29 June 2013

Ten Pin Linky: Math Ideas

I am loving this fun linky party from Ashley @ Just Reed!

My college teaching math class and the included class observation at a local charter school used the cognitively guided instruction method. CGI [in a very short totally not educational explanation] emphasizes hands on, practical application of math tools with students guiding their learning through real life scenarios. I pretty much jived with this approach, but it doesn't always fit with mandated curriculum, so I try to incorporate little aspects here and there.

This sista is not typically about worksheets, unless they're being used to track what is going on in a hands on, practically applied math experience. However, I also like to provide my nuggets with references they can reflect on, so I enjoy a good resource sheet (that the students fill out so they can make sure they understand what they're referencing)!

For example, while student teaching, I was supposed to teach about coins and adding money, so I made a budget project. Lots of reflection, team work.

Obviously, I also try to incorporate student preference into my teaching. So, if they like a worksheet, I cringe and give a worksheet and check meticulously that they can generalize the skill.

That's why I like elementary math- there is always an answer to, "Mrs. B, when am I going to actually use this?"

With that in mind, check out my favorite ten math pins from my board!

28 June 2013

My Favorite Things: Beauty Basics

Though I appear to be a sassy fool in almost all realms of life, I have to admit that I am not very sassy about my arsenal of beauty products. I use whatever is easy to find or has a cute package or is on sale (bonus points if it fits into more than one of those categories). A couple of my favorites are below, though!

I am kind of sweaty lady, especially now that I live in an area that boasts even more oppressive heat than the typical Texas town. So, I always like to start my little make-up routine with primer! Right now I'm using one from Ulta, but have y'all seen this article that says you can use Monistat Chafing Gel in place of Primer? I'm skeptical, but since I'm removed from civilization (aka there is not even a Target here), I'm sure times could get desperate.

I follow my primarily Mary-Kay face of make-up (a little foundation, powder, blush, and mascara on a school morning) with some Burt's Bees or Eos lip balm. I pretty much talk a mile a minute at school, so I like to have those nuggets on hand there, too. 

I also like to throw a little anti-frizz in my luscious locks. I've been using this stuff since I was in about 10th grade. I think it does a pretty good job of keeping my hair from looking like I was electrocuted.

Final beauty basic: A nice hot cup of coffee and my morning devotional. I know these really fit into the morning must haves favorites, but a) I missed that one and b) they makes me more beautiful instantly because I start responding to conversation attempts and start my day with a positive outlook!

27 June 2013

Resource Thursday: Data Tracking

I am a special ed teacher. I took many, many a special ed class in college and they all had one theme: DATA. Data is your key to success in all realms. Want to find the root of a behavior? Data. Want to prove that an intervention is actually working (or not!)? Data. Want to be a rockstar reliable teacher? Data.

Via my main boo, Pinterest, I found a wonderful, marvelous resource back in May. The little pin took me to Teaching Special Thinkersamazing tutorial showing how to incorporate Google Docs into IEP data tracking. Genius, I tell you. Especially when I saw that I could super easily use my iPad to enter the info.

That super informative tutorial, coupled with her other Google Docs post, led me to begin creating my own forms and documents- Thus far I've made family contact forms, student interest forms, family volunteer interest forms, classroom teacher info forms. Boom baby. And the best part? Google is going to record my answers and track them on a spreadsheet. Hello, easy data!

Though most people these days have computers, I'm all about respecting those who don't so I'm going to let the families choose a hard copy of the forms or sign up on an e-mail list at meet the teacher night. The delightful gen ed teachers will also have the choice (because I'm all about helping- if I'm gonna differentiate for my students, I may as well differentiate for my co-teachers too, right?!), but I want to strongly suggest we do them via Google Docs. I was at first nervous that I would have to find a way to convince all of the teachers to make a gmail account or find a decent way to integrate Google Apps into the browsers of all of the teachers, but y'all, the best part ever? 

I just got my new district e-mail address AND GUESS WHAT. THEY OPERATE ON A GOOGLE PLATFORM. Reason #90345 why I'm positive the Big Man planned this job for me.

