Good Notes Home

Thursday, November 29, 2012 / 2 comments
This week has been a busy one at school! We had a visit from an author, Cheryl Ware. She met with each grade level and did a little student writer's workshop with the students. They loved it! I will be posting on one of the strategies she used with them that I really enjoyed soon.

Until then, I wanted to post a little freebie I made up to give my kids little boost every now and again.

As a special educator, parent communication is very important, and kids feel awesome when they get to show their parents a "good note" from their teacher {since some of them tend to get more negative feedback than positive feedback}. I try to send these "just because" notes home to give my loves a little boost when they have a success -great or small- or whenever they do something that makes me so proud of them {my students are pretty awesome}!

I made up a cute little printable template so I can print them out whenever I am getting low. I always print on white cardstock. Help yourselves!

Enjoy your Friday! :)

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Student Offices

Monday, November 26, 2012 / 4 comments
After reading the Clutter Free Classroom's Post on creating student offices, I knew exactly what I was going to spend my Saturday doing. Since we just moved, we have a HUGE pile of barely used boxes stacked in our basement that we have been too lazy to recycle. In 10 minutes, I cut out ten of these cardboard "offices" and added some pretty duck tape around the edges. They are much more durable (& waay cuter) than the file folder ones we're been using. I used a glue gun to secure all the attachments.

These lovelies are PERFECT for my resource classroom, because I don't have desks - just tables (which I prefer anyways). The only trouble with tables is that my students don't have any where to stash their work if they aren't finished, which creates a mess of papers for me to deal with. I've tried using bins, but I'm not a huge fan.

These work wonderfully for students with attention issues during independent work. I can individualize them as much as I need too - the sky is the limit. For now, each student has what is shown in the picture above, but they will all eventually be different depending on the student's needs or IEP goals.

I picked up the two different packs of name plates @ the Dollar Tree (12/pack) and they include a hundreds chart, money values, time chart, centimeter and inch rulers, number line, place value chart, etc. I had my students use stickers to spell their names on the back. I am going to create some comprehension/reading charts to add in as well {syn/ant, authors purpose, reading strategies} I'll be sure to post them on here so you can grab a copy!
On the left flap are clear sheet protectors to add in assignments for each student to complete individually, and on the right flap is where they are to put their work as they finish it. Since I usually have more than one subject going on at once, it is so much easier to add in task cards/sorts and other assignments before class so the students can get right to work after we meet in whole group to work on skills they are all working on together. Less time explaining what everyone is to do, and more time working on goals!

I also want to punch a few holes around the top to put in rings that hold the sight words or vocab words they are working on. I left the outside untouched, but plan to add a "way to go" fun sticker collection on the back to keep them motivated to complete all their work and do their best (I don't know about you, but my students LOVE stickers, even my 4th graders!)
Does anyone already use something like these? Would love to hear your ideas of what else I could add to them!

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The Liebster Award

Friday, November 23, 2012 / 10 comments
Today I was pleasantly surprised with a little comment from Jayme over at Trendy in Third about nominating me for the Liebster Award, and I am so grateful! This award is given to up and coming bloggers with 200 or less followers. Thanks so much, Jayme! Make sure you check out her blog, it is adorable! Chevron, stripes, and polka dots?! All my favs!

Here are the rules:
1. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
2. Answer the questions that the nominator set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for the people you nominate.
4. Choose 11 other blogs with fewer than 200 followers to nominate and link them in your post.
5. You cannot “tag back” the other blog, but leave a comment on this post with the URL of your Liebster post so I can learn more about you & see who you nominate.

11 Random Things About Me:

1. I have 3 brothers and 3 sisters (step-family, but they’re still family!)
2. I married my best friend in July and we’re enjoying the ride!

