Monday, September 1, 2014

Currently: Lesson Plans!

Happy September 1st!

I ♥ Autumn!

While I love my birthday month of July the very best, autumn is my favorite season! I cannot get enough of back-to-school shopping for sweaters, boots, and school supplies. And then the ultimate symbol of autumn:

This cute graphic is from Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs

I love everything pumpkin. I could probably live on pumpkin pie. But there will be no venti pumpkin spice latte from SB for me. I follow Whole 30 religiously and feel tons better for it, so my pumpkin spice addiction will be fulfilled with this:

The beginning of this wonderful month also means it's time for linking up with Farley for her monthly Currently linky!

Listening - noooooo, say it ain't so! We seem to have that awful end-of-summer plague. It comes, and goes, and then comes back :(

Loving - one of my all time favorite bloggers left me an awesome FB message and hopefully we will continue to chat! This year, I have more pull-out sessions to support my students. This is great, however, after only three weeks into the school year, I'm starting to feel slightly "isolated" from the fantastic first grade team.  Chatting with awesome teacher bloggers who totally "get it" certainly helps and I really appreciate it!!

Thinking - Velcro is competing with my other go-to BFFs: lamination and Boardmaker. Unfortunately, this new must-have is HARD to find locally (I have to order from Amazon) and is a bit expensive, in my opinion. However, it only takes 30 seconds of observing my precious students tearing into an adapted task featuring these magical Velcro dots to confirm it's TOTALLY worth it :)

Wanting - I want everything! I want every single teaching tool...whether store-bought or handmade...that will help my students. I would do anything to help them succeed.

Needing - I need absolutely nothing :) Although I want to purchase so many amazing teaching materials I see, I know what my students really need is patience and support. And those are both things I am happy to provide.

Three Trips: It may seem like I'm cheating here, but our Florida trips are truly the way I survive :) My MIL lives here and graciously lets us visit several times per year whether she is in town or not. We are now up to four visits every year (this will be year 4) with the next one coming up at the end of October! It's hard to explain, but this town feels like home to me. I know the neighborhood, the sights, the people...I truly feel like I belong there. When days are long here in Baltimore, I look at real estate in Redington Beach. I already have a place picked out! 

Here's a few pics from my future home!

Before I log off, I wanted to share my lesson plans for the upcoming week. I'm required to upload these plans two weeks in advance. I create one lesson page per day for the three main content areas: math, phonics, comprehension. I work from the general education lesson plans in those three areas and then I'm "on my own" for the intervention block (focusing on my students' IEP goals and objectives), Guided Reading (we don't start until October), and writing (because my students are below grade-level in this area). My lesson plans are approximately 16 pages long every week and I'm required to carry them with me. I use a clipboard and then refer to this cover page to keep the objectives in mind:

These plans are actually for the following week. Here's a glimpse of what the one-day lesson plan looks like:

I write these plans soooo far in advance. The weekend before I teach them, I look at the objective and assessment more closely, plus the guided practice. I then create any visual supports/accommodations to help my students gain access to these general education plans. This year, it's all about sensory materials, including an interactive notebook component. I will be sharing out what I learn after everything's been student-tested and approved!

I'd love to do the cute "peek at my week" visual plans that I see from fellow bloggers, but I don't even know where to begin!

I'd love to hear how all of you plan your lessons!

Have a fantastic day!

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

SENSE-Sational Sunday Smorgasbord

Happy Sunday!

SO happy - it's beautiful out, I have coffee, and tomorrow is Labor Day! I also "have" to go to Target, which ALWAYS makes me happy.

Yesterday, I debuted a new series of posts called

Today I want to share another series I'm referring to as

Please click here to download this colorful freebie frame!

What's with all the new themes?

My new caseload! This year is going to be 

One. Long. Professional.Development

I'm not's like "starting from scratch" all over again, which is both exhilarating and exhausting. We just wrapped up our 3rd week and I'm not joking when I look back and think "It feels like I've been working months already" and then in the next minute, I panic "we only have 165 days left to accomplish ALL of this?!?"

It's going to be a wild, awesome ride!

After the very first day with my new students, I created this pinboard. I'm working with students who have strong sensory stimulation needs, like loud noise, different textures, smells, etc. By the way, I'm also working with students who are overly stimulated easily and dislike loud noises. 


I welcome any ideas :)

While I'm definitely creating new sensory supports, like these, I'm also looking at items I've already created and/or purchased with "a new lens" to see how I can turn them into a sensory-stimulating experience. This week, I incorporated clothespin tasks, spinners (paper clip/pencil), auditory (youtube phonics clips and read-alouds), and magnetic wand/chips.

