Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Measuring Length and Height


Working with children will always mean that there's going to be some sort of tests and targets set that you need to help your students meet, and sometimes these are a nightmare to try and teach to your students without them becoming too bored and switching off.

Today's discussion is on measuring.

Measuring can be so boring for our kiddos, so why not mix it up, find fun ways to practise it and still get the recording results that you need! 

Idea 1 - Measure Themselves

Kids love doing things on themselves, but they also love doing stuff to others too - especially adults! There are some great ways to get a giant ruler in your classroom - you can either purchase one online or you can make one yourself! There are so many great ways to make a giant ruler - you can even involve your students in the process of it to add some extra recording marks in your measuring field!

Get students to stand next to the ruler, have fun ways to record it - use magnetic arrows, use marker pens, use an extra ruler to put on top of their head to reach the ruler next to them, record the measurements and include your students with this too - you could either have whiteboards each or a big page of paper where everyone is watching and discussing recording the measurements. 

This is also a great way to compare student heights - who is taller, if students will struggle with the concept you an show how the adult is taller than the student (in most cases anyway!).

Idea 2 - Use Hobbies/Interests

We all know that one of the easiest ways to get students learning is to use something that interests them. For example, if you have a student who loves dinosaurs, pick up some cheap dinosaur toys, have them measure the different dinosaurs, record the measurements and compare which ones are the longest/shortest etc. The activity will instantly become more attractive to them when they are using something of interest to them, it will make the activity more fun and they will be more willing to participate - 9 times out of 10!

Idea 3 - Hands and Feet

This can be a tough one, but if you get it working, it's going to be great fun for you and your students. Get students to put their hand or foot on a  piece of paper, then they - or you - draw around their hand/foot. 

Now, you can either use rulers to measure everyone's body parts or you can use different items around the room - multi link cubes, duplo etc. Another way is to cut out each of the body parts - put students name in the middle of it so you know who they are, and compare so that you can all compare who has the shortest/longest hand/foot.

Idea 4 - Numicon

If you're like us, you have numicon available to use in your class but you just don't get enough use out of it. Measuring is a great time to pull it out! You can use it in so many different ways and get students to measure by counting the 'holes' - it provides an easier alternative to rulers and introducing cm/mm etc. 

You can use previous ideas of what to measure them with - get students to lay on the floor and use numicon pieces to measure them, get their favourite items and measure them with numicon, measure the lengths of equipment you have around the room - tables, chairs etc. Just literally make the most of whatever you can find in the room - send your students on hunt to find stuff that is so long.

Idea 5 - Using Feet

This activity is always a LOT of fun - so prepare yourself for a lot of giggles! First, get students - or you - to draw around their feet on piece of paper/card - I recommend are - cut out the feet individually, laminate them if you think this will help and then have your students use their feet to measure distances around the room by placing the feet one after another. This could be something as simple as measuring steps from the chair to the table, from the door to the wall, from the classroom door to the toilet door etc. Everyone is going to be having different answers - which is ok - because everyone has different sized feet! It's a great way to compare measurements and feet sizes.

Are there any fun ways that you use measurement in your class?
Nikki 

Monday, 26 September 2016

Happy Johnny Appleseed Day!

I have to be serious here, I never heard about Johnny Appleseed Day until I started my TpT adventure and got talking to more American Teachers. Don't get me wrong, it's a great holiday that provides so many fabulous learning opportunities for the classroom.

What I've noticed, is since I have become more aware of American holidays we do try to introduce them more into our classroom. We honestly believe that our children should get to experience the holidays that are celebrated all around the World, plus Johnny Appleseed Day is a great way for us to have some fun with apples in class!

As always, be sure to click on the images included in this blog post to be re-directed to the original source of the activity/idea for full information on how you can introduce these into your classroom/home.

Basically, when we plan for a holiday, we try to cover as many areas of learning as we can. Our children have two favourite areas of learning; art/crafts and cookery, so I'll start with those, courtesy of my good old friend, Pinterest.

First up, cookery..


Making candy apples is nice and simple, yet effective and a great way to encourage students to try apples. You could provide different options to get your students to use different language and make choices on what they want on their apple. 

Although not cookery, I fell in love with these fruit pots when I found them:


Aren't they just the cutest thing ever? A great way to encourage children to try apples in all different forms! 

