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!


Roxanne Sterling said...

I am follower #3 and my favorite back to activity is reading the book - Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and doing the activities with my newbies.

I would love to win a copy of your newest packet!!!!

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Cheryllhoff said...

I am follower #7 and I would love to win your latest packet too!

Courtney Scarborough said...

I am follower number 9! I love taking my kids on a scavenger hunt to see the school sights and try to find Pete the Cat and meet our administrators.

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