Sunday, December 4, 2016

Embedded Learning


Working with students with special needs we need to make sure we give every opportunity to learn that we can.   This means we need to embed learning and instruction into daily routines and activities.  We need to make conscious decisions that we are going to address a certain skill during a certain time period.  In order to do this we need to go through a few simple steps.

1. Determine what IEP goals or skills you are addressing for an individual student. 
 For example ,right now one of my student's (A) goals is to identify numbers 1 -3. Another student, (B) is working greeting adults and peers appropriately.

2.  Determine what routines/activities these goals can be embedded into.
This is where the planning part comes in.  Depending on the type of classroom you have, this can be done in various ways.  If you have a self-contained room where all your kids are on the same schedule, you can develop a matrix of your schedule.  There would be a column for each student and their goal.  You then go through the schedule and see where you can work on the goals.  You can do something similar if you have students in various classes or  go between buildings.  Your matrix, just might look a bit different.  Using the matrix also enables you an easy way to collect data on the goal.

To work on B greeting adults, I prompt him in the hallway on the way to class when an adult greets him.  I have planned with one of the paraprofessionals that she will greet him daily.  I am working on fading my prompts so that he can become independent in this task.

If I was in preschool and focusing on building vocabulary with my students, I may make sure that my snack includes various farm animals such as having animal crackers.  This way we can talk about the animals as we eat them!

In this post you can see how I used our science lesson to work on sight words.


3. Use your matrix!
Now that you have determined where your teaching and instruction is happening, get to it!  This part should be easy.  If you can, take data on your matrix show that you can demonstrate progress and note what you need to change.

4. Change your matrix as needed.
 You will need to update your matrix when a student masters a skill, a unit changes, your schedule changes, or for a variety of other reasons.  I keep a template on my computer so that I can easily change it.

If you are interested in learning more about embedded instruction, I originally learned about it from Sharon Raver.  I took a few classes that she taught while working towards my Master's degree.  She has written many professional articles and books that include using a matrix and embedded learning.





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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Alphabet Fun!!

It seems every year I have at least one student focusing on the alphabet.  Sometimes, I am teaching preschool so it is natural to fit into the curriculum and same with kindergarten.  Other years I have 2nd graders, who I have to sneak the learning in on.  This year.... I have both.  I am working with kindergartners and 2nd graders.


I wanted to share just a few ideas that have worked great for me.  Some I have shared before, some are new.  I hope you can use a few and I would love the read about some of things you do, so please leave a few comments below!

So let's jump right in!!


Oh Pumpkin is a game I made a few years ago that is still going strong.  It is simple  to play and the kids love it! You print out the cards, laminate for durability and then put them into a basket (I try to use something seasonal to add to the fun factor).  The kids take turns drawing out one card at a time.  I differentiate by having some kids say just the letter, some kids say the sounds, some even give me a word that starts with that letter.  Then the student passes the basket.  If the student gets "Oh Pumpkin!" They have to put all of their cards back.  This game has been a hit with my kindergarten students this year and I have tied it into our social skills learning by having the kids say to the person before them "May I have the basket, please?".   If you like this game, there is another version here that was requested by some of my paraprofessionals a few years ago.



An activity that I am doing this year that is also with one of my kindergarteners centers around whatever the theme is for the week.  When I took these pictures, our theme was bats.  I printed out a clipart picture of a bat on card stock and cut it out.  On day one, I had my student punch holes around it.  Day 2, he had to lace it.  Day 3, I wrote letters on the bat and he had to match the round stickers with the same letter to the letter on the bat.  This worked out great and I have continued to do this with other shapes. You could also write numbers, shapes, or really anything on the object to have the student match.  It all depends on your needs.

With my 2nd graders I had to sneak in the learning a bit.  I took these spider webs that I made last year and put them on the ground.  I then gave each student a fake spider.  I called out a letter sound and they had to be the first to find the letter and put their spider on the web.  I had strict rules on no pushing or shoving.  You would have thought that I was giving the winner a free trip to Disney World. The kids loved it and have asked to play again.


This next activity is just a simple ball that was on the giveaway table a few years ago.  You could do the same thing with any ball, you would just need to write your own letters on it.  I have used this ball with one student up to 5.  We toss the ball back and forth and where ever your right thumb lands you need to use that letter.  I differentiate by having a student name the letter, sound, or word that starts with that sound.  This is another activity that spans the grade levels.

