Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Times, They Are a Changing

So much has changed since I first began Differentiation Station. Initially I wanted this to be a place where I could share free resources that I created for my classroom with other teachers in an effort to pay it forward. Although I sometimes use TPT I never fully felt comfortable in charging my teacher homies for something that I could just give them for FREE. In the beginning as newbie teacher, I was cranking things out all.the.time. I'm pretty sure I didn't sleep for the first two years of my teaching career. Can I get an amen? But now I have curated a large quantity of resources that I utilize frequently in my resource room. So lately I've been cranking along and becoming as comfortable as a teacher who tries to meet the needs of her students and can be.

But the powers that be have CHANGED THE RULES. By changing the rules, I mean that every child in my district is getting their own tablet or Chromebook! At first I felt like Oprah Winfrey had driven down from Chicago and given everybody in the audience (aka my school district) a super awesome gift. Then reality set in. I am totally going to have to change the way that I teach. I'll give you a minute to let that sink in.

 This means that I am going to have to curate a whole new tool box of resources. These will likely not be in the form of printables but rather digital tools. Since I am going to be doing a heckuva lot of work in the coming months I figured that I might as well share the fruits of my labor with youseguys. Below is a link to a Symbaloo page where I have curated some youtube links to some of my favorite brain break videos. If you haven't used Symbaloo, it is a great way to curate resource in a visual manner so that you can easily access the links that you use most often. You can also search for webmixes that others have created. Check it out.

What are your favorite brain break songs? Have you ever used Symbaloo to curate resource?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Puzzles and a Giveaway

School has been in full swing for three weeks now! Here in Indiana we are moving toward a balanced calendar. We will have a week off for fall break, two weeks off at Christmas and two weeks off for spring break. This translates to shorter summer vacation (a.k.a. back to school in July!!!).

I've made LOTS of changes to my classroom that I can attribute to my OCD superb organizational skills, but this go round I'm going to focus on my puzzle center that I utilize during literacy centers. This center is especially important for my special needs learners to develop independent work skills, spatial reasoning, problem solving and visual discrimination, which is key to reading.

I've utilized puzzles in my room for years, but I was never quite happy with the set up. This year I decided to completely revamp it. I wanted a way to scaffold students who needed extra help. I started by taking inventory of the puzzles I already had and realized that I had way too many 100 piece puzzles and not nearly enough 24 and 48 piece puzzles. I had a limited budget to work with so I toted a bin full of books that were too difficult for my young readers to Once Upon a Child. The result was over $80 in cash that I used in the store to purchase more books at the appropriate level and puzzles. Check out some of the great bargains I found.

I got two Melissa and Doug floor puzzles for $4.50 each and several Ravensberger puzzles.
This Curious George Ravensburger puzzle was $3.50. The local educational supply store sells them for over $10 a piece!
This Thomas Ravensberger puzzle came in a metal carrying case and was only $2.50. Score! After scouring the earth for puzzles, which may or may not have included begging my Facebook friends to check their closets, I set to making puzzle mats for each.and.every.puzzle. This process involved a collection of neon poster board, more Sharpies than I care to admit (the permanent markers from the Dollar Tree actually work better)and the first two seasons of Breaking Bad on Netflix. I worked every puzzle, traced the outline of each puzzle piece, numbered every spot on the puzzle mat and numbered the matching puzzle piece with that same number. Can you say, "Holy hand cramp Batman!"? The process was slow and painful, but the end result allows my students to work the puzzle by number or picture.

Next, I took an inventory of every puzzle in my collection and ranked them from easiest to most difficult. Each week I put a new puzzle out for my students and mark it on my checklist to keep track of what puzzles we have worked. So far it's gone off like a firecracker on the Fourth of July, only not as loud.

I have tons of other things to share with you guys, but I didn't want to bore you share all my secrets at once. Stay tuned for how I organized my shelves (I'm not sure why I didn't think of it before), my new iPad news and hopefully (crossed fingers) how I built a reading teepee for my room.

In other news, I finally relented and launched my TPT store. I'm giving away my first unit, Short a CVC Mega Pack, to not one, not two, but three lucky follower of my TPT store!
This unit includes everything you need for a week of short a activities including Down on the Short a Farm (a word reading game), a Crayon Short a Word Sort with recording sheet, Out of this World Words (a making words activity with recording sheet), Short a Splat (a making words activity) and a Short a Word/Picture Match.

To enter, click on the link to head to my TPT store. Follow my store and leave a comment on the blog about your favorite back to school activity. I will announce the winners of my contest Tuesday at 6! Good luck!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Free Phonics Centers (3 of em)

Waaaaaaay back in the day (in an effort to promote Differentiation Station) I offered new followers a set of 3 free phonics centers. The give away closed two  years ago, but I still have peeps messaging me in hopes to snag the set. I thought I would help everyone out and post them here. So if you don't have these lovelies, grab em now!

Funny Bunny

Hive Hunt Recording Sheet

Hive Hunt

Oa/Ow in Space

Oa/Ow Recording Sheet

Friday, February 22, 2013

February Top 5 & Freebie Motherload

Things have been going well. Does anyone else get a little nervous when things go too well. Rather than wait for the other shoe to drop I thought it may be a better use of my time to share the five best things from this month.

