Monday, June 30, 2014

File Drawer Label Freebie

I HATE STACKS! There, I said it! I cannot abide stacks of papers, memos, folders, and other junk! One of my summer to do lists was to snag some small file drawers and make some labels for my desk at school. I have seen lots of super cute versions of these on Pinterest, but none of them matched my room decor. (Sadsville!) So, I just had to make my own. By the way, that is easier said than done, people! Whew, I am glad this task is over!

These were made to fit the Sterilite 3 drawer boxes that hold 8 1/2 x 11 papers. I went with the black drawers because I have had the white ones and after a couple of weeks of pencil lead, dry erase marker dust, and plain old dust, they looked grungy! I had to wipe them down at least once a week with a Mr. Clean sponge. This is especially true if little hands are going to be opening and closing them. 

After printing the labels on card stock and trimming them, I just applied mod podge to the front of the drawer with a foam brush, added the label, mod podged it from the back to seal it, and let them sit to dry overnight. At least that part was easy, right!?! :)

I made labels for Copy, Grade, File, Groups 1 - 6, Extras, Reading, ELA, Writing, Math, Science, and Social Studies. If you can use these, you can download a set of them for free, {HERE}

EDITED 9/5/15: I have had several requests for days of the week labels and a homework label. You can now grab those for free {HERE}

Enjoy! I hope these work for you! I tested them out, but every printer is different. Please let me know if there is an issue. Thanks!!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Tips for a Successful School Year FREEBIE

As teachers, we often assume that families know how to help their child succeed in school. That is true for many families, but not for all families. I have been stunned several times in conferences or RtI meetings when parents needed advice on setting reasonable bedtimes, steps to prevent tardiness, or designating a place for their child's backpack so that they aren't searching for it every morning while the school bus is waiting outside. I have found that once parents know these tips, they generally will implement them. Knowing is half the battle as G.I. Joe used to say!

Now, my church is planning a back to school bash for Vacation Bible School this year. One of my tasks was to create a PowerPoint on tips for a successful school year as a part of the community outreach program for attending families. I need it at school. I need it for church. Hey, you might could use it, too, right?!?

I uploaded this freebie to my Teachers Pay Teachers store as a PowerPoint file. While you cannot edit the text or pictures, you are free to delete slides you don't need, rearrange the order, or customize it as a slideshow.

I have used PowerPoints like this one during Open House. I have it set up on a timer and it looped continuously on my SMARTboard. Parents could view the tips while they waited to speak with me or filled out paperwork. It was a big hit!

I have also manually clicked through slide by slide and discussed each one with families as a quick intro during curriculum night, too.

I hope that these will be useful to you! Please leave feedback or a comment if you download. Here are a few sample pictures from the presentation. Click {HERE} or on any of the pics to visit my TPT store for your free download.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hello Ocean: Book Chat with a Freebie

    You can't think of summer without thinking of the beach! Hello Ocean by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Mark Astrella is my all time favorite summer book. I have bought this book three times now! Every time I get it, some sweet one or co-teacher falls in love with it, and I never see it again.  It really is that amazing!

The story begins with the line, "Hello, ocean, my old best friend. I'm here, with the five of me, again!" The rest of the poem explores the ocean through the girl's five senses. The text and illustrations complement each other so well that you will start to think that you are there, too!

The illustrations look more like photographs than acrylics and airbrushing!

The poetic text is masterfully written!

I have used this book for teaching poetry, word choice, sensory/descriptive writing, and as a part of a unit on the five senses. It can be easily integrated into lessons for K-5. 

Here's a little critical thinking freebie for you to use with this book. Students will change the setting from the ocean to another location of their choosing: desert, rain forest, city, or mountains. Then, they will describe what the girl will experience with her five senses in that particular place. Click {HERE} or on the picture to download your own copy. 

