ribbon 16

Making Inexpensive and Easy Wrist Ribbons

So, there are these wrist ribbons at school now.  Actually, they belong to the gen-ed preschool class that we mainstream with, but they are terribly popular with my afternoon class of Little People.  Almost every day there is some conversation/clamoring/squabbling about them, with the most attention of all focused on the purple ones.   (Coincidentally, out of my 11 students, the only two girls I have are in my afternoon class.  And while I have seen boys wearing the wrist ribbons, none of my personal morning class boys have paid them much mind.  However, the two afternoon girls love the ribbons…)

Sadly, the number of purple wrist ribbons has sadly (and mysteriously) dwindled even these first few weeks of school, and at this time there is just one purple wrist ribbon available.  So, I decided to humor the Wrist Ribbon Lovers and make some more.

My first thought was that I could just make some identical to the ones from Lakeshore..  (Actually, my first thought was to buy some more, but I dismissed that quickly because – you know – I’m cheap that way.)  Then I started thinking about how to replicate the Lakeshore ones.  They look like this:

ribbon 5

I bought a roll of wide purple ribbon for the wrist band, and a roll of thinner ribbon for the streamers.  I even got to the point of sewing the long ribbon wristband together….

ribbon 10

…and then I figured out that sewing it this way sewed the streamers into the inside of the wristband.  But  before I started all over, thought – surely there’s a better way.

So instead I went to the Dollar Tree and bought this pack of hair bands (although I should have bought two so I would have an even number of each color):

hair bands

I took six thin ribbons (each 18″ long) and sewed them together at one end:


At this point, you will either want to zigzag the ribbon edges well (as I did not-so-attractively here)…

ribbon  1

…or you can squirt on some fray check.

ribbon 8

Next, place your hairband at the end of the sewn ribbons:

ribbon 2

Fold the sewn edge over, and pin as so:

ribbon 9

Next you want to sew across the ribbon below the hairband, being careful to not catch the hairband in the sewing.  Sewing the ribbons onto the band will mess with the elasticity of the band.

ribbon 6

ribbon 11

Once you have sewn across it, you will want to also use fray check on the loose ends of the ribbons so they don’t fray.

And voila!  Now you have super-inexpensive and easy to make wrist ribbons.

ribbon 12

But wait, you may say.  What about just gluing the ribbons instead?   As I was making these I, too considered that it might be just as easy to glue the ribbons.  But alas, it is not, for several reasons.

First of all, if you glue the ribbons, you want to put glue between each layer of ribbon wherever you are gluing.  For example, once you get to this stage shown below, you want to be sure and glue all the ribbons together at the point shown in the picture.

ribbon 17Otherwise it will be like putting all of your hair in a ponytail except for a few stands here and there – those loose strands are not necessarily going to cooperate with the rest of the secured hair.

Also, making these with glue is just kind of messy.  I tried making the wrist ribbons both with hot glue (ouch) and tacky glue, and I by far liked the sewing method best.

**Wrist Ribbon Update - There’s an Even Easier Way**

It was not until I was all done with the sewn wrist ribbons when it occurred to me that there was an even simpler way to make them.  First, you need to double the length of each ribbon streamer, and cut half as many.  (Instead of cutting six 18″ ribbons, cut three 36″ ribbons).  Double each ribbon, and feed the midpoint of the three ribbons through the hairband.  In the picture below I just fed one ribbon through for clarity:

pic 1

Then feed the opposite ends of the ribbons through the open loop that you see in the middle of the hairband.  Pull the ends through, tighten up, and there you have it – the most simple wrist ribbons of all.


pic 2

Granted, the knots might loosen up and need to be tightened from time to time – but they’re as easy to make as they get – and they’re cheap, too.


new books

Someone Help Me! I Can’t Stop Buying Children’s Books!

I think I have a problem.  I cannot seem to stop buying children’s books.  It’s not that don’t have any. In fact, I have more than three tall bookshelves just brimming with children’s books.  However, in the past, these at-home books were always my “back up” books, used to supplement an extremely substantial book library that the Child Development department that I worked for supplied.

Now, however, in my new Special Ed. classroom, my personal books are the only ones that my students have access to.  (Except for our school library, of course, and while it has some good picture books, the majority of the books are geared for elementary children).

As a result, I feel the responsibility of keeping the Little People supplied with current and suitable picture books lies squarely on my shoulders.   And I am taking this responsibility very seriously.

In fact, I think about this responsibility every time I go to Target.  Or Walmart.  Or notice a Scholastic book club flyer.

Here are some of my new purchases:

new books

The left column are Scholastic book club purchases.  The middle row are books from the very handy, front-of-the-store supply of Halloween books at Walmart.  The far right column are Target purchases.

