Sunday, August 25, 2013

Classroom Choreography Part 2: Detailed Class Schedule

People most often email or post questions related to scheduling details. I'm posting my detailed classroom schedule here in hopes of giving others ideas for scheduling their class schedules. Next I'll go more in depth about my circle time, table time, individual programming, and natural environment learning activities.

Name of Activity
Teacher Details
Para Details
Arrival & Breakfast
-Bus Duty
-Assist students in going through breakfast line, requesting items via verbalization or gesture, assist in appropriate behavior during meals
Para 1-Hall duty
Para 2- assist with breakfast
Take attendance; submit lunch count; check folders
Circle Time
Teach basic skills & themed unit activity
Para 1- Inclusion
Para 2- Model appropriate behavior; participate in activities
Individual Programming/ Natural Environment Learning
Individual teaching
Para 1-handwriting
Para 2- Rotate students through stations
9:30- 9:45
Story time/ Toileting
Read story & teach basic skills
Para 1 & 2- Model appropriate behavior; participate in activities
9:45- 10:30
Individual Programming/ Natural Environment Learning
Individual teaching
Para 1- Table time & work station
Para 2- Inclusion  
Toileting/Rest Time
Lunch Break/ Planning
Para 1- Break/Supervise
Para 2- Inclusion/ Break
12:30- 1:45
Individual Programming/Natural Environment Learning
Same as above
Para 1 & Para 2- Rotate students through stations
Snack Time
Supervise & assist; encourage communication
Supervise & assist
Circle Time
Music & Movement activity
Model appropriate behavior & participate in activities
Planning/ Meetings
Car duty

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Classroom choreography Part 1: Master Schedule

A day in my classroom is like a very complex dance. My paras and I move through the classroom, guiding the students and reacting to their behaviors. We all know our roles & the expectations of our roles. At three weeks in, we've got our routine down and things are running pretty smoothly- well, as smoothly as you can expect in my classroom!

I believe that behind every well-choreographed classroom routine is a color-coded, detailed class schedule. Or four. I create one master schedule that includes the time, the name of the activity, my role, each paras roles, and any "extra" information- such as kids that leave for speech/OT. I also make an individual one for myself and each para to keep with them at all times. Things just work better if I'm not constantly asking someone to do something.

{Master Schedule}
I set up our master schedule using a table in either Word or Publisher. At the top of the chart I list time, class, teacher, para 1, para 2, and therapy. The rows are labeled with the time. I color-code based on the type of changes- when paras are out of my room, when paras have break, and when students have therapies. I highlight the time as well so that I know that there is something different then when I quickly glance between activities. I've received many questions about scheduling so I'll work on posting a detailed daily schedule for my class to share some ideas. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

My fifteen favorite {free} iPad apps

I have spent the weekend researching, downloading, and exploring apps for my classroom IPad. Last year I used my IPad mainly as a reinforcer during individual teaching sessions or certain apps while working on IEP goals. But I can already tell I'm going to get a lot more use out of my IPad this year working with the younger (more distractible) kiddos. I searched for apps that I could use as an instructional tool, as a communication device, and as a reinforcer. Here is a list of my fifteen favorites {did I mention they are all free?!}:
{Communication Apps}

Ooooh! I like this one! There are several pages already made and linked. For example, the kiddo can say "I'm hungry" from a selection of wants and then it links to food choices. Yes, this is good! It looks like there are about 35 (FREE) pages. It's going to take me a minute to figure it out & teach my kids but I think this is going to be wonderful. There are some pages that only use words- rather than the word and pics- with one of my students will prefer. Con: may take me a bit to figure it out but I'll be able to begin using the basic pages asap.

Pic a word
Good quick communication board for use during snack time. Has visuals for snack basics such as cookies, goldfish, etc. and uses a child's voice. Con: Only 12 pics.

Able AAC Free
This communication board allows students to choose pics to express their basic wants and needs. As they select the picture, it is vocalized using a computerized voice. Con: Only the critical, I feel, and I want boards are available, everything else must be purchased in order for it to be vocalized. Boo.

Answers Free
I'll use this one during circle time, instructional time, & any other time I need the kiddos to answer a yes/no question. It simply displays a red "no" and green "yes" for the kids to touch while it verbalizes their answer. Con: None really.

Sounding Board
I've posted about this app before- it's that good! Now that I'm more familiar with it, I like how you can link boards and create your own boards. I'm working on creating several for use during my circle time. Cons: takes a second to go through and get the board you want selected but I'm afraid that's the case with all of these apps.

{Instructional Apps}

ABC Letter Toy
I like this tracing app better than any other one I have seen. The tracing points aren't visible until the child is at that point. They appear to prompt them to trace. Also, the tracing only appears on the correct path- unlike other tracing apps that allow the child to scribble all over the screen. After tracing each letter, they have a little cause/effect play time. Can switch between upper & lower case and numbers. Con: only offers a few letters and numbers to trace.

PCS Flash Cards Free
This app provides 50 basic flashcards depicting letters, numbers, animals, transportation, common foods, and common objects. I can go through it and show the cards to the kids to verbally identify or get them to go through it themselves and touch the pictures to hear it identified. It also has artic, language, and rhyming sections. Con: It prompts you to purchase the full app every time you go back to the home screen. I can already see my kids logged onto the app store now:)

Ask Me! Colors & Shapes Free.
Although its name is a little misleading (only the shapes are free), I really like this app for use during circle time or individual teaching sessions. I know my boys are going to dig the sound effects & the little tune that the questions are set to. If they don't answer quick enough, it helps them out by bouncing the answer and their is applause at the end- always a plus. Con: What about the colors?!

