Monday, September 12, 2016

Beach Ball Back to School!

A few years back I posted about my love for catch balls games.

Now, for the past year years, I have expanded from using them for test prep to incorporating them into my back-to-school routine. I use them as a first week of school activity for my gifted and talented, regular education, and special education classes of students to get to know one another.  

Beach balls can be purchased for approximately $.50-$1.50 cents a piece on Amazon or Oriental Trading. Since I use these activities regularly each year, I usually purchase a 6-pack or 12-pack. The beach balls pictured were about $7 for a 12-pack on Amazon. 

I put together a 4-pack of activities on TpT to help share some of my favorite ideas!

Community Building & Test Review Beach Ball Activities:

Three variations on "getting to know you" games are provided as well as a "test review game". 

♦ Teacher Guide (4 pages)♦ Catch A Question Getting to Know You Game Worksheet (1 pages)♦ Me Too! Getting to Know You Game Worksheet (1 pages)♦ Share Six! Getting to Know You Game Worksheet (1 pages)♦ Catch A Question Test Review Game Worksheets (2 pages)

Each of the four games had a teacher guide with pictures of a sample beach ball. Each of the four games has coordinating worksheets for the students. The sheets are easy to follow and all you need is a beach ball, the worksheets, a permanent marker, and the students!

Catch A Question Getting to Know You Game
This game allows students to create their own questions and to share their unique responses!

Me Too! Getting to Know You Game
This game focuses on sharing the similarities of the students!

Share Six! Getting to Know You Game &
Catch A Question Test Review Game
The "getting to know you share six!" game allows students to share six facts about themselves and to ask questions of classmates.  The "test review share six" allows students to create their own test prep questions and in combination with other students' questions, review for upcoming assessments. 

What other beach ball variations do you use?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Back to School Prepping

Well, it is that time of year.....

Back. to. School.

And like everyone else, I have so much to do!
I have a few things to prep this year to make it run smoothly.  I have already set up twitter and created a template for a smore newsletter for parents. I have already photocopied the back to school syllabus. But, next up, I will need to:

1. Print my classroom goals banner....
I print these at Staples and have the students complete these during the first week.  Easy, fun, and meaningful room decor! I just laminate them and string them on twine across the classroom windows!  The worksheets that go with the set then reference the goals and have students reflect throughout the year. Love it. 

2. Photocopy and set up the class Study Skills Binders.  
I use this as a framework for helping the students reflect on their study and work habits. I set up the binders in advance.  The purpose of this Study Skills binder packet is to provide support to students with a focus on study and content skills. The students will maintain a binder that will include a work log, SMART Goal creation and reflection, studying reflection, test reflection, and self-editing. 

3. Hanging room decor. 

I tried to start making teal and blue themed posters to match my room decor of teal and black.
Here is an integer set of posters I made.  More to come this year as I see what I need.

4. Making, printing, and updating first units of this year.
I took a lot of time this year to prep my first units and here they are! I am especially excited for the Olympics Design unit because it was one of my students' favorite when I completed it around the time of the winter Olympics a few years ago.

3rd - 5th: Olympics Design
6th: Logo Design
7:  Stock Market Unit (currently making!)
8th: Independent Study

5. Buying odds and ends on Amazon.
Here is what is in my cart:
A teal tape dispenser (because it matches my room, of course)
magnet adhesive strips (for white board hanging/activities)
screen cleaner (because my laptop gets GROSS)
lint rollers (to keep in my desk. because "my favorite color is dog hair")
laminating pouches (of course)
name ID badges (for advisory/homeroom)
twine (because I always seem to find uses for it!)

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Dreaming of Snow Days?

Urban Dictionary defines a snow day as “The best school day(s) of the year”.  
Sleeping with my pajamas inside out tonight…

but here are a few little activities from a project in my TpT store for students 
to plan their dream snow day! We used this activity this week and 
the students' creativity was fun to watch!

