We were doing our regular thing outside today with the morning class when one of the other teachers called me over.  ”You have got to see this,” she said.  ”Little Johnny has been working away with the sidewalk chalk.  And he even wrote something!”

And lo and behold, she was right.  There on the sidewalk was a whole series of drawings – there were lots of butterflies (we has released our nine butterflies to the wild just a few minutes earlier), plus a  few other random drawings.  And right up there with them, written boldly in chalk were these words:

And this even from one of my Special Needs students.  ”He’s brilliant!” I thought.  ”Look at this fantastic example of literacy right on our sidewalk.”  And I whipped out my phone and took a picture to memorialize the feat.  If someone ever comes down to our room and starts fussing about how we’re not meeting our IEP goals sufficiently, I’m going to whip out this picture and show them the data to prove otherwise.

At the very least, even if I don’t need to use the picture to prove anything, we can certainly use it as our current preschool mantra:  No poop, Little People.  It’s clearly written, right there on the sidewalk.

Of course, I must also add that the author of this message denied any knowledge of what it actually says.  But he paused long enough before denying knowledge that I’m pretty sure he knows exactly what it says.  Which really makes him even smarter in my eyes than he was before.

Sidewalk brilliance.  Right before our very eyes.

A Plastic Bag Kite Kind of Day

Today was a cool and windy day, which is weather that we don’t always see in April (considering that it’s been in the nineties here the last few weeks).  This gusty weather made it perfect kite-flying weather.  And because I have not yet brought my kite to my new school, we flew plastic bag kites instead.

This method of kite-flying was actually perfect for today, as it is Earth Day.  Turning plastic bags into kites is a great way to recycle them, and this went well with our discussion of taking care of our world.  Of course, when another teacher was playing with one of the kites she thought it would be great fun to lift the kite up in the air and say, ‘Hey!  Let’s see what happens when we let go!”  And away, away flew the kite, over the playground fence and out into the adjacent four-lane road.  Then she declined to go and bring it back, which most likely negated all of our talk about taking care of the earth and not littering.  (Do as I say and not as I do, Little People.)

But perhaps the Little People did not really notice, since they were so absorbed with frolicking with their kites.  (Well, with the exception of the student whose bag floated out into the street and is now most likely tangled in the axle of someone’s car on that side of town.  Or even worse, lying in a pond somewhere threatening to tangle up a duck…)

Yes, the Little People loved the kites.  Even the one Little Person who, bless his heart, has a new pair of pants that are at least two sizes too big for him.  Big enough, in fact, that they kept falling around his ankles as he ran around the playground if he let go of them.  After three or four times of this happening, he just tired of messing with them, and just tried to run around with his pants down.  We kept saying, “Johnny, stop!  You must pull your pants up.”   And then we got some of the extra yarn and made him a yarn belt.  So he could fly his plastic bag kite worry and breeze-free.

So, fun and recycling all around on Earth Day.




“New Product Discount” Going into Effect for TPT Store Followers

With my new job there have been things that I like, and things that I did not like.  I suppose that is bound to happen when you add a new teacher to a co-teaching setting where things have been rolling along the same way for quite some time.   Some of the things that I did not like have been changeable, and some – at least so far – have not.  I have really had to think hard about what things were the most important to me to be changed right away, and which I need to wait on.   I am trying my best to pick my battles, so to speak, and am addressing the things that are most important to me first.  The rest I am adjusting to, trying to adapt to, or just biding my time on.

I have been able to deal with some of the things that are not (at least yet) changeable by putting my own “spin” on them.  Take our “morning circle”, for example.  I realize that I am weird in this, but I am not really a teacher who likes to do a lot of the morning routines that many preschool teachers like to do.  I don’t think that preschoolers need to spend a lot of time talking about elements of a traditional calendar, as (in my opinion) most preschoolers can’t really understand many time concepts.  I don’t really think preschoolers need to arrange words on the board to make a weather sentence, and I don’t think they need to add correct punctuation.  I also don’t think we need to count how many boys and girls are at school every single day.  (Have all the boys stand up, and count the boys.  Then have all the girls stand up, and then count the girls…)

However, these are rituals that seem to be important to my coworkers, so for now I am rolling with them.  Or at least trying to make them a little more interesting – if not meaningful for the Little People.  For example, I have decided that we can go beyond counting just boys and girls each day to bring in some new vocabulary to teach the kids.  So on my days to lead we count those wearing stripes/no stripes.  Or we count teachers/kids.  Or we count short hair friends/long hair friends, which leads to meaningful discussions about these concepts and the comparative concepts of “longer” and “shorter”.

