Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Hubby!

birthdayToday is my hubby’s birthday! He seems to not like his birthdays ending in 9s. When he turned 39, he was pretty depressed. When he turned 49, he was kind of grouchy. Yesterday when I discussed what we should do for his 59th birthday, he got cranky. Any other birthdays have not affected him this way. He thinks I make too much out of birthdays. But I have to disagree. The alternative to getting older is death so I will celebrate each year that we get older.

Every birthday is a celebration of life! Each year we get a little older and a little wiser. We have had the opportunity to experience new things, capture new memories, and enjoy others more.

We enjoy our lives together and try to treat every day as special which is a good thing. But I think celebrating another year that goes by is also a special event and should be honored.

So happy birthday to my best and dearest friend, the love of my life! I celebrate the fact that you were born and that I get to share your life with you. I’m glad you are in my life and I hope that we get to celebrate many, many more of your birthdays!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Birthday Cake' by: Theresa Thompson

Friday, February 25, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 2/25/11

tools2Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Nourish Interactive – “is your free one stop resource for fun nutrition games for kids, interactive nutrition tools and tips for parents and health educators to use to promote healthy living for the whole family.”

Own Your Space--Keep Yourself and Your Stuff Safe Online – free Digital Book for Teens by Linda McCarthy

Sugar Stacks – “Compare foods, find out where sugar is hiding, and see how much of the sweet stuff you're really eating.”

Newspaper Map – locating and reading newspapers from around the world.

Clorox Classrooms – free lesson plans; “Students play detective to uncover the mystery of hidden germs, learn how germs spread, compare the cleanliness of different surfaces and more. Once your students complete a lesson or activity, deem them members of The Clean Club, a fun way to reward good behavior.”

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Show Up for Life

appreciationIn Disconnect to Connect from The Thinking Stick, Jeff Utecht took students on a week long journey and students had to turn in all electronic devices other than a camera. He made his theme for the week: Disconnect to Connect. He shares,

“Each day after working on the project and teaching students we would come together to debrief about the day. I would lead the kids through the debrief session that went something like this.

Thoughts on Today
(Overall comments on the day, something funny a kid said, something you learned.)

A Moment
(I wanted students to reflect on a of those moments we have from time to time where you just step back and go WOW. I wanted kids to think about those moments, when did they come and what did they mean to them.)

A Conversation
(I gave them time to talk about a conversation they had with another student based on my challenge above. Who did they talk to, what did they learn?)

A Take Away
(Each night I would add my own observation of the day and try to send the kids away thinking about something. One night we talked leadership, one night team work and another night about the kids at the school and their lives.)”

What a wonderful way to connect with life! Maybe this is a commercial break from my usual blog posts but this really struck me as important. Not just in the classroom but in real life. How much of life do I let pass me by without taking stock of each day and appreciating it? Wouldn’t this be a good practice to get into on a daily basis? I think at times I do this when we do something special but not when I have ordinary days. Even the ordinary days should count.

I think it is important to show up for life and appreciate each of these things in every day. I want every day to have a Wow moment. I want to take time to have a conversation with others about my Wow moment. I want to learn something every day which is an indication that I didn’t waste the day because for me, not learning something each day is wasteful.

Do you take stock in your day? How do you show up for life each day?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Bedruthan Sunset_Z7717L' by: Barry

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Math Projects for Real Life

teamworkIn Math Homework is a Hot Topic from Educationally Minded, Anthony states,

“So my thought is that math PBL will include students having small “projects” to figure out math. Then after a few projects they will have one large project that covers many of the smaller ones and how they work together. That’s math! It continues to build on upon earlier aspects.”

This reminded me of two fun projects my students did that incorporated math skills into real life situations.

Project 1: Scale Models

First we talked about architects or engineers who sometimes use scale models to show what possibilities their client may have. We talked about how scale models are made and what scale models we have actually seen. Then we talked about making a scale model of our school and what process we would use to make one. We had to decide up on the scale we wanted to use and what materials we would use. Once we decided on this, the students broke up into teams and divided parts of the school to build. Each group had a foreman and a recorder as well as a worker but all three were expected to do their share of work. Some of the students even made an appointment with the plant engineer to talk about some measurements that we couldn’t do on our own. Throughout the project, someone in the group needed to document all the steps the group followed. When tasks were doled out, the name of the person responsible for getting that information was also written down. This project lasted a month and the students really enjoyed it. It was thrilling when the scale model was displayed in the library for the student body to see. It was also important to evaluate the project after we finished seeing what the students felt worked, didn’t work, or needed to be changed.