Next.. Art and Crafts. I have got to be honest, this was really hard to narrow down, there are just so many amazing ideas out there for art and crafts to celebrate Johnny Appleseed! I managed to narrow it down to these 2 with great difficulty, but if you have a spare few moments, I seriously recommend going onto Pinterest and having a look for some Johnny Appleseed crafts - you'll be amazed!


I seen this and fell in love, it requires hardly any prep and very few resources, plus it's a great way to help improve upon your students in motor skills - and it's seriously cute!


In our class we are really big on painting with different types of equipment - and we love painting with fruits! Even if you have students who refuse to taste an apple, even if they are holding and painting with one, at least they are exploring a new texture, a new fruit - who knows what that could lead to! Plus it makes for some fabulous paintings!

Sensory.. although not an official area of learning, working with children with Autism you seriously learn to include sensory approaches in pretty much every topic you can! I found these two on Pinterest and I just know they would be a big hit with our students..


Bubble wrap is always a big hit with our kiddos. It's a different feel, it makes different noises depending on how you deal with it, it's a great new texture to paint with - and it makes some amazing patterns!


You talk to anyone in a Spec Ed/Autism classroom and they will tell you - sensory bins are life savers! Messy, and I mean messy but still life savers. You'll be amazed how engaged and focused they can keep some of our children! You can mix it up with all sorts of different materials, textures and really get your students senses working! Plus, fill it with all sorts of different apple treats to get the senses going - smells, feeling taste are all easy to link to apples. 

Science..

This is always a subject that teachers seem to panic over, they unnecessarily worry that they can't think of anything to do with Science - to the point that they overthink it way too much and don't even realise that they're actual doing a Science activity with their students at that moment! Here are some fun Science activities I came across..


This experiment is seriously a lot of fun, be sure to head on over and find out how you can introduce this into your classroom. Everyone hates when apples go brown, so why not do a full on experiment with your students/children and find out if or how they can stop that dreaded browning!! 


This has got to be one of the sweetest science activities I've ever seen. Students will love experimenting on if they can get their apples to sink/float and what difference it makes when different objects are added/removed. You can experiment if it matters what way apples are cut whether or not they float/sink and so much more! Plus, it's a nice and affordable activity which you can have going on in multiple different areas in your classroom! 

Literacy...


I love linking books in with our topics in the classroom, but most of all, I love how much students enjoy listening/reading to different stories. These books are great to link to theme of Johnny Appleseed and your students/children are sure to love them! 


These apple puzzles are a great way to improve letter recognition with your students - to go the next step you could introduce upper case to lower case matching to see if students are able to match these together. It's amazing how much more fun an activity can become when it's linked into a specific topic/holiday, and fun activities = fun learning = engaged students!

Numeracy...

This is always one of the hardest areas for us to cover with our students. Some of our students just don't understand math, and unfortunately, they just don't seem to understand the point of it. The difficulty we have is that a lot of math can be very difficult to teach, especially with visuals and symbols, so this always requires a lot of research, thinking, discussion and Pinterest stalking! 


Play dough is always a huge hit with our students, so when I came across these boards I just knew they would be a big hit. They are simple, effective and have great visual support. This is an activity that can allow us to step back and allow our students to attempt independent work, independent counting and the entire time they will be enjoying themselves with their play dough!


When I came across this image on Pinterest, I just knew we had hit a gold mine. We have these fine motor skill tweezers in our class - and our students love them. They love using them and become really engaged with activities using them - we try not to use them too often so that the novelty doesn't wear off! This is a nice activity that is quick and easy to put together. This will challenge many of our students to really pay attention, concentrate on their fine motor skills and make sure they're counting as they add more pom-poms. It really will get our students practising lots of different skills.

Although there are many more areas of learning to be covered, I think we've definitely got enough ideas here to set us up for now! Do you celebrate Johnny Appleseed in your class? If so, what's your/your student's favourite activities?

Nikki 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Sand Timers in the Classroom



Sand timers are pretty much everywhere these days, and I honestly can't tell you how much of a God send they've been on many occasions! In this blog post, I'm going to tell you all about sand timers, how we use them in our class and how our students have responded to them.

If you work in Special Education you probably already have a collection of sand timers in your classroom, it's pretty well known within our field of work that the sand timers have so many uses and just how well the students respond to them, but they can even work in mainstream settings.

So, in our classroom we have a range of different sand timers, they are; 30 seconds, 1 minute, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes. You can usually buy these sand timers online or in educational catalogues, each time usually comes in a different colour, once you've gotten used to the colours it makes it so much easier to grab one in a hurry.

