Building a New Classroom Tree

I’ve decided to build a tree in my new classroom.  I haven’t made one for several years, but now that I have my “own” room, I think I will “grow” one there.

Here are the tree “innards”, as it looks now:

tree-innards

It doesn’t look terribly exciting at the moment.  In fact, I suppose it’s not surprising that when the custodian was in my room Friday carrying out the dead boxes and trash, he thought that this structure was supposed to go, too.

Tomorrow I will add the paper and start making the branches, and then we’ll see how it shapes up from there.

The Great Velcro Stash

Yesterday I was writing about Velcro/Hook and Loop Fasteners are was bemoaning the lack of a Universal Standard of which side of the Velcro goes where.  Which of course reminded me of the Great Velcro Stash that I found when I opened all the boxes in my new preschool room last week:

velcro

See my foot in the for a size reference?  These are big rolls of Velcro.  In fact, each roll is 25 yards:

velcro twoIn fact, after I took this picture, I found yet another box with this same amount of Velcro in it.  So, according to my calculation, I now have 1,600 feet of adhesive-backed Velcro in my room.  Or 800 feet of paired Velcro (hook and loop sides matched up).  That’s a lot of Velcro.

As much as I was excited about having so much Velcro (have you ever bought it? It’s very expensive), I was doubtful about my ability to store so much, so I let my supervisor know that I perhaps more than I personally needed (in other words, the Mother Lode of Velcro).  It was then that I discovered that my empty room had been the storage area for all the Velcro for our district – and that soon they would come and take it away.

But not all of it – I have big plans for it this week during Set Up week. Plus, with there being 64 rolls of the stuff, I think it would be okay for me to can keep a roll or two back for the Little People.

 

The Great “Which Side of the Velcro to Use?” Question

velcro-question

Lately I’ve been trying to get my PECS-type pictures and small photos in order for the coming year.  I have several different types and sizes – some that I made and some that I inherited from the inclusion class last year.

I like to store them in notebooks, like this:

pecs-notebook

This particular page is a slide protector page that I had sitting around from my scrapbooking days.  Baseball card page protectors also work well – they’re a little bit bigger than the slide pockets.   By putting them in the plastic protectors and keeping them in a notebook, I can easily see and pull out the pictures that I need.

While I was organizing these, it became apparent that there was obviously some confusion out there about which side of the Velcro goes on which piece of the visuals when they were made. In fact, it made me wonder what is the best way to apply the Velcro in general?   Is it fuzzy side on the base material?  Or scratchy?  Obviously, I don’t know (and neither did some of the other people that made the materials I had, because I now have some of each, which is kind of problematic.)

As I sat pulling apart like pieces of visuals that had become stuck together, I decided that this Velcro Variance is kind of a problem in the Special Ed. World, and one that needs to be rectified.  In fact, why was this not part of my education when I recently got my Early Childhood Sped Authorization?  We all know how important Velcro is to this trade, and I’m a little miffed that the Great Velcro Decree was not passed onto to me early in my training.

As a result of this, I hopped onto the Internet to discover if such a Velcro Degree even existed, and quickly discovered that it does not.  In fact, apparently, this lack of Velcro standards is problematic to many other people in the world.  A quick search on the internet brought up this post from a discussion board where a parent is agonizing about the lack of Universal Velcro rules. Plus there are lots of questions from Velcro users out there concerning which side to put where – too many to link to here.

Granted, as many people suggested, I suppose that one way to get beyond this confusion would be to choose one method and sticking with it.  However, I might add that this idea only works if you a)only use materials you personally make, b)never forget your tried and true method, and c)never change programs where you might mix and match your visuals with those of other teachers.  However, ass someone working in her third school in twelve months’ time, I can see how a Velcro Standard would be helpful.

Finally and helpfully, I came across this post on the Practical AAC website, where a Speech & Language Pathologist named Jeanne Tuthill created a Velcro Rule to prevent this confusion:

The Velcro Rule with Jeanne Tuthill

Basically, this is telling us that the soft Velcro goes on the base material, and the stick side goes on the individual pieces.  Which actually makes sense when you think about, because otherwise you could never use Velcro pieces on a felt board, or other soft material surface.