Project 2: Plan a Trip

At sometime in every person’s life, they will go on a trip. It may be a short trip or a long trip and may even involve overnight stays. Students had to plan a trip for their family. Many people usually get a week off from work so we decided to plan a week’s vacation. Students had to choose a destination anywhere in the United States (I didn’t use foreign countries for the first project because then we would have to deal with foreign money and the exchange rate) and plan a trip for their entire family. They had to include getting there and back, accommodations, food, transportation during the week, activities and places to see (including admission costs). The student had to turn in an itinerary and cost analysis. I was able to get outdated books from AAA which helped with the planning in addition to the internet. Students were very excited about planning their trip and I heard them talking about this many times during the week. At the end of the week, they told the class about their trip including the places they would visit and the cost. For many, it was an eye opening experience because they didn’t realize how expensive some of the places they wanted to go to cost. Now, some understood why their parents had not taken them there. I even had some comments from parents that this project was discussed at the dinner table and suggestions were made from family members. Again, it was important after the project was finished to evaluate what worked, didn’t work, or needed to be changed.

I felt both of these projects taught the students more than if we worked out of a textbook to study measurement and money. These projects were more relevant than problems written in a book. I have heard from former students who even remember doing these projects so I felt the lessons made an impression on them.

What math projects have you used in your class? How did your students react to them?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Teamwork' by: Andrew Becraft

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Raj the Bookstore Tiger - A Book Review

RAJ THE BOOKSTORE TIGERI recently read the book Raj the Bookstore Tiger by Kathleen T. Pelley which was mentioned on The Picnic Basket. This is the review that I gave the book (I am not being paid to give this review):

I would give this book 5 out of 5. It was a delightful book for young children and in the classroom. The story was cute and so were the illustrations. It would be great to use with learning about topics such as cats, tigers, poetry, William Blake, and India. It would also be a great book when talking about feelings and social skills. Topics could include: Moving to a new home, Behavior in a bookstore, Storytelling time, Jealousy, and Meeting new friends. Students could draw their own pictures of their favorite scene from the story. They could also talk about different ways the characters could have behaved in the story or even write a second part to the story about the adventures of the two cats in the bookstore. I think this book is open to lots of possibilities in the classroom.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Monday, February 21, 2011

Defeated from the Start

defeatThis can’t be done in our school from Generation YES Blog, Sylvia Martinez wrote,

“The thing that made me feel the worst, though, was a glimpse of a session evaluation. I know speakers aren’t supposed to look at them, but they were on the table when I was packing up and there it was in the comments section – “This could not be done at our school.”… But I think the best question would be – what vision would it take to convince you to even try?”

When I first saw this, it made me feel sad. It made me feel sad because I felt that the participant had given up before even starting. This person’s mind was made up before they even entered the session and did not even see the possibility of what might be. Hope had been lost and this person had a defeatist attitude. If this is how the teacher was feeling, I had to think this attitude was also influencing the students. Did this attitude come from the principal too or even the school superintendent? Where did this begin? How do we stop it?

The way to stop it is to begin with an open mind.

When I go into professional development sessions, I try to keep an open mind. If I start off with the idea that anything is possible, I can see the opportunities that could happen. With a little adjustment and tweaking, I can see how this new strategy or program could work in my classroom or make me more effective in my teaching. The world is open to possibilities if I accept the idea that anything is possible.

If I have trouble wrapping my head around how I can make this work, I ask questions. I ask others to help me brainstorm how I could use this in my class. I let their open minds work for me. Sometimes people from a different perspective can see the possibilities for my classroom even if they can’t see it for their own.

Rather than starting with the statement of “this won’t work,” I try to start off with “what do I need to do to make this work.” Having this mental acceptance can make something possible because my mind doesn’t shut down to suggestions.

I have tried to help many students and I’m always amazed with how defeated they start off. They raise their hands and say, “I can’t do this!” I try to get them to start off with the question, “How can I make this work?” Just that little shift in thinking helps them. By starting off with the defeated attitude, they have given up before they have even tried. Just by asking how to make it work, they are willing to try and then anything is possible. Their mind can see that different possibilities.

I have tried to help other teachers with strategies to use in their classroom. With every suggestion, some respond, “That won’t work!” Well, of course it won’t work because they aren’t willing to give it a try. Instead, they should be asking, “How can I make that work in my situation?” Let’s look at the obstacles and find a way of knocking those obstacles down. By giving up before we start is putting up walls that were never there. We don’t need to add obstacles to our challenges but instead find ways to overcome the ones already there!

So I hope when I am faced with new ideas I can face the challenge and say,

· How can I make this work for me?

· What obstacles do I face?

· What can I do to break down the things that stand in my way?

· What else do I need to do to make this successful in my situation?

