September 27, 2015

Go Noodle!

Oh my goodness! I have not posted a blog in a while! The beginning of this school year has had the days merging and time flying! We have been busy setting routine and establishing community. One way we have fun is using GoNoodle! I have been using GoNoodle for the last 4 years! This is the focus of my blog this evening.
This FREE site has some AWESOME brain breaks that will get you and your students up and moving! You will find yourself dancing and moving to the latest popular dances (Whip, Nae, Nae) and new never to forget songs by Koo Koo Kangaroo (Pop See Ko, Get Loose). There are some excellent resources to share regarding ideas on how you can use GoNoodle in your classroom.

I find myself humming to the beats and hearing my students singing the songs during various times of the day!

You get to set up a class (for free) with a character called a "Champ" that will grow as you move. You are provided a progress bar that lets you know where you are on the way to growing your champ.  The names of the champs are creative and will delight your students just as much as you. The more minutes you move the more your champ will grow and change. My students are always so excited to head to the "transmogrifier" to see how our champ has grown. Once your character has grown to the max, you will get a Champ Certificate celebrating your hard work. Your students will LOVE the certificate!
Then, they get to pick a new champ. I use this as an opportunity to talk about making a decision as a group using a vote, giving everyone a voice in who is chosen next and tallying up the votes. This is a great opportunity to talk about comparison concepts (more/less) to determine who our next champ will be. I also get the opportunity to work through feelings of disappointment for those who didn't get the champ they voted for.

They have recently added indoor recess options, which are WONDERFUL! They are 15 minutes of a variety of movement to include a warm up and cool down. Did I mention that signing up is free?

The site is user friendly and set up to help you manage your favorite brain breaks as well as categorized movement activities according to movement type (calming, coordination, guided dancing, free movement, stretching, sports and exercise, and kinesthetic learning) so you can base your selections on your students needs.

There are some great FREE resources for you as an educator and for you to share with parents or other educators!

They have a blog that is FULL of wonderful information. If you have not already, go check it out!

Use this personalized link from me to you to sign up and start getting that blood flowing and brain ready for some learning!
Happy moving!

July 30, 2015

Classroom Job-POLLSTER

Classroom jobs are one of my favorite classroom management tools and the children take their jobs very seriously and look forward to them every day! Not only does it help the child feel responsible, they also get to contribute to the daily happenings in the classroom in a meaningful way for both the child and the adults!

I started out with a job that I called the interviewer and they were responsible for taking a poll. They were very official and had to carry a clipboard with a fun and fancy pen and ask each peer a yes/no question related to our theme or event that happened at school. After some reflection I felt that calling this job the interviewer was not sufficient. The job is now called the Pollster! You can head over to my TPT store and pick up a years worth of questions.

These are the developmental domains and academic skills that this job covers. As you can see there is a lot that the child is engaged in while performing this job. It is very important! 

 As an early childhood special education teacher teaching all learners in an inclusive environment, differentiation, adaptations, and modifications have to be taken into consideration! Below are some examples of how this can be adapted to meet the needs of all your learners! I have a variety of supports from least to most, including a completely adapted sheet.

You can head over to my TPT store and pick up a years worth of questions (209), ideas for implementation, and directions for making and adapted pollster sheet. What are some of your favorite classroom jobs?


July 24, 2015

Teaching with Duck Tape!

As I prepare to set up my classroom in a way that is supportive of all my learners, I have to take into account visual supports. Most of my students have never set foot in a classroom and it can be overwhelming for them. Sometimes we just need to get creative!

I found Duck Tape Sheets a few years back and have used them ever since! They come in a variety of colors and patterns and even have a paper grid on the back for easy trimming or drawing!