Now, if we could only get someone Official to change this suggested rule from Ms. Tuthill to an official Decree.  I have not idea how this is done, but perhaps someone in the Department of Special Education at the Federal level could take care of this?  Then they could mandate it to be taught in all Sped curriculum, and we would never have to worry about unnecessary Velcro stickage again.

At the very least, learning this will help me keep all of my personal Velcro pieces straight – which is the first step on the past to a Decree, at the very least.

Finding the Best Kind of Page Fluffers

fluffers

Sometimes young children with special needs have trouble turning book pages.  Actually, my experience is that children of all kinds can have trouble turning book pages, and that it can be very helpful to somehow make these pages easier to turn.

One of the ways this is done is to add page “fluffers” to the pages.  This is not a title that I came up with – I ran across it on the internet.  In fact, if you search on Pinterest for “page fluffers” you will come across all manner of ways to separate book pages in order to make them easier to turn.

While you might think of most page fluffers as delicate, wispy, and feathery things, most are not. The best type seem to be some type of thick material added to the pages to add some space for little fingers to grab onto.

After viewing my options on Pinterest, I decided to try the “hot glue” fluffer method on some board books that I recently purchased at a yard sale.  This is done by hot gluing a dot to each page of the book you are Fluffing.  The advantage to this method is that a)it’s super- cheap, assuming you already have a glue gun and glue sticks, and b)it’s quite unobtrusive.   Since the glue dots are almost clear, they don’t distract you as much as a piece of felt or foam might.

hot glue fluffer

The downside?  I found them a little bit sticky.  I found that I actually had to put a little bit of effort into separating the hot glue dot from the adjacent page – which to me was a Big Fluffer Negative.  Why would you want to make the pages even more difficult to turn than they were un-fluffered?

However, on the very day that I was checking out Fluffer options, I was also organizing some tool materials for this summer’s Tool Shelf Project.  And there tucked amongst the picture-hanging paraphernalia were these “picture bumpers”.  They look huge in this picture, but these are about the size of thumbtacks.

picture bumpers two

 

They are clear, adhesive backed, and not at all sticky.  I decided to go ahead and purchase some of these from Amazon, and when they arrived they looked like this:

fluffer2

 

They were of course super-easy to apply.  I just peeled them off the backing and one on each page of the books.  The advantages were that 1)they were very clear, 2)they were small (5/16″), 3)they were not sticky, and 4)they were perfectly-formed dots – something that’s all but impossible to do with a glue gun.  Of course, the disadvantage were that they were not near as cheap as the glue gun dots – these were about 10 cents apiece.

With all this information in mind, I gave the glue dot fluffers some additional thought, and wondered if I could de-sticky them.  I decided to try one of my old scrapbooking tricks, which is to add baby powder to the back of stickers to make them unsticky.  I simply sprinkled some powder right on the hot glue dot, as so:

glue-dot-powder2

 

Then I rubbed the powder onto the dot, and voila – no more sticky page fluffers.  Plus, I used Gold Bond powder, which was the only powder we had at the time, so now if you smell the book very deeply, you catch a nice, mentholy smell…

So, to sum up, if you have the resources, I would recommend the furniture bumpers as fluffers – easy, neat and nice-looking.  However, if you are like me and want to do things the cheapest way, go with the glue dots and add some powder if they are sticky.

Let the Fluffering begin!

 

things to consider

Things I Consider When Setting Up My Preschool Special Ed Classroom

Time for a classroom update.  I know that I showed you my new Preschool Sped Classroom in June, when it looked like this:

Century-room-six

Now I can show you what it look like just a few days ago: Century-room-six

Actually, it was a little different a few days ago, as the left-behind (and seemingly abandoned) choir materials had been moved to the opposite side of the room to allow for carpet cleaning. In addition to this, several weeks ago the few preschool materials that were gathered and waiting in the classroom next door up and disappeared.  So, for a while there, it looked like instead of getting closer to being able to get things ready for the year, I was instead becoming even less ready. However, the good news is that all lost materials have been found, and all abandoned choir materials have been claimed and moved off to the Choir room.  Also, I have heard that there are three pallets of boxes of new materials waiting for me at the school.  So it is time to begin.