What do you do when you learn about new programs, strategies, or ideas? Is your mind open or closed?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Dying Gaul 1' by: Mary Harrsch

Friday, February 18, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 2/18/11

tools2 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

AX – “allows you to alter any character's accent always using the same key.” Free download

If It Were My Home –“ is your gateway to understanding life outside your home. Use our country comparison tool to compare living conditions in your own country to those of another. Start by selecting a region to compare on the map to the right, and begin your exploration.”

Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 – “Microsoft Mathematics provides a graphing calculator that plots in 2D and 3D, step-by-step equation solving, and useful tools to help students with math and science studies”

Icebreakers – “free instructions to many useful icebreakers, group games, and team building activities!”

Raw Scripts – “is online screenwriting software. Scripts are private, secure and accessible from any computer. Nothing to install.”

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Education Buzz Carnival 2/16/11


Another edition of the Education Buzz Carnival is up and running at Bellringers! Don’t miss out on all the fun! See what is going on in the Edusphere. My article on Notetaking 101 is there but there are lots of other great articles to read too! See you there and don’t eat too much cotton candy!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: Carnival by Pat Hensley

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Classroom Accommodations

accommodationsAnother session I attended at the SCCEC conference was Choosing Accommodations through a Collaborative Partnership by Katie Stapleton from Berkeley County. She did an awesome job and gave lots of useful information. When choosing accommodations, teachers should not just use a laundry list of accommodations and instead they should be carefully chosen to meet the student’s needs. Choosing the appropriate accommodation should also be backed up with evidence and data to support the need for this accommodation.

From the presentation:

There are 4 types of Accommodations:

Presentation (how material is presented); Response (how the student responds to the material); Setting (the environment in which the material is presented); and Timing & Scheduling (when the material is presented.


· Presentation: Large print, sign language, Braille, oral administration, visual cues, notes, outlines

· Response: Mark answers in book, use reference aids, use of computer, oral response

· Setting: seating, separate rooms, study carrel, special lighting

· Timing & Scheduling: daily schedule, extended time, frequent breaks

Below are the guided questions that Berkeley County uses in selecting instructional accommodations.

“Guiding Questions for Selecting Instructional Accommodations:


Preferential Seating:

· Is there evidence the student performs differently when not seated near the instructor or away from distractions?

· Is there history of the student running from the assigned area?

· Are there documented vision and/or hearing concern/disability?

Evidence would include:

· Data on student performance (time on task, grades, behavior) while seated in different areas of the room

o Compare data while seated with class and by adult

· Physical accessibility

Small Group:

· Is there evidence the student performs differently when taken in a whole group versus a small group?

· Is small group needed to support another accommodation? (i.e. oral administration)

*A student who receives services in a small group does not automatically warrant the accommodation of small group.

Evidence would include:

· Data on student performance (time on task, grades, behavior) with whole group and small group

o Compare data in whole group and small group

Individual Assistance:

· Is there evidence the student requires the support of one-on-one assistance from a peer or adult?

Evidence would include:

· Data on student performance (time on task, grades, behavior) with whole group, small group, and one on one

o Compare data in whole group, small group, and one on one

Separate Location:

· Is there evidence the student performs differently when separated from peers?

· Is there evidence the student’s behavior would impact the progress of other students?

Evidence would include:

· Data on student performance (time on task, grades, behavior) with general education class, special education class, and different location

o Compare data in each setting


Frequent/Extended Breaks:

· Is there evidence that supports success with instruction being broken in smaller segments following a break time? (i.e. within the same day or multiple sessions)

· Is there evidence that supports success with behavior, by being reinforced with designated break times during instruction?

Evidence would include:

· Data on student performance (time on task, grades, behavior) with a break and without a break

o Compare data with and without break



· Is there evidence the student requires prompts/cues to stay on task or as part of behavior plan?

*Need to specify the level of intensity for prompts/cues (i.e. physical, verbal, gestural).

Evidence would include:

    • Data on student performance (completion and accuracy) on assignments attempted independently versus with various levels of prompts (gestural, verbal, and physical).


· Is there evidence the student requires assignments to be reduced in number to support behavior and fatigue needs?

*Need to ensure reduced assignment allows for mastery.

· Is there evidence the student requires directions to be paraphrased or simplified in order to complete assignment?

· Is there evidence the student requires highlighting of key vocabulary in directions or content?

Evidence would include:

· Data on student performance (completion, accuracy, behavior) on assignments when given in various modes (entire assignment, assignment with reduced number of items, and entire assignment broken into smaller sections presented in chunks).

· Data on student performance (completion, accuracy, behavior) when a given assignment is attempted independently versus when directions are simplified or paraphrased.