These are some ways that I use them in my classroom:
  • I primarily have used them on my tile floor (you may want to seek permission from your building manager) as a visual for lining up.  Removal from tile flooring was very easy.
  • This last year I made shapes and put them on my carpet. My carpet already had sticky residue from tape being used on it from a previous teacher so I could tape over those marks. (It can get sticky and you may need goo gone to remove it from carpet) 
  • I used them to indicate an area of wait when they needed to use a restroom that was occupied
Here are some skills that I was able to see and use as a teaching tool instantly:

  • Following directions
    • Students would have to listen to and follow my 1 or 2 step-directions "Johnny, stand up and go stand on the red rectangle"
  • Color identification
    • I would have the students transition to lining up by asking them to go and stand on a specific color. 
  • Shape identification
    • I cut shapes and then stuck them to my carpet. The students had to find their place on the carpet by finding their name and their shape from our seating chart. 
  • Positional words
    • I would ask my students to line up and tell them to stand "in front", "behind", and sometimes "next to" a specific color. 
  • Ordinal numbers
    • Go and stand on the first color, second color, third color, etc. I could also ask them what place a certain color was in. "Where is the red square?" they could answer by saying "the red square is first."
  • Counting
    • I could have the students demonstrate 1:1 correspondence by asking them how many colors are there in all? How many colors are after red? How many colors are before green? How many colors are after yellow? etc. 
We will see what other uses I will come up with this next year.  Do you have any ideas for uses or skills taught?


July 17, 2015

Classroom Habitudes Blog Hop and Book Study!

Time for a book study and Blog hop! I have teamed up with some fellow bloggers Alissa, Linda, Aimee, and Angela to explore Classroom Habitudes by Angela Maiers.

I had heard of these skills with older students and as an early childhood special educator I was not sure how applicable this would be to my youngest learners and I didn't want to have to add something more to my already standards based full plate. I am still curious to know what "21st Century Learning" entailed, which is why I wanted to participate in this book study. 

This book will discuss the following 7 skills needed for 21st century learning. Good start! We do all this in PreK!
  • Imagination
  • Curosity
  • Self-awareness
  • Courage
  • Adaptability
  • Peserverance
  • Passion
The introduction did a great job of laying the foundation for the rest of the book and defined each of the 7 skills in a nice chart that is easy to read and understand. It also includes a self-assessment to measure your own 21st century learning skills that will help you determine what areas you are strong in and areas that you may want to explore further. This book address "ALL" learners and as a special educator that was very nice to see! Habitudes is a great new word that Angela Maiers brilliantly created from a combination of the words "Habits" and "Attitudes". Yes! We can address these skills in a Pre-K classroom with our little learners! There are also QR codes that will take you directly to websites and other media that will provide you with examples of the content in the book. You will need a QR reader app on your tablet or phone to access these resources. 
My favorite quote from the introduction:

"The learning habits and attitudes that we teach our students will enable them to become effective contributors to this world."

Chapter 1- Nurturing Genius
I enjoyed this chapter and it's challenge to you as the reader to reconsider what a "Genius" is. There is a wonderful definition that was crucial in changing my thinking when hearing or thinking of who is a genius and how it relates to Habitudes. 
Additionally, this chapter describes a framework called "Name It, Claim It, Sustain It" and discusses a variety of ideas and lessons to use for developing classroom habitudes. The lessons will have to be adapted to meet the needs of the our little learners in Pre-K but it is not impossible and in fact, those who work and play with preschoolers are already laying the foundational work for future development of these 21st century learning skills. 
The chapter ends with reflective questions for you as the educator to address to help you develop an environment that will foster skills development. 
My favorite quote from Chapter 1:

"You can't settle for the ordinary when you comprehend you're extraordinary." 
Chapter 2- Imagination
This chapter address imagination, the first of the 7 skills set discussed in the book. She begins by discussing why imagination is important followed by several suggestions for developing imagination in the classroom through discussion, conversation, playing games, solving problems, and modeling for our students. We do this all the time in Pre-K! Again, the author invites you to reflect on your own imagination and resources to refer to for yourself as the educator. Student resources are provided and include children's books, which is very helpful for those educators like many preschool teachers who like to incorporate literacy and books into their lessons. 
My favorite quote from Chapter 2:

"Imagination is our mind's eye and gives us the capacity to jump from present facts to future possibilities." 

