Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Choice Time in the Classroom

Every afternoon in our class we have choice time. Many of my students are verbal enough to state what they'd like to choose, while some of my students use a choice board (a board with a variety of choices on it so the child can make their choice with options available). This summer while garage sale-ing (one of my FAVORITE summer pastimes!), I found this adorable mailbox by Melissa and Doug (<3). It was so cute, fits our community helpers unit, and I knew my students would love it.

This mailbox is, like expected, a huge hit. They love to use our mail carrier puppet to deliver mail to their friends and stick on the Velcro stamps.

But, it wasn't always this way. See, when my students notice a new toy or really any item that is new in our classroom, their immediate instinct is to run around with it. During choice time on the first day of school we had stamps and wooden envelopes flying around like crazy. It. was. chaos. So, I had to teach them through modeling. Children with autism often really need that extra prompt so they actually know what to do with something new. I quickly realized that many of them didn't even know it was a mailbox!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday & Tuesday @ TpT!

Hey friends!

I know everyone has been Cyber Monday shopping for some new goodies for our kiddos. Check out my favorite product that is on super-sale...

This has been one of my favorite items that I have created for my students. The supplemental materials help them get a visual sense of what I am asking. We are working on generalizing these skills in our class, and I know they wouldn't be at this stage of learning without the hands on, repeated practice they had from these materials! :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Back to Reality - & Cyber Monday (+ Tuesday!)

It's Sunday afternoon and I can't believe reality hits again tomorrow! I have been on fall break from graduate school since last Wednesday and we had our nice, long break from work. But I will say, I miss my little guys!

BUT - tomorrow is Cyber Monday! I don't know about you, but I am ready to FINISH my Christmas shopping tomorrow! I plan on buying coats and toys for my church's Christmas Store, some bed sheets for my brother (how exciting... not), and LOTS of goodies from Teachers Pay Teachers. Did I mention that my store is on sale? Since I'm BRAND new to TpT, I am still learning the ropes, but I would LOVE for you to check out my store!

I got this cute graphic from The 3 AM Teacher :)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Turkey Time

On Wednesday, we made some fun turkey puppets in our room. My kids have a LOVE of puppets. My first Donors Choose project for my autism classroom was a set of puppets, because there was one puppet in the classroom when I started, and that poor puppy puppet was the source of many fights.

We have been reading turkey books, creating turkey crafts, and talking about Thanksgiving for the month of November. So, we cut out half circles of white card stock, glued on two google eyes, cut triangles for beaks, and I painted their fingers with sponge brushes (I had baby wipes for an immediate post-hand print clean up!) and they made feathers with their fingers. In the afternoon, we glued the half circles to the back of the bags. They were obsessed.

Here are a few of the finished products!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Vital Visuals

So this may seem like a shameless plug to my new Teachers Pay Teachers Store (okay, it kind of is!), but if I call myself a blog about my class of children with autism, I HAVE to talk about visuals!!

People with autism are said to actually see the world in pictures; like snapshots. I can't be 100% sure of this (though I would love a sneak peek into the brain of my kiddos), but I do know that my students respond very well to visuals. It is true: people with autism are visual learners.

If you have spent time with anyone with autism, you have probably heard of Boardmaker. It is a computer software that allows you to make computer activities, printed visuals, worksheets (you name it) using very simple pictures. They have a picture of just about everything. Depending on the student I am working with, I will either show them a visual of what I would like them to do (ex: a picture of a boy with his finger in the "shhh" position at his lips to show the student they need to be quiet) or I would pair the visual with a verbal request (ex: show the visual while saying "Quiet voice"). Once you know your students, you would get a feel or what kind of verbals they can handle.