Calm Down

Sand timers are a great way to help your students calm down, if something has upset a student and they start to become agitated or 'worked up', sitting with them (or giving them space if that's what they prefer!), showing them some visuals (or talking if that's what they prefer!) and having a timer can really help them. There's something very relaxing about just watching the sand move through on a sand timer, for this we usually use a 3 or 5 minute sand timer, depending on the student. It helps them to know that we're going to give them that amount of time totally on their own, having a relax and supporting them to calm themselves down independently.

Work Limits

One of the hardest things for our students to understand is how long they are going to be working for, they might have had one bad experience where they were sat working for ages and it's totally thrown them, or it could be a session where they need to work a little bit longer than normal, or one of their first sessions sat at a desk working and you're trying to break them in slowly. Just use a timer that is most suitable for your student and the task that you have set. Watching the timer will help them to see how long is expected of them and how much longer they have left before they can leave. 

Next Task

Have you ever had a student who wants to do something NOW? We've probably all been in that boat at one point, and sometimes our students just can't grasp that what they want IS going to happen - just not right this second! We have a student who would come in, knowing that the class would be going swimming, but he wanted to go NOW - swimming wasn't first thing so of course we had some time to kill first. We would put on some swimming songs on the computer and have a sand timer (30 minutes) - once the timer had finished he soon realised that that would mean it was time to get his stuff ready to go swimming - it made it much easier than trying to explain every 2 minutes when he would ask!

Choices

Have you ever had one item in your class that all the students decided they would want at the same time during choice sessions? Us too, don't worry! It can be so hard for our students to understand turn taking, so the sand timers really do come in handy here, we usually use the 3 minute sand timer for this so that each of the students has enough time with their choice activity. One the timer is up, they're asked to pass it to the next student and they choose something else - the first few times we did this, we had some hiccups, but as the year goes on and the students come to realise what it means, they get much better at handling the situation!

And that is how we use sand timers in our class with our students. Of course, one of the major bonuses of all of these ideas is that the students are being given the opportunity to start to understand the concept of time - something which is very difficult to teach, but sand timers really do help it become easier! 

Do you use sand timers, if so, how?
Nikki 

Monday, 19 September 2016

10+ Fun Ways to Write Your Name

10+ Fun Ways to Write Your Name



So, one of the most important things when working with children/students is to be able to help them write their name. For some students this is going to be harder than others, for the simple fact that literally, every student is going to be different. 

One child may pick up a pen or pencil and be able to instantly start to make marks and eventually form letters and their name, others may find it harder to hold a pen/pencil, may not be able to make marks very well, and forming letters may be very hard for them, so, take a step back and read through this blog post for lots of fun different ways to help your students practise writing their name - with more than just a pen and paper!

1) Sand

Sand is a great motivator for many students, they like the feel of it, the fact that it changes texture when wet/dry, that they can mould it etc. There are so many factors on why students love sand - but we won't discuss all of them. 

If you know your student loves sand, then using sand to help them write their name could be one of the best ways to approach them. Simply pour some sand into a tray - or table - and have your student sit down in front of it. Use your fingers or tools i,e paintbrush, to form shapes and letters in the sand.

I have to say it's really important that students can form marks and simple lines, shapes etc before pushing them to form letters. The sand is a great way to work on any aspect. If your student is unable to independently spell their own name at the moment, you can always have a print out of it above for students to copy or you can write their name in the sand for them to copy too!

2) Chalk

Chalk is a great resource in the way that it's also erasable so students don't have to worry about making a mistake, they can simply wipe it off! You can have students use their chalk on the floor outside, the wall outside or even on chalkboards. It's a great way for them to work in different settings and on different surfaces. Plus, with all the different colours available, they can make it even more fun!

3) White Boards

White boards are pretty widely available now, which makes this idea such a great one! Get lots of different whiteboard markers and students are off! This is great because like the chalk, it's also erasable so students don't have to worry over making any mistakes.

The whiteboards are also great in a lot of different ways, with some students we have 'dotted' the formation of letters (like dot to dot) and students connect the dots to form the letters. They're still working on their letter formation, writing their name and fine motor skills, just with a little added help!