What books do you own that people want to borrow and never return?
Check out more recommendations over at Deanna Jump's "Let's Talk About Books" linky party HERE

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Touch Math Number Posters Freebie

I have the privilege and challenge of teaching 2nd grade RtI students. With very few exceptions, fact fluency is extremely difficult for them. Particularly when students have been identified as having a low IQ or being a "slow learner", automaticity is not so automatic. Therefore, we have implemented Touch Math as one of our research-based interventions. I love this method for a few reasons. 
  1. Many of my students are embarrassed about adding or subtracting on their fingers when other students' pencils are just flowing across the page. This method eliminates the need for finger counting.
  2. The students learn to associate the value of a number with it's numeral. The 2 has two dots. They reinforce that connection every time they add or subtract.
  3. This strategy works for addition, subtraction, multi-digit addition/subtraction, repeated addition/subtraction, and column addition. These struggling students can have one go-to strategy for all of their 2nd grade computation standards.
You can find out more about Touch Math {here}.

I had a set of touch number posters, but I was unhappy with them for two reasons. First of all, they didn't match my room decor, and I am all about things being "matchy matchy". Secondly, I do not agree with the way Touch Math has students tap on the number four. Their four looks like this:
That method works until a student encounters a font that prints a four like this:   4. Then, what should they do?  So, I switched up the touch dots on a four so that it will work for either style. Other than that, these posters follow the prescribed Touch Math method. 

You can grab your own set of these posters by clicking {HERE}. I hope that they will be useful to you! Do you use Touch Math? What do you think of it?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My Favorite Books From Childhood

There is nothing that transports me faster into the mist of childhood memories than reading a book from those precious days gone by. Just yesterday, I was shopping on Amazon and I saw something that took my breath away. It was a book that I had not seen since I was a very little girl. I am reasonably sure that I got it for my 3rd birthday. I can't recall what I did with my copy, but I knew I had to have it for my own again. It was Dean's A Book of Fairy Tales. I cannot hear or recall a fairy tale without the illustrations from that particular book springing forth in my mind. Books are powerful that way!
The Little Match Girl illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone

I had a profound experience in my classroom many years ago that taught me about the power of books! I had just finished reading Charlotte's Web to my students.  This is an annual tradition for me because words like "the nearness of cows and the sameness of sheep" are good for the soul! A little girl approached me at dismissal time and whispered something that I will never forget. She said, "Can I tell you a secret? When you were reading today and Charlotte died, I saw you almost cry. I almost cried, too, but I didn't because I know that when I get older, I am going to read that book on my own, and Charlotte will be alive all over again!" Friends, I almost couldn't keep it together when she said that! If a book is truly great, the characters live within us and they begin life anew each time we read their story. 

The timeline of my life seems to be marked off with books. I have loved books from my earliest memories. When my little sister would go down for her daily nap, I would join my mother on our couch. I would put my head in her lap. She would stroke my hair and read The Boxcar Children to me. Not the mystery series, but the original story about how the four orphans lived in the abandoned boxcar until their grandfather found them. I was amazed at their adventures and resourcefulness. Emilie Buchwald was right when she said, "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents."
My mother had been an elementary school teacher. So, I learned to read at a very early age. I devoured books! My favorite place at school was the library. There were books that I read so often that my name was on line after line of the check out card. Our school librarian was always so good about recommending books to me. She'd say, "Now, Jennifer, if you liked Charlotte's Web, you simply must read Stuart Little." She would check it out to me and off I'd go on a new adventure.  Here are a few of the books that I savored over and over again.

I adore children's books! I could spend hours in the children's section of the bookstore or the library. There are some new books that I enjoy very much. Others give me cause for concern. So many books today seem to lack depth, quality characters, and heart. 

Beth March's death will always be tragic. The hearth in the Ingall's home will always remain lit. Aslan's roar of victory over death will always create goosebumps. Ramona's awkwardness will always resonate with 8 year old children. 

I hope that you will consider adding in more classics like these into your read aloud time with your students or children in the coming school year. These stories have endured because something about them makes them timeless.  

So, what books still take your breath away?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas: Book Chat with a FREEBIE

     I am linking up with the fabulous Deanna Jump for her Tuesday Book Chat. You can check out all of the book recommendations {HERE}. Today, I would like to introduce you to one of my new favorite books: Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim and Grace Zong. I love this book for a few simple reasons.
  1. Pandas rule! I have a lifelong love of pandas! They are so stinkin' cute!
  2. It is a fractured fairy tale. Kids LOVE to read or hear books that are twist on a familiar tale.
  3. The illustrations are vibrant and engaging.
  4. Kids will be introduced to rich vocabulary relating to the Chinese culture and customs. 
  5. Goldy Luck makes mistakes, but she also learns to take responsibility for her actions. 

