Monday, August 11, 2014

New Room = Chaos!!!

Room Tour
I finally got access to my new classroom and surrounding areas today!  I was greeted with a HUGE mess!!!  The previous teacher was not very organized and had items in all sorts of places.  All my personal materials had been brought in by maintenance and were in a huge pile in another teachers classroom!  I was so ready to get going, I forgot to take true "before" pictures.  
I am so excited about this position.  I am teaching 2 subjects (ELA and Social Studies) and my co-teacher will be tackling Science and Math.  We will both be sharing the load for Daily Living, Personal Management, Rec/Leisure skills, and Vocational tasks.  We have 2 full size classrooms, a small kitchen area, and a smaller classroom in the back.  We plan to use the back classroom for Vocational tasks, including break areas (which we will teach our students to appropriately access).  Since we are integrating our students with severe autism (some of which have severe aggression), we also will use this back room for students who need to be removed from the group for safety.

We started strong by taking EVERYTHING out of cabinets and drawers and putting it into piles.  We then put things in their correct classroom (work tasks put into the back classroom, math/science into his room, ELA/SS into mine).  We left random items on tables and desks to figure out what to do with later.

Anyway, after 7 hours of work, here is what we have!
My Classroom

This is from the doorway between the two larger classrooms looking into my room (ELA/Social Studies). . . SO much work to be done!!!!
Another view from the doorway. . . just to show the amount of chaos!!!

Doorway is into  a bathroom that includes a toilet, changing table, and small shower.

An Interactive Whiteboard will be put over this whiteboard. . . the area where you see my coteacher walking takes you to the kitchen and back classroom

One storage area in my classroom, just to the right of the "hallway" to the kitchen.  So excited to have so many cabinets and shelves!

View of doorway to Science / Math classroom
WINDOWS!!!!!  One entire wall of the classroom is windows!!!!

Small Kitchen Area
Shows doorway to back classroom

Back Classroom
Back classroom which will be used for vocational skills and Rec/Leisure

Math/Science Room
Math/Science Classroom (yes, it has windows too!!!)

Rest of the Math/Science Classroom

So, that's what we've got so far.  I am so overwhelmed, but so excited.  Tomorrow, I hope to get all boxes unpacked and furniture in a first attempt placement.  That may be lofty, but it's my goal.  Then I will begin to put materials and items in their correct place.  

Hope you've enjoyed my tour!  I cannot wait to see what we end up with once it's all cleaned up!!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Position, New Opportunities!

What a summer it has been!  I've had a lot going on both personally and professionaly.  Most notably, it has been determined that I am changing positions in my district.  I will be transferring to one of our four High Schools to help revamp the program to increase student success! I get the opportunity to create a new program that incorporates our students with severe Autism and significant behaviors in with our Life Skills students.  Our focus is on really matching activities to transition planning and ensuring we have post-secondary placements ready when students graduate!  
I am super excited.  I am teaming up with another teacher that I've worked with in previous years and seen a lot of success.  We are splitting subjects (I will be ELA/SS, he will take Math/Sci) and then will share the load with vocational, daily living, etc.  We were allowed to hand pick our paraprofessionals and have put together a "dream team".  
It is a big change for me.  I have been a Middle School teacher for 14 of my 16 years teaching!  I LOVE middle schoolers.  High school is a rather daunting age to me.  I feel a significant pressure to ensure student success.  High school is the end of their public education, which means we have a lot of work to do!  
Anyway, just wanted to share.  If you have any advice, favorite high school blogs, etc, please share!  I can't wait to see what this year holds!  

Monday, July 7, 2014

Special Educator Bloghop

Jamie over at Tales of a Carolina Girl is hosting a Special Educator Bloghop!  Figured I'd join in as I LOVE to see other special educators blogging.  Click on the button below to head over to her bloghop!

Here's Mine!!