This is perfect timing, actually, as my husband and I just a mere 24 hours ago left our oldest son in his freshman dorm some 2,000 miles away.  Yes, some distraction would be welcome here. Here are several things that I am thinking about concerning setting up my new classroom.

1. Room layout:  How you place your room furniture is very important in any preschool classroom.  However, I feel that well-defined areas are even more important for Little People with special needs.  They need the compartmentalization of specific play areas that are easy to see.  In addition, they need a lack of wide, open spaces.  Big, open air classrooms are beautiful to look at, but I always say that children fill the space they are given.  You obviously don’t want to make your room a labyrinth to get through, but neither do you want to create any super wide, open spaces that just beg the Little People, “Come and run this way!”

2. Calm and Serene Colors:  As much as I love these super-cute room designs that I see on Pinterest, I cannot in good conscience fill my room with bright-colored chevrons, hanging tissue paper fluff balls all over, and/or bright stripes of any kind.  This tends to excite the Special Little People too much, and can make it difficult for them to focus on the important things.  So, “Rock the Chevron Trend” I will not.  I’m going for a much calmer, less “sensory overload” look.

3.  The Practical Needs of My Students:  One of the areas that I will need to set up in my room that is unusual to most regular ed. preschool classrooms is a changing area.  Not only do I need to have this in my smaller classroom, I will need to plan for privacy in this area as well.  In addition, if I have any students in walkers or wheelchairs, they will need wider pathways than most students.  Finally, depending on the needs of my specific students, I will most likely put out less play materials to start with, and cover more materials that are not to be used yet, to avoid toy “overload”.

With these things in mind, I head off tomorrow to get started.  Let the Room Prep begin!

TV Jobs #1 – Plastic Cap Ladybug Magnets

During the first few weeks of my summer vacation, I spent a lot of time doing what I call “TV Jobs”.  These are jobs that really only make sense to do while watching TV – a kind of multitasking, if you will.  And why so many TV jobs?  Because it was World Cup season, of course, and we’re a big World Cup kind of family.

Here is one TV Job that I finished: my Plastic Cap Ladybug Magnets.  I made some of these (and wrote about them) a good while ago, but have always been meaning to make more.  So this was my chance.

The first step to making these is to gather the plastic caps that you need.  I happen to save these year round, so I do have a bunch hanging out in my garage.  I have found that it works best if you have two caps for each lady bug.  One cap will be the top that shows – and then another cap fits inside the first upside down to provide a smooth edge to attach the magnet to.  If not, you get a ladybug back like this, which is not optimal.  It takes a while to find two sizes of caps that fit well, but once you figure you out it goes pretty quickly.

I use E6000 glue to glue the two caps together.  It works really well with plastic, but it can really smell, so I do this job outside and then let them air out for a day or so.

I also use the E6000 to glue the magnets on – even if the magnets are already have adhesive on them.  I like a good, strongly-adhered magnets, because there’s nothing worse than coming upon your homemade magnets dissembled in the classroom – as if this were the purpose for which you put them out.  (No, this is not a fine motor/gripping exercise, children).

I draw the black head and dots with a Sharpie, and then I give them a spray with a gloss finished.  While I was kind of thinking the spray gloss would be a good idea, I found that it wasn’t a sure-fire way from keeping the Sharpie from scratching off.  I did find that the caps with a little texture to them seem to work best.

I then add the wiggly eyes.  For this job, I either use the E6000, or if I’m having a hard time dispensing just a tiny eyeball-sized amount, I will use glue dots instead.

There you have it – a flock of plastic cap ladybugs.  A perfect addition for my classroom next year, as well as a great way to make maximum use of my TV watching time.