Next Friday I will share my discoveries from chapter 3- Curiosity and chapter 4-Self-Awareness. In the meantime, hop on over to these ladies blogs to read about their thoughts on this book.

This last week we read chapter 3 on Curiosity and chapter 4 on Self-awareness. Both of which are so engrained in our little learners! This should be interesting!

Chapter 3: Curiosity
The chapter on curiosity starts with a discussion on why curiosity is important. As any teacher knows, curiosity is crucial for feeding the motivation for learning.
·       Pitch: Why curiosity matters.
·       Anchor: Discussion using an anchor chart utilizing the discussion format of KWL chart (What do you Know, What do you Want to learn, What have you learned?) This is a great tool to use in Pre-K!
·       Conversations that Last: How to keep the conversation going.

The next sections provide lessons to use with students.
·       Lesson 1: Building Curiosity through focusing attention. There are reflective questions and a link to a great Personal Curiosity Inventory that helps you address your own level of curiosity.
·       Lesson 2: Building Questioning Tools. This lesson focuses on how to tie asking questions to curiosity. In the Pre-K classroom, we can do this when a student asks us a question by saying, “I can tell you are curious about this because you asked me a question.” Followed by facilitating a way to find more information. She also discusses using books to facilitate how different characters demonstrated curiosity.
·       Lesson 3: Asking Genius Questions. This lesson is intended to focus on questioning rather then discovering answers. We can do this in Pre-k by starting with teaching the children the difference between a question and a statement. There is a great handout you can print that lists different ways questions can be started.
·       Lesson 4: Asking the Right Question and the Right Time. This lesson addresses the following 6 types of questions with the goal being teaching the students to be aware of how they are framing questions and for what purpose. In Pre-K we help to lay that foundation for questions by helping our little learners to know the difference between a question and a statement.
·       Clarifying questions
·       Sorting and sifting questions
·       Strategic questions
·       Planning questions
·       Elaborating questions
·       Comparing questions

Chapter 4: Self-Awareness
This chapter again begins with the importance of self-awareness followed by the Habitudes definition.
·       Pitch: Why self-awareness matters.
·       Anchor: Discussion on self-awareness and introduction to learning styles and creation of a learner portfolio. This part of the book was very useful to me. I use portfolios to keep student work in to show administration, parents, and the child their progress and development during the year. This next year I will incorporate student input and goals into my portfolio.
·       Conversations that Last: How to keep the conversation going. This section focuses on creating a self-awareness inventory and provides guiding topics to include.

The next sections provide lessons to use with students.
·       Lesson 1: The Story of Me through using “heart mapping”. 
·       Lesson 2: What Makes Me Me? Addresses scenarios, feelings, words to describe self, and many more guiding questions.
·       Lesson 3: My One Special Thing consists of student interviews that continue to explore their selves.
·       Lesson 4: We Have a Problem addresses the use and power or our inner voices. How it relates to our thinking, learning, and mind wandering. Strategies we can use to help us get back on task. This lesson focuses on reading text but can also be addressed with our little learners who are not yet reading but doing a lot of thinking!

The level of thinking that this book has ignited my desire to address these skills and how applicable this is to Pre-K has impressed me even though it is geared towards kindergarten and up! I have so many ideas!!

Next week, I will be blogging about chapter 5 Perseverance and chapter 6 Courage.

Using this link I was able to find a lot of resources available for this book. Including printable reproducible, suggested resources, and tools. You will have to create a free account to get access to these tools but I would recommend it!  

While the lessons again were geared towards kindergarten and up, with some creativity you can easily incorporate awareness and teaching to these habitudes. Additionally, this would be a great book study to do as a grade level team to discuss creative ways to address these skills in preschool and prekindergarten.

Next Friday I will share my discoveries from chapter 4- Perseverance and chapter 6-Courage. In the meantime, hop on over to these ladies blogs to read about their thoughts on the latest chapters in the book.

