31 December 2013

New Year's Resolutions

I am so excited to get back into blogging regularly, and I can't think of a better way than to link up with The First Grade Nest for her 2014 Goals Link-Up!

I want to make it through the year.

LOL, but really, my goal is to plan ahead by month so that I can make the most of my time with my students and take home less work at night time.

Create something to actually sell on Teachers Pay Teachers/Teacher's Vault. [I have some free products  you can check out if you want!] and make at least $50.

Be proud in a bikini on my honeymoon. I don't really care about "losing weight", per say, but I want to look strong and feel confident on the beach in March!

Get out of my house and my classroom more. I basically just travel back and forth between those two (with intermittent trips to Walmart), and I think I'd really improve my level of general happiness if I maybe find some hobbies or something.

California. I've never been and my best friend-in-law lives there now so we have good reason to go on a little trip!
Also, Big Bend National Park and Marfa, TX. They aren't too far from where we live and look like a bunch of fun.

Something healthy... any suggestions? (:

I think I'd really like to learn how to ride a motorcycle in 2014. My dad and husband both ride and I often ride b*, but maybe I'd have more fun on my own bike.

I'm not going to kid myself and say I'm totally giving it up for the entire year, but I always see a significant difference in the way I feel when I don't eat lots of extra fried food. Also, I'd really like to give up unnecessary complaining. I am all about a good vent session, but just complaining with no solution or problem solving annoys me, and I'm sure it annoys those who have to listen to me!

Read for pleasure! When I was little, I read in the way most 10-14 year old boys play video games. I was obsessed and it often interfered with my daily life... so for obvious reasons, I rarely read for pleasure in college. But now, I think I want to try to wind down at night by reading. I have an iPad, so I  should be able to do it on that, right? Anyone know if I can use my abundance of iTunes moolah to buy books?

A happy first year of post-grad life, border-town life, and marriage (which are on the same time line... when I do change, I do it BIG!)

30 December 2013

yet another


But this time, I hope, it is for the good of both me and my students.
After a semester of feeling overwhelmed, constantly behind, and alwaysalwaysalways tired, I gathered my ideas and concerns [and prayed a lot] and then very cautiously voiced them. When it comes down to it, the needs of my students are priority in my job. They just are. A wise professor once told me that if student need was in the forefront of all of my decision making and planning, I could never do wrong. So, I told the people who needed to hear that my students needed more than I can give them.

And you know what happened?

Those people who needed to hear the truth immediately got to work on hiring a second, certified special education teacher. They didn't question my work ethic, they didn't give me empty words of advice or offer to send me to yet another training from the region. They just got to work and they found someone to come teach in the special ed department with me and split the load of duties.

Starting in January, I am not the catch-all, solo special ed superhero teacher at my elementary school. I get to teach the preschool program for children with disabilities in the mornings (JUST PPCD... I am still having a hard time wrapping my mind around that designated duty in one classroom with one group of students), and case-manage/do administrative tasks in the afternoon. I could just about cry thinking about how the students I work with are going to get what they need because they need it, not just because it is what we have.

Let me know if you have PPCD classroom schedule/organization/curriculum tips to share, and if you have any great ways that you stay focused and on top of paperwork! Now that my life is slowing down and I'm kind of getting a handle on things, I am really going to try to be better at posting on here the things we do in my classroom and at my school to keep special education running smoothly.

19 December 2013

Resource Thursday: PPT Oral Testing

First one in... 6 months?!

One of the most challenging aspects of my job is coordinating the insane number of requests for oral testing. Mylanta, I swear like everyone of the kids I "case manage" for (or whatever you want to call whatever that part of my job is) seems to have a test at the same time on the same day of the same week. {P.S. Our ABSOLUTE BIGGEST gen ed class is 15 kids.}

This in mind, I recommended that the general ed teachers read the test aloud in their classrooms instead of having them walk over to the catch-all special education room, wait for an available test reader, have the test read (hopefully without an interruption from another student in the room), and then walk back. There was initially some emails to the principal moderate push back about this idea and confusion about how it might work...

...but once I lengthily explained that the teacher was not required to shout and/or scream the test to the student at their regular seat right next to another student taking the test (because WOAH they may have a tough time with reading, but they are not hard of hearing) and that they could simply pull the students to the back table and quietly read the questions and answers, things got a smidge better.

There are two neato things I have discovered so far to help with this oral testing need. One uses iPad accessibility features (not my favorite) and one requires PowerPoint... Let's start there


I learned this at a training from our Region this summer. Follow the steps and use your verrrrry best common sense and judgement to make this work for ya:

1. Look at your test. Read it to make sure it makes sense and you are... uh, how you say... actually assessing based on the TEKS (or Common Core, whatevs) and the material you taught. You may laugh, but this is something I've had to address... As in, "I know you are behind your scope & sequence schedule, but no, I'm sorry, I would not advise giving this test because you have not covered about half of the material with your student".

2. Open PowerPoint and create a new simple slide show [and SAVE IT]

3. Create a title slide with the name of the test (and train your kiddos to do a cross-check to make sure they are hearing the correct test)

4. Create a second slide, and title it "Question 1". Type question 1 into a text box on the slide.

5. Click the following series: "Insert">"Audio">"Record Audio"

6. A small box should pop up giving you the option to click a red record button. Click the button to start the recording and read your question in a loud, clear voice. Click it again to stop the recording.

7. Play back the recording to make sure you read the question correctly and can hear it. Then click "SAVE"

8. A small audio headphone looking thing should pop up. Drag it next to the question (or above or underneath- this placement doesn't actually matter as long as you do it the same way every time so your kiddos aren't confused).

9. Repeat steps 5-8 for the answer choices.

10. Repeat steps 4-9 for each question on the test.

11. Go through and listen to each question and answer set real quick to make sure the numbers line up and whatnot. My computer lets me listen to the audio clips in working mode, but on our school computers you have to view it as a PPT slide show to be able to click on them and listen. One of those two methods is bound to work for you!

Troubleshooting tips: 
1. Don't mumble while reading
2. Give your kiddos a practice run or two on the system before the actual test. Pick something very easy that they can "test" on, so they can practice the system authentically, but not be too stressed over the material.
3. Make sure you know the accommodations/modifications, district and state standards, etc. for oral test administration! 
4. Once you'd made one test, save your PPT template and simply do a "Save As" and replace the title of the test and question/answer sound thingys.

I realize that this sounds a little tedious, but I promise a little effort to do this in the beginning will make it worth your while in the long run! You can share these files with other teachers and over multiple years (if it makes sense, of course!), and if you need to tweak it a little from year to year (or teacher to teacher), it is not hard at all! Though I haven't ventured into this area yet, I'm also thinking that this could be a good job for a trustworthy and tech-savvy parent volunteer.