Here's a couple TPT Treasures I used this past week:

I've really enjoyed using this spinner activity from

The spinners are bright and colorful featuring 5 themed pictures to use for discussion (i.e.: asking the "wh" questions). My printer became possessed and cut off the border of every single page! No worries though, I ended up cutting out each spinner and writing the discussion questions on the back before laminating:

I apologize for the above picture being upside down! Two thumbs up for this product - my students LOVED everything about these spinners. It makes me shake my head a bit though. In previous years, I've avoided any spinners because they were SO distracting for my students. This year, everything is being flipped around.

I'm also incorporating magnetic wands/chips (sorry, no picture - the materials are at school) to use with Cara Carroll's 

I'm thankful because there are TONS of these cards in the packet. This lends itself to modeling, guided practice, and then having plenty of additional cards for independent practice :)

These circles are the perfect size for those red/yellow chips. 
However, those are also apparently tasty, as well :(  

See what I'm learning this year?!?
MOST important lesson: it's better to be one step ahead and PROVIDE the sensory experience, before my students seek it themselves! I hope my true excitement is coming through this post though...I'm blessed to be working with such awesome firsties!

This post is most definitely random enough to qualify for Fabulous in First's Sunday Smoragsbord

And trending on the random theme...I also linked another post this morning with Simply Centers. Please check it out - it has tons of math freebies & ideas!

Enjoy your weekend!
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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Just Speechy! Freebie

Happy Saturday!

I hope you had a wonderful week!

We just wrapped up our third week of school. It doesn't feel like three weeks, it feels like three months! Not because time is dragging, but because I've learned SO much from my new caseload of precious students. I've learned about their strengths and their challenges. I've learned how awesome and unique they are :)

I've also learned a whole heck of a lot about language development! Yes, I've even gone down to the basement this week to dig out my old speech and development textbooks!

I've been busy creating and testing language tools to help support my students. I'll be sharing what I'm using and learning about with my new series:

Hopefully you'll find tools to help your learners, too!

I want to kick it off with this freebie I'm using to developing conversational dialogue with students I'm working with who have autism. I printed pages 2-5 on assorted cardstock to provide color-coded visual support. Page 1 has all eight carrier sentences on one page (in case you want to skip the color-coding).

Here's a glimpse of the assembled dialogue sentence strips:

I wrote in the appropriate responses (individualized for each student) using a permanent marker. I suggest laminating the strips first, so if you make a mistake like I did, you can use nail polish remover to "erase" the marker and try again :)

Gotta run...I have a date with my BFF:

And before I forget...
if you're keeping track, here's Day 5 (& variations):

Have a wonderful weekend!

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Friday, August 29, 2014

5 for (Freebie) Friday!


We made it! It's Friday and hopefully most of us will be enjoying a long three-day weekend. 

I'm linking up with Kacey from Doodle Bugs Teaching 
for a very tired Five for Friday:

I'm letting pictures do the talking this week because I'm all talked out! If you stick with me, there's a freebie at the end :)

5.  College Pride Day

Our students had two weeks of summer school (half days) and then we started full days this week. Summer school is a time for character education, establishing routines and expectations, and pre-assessing. Every classroom is named for a college and we celebrated the end of summer school with College Pride Day. Every class debuted their "Roll Call" by performing their college cheer. Throughout the school year, we continue to cheer on our college at our morning pride meeting. It's like starting your day with a mini-pep rally for education!

4.Meet the Press

It wouldn't be the first day of school without the news crews, right? This is what greeted me as I rolled into the staff parking lot Monday morning at 6:15 am. The Baltimore City Police Commissioner was at our school to shake hands with our students as they entered the door. There's 800 students! 
I was very impressed :)  

3. The Joy of Reading

We kicked off our first comprehension unit: The Joy of Reading. Every teacher "wrapped" up their library and the students had to unwrap it to explore. Next, we called students back in groups of five to choose 2 leveled books to keep in their seat sack for independent reading. It was an exciting way to kick off the unit! The general educator I co-teach with has "Library Shopping" every morning during breakfast:she keeps a list of students (5 on Monday, 5 on Tuesday, etc.) and they know when it's their time to switch out their old books for new. We practiced the procedure this week and it's already running like clockwork :)

2. Independent Reading

Independent Reading is one of my favorite times of the day. It's actually my students' favorite time. I'm working with firsties who have specific IEP goals and objectives for literacy. In addition to their two library books in their seat sacks, I created independent reading "bags" for extra support. The bags include 5-6 high interest books and a little reading buddy (mini-beanie baby). If we are staying focused and applying our good reading strategies, we can also earn tools like monster fingers, finger lights, and magnifying glasses. If you were to drop in during this activity, it might look like a hot mess, but there's definitely lots of reading happening around here!