Regardless of what we’re doing in our room, I always feel the need to add more visuals to our teaching.  I find that we do some many activities routinely by just talking about things when we could be showing visuals to help our students understand.  Not only our special-needs students, but also our second-language learners.

So, with that in mind I went to work on the computer and came up with some visuals for our “Count the Kids” time.  Now I can show pictures of the concepts we’re talking about, such as “straight” and “curly” and “zipper” and “no zipper”.  I also added some pictures that I am calling “Transition pictures”, which will help show concepts that we talk about during transitions.  (Such as, “Everyone with ponytails please go line up.”

Here is what the thumbnails look like:

When you buy this set you get all of the visuals above in two sizes:  5.5″x 8.5″, and 4.25″ x 5.5″.  You can see these items in my  TPT and my Teachers Notebook stores.  You can also download a preview of these items at either store.

But wait – there’s more!  Starting with this product, I am giving each of my new products at “New Product 50% Discount” the first 24 hours they go on the store shelves.  To get alert on my new products, just follow either my Teachers Pay Teachers or my Teachers Notebook store.


Working on Cutting Skills with a Ribbon-Snipping Bin

When I came into my new classroom last October, I noticed that most of the cutting the Little People were doing were cutting pre-copied straight and curved lines on copy paper.  And while this can be good practice, there is so much out there to developing cutting skills than attempting to cut the same copied lines week after week.

Really, kids who are still developing cutting skills need the opportunity to practice skills that will lead them to good cutting skills – and then they need to opportunity to apply the “pre-cutting” skills they are gaining to actually cutting lines on paper.

Because of this, I have been trying to bring in a wide variety of these pre-cutting opportunities to my new Little People.

This week I put out a ribbon bin.  I used curling ribbon, as this is easier to snip than cloth or satin ribbons.  At first I thought I had to place the spools of ribbons outside the bin, and then have the Little People pull the ribbon from the spool into the bin and snip it off.  However, after having eight or nine Little People swarm the bin and clamor for their turn to get ribbon from the spools, I realized this was silly.  Instead, I just cut yard-long pieces of the ribbon and dropped them down into the bin along with several pair of scissors.  I didn’t curl the ribbon more than the gentle curls it already had, although this would have been a nice (and appealing) touch.

All in all, it was a very attractive bin to the kids.  And it gave me a good look at how the Little People were able to hold ribbon in one hand and snip it with the other.

In fact, I saw lots of different scissor (and ribbon) holds in the snipping attempts:

For some of my Little People, I need to help them hold the ribbon so they could do the snipping.  With some of my more advanced students, they just abandoned snipping all together and moved to tying the ribbon in knots (see in photo above).

Either way, it was fun to see how one bin of inexpensive ribbon could host a wide range of skill practice for the Little People.


Meeting Preschool IEP Goals: Working with “More” and “Less”

Now that I am the teacher of 18 Special Education preschoolers, one of my biggest responsibilities is meeting IEP goals.  To do this, I have mapped out all of the goals I need to cover, and focus on different ones throughout my days and weeks.  Sometimes I work on teaching the concepts behind the goals, and sometimes I assess progress made on the goals.

One concept that is on several of my students’  IEPs is showing understanding of the concepts of “more and less”, as well as other size comparison concepts (longer/shorter, taller/shorter, higher/lower, etc.).  While these are fairly easy concepts to work on throughout the day with various manipulatives and natural learning situations, I found that I needed an easy, all-in-one way to assess how much my students know/are learning about these concepts.  As a result, I created some printable pictures to use for this purpose that are now in my Teachers Pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook stores.

There are two sets of pictures.  The first set is a “More & Less” set that has 14 pairs of matching pictures.  One picture of the pair has more items, and one has less.

These pictures come in two sizes: a half-page size at 5.5″ x 8.5″, and a full-page size  8.5″ x 11″.  I use and prefer the half-page size, since it makes a very handy book to carry around and use in the classroom.

When I put my More/Less pictures together, I assembled them so that the coordinating pictures face each other in the book.  That way the student can see both of the pictures at the same time when they turned the page:

As I go through the pages with the student, I just ask about one concept (either “more” or “less”).    Then when I go through the book a second time, I ask the other concept.  (With the pages above, I ask, “Which field has more/less soccer players?”)