· Data on student performance (completion, accuracy, behavior) when a given assignment is attempted with and without highlighted key vocabulary.

Oral Administration:

· Is there evidence in the present level of performance indicating the student is reading below grade level?

· Is there evidence to support the student comprehends the content when read aloud?

· Is there evidence from curriculum based assessment and measurement for reading fluency?

· Is the student participating in direct instruction for targeted skills?

*Need to specify if for directions, reading of context, tests, and/or key words. Need to specify if via a person, audio book/CD, or computer software.

Evidence would include:

· Documented reading level from achievement test.

· Data on student performance (completion, accuracy, behavior) when an assignment is attempted independently versus when read aloud by (adult, audio, or technology).

· CBM data from AIMSweb progress monitoring.



· Is there evidence that the student can not complete note-taking requirements on their own (i.e. behavioral, visual, motor difficulties)?

*Need to specify if notes will be provided via teacher, peer, or template.

Evidence would include:

· Data on student performance (time on task, grades, behavior) in general education class and/or special education class improves with guided notes, template, copies, etc.

o Compare data before and after note-taking addition

Student Responses:

· Is there evidence that the student requires an alternative mode of response for assignments and tests (i.e. dictated to peer/adult/device, write in workbook, computer, alternative response options)

Evidence would include:

· Data on student performance (time on task, grades, behavior) in general education class and/or special education class improves with alternative mode

o Compare data before and after alternative mode (may be multiple trials with different modes)


· Is there evidence the student requires the use of a calculator during math instruction on a routine basis?

· Is there evidence in present level describing fluency deficit in math calculations?

· Is there evidence of student work showing mastery with a calculator?

Evidence would include:

· Data on student performance (time on task, grades, behavior) before and after the use of a calculator

· Data on CBM probes with math fluency deficit”

Data collection is important to choosing the appropriate accommodations. Berkeley County uses a web based accommodation checklist summary. This would make it easier for student’s teachers to share their observations.

I believe that if I used this to guide what accommodations my students would get, they would be even more successful in the classroom.

How do you chose what accommodations your students get? If you are not in special ed, how are these chosen for the students you do teach?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'What To Watch, What To Tape' by: Bart

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Advocating for Success Through Technology

AT At the SCCEC conference, I attended the session Advocating for Success Through Technology by Sandy Hanebrink and Linda McCuen. They provided low tech and high tech solutions to challenges that students with disabilities face each day.

First we were introduced to Touch the Future, Inc. which “is dedicated to providing affordable computer and AT access to individuals with disabilities, disadvantaged communities, and healthy seniors. Touch the Future’s expertise and services are as affordable as they are vital to successful independence within the community.” This is a nonprofit organization that offers a variety of services.

From the Presentation:

Discussion of the following federal policies:

· Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973

· Section 504

· Section 508

· Teachnology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 198

· The Improving Access to Assistive Technology for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004

· Assistive Technology Act Project (ATAP)

· Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

· Carl Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act Amendments of 1998

· Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

· ADA as amended in 2010

· Telecommunications Act of 1996

· 21st Century Communication and Video Accessibility Act of 2010



· Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)


· National Public Website on Assistive Technology

· The Family Center on Technology and Disability


· Pass It On Center

· SC Assistive Technology Program

· SC AT Loan Program

Easy AT Solutions (from Judith Sweeney)

· “Never teach a task requiring more than 20 minutes to learn.

· Never expect someone first learning how to do something independently to spend more than 20 minutes on it.

· Try to choose tasks that can be completed in 20 minutes or less.”

Finding the Funding:

Finding the Money

Assistive Technology Funding Strategy

Assistive Technology Public Funding Source Guide

Assistive Technology Funding Search Tips

This was a lot of good information and resources. I hope that if you are looking at AT, you will look at some of the resources that were given. I liked that the presenters gave links to sites concerning funding. During these economic times, it is hard to convince powers to be that funding AT is important to student’s success in the classroom.

Do you have any other resources you would like to share? Please do!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Feeling Pinched' by: cobalt

Monday, February 14, 2011

Providing Auditory Access to Textual Materials

auditoryaccess Another session at the SCCEC conference was “Providing Auditory Access to Textual Materials Through State-of­-the-Art Digital Recordings by Mike Skinner and Beth Thornburg. They share their website: The RFB&D® Learning Through Listening® Support Center (“Supported by a private grant, the RFB&D® Learning Through Listening® Support Center at the College of Charleston provides information and training to local schools and agencies that help individuals with visual, learning or physical disabilities.”) Applications and Links to needed sites are all located in this one place.