Here is a quick peek inside this fantastic book! Keep scrolling for your freebie and other related recommendations!

What's a book recommendation without a FREEBIE to go with it, right?  Click {HERE} to snag your double bubble map with optional cut and paste clues. 

If you are looking for other books to carry on with a Goldilocks theme, I also highly recommend these two titles! They have always been a big hit in my classroom!

I did a Common Core aligned book study for The Three Snow Bears by Jan Brett. You can check it out in my store {HERE} or by clicking on the image below. 

Have fun perusing all of the awesome book recommendations on Deanna Jump's blog. I hope to be back next week with another favorite and freebie for you!  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A.P.D. The Silent Struggle

I am doing something extraordinary! I am about to be transparent and vulnerable with you. That is NOT one of my strengths! I am normally a very guarded person, but I feel that it is necessary to let you in on a behind-the-scenes look at our life with Auditory Processing Disorder.  My hope is that by sharing my experiences and struggles with you that you would be better equipped to help identify and serve your students or even family members who may have Auditory Processing Disorder. 
My daughter looked just like the girl in the image above when we first found out about her A.P.D.. Following directions was never easy for her. She desperately wanted to do what we said. Obedience was not the barrier. She simply didn't understand what we were asking her to do.  I can still hear her little voice asking, "What you said, Mommy?" over and over again. We did our best to be patient and give her one direction at a time.  Then, she started preschool. She began to really struggle with following directions. One day, we sat down to look at her papers together. Across the top of many sheets the teacher had written in all caps, "DID NOT LISTEN!". My daughter had clearly not followed directions. I asked her what she thought the teacher had written on her work. She said, "I think it says 'You're dumb.' because that is what the teacher said when she gave me back my papers."  That BROKE-MY-HEART, y'all! She was not dumb! She was exceptionally bright! So, why couldn't she follow simple directions?!? 

In Kindergarten, her teacher wondered if it was a hearing issue. So, we had her hearing tested by the nurse. She passed!  They brought in an audiologist.  Again, she passed! However, the audiologist also asked her some questions and gave her a set of directions to follow. She failed- BIG TIME! Finally, we were onto something. The audiologist did some further testing and gave us the answer that had been eluding us: Auditory Processing Disorder.

Life with A.P.D. is NOT easy! Furthermore, research has shown that it is largely genetic.  So, from this point on, I will give you examples of A.P.D involving my husband, my daughter, and my son. All three of them have A.P.D. in various forms. Some days are better than others. This morning was rough. Therefore, I am blogging about it as therapy for myself. :) 

What is A.P.D. and how can you identify it?  We hear with more than just our ears. Our brains have to process or interpret what we heard, too.  That is where this neurological defect kicks in.  A.P.D. is not ADD or ADHD. People with those disorders cannot focus well enough to listen. A.P.D. is not autism. Their language issues are unique to that disorder. This is a specific auditory issue. It affects people of all I.Q. levels. I have RtI students with A.P.D. My own kids are gifted and have A.P.D.. Their brains just have a minor malfunction when it comes to understanding what they heard.

There are some obvious symptoms.  Here's a quick list of some red flags to watch out for. 
Here are some scenarios involving my family that may help illustrate these symptoms.
  • Anxiety reigns in my home! Imagine how you would feel if you were in a constant state of confusion. You would always be wondering, "Did I hear my teacher, right? What if I do this wrong and the kids laugh at me? What if I ask her what to do AGAIN and she gets angry AGAIN?" 
  • Difficulty remembering things: Oh, boy, I could write a book about this one! Life sometimes feels like a constant game of 20 questions. I am always trying to figure out the meaning of that lady, that man, that thing, that place we went, etc. 
  • They need directions over and over again. Often, I give them one task, have them repeat it to me, and then come back for the next step when it's done. 
  • My husband and I call this one "the deer in the headlights look". We ask a question or give directions and the kids just stare at us wide-eyed in panic and confusion. 
  • Incomplete or incorrect task completion is abundant. They will often do part of what we said (usually the last part) or do the opposite of what we said. For example, if I said, "Son, that toilet is not working correctly. Someone filled it with too much toilet paper. Please do not use this stall." This otherwise brilliant boy will stare at me and walk directly into that stall! When I ask, "Where are you going?" He will look confused and say, "You said, 'Use this stall'." True! I did. Those were my last three words and that was all he was able to process quickly.
  • Difficulty summarizing: Wow, again, this one is super tricky! Mentally organizing information for a summary of a long conversation or a book report is extremely challenging. Guiding questions definitely help!