I designed this activity to be completed by my 3rd-5th gifted and talented classes. The students worked independently to design their dream snow day! We discussed and brainstormed our favorite snow days in the past. 

We viewed YouTube videos of exciting snow slides and snow forts and discussed movies and TV shows with epic snow day adventures. 
(Winter Carnivals and Ice Hotels are also fun to view!)
**just make sure to preview videos of course! 

The students then worked their way through the 14 page packet to independently complete their “dream snow day”. The packet prompts students to cut the parts from their packet to create a portfolio of work. As the teacher, you may decide to grade the work a portfolio, to ask students to combine all pieces into a poster, or hang only individual components as student work in the classroom.

Above is a picture of a few of the pieces from the project.  This shows the pages for the students to follow a budget for 
purchasing snow day gear, instagraming their dream day, and choosing their dream snow date. 

In this enrichment activity, students will plan their dream snow day. They will pick a date, weather forecast, snow outfit and snow gear, and itinerary for their day! They will share their imaginary day through writing a blog post and creating three instagram posts to share your day.
The unit is designed with a cover page for easy photocopying as a workbook style unit. The unit is easy to print and use in the classroom. All workspace is included in the packet. You must photocopy the packet as single pages, since the students will be cutting directly from their packet. By the end of the project, most pages in the packet will be cut apart and the students will have created a portfolio of work.

Above are some more samples of students' "dream snow day" Instagrams. 

Check out more information on the Dream Snow Day Project.

It is also included in the Snow Day Bundle for discounted price.
(see below)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Executive Functioning Support

"Executive  Functioning"

What does it mean? How do we help kids with this?

I have started really focusing on executive functioning in my classroom.

Not that I wasn't focused on it in the past....but as a teacher of IEP/504/GT students, I see this "beast" affecting too many students.

From losing papers to not knowing how to attack studying for a test, we are fighting the battle to improve executive functioning skills ASAP! 

So, in this battle, I have found some excellent resources for middle grades teachers to support students with executive functioning.

I am pretty excited about them. (And about finding more....recommendations, anyone?)

I am excited to recommend a few books here: 

This book is an excellent purchase for a student to work through self-assessing their strengths and weaknesses and attacking them! I am working with a student currently who is using the book and I am thrilled with what I am seeing! 
The Executive Functioning Workbook for Teens: Help for Unprepared, Late, and Scattered Teens

I also have a copy of this book, but haven't had a chance to check it out yet.  Mostly because we are working regularly from the book above for now. But, this one looks like a quality workbook, as well. 

I am excited to have this as a research and am considering purchasing their teen-specific book as well. 
Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary "Executive Skills" Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their PotentialSmart but Scattered Teens: The "Executive Skills" Program for Helping Teens Reach Their Potential

3. Here are a few books I have on hand to reference tips and tricks to with my students: 
Where's My Stuff?: The Ultimate Teen Organizing Guide


I love this book fro helping my students get organized.  I even have it on my nightstand (partly because it is such a good book to live by and partly because it is a cute little book!) How can you get organized if you have too much stuff? Your binders. Your locker. Your bedroom. It applies to have to simplify to get organized!  As I work to help my students to attack their weaknesses in organization, I often find that we refer back to this philosophy often.

Any other tips, tricks, or books out there? 

Friday, December 4, 2015

December Teacher Gifting

Remember when you were a kid and it seemed liked December lasted forever?
Waiting for Christmas seemed like a lifetime?

But now the days of December seems to fly by. It seems like we can't slow down.
We don't have enough time to get it all done.

You aren't crazy. There is a theory for this.
Time it IS flying.
I have been researching for my upcoming Time Travel Unit*, 
and I have read up on some very interesting philosophies about 
the concept of time and the passing of time.
Besides the fact that it is kind of depressing- it is oh, so interesting!

*sidetone: the unit will be posted here later this month....I can't wait to publish my new unit!  This unit came to fruition last year when my students were clearly OBSESSED with time travel - impromptu debates about time travel were happening  - so I harnessed this interest and have been slowly working on a formal unit since then!