3. I am highly addicted to coffee, especially when I’m visiting my grandma (we just sit & talk and drink massive amounts of coffee – love it)
4. I. die. for. Mexican. food. Which is kind of sad, because I’m 100% Italian. I just love those Margaritas and Guacamole!
5. I love to craft, and sometimes wish I taught the way little kiddos, so I could make them craft with me at school.
6. I’m totally obsessed with Home Décor, and I am constantly rearranging our home and finding junk to refurbish. DIY and Home Décor blogs are no good for this gal! I also move my classroom around constantly and my kids HATE IT!
7. Cooking is definitely not a favorite of mine (I hate the clean up), BUT give me a crock-pot recipe and I will go to town.
8. Pinterest is my bestest friend, but also worst enemy! (back-track to the home décor obsession)
9. In another life, I would be a WEDDING PLANNER. I had so so so much fun planning mine, and I want to do it again (I die for wedding dresses…)
10. Every single year, I pump myself up that I’m going to start a garden and I always fail! L
11. One day, I plan to get my doctorate in Special Education, so I can teach others about how wonderful this job truly is!

Jayme's Questions:

1) What grade do you currently teach? Have you taught any other grades?
I am one of two sped teachers at my school, and I focus on the third and fourth grade students. Last year, I taught in a resource classroom in a high school. It was definitely a challenge, but I absolutely fell in love with my students and enjoyed the year. In one day, I taught Biology (yikes!), English 10-11-12, History (my favorite!), and some learning skills classes. I was back to studying books at home every night before teaching! 

2) What is your favorite thing about teaching? Least favorite?
My favorite thing about teaching is for sure my students – they light up my world!
Least fav – sped paperwork is nooo walk in the park…

3) If your school was donated $25,000, what would you want your principal to purchase?Ipad lab for students, and exercise balls instead of those awful, uncomfortable, cold chairs. 

 4) What is your favorite TV show?
Sex in the City will always be my number 1 (reruns now), but I love GLEE too!

5) If you could go back in time, what era would you choose to visit?
80s– no doubt

6) What is your school mascot?
We are the STARS – they tie in the constellations with each class.

7) How many kids are in your class?

I have so many students on my caseload, but I go into several classrooms and co-teach.

8) What is your current obsession?
Teacher blogs – it’s unbelievable how amazing these teachers are and how much I’ve learned through them

BUT.. I am also currently obsessed with scarves, boots, and tights!

9) What is your idea of relaxing after a crazy day of teaching?
Bubble bath & glass of vino!

10) Do you have a favorite holiday treat or drink? 
I’m a huge cookie fan.. ESP. Pizzelles (Italian cookie – not sure if that’s the correct spelling)

11) Heels or flats?

My questions for my nominated bloggers:

1. What made you start a blog?
2. What’s your favorite thing to do on the weekends?
3. Name one person you admire and why.
4. Do you like sports? If so, what’s your favorite team?
5. Why did you choose to be a teacher?
6. If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do with your money?
7. What is your most memorable moment so far in your life?
8. What do you want the most for Christmas?
9. Do you like to shop? Where’s your favorite place?
10. What are three blogs you constantly read?
11. What are your future goals?

My nominations:

Sparkling in Third Grade
2. Squyre's Special Class
3. Polka Dots and Teaching Tots
Breezy Special Ed
5. Special Teachers for Special Kids
6. A Special Kind of Place
7. Mindful Rambles
The Eager Teacher
Your Smarticles
10. The Candy Apple Blog
11. Busy as a Honey Bee

All of these blogs are worth a look, they are the cutest designs and packed with tons of freebies and teaching goodies!

Thanks again to Jayme at
Trendy in Third for the nomination!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 22, 2012 / 1 comment
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I had high hopes that this week off would help me get a little more organized with the whole blogging scene, but I've been enjoying the company of my friends and family too much to get on a computer! I am so thankful that I have had the past week to catch up with everyone I've been missing. Back to school next week means back on track for me, so I promise more posts and some freebies! Hope everyone is enjoying the time off to have some family time!
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Word Problem Detectives

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 / 1 comment
As I've already said, we are going to start hitting addition and subtraction word problems hard in my math classes since the students really struggle with them. I already discussed how we've been using white boards and markers to practice here, but my little cuties often forget to write down the correct information, and then get the problem wrong. I always tell them to listen carefully and write down those special "clue words!" We have the posters hung up, but I decided to make "mini" posters to place on my tables in a sheet protector for them to reference while they are completing the problems.