4) Multilink Cubes / Unifix Cubes

Multilink cubes are a great resource for the classroom, not only does it help to improve students fine motor skills, it also encourages them to use their imagination and get creative with their creations. However, it's also a great tools for students to practise spelling their name. Although they aren't necessarily writing - they're working on spelling and forming letters.

Simply get students to write their name out of multilink cubes! They may find it difficult at first, but once they have the hang of it, it's a great way to encourage those students who may be struggling with the spelling and order of the letters in their name. 

If students are struggling on how to form the letters - there are lots of great tools on google where you can find examples of different letters made out of multilink cubes. 

5) Water on a Pavement

This will work best on a dry pavement and can be done with water or paint - whatever wet substance you prefer, we use water just because it's less messy! 

Simply dip a paintbrush into the pot of water and have students form their name on the pavement outside. This is a great way for them to work outside of their classroom - let's face it, sometimes we can all do with a break! Plus the water will disappear once it's dried up - so students don't have to feel self conscious over their name being left for everyone to see.

6) Paint

Now be warned, paint can be messy, I do suggest having a 'messy' area and getting lots of cloths, napkins and table cloth ready to help clean up the mess! 

Simply get out lots of different paint colours into the palette on the table - or floor - and hand your students paintbrushes, encourage them to write their names using paint on the paper - or have a giant piece of paper (sometimes we use backing paper on the reverse side) and cover the entire table. Students can paint their names as many times as they like! Plus, paint is easy for them to cover up if they're not happy with the way that their name came out!

7) Shaving Foam or Cream

Now, as someone who does not like textures, shaving foam always goes through me - and cream, but the kids LOVE it and it really does encourage them to work on their mark making and letter formation.

Simply spray some shaving foam or cream on the table and rub it out a bit to make it flat. Then have students use their fingers - or a paintbrush or similar if they don't like the texture - to spell their name in the shaving foam/cream on the table.

Be warned it gets messy!

8) Play-Doh

Play-doh is such a great resource to have in the classroom. You can either make some 'name mats' where you print out students names on a piece of paper and they have to roll/mould the play-doh into the different letters to form their name or simply allow them to freestyle and have them work out how they can make the different letters in their name with play-doh.

This is a great way for students to work on their fine motor skills as well as letter formation.

You could also have students roll out some play-doh on the table, then using play-doh moulding equipment - or even the bottom of a paintbrush, pen etc - have the students write their names into the pressed play-doh piece.

9) Icing Pens

You're probably looking at me crazy right now when I mention icing pens, but trust me, its going to work! You'll just have to have eyes in the back of your head to make sure the students are writing with their icing pens and not eating them! 

You can either do this on something the students have baked - or even bought from the store i.e biscuits/cookies - or just simply on a plate. It's something different for students to use, it'll smell great - and they know it'll taste great! It's a great motivator to have them working on their letters/name.

You can always reward your students with eating the icing once they've formed their name/letters.

10) Slime

Slime is actually pretty easy to make, we call it slime but it's actually just cornflour gloop. Just simply mix some cornflour, water and add some food colouring to make it very slimy. It's important to use around double the amount of cornflour to liquid to make it perfectly slimy.

Once it's done - you'll know, it gets very slimy! I recommend putting it into individual work trays or onto a table for students to work with. If they don't want to use their hands, have them use different tools like paintbrushes or glue spreaders. It's a great way for them to work on spelling/writing their name and forming letters as well as practising mark making. 

And we all know students love getting messy - so this will the perfect way to combine mess with learning!

And there you have it, those were my top ten fun ways to help and encourage students to write their name. There are so many more great ways for students to work on their name though such as:
  • Magnetic letters - on a fridge or tray, or even just a table
  • Foam letters
  • Lego blocks
  • Cut out individual letters
  • Overwriting - you write in a yellow pen and then they overwrite in black etc
  • Bingo dabbers - use bingo dabbers to follow the letter formations
  • Cotton bud and paint - dabbing along the lines of letters or even following the formation of letters
  • Building Blocks - write letters on each individual piece for students to build across 
  • Stones - have students collect stones from outside, or even bring them in from home, wash them then paint/write a different letter on each stone
  • Lolly sticks - write an individual letter on the bottom of each lollipop stick, students have to lay them out in a row to form their name
  • Collage - print out the students them in a thick bubble font, then have students use different ways to decorate the name - could be a collage and stick down different colour small pieces of paper or even crayons, pens, pencils, glitter etc.
  • Pegs - have the students name written somewhere then write individual letters on the bottom of clothing pegs, have students match the pegs to the letters of their name - or skip the matching phase and just have the pegs and have students peg their name across something - paper, card, hanger etc.
What ways do you work on names in your classroom?
Thanks for stopping by,
Nikki 

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Seller Spotlight Sunday: Christa Joy

Welcome to my Seller Spotlight Sunday.
Every Sunday on my blog there is a guest post from another fabulous TpT Seller. They will be sharing one free resource from their store, one paid resource from their store and something that they have been up to that week or similar! 

