Saturday, September 12, 2020

Covid19 Adjustments for Preschool Housekeeping Center

 We have just finished our first two weeks of school with all of our new re-opening policies for safety, disinfecting, and social distancing.  It's tough!  Last year I started my preschool special needs class with 15 students and ended my year with 17.  This year with all of our new policies, I am so thankful for lower numbers.  We currently have 7 children in the classroom and 4 remote learners that I teach concurrently through zoom lessons for circle time, small groups and therapies.

My last post showed the adjustments we made for our block center.  This center worked great from day one!  The reduced choices, the reduced visual "clutter" by removing the ABC rug, and simple visual supports from the painters tape and Lesson Pix symbols really helped this center to be successful.

Our housekeeping center is functioning well after two weeks of adult support.  Remember, my district has a policy for limiting shared materials, disinfecting after each use, all students must wear masks, and we must attempt to social distance to the best of our ability.  The housekeeping center isn't great for social distancing!  The kids naturally want to play together and be in close proximity.  Most years, this is exactly what we are hoping for, however, as we all know, this year is a bit different.  I wanted the kids to continue to have opportunities for pretend play and natural conflict resolution, but I still have to adhere to my district policies.

We decided to remove the small table and chair set that we typically would have in the housekeeping center.  This created more floor space for distancing.  We also removed many of the props including all of our dress up clothes.  We decided to limit the center to 2 children (typically we would have 4 children playing here) and set up the center as a "store" for our first few weeks.  We have two shopping carts, two cash registers, two sets of keys, and sets of food.  We have enough these categories of toys to either disinfect quickly after each use or rotate toys with our rotation system.








It took a LOT of support initially and I still don't love it.  But at this point, I have not figured out a different way to provide the students with the play opportunities and adhere to the district guidance plan.  So I can live with it.  The students are playing, they are talking and solving problems through the "trade" solution, the "timer" solution, and the "wait and take turns" solution.  Our "solution board" visuals can be found for free at the CSEFEL site under their practical strategies section.  I'll show photos of this in another post!  At this point in time, I feel like this option is at least allowing us to continue with developmentally appropriate play and natural opportunities to work on our social emotional goals.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Covid19 Adjustments for Preschool Block Center

 As I was setting up my classroom this year, I felt as if I were a beginning teacher.  There were so many new issues to think about and plan for.  One of the things that was central to my planning was figuring out a safe way for my young pre-k students to continue to have opportunities to play!

In my district, any child over the age of two must wear a mask when on a school campus.  My students are all ages 3-5, so this includes my class.  We also are required to meet social distancing requirements to the greatest extent possible.  This was the biggest challenge in planning my center time this year.

I have referenced the TATS site, my district's guidance plan and of course my knowledge of the benefits of visual supports and the importance of developmentally appropriate practice.  My students start Monday, so this is not kid tested yet!  I may come back next week with a new plan.





In previous years, I had a colorful ABC carpet in this center and would typically have enough materials and space for 4 children to play productively.  This year I rolled up the carpet and am storing it because I felt like it would be too visually distracting.  We have reduced the amount of blocks and supplemental toys in the center and have reduced the center to two students.  I want the students to learn a new procedure of entering the center, so I wanted the visuals and the painters tape to be prominently seen. 

The materials in the center are two bins of lightweight foam blocks and some cars and trucks.  One child will be able to play on one side of the painter's tape while another child can play on the other side.  This is not supporting cooperative play, but at this moment, it was the best I could come up with and still meet the social distancing guidelines I must adhere to.

I chose the foam blocks over the unit blocks because I have a ton of them!  I also chose them because our toy storage rotation system is on top of cabinets and it will be much easier to lift the lightweight foam blocks than the heavy wooden unit blocks.  

My current plan is to only allow the two children who choose blocks to play with these toys.  When they are finished, they will go in a laundry bin to be sprayed with our disinfectant and then sit out of the rotation for 3 days.  If the student does not want to stay in blocks for the entire center time, he or she will be able to choose another available center, or chose a personal play bucket that we set up for each child.

I will post more pictures on the toy rotation system we are planning, other centers, and the individual play buckets later!






Wednesday, August 26, 2020

It's Been A Long Time......

The R Family - 2

It's been a long time since I've posted here.  There have been many changes over the years.  My Mom got sick and passed away, my husband's Mom needed helping moving to an assisted living facility, and of course we have all been living the reality of our current pandemic adjusted world for the last 5 months.