I also started using this "Word Problem Detectives Sheet" for them to use to complete the word problems. I will either just make up problems or write a few on the board for them to complete. The most important part is that they are identifying the correct operation to use.

Feel free to download and use this for your classroom!

Word Problem Detectives Activity

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Quick Teaching Tip - Paper Cutter

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 / 1 comment

I love downloading goodies from TPT, but I absolutely despise cutting out a million little flashcards out of cardstock, laminating, then cutting out another million flashcards all over again.

Something I despise every more than cutting is crooked cutting marks from scissors.

Alas, my best friend...

This is my Portable 9-inch Craft Paper Trimmer. I bought it at a HomeGoods in the scrapbooking section for super cheap, and it saves me so much time, plus my games and materials look fantastic because they are all perfect little rectangles. Another good thing about this one in particular is that is easily portable, so I can always throw it in my school bag if I didn't finish cutting something up at home the night before.

Also, when I create my own materials that need cut up, I have started to try to use grey tables versus black, so that the lines don't show up as much when cutting.

Go check out some other awesome teaching tips at Miss Kindergarten's Teaching Tip Linky Party!

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Basic Fact Fluency & Picking Apart Those Pesky Word Problems

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Problem #1: My 3rd and 4th grade students are still using their fingers, the 100s chart, or number line to add even the most basic addition problems {ex. 3 + 4}

Since the beginning of this school year, I’ve noticed that my students can’t quickly solve basic addition problems with sums up to 20 and their corresponding subtraction facts while they are trying to solve 2-3 digit addition/subtraction problems. I could be wrong, but I don’t think students in the 3rd and 4th grades should still be counting on their fingers or running to the hundreds chart to solve 8-3. Plus, it takes them an extremely long time to complete one larger problem. To help them out, I decided to make up some 5-10 minute fun daily activities we can work on to gain some fluency with basic facts. Since I only have 30 minutes with my lower students, every minute counts.

For this activity packet, I typed up flashcards for every single addition fact {stopped at the 11’s facts} and their corresponding subtraction facts, and made up different sorting activities for them {sum of ___, difference of ___, less than/greater than/equal to ____}. Here is a picture of the sorting activity we’ve been working on. We are doing addition facts first, and once they have those down, I’ll add the subtraction facts.

We call this activity “Beat The Clock.” The kids love it! They are given all the addition fact cards and are timed while they sort them. I have found it is much easier to encourage teamwork versus against each other. The “loser” tends to get discouraged, which is the last thing they need when they already struggle. I just tell them that the opponent is the CLOCK {hence, “beat the clock”}.

While they sort, I time them and update them every minute that goes by. It's so fun to watch them scramble around to try to beat their previous time! We record their time on the anchor chart each time they play. The hope is for their time to go down (increased fluency), and plus I can tie in time {minutes/seconds} and a line graph lesson to show them their progress! I don't do this activity every single day, but every once in a while so they don't get sick of it.

Problem #2: Word Problems might as well be written in Spanish.
Another thing my students struggle with is interpreting word problems. In class, we brainstormed all the different words for “ADDITION” you might hear in a word problem and I wrote them down on my “+ sign” poster board {I can't take credit for this idea, I saw it on Pinterest a long time time, but I can't find the original source}. We also did the same thing for subtraction.

Using dry/erase boards and the word problem flashcards, I read aloud a problem, stopping after each important piece of information. When I stop, the students know they need to write the something down. I also ask them to write down the “CLUE WORDS” they hear that helps them know what operation to use {+ or -}. Once I am completely done reading, they answer the problem and we discuss it.

After doing a few of these together, I just give each student a word problem card, and they have to explain their thinking to me whenever they are finished. So far, I have seen a tremendous improvement in their response speed for basic facts, and they are starting to really get the hang of word problem language and thinking through the problem on their own. The good thing about these activities is that they are super easy to make for your students and they don't take up to much math time. The sorting activities also work great for those few extra minutes left in class for those early finishers.
If you don’t want to make up the flashcards, word problems, and sorting activities on your own, you can download my Addition and Subtraction Jumbo Pack at my TPT store.
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Fabulous Giveaways!

