Monday, May 08, 2017

The Fraps Made Me Do It!

Did you catch the magic of a Unicorn Frappuccino? Can't say that I did, nor did I try to. I do however know that our local Starbucks (I do sit there a lot to do work) had enough ingredients to last 4 days, and they were completely sold out in 8 hours. This has also come to been known as an indicator level for the "basic-ness" of your town. I kid. But hopefully you chuckled.

In the spirit of unicorn Frappuccino and the abundance of unicorn images on my Facebook feed thanks to my wallet's relationship with LuLaRoe, this clip art really caught my eye and I thought, why not?

My classroom full of boys are about to become acquainted with all things unicorns for their last weeks in school! HA. 

I started with a good ole tens frame counting book AND a counting book with 20 frames for numbers 11-20. I LOVE using counting books in my classroom. It's excellent independent practice to reinforce mastered skills. I can have a student complete this independently while I work 1:1 with another student and then always go back and check their answers when they are finished. I've been in dire need of some of these books for numbers 11-20, so voila! They happened. They happened with unicorns, but they happened.

You can grab the 1-10 counting book {here}
You can grab the 11-20 counting book {here}

It's also been a super long time since I created a new cookie tray pack. Like, almost a year super long time! Soooo..I got crazy with a set of Unicorn Cookie Tray activities too! There are 24 activity pages, good for 1-2 weeks depending on how you use them with your students.

You can grab them {here}

And how could we forget shapes?! Trioriginals (the amazing clip art designer) made unicorn shapes too, so uh, why not make shape sorting cards?! It's also been a really long time since I've made a set of these too!

You can grab them {here}

Really the only other resource I use regularly in my classroom are file folder activities, but I leave the file folding making to Gabrielle from Teaching Special Thinkers. She rocks the file folder department and I do not- ha!

The best part about these unicorn activities? You can use them ANYTIME! Unicorns are magical and always appearing and disappearing so there's no telling when you might want to grab them to use in the classroom with your students! Now? Summer school? Start of school? Doesn't matter because *poof* they're here, then *poof* they're gone!

Happy unicorning!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sensory TheraPlay Box! -- March Review

Some time ago I came across a company callled "Sensory TheraPlay" on Instagram and was quite intrigued.

Sensory TheraPlay is a monthly subscription box that comes with a variety of sensory and fine motor activities. Each monthly subscription box includes different items. You also get an information card in the box with more detail about the items included.

Screenshot taken from their website
As a special education teacher working primarily with students with autism spectrum disorder I thought this box was an ingenious idea! What an awesome way to get fun sensory products delivered to your door--awesome for both parents and educators. AND it was created by an occupational therapist, so there is some legit thought going into the selection of items for the box and nothing just willy nilly.

As a teacher I see the Sensory TheraPlay box as a way to check out new sensory materials for my students without the time and hassle of searching the internet for hours. I can check out new items, try them out with the students, and if something is a hit the box has given me the information I need to find more.

While I was immediately thrilled about this idea and wanted it right away, I decided to wait a little while before subscribing. To be 100% honest the price was a bit of a turnoff for me. I started following them on Instagram and thought I'd give it some time. If it was something I kept thinking about I would subscribe at a later date.

Their Instagram feed kept getting my attention and I was often wondering where in the world do they find some of this stuff?!

Screenshot taken from their Instagram page
I finally decided to subscribe for my first box to be delivered back in March 2017. I received 10% off my first box, which truthfully, covers the shipping fee. I was excited for my box to arrive and the opportunity to give my readers a true review of this subscription box.

Boxes ship the first week of every month and arrive pretty quickly. I'm always excited to dive right in! When my first box came I almost forgot about taking pictures as I was opening it so I could capture the "experience of the subscription" --ha, was that corny?

Each box is filled with green and purple paper shred so keep that in mind when opening. It is easy to keep it contained, but a good heads up if you have a little one going through the box with you.

Above is the box when it arrives and next was what I found when I opened it up! This box contained 8 items inside. (Amount of items per month does vary!)