Name: Erin

Job Title: APPLE Teacher (teacher of children with Autism and severe behaviors)

Grade: Middle School (6-8) 

How Long I've Been Teaching: 15 years (my husband just said "have you really been teaching for 15 years??  Good lord you're old!"  Thanks honey, thanks a lot!)

Advice: I have two things:  First:  Beg, Borrow, Steal, and Create!!!  As a special education teacher, you are often expected to teach all subjects and multiple grade levels.  It is IMPOSSIBLE to be a master of every subject on your own.  Find others who you can get ideas from.  Find others who will help you create items.  Follow bloggers who share their activities, ideas, and printables.  Collaborate with others.  You are not in this alone.  There are those few teachers out there who will not share.  Do not let those people get you down.  Move on and find others who will share.  When you look through my classroom, you will find that over half of my materials are items I have found through others!  If it is an item I created, I probably got the idea from someone else and built on it!  Just always remember, you are NOT in this alone, there are others with the same passion you have that are more than willing to share their ideas so that your children can thrive!!!  

Second:  Behavior, behavior, behavior.  If students behavior is not under control, you are not having true success.  As you plan for your classroom, determine how you will manage behavior.  Create reinforcement systems (or find good ones from others - see above).  Create behavior charts (again, see above).  Determine what behaviors you will focus on and what techniques you will use.  When school starts, implement your interventions, assess their effectiveness, and make adjustments!  

Thanks for the bloghop Jamie!!  I can't wait to learn from other bloggers!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Work Boxes

Work Boxes: As mentioned multiple times in the past, I have a TON of work boxes.  Here are a few more:


Reading office supply sort: Random items from around the classroom are put into the container. Students read the label at the bottom of the sorting system and place the correct number of items!  So easy to setup, and FREE!

Filling Medicine Box:  I used small candies as the "pills".  Students got instructions on what "pills" were needed in AM/PM.  Have to fill out weekly medicine storage.

Item sort (similar shape edition):  In this task, students sort random items, but many have very similar shape, (rounded vs square edges).  Students sort accordingly.

Another shape sorter - this came as a math kit, I just dumped it into a work box!

Fine motor activity:  Students take the small pegs and push them into a piece of foam.

More to come in a few days!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Work Box Update!
Here are a few work boxes. . . hope you see some you like!

Pencil Case Pack - students follow the template to put items into pencil tins

Eraser Pack - Students place two erasers into containers accordint to template.  For this particular task, students have two different shape containers, so they must make sure to get matching tops for container.

Spelling Pack - Students much choose an item from box, then find the letters to spell that word and place it all into a tied bag.  Items are all mastered spelling words for that particular student.

Rubber Band Sort - Students sort the rubber bands by size.  I must admit, this one is HARD!  The rubber bands are very close in size, so they have to pay close attention.  

Money Sort - Students place coins into a money sorter according to denomination.  For lower functioning students who do not yet know the amount of each coin, one example can be velcroed into the container to provide a cue.

Number Package - Students place the correct number of lady bugs into the bag according to the numeral.  For this specific task, the number card also has dots that students can use to ensure correct number of items.

There are a few. . . I'll be placing more each few days!!!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Work Boxes - Organizational Nightmare Solved

Ok, if you've read any of my previous posts, you know I have a problem.  I am addicted to work boxes.  It is an addiction, a true addiction.  I cannot go more than a few weeks at a time without a trip to the dollar store to purchase materials for my newest work box idea.  I love that these can be teaching tools, independent practice, and can encompass so many skills at one time.
When you are as addicted to creating these as I am, you end up with so many boxes that it can become an organizational nightmare.  How do you know what's in each box?  How do you know what to assign each student?  Here is how I do it!

First, I created a color coded system for the types of boxes I have.

This helps me put boxes that are similar together on a shelf.  Each shelf has a strip of tape on it so that I know where that color/type box goes for easy finding and easy returning.

Each box is then given a label.  I try to make these 1-2 words, but slightly descriptive so that I can quickly figure out what the task inside is.  This label also gets a color coded dot so we can tell what shelf it will belong on.