  • Exhaustion: Do you remember how you felt during a job interview? Trying to listen carefully to the questions, interpret them, and answer coherently is draining! Now, imagine feeling that way for 7 hours a day! That is how school feels for kids with A.P.D.. Every moment is taxing as you try to make sense of what is expected of you. My kids cannot participate in sports or other extracurricular activities because they are simply worn out from thinking at school. We have tried several activities, but it overwhelmed them.  So, we use our evenings as a time of rejuvenation at home.
  • Reluctance to go first or watching what others are doing is a MAJOR indicator of A.P.D. and it is SO EASY to miss! My son tried taking classes in Parkour. He would stand right next to the coach, stare intently at his face, and listen as the coach explained the five obstacles he wanted them to run. The boys would line up for the obstacle course and my son would quickly run to the end of the line so that he could watch to see what the other boys were doing before it was his turn. Even after hearing the directions, he needed to SEE what the coach expected him to do.
  • Maybe you like playing music in your classroom or allow kids to talk among themselves as they work. This can be a terrible distraction to students with A.P.D. These students are working hard enough to filter out what is important in what you are saying. Crowded places, noisy restaurants, and loud conversations are a definite no-no for us, too. 
So, what can you do to help in your classroom or even in your home?  Here is a little advice that I have found to be tried and true.
Most of these are self-explanatory, but I would like to emphasize the importance of visuals and gestures. Please take the time to write down the page number, the due date of the project, make an exemplar of the finished art project, anything that will make the directions more visual than auditory. Please do not underestimate the power of gestures. Sometimes I feel like one of those workers at the airport who guide planes in with those orange light stick thingies, but it does help.  Move your fingers like scissors if they are expected to cut something out. Shake your head and hands back and forth if they are NOT supposed to do something. Every little visual cue helps!

Above all, please avoid doing the following things. These students should never be made to feel inferior or even stupid for something that they cannot help!

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I hope that this information is helpful to you. I love my family! Overall, my home is a joyful place filled with the three most compassionate, intelligent, and hilarious people I know. However, I am tired of feeling like we are hiding a secret. My kids aren't perfect. (GASP!) I am not perfect. (BIGGER GASP!) But no matter what we face, we love each other and we're here to help each other on this wonderful, crazy journey! 

Do you know anyone with A.P.D.? Got any tips to share? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Alphabet Strip Posters FREEBIE

I do not have the brain power yet to focus on curriculum. I need more recovery time! I do, however, have the stamina to make new things to decorate my classroom! When I was taking down my room, I sighed with disgust when I looked at my alphabet strip.  It is starting to yellow and I am not a fan of the pictures. Let's be honest here. Sometimes my classroom is the last stop on the track to special ed. Therefore, having a parrot image for the letter P is just downright confusing. Sometimes I get asked why I have a bird for P? Don't even get me started on xylophone or omelet! So, an alphabet overhaul was long overdue!

My room is black, grey, and red. I try to keep things pretty simple. Many of my kids are driven to distraction by too many colors or busy print. As much as I LOVE all of the pictures I see of classrooms with blues, pinks, and greens, it just wouldn't work for me. So, this alphabet strip matches my theme. If you can use these, you are welcome to have them.  Just click {HERE} or on any of the pics to download.

See doesn't pizza make more sense than parrot for struggling readers 
or kids with language disorders?

Good-bye xylophone!  Hello, X-ray! 