Monday, November 12, 2012 / Leave a Comment
I have some other posts brewing, but I wanted to make a quick mention of some fantastic giveaways going on right now in the spirit of Thanksgiving. Go check out Cindy at Granny Goes to School where she teamed up with 4 other teachers to host some great gift card giveaways (Target!) and while you're at it go check out Lisa at The Lower Elementary Cottage where she is having a huge giveaway as well!

Good Luck!
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A little chat about social skills - FREEBIE

Tuesday, November 6, 2012 / 7 comments
I have a few students that really need some help with their social skills.

We have a few programs at our school that work on school norms, but nothing to really target the other skills my students need. For the purposes of their individual needs, I usually see the kids one-on-one to go over comics or social stories specific to them. I use Toondoo to create the comics {It’s easy!} and just make up my own social stories.
A lot of my students have trouble with conversation in social settings. They interrupt, look around the room instead of listening, and talk way off topic. Once a week or so, I like to get my students all together to work on conversing with peers.
I made this little conversation game called “Chit-Chat.” It’s basically just a bunch of conversation starters for them. We sit at a round table in my classroom, and take turns going around the table talking. One student picks up a card from the deck, reads it aloud, answers it, and then picks another student and asks them the same question or a rephrased question. It’s such a great little activity that targets so many social skills they all need practice with. {plus some of the ?s can be used for journal writing prompts as well!}
My students simply adore talking about themselves, and it’s something they surprisingly don’t get to do too often in school. Plus I looove listening to them talk to each other - just like a bunch of friends out for some coffee {except I’m the only one drinking coffee}.

Before playing, we go over being a “first class listener” and for reminders during the game I have a little chart to refer to that sits on the table. If they are having some trouble being good listeners, I sometimes use an object for the speaker to hold onto. This way if they aren’t holding the object, they know they shouldn’t talk.
I'm giving away this cute little {chevron-inspired} game to the first 3 people that comment with their e-mails! If you don't catch it there, head over to my TPT store.. it's only a few bucks!

I would love to hear about how some of you teach social skills!!
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How to add your blog link to a comment

Sunday, November 4, 2012 / 3 comments
This quick post is for Lindsay @ Keeping Up With Kindergarten

Hopefully it will help others too! If you want to leave a link to your blog after your name when you comment on someone else's post, just type in the following code:

1. Enter your information into the code below.

Here is what mine looks like before I look at the preview.

I always preview my comment to make sure I didn't make any mistakes.

Publish if your ready.. Easy peeeeezy! Any other questions, let me know :)
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Here's to November - my first currently!

I'm so excited for this post. After years of blog stalking and reading hundreds (probably thousands) of these, I'm finally doing one!

listening: I kind of stink at finding music on my own, which is why I adore Pandora. When I find a band I like, I type it in and listen away. No muss, no fuss. "Fun." has been my favorite for a few months now, I like the other bands that are played with them as well.

loving: Fall is hands down my favorite "style" season. Tights, boots, a dress, and a cardy are my go-tos. I also looooove jackets, scarves, and gloves! Now I want to go shopping..

thinking: I enjoy cooking, but it can be so hard to pick something to make, and then there is the whole cleaning up afterward.. which I hate. Plus my husband's away, so it's just me. Take out it is.

wanting: I have been blessed enough to have one Ipad supplied for me at school, but I would love to have them for all my students. A bit greedy, I guess, but there is so much we could do with them!
needing: I just recently got bangs. I really like them (I showed her a pic of Reese Witherspoons and she nailed it), but it's been a few weeks and now they're too long and bugging me, so it's definitely time to go back and get them trimmed.

music: I have found that my students respond very well to music. My wigglers wiggle along to the beat while they do their work. It's so cute! My favorite to play is: The Vitamin String Quartet. I discovered them while I was planning my wedding {I was obsessed with having a string quartet for the ceremony} and fell hard for them every since. They do a lot of tributes of popular bands/songs, so my kids usually know what they're listening to, it's just presented in a different format.

Head over to Farley's blog to see what other teacher's are up to..

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