1. Work Your Wear


Alison's Work Your Wear Style Challenge started on Monday and the timing couldn't have been more perfect. It was super fun to participate and I appreciated all the kind words and support from the group! Above is the outfit for Day 4 - on the top is the outfit for the challenge and underneath was my spin on it. Click here to see Days 1-3 and please stay tuned for future outfits!

Soooo...I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse at my week! I tried to keep it positive and share the highlights. In truth, it was a very challenging week My caseload is very different from any previous year and there is no doubt I will be learning A LOT! I will be learning more about enhancing the curriculum using sensory materials, delivering instruction in bite-size chunks to accommodate attention spans, and implementing Behavior Intervention plans effectively. I will also have to get better at looking for and celebrating the good ("thank you for sitting in your chair safely"), tracking progress (we shaved off one minute off this morning's tantrum!), and using replacement behaviors rather than saying "no, stop doing that" ("hands in pockets" vs. "do not touch anyone"). It will be a very different year and I will be a very different teacher at the end of it. For that, I am grateful.

Thanks for sharing in my week! 
I'm linking up with Teaching Blog Addicts for

Freebie Fridays

Here's a chart I've been using with one particular superhero:

Here's what it looks like in action.
I use "if, then..." statement All.The.Time!

Please click here to download!

I also linked this post with The Daily Alphabet.

I adore this title:

Have a fantastic Friday!

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Work Your Wear (& a Freebie!)

Happy Wednesday!

I've had this post ready to go ALL week. I'm so excited to share!

Haha, I ♥ the linky button!

I'm participating in Get Your Pretty On's third style challenge!
You can read more about the previous challenges here. This time, I'm fully committed to posting my outfits, plus it's extra fun linking up with other bloggers to share how we are interpreting each outfit.

Here's my Days 1-3:

Which one do you like the best?

Days 1 and 2 are WAY out of my comfort zone
(& that's a good thing!)!

Day 1 - I never EVER wear oversized tops. This is an extra small and I was swimming in it! Next time I'll pair it with skinny jeans for more contrast.

Day 2 - I own more than 10 sheath dresses - my fave ♥!  However, I've never even dreamed of wearing a crisp white shirt underneath and I had serious doubts. I went with it though & ended up really liking it. I own four button down shirts that I've NEVER worn.
Now I have some new ideas :)

Day 3 is pretty much a go-to outfit, not stretching my style. The flats are supposed to be bright, but I'm still breaking in my new fall shoes and just needed a more comfortable choice today. I'm not a tan-pants-girl, but I like the variety of colors between the three days.

It's been a lot of fun to check out other outfits!
Please click the links above to see everyone's variation :)

I also linked this "fashion snap" with
The Pleated Poppy
Tucker Up

I also want to share a freebie that's helping me keep it altogether during this busy time of year:

When I think about my work week, "overwhelmed" seems to be an understatement. I teach special education at an urban public city school that has extended hours. I sit down at my desk by 6:30 am and leave at 5:00 pm...usually to catch up on more work! Since the school day goes by in a flash, I set aside time before and after school to get paperwork completed and then spend the weekend doing more "creative" prep work (printing, laminating, assembling). It's a great thing that I absolutely LOVE what I do, but I also need to maximize every minute to get it all done!

Working at school is an area I really need to "tighten up." My lunch and planning times often disappear due to tantrums, jammed copiers, and impromptu meetings. But if I have a plan, I'm hoping I can still crank out the majority of my paperwork. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail...right? :)

Here's what I've come up with for my to-do's I need to accomplish every week:

I've designated time for copying and printing. This will hopefully eliminate the need for finding the time DAILY to deal with those temperamental machines. My plan is to keep a running list of what I need to print (weekly activity pages, lesson plans, meeting notes) and copy (Reading A-Z books, activity pages, homework packets).

Throughout the week, I have several meetings I attend. Darn - I forgot to add "Team Meeting" to that awesome open space on Friday afternoons :(

I'm a Teacher Development Leader, so I spend 1-2 hours in meetings and conducting observations. I'm also taking a course through December with modules due every Friday. This role also includes checking and providing feedback on 35 lesson plans every week! I also create differentiated homework packets for our first grade friends who need a little boost and fill out pages of SpEd paperwork/documentation every week.

At my school, we upload our lesson plans two weeks in advance. My weekly plans are differentiated lessons from the general education curriculum. They are 16 pages per week and take me
f-o-r-e-v-e-r. I really need to brainstorm (quickly) the accommodations my students need to access all the information. I set aside two hours to accomplish this. Currently, the quickest I've accomplished this in 5 hours during the weekend, but I have high hopes I'm going to get this done during the week!