Well, anyway, for me, the month is definitely flying by.
And I haven't shopped yet. Not one little bit. 

So let's talk gifts.

I am considering gifting my colleagues  "Christmas In a Jar" Mulling Spices Mason Jar" gifts this year. A cheap and useful gift... they look adorable and smell amazing. Perfection!
My other ideas is BAGGU bags (because you can't go wrong with useful, cheap bags).  Or maybe just reindeer beer or wine. Last year I was lazy and bought Starbucks gift cards.  And the year before that I bought Lululemon headbands and/or gloves because my colleagues love to workout.

Any other favorite ideas? 

Here are a few of my favorite things I have received from students and loved! 
I would consider getting any colleague something from this list below, too:


MICHAEL Michael Kors leather wristlet / BAGGU / BAGGU / Gourmet Getaway Lunch Tote - BuiltNY / Large Metallic Gold Leather Tassel Keychain by TheProvidenceStory / Large Classic Red Leather Tassel Keychain by TheProvidenceStory / Starbucks Tumbler

1. I love the weight and beauty of the key chain - I never lose my school keys now! I clip it on to my Longchamp bag to walk into school every day, leave it out in my desk in case of a lock-down or fire drill, and clip it back on my bag to leave at the end of the day! 

2. I received a similar wristlet from a student and it was such a generous and useful gift! I used it for a year straight.  I clipped my school keys to it and carried it from class to class (as a teacher traveling classrooms) as well as to run errands to and from school!

3. You can never go wrong with coffee mugs. I have a few, but it is always great to keep one at school to fill with the coffee club/school coffee throughout the day!

4. I looove that the baggu can be weighted down with 50 lbs of papers to take home and grade! It is easy to stuff into your purse and pull out when you end up needing to come home with more than you came to school with! 

5. I have this exact lunch tote and am so glad that it is washable.  It is the best. Especially since I forget to clean my lunchbag out at least once a week. And then need to wash it once a week. 

What are your favorite gifts?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My New Favorite App 3: Learning Ally

is my new favorite technology for my classroom.

Many special education teachers find that 
IEP modifications such as "teacher will provide student with audio books"
are common in the writing of IEPs. Rightfully so.
Audiobooks help students to comprehend text that they may not have 
been able to access due to their disability. 
They are a necessary modification that benefits many learners.

Students can set up their library on the web and listen on their iPhones.  There are options for voice only and voice+text.  I have students that prefer one or the other. The students are now in the routine of bringing phones/iPads/devices to school and I have the application downloaded on our PC's, too!

The Importance of Audiobooks
Learning Ally explains:

"Whether it be from decoding difficulties, phonological processing issues, or even vocabulary stumbling blocks; audiobooks have proven to help countless students engage with text that a student could not read alone."

"For many students with a learning disability like dyslexia, without proper phonological awareness and decoding skills, their listening comprehension is much higher than their reading comprehension. With the help of audiobooks, students can rely on listening skills to help maintain fluency in grade level curriculum, materials, fiction, non-fiction, literature and more."

excerpts from: here.

Trying to Find Audiobooks 
Finding audio books can be difficult. 
Years ago, districts purchased tapes or CDs for students to receive audio book accommodations.
Then, not every book was available.  One year, I even recorded myself reading classroom texts for each day and placed it on a tape player (yes, a cassette tape) for a student to listen to while others were independently reading. But today, since most students no longer have a CD player, there are a variety of online books for students as audiobooks. Sadly, many are pricy per book. Others are pricy per student

Enter Learning Ally.

Above are screenshots from one of my students' accounts. I provided the students with all the textbook and novel titles for the year and they searched the site to add all the books at once into their library.  They then download the books when they need them on their device and listen in school or at home.

In My Classroom

I have been using it for a few weeks now and here are my thoughts...

All the textbooks, class novels, and many independent reading selections are available on Learning Ally.  This make my job of tracking down audio books easy!