I remember years ago getting this for my student with a learning disability. There was a big green machine and the tapes were big and green. Was I surprised to see how portable and normal these materials have become. It is possible for the students to look like they are carrying a CD player now, depending on which tool they get. Please consider getting this for your students who qualify for this.

From the Presentation:

Disability categories that qualify for RFB&D (Recordings for the Blind & Dyslexic) – blindness, visual impairment, physical impairment which affect the ability to manipulate a book. Learning Disability that impairs reading, traumatic brain injury.

RFB&D has over 61,000 recorded titles. It is easy to search for a book by title, author or both.

Hardware and Software info:

DAISY formatting (Daisy Accessible Information System Y (to make it a word)

Assistive Technology Tools: Cross Media Players, software, portable player, desktop player.

For Teacher Support: Learning Through Listening – gives lesson plans, graphic organizers and tips for managing RFB&D in your classroom

Supporting Research (from John Hopkins University, Rutgers University, Tufts University, and Baltimore City Public Schools System):

When students with print and learning disabilities use audio textbooks, they

· Improve reading comprehension (76%)

· Improve reading accuracy (52%)

· Increase reading rate (41%)

· Increase self confidence (61%)

Steps to Take to Utilize RFB&D:

1. Register your school

2. Encourage parents to sign up their qualified students with free, at home RFB&D memberships.

3. Identify students eligible to receive audio or electronic text accessible content.

4. Identify AIM titles and format required by your students

5. Search RFB&D’s online library of accessible content.

6. Order books

Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic

Contact Member service for membership info and general customer service questions:


Do you use these materials in your classroom? If so, please share your stories.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: '10 June' by: Carolyn Williams

Friday, February 11, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 2/11/11

Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Fasten Seat Belts – “a light hearted guide to avoid misunderstandings while traveling”

FedEx 3D experience – “explore our world and the information that shapes it”; great interactive covering many different topics.

Getty Games – free games for children from the Getty Art Museum in Los Angeles

Atlas Puzzles – 23 atlas puzzles from National Geographic

Build an Igloo – from Nova

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Children with Autism in the Classroom

autism At the SCCEC Conference, another session I attended was “Help! I’m an LD Teacher and I have a Student with Autism!” The presenters were Denise Webster (Autism Specialist) and Thomas DePeal (LD resource teacher). They talked about the characteristics of students with autism spectrum disorders and also gave classroom strategies for working with these students.

From the presentation:

• In 1980, the autism rates were 1 in 10,000. In January 2010 - 1 in 110. 1 in 315 girls. 1 in 70 boys

Communication issues: Very “direct” individuals, Trouble following directions, Trouble with jokes, sarcasm, and figurative language, Written and oral responses may not reflect true knowledge, May not know how to ask for help, Takes long time to process verbal instructions (getting started)

Social issues: Prefers solitary activities, Problems with group work and interactive lessons, Trouble making friends, Easy targets for bullying and teasing

Behavior issues: Strong and inflexible adherence to rules, Rituals and preoccupation with preferred topics/objects, Easily overwhelmed by minimal change, Unstructured times are the worst because they are unpredictable (socially, transition), Recess, lunch, PE, bus, changing classes, etc.

Academic Issues: Variable abilities across areas, Concrete/Literal thinkers, May develop expertise in area of interest, Difficulty making connections, Difficulty shifting attention, May respond atypically to sensory input, Lights, sounds, touch, etc.

Reduce Anxiety by:

  1. Carefully consider classroom seating assignments
  2. Be aware of sensory concerns and provide sensory stimuli as needed. Build sensory breaks into daily schedule if needed,
  3. Vigorously but respectfully maintain class rules and boundaries
  4. Provide a predictable structure and prepare the children in advance for transitions or changes in schedules.
  5. Use “priming” for social situations, changes, and test taking.
  6. Use of “red” cue to teach self-monitoring through stoplight or thermometer
  7. Provide “safe haven” or quiet area
  8. Monitor your own nonverbal and paraverbal communication.
  9. Don’t argue – redirect
  10. Don’t assume they can read body language, facial expressions…Be direct! Explain feelings.
  11. Visuals (Visuals are processed better than words because they don’t go away immediately!)
  12. Provide weekly/monthly agendas
  13. Clearly organize information on your board.
  14. Provide question cards (color coded).
  15. Provide instruction cards (cue cards).
  16. Provide “turn cards” for answering questions.
  17. Consistent system to signal an activity change.
  18. Collect assignments in a routine way.
  19. Post daily schedule (visual schedule).
  20. Avoid jokes and sarcasm.