5. Dental Health: So I've always avoided dental health in my little resource room. I assumed that the kids wouldn't find the topic interesting and that I wouldn't be providing any new information. I was wrong. (My husband has been waiting years to hear those words!) Many students did not know that they should brush their teeth before coming to school and going to bed. Most had family members with missing teeth.  I was so glad that we talked  about it. Plus, we were able to make this cute little craft to go with our writing. Adorable!

(Photo courtesy of Lesson Plan Diva)

4. We have masted addition (cue the halleluiah choir) and are working on mastery of subtraction Please enjoy this pirate themed subtraction game to play with your scallywags. Students take turns drawing subtraction cards. If they get it correct, they keep the card. There are also action cards mixed in (lose a turn, take a card from a friend, etc.) Play as long as time allows. The child with the most at the end of play wins.

3. Things are smooth sailing with my student with autism. He is finding his routine and we thoroughly enjoy having him. I have grown very attached to him in such a short period of time. He calls me Unger. So cute!

2. I had the best Valentine's Day ever. My husband, who is pretty much the best person I know, surprised me with concert tickets to see my favorite band The Avett Brothers. Does anyone else know them?  They just happened to be playing three hours away on Valentines Day. It was a late night, but so very worth being tired the next day.

As far as school goes, I made the superdy-duper-cutest Valentines Day noun/verb/adjective sort. I'm feeling givey (pretty sure that's not really a word) so click below to grab your copy to stash away for next year.
 1. Only twenty days until Spring Break, and I'm going to see Mickey Mouse with my bestie from work and our families.

So, what's the best thing that's happened to you lately?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Triple Blends Game

I have been a busy girl. I took three days off from school (what was I thinking?) to fly to Disneyland for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon. I'm pretty sure I would love to move to Cali. Whose with me?

The sunshine alone was worth the trip, but it's soooo muuuuch woooork to take off. I feel so behind now. And upon my return I received a new student. Let me just say,  nothing changes your classroom like an overstimulated screaming five year old with autism! He really is a sweet boy, and I know things will settle down when he acclimates to his. Somehow this week I managed to create a game for one of my first grade reading groups. We are learning to read words with triple consonant blends, and this group is finding it very tricky.  I uploaded it to google Docs to share with you. Hope you guys enjoy.
Have a great weekend!


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Fact Family Cookies Freebie

Unfortunately this was totally me this week. My kiddos were cuh-ray-zee. Were your students as off the wall as mine? What I need is an Adderall air freshener way make my kids engage and focus for the next two weeks, so I am pulling out all of the stops.

 This week we will be doing Grinch themed activities and next week will be our Polar Express unit. Most of my activities will be hands on centers, and I am trying to pick leveled books that will catch their interest for literacy. We are even working toward having a gingerbread man party. I draw a gingerbread man body on the board. I made a list of everything that the gingerbread man needs. Every time we do an exceptional job of following procedures I will add another piece of the gingerbread man. When he gets filled out all the way we will have a gingerbread man making party.
Last year I found these at Kmart. They were $10, but I got them on sale for $7. Two boxes was enough for my class (remember I am resource), and it had everything we needed. This year I have not been able to find them. I am going to look at two others nearby Kmarts. Wish me luck. You may be asking yourself why I'm going to all of this trouble. Why not just bake some gingerbread men? Well kids, I am challenged in the kitchen. When I say challenged I mean that kids say things like, "Oh no! Mom cooked dinner tonight!" or "Dad's out of town. Are we having Subway or Mexican?" I could share some of my kitchen foibles with you guys, but I would like to keep my self esteem intact today. Moving on.

Last week I made this Christmas cookie fact family activity for my kiddos. I haven't used it, but I think it will go off like the Walmart alarm the week before Christmas. Click below to get yours.

So what do you do to keep your kids on track in the weeks before Christmas? Help a girl out.  I would really like to know!


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Back to the Drawing Board (and a Gingerbread freebie)

Oooooh, math. Why do you hate me so?

 Things in my first grade math group were moving along just fine (or so I thought.) We completed our addition and subtraction  units in our math curriculum. The students in my small group of learning and cognitively disabled students passed both unit tests and could add, subtract, and solve simple word problems utilizing Touchpoints. We were not at mastery,  but we were making getting there. We were ready to move into related facts and fact families, and THAT'S when everything fell apart.

While working with my students last week I asked them, "What does it mean to add?". "Minus," one girl shouted. "Equals," another boy proudly stated. The third little girl stared blankly at me and offered no reply. Houston, we have a problem.

What I was doing clearly was not working. The textbook curriculum had failed them. I knew that I was going to have to rogue on this one. So I dedicated the next three weeks of math instruction to remedy their confusion.

Last Friday I made addition and subtraction anchor charts with them. I may take pictures and upload them next week for you guys if time allows. Tomorrow we start part-part-whole instruction. I made up an addition song up to help support their learning.

 (to the tune of When We All Get Together)
When you add
put groups together, together, together
when you add put groups together
This is how you add

I also have one for subtraction that I made up last year.

(to the tune of the Muffin Man)
When I see the minus sign
the minus sign, the minus sign,
When I see the minus sign,
I know I take away

I spent a good part of yesterday gathering resources to support this, but I wanted a few more activities. This morning I made a gingerbread domino par- part-whole activity. (This upcoming week is also gingerbread week in my room.) I have uploaded it to Google docs. Just click on the image below to grab your copy.

Wish me luck. I think I'm going to need it.