warm up" activity that I know they can do independently. I then go to make sure the student at workboxes is sitting and has starting working. I can then go back to my student in teacher time and we can work on their goal tub. Once my student is finished with the work for teacher time, I let him/her pick a choice center as a reward. I then go over to the student in workboxes to see if they are finished, and when they are, I allow them to make a choice as well. When both students are in their choice centers independently, I go back to the workboxes area to "undo" the tasks and set-up for the next student. I can also make sure I have things set-up for the next student in teacher time. This all sounds like a lot, but it's all done in about 20 minutes and is super easy once you and your students are in a routine.

First/Then

To bounce off the previous routine of our center rotations, using a "First work, then play" routine really motivates students at the beginning of the year. In every center, there is a "choice board" that students can choose from after they have completed their work. By establishing the routine of "first you must do A, B, and C, then you can go to the play area, students will learn that if they comply with your directives and complete the activities, they get to go play!


Circle time



At the beginning of the year, our morning circle time is extremely short. We sing the good morning song, discuss how we are feeling, and sing a few songs about shapes/colors/numbers etc. Since a lot of my students are in Kindergarten, asking them to sit for a long period of time and be engaged in a group setting is just unrealistic. As they get used to the routine of transitioning into circle time (I play the Good Morning Song by Dream English Kids on Youtube), sitting, and participating by clapping, making choices, etc., I will add in more and more activities.