You may notice that all of these books are board books.  With some of my Sped. students having dexterity issues, I am finding that board books are the easiest for them, especially with the hot glue/baby powder fluffers put in:

board-books-3 board-books-2


Is there an answer to this excessive book-buying dilemma?  Probably not, but books are the best.  And my Little People need them.  And until I find a source to supply us with classroom books, I will keep buying them…and one day my future grandchildren (and/or a future teacher) will appreciate this.



Making “Line Up” Dots from Duct Tape on a Roll


It took me about 1.5 days into the school year to realize that I needed some “line-up” dots in my room to help the Little People line up.  Being super-young Little People that had never really lined up before, any attempt to leave our room in an organized manner turned into a a huge melee of pushing and shoving, with at least one of them falling over on the floor and/or walking out the door at any given time during the process.

So I decided to make some line-up dots for the floor.  While initially tempting, I didn’t want to go with the “tape down paper dots with packing tape” method, since this usually leads to curled-up packing tape edges around the dots.  And curled-up packing tape edges on line-up dots only leads to various Little People bending over to pull up the curly edges even further, which can compromise any semblance of a line that the dots might have helped exist in the first place.

What made the most sense to me was to make dots out of duct tape.  Obviously, the easiest way to do this would have been to use those nifty duct tape “pages”, which would have worked well, but they cost at least $2 per page, and since I wanted at least to have enough tape to make around 20 dots and I am cheap, I wasn’t very happy about this idea.

However, a whole roll of duct tape was only $3, so I bought that and made my own duct tape sheets  - which I cut circles out of to be line-up dots.

The key to “making” your own duct tape sheets is creating them on a cuttable surface that allows you to peel the duct tape off without problems.  Some good examples of this material is sticker backing, or the long, shiny paper that glue dots come on, or label backing.  Even better would be the backing that you peel off from Cricut or Silhouette vinyl/transfer sheets, and usually just discard.

Fortunately, I had some address label backing that would work.  Well, actually, I have a bunch of computer labels that I found super-cheap at a yard sale that I used, but any of the above options would work just as well.


My label pages had already been divided into strips, so my first step was to tape the back of them together to make one complete page.


Turned over, it looked like this (the smooth, glossy side is up.  This is the side you want to put the duct tape on):


I then layered the pieces of duct tape on the paper, overlapping the edges. (If you do not overlap the edges, you will have trouble with your circle going to pieces when you pull it off the backing.)


I decided that my circles would be about the size of a masking tape roll, so I traced them on my paper:


duct-table-2 After I cut them out, I just peeled the circles off the backing and stuck them to the floor.    I probably need to space them out a little bit more, but basically, they are sticking very well.

Of course, I also wrote the numbers from 1 to 8 on them with a Sharpie, which I thought would be sneakily educational…but sadly that led the Little People to argue over which numbers they get to stand on.  (“I’m 4!”  “No, I’m 4!”)

So now we assign the Little People a specific number to stand on.  (“Yes, I know you’re 4, Johnny, but today you get to stand on number 6.  And good job knowing what the number 4 looks like, by the way.”)

So the good news is that yes, you can use a roll of $3 duct tape to make nice line-up circles for your room.  The bad news?  It doesn’t automatically make lining up trouble-free.  However, it does make it a little easier, and sometimes with Little People, that’s the best you can ask for.

Photo by Anssi Koskinen

Random Drive-By House Envy, and Other Signs of Stress

It just occurred to me that one year ago today, I was still a part-time preschool teacher teaching general ed. preschool.  A year ago from this upcoming Tuesday, I changed jobs and stepped into the whirlwind world of teaching full time in a preschool inclusion classroom.  I started working at a new school with a very large new team, and a whole new type of job.  Then, eight months later I moved to the job that I am at now – at another new school with more new people, and a whole new different new job.  Whew.  That’s a lot of change in one year’s time!

I am delighted to report that I am finding my teaching job this year much less stressful than the job last year was.  Last year was just – hard, anyway you look at it.  I found myself stressed and tired most of the time.  Which led me to almost-daily Drive-By House Envy. What is this, you ask?  During the past few years of my adult life, I have discovered that when I get tired and stressed, I become an avid Drive-By Random House Envier.  I find myself out driving, say, to work early in the morning, and as I drive by some random house, I will think:  I’ll bet the people in there are having a nice morning at home.  I will picture them sitting in their quiet, perhaps lamp-lit living room, cozy with a cup of coffee and the newspaper or a book, just enjoying the morning.  In this vision, their living room is always picked up, and is also quite attractive, with clean, spotless carpet and perhaps a lamp and some trendy throw pillows from the Pottery Barn.  These happy, calm people are just settling in to enjoy their day at home – they aren’t due to be anywhere anytime soon.  Perhaps later they will do a favorite project, or putter around in their garden out back.  It really has nothing to do with the house itself (although neat and attractive houses are more likely candidates than houses with lots of trash and/or faded-out Little Tikes toys in the front yard).  What I’m really jealous of is the made-up life that I am envisioning inside the house.