Vet's Office Themed Notes Preview

New in the Teacher Store: Dramatic Play Forms for Encouraging Writing

There are several new items on the shelves of my teachers store this week.  The first are more dramatic play papers for several different themes:

A general “Around the House” theme that will go with any “home center” setup:HouseThemed-Preview

 

 

Around the House Papers at Teachers Pay TeachersAround the House Papers at Teachers Notebook

Space papers for a Space Center Theme:Space-Themed-Notes-Preview

 

Space Theme Papers at Teachers Pay Teachers/  Space Theme Papers at Teachers Notebook

 

Police officer theme (I think these are my favorite:)Dramatic-Play-Police-Station-Preview

 

Police Officer Theme Papers at Teachers Pay Teachers/  Police Officer Theme Papers at Teachers Notebook

Flower Shop/Garden Center Theme:Flower-Shop-Preview

 

Flower/Garden Shop Theme Papers at Teachers Pay Teachers/  Flower/Garden Shop Theme Papers at Teachers Notebook

 

Pet Hospital Theme:Vet's Office Themed Notes Preview

 

Pet Hospital Shop Theme Papers at Teachers Pay TeachersPet Hospital Theme Papers at Teachers Notebook

As the description on the thumbnail page says, these are not worksheets, and there are no correct way to use them.  My thinking in using them is just to use them in your dramatic play center as an encouragement for the Little People to write while they play.  They can “take notes” or “check their lists off”, or “work” with their papers.  To me, it’s amazing what kind of writing they produce just by having these around, whereas without them (or any blank paper) there is no writing there at all.

I have found that at our local Teacher Center they keep once-used copy paper available for free, so I can copy these on recycled paper at an even smaller cost.  The Little People don’t seem to mind that there is print on the back – in fact, it most likely makes the papers even more “official”.

These are either $2.75 or $3.00 a set in the Teacher Stores – except for today, when they are 50% off!

Thanks for looking!

 

ribbon-banners-title-pic

Holiday Ribbons Banners for Room Decorations

One of the fun projects I worked on this summer were these ribbon banners.  I had made a few of these a year or so ago.  In fact, I have a birthday banner for sale in my store.

This was one of those projects where I came up with the idea a while back and bought all of the materials then, so happily I had everything I needed to make several banners without needed to purchase much.

It became one of my World Cup-watching projects, and by the time I was done I had most of the holidays/big school events made:

The bottom banner in the photo above kept making me think of our favorite football team the Pittsburgh Steelers, but actually they’re the colors of my new school.

I like the idea of these banners because a)they’re each to put up/take down, and b)they represent the holidays without too much color and flash – something I’m trying to avoid in my preschool special ed. classroom.

Planning Out my New Preschool Special Ed. Classroom

It occurred to me recently that it’s been many, many years since I have had my “own” preschool classroom to set up just how I wanted.  When I first started teaching preschool here in California, I shared a room with another teacher – she taught in the morning, and I taught in the afternoon. Since she had taught in that classroom for several years, she was kind of the “Alpha” teacher for that room, and she got to decide how everything was set up.  (This was really only fair, since she had been working with another Alpha teacher who had the room before she was there.  And, being that she had been in that room with another established teacher before her for several years, she was delighted to be able to finally move all the furniture around the way she wanted it when I replaced that retiring Alpha teacher.

I was in that shared room for three years and a few months, and then I moved over last year to the co-teaching inclusion preschool, where there were actually several Alpha teachers already doing their thing over there.  It was kind of like an Alpha Party in that room.  And while they were very gracious to ask for my opinion and try to include me, I spent a lot of time in that environment feeling a little Student Teacher-ish.

However, this year I am moving to a new classroom which will really be “mine”.  It’s never had a preschool Alpha teacher in it before (it’s been an extra room in the school for several years).  At this moment it is completely empty, waiting for me to go in and set things up how I want them – after the carpet is cleaned, of course.

Here is how the room looks now (this is the official “before”):

(Actually, as you can see, there are some things in the room right now.  The room was kind of a “Room of Requirement” for the school, so it was last a choir room.)

I have to say that it’s much smaller than the inclusion room that I was in last year.  Actually, that inclusion room was a dream preschool classroom – it had everything you could ever want to have. A student bathroom/changing area.   An staff bathroom.  A full kitchen.  Two staff offices.  A walk-in storage room.

But it wasn’t “mine”.   And this room is, and for all of its “drawbacks”, I just couldn’t be more excited about it.

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