I'm hoping to come back to this blog and share ideas again.  I'm working on digital resources for my remote learners and setting up my special needs preschool classroom to support our current climate.  Photos and ideas to come!  In the meantime, check out the amazing resources at TATS.  They have been a "go to" site for me for the last several weeks.

https://tats.ucf.edu/links-to-topics-pages-of-resources-resources-information/



photo:https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/photos/4cae8414-f754-4481-99e6-f2f304768b0a


Monday, August 1, 2016

Journals for Pre-K

Last year I started looking for ideas on Pinterest about journaling with preschoolers.  I came across a few pins that helped me get started:

Ten Tips for Keeping a Journal in Preschool

Pre-School Journaling

J is for Journal


After reading about how others started, organized and maintained their journals; I started making the decisions about how I would use the journals in my classroom.

I chose to use simple black and white composition books for our journals.  I used a name label sticker on the front of each child's journal and also made one for myself.

My class typically is most successful when I model expectations for them before they attempt a structured task like this.  Before the kids ever used their journal, I had all of the journals prepped and in a basket and I modeled drawing a picture in my journal.  Since most of the students in my class have language impairments, I wanted the focus of our journals based on increasing their communication skills.  After I drew my picture, I talked about it.  I labeled the picture, told the class a sentence about my picture.  We did this a few times, using the word journal and modeling how to draw, turn pages, choose the next page, etc.  The first time I passed out their journals at circle time, all we did was look at the journal and turn the blank pages.

We used our journals in a small group, structured center with adult support at first.  After all of the students started to understand the purpose and became more proficient at drawing their pictures, I would also put them out for a table activity or "morning work" first thing in the morning in a large group.

Since my goal was to help increase communication, every time the students worked in their journal, they talked to an adult (me, my assistant, a volunteer) about it and we wrote their exact words on the paper.  Through this, we also had ongoing documentation showing how their language skills improved over time.  You can see the length of utterance increases, use of age appropriate vocabulary, use of pronouns and use of action words.  This became a great way for  me to show parents what language skill I might be working on with a child and how they could help.

I also found that our science center was a great inspiration spot for lots of writing and observation.

Here are some photos of some of  our journal work:














And here are some from a different student:


















Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sensory Bin: Left Over Rice Krispies

Our local grocery store sucked me into buying two boxes of Rice Krispies when they were buy one get one free a few weeks ago.  Two pans of Rice Krispy treats later, I swore I was not going to make any more that I would then eat!

I decided to turn the leftovers into a very simple sensory bin for my two year old nephews.  I simply added the Rice Krispies, some sea life manipulatives from Lakeshore, and some left over small containers from individual applesauces.  Cheap and easy!


Since they are two years old, I made one bin for each of them as sharing and turn taking can still be a bit of a challenge at times.  They both started off in their own bins finding sea life, exploring the textures, and scooping the Rice Krispies with their hands into the applesauce containers.

Then something wonderful emerged!  They gravitated towards each other and playing together in one bin.  Scooping, pouring, filling, dumping, exploring and giggling.


Bubbles and Problem Solving

I have 2 year old twin nephews.  They both love bubbles right now and have a lawn mower bubble maker as well as several no-spill bubble containers.  We ran out of re-fill bubbles one day when I was watching them and one of the boys really wanted his lawn mower to have more bubbles.

He kept saying "more bubbles?"  I had to tell him "bubbles all gone.  no more."  He cried (he is 2) and then was able to be redirected to his train for a bit and then went back to the bubbles.

The next thing I knew, he was attempting to fill his lawn mower with the no-spill container.  He knew he had bubbles left in the no spill container and he was doing his best to get them where he wanted them.  I thought that was pretty good thinking and problem solving for a 2 year old! (even if it didn't work.....I loved the process of his thinking.)

(The little guy in the picture has delays in the communication and social/personal domains.  So fun to see his strengths clearly evident, too!)


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Simple Visual for Change of Schedule

Sometimes students just need to "see" how the changes of a schedule will affect them.

During our standardized testing window, specials and lunch changed school-wide, which prompted a change in my reading and math blocks.  I had one student this year who mainstreamed for a large portion of the day, but she started her day with me to organize her schedule and any known changes, and then returned to me in the late afternoon.  Under normal circumstances, she knew when she would have time to "hang out with her BFF."

Although she is very bright, she didn't "see" when she was going to be able to have time with her best friend within all of our schedule changes.  This particular child is very high functioning on the autism spectrum and we have found that often writing things down helps her process information.  She was quite anxious about the multiple schedule changes and started to move into her "whiny" voice. This is usually a pre-cursor for more intense behavior (throwing books, tipping chairs, yelling), so if we can catch her during the "whine," we can usually prevent the major meltdowns.

I loved this intervention because it was "quick and dirty."  There is nothing pretty or fancy about it, but we completed it in about 3 minutes during our morning check in and it resolved her anxiety. When she started to whine about when she was going to have time with her friend, I simply asked her, "Would you like me to write down both afternoon schedules so you can see when you have time together?"  She said yes and then added her comments on when they could "hang out."

Quick and simple but very effective!