I hope that you can use this set, too! I would love to hear from you if these are helpful to you! New friends and followers are always welcome, too! How long does it take you to start thinking about curriculum during the summer?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Classroom Rules FREEBIE

So, during the last week of school, one of my sweeties pointed to my class rules and said, "What do these even say anyway?" I read them off to him and explained the rules, but in my head I was thinking, "SAY WHAT?!? It's the last week of school and you don't know the rules!?!" So, I gave it some examination and some thought. Here is what I came up with.:

Were my rules clearly posted? Yup-They were hanging right by the door in a super cute fashion. ;)
Had I thoroughly explained the rules and expectations? You betcha! We spent a lot of time on this at the beginning of the year!
Were the rules enforced?  ALL OF THE TIME, Yes-indeedily-do!

So, what was the problem?

Were the rules easy to read? Honestly, the answer was no. I could read the cutesy wootsy font, but the rules weren't there for me. I needed to make them primary RtI kiddo friendly ASAP!
Did the images correlate with the rule?  Again, no, the clip art was really precious, but it wasn't a true illustration of the rule. For example, the rule about respecting school property just had a picture of a red schoolhouse. Cute? Yes!  Functional and purposeful? No.
Why did this sweetie not know the rules?  Well, I had gone over the rules in August, but I have an RtI classroom and sweeties come and go all year. This particular sweetie didn't join my class until October. So, he had missed my whole spiel about the rules. I need to remember to review the rules from time to time. His confusion was completely my fault!

So, I spent a little time creating a new set of rules to post. Cute? I think so. Easy to read? YES! Images match the rule? Hallelujah!  Easy to display? Yes, I will only have to switch out my old rules for these! SCORE!

If you would like to score these for yourself, just click {HERE} or click on any of the pictures. All of the credits are listed in the download.

** I included two different versions of the "I will treat school property with care" rule. One has a desktop computer and the other has an iPad/tablet. Not all schools have the same technology handy and I wanted the image to work for you.

So, what class rules work for you? How do you know they are effective? I would love to hear from you if these are helpful to you!

Monday, June 2, 2014

June Currently and a BIG favor

I have never linked up with the sweet Farley from Oh Boy Fourth Grade before, but I thought summer was the perfect time to start.  Well, that, and I need your help in making a BIG difference for a sweet little boy!
Listening: My kiddos are six years apart in age, but they are best buds!  They are currently hanging out and giggling in a chair and blanket fort that they built in the living room.  Love them!

Loving:  We have always started back to school the first week in August, but this year we don't go back to school until the day after Labor Day!  That is a whole extra month of summer vacation!  Woo Hoo!

Thinking: My brain is a little overwhelmed by all I want to accomplish with that extra month! I need to just get it all on paper and start pacing it out.

Wanting: I want to use most of my time making life better for others, my family, and myself. I want to do some service work, make lots of memories, and kick off a healthier lifestyle for myself.

Needing: YOUR HELP!

Do you see this cutie patootie red head?  She is my little sister! We are not so little anymore, but she will always be my little sister! She is an AMAZING lady! I am in complete awe of her! Not only is she a wife, mom, full-time student, and true friend, but she is also a nurse for kids with leukemia and cancer at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta! I KNOW I couldn't do what she does! Today, I got an email requesting help for one of her patients. I hope that you will take a just a moment to help this sweet boy! It shouldn't cost you more than a stamp to make him smile!

Meet Jason Kenyon
  • precious boy who will turn 2 years old on June 5 at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
  • lover of cars, trucks, dogs, monkeys, planes, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, and Chuggington Trains
  • battling leukemia
  • wanting LOTS of birthday wishes!
How You Can Help
  • Check out his Facebook page {Here}
  • Send a smilegram to him through the Children's Healthcare site {Here} Jason Kenyon--Egleston--room 4131
  • Send him a birthday card or well wishes to this address:
Jason Kenyon
Room 3240
Henrietta Egleston Hospital for Children
1405 Clifton Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30322

Summer Bucket List: 
1. Be more active every day!
2. Finish my 1,000 Gifts List: I have been reading this book by Ann Voskamp.  It has been such a blessing to me! I am determined to write my own list of one thousand gifts from God this summer.  I am getting my kids in on this project, too. 
3. Revamp my RtI plans --whew! This one is going to take a while, but it will be worth it!

So that's a wrap on what I'm up to currently!  Thanks so much for your help in making a little boy's hospital stay birthday a little brighter!