So, don't forget to check back every Sunday or sign up for my email list to get notifications of new sellers!

Up this week is Christa Joy from Special Needs for Special Kids



Hi, my name is Christa Joy and my TPT store is Special Needs for Special Kids.  I originally started out my career path by graduating from veterinary school in NC and practiced small animal medicine, a life-long dream of mine.  Then, in 1997, we had a son who was diagnosed at an early age with severe autism and an intellectual disability.  So, after giving up my career in medicine, I went back to school and pursued a career in special education with the hopes of helping him as much as I could.  Out of that, came a love for these kids and the special teachers who work so hard with them. 

All of my products are developed for students with significant challenges.  I feel every student deserves access to the same curriculum content as our regular education students.  I try to make my units as in depth and complete as possible while providing a lot of visual structure, support, and differentiation. 
My son is now 19 years old, and although he still struggles daily with his challenges, he is a happy young man who loves life.



One of my favorite ways to teach any type of content is through the use of stories.  Almost all of my units, including math, science, and social studies, have a story as part of the content. 



Grab this resource to give it a try:


It is part of my more complete unit on pumpkins which you can grab here:



I know there are not enough resources readily available if you teach this population of students.  I am hoping to change that, and by creating these resources provide a way for our kids to experience all this amazing world has to offer.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Check for updates on your TpT Purchases

Often when you make a purchase on TpT, now and again the TpT seller may update the resource, but how will you know if they've updated it? It's actually a very simple process!

Go on to your TpT account, hover over My TpT and then click My Purchases


Once on the page click on the Sort by option and click Recently Revised


Now all of your purchases will go in the order of the most recently revised resources.


If something has been recently revised, you will see in red writing Newly Revised Re-Download, underneath this it will say Description of Revision, if you click this it will tell you what has been recently revised. 

If it has be revised, just click DOWNLOAD NOW and it will download the most recent version to your desktop!

Be sure to check this every now and again so that you can check if any of your previous purchases have been updated.

Nikki 

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Don't Say It! Ice Breaker Game

You know when you get so excited over an activity you find because you just KNOW your kids are going to go crazy for it and just love it? 

Well i'm hoping that's what this resource will do for you, because as much as I hate to blow my own trumpet - I definitely had that feeling over one of my very own resources - Don't Say It! Ice Breaker Game.



It's a great resource to use during your first few days of School to help your students feel more relaxed, comfortable and confident in their surroundings as well as starting to form relationships - however, it's also a great game to keep going all year around - your kiddos are going to love it, and it will be great to pull out during those gaps in time - plus they'll be having fun AND learning!

This game can be done in pairs, small groups or even as a whole class activity - it's totally up to you and your students. Plus it's comes in black and white as well as col so that you can print whichever you would prefer - let's face it, ink is not cheap these days!


As you can see in the image above I've also included a cover and instruction card for the game - these are great to keep at the front of the game in case you ever have to go over the instructions briefly before it taking place - for yourself or your students - or even for a sub! And the cover is great for you to be able to find it quickly when put away in storage. 


The game has also got the alphabet included - there is a card for every letter of the alphabet - meaning a total of 26 cards. This can also be added into the game as well if you feel your students are able to - i.e start with the person who has letter A, then B etc.


The main idea of the game is for each student to be given a card (or more if there are left overs), they then have to read the word that they have - but don't say it!! - and then use different words to try and describe what they have, with other students listening to their clues and trying to guess. Each card also comes with some example words at the bottom to help students if they get stuck.


I really do recommend cutting out and laminating each of the individual cards, mainly because they will be stronger and longer lasting, but also so that they will be thicker - so students are less likely to be able to see through the paper (unless you print on card!).

It's the beginning of the year and I've already had so many compliments and great feedback on this resource - so how about having the chance to win it? Just simply enter in the rafflecopter below for your chance to win!

Nikki 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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