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Pre-K Again

As this school year draws to a close, our principal has sent out our "most likely" assignments for next year.  She calls them "most likely" because, as we all know, things can change over the summer.  If the needs of our students change, then staff assignments sometimes have to change too.

My "most likely" assignment for next year is back with the pre-k special needs population.  I'm ready for a change again, but I LOVE my school, so I didn't want to change that!  One of our pre-k teachers retired this May, so an opening came up at our school.  I love the language development and developmental play aspects of pre-k, so I"m excited.

I've started culling through some of my old pre-k files and rediscovered a blog from a pre-k teacher, Christi Seward in Cobb County.

She hasn't posted in a few years, so perhaps her teaching assignment changed or something else in her life changed, but she has a WONDERFUL collection of picture books with essential vocabulary and comprehension questions that she discusses.  She also has created many power points to support her lessons.

One of the books she highlights is "Bear Wants More" by Karma Wilson.



In addition to Christi's resources, there is also a YouTube read aloud with the book, too.  (This version is really sweet.  A boy received this as a birthday present and his family recorded him reading it out loud for the person who gave him the book.)


 


This has been a busy year and I haven't completed too many posts, but hopefully that will change this next year coming up!


Interrupting Chicken: A Social Skills Lesson

Last week one of our social skills lessons started with a read aloud of "Interrupting Chicken" by David Ezra Stein.

This is a great book to help children learn about controlling those impulsive moments of wanting to interrupt or blurt out during our whole group time.



We completed our read aloud, had a class discussion and then also completed some activities similar to those found at Happy Teacher, Happy Kids.

I can also be a little bit goofy and I want our social skills lessons to be fun, so the kids can really practice the skills and enjoy the results of prosocial behaviors.  Not just dread one more lesson with a bunch of rules that are hard for them to follow.  So as a result of my Pinterest addiction, I found a link to "Chicken Names" from Tilly's Nest and thought it would be fun to pair with this book.



The rules of the activity were pretty simple.  We were going to practice NOT being interrupting chickens.  If we could work on that, we could make a list of everyone's chicken name.  (I'm Yolko Scrambledore, by the way.)  It was fun.  One of the little girls in my class has the same birthday month as my assistant so she dubbed my assistant as her "Chicken Cousin."

There is also a YouTube video that has a read aloud.  I like to use the videos in addition to my read aloud because it gives my students one more way to access the text.




With a simple Google search, you can find many, many online resources and ideas that support this book.  These were just a few of the ones we used.




Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Rainforest Riddles...So Fun!

My class has been working on a unit that revolved around a Rainforest theme.  I chose this particular theme at this time because:

a) Students are usually very interested in the Rainforest theme and can be easily encouraged to read and write.
b) We have an expository text on the Rainforest in our reading series and I am required to base lessons off of our core curriculum materials.  (So I would have to do this anyway.)
c) There are hundreds of free resources and extensions available online.
d) Our school was in the middle of FSA testing.  Although I don't have any students testing this year, the resource teacher next to me is testing every day which means my class needs to be close to silent for the entire morning block.  Brutal (for the kids and me.....so I held out the carrot....if we were super quiet in the morning then we could do some fun, noisy rainforest activities in the afternoon.)

One of my favorite things we did with the unit was to write our own Rainforest Riddles.  I found a free pdf from First Grade Hip Hip Hooray on Teachers Pay Teachers.  The set gives several rainforest riddles already written that the students have to solve.  It has a nice set of graphics for a simple read, then cut and paste activity.  Finally, it also includes graphic organizers to help students write their own riddles.

My class really loved writing their riddles "in secret" and creating their animal from pieces from our arts and crafts scraps/materials.  We then combined all of our animal creations to make a rainforest bulletin board.

Here's our bulletin board.  Sorry!  The picture is a bit fuzzy and I still need to add "forest floor" to our layers.







Below are some close up examples of the writing samples they did.  You can see the different levels within the writing samples, but this was an activity that all of my students could participate in.  I like these types of projects because it brings our class together as "a whole."








Thursday, February 5, 2015

Telling Time

My class is currently working on telling time to the hour, half hour, fifteen minute interval and five minute interval in math.  We always need lots of different ways to practice a skill.  Below are a few of the resources we're using in addition to the materials that came with the unit in our district's math series:

Touch Math Time  (I looked for this on google.  It used to be part of the Upper Grades set, but I can't find it anymore.  I really like it because it's visuals are clean and simple with a lot of white space.  It also integrates time before and time after within each interval.)

Clocks from two paper plates from E Is for Explore



Simple morning work worksheets from Math Fact Cafe.  This site has a worksheet generator that shuffles the problems and you can also set the parameters for what skills you want on the worksheet.  Love that!  Again, the visuals are clean and there's a lot of white space so it's not really busy and overwhelming.

I also have quite a few file folder games that I have made and collected over the years.  Those are coming out too.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

You won't believe it.....