I hope this gave you some ideas that you can use in your classroom!!
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Friday, November 4, 2016

Multi-sensory learning

Multisensory education is proven to be effective with, no only students with disabilities, but all students.  Multisensory learning is learning that involves two or more sense.  This means children will take in information more than just auditory (ears) or visually (eyes).  They use a combination of the senses to learn new skills and practice previously taught skills.




I know what your thinking, "Caitlin, I don't have time to add in one more thing to my day".  The great part is, you are probably already doing some of this. Other things are just minor tweeks and you are on our way to involving multiple senses.

multisensory learning: smelly markers
One of the easiest things to incorporate are smelly markers and smelly pens.  I use these for the kids to draw and color with, but also when writing their letters or practicing their word sort words.   The kids love to use them and I like to giggle when I see the little dots under their noses.


multisensory learning: sandpaper

Sandpaper is another great multisensory tool.  You can have students place the sandpaper under their paper and then use various writing instruments (Take those smelly markers back out!) to have them write or draw with. The rough texture of the sandpaper provides some additional tactile input.  I found a stack of over 30 pieces of sandpaper at the Dollar Tree.  I have also cut letters, shapes and numbers out of sandpaper so that students can rub or trace over it and form that shape.


multisensory learning: gel board

Another great attention grabber is gel boards.  I have various versions of these.  The first comes from Wilson.  We bought these to use with students when we had the Fundations program and now I use them with my kiddos who have Orton-Gillingham or Wilson instruction.  The kids use the stylus to write and then erase with their hand.

multisensory learning: gel bag


I have also made my own gel boards. My students use gel bags to practice writing letters, words, numbers, shapes, or just to play around with.   Last year I shared these boards that I made with freezer bags, hair gel and food coloring.  They are great, but leak easily.  At the beginning of the school year I stumbled across this blog post from Capitals First! about making durable gel bags.  Well, I wrote a grant to get the food sealer and I am in love.  These bags are not only easy to make and hold up to more love from students, they provide additional sensory input.  The seal-a-meal bags have a texture to them on both sides, but I found a roll of bags on Amazon and those are textured on one side and smooth on the other.  My students just can't get enough of them!


multisensory learning: boogie board

The last tool I am going to share today is Boogie Boards.  I was first introduced to these little devices a few years ago by an awesome PT we had.   They have gained popularity in our school and no the company has come out with all different types.  The new ones have a place to store the stylus, you can change the battery, and they have magnets on the back so they can stick to your white board or chalkboard.  To use you simply write on the board with your stylus and then press the button to erase.  I took these out today use my students to introduce and get the play part out of the way.  I didn't even have to ask them to write their alphabet, they just jumped right in.  These boards can be used writing letters, words, numbers, math problems, answering questions and the list goes on.  Yes, they are a more expensive white board, but they add to the engagement factor for some kids.

There are a lot of other ways that you can add multisensory learning into your day (shaving cream, move & sit cushions, wobble stools, etc) and this is just the tip of the iceberg.  I would love to read about the various tools you use in your classroom.  Please share in the comments section below.


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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

What's in my inclusion bag...


Working in a small district has it's positive and negatives.  One thing is that I never know what to expect every year.  Some years I am teaching a self-contained class for K-2, some years I have preschool and 2nd graders, and this year I have Kindergarten and second grade.  I have students who I do pull-out services in my room so all of those supplies are handy.  However, I spend a lot of time in other classrooms, so I carry a bag of stuff with me wherever I go. I thought it might be helpful for me to share all of this stuff.



Here is all is.  You can see my chrome book sticking out there.  Carrying my Chrome book has become a major plus for me as I use it for data collect. There are times that I am sitting behind a student helping him to complete work with one hand, while filling out an A-B-C form on another.  Not ideal, but it gets the job done 

Coffee and my water bottle are a daily essential.  I keep an extra k-cup just in case I need a pickme up when I am not near my classroom.  I usually only carry one of the cups at a time and sometimes I leave them somewhere.  Such as today I finally found my water cup in a classroom cubby. 














I carry two types of timers because I never know which one is going to be needed.  I also carry my cell phone to use as a timer when needed

I have pencils and pens along with a hole punch to add visuals to keychains on a whim .

Stickers for rewards and the tape is used to make places on the floor where a chair should be, a line should start, giving borders on a table, and lots of other little things.

I often use the round stickers for students who need to answer questions or spell words, but do not have the ability to write.  I will put their answer choices or letter, numbers on the stickers and then they can put the sticker where it is needed.  You can find out more about that at this post.

The index cards are to write notes one, make quick flash cards, etc.  I usually have sticky notes thrown in there somewhere also.
