Social Skills Strategies

  1. Use social stories for providing direction and to teach social skills
  2. Use the “peer buddy” system (with caution)
  3. Offer opportunities for “structured play” during recess and “free time”
  4. Practice “appropriate” interactions (asking for help, initiating and facilitating interactions with peers). One strategy – video modeling
  5. Training on feelings, emotions, and body language
  6. Class environment conducive to risk taking.

Academic Strategies:

  1. Adjust order of instruction.
  2. Use guided notes and advance organizers.
  3. Vary group/independent work arrangements.
  4. Schedule benchmarks for long assignments.
  5. Color coded assignment folders.
  6. Use notebook to organize
  7. Minimize “self-selection” of work
  8. May need to modify assignments for students who MUST finish before going on.
    1. “Finish Later” file / folder / box

Do you have any other strategies to add to the list? If so, please share!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Dubai Autism Center' by: Arturo de Albornoz

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Educator Self Advocacy

support At the recent SCCEC conference I attended a session on Educator self advocacy. We talked about the negative impression that many people have about the education system. How can we advocate for ourselves? How can we get those in power to understand what we do and why we need to do it this way? How do we show the general public also? There are no teacher unions in South Carolina so we have to advocate for ourselves. One important way is to back up our actions with research.

I also feel it is important to not reinvent the wheel. By having a personal learning network (PLN), when I need to find information or a link to specific research, I am able to put the question out on my network for help. Many times, I know that what I do is a good thing but I don’t always know how to get our hands on the research that backs it up. Maybe I heard about this strategy or read about this from somewhere. Now I am actually trying to keep a database of the strategy and the resource where I found it. This way I can refer to it again and again if necessary.

Our state organization now has a facebook page and I recommended that we use this platform as a way to bring us all together. I think first of all we need to inform our members that we have this platform available and we need to start using it. It doesn’t do us any good if we have something available but people won’t use it.

I understand that we need to rant and support each other rationally but people will take us more serious if we can discuss problems more rationally. Then it is time to look for those people who can help find the research that can document the rationale for the decisions we make. If we can’t find a good reason for doing what we do, maybe we need to look at what we are doing and make changes.

Each year, our Child Action Network coordinator goes to Washington, DC to talk to legislators to advocate for our children. These are also opportunities to advocate for teachers. We also need to talk to our state legislators and present a positive picture of teachers. We need to get legislators and the public on our side so we can work together. We need to stop being adversaries and become advocates.

How do you advocate for your profession? Please share.

(Tomorrow I will talk about the session: Help! I'm an LD Teacher and I have a Student with Autism!)

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: '3d puppets protesting with posters on demonstration'

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

South Carolina Council For Exceptional Children Conference

sccec This past weekend I attended the South Carolina Council For Exceptional Children Conference. There were about 350 participant and 60 sessions to choose from (2 were cancelled). Due to the low participation, they kept the early registration fee for the whole time ($85). The conference started with the awards breakfast which was well attended.

I did not stay at the Sheraton Hotel attached to the convention center. I felt they were way overpriced at $129 when hotels along the beach were starting at $25, free parking, and free wifi. The Sheraton charged for parking each day (even if you were staying there) and $12 per day for the internet.

I thought most of the sessions were good and informative. I’m always disappointed though that wireless is not available at these conferences. Since the walls were so thick, it was also impossible to use my Smartphone to tell others about the sessions.

The sessions that I attended were:

1. Educator Self Advocacy

2. Help! I'm an LD Teacher and I have a Student with Autism!

3. Providing Auditory Access to Textual Materials

4. Advocating for Success

5. Realities of the Law: Paper vs.. Practice

6. Choosing Accommodations through a Collaborative Partnership

7. Effective Assessment for Transition Planning

In the next couple of days, I will be blogging about the sessions I attended. There was lots of information given and I’m still trying to process all that I learned. I think you will find the information useful. It is amazing how brain draining it is to attend conferences. I think it is the adrenaline rush from the excitement of attending and seeing colleagues not seen in awhile as well as the information overload.

Please come back over the next few days and see what I took away from the session!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image from the SCCEC web page

Monday, February 7, 2011

Things I Learned on a Cruise Ship

007 About a week ago, hubby and I did a short cruise out of Charleston, SC to Freeport and Nassau (Bahamas). If you want to read more about my cruise, you can check them out here. My cruise pictures can be found here. I noticed that a lot of things on a cruise can apply to education too. Here are some things that I learned. They are not listed in any kind of importance but just as they came to mind.

1. People want to get the most bang for their buck. Parents hope that their children get the best education they can for the taxes that they pay.

2. Customer service can make or break and experience. If the education system does not produce positive results, they are giving poor customer service. Included in good customer service should include parent communication as well as meeting the students’ needs.