If I am using this book as a concept-teaching activity (as opposed to an assessment tool) I will have the students count the objects on each page, label them with the correct number and compare the amounts.   Included in this printable set are some “How Many?” cards, as well as numeral cards up to 18.

The second type of pictures are “Size Comparisons” pictures.  Unlike the More/Less book, it covers three different size comparison concepts. Out of the 20 different pictures, 7  cover longest/shortest, 10 cover tallest/shortest, and 3 cover highest/lowest.   Each page of this book has a sentence printed on it with the two choices being assessed for that page.  When I work with this book, I initially go through and ask only the first of the two choices on each page, and then the next time through I will ask the second choice on each page.  

So, for the page above (and all the following pages in the book), I will just go through asking the first word of the two given in each sentence (in this case “longest”).  Then the next time I go though the book I will ask the second choice in each sentence (“shortest”).

This helps me keep data about how the students answered. (I either count the number of correct answers as we go through, or I make quick tally marks on paper).  

The “Size Comparisons” pictures also come in two sizes:  a half-page size at 5.5″ x 8.5″, and a full-page size  8.5″ x 11″.

Hopefully this (or something similar) can help you in working with “more” and “less” concepts with the Little People that you teach!

Here are the product thumbnails:



New in the Teacher Store: Fun Forms for Dramatic Play Centers – Food Themes

I just put a new item in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store tonight – just in time for the big sale they’re having over the next two days. (I have all of my items 20% off, plus you can get an additional 10% off with the promo code TPT3).

These are called “Fun Forms for Dramatic Play Centers”.  They’re basically black and white printable forms that are easy to clip to a small clipboard and add to your dramatic play center to promote writing in that center.

This set is “Food Themes” and include themes for a Tea Shop, Sandwich Shop, Pizza Restaurant and a Fruit and Vegetable Stand:

I got my small clipboards from Office Max.  I used some Command hooks to put my clipboards up right in the center:

(I do realize that the Space forms are up right above the babies that are clearly in “Home” center.   The Space Station had already been taken down before I got a chance to display and photograph them.)

And as you might guess, I have a Space set of forms coming soon.  Along with a grocery list, “chores” list, Veterinarians Office forms, and possibly more after that.  Fun!

The Food Themes set has 40 different 5.5″x 8.5″ forms (10 for each theme).  You can find it here in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and once you’re there you can even download two of the forms for free as a preview.  Thanks for looking!


Adapting Apple Printing for Preschool Special Education

One of the interesting parts of my new job these days is finding ways to adapt various preschool activities so that all of my students (both special ed and general ed) can access them.   My new preschool classes are inclusion classes and between the 10 special ed students and the 10 general ed students in each class, I have a wide range of abilities in all different areas.

It’s always rewarding to me to find a way for each child to be able to do an activity on their own – with or without an adaptation.

Here’s a quick hint regarding doing apple printing with young children.  Often the students (and the teachers, quite frankly) can have trouble manipulating the apple during the printing, as apples are naturally quite rounded and slippery.

To help with this, push a pipe cleaner all the way through the apple, close to the cut surface:

If you have a soft apple, you won’t need any assistance to get the pipe cleaner all the way through.  If you have a crisper apple, you might need to do this first with a thin dowel or thick wire to make the hole, then thread the pipe cleaner through.  Once the pipe cleaner is through, twist the ends of the pipe cleaners together as shown.

This will give your student a “handle” to hold the apple with.  If needed, the student can slide their hand between the pipe cleaner and the apple, causing the pipe cleaner to “hold” the child’s hand close to the top of the apple, and eliminating the need for them to actually need to grasp the pipe cleaner at all.  Just a lift of the arm will bring the apple up from the paint/paper and down again to the desired location.

This obviously could be used on a variety of printing projects – in potatoes, or other fruit, for example.

Just another way to help all students access all activities – one activity at a time.


Technology and Preschool Special Ed: One App I Use Almost Everyday

I like to think of myself as “technologically-aware” person.   I feel generally in touch with how to use computers, smart phones, and the internet, and this transfers to my classroom.  In fact, I use technology several ways in and around my Preschool Special Ed. classroom.  I record all of my IEP data on Evernote.  I regularly utilize videos from YouTube to share new learning songs with my students and their parents.  I keep a collection of early learning games on my iPad for specific skills I want my students to work on.  However, the app that I am using the most lately is a timer app called the Time Timer.

Actually, I discovered this app last fall before getting my Special Ed. job, not realizing that there is a whole world of actual “real”  Time Timers out there.  In fact, I discovered three or four of them in my new classroom once I moved in.

