Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Block Gone Bad

As I type this I am laying as flat as I possibly can on my couch. The past 6 days have been something out of a nightmare. Last Wednesday, I went to have a epidural block done for my lower back. (I have a bulging disc and it has been bugging me for over a month.) The block was supposed to alleviate the back pain I had been having since December, and allow me to quickly get back into the swing of being a wife, teacher and mommy. WRONG. Thursday morning I woke up with a dull headache. Nothing crazy, and since headaches are a common side effect of steroids, I popped a few Tylenol and went on to work. By 12:00, I wanted to die. My dad had to come and get me from school, then drop me off at Urgent Care. After speaking with the doctor there, and getting a round of pain and nausea killers in my system, I left thinking I could sleep it off. Wrong again! Friday morning I woke up in more pain, so I called the surgery center. I went in to have a blood patch done. Apparently, the leak was pretty bad, because in my drugged up state I could hear the anthesiologist (sp?) talking to the MD. I ended up getting 27 cc's of blood in my patch instead of the normal 20 cc's. Immediately after the patch I felt relief. Well, except for the insane burning in my neck and ears, but hey, my head felt better! When I went home an hour later and tried to lay down, my ears were on fire. When I sat up, the were fine. I attributed it to my overactive imagination, but took a Percocet for the pain and SLEPT. Saturday morning was sure to be a better start. Seriously? I was, yet again, wrong! Needless to stay I have been hopped up on painkillers and Coke since Wednesday. I stupidly tried to go to work yesterday and my precious principal hauled me off to Birmingham yesterday, because the local doctors were just not doing the trick. While in the emergency room at St. Vincent's, where I was taken excellent care of, I found out that I was one of the 15% of people who do not find relief from a blood patch. Good to know. (I also found out I was allergic to morphine, which is also excellent information to have on hand.) So, here I sit, er...lay. Down in the dumps and on the couch. I love Coke, but my waistline is not handling this "lay around all day and eat/drink your weight in caffeine" bit I've got going on. I also love my students, and not seeing them in almost a week has been a bummer. More than anything else, I love being mommy, and that is something I haven't been able to be since last week. If you're the praying sort, please say a little prayer for me tonight. I am SO over this!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Teaching Prefixes

Over the past 5 years I have taught 3 different grades, and worked with a variety of students who have special needs. One thing that remains the same, no matter the grade or skill level, is the difficulty with reading vocabulary. I know many times that background knowledge is lacking, but I also think it's because we are raising a generation who has no interest in books. I practically have to beg my 6th graders to pick out a book from the library. It drives me crazy! Okay, off my soapbox now and onto the topic of this post...vocabulary. My students really struggle with almost all vocabulary, but mainly prefixes. Last week, our selection vocab featured three or four words with de- and dis-, so I decided to take it a step further. Below is the anchor chart I made.

The first step I took was to cover the prefixes (in pink) and their meanings. I made sure to stress the important of a base word. For example disappear. Appear is a word on its own, so this is a great example of a prefix. Disgust is not, because "gust" is not a word. After going over and over this, I asked my kiddos to help me come up with correct examples of words using prefixes (in orange). They really enjoyed listing these. Finally, I finished up with a prefix worksheet that I made. It is available at here.

Do you have any great vocabulary strategies for general education or special education students?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Create Your Own Font!

I just made my own font and it only took me five minutes. You can probably tell how much effort was put into this by the sloppiness. I truly thought I would fail in my attempt to master technology, but look below!

The good new is, it was FREE and easy. I watched this little YouTube video and followed the instructions. 

I tried to ignore the fact that a preteen was using, and telling me how to use, my Mac more efficiently than I thought possible, but oh well. Good luck future font-makers!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Task Charts

I have a 2nd grade student who needs tangible reinforcers, and an 8th grader who only wants verbal praise or a smile in his direction. Another student, this one a 3rd grader, is obsessed with stickers. Lucky for me, I don't have these kids all in the classroom at the same time, but what if I did? How do you handle behavior for students, whether they have special needs or not?

All teachers at my first job used the card system. Green was good, yellow was okay and red was BAD. A good visual, but I never really liked it. The next two years were a whirlwind of changing policies mandated by the school. Don't you hate that? I felt like as soon as I implemented something, I learned that it was wrong and I should have been doing it another way. I'll stop there, because this rant could go on forever :) My point is, I never felt like what I did was working. It wasn't functional for me or my students. Hallelujah for the University of Cincinnati. (I wanted to attend University of Alabama online, but they weren't offering the courses I needed. Roll Tide anyway!)