Week 3 Classroom Habitudes Book Study and Blog Hop

Chapter 5: Perseverance
This chapter on perseverance is a wonderful reminder of how important it is that we encourage and support our little learners in pre-kindergarten. It will set the stage for future success or failures depending on the child’s ability to persevere even in adverse situations.

Her first of four total lessons in perseverance is a wonderful idea that I plan on incorporating into my classroom this next year! She had a great discussion on the role and importance of failure.
·       Lesson 1: What You Do Makes You! Connection between behavior and self. 
·       Lesson 2: Life is What Happens How others overcame difficult situations.
·       Lesson 3: Failure Leads to Success
·       Lesson 4: Failure is Our Best Teacher 

Chapter 6: Courage
This chapter provides “six essential steps” for approaching situations where courage is required. Excellent steps!

While reading this chapter, I had a moment of reflection and thought of an opportunity missed on the playground where I could have told one of my students that they were courageous and started helping her understand what courage means. This is something I can work on!
·       Lesson 1: Looking Fear in the Face through awareness.  
·       Lesson 2: Using Strong and Weak Words is a lesson on the relationship between words and actions.
·       Lesson 3: Getting Uncomfortable with Being Uncomfortable
·       Lesson 4: Knowing Everyday Heroes

She talks of teachers and our ability to be courageous day after day.

This book is great! Next week I will continue this fantastic book hop with a blog post about Passion and Adaptability!

Chapter 7: Passion
Chapter 7 on Passion was interesting. I was thinking of how young children are naturally passionate about everything they are doing!

However, if you look closely, you will begin to see some areas that a child seems to be more passionate about than others. Maybe one child shows more passion towards interacting with others, caring about living things, not giving up with solving a problem, or engaging in a specific learning task. I see my role in this area as a facilitator of the beginning workings of a potential passion by providing additional opportunities, resources, and support for young children to explore their interests.
·       Lesson 1: Talking about passion.  
·       Lesson 2: Detecting your passion.
·       Lesson 3: Preserving passion

In this chapter, Angela Maiers provided a link to an excellent TED talk featuring Sir Ken Robinson. You can go and check out the talk here:

Here is my favorite quote from this chapter!

Chapter 8: Adaptability
Chapter 8 was one of my favorite chapters to read and in my opinion, one of the most important topics of this entire book. Adaptability is such a crucial life skill and many of our young children are quite good at adapting to change. Many changes for young children happen in such a short amount of time that they really don’t have a choice but to adapt. 

·       Lesson 1: Picturing an adaptive learner.
·       Lesson 2: Stepping outside the box.
·       Lesson 3: Turning “Yeah, But’s” into “Yes, How’s”
·       Lesson4: Learning Lifelong Adaptability  

I loved that Angela was very intentional with leaving the topic of Adaptability as the last topic of her book. It is an excellent way to end this book and the saying, ”saving the best for last.” couldn’t be more accurate!

This is the end of our Classroom Habitudes book study and blogging. I hope you have enjoyed reading about this book and its relation to children from a wide variety of ages. I look forward to hearing your stories as they relate to the Classroom Habitudes.  

A huge thank you to fellow bloggers who made this fun and interesting! Thank you  Alissa, Linda, Aimee, and Angela!

July 13, 2015

Stories and Felt Boards DIY

Nursery rhymes and felt! Essential for preschool and all learners love them! I wanted to share what I have been working on as I prepare for next school year.

I had a ton of felt that I purchased at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store using their awesome coupons! They also have a Teacher Rewards Program that you can sign up for and get an additional 15% off your classroom purchases. Yes! This includes already discounted items! This program is open to state certified educators, home school teachers with proof, and child care providers.      
Jo-Ann Teachers Rewards

This felt has been sitting around in a plastic storage bin for...well let's just say...more than a year but less then 3 years. So, it was time to put it to good use!

While strolling around in my local library, I came across a book called The Flannel Board Storytelling Book by Judy Sierra. (FYI I looked online at Amazon for a copy of this book and the one I had was not available for purchase but another similar version was, it is a bit pricy though)

After a quick flip through, I thought, this is just the motivation I needed to get myself to tackle that bin of felt and conquer it!