I then make a second label that I laminate and add velcro to.  This one goes on their job chart.

And there you have it.  This is the way that I organize my work boxes.  It works for me.  It can still be a little overwhelming, but my kids have always been able to find their assigned boxes independently and are able to return boxes when necessary!

How do you organize and assign work boxes to your kiddos?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


We made it, we made it!!!  It's summertime!!!

I, like many of you, will not be taking the summer off, but will continue to work with my kiddos in ESY (extended school year).  Despite the fact I'll be working, I LOVE SUMMER!  ESY is only 4 hours a day and we don't have to follow the same strict regimen of the school year.  I am so excited to get to spend some time having fun with my kiddos!  All of my students only have behavior goals for the summer, so I get to incorporate lots of social skills, games, and art projects. 

This summer, our schedule will be the following:
Student 1 Student 2 Student 3 Student 4 Student 5 Student 6
8:00 - 8:30                          Group / Calendar / Binder
8:30 - 9:00 Ipad File Folders File Folders Work Box Work Box Ipad
9:00 - 9:30 Work Box Ipad Ipad File Folder File Folder Work Box
9:30 - 10:00 File Folders Work Box Work Box Ipad Ipad File Folder
10:00 - 10:50                                   Art / Cooking
10:50 - 11:20                                      Lunch
11:20 - 11:30                            Break / Dismiss

Group / Calendar / Binder, I will be using the following resources, as well as others:

Work Boxes will include the work boxes we use throughout the year, and I plan to create some new ones. . . 

Ipads = educational activities on the Ipad.  Some favorites we will use:
(I can't figure out how to get pictures of these Apps, so here are links to some favorites)
  • Splash Math (grades K-3)
  • Monkey Lunchbox (and other THUP games)
  • My First App (match it up 1,2, and 3; opposites; Sort it out; What's the difference)
  • apps
And many more.  If I figure out how to do pictures, I'll post some other favorites soon!

File Folders = I will use adapted books, file folder activities, and Reading A-Z books during this time

Art and Cooking - Can you believe we have a designated art and cooking teacher for the summer!  She will plan activities for this time period.  I could not be more thrilled, especially since I have NO creative bones in my body!  

So, that's a run down of my ESY. . . what do you do during your summer programs??

Monday, April 28, 2014

Personal Post - Autism Awareness Month = New Ink for me!!!

Once again, I have been absent for way too long from the blogging world.  Unfortunately, I don't see that changing in the near future.  I am up to 9 kiddos, 1 full time para (my rock), 1 long term sub (who genuinely cares, but has no experience or skills in working with kids with Autism), and an on and off behavior support staff member.   Anyway, to say the least, it has been BUSY and CRAZY in my room!!!  I am loving every minute, but I am exhausted when I finally turn off that light and close the door to come home every day.  I hope to return to the blogging world again this summer when life settles down again.  I have a ton of ideas, projects, games, work boxes, terrible mistakes, and realizations to share!   I hope those of you who follow me haven't given up on me yet!

Anyway, I quickly wanted to share in this post my new tattoo!!!!  I know, I know, tattoo's are not everyone's thing.  I've heard all the arguments, all the questions, and I don't have all the answers.  I do, however, know that tattoos are very personal and highly meaningful to me.  I have 5, all with high significance.  Each took years to commit to and involved much research and thought.  
This tattoo has been in the works for 3 years.  I got this tattoo not only because of the impact that my students make on my life, but also the impact their families make.  I am so excited to show my support for Autism acceptance and open the door to so many more conversations about Autism.   Just since getting the Tattoo on Saturday, I've had 3 opportunities to talk with strangers about Autism!  I also made sure to get it from a tattoo parlor that supported the Ink4autism campaign.  50% of proceeds from this tattoo went to Autism Speaks (yes, another highly controversial topic, not to be delved into here).  Anyway, here it is!  I am in love!!!!!