On top I found some play foam. I've used this before in the classroom and the kids love it. I've used a different brand though, which sometimes became a little too sticky so it will be nice to see how this one measures up. The odd ball is a stress ball that I would say is filled with super tiny microbeads. About the size of sand, but a different texture. Squeezing it and playing around with it makes a "slush" sound. 

The next 3 items I honestly was not thrilled about. Subscribing to the box from a classroom perspective these 3 items aren't easily incorporated, however, I do think they would be enjoyable for a student at home. That's not to say it would be impossible to use them in the classroom, I did think of some suggestions. 

The Watermelon Jelly Soap smells ahhhh-mazing and it really is like jelly. You could use this in the classroom as part of hand washing to make it fun. It keeps its shape out of the container. 

The SoapSox Alligator is basically a fun washcloth. Could be used to make cleaning/washing interesting for reluctant littles in the classroom. 

The Surprise Bath Bomb is awesome because DUH there's a surprise inside! This particular one has a dinosaur hidden. For the classroom you could incorporate that into science with an hypothesis, observation, and conclusion recording sheet. 

The last 3 items in my box are great for the classroom! The Everfloat Paperweight (fishtank) is a great visual sensory item. The fish never submerge in the blue water! I think this sensory item would be a great addition to a calm down kit or added to a break area. 

The Mega Stretch Frog is so neat! I made my husband try it out with me because I thought there is no way this thing stretches out to 5ft! I didn't get an official measurement, but was still impressed! If you hold each back foot and stretch you will be shocked by how far this thing can really go! While I don't recommend using it this way in the classroom, it's also pretty fun to stretch back and fling at people, haha! 

Lastly, I found the Color Blast activity book at the bottom of my box. These remind me a little bit of Color Wonder pages except the color is already on the page, you just need to marker to make it show up! Exciting way to get in some extra fine motor practice. 

Now that I've shared with you everything that came in my March box I know you're wondering-- What's this subscription going to cost me? 

Like I said previously, the initial price deterred me at first. Each box is $39.95 plus shipping if you pay month by month. You can get a 3 month subscription for $113.85 plus shipping, which makes each box $37.95. 

Thinking about spending $40 a month on a subscription box with NO CLUE what's inside does seem a little steep at first, but I must say, I truthfully (as this is NOT a compensated review) have been very pleased with the items I've received from my first 2 boxes. From doing just a small amount of research, if I were to buy each item in my box myself I'm almost positive I'd spend more than I did on the box itself. 

I'm not sure if items from previous boxes are even duplicated, although I'd love to snag some "ziggy pasta" that I saw on their Instagram page! Tell me this doesn't look awesome?!

Image result for ziggy pasta

I kept my subscription going after my first box and received box number 2 in April, which I plan to share with you as well! The box for May should be shipping out this week-- can't wait to see what's inside! 

What do you think of the Sensory TheraPlay Box? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Classroom Organizing Systems

As special educators I feel like a lot of us use similiar resources in our classrooms. I always love seeing how other teachers organize the same resources that I'm using in my classroom. My peers are my biggest inspiration for new ideas in my classroom so I thought I would put together a post showing how I organize different resources I use in my classroom.

#1: I most recently shared this one on my Instagram. Organizing file folder activities.

I have been using file folder activities so frequently with my students that I decided I no longer wanted to keep certain themes/holidays in with those containers. I wanted them all out all the time. This allows me to give my students variety day to day and week to week for skills they need continual practice with. There's nothing wrong with using a previous holidays theme in my opinion and can help save me time. I needed someone to keep them and a way to organize them. I love these bins because I can still sort through them and see just what file I need. I cannot do that with the bin I used for the colors file folders, but that's okay. I don't feel like I might be looking for a specific one of those as I may with the others.

Since I shared this photo Teaching Special Thinkers has included cute labels for storing file folder activities! These are way better than my post-it notes AND available for Free in her TpT Store! 

#2: I use cookie trays a little differently in my classroom this year, but still organize them in a similiar fashion. 

This post is from another year, but I still organize them in these bins for the days they are planned for. For the photo above I had a file folder in each bucket with the student's name on it. That was the page they had for morning work on that day of the week. This year, each student does the cookie tray activity that is in the bucket for the day of the week during their 1:1 work time with the teacher.