3. People of different beliefs, customs, cultures, and nationalities can work together successfully. Whether colleagues are extremely different or students are extremely different, all can work towards a common goal.

4. Organization is important or chaos will prevail. It is important that organization exists so that classroom time is not wasted.

5. Evacuation drills are important. Fire drills and tornado drills are important for safety. Other possible drills might help too such as “A Day with a Substitute.”

6. Sometimes the leadership has to make tough decisions and not all employees are happy. Like the captain of a ship, he needs to make decisions that affect the most people in a positive way. Sometimes a principal has to make the same kind of decisions.

7. Everyone in the work place has a specific job to do and if each person does it to the best of their ability, things run a lot smoother. Sometimes teachers need to spend less time whining about what other people are not doing and make sure they are doing what they need to do.

8. Little courtesies are truly appreciated. Being nice to everyone including the janitors, lunch room staff, and office personnel goes a long way when you need help. Being nice to parents goes a long way too! Even students will notice (but not say anything) if you show them respect.

9. Staff and crew like being appreciated too. It is nice when parents tell you how much they appreciate what you do.

10. Manners are important no matter where you are! As a role model, you never know who may be watching and imitating your actions.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Friday, February 4, 2011

Useful Information In and Out of the Classroom 2/4/11

tools2 Here are some interesting sites that I’ve found this week, thanks to my PLN. As a teacher, I feel we have to keep up to date concerning research in our field and current issues in the education system. I hope some of these inspire you, inform you, and even have you asking questions. Thank you for coming by and visiting!

Khan Academy – self paced lessons, “We are complementing Salman's ever-growing library with user-paced exercises--developed as an open source project--allowing the Khan Academy to become the free classroom for the World.”

Smories – “are original stories for kids, read by kids”

Webcams.Travel – live webcams of places around the world

What is a Stock? – by; great infographic

Architect Studio 3D – “you can design a house, walk through it in 3D, and then share it with the world. You can also learn more about architecture, past and present, and explore Frank Lloyd Wright's life and work.”

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original Image: Tools by Pat Hensley

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Need to Move

Cute Little Girl in Pink Dances on the Beach during the Kite Festival. In Get up and move! from Nancy Teaches, Nancy shares,

“I am a kinesthetic learner. I need to move. While others could sit still for hours, I learned best by pacing and moving my arms and adding movements to concepts.”

I was so glad when I read this because I am also a kinesthetic learner. When I tell people that I sometimes get this strange look as if they think I’m crazy. What a difference it makes if I can move around when I am listening to a lecture or even watching a video. Since I took up knitting, I am able to focus on what I am listening to so much better. I always thought I was a visual learner because I had to see things to learn them. Now I realize that I not only have to see things but I also need to be moving in order to make it easier. I used to hate listening to audio books but now that I can knit as I listen, I love them.

I have found that many of my students were getting in trouble in other classes because they needed to move and the teachers expected them to sit quietly in their desks and listen to a 50 minute lecture. I have to admit that this would be impossible even for me. I remember going to the university and listening to lectures about different learning styles but I thought it was ironic that most of the professors teaching this never practiced what they preached.

I always allowed movement in my classroom because I understood the need to move also applied to my students. I tried to learn what students needed more movement then others and made sure they knew what options they had during my lessons. I wanted them to know what behaviors were acceptable for movement that would not distract me or the other students. By getting that out of the way at the beginning, I think my students appreciated it and were more engaged in the lesson. They didn’t get antsy and try to control the need to move which of course was more distracting than just doing something. I would also allow other students to offer suggestions for movement before I began a lesson. Sometimes the students would think of things that worked for them that I had not thought of and others may find useful. I think this is a good way to teach them to be self advocates and talk about what they need.

Here are some of the things I allowed:

1. Sitting at their desk quietly squishing a squishy ball.

2. Getting up and standing up in the back of the room quietly.

3. Guided note taking enabled students to move their hands.

4. Drawing pictures to summarize what I am talking about.

5. During independent work, they were allowed to “buy” a 3 minute break with the class money they earned.

6. If any of my students did yarn crafts like crocheting or knitting, I allowed them to do that as they listened.

7. Put students in small groups to answer questions together.

8. Have activity centers and allow students to get assignments from different activity centers. When they finish, they can turn in that activity and go get another assignment.

9. If they have computers, I allowed them to backchannel on a site that I approved in order to discuss the topic we were discussing and used the conversation as a study guide for others.

10. Allow students to brainstorm ways to show their understanding of the lesson or new skill by doing a small project. This would be a great assessment rather than a written test. Once the project is approved by the teacher, students can form groups by choosing the project that appeals to them.