This past summer was an eye opener. I took a course in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and learned more than my head could hold. Some things I'm still confused about, but I took more away from this class than I have any other. The main concept I learned, and one I try and remind the general education teachers of daily, is that we have to be specific when setting a goal, and when the student meets that goal, he or she must be rewarded. Having "be good" on a behavior plan is a little ambiguous. What does the child need to do in order to "be good?"Should he/she reduce outbursts in class to less than 10 or 20 times? Does the student need to only ask for a restroom pass twice a day? You decide that goal, but decide it with them. Also, if the child does what you ask, reward them! Sure, Susie may have written her name in crayon, but she met her goal of coloring within the lines on two worksheets per day. She did what you asked, so praise her! Let her choose from a reward menu! Too many times we get so bogged down with the negatives that we forget to focus on the baby steps these kids are taking.

I have used all kinds of behavior/task charts with my students this year. For example, my second grader, C, had to complete two tasks before lunch without redirections, and two tasks after lunch without redirections. Each task completed according to the written plan meant a smiley face could be colored in on his behavior chart. Every colored smiley face I saw at the end of the day was exchanged for a crayon. This went on for a few weeks until C received a whole box of neon crayons. We have upgraded to a more sophisticated behavior chart, one that will transition with him to 3rd grade. This time, each check C receives earns a letter of the word "Spiderman." After we spell it out completely, C will go back to his classroom with an official movie folder.

Initially, I start with one task or goal, but as the year progresses the student can have two. Think about the kids you have. Would they benefit from something like this? If you think so, try it! Writing a behavior plan is not difficult, and can be done for ANY child. Help your students set goals that will make them better citizens. If you have questions, feel free to ask!

Go to my Teacher's Notebook Shop to purchase this item. There are three sheets. Two are writable PDFs so you can customize it to fit your needs!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

AR Points

I don't know about your school, but we reward students for reaching AR goals. Each semester, the students who make their points get a to participate in a fun activity. The first nine weeks, we had extra PE. Last nine weeks the kids worked for a free skating trip at a local skating rink, and this grading period students who reach their point goal will get to go bowling FOR FREE! I know that many people are against using Accelerated Reader, and I am too when the points count as grades. Some kids don't like reading, and it's not fair to judge them based on what they want to do outside of schoolwork. However, when AR is used as an incentive, I am all for it. Some students may be lovers of the written word, they just don't know it yet.

To get my students motivated, and to comply with school rules, I used STAR testing to find the reading levels of each student, and then made cards for them to take to the library.

You could print these off the computer and make them cute, but since I have 6th grade, I just gave them something they could use as a bookmark. If you teach younger students, make a smaller card to hang around their neck with a piece of yarn. 

Next, I printed off a series of AR Points Leaders charts to hang on my bulletin board. Every month I reward the student who has the highest points with a candy bag, antibacterial hand gel from B&BW, hot chocolate from my Keurig, etc. Yes, I spent some money, but I want these kids to be excited to read! This just so happens to be the chart from this month, but I have them made for all the months of the year. You can download them for free at my Teacher's Notebook store.
Finally, I tally everyone's points for the entire grading period on a large sheet of graph paper from Quill. (Buy the store brand...it's cheaper!) If you have a lot of kids you might have to give each student one line and divide each box into one point increments. Since I only have 17 students, I gave each one two lines and wrote down half-point increments. If the student reaches all the way to the end, which is 12.5 points, they go to their second line and start coloring in until they reach the end of that row. If they have two full rows, that means they have 25 AR points. As our goal increases, I will have to go to one point increments, but this works for now. I used my Cricut to make the pretty sign and birds. I think things work better when they are cheerful!

Now, if you don't have any clue about Accelerated Reader, or how to make a chart, leave a comment. You can do so much to get your kids motivated to read! 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

I'm Back!

I've taken a hiatus from blogging. Two babies, grad school and health issues are about to do me in. I have had one baby in the hospital, a herniated disc and the flu. We can get well, but we can't stay that way! This is my 5th year teaching, and I have had to take more sick days than EVER. I know that having babies changes things, but I had no idea I would be constantly in and out of my classroom. I miss it. I am ready to get back to work (hopefully) on Monday. Do any of you have tried and true regimens you follow to stay healthy?

I have to tell you, I am super excited about the next few weeks. I am finally starting my last semester of grad school, and I will be working on a final project. I contacted Moffat Girls about purchasing one of their Ready2Read bundles and using it for my project. I'll be working with one of my 3rd graders to see if we can get her reading skills up to speed. You can check back weekly for blog updates to see how things go. I'm also working on a daily Bible verse calendar for some of my teacher friends. Once I get that made, I will have it available for download.

I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas break and are enjoying these first few weeks back at school! Roll Tide y'all!