Social Skills Sampler HD
This app will be great with my kids who are able to sit & focus a little more. It shows a little video of real people acting out basic social skills- such as greeting people, being polite, and following directions. I think it would be really beneficial with other children & will be passing it along to some of my colleagues. Cons: Only adults in the videos.

Baby Sign & Learn
I don't know if this app will be educating my students (who are working on simple signing) or me more! It provides tons of flashcards with basic words- food, common objects, animals, etc., along with a little animated video of how to perform the sign. I am only working with 2 nonverbal students on signing right now but this will be great to use with all of my students. It has a little quiz too! Con: Wish it used real people in the videos.

{Reinforcement Apps}

Touch & Say
My kids love this app. There are 8 sections- including one where they sing common children's songs, count, identify colors, or follow commands. There is even a section that will repeat what they say using a silly voice. Cons: there is so much to choose from and my students usually jump back and forth between sections instead of going through a complete round in each one.

FirstWords Sampler
I used this app last year & have already found it very helpful this year. My kids love it & will play it over and over again. They match letters to create simple words. When they correctly match the letters, the pictures becomes animated. All of my kids love this one- even my slowest learners. It is great for them to work on matching identical letters & making a connecting between written & spoken language & words and pictures. Cons: wish there were more words.

ABC Alphabet
Wow- this app has so much to offer. My favorites are the abc tapping- my kids that are obsessed with letters will love tapping the screen to make random letters appear and float around. The abc song is also great but my favorite is the abc ordering- I can't wait to try this one out with my kids tomorrow! Cons: too much to choose from?

Kids Jigsaw Puzzles School
This puzzle app is great! There are 3 stages to choose from 2-45 pieces. Stage one has many, many pages of puzzles to choose from. They are matching the puzzle pieces to a less visible piece. This app actually could be used as an instructional resource also. Cons: You have to create a username & I'd like a little more excitement when I complete a puzzle.

Penguin Leveled Readers
I know that this may seem more like an instructional app but I have a kid that loves to read & listen to books being read so this will definitely be a reinforcer for him. Their are 4 books available for free at 4 different levels. The student can turn the pages and touch the words to have it read to them. Cons: more books, please!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Teacher Lesson #795426: NEVER underestimate

I've always thought that my students teach me more than I teach them. These "teacher lessons" that my kids share with me have changed me as a person- outside of the classroom- for the better. On Friday, I was reminded of a lesson I learned many years ago- NEVER UNDERESTIMATE ANYONE.

I have a student- lets call him Bob. Bob is autistic, nonverbal, and absolutely adorable. I was impressed that Bob could receptively ID pictures and common objects. I noticed that he liked to point to letters and words. I was blown away when he followed along with him finger as I read a book. On Friday, Bob showed my that he can do much, much more than that.

I guessed that he was associating spoken and written words when he would keep his finger in the same spot when I purposefully skipped words in a book. During his individual teaching session, I decided to try out a few new things. I took some flash cards and wrote very simple commands on them: touch your head, clap your hands, stand up, etc. as I placed each individual card in front of him, that smart boy performed each command with no verbal or physical prompting! As if that wasn't enough he later answered several written questions (by circling the correct answer) about pictures being shown to him. Wow! By the end of the day, my sweet paras were crying tears or joy and I was giddy with excitement for finding out just how much this little fella can do. What a wonderful reminder for me to push my kids to succeed and never, ever assume that they're unable to do something.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Back to School Troubleshooting

Well, the school year is off to a great start! My little ones started on Thursday and we have had two very successful days. I am in heaven with only 6 little ones and two paras right now. I was supposed to start out with 7 but two didn't show and 1 was placed the day before school started. I have a really great group and am looking forward to helping them make progress this year.

The first few weeks of school I always keep a running list of problems that arise or ideas I come up with throughout the day. I just jot them down on the board and then work on them in the afternoons. Here are some of the things I've noted on the first two days of school.

This mainly refers to our play area. Although I greatly reduced the amount of toys that were there to begin with, I quickly realized that I still had too many. I will post an updated picture soon but I now only have about 3 bins of cars, animals, and dolls and about 7 larger toys. I will rotate the toys throughout the year. I quickly noticed that with all of the toys, they were making a huge mess and it took them (and us) forever to clean up when we rotated through centers.

Grab a toy.

Being out of the pre-k classroom for several years, I forgot how valuable toys are. I didn't have one on me when one of my kiddos flipped out when his mom left him, I didn't have one on me when two of my kids finished eating before the others at lunch, I didn't have one on me when one when I needed my kids to stay on their circle time spot while I submitted attendance. By day two I remembered to carry a bag with me at all times filled with wipes, toys, data sheets, a schedule, and other essentials and I remembered to keep a small bin filled with toys in the circle time area.

Use a visual.

Throughout the first day, there were several times when I wished that I had a visual to use. I needed a "sit" visual at every table/desk/center. I needed a "toy" visual at teacher time to show them where to place their toy I was using as a reward. I needed "cracker," "juice," and "more" for snack time. After the first day, I walked through each area used during the day and made a list of visuals I had forgotten.

Back to the basics
It didn't take me too long to get back in the pre-k/kindergarten mindset but I will admit that the first time I placed a 9 piece inset puzzle in front of one of my newbies, I pulled all 9 pieces out instead of starting with one or two. I planned on having five circle time activities but switched to just one at the last minute. By the end of day one, instead of having a full teaching session with one of my lower functioning kiddos, we worked on sitting in the chair at the table for a few seconds. Whenever he sat when I performed the sign, he was given his toy to play with.

I am sure that I will find several more things that need to be changed and will remember other effective strategies that I have forgotten in my two years out of the classroom and one year with 3rd-5th graders. But it's all about progress-not perfection these days!