I left the library that sunny day, book in hand, and felt full of determination. That was until I got home and saw....THE BIN. It tried to make me feel overwhelmed and shut me down but I didn't let it. I walked right up to it, grabbed it by its handles and lugged it upstairs!

I was looking for something to use to trace the patterns on that was easy for me to pin onto the felt and cut out my pieces. Well, my daughter just graduated from high school so I had a ton of tissue paper from the gifts she received and it was PERFECT! Just like the paper in a sewing pattern! I grabbed a pen and some pins and started to trace away and pin to my felt.

After all my felt pieces were cut out, I took out the puffy paints and started adding my own detail and my personal touch to each piece. Now I have several sets of flannel stories to share with my students!
This can be a time consuming process. Especially, if you are eager like myself and want to get the whole book done before you have to return it to the library!

I plan to keep these out during our free play time and let the children enjoy them!
Let me know if you make some and send me your pictures! :)


July 12, 2015

Blog Party! Let's celebrate!

I cordially invite all of you to join an awesome Blog Party to celebrate Sasha's Creations and Things new blog! There will be 5 days of celebration, sales on great products, and raffles! Click here or on the picture below to head over to her blog to check out her blog and enter to win! Follow her on Facebook, and check out her great products on TPT!
Sasha's Creations & Things

You can enter for a chance to win some fun products, including a download I created that is full of cutting and tracing activities that are ready for you to print and use.

All the pages are the same so you can use these to monitor cutting and tracing progress throughout the year. Keep a beginning, mid, and end of year in the child's portfolio to show to parents/guardians.

You will receive color and black line pages consisting of two cutting pages, and two tracing pages. The first has easier lines to follow and the second has more challenging lines. All pages are ready to be printed and used right away. Low prep time and ready to use!

Have your children create their own colors and color in the pictures on the black line copies.

You will receive the following in cutting and tracing:
Beginning to snip
Back to school
Valentine Cupcakes
St. Patrick's Day
Fun in the Sun

Congratulations Sasha! Good luck to everyone! Let the party begin!!!

July 8, 2015

TPT "Make your Masterpiece" Challenge

The next challenge in the #tptsellerschallenge was to create our masterpiece! It was a fun challenge and I am thankful for them allowing a week and a half for this one! I needed the extra time! My think time alone was 1-2 days.

I decided to extend an earlier freebie that I have in my store and make it last all year long.
Here is the description of my 102 page masterpiece. I will definitely be using this in my classroom and hope you get to too!
Here are more cutting AND tracing activities that grew from my cutting honeybees activity that is currently available in my store for free!

This activity is intended to provide children with an opportunity to practice their cutting skills, tracing skills, and demonstrate understanding of the concepts start and stop.
Additionally this will provide opportunities to practice some executive functioning skills such as task initiation, self-regulation, and self monitoring (they have to stop themselves from cutting through the pictures as well as monitor where they are on the line).

It is easy to get into the habit of providing children feedback and sometimes we forget to ask the child how they thought they did. To help with this, I have included reflective questions to ask your child/student after cutting or tracing so they can evaluate their own work.

All the pages are the same so you can use these to monitor cutting and tracing progress throughout the year. Keep a beginning, mid, and end of year in the child's portfolio to show to parents/guardians.

You will receive color and black line pages consisting of two cutting pages, and two tracing pages. The first has easier lines to follow and the second has more challenging lines. All pages are ready to be printed and used right away. Low prep time and ready to use!

Have your children create their own colors and color in the pictures on the black line copies.

You will receive the following in cutting and tracing:
Beginning to snip
Back to school
Valentine Cupcakes
St. Patrick's Day
Fun in the Sun

You can also make this a fun activity to use with puffy paint or glue to provide raised lines. I hope you enjoy using this as much as I did making it!

Thank you!
Diana Smith
Engage and Play in Pre-K

This took me a while and several revisions but it is done! You can go and pick up your download of it in my store. It is on sale at 50% off! You can get your set for only $2.00 for a limited time. 