When not in use I store them in laminated folders like this with the cover page on the front. 

#3: Teaching Special Thinkers has these amazing Easy Art Projects that are my go tos. There are a lot of possibilities for how to organize these, but this is what I came up with. 

I love these pocket folders because they are large enough to hold all of the pieces and if I have leftovers you better believe I am keeping them for the next year! I can then put them in one binder together and use the cover page from the product for the front of my binder. 

#4: Student materials and data are stored in color coded buckets.

I recently shared this in a post about color coding in my classroom but wanted to feature it as an organizing system too! Until this year I kept a file basket with a hanging file folder for each student. I'd keep notes from parents, their behavior calendars, work samples, etc in these files. The downside, I rarely took the time to file it so I would end up with a huge stack of papers on top of my file basket. By keeping all of those same things in student color coded buckets it's easy to stick the items right in their bucket, or in their binder quick and easy. I will never go back to my hanging files! 

What are some ways that you organize items in your classroom? I know there are a few more I wish I had snapped photos of to share with you, but I'll keep those for another time!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Handling the Color Coding Dilemma

Color coding in the classroom isn't a new concept in the realm of special education. Or at least I don't feel that it is. I think there are some common no brainers on how one might color code materials in their room, but we all have different ideas so there could surely be ways we've never thought of before. And surely there are some road blocks while color coding that can sometimes make you wonder why you started it in the first place.

I've put together a round up of what color coding looks like in my classroom. This is the first year I've really "driven home" the idea of color coding for my students and have used it in just about every aspect. I think the biggest  challenge of color coding in your  classroom is finding the materials you need in the colors you need.

For a small class you're going to go with your obvious colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. That's 6 color options that are pretty easy to find materials in, especially at back to school time when the store shelves are stocked with materials.

But what about when that class size goes beyond 7 and you're forced to resort to your "less common classroom colors". This might include pink, gray, teal, lime green, and maybe even black. Black's a pretty easy color to find resources for so maybe this was your first go to for student number 7. But what about when you have a classroom of all boys and you're trying to be nice and avoid the color pink? Enter white!--But maybe you needed white because your class size is JUST that big. I'd like to say I feel bad for you if you've hit that many colors but sadly that's my classroom as well.

I've had to play around with color coding as the school year has gone on. I've had new students added and as I make new materials for the students or the classroom that I feel should be color coded. One thing I would keep in mind: some materials just do not exist in the color that you need them in. Therefore, assign colors wisely. Or choose materials more wisely.

For example, my younger students do not have Visual Support Folders. However, those younger students were already assigned colors that it is easy to find file folders in (i.e. red and orange). So I had to order more file folders in "uncommon" colors like gray and teal. (No sweat I'll use them for File Folder Activities but you see my point here). This same rule can be applied to our homework folders. My pre-school students aren't assigned homework therefore they do not need homework folders. Again, it's easier to find plastic 2 pocket pronged folders in your primary colors than it is in pink, teal, gray, and lime green. However, Amazon can rescue you there. Amazon also helped me find 1inch clear view binders in these colors.

And of course you can't forget the bins. How could you forget the bins?! You'll need somewhere to organize and house each student's color coded materials and how dare you organize them in anything besides a container that matches their already assigned color!?!! Am I right? #OCDteachersunite

Really Good Stuff is going to help you out there. You might already, again, have book bins out the wazoo in ROY.G.BIV. but what about the other colors you've had to assign because your class size is ridiculous. (Am I projecting here?) So I ordered this set of really good book bins from Really Good Stuff.

It includes every color I've already assigned, additional colors I'm planning on assigning and I *think* I might have 1 extra bin in there.

I use our windowsill to store these bins. I hate that the AC unit is in the middle and I can't fit them all in a better row but this is my best option with how many colors we need.

Inside each bin the students have the following color coded items:

- Data Binder: I store previous benchmark data collection here and any work samples I keep.
- Math Notebook: spiral ring notebook for their math journal
- Visual support folders: (not pictured) but when we are not using our visual support folders I store them in each students color coded bin.

I also keep any IEP documents in their bins, the reader books they are working on, or are finished with and any packets we might be working on (i.e. Math Shape Journals).