What I am most excited about in my classroom, however, 
is the motivation that the app is providing my students. The students are increasing their reading independence and decreasing reading anxiety.  For some, they are heading what good fluency sounds like.  (And an added bonus, they like the REAL voices instead of the digital-sounding-voices).

  Maybe it is simply the fact that the students are allowed to 
bring in their device and a set of headphones. Although I doubt it.  ;)

Don't assume that your students know HOW to use audio books.
It is important to show them the Learning Ally website and app.
In my opinion, it is a skill to use audio books correctly.

It is a skill to be able to use reading skills (such as looking back in the text) with audiobooks.  Take the time to show them and they will meet success quicker.... and "buy in" that this is a took that will help their learning.

Have students practice searching for books and downloading books.  Have students practice reading a segment and answering comprehension questions, asking them to reflect whether they should re-listen to the section or rewind.  Have them practice the length of text they should listen to before pausing to take notes or complete comprehension guides. Have students play with the settings (speed/pitch of voice) to reflect on their preference.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Candy pH Lab

The purpose of this lab is to determine if popular Halloween candies are acidic or basic (alkaline). The students will follow the scientific method to test using pH paper and baking soda as indicators. 

This lab is intended to be used to determine whether Halloween candy are acids or bases and to identify them on the pH scale. After reading the purpose and research for the lab, the students will create a hypothesis for each substance that will be tested. They will record their observations, complete analysis questions, and write a conclusion.

The first step is to gather materials.  I considered having students bring in few pieces of Halloween candy, but in this case, I went out and purchased the candy from my local candy store. $20 later, I recommend buying less candy (you don't need much to get the results) or having students bring in candy.

In the picture below, you can see the variety of candies I purchased.  It is best to have a mixture of sour, sweet, and chocolate candies.

It is also best to consider that highly dyed candies (i.e. the red fun dip and red nerds) may alter the results if they are too red.  This was the only candy we had difficulty reading the results of.

I set up my room for the lab groups to test four candies each.

As research, we watched and discussed two brain pop videos:
Brain Pop Acids and Bases  and Brain Pop pH Scale

While I have had students test every item in the past when we use the litmus paper, the pH paper (used in this lab) is more expensive and therefore I prefer to limit the usage. 

Then, the students followed the scientific method to make predictions,
follow procedures, and record their results.

I rotated the room adding hot water from an electric water kettle that I had prepared earlier.  The water didn't need to be hot- just warm.

My lab is available here: Halloween Candy pH Lab

The students stirred the candy in the warm water to help it dissolve before testing.
Above are pictures of a few of the candies being tested with the pH test strips.

I purchased my pH strips here.

Below are our results of the pH testing for 12 candies.  You can test any candy with the lab,
These just happen to test the ones below.

In no particular order, the students estimated**:
Airhead - 2.5
Warhead - 2
Chocolate - 6.5
Nerds (cherry) - 3.5*
Lemon heads - 2
Blowpipe - 3
Sour Spray - 1.5-2
Skittles - 3
SweetTarts - 2.5
NerdRope - 3
Fun Dip - 1.5*
PopRocks - 5.5*

*for these items, the red dye affected our results and the students guessed
**these are student results, actual results may vary

After completing the lab procedures, recording data, and answering analysis questions, we reviewed the properties of bases and acids. I posed the question that if an acid and base will react to neutralize, what will happen when a spoonful of baking soda (a base) is placed in the candy?

As expected, the more acidic the candy, the bigger the bubbles/"fizz" when the baking soda was dumped in!

My students loved this hands on lab (who doesn't love labs with candy?)
and the results that were relevant to their world.
They love being able to visualize acids and bases using indicators.

I loved that they loved it.  I loved the connections they
made between the lab activities and their own lives.  I loved the
insight they showed in analysis of the lab and class discussions.

They realized there IS truth to "don't eat too much candy or you'll get a toothache"!

Check out more information about the lab here: Halloween Candy pH Lab
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