I want to send out a special thank you to my new friend and fellow educator, Angie at Glimmers of Learning for your time reviewing my product and giving me valuable, through, and honest feedback!

Glimmers of Learning

Angie has some excellent interactive storybooks featuring commonly used nursery rhymes that any preschooler will love! She has incorporated ways to make this easily adaptable for all the little learners regardless of their abilities. Go and check out her TPT Store for some excellent products!

I also want to thank Keri Vandongen from Speech Party who also gave me valuable and honest feedback. She also has a TPT Store for all you Speech and Language Pathologists (SLP's) and other educators who have a special place in your heart for the wonderful work that SLP's do for our children.
I have met some amazing people along the way with this challenge and I look forward to future collaborations and creation of products with my wonderful professional connections!
Go and check out their products!

June 26, 2015

Countdown to School!

I have just finished a Countdown to School! resource for teachers and parents to use to help our little learners understand the passage of time in a concrete and visual way.

Product Description
Our youngest learners struggle with understanding the abstract concept of the passage of time. These have been created with this in mind and provides our little learners with a concrete way to understand this challenging concept.

Our little learners are so eager to be in school and these countdown sheets are designed to have the child interact with them and give them an idea of when school will be starting up again. This would be a great handout to give during home visits and on the day before a break begins.

In this download, you will find school countdown handouts for the following:
Countdown to the first day of school
Countdown from Fall break
Countdown from Winter Break
Countdown from Spring Break

This has been designed to include the following additional skills:
Counting backwards
Number Identification
Left to right directionality
Passage of time
Fine motor skills
Coloring practice
Home/School connection

Adaptations to this sheet could include the following:
Use stickers in place of coloring (you are still getting in some fine motor practice!)
Have the child point to the next picture and color it in using hand over hand support.
Include this in a daily routine at the beginning or end of the day.

Extension activities could include the following:
Have the children write in the numbers with or without a model in place of coloring.
Create a complex pattern.
Look for other patterns within the images.

 Pick up your copy here: 

Included in this download are four different countdown sheets for common school related breaks including the first day of school. 

I have also included a sheet for 7 day breaks and sheets that you can insert your own numbers.

Thank you so much to the following artists!

grab my buttonA Little Peace of AfricaButton

June 22, 2015

TPT "Dare to Dream" week 2 Challenge

Thank you AmberAshleyEmily, and Jen
This week, the challenge is to create a blog to share our TPT dreams. 

Oh my...if your new to blogging like I am, this challenge instantly created anxiety and overwhelming feelings followed by the mantra learned at a young age by the book "The Little Engine that Could" by Watty Piper 

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...Here it goes! 

My TPT Dreams

I knew from the start of my teaching career that I needed to connect with other educators and other service providers in order to become the holistic teacher I envision.  I never entered the field of education believing that I could teach alone in a vacuum. To have that mindset, I believe would cause burnout, disappointment, and feelings of loneliness. While my brain is full of ideas and expertise that others may not have, the same is true for others in the field.  It is essential to learn from the expertise of others and combine all our knowledge for a common goal. Teaching. My first dream is to connect and collaborate with others in the field.

Combining all the knowledge I can from myself and others will help me to create resources, tools, and activities that others can use. I look forward to getting back in touch with my creative mind that for so long has been put aside while I was pursuing other goals and dreams in the realm of higher education. My second dream it to let the creative juices flow!

"Sharing is caring." I hear my mother saying. That has never been more true when educating children. I teach my students the value of sharing with others, so it is only fitting that I walk through this journey as an educator with the same mindset. I care immensely about the field of education and know the financial limitations of schools as well as how many use their own money to supplement their teaching. My third dream is to create resources that I can share with others for free or at a very minimal cost. 

Clip art/Font/Design Credits

Children Clip art and Banner by Educlips 
Chevron Chalkboard background by Surfin Through Second 
 Font by 
Darcy Baldwin
Kimberly Geswein 

Yay!!! I did it! This is so much fun!