When we have problems with technology in our classrooms, we submit a help ticket to our central office and then based on the filters, it is sent to the tech that can best help us resolve the problem.  I recently had one that our tech said she was going to frame.....she had never seen this request before:


Additional Info: Have you ever had this one???  A student had a nosebleed at the computer and there is blood in between and underneath the control key and the key next to it.  I've unplugged the keyboard from the computer and set it on the gray counter.

Categories:      CompDev : Other


I knew the keys needed to be popped off and the keyboard sanitized, but I didn't know what was safe to use to get rid of the blood and what was safe that would not ruin the keyboard.  She gave me a new keyboard for the time being......she didn't know either!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Satin Hands and an Intervention....Strange Combination



I never used to need lotion for my hands.  However, ten years ago, I started teaching my varying exceptionalities pre-k class and I found myself washing my hands 100 times a day.  And let's face it....school soap is not gentle on your hands.

About that time, I discovered Satin Hands from Mary Kay and could probably have been their poster child.  (I'm not a Mary Kay consultant, I just happen to really like this product.)  The ladies that I work with found out how much I like it, and it is now a frequent gift for me during the holidays and at my birthday.  So now, I actually have a set a home and at school.

Little did I know that my Satin Hands would become an intervention this year!

I have a little girl in my class who tends to scratch her arms when she perceives work as being too difficult.  It can be pretty bad on occasion and she has picked scabs and opened old scratches.  Bleeding in the classroom is not a good thing!  Interrupting reading groups or math groups 3-4x every week to deal with bleeding is also not a good thing.

One day, I was using the lotion while she was at my table and she asked me what it was.  I told her it was lotion and asked her if she wanted a little squirt.  She said yes and "mmm, smells good."  Then I got my bright idea.  If she likes the smell and the feel of the lotion, maybe we could replace her scratching behavior by asking for some lotion.  I asked her if she would like to do that and of course she said yes.  So I told her she could use the lotion but she was not allowed to scratch.

I now have a tube of lotion at my reading table.  She still sometimes starts to scratch in moments of academic frustration, but with a simple verbal prompt of "Mary, do you want some lotion?"  She will stop and gently rub her arms.  We haven't had a bleeding episode since we started. It is MUCH easier and less distracting to give her a quick squirt of lotion than it is to deal with washing, drying and band-aiding arms when she scratches and draws blood.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Funny is Funny

I've worked with the paraprofessional I am assigned with for the last four years.  She is amazing.  Every year within one of our social skills lessons we talk about things we like and don't like.  This leads us into how different people have different opinions.  Which in turn leads us to lessons on respect, caring  and tolerance.

Every year, my para tells the kids how she does not like frogs.  We live in Florida.  Once during the rainy season, she was laying on her couch reading her book and a frog that got into her house jumped on her face.  She tells the story and the kids laugh but for the most part understand why she doesn't like frogs anymore.

This year I have a little girl who is very bright and on the autism spectrum.  She and I do a lot of social stories to help her learn new skills.  Her mom sent me this link because Mrs. B.  (my para) has to watch this video.  According to our student  "we can teach her to like frogs again.  They're not bad.   They can be our friends."

We cracked up laughing when we watched the link.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Accountable Talk

As my reading instruction continues to evolve over the years, I keep adding new strategies to my "bag of tricks."  It's funny how I get ideas.  (Honestly, I very rarely have a completely original thought when I start to figure out a new strategy or a lesson I haven't implemented before.)  I recently told a first year teacher that one of the greatest gifts a teacher can have is to be a good synthesizer.  If she can learn to take all of this overload of information we are bombarded with and somehow synthesize it together and use it when it's appropriate and useful; then she will be able to continually add to her bag of tricks.

I'm adding to my bag of tricks.

For the past few years my 1st-3rd grade students have loved having "Nacho Karaoke" day once a month.  On the day the cafeteria serves nachos, I let them all eat in the classroom and we sing karaoke to songs with lyrics that I have saved from YouTube.

I'm reviewing my list of songs before this year's first Nacho Karaoke and was re-introduced to the song "Brave" by Sara Barielles.




As I paid attention to the lyrics, I really noticed the refrain this time: "Say what you wanna say.  I wanna see you be brave!"

I thought this would be a great way to introduce "Accountable Talk" to my students!  For the past few years, it's been challenging to teach children how to agree or disagree with a peer based on text evidence.  It can be hard to raise your hand and speak up during a group, especially if you are disagreeing with a friend.  However, when students DO engage in accountable talk, I have found that they truly start to engage with each other and the text in a purposeful and meaningful way.

My class has already set our essential agreements (rules) including one that states "We will be kind to each other."  With that as a foundation and also practice of the roles of "speaker" and "listener,"  I think we can use this song to talk about how important it is to speak up and "say what you wanna say" during an accountable talk discussion time.