Their parent communication notebooks are color coded composition notebooks and I've also color coded their breakfast/lunch tags too!

So how do I solve the dilemma of color coding? I think it comes down to considering your resources and being creative. The bins I shared above are literally *perfect* since they come in so many colors. From there I can find most the resources I've chosen at any office supply store or on Amazon for the less common colors. 

Color coding not only helps me stay organized, but I think it's helpful for our students too. It's easy for them to remember their assigned color and find their materials easily when asked. Do you color code in your room? If so, how many students/colors are you up to using?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Visual Support Folders-- Game Changers!

Visual supports. You need them, your students need them, but they are literally every.where.

Maybe it's just me and maybe it's because my classroom is small but I feel like I'm constantly juggling visual supports. Supports needed at different times and no where to keep them. Every area of our classroom is "multi-purpose". I feel like I have nowhere to keep student visuals. AND on top of that, due to the age range in my classroom, I can't just leave things sitting in reach at all times. I almost have to hide individual visual supports when my students are together as a whole group because the younger students will remove pictures from others visual supports. (Despite having their own)

SO I had a genius moment over Christmas break and decided each student needed a "visual command center", a place where all their necessary visuals were kept in one spot. A folder that corresponded with their assigned color in the classroom. A folder that would be portable and easy to set aside. A folder that kept everything in one spot for that student. I started using them when we came back from break and I am in love! They have been a wonderful addition to our classroom and it's been a labor of love to put the file together to share with you all. I want you to experience what I'm experiencing with this management piece!

For my students I set up each of their folders with their corresponding color of materials in the classroom. Each student's folder has their name at the top and classroom rules reminder on the front.

When you open their folder up you have their daily schedules to the left and their work/earn charts on the right along with any tasks steps we might need to put out for certain activities.

To avoid juggling too many little token pieces I simply use check marks with dry erase markers on their earn charts since the folders are laminated. Students know they earn their check marks for completing their work.

On the back of their folders they have a first/then board and earn choices at the bottom. The earn choices selection allows me to keep their top reinforcers readily available so they can make their choice for what they want to work for.

Most often our folders stay folded so that we are flipping back and forth between the daily schedules and the work/earn chart.

I keep a page up by our calendar with their options for specials. When we do our schedule review each morning I put what special we have on the board I also go around and add this specials card to their daily schedule.

With my multi-grade level classroom my pre-k students actually follow a different daily routine for most of the day and they do not have visual support folders. This makes it easy to store the specials choices on one page. If this was something happening with my entire class I would need two pages to store their options.

**These schedule card options are from Especially Education. I purchased her scheduling packs at the start of the school year and have been using her images. If you purchase my visual support folder pack you will get schedule cards included in case you do not already have a set. I recommend continuing with whichever schedule cards your students are familiar with.** 

As things are checked off of our schedule I either remove students cards or they remove them and give them to me. I put them all in one cup and since they are color coded it is easy to re-sort at the end of the day.

They also make great transition cues. My students will be finishing up our morning fitness song on the Smartboard while I set their folders out at the table. When it's time to transition they know to sit where their color is.

At the end of each earn opportunity I erase their check marks and their charts are ready to go again for the next set of given tasks in the classroom.

When we are not using their visual support folders I simply stick them in their color coded buckets. This helps me always know where to find them when I need them and the students know where to look for them as well.

 *The picture is blurred to hide student names, but it still gives you the idea.*

Could you see yourself using these in your classroom? You HAVE to try them if they include some visuals you already have going for students. I can't even begin to tell you how awesome AND helpful these have been for me and my students! When you purchase the pack you get rule cards, task steps, schedule cards, and the materials to place onto the folders for set-up. The rule cards, task steps, and schedule cards are all color coded and available in 13 different colors--you know, to help meet your classroom needs once we you have 11 students. Oh, that's just me? I digress... The pictures for these cards have been made with Smarty Symbols and you can click [here] to purchase!

The purchase pack also has a file for a set-up guide to help you know where what goes on the folders.

I'd love your feedback on how these are working for you in your classroom or if you think that will be beneficial for you!