They look like this:

The good thing about a Time Timer is that it gives the students a visual representation of how much time is left on the timer.  The red section symbolizes how much time remains.  As the timer goes along, the red portion grows smaller and smaller.

While I like the ones that I have in the room for long segments of time, the Time Timer on my iPhone is much better for shorter segments.

For example, this last week I was working with a particular student to follow directions, and the consequence for willfully not following directions was a three-minute timeout.    Because I can create a “custom” three-minute timer on the app, the three-minute time is represented as a complete red circle on my phone:

Whenever I am ready for the time to start, I just press “play” and it begins to “shrink”:

This circle seems much better to me than the small sliver three minutes would be on a regular time timer:

Also, because I was being very particular on this day with my time out requirements, the student had to sit in the time out chair with her bottom on the chair, along with no yelling or touching anything (hands in lap).  As a result of this, I would reset the time every time she stood up, began yelling “no” or other things at me, or tried to pull things off the wall behind her (something that obviously won’t work with a sand timer).   And while moving the hands of the large Time Timer back to three minutes by moving it a tiny, tiny bit might not have been very significant, starting again with a complete circle each time was.  Eventually they realized the significance of going from what they like to call “a piece of pizza”:

to the “whole pie” again:

sunk in, which seemed to help them realize what was happening when I reset the time.

The Time Timer app is available in the iTunes App Store  and the Android App Store, and while it costs a couple of dollars, I think it’s completely worth it.  I have it both on my iPhone and my iPad, and use both regularly.  To me, it’s money well spent – for time well spent!


Juan Update

I am sad to report that my penguin Juan received a grievous injury this past summer, causing one of his long and cardboard-lined wings to separate  from his body:

This may or may not have been caused by Juan taking a dip in the pool during a gathering one of my teenage sons was holding in the backyard this past summer.  As a result of the injury, Juan’s wing eventually came all the way off, despite moderate duct-tape-restoration  by the teenage son (who may or may not have been the cause of the aforementioned injury).

As dismayed as I was about this partial diswingment, I decided to take the repair into my own hands, and super-glued the wing back on.  Here is Juan, in post-op:

Happily, this repair worked well, and he was able to travel to my new school and become a “penguin-ruler” again to show the Little People whether they were shorter or taller than an Emperor penguin.  (Here is a picture secretly by a co-teacher snapped of me while demonstrating being shorter than Juan.)

The good news is that Juan did a great job as a Penguin Standard of Measure throughout groups of class pictures and several days of hanging out in our classroom.  The bad news is that the day I brought him home again, he developed a leak (seemingly on the way home), and looked quite limp and useless upon arrival.

This led me to re-inflate him and subsequently struggle to hold him under the water in our swimming pool to discover the source of the leak – all while trying to avoid getting any part of me wet.  While surely comical to see, this attempt was unsuccessful.

And now Juan sits lies on the back porch like this:

So, so sad.  I’m trying to get my energy together to launch another investigative report on the cause of his deflation, but so far I just haven’t been able to get to it.  Which leads me to the question, “How much is a life-sized yard-sale Emperor penguin worth?”   Do I attempt to revive him, fork over $35 for a new one, or just let the issue – and Juan – rest?

Right now I think I’m just going to let lying penguins lie and think about it a little more – at least until it’s time to teach the penguin unit again.


The Old Job vs. the New Job

A little over three months ago, I made a  job change.  And it’s easy to write that into one short sentence, in actuality it was a lot of change.  With this move, I moved from:

  • Being a general education preschool teacher to being a special ed preschool teacher
  • Working part-time to working full-time
  • Working with two other co-teachers to working with eight other co-teachers
  • Being the lead teacher to being just one of a team of collaborating teachers
  • Making my own lesson plans to following someone else’s
  • Working with 20 preschoolers to working with 40
  • A five-minute drive to work to a twenty-five minute drive to work
  • Working in an environment where I was familiar with everything to working in an environment where I was familiar with nothing

Whew.  It makes me tired (again) just thinking about it.     It was basically a change of everything I knew, and the first few months were really, really hard.

The good news is that while I still feel the change in some way everyday, it seems that I have turned the corner on the worst of it.   At least, the days that I think that I made a serious mistake and must quit immediately come much less frequently than they used to.   Plus, my new classroom really is a great program, and I find exciting challenges there every day.

So, even though many things have changed in what I do everyday, one thing stays the same:  I still Teach the Little People.  It’s just a whole new world of Teaching the Little People – one that I hope to share with you here.

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