What strategies do you use in the classroom to encourage or allow movement? Please share.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Cute Little Girl in Pink Dances on the Beach during the Kite Festival.' by: Mike Baird

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Simple Words Do Make a Difference

words In Nurturing Genius from Angela Maiers Educational Services, Inc. , Angela talks about telling students that they are geniuses and asks,

“Could speaking these simple words to our students, colleagues, employees really make that much of a difference?”

I think as an adult, what I say will have a lasting impact on my students for many years to come.

I remember when I was young and I was told by my parents many times that I could not draw or do art because I was too brainy and not as creative as my older sister. I also could not sew or do needlework like my middle sister because I was too brainy. I knew that these words were true because an adult said them to me.

I happened to go to the same schools as my older sisters did and had some of the same teachers. Again I heard the words that told me I was nothing like my older sisters. They were more athletic and able to use their hands to make things. I was nothing like that. It must have been true because an adult said it.

It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized that those words were not true. These people did not know the potential that I had. I’m sure they didn’t say it out of meanness but more out of ignorance. They didn’t know that they would shape my life for years to come.

I wanted so bad to do some creative things and in college, I decided to try counted cross stitch and loved it. Suddenly I was doing needlework and being creative. Some of the things I made were my own designs.

Years later I decided I wanted to learn how to do scrapbooking and I am still learning design techniques. But I am loving this! I love creating my own pages that have meaning to me.

Two years ago, I decided to learn how to crochet and knit. I am starting to make things that I can wear and be proud of. I am also making things for other people too.

Sometimes I look back and wonder how many creative years I wasted by believing in those simple words “you can’t” because an adult told me this.

As I talked to my students, I realized that over the years, they were also told they couldn’t do things because they had a disability. I told them that if there was no physical limitation from doing what they wanted to do, they should always work towards their dreams.

I decided that they needed to learn how to believe in themselves. I wanted to give them simple words to believe in like I wish I had when I was growing up. I required all of my students to write the class motto: “I am a Born Winner” on every paper they turned in. Every day we started class with me asking them what the class motto was. Throughout the year, we talked about what this meant and how it would help them. Years later, I have heard from former students who tell me that this statement is still making an impact on their lives.

Sometimes it is the simple words that can make a difference. I just hope that the simple words I use make a positive difference in a student’s life.

What simple words do you use in your classroom to make a difference?

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' by: Gisela Giardino

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Pay Attention to My Directions

attention In The Perils of Proceeding in the Dark from Anne Beninghof's Idea Sharing blog, the author asks,

“What strategies have you found to be effective for giving directions?”

This made me start thinking about the strategies that I use to help my students follow the directions. Sometimes when they don’t follow the directions, it may be because I haven’t made them clear or explained them in enough detail.

I remember when I was young; I wanted to make onion dip. I had the box of Lipton’s Onion Soup mix and sour cream. Now, you would think this was easy to make but it wasn’t. I read the directions one line at a time. It said:

Mix Lipton’s onion soup

Mix with sour cream

No one taught me how to follow directions so I decided to follow each line one at a time. First, I mixed up the onion soup (which included pouring the mix into 4 cups of water). Then I mixed it with the sour cream. Of course, this did not turn out the way I wanted! I learned a big lesson in reading ALL of the directions before I try to do something. I have shared this story with my students so that they can learn from my mistakes and to also learn that I make mistakes too.

Sometimes I assume that students are able to do things that lead up to the next steps and I need to assess that they are ready for the next steps. If students do not have the foundation, they are not always able to move on to new skills.

Sometimes students need a verbal cue that I am about to give directions. I will start off by telling the class that I am going to be giving them directions and that it is important that they are pay attention. I also explain that if someone has trouble following the steps I give, I would only help those that paid attention to me as I went over the directions the first time. Those that did not pay attention may need to copy the directions down on paper when I am done. Then if they still need help, I will be glad to help them. Usually that gets everyone looking at me as I go over directions.

I do not ask if everyone understood the directions because I will usually see the whole class nod their heads and if anyone didn’t understand them, they won’t confess to it now.

Here are some of the strategies that I use when I give directions:

1. Have the directions in written form as well as giving them aloud.

2. Have students repeat the steps that I want them to take.

3. Model following the directions for the students.

4. Have steps written out on sentence strips and have students put them in the right order.

5. Have directions posted where students can refer to the steps.

6. Video the directions being followed and say each step as it is being done.

7. Have students create videos of routine classroom procedures that can be reviewed or shown to new students.

8. Have students tell the directions in their own words.

What strategies do you find effective when giving directions? Please share.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Pay attention I' by: Photography