The next phase of this resource is going to be making Google Doc forms to track data for IEP goals, but I want to make sure I work with the gen ed teachers to make forms that will work for both of us. We all know that it is easier to incorporate a strategy that you helped design, and that you're probably more likely to take data in a way that makes sense to you and works with you classroom.

Update on my File Organization:

Basically there has been no progress here, if we're being honest. I emptied 10 boxes in my classroom and it still looks about the same... Definitely need to do an inventory before I can start organizing!

**Y'all, ask me how many times I said data in this post. The answer probably is more than 10.

25 June 2013

Lesson Planning

I am a planning freak. I like to schedule everything and I love a good list. These organized obsessions habits keep my life on track, and make me feel more calm on those crazy days where I don't even have time to pee!

I'm going to be kind of a jack-of-all-trades special ed teacher next year. I'll be working with students who are self-contained, pushed in, pulled out, and in PPCD, as well as their general education teachers and a team of paraprofessionals. Based on that little job description, I've decided that I need to get a planner (and a new pair of Toms for comfy feet as I'm walking all over our little school!) for next year soon. I'm pretty sure I have narrowed it down to three options:

1) Erin Condren's Teacher Planner- I've had her Life Planner for the last 6 months and I love how sturdy and user friendly it is! I actually even used it to do some lesson planning/tracking while I was student teaching. The Teacher Planner seems to be well-organized and designed with a teacher in mind. I've seen tons of positive reviews of this little beauty in the blog world! I like that it's adorable and personalized, has both monthly and weekly calendars (for short and long term planning), handy student checklists, and pages to keep track of student info.


I also really feel like I know what I'm getting into because of the neat video that explores the planner with Erin and a real teacher! The only drawbacks are the price and the shipping time. While I appreciate that it is customized, the wait time for my Life Planner (about 3 weeks) was excruciating. And, $60+shipping is a pretty hefty chunk of change.


2) A Modern Teacher's Texas Teacher & Lesson Planner Editable with TEKS- I stumbled upon this cute little option while I was googling lesson planners. It is adorable! I love that it is editable so I can pick which pages and which order I want them in, and I really appreciate having all of the TEKS listed in the front for reference, because I'll be working with ALL of those TEKS next year. I like that there are so many different options for calendars so if I put it in a binder instead of spiraling it, I could potentially reevaluate how each combo of calendars are working for me and print differently the next month. 


This product is CLEARLY designed by a teacher. There are reteach schedules, a spot for monthly focus TEKS, and a grade book. The only drawback I see to this guy is paying for ink or paying to have it printed. At $8.50, the digital license is a STEAL (especially in comparison to good ol' EC). But, once I add a 2" binder for $10, and print the 100 or so pages (which I'd like in color) for 49 cents each, the total comes to a whopping $65ish. 


3) The Planbook- I also found this via my trusty friend, Google. I plan on taking my iPad to school to use for daily data tracking, so I initially thought this would work splendidly. However, I'm seeing on the website that it is not totally iPad friendly (but they're working on it). I like that this is designed by an actual teacher, like option #2, and I really enjoyed the video that explained all of the neat features. It claims to totally individualize your plans based on your class schedule and desired lesson components, give you the ability to quickly and easily move lessons around (SO important in the crazy world of teaching). 


You can also print/email lessons from this platform. It is by far the most cost efficient ($12 for AN ENTIRE YEAR) because though I could print, I wouldn't necessarily have to because I could easily access all the plans anywhere that has wifi without having to save as documents or anything. However, it is not cute. I know that sounds trivial, but I like to enjoy what I'm writing in/on! I also would up a creek without a paddle if I didn't print my plans and Internet was unavailable for some reason. 

Has anyone used these planners? Any tried-and-true methods from veterans in the planning department? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

**these product reviews are intended to be solely based on an evaluation of my needs as a sped teacher! they all seem wonderful, and everyday i'm glad that people put in the effort to make planning more manageable for teachers!

22 June 2013

My Favorite Things: Fitness Edition

In Februrary, I "retired" from swimming after my very last college conference meet.For 12 years of my life, I was a competitive swimmer. I started when my family lived in Australia, and fell in love with the sport! I swam both short and long course seasons with my club team and spend most of my summers (and school years, actually...) doing two-a-day practices once I moved to Texas.