So, I wear a lanyard around my neck with my most needed visual cues at all times. I have quite a few students that tend to become violent when getting riled up (which is when I REALLY need my visuals handy!), which has led to them yanking on the lanyard and almost strangling me. YIKES, right? Well, that behavior DOES come with my job title. So, I got creative and cut my lanyard in the back. I then added two pieces of velcro and put it back together. Now, when one of my little buddies pulls the lanyard in a fit, it will break away rather than hurt me, and I can just pick it up and still have my visuals handy. We all win :)

I have posted a freebie on my TpT store of my most needed visuals.  Hope you're having a great LONG Thanksgiving weekend!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Joys of Donors Choose

As I promised yesterday, I want to share with you the incredible and amazing nonprofit that is Donors Choose. This website has literally changed the culture and developed the curriculum in my classroom. I have had over 10 funded projects from puppets, to fine motor materials, to iPads. My particular school district is constantly facing financial shortfalls and my kids need specialized materials to make gains. So, insert Donors Choose!

Donors Choose allows public school teachers to post mini-grants to the website. These grants can come in the form of items requested from selected partner stores/catalogs, or special projects. Special projects can be written after you have completed a few grants through Donors Choose and have met appropriate deadlines/followed directions (fairly easy to do). These projects can be field trips, inviting a guest into the classroom, or requesting materials that are not available through the partner stores/catalogs. These projects are funded by everyday people looking for a way to support schools, companies, and really anyone who stumbles upon the website and feels compelled to give to public school classrooms!

Donors can search through the thousands of projects posted to the website by city, academic level, project key words, or just at random.

You can keep projects on Donors Choose for up to 5 months. If your project is not fully funded after 5 months, it is removed from the website. If you had some donations but not enough to fund the project, the donors have money refunded to them in the form of Donors Choose gift cards.


Are you a special education teacher? Better yet, teaching a very specialized class (ex: autism, deaf/hard of hearing, blind/visually impaired, physical impairments, etc.)?? Add this into the TITLE of your project! These are words that really draw in donors.

Post the link to your Donors Choose website EVERYWHERE. Twitter, Facebook, email signature, blog, everywhere!

BE PROMPT and BE THOUGHTFUL about the "thank you" notes that you write to donors and the pictures you post of your students using the donated materials. This seems to be magnetic to donors - people love the idea of getting a real taste of your classroom and the kids they're serving.

DON'T put your project up for the full 5 months. Now, this seems backwards, right? You have the option to choose how long you want to keep your project on the website. BUT - when projects are expiring on the website, they are publicized more on the front pages of the website, making them more accessible to donors. This = more donations faster, meaning you're more likely to get fully funded AND get your projects sooner.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

iPad App Wednesday!

We are so blessed to have not just one, but TWO iPads in our classroom! These were funded by a project I posted on Donors Choose (If you are a public school teacher and you haven't started using Donors Choose, get on it! I will post about that wonderful website tomorrow!).

Children with autism often have a difficult time differentiating expectations if they are unclear. For instance, we use the same table for morning group and snack time. I have a visual that I change so that they are aware that they can sit in different seats and that different activities are occurring at this table throughout the day. So, what does that have to do with iPads?

I know many teaches have games on their classroom iPads for students, but I am not that fun. I found that when there are non-educational games on our iPads, my students had such a difficult time understanding that they couldn't play them every time they had a turn on the iPad. Therefore, EVERY app on the iPad is educational! Now, many of them are games, and my kiddos think that they are playing (well, they are) - but first and foremost, they are learning and refining their skills. Afterall, a huge reason I wrote the grant for these iPads was so my students could have an additional engaging way to learn skills related to their IEP goals. Again, I guess I'm just a mean teacher :)

Each Wednesday, I will be reviewing 3 of my favorite iPad apps. These are teacher chosen, student approved apps - but occasionally I'll throw in a few that I like to use to keep myself organized!

Monkey Preschool Lunchbox - This is a great app for some of my lower functioning students that are working on basic skills such as 1:1 correspondence, shapes, colors, counting, and letters. It's super engaging and the cute little monkey makes giggle noises and flips when they get the answer right!

Monkey Word School Adventure - This is a variation of the Lunchbox app, it's great for my students working on sight word recognition, rhyming, and spelling. This app has the option to choose "players" and to target skills depending on which student is playing the game (one of my favorite features of an app!) I only wish it tracked progress! But... it has the same cute monkey!

Monkey Math School Sunshine - Yet ANOTHER app with our monkey friend, but this one with a math focus. This app targets counting, numerical order, less and more, basic patterning, and more!