I carry various visuals.  The one on the left is a copy of one of my student's core boards, the middle is a behavior strip for carpet expectations and the right is a bathroom sign that has jumped off of a set of lanyard visuals.



The last thing I include in my bag are some of the intervention materials or assessment materials I may need for the day.   Today I wanted a student to try a quick comprehension sheet.  In the zipper pouch, I have a dry erase marker, and eraser and a laminated name card so a student can practice writing his name.

So now you have a pretty good idea of what I carry in my inclusion bag (the ones my paras carry have all kinds of different stuff), so I would love to know what you carry around with you.


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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Shaving cream pumpkin

Happy October!!!

Shaving Cream pumpkinI just wanted to share this quick activity I did with my 2-year-olds a few years ago.  Unfortunately, I only have one picture(insert sad face).


I am a huge fan of using shaving cream and glue to make a paint.  It smells great, the kids can use their hands, and it is such a great sensory experience.

To make out pumpkins, I printed out a pumpkin outline on white cardstock.  The kids and I worked together to mix the shaving cream, glue, and some red & yellow food coloring.  They each took turns stirring.  We then used out fingers to put the "paint" on the pumpkins.  I put the paper on old lunch trays so that I could contain the mess and move them easily to dry.  After the pumpkins were dry I cut them out and hung them up.

You can also add faces to the pumpkin by having precut shapes, from construction paper or even the foam shapes,  that the kids can stick on to make a face.  The shapes will stick to the shaving cream once dry.
Shaving Cream pumpkin


If you would like to see other activities where I have used shaving cream and glue, check out this post about snowmen by clicking here and another one here.

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Name Practice

One of the first skills I like to work on with my students is identifying and spelling their names.  I have tons of ways that I do this and way too many for one post, so as I start this school year I plan on sharing the different ways that we practice in the classroom.  I wanted to start off with a few that I have done over the past few years. 

The first thing I do is make sure my student has their name posted all over on everything that is theirs.  Coat hooks, desk, chair, etc. If they are just starting I will add their picture next to their name so that they can identify it with a picture of their lovely selves (I should have a picture of this to share later this week).



Name Necklace:
 This activity I came up with last year.  It incorporates putting the letters of your name in order with fine motor skills.  To make it, I typed up each student's name and printed on cardstock.  I then laminated it for some extra durability.  I cut the letters apart and punched two holes in each card  Students then had to string the letters onto their necklace.  It is hard to see in this picture, but they also added a pony bead between the pictures.

Names in Shaving Cream:
Writing or playing in shaving cream is always fun (and messy!)  To help contain the mess a bit, I use a teacher lunch tray.  This keeps the mess contained.  Also, if I can't clean the trays up right away, I can stack them and wash them later.

 Name Tracing:
As part of our morning circle activity, my students will trace their names.  I simply typed their names and printed on regular paper.  I then put it in a page protector.  The students trace their names with a dry erase marker and wipe it clean with a Mr. Clean eraser.
Watercolor Names:
As you can see in this picture, my students have their name available to them on a small card so that they can refer to it if needed when writing their names.  In this activity we made apples.  The students wrote their name on the back of the plate.  Then they water colored the front. Prior to the start of the activity, I wrote a letter (the first letter in their name) in white crayon on the center of the plate.  When they painted over the letter, it came through the paint.  They just thought this was magic! 



I hope this gives you some ideas to get started.  I have more coming over the next few weeks!  
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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Number practice with spider webs

number practice, fine motor, preschool
Looking  for a fun way to practice numbers and fine motor skills while incorporating spiders?  We made this awesome spider web to do just that!

I used number dot stamps and put numbers 0 -9 in random order around a paper plate.  The students traced the numbers with a smelly marker ( using smelly markers makes the activity jump up in the level of fun) as we counted from 0 - 9.
number practice, fine motor, preschool


 Next, we used hole punches (I like using this brand because they are easier for the kids to use) and the kids each punched a hole for each number.



Then we laced a piece of yarn through the 0 and taped it to the back of the plate.  We then laced through the numbers in order from 0 -9.  All of the webs looked different because I put the numbers in a different order on each plate.  After we were done, we left the sting long and hooked the spiders we made the day before to the bottom (I, of course, did not take a picture of the all of it put together).

number practice, fine motor, preschool

The kids loved this activity and it gave us a lot of practice on fine motor skills, number recognition, tracing and following directions.  One suggestion I will make is that the yarn needs to be a lot longer then you would think.  I made it to short and had to tie on extra for all of the kids.

number practice, fine motor, preschool




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