I didn't fill in evenings because that's the time set aside to"put out fires" from the school day. For the past few years, I usually work 10-12 hours on the weekend doing everything I didn't accomplish during the week! I'm hoping this schedule will help me carve out some R & R! Weekends are when I like to do more creative work, like customizing student materials and perusing teaching blogs for more ideas. I'd love to find more time to spend on that!

How do you get it all done? Please comment and leave some helpful hints! I will be forever grateful :) Please click here to download the schedule freebie above.

I also wanted to quickly share a fabulous linky host by Primary Inspiration 

(thank you Linda!).
I just added FOUR freebies from my store: Week-by-Week Sight Word Work for the Entire Year, HOTS Question Stems, Hey Batter Batter Making 20, and What a Smart Cookie! Positive Notes :)

(Please ignore the strange links above...Blogger and I are having way too many issues lately!)

 I'm headed back now to check out all the awesome ideas.
Have a wonderful week!

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Just Give Me the Marshmallow!

Happy Monday!

Today is the first day of school for many students, families, and teachers. We are actually heading into our 3rd week with students, but today begins our full (extended) days. This is the time of year when I leave my house in the dark, arrive home in the dark, and the next thing I's Thanksgiving :)

It's also the time of year when all best intentions seem to take a backseat. Anyone else? All my good stress-free habits I built up during break just seemed to disappear last week! My beautiful Jamberry manicures? Yikes. My cleaned-out email inbox? Not so clean anymore. My greatly-reduced coffee habit? Hahahaha.

Today is not only the first day of l-o-n-g days for us, it's also my sister's birthday (happy birthday Leslie!) and an anniversary of a super-important commitment I made to myself (yay me!). 
August 25th marks a day when I pat myself on the back, read a few positive quotes, and set some new personal goals. 

(check out Babbling Abby's motivational freebies here!)

What are your goals for the new school year? I plan on continuing with Whole 30 (focusing on nutrition and sleeping!) and I'm looking to up the ante with new fitness goals (open to any suggestions!). I also want to continue participating in the Alison's challenges (fun post coming on Wednesday!) to stay accountable to NOT wearing ponytails and UGGs all year. Eating healthy, sleeping, and cute outfits pretty much sums it up!

We had our students participate in the classic marshmallow test last week when we discussed the "self-control" character trait. 
It was hilarious to watch - my students were in it to win it!

We watched a little youtube clip featuring children participating in the challenge. While our students were watching, their teacher placed one marshmallow at their tables. We told the students if they could demonstrate self-control and not touch, lick, or eat their marshmallow for 5 minutes, they would receive another one. We made it a BIG deal with cheering as the longest 5 minutes ever ticked by. Almost every student made it...except the cutie pictured above. He lasted 4.5 minutes! And then proceeded to have an ear-splitting tantrum that involved me taking him out of the classroom for a water-chill break. 

I had total sympathy for him. I ♥ marshmallows :)

Here's a terrific reminder article as we gear up for another year and try to hold onto the commitments we've made to ourselves.

Have a fantastic week!

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Adapting :)

Happy Sunday!

Taking a quick break from printing and laminating to show off what I've been up to! Tomorrow kicks off our THIRD week of school and our first week of the "everyday schedule" of 7:40-4:15 pm. The past two weeks have been "summer school," it's still mandatory for our student attendance, but students left at 12:15. Those two weeks were spent establishing routines and procedures, character education lessons, and assessments.
We even had a successful fire drill!

I'm so thankful for the two weeks of summer school because I learned A LOT about the students I'll be working with. They are an awesome group! Very joyful, yet there are also many challenges.

One area I've been working on is creating appropriate adaptions for my students to access the general education (Common Core) curriculum. For these adaptions, I'm focusing on mainly attention (lessons "chunked"), sensory (as in, they need it!), and language/comprehension.

I've got to get right back to work, but I'll leave you with these pictures:

I've completed 15 social stories with interactive cards. I'll share more details once they are student-tested and approved :)

A very important adaption for Close Reading ("Listening"), is recording the comprehension book and creating an interactive PowerPoint. Not only is it helpful for the caseload I'm working with, other teachers could use it for students who are absent. Simply take photos or scan the pages from the book and load into a PowerPoint. When you select "Slide Show," there's an option to record yourself reading. Easy!!

I purchased these plates from Target Dollar Spot:

My students loved them and they kept all our math manipulatives in one place!

We also learned all about Monster Fingers while practice fluency:

I love the beginning of the year when I can show my new students all the fun things we'll be exploring and using to help us learn! 
It's like Christmas every day :)

I'll be back soon to share more!
Be sure to stop in Wednesday for a fun post
(IF you like retail therapy as much as I do!)!

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