For some reason there are tons of horror stories of ex-swimmers who gain tons of weight. Maybe it's because they've never seen going to practice as a "workout" and don't see a need to schedule time to exercise, maybe it's because they don't adjust their eating habits (which is crazy hard- when you go from burning 1200+ cals a day in the pool to a measly 300 on the elliptical, a BIG adjustment has to take place)... Regardless of whether or not the rumors were true, I was absolutely certain those stories weren't going to include me! 

So, 6 days after my last swim meet, I joined a local gym and started taking their classes. I knew that I couldn't work out on my own- for 12 years I'd been told what to do! So, my first favorite thing is: group fitness classes. I've taken yoga, spin, Pilates, YogaFit, step, and cardio circuit classes. I like to switch it up so I don't get bored. ;)

If I can't make a class, I get on the elliptical. My second favorite thing, my iPhone, is essential because I get bored easily on that machine, so I listen to music, watch Netflix, read blogs...  Basically anything to distract me from stopping.


My last favorite thing is this guy:


I looooove my water bottle. I found it on Pinterest and actually bought it on Amazon. It hold so much water AND my keys and ID/gym card, and it was pretty inexpensive (*edit- looks like the price has gone up. It was only $12 when I got it!). Getchya one. You will thank me.

20 June 2013

Resource Thursday

As a self-professed Pinterest addict, I find myself having to wade through the things I LOVELOVELOVE and the pins that are SO SO SO CUTE and get down the nitty gritty of what's actually practical and applicable for me and my classroom(s).

Thus begins Resource Thursdays. Every Thursday,  I'll share a resource that I plan to use and update the progress on the previous week's little gem.

This Thursday's Resource: File Organization

I found this pin, which was linked to this blog post by Miss Ashley at That's So Second Grade. Um, hello... genius! I LOVE the idea of organizing all of my resources by TEKS (Texas curriculum standards). It is so logical and seems easy to use after the initial time suck of set up.

My articles/worksheets/manipulatives/patterns/lesson plans are currently jammed into portable file boxes and moving boxes. They are loosely sorted by subject. It's insane, and I probably miss a lot of opportunities and/or remake a lot of materials for lessons just because I don't have a good system.

I'll be wearing many hats in my job this coming year, but one will be resource teacher/gen ed teacher support. Each week, the teachers of the students I work with will send me their lesson plans. In addition to working on skills in the lessons with the students in my classroom, I'll also work with the teachers to help meet the students' needs in the gen ed setting.  It would be awesome to be able to go to my files and find supporting materials based on the TEKS the teachers have provided.

Let's Get Real

The drawbacks:

The pros:
  • If I create all of these labels, it can help me and then others... maybe a start for a TPT seller account?
  • Once I get the system up and running I can really see it being functional... AND I can point other teachers and paraprofessionals in the direction to easily use it if I'm not physically available when they need something

18 June 2013

It's Official!

Today I signed a contract for my new job! I am so excited to officially be hired. The sweet principal gave me the big binder of IEPs, ARD paperwork, work samples, etc. for all of my students. Should make for some nice summer reading.

I also got to get a real feel for my classrooms. There are definitely some pros and cons to these bad boys. They are both really spacious and have TONS of materials. The paint job in one room is a little odd (lime green on one wall and brown on another with bright colored polka dots), but I can probably work around it. Or maybe paint over it?

I didn't do any moving today, even though I was itching to. My room is a hot mess because they literally threw everything deemed "special Ed" into the classroom. I'm talking tables, chairs, computers, iPads, laptops, desks, study carrels, file folders, boxes of curriculum, Leapsters, filing cabinets, manipulatives, worksheets... The list could go on and on. I am pretty overwhelmed by the amount of stuff, but so incredibly thankful that I won't be having to spend much out of pocket to get this classroom up and going.

just one of the goodies found today- this is the smaller of the two!
Final surprise for the day- I get to go to the Handwriting Without Tears conference in Austin. I am super pumped. I got to see my wonderful co-teacher in field-based implement the program with her kinders from day 1 last fall. I loved how logical (little pencils for little hands? Um, duh!) and age appropriate the approach seemed to be. Professional development opportunities were a huge factor when I was applying for jobs, and it really seems like my district is going to give me a bunch!