Yep.  Some people eat when tired and stressed – I make up peaceful, desirable scenarios in other people’s houses.  Actually, I eat when stressed as well, too, but that’s sadly more of a daily stress.  I know that when I find myself envisioning this sort of life in random houses that I am really tired.  Or when I drive by hotels longingly, thinking, I would just love to check into a hotel and enjoy that comfort of “climate-control-included” nothingness for awhile.  When things get really bad, I will secretly find myself a little of jealous of people who are sick with a fever.  Not serious, Ebola-type fevers obviously,  but instead just those people who have simply developed a minor cold with the obligatory “must stay home” fever for a day or two – because then they get to sleep/rest all day without any guilt at all.

Of course, I do actually realize that most likely, most of the people in those houses are not really lounging comfortably around their house as I envision them to be.  Most of are probably on the way to work, grabbing a broken pop tart on the way out the door, headed in a frazzled manner to their stressful jobs just like the rest of us.   I get that.  It’s not a rational thing, any more than Fever Envy is.  It’s just a sign for me that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get a little more rest, or take an evening off from doing school things and just hang out with my family on our big brown couch.

So, here’s to Drive-By Random House Envy, or whatever other signs we exhibit that let us know to take it easy on ourselves.  And here’s to jobs (like my current one) that make it easier to do just that.

The New Classroom – Six Weeks Later

You know how back in the summer I was talking about how excited I was to have a classroom all to myself now?  Well, I still am.  However, I did find out that setting up and decorating a classroom all by myself takes time – especially when paired with the “Beginning of the School Year Fatigue”  that is so easy to feel those first few weeks.

However, I feel like the room is now – around six weeks later – about all finished.

Here is what it looks like now:


This is actually the “lights out” view – the one I see when I turn the lights out as I leave every afternoon.  I like how it looks in the sunlight – very serene.

Here are some “lights on” views:




I have ended up loving my work area – especially with its green fabric bulletin board.  I went deskless because I didn’t want to mess with the bulk of a big desk.  Plus, my school kind of ran out of desks before I got mine, so that fact served as a kind of confirmation of my decision.  I started out working on three extra elementary desks that were sitting around (like the one the printer is sitting on), but soon found out the desks even at their highest were too short – not very ergonomic for working on my computer.   I then found this shallow folding table at Walmart for a work space. I don’t really work for long periods on my laptop at school – for the most part I write my IEPs and larger documents at home.  However, this is a nice space to use for short periods before and after school.


The pennant banner was a fun addition.   I started with one “inspiration” fabric, and then lucked into some coordinating fabrics at Joanns that were on sale for $2.50/yard.


I just sewed each triangle with a quarter inch seam, and then used pinking shears to finish the edges.  The brown strips that the pennants are attached to are purchased bias tape. (I also have wide bias tape around the green fabric bulletin boards.)


As you can see, I ended up putting our library in the middle of the room.  This has ended up being one of our most-used areas of the room.  A (grown up) friend visiting said that it makes you want to have a seat and have a visit over coffee.



This is our “Home Center” area.  I ended up with two kitchen units donated to me over the summer. Both were kind of old and beat up, but I ended up keeping both of them.  Because really, have you ever met many young students that are able to easily share just one kitchen/cooking area? Believe me, “Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen” has a whole new meaning in preschool.


I ended up covering almost all of our open shelves with these canvas panels attached by Velcro.  I find that it makes things a little bit easier when the Little People can’t see all of the toys and various materials on the shelves.  (In fact, this has been a problem when our students have gone to the General Ed. preschool room.  They do not cover any of their amply-stocked toy shelves, and having so many “close-but-yet-so-far” toys make our Little People a little bit frenzied – or at the very least a bit Toy Blind.)


Our changing table is behind this room panel.  This has worked well so far, keeping it out of sight, but quick to access.


You might notice that I did not end up building the classroom tree.  It was sadly “chopped down” (by me) just days after I started it.  I’m not sure why, but the brown butcher paper I was using was very – sensitive.  It tore with the slightest pressure, and I kept having to patch up the bark with new pieces as I built it because of all the tears.  I didn’t even get to the Making-Of-The-Branches stage.  It was just too much.  Plus, I seriously underestimated how high my classroom ceiling is, and how hard it would be to get close to it to help hang the branches.  So, down it came, and quite honestly, I’ve been just fine with out.

So far, I have felt like the room is working well.  I tried to make the decorations subtle, to avoid any over-excitement coming from bright colors and busy patterns everywhere.

I suppose the main thing that really bothers me now about my room is my (now photographed) inability to keep it picked up and looking neat all the time.  However, I am working on it.

There it is – the classroom – where all the fun happens.  :)

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:


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:


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


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:


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


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:



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:



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:


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!

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