Blog Hop FREEBIE Day!

It's finally my day for the special education blogger giveaway. Today I'm giving away my Call the COPS writing packet (normally $4.50) to everyone who has been following along with our giveaway this month! I am grateful for all of the special education teachers who participated because I have downloaded so many great resources. My Call the COPS freebie is my best selling product on Teachers Pay Teachers. 

This packet of materials is to be used to supplement your writing instruction. COPS stands for: Capitalization, Organization/Order, Punctuation and Spelling. It serves as an easy and understandable checklist for young writers who are learning to write and edit their writing. The theme of the packet is all police officers. The kids will LOVE the Get Out of Jail Free Cards and the Speeding Tickets! This is a great way to motivate your students to check their writing and encourage independence and accountability in their writing.

This packet includes:

  • COPS poster
  • Capitalization poster with examples of what to capitalize on it.
  • Organization poster with examples of transition words on it.
  • Punctuation poster with different punctuation marks on it.
  • Spelling poster with a checklist of questions for writers to ask themselves when they are checking their spelling.
  • COPS student bookmarks (3 to a page). These are great to staple into a writing folder as a reminder or to keep at a writing center and in desks.
  • Speeding Tickets- for teachers to distribute when a student is "caught" rushing through work! They can also be used for any content area- not just writing. They are a good classroom management tool for students who rush through work!
  • Get Out Of Jail Free certificates- much like the Speeding Tickets, these can be used in many ways. They can be earned for good behavior, good work and strong effort. It is at the teacher's discretion how to earn a Get Out of Jail Free Card and what the certificates can be redeemed for (depending on your classroom incentives, whether it be free time, a homework pass, etc.) These can also be used in other content areas, not just writing.

This is a great resource for writing. Click on the image to download this packet free from Google Drive- today only!


All About Penguins!

Today we wrapped up our penguins unit. I have to say I love the end of a unit because I love sending home all of the things that have been hanging in the hallway and starting fresh. Sometimes units take me a lot longer than planned and by the end I am so ready to never talk about it again. That's kinda how I was getting with penguins. The kids LOVE learning about penguins. They are so fascinated by them and I am amazed every year that they understand a lot of the vocabulary like regurgitate and toboggan. Here are some of the things we did this year! You can read about our penguin fun in last year's post. The group I have this year is more academic than my group last year, so we were able to do more writing and informational texts this year.

In January we kick our writing into gear. After reading the Penguin Who Wanted to Fly by Catherine Vase, we wrote three sentences about something that we wished we could do. This one hit home for me because we've had quite the winter here in Buffalo and I would give anything to have a fire breathing dragon to melt all the snow and make it hot "owt-side"! The writing response paper is a freebie from The First Grade Parade

We also made our penguin water bottles again this year. I don't know who loves these more- me or the kids! They are so easy and so adorable. 

We also did a little science with the blubber experiment! We used a blubber glove to learn how penguins stay warm in the cold. 

Every other Friday we cook so I decided to stick with the polar theme and make smoothies during our penguin unit. This was hands-down the most popular cooking recipe we've done (and probably the healthiest!) 

What themes and units do you do in February? We have a February break for a week so it's hard to do a full unit in February. We usually cover Valentine's Day, dental health and the 100th day of school. How about you? 


February Blog Hop with the Special Education Bloggers!

Happy February, everyone! I for one am thrilled to see a new month. The closer we get to spring, the sooner we get away from this snow and the sooner I meet my new bundle of joy! I'm learning that everything people say about the third trimester is true...

For the month of February I am joining some wonderful special education bloggers to bring you one goodie per day. Every day for the month of February one blogger will reveal one or more sweet treats to you. All you have to do is click on the date at the top of my blog! Enjoy!


Pets in the Classroom for Classroom Management

Hi there friends!

Today I'm sharing a great organization that you may or may not be familiar with. I love free stuff (what teacher doesn't?) and I love finding new ways to motivate my sometimes challenging kiddos. Last year my friend Jenn told me about Pets in the Classroom. I looked into it this summer and realized how easy it was to apply for a grant for a pet in my classroom. The application took all of five minutes to complete and within a few weeks I had a letter in the mail with a coupon for a free aquarium and fish at Pet Supplies Plus! It's totally worth it. Click here to read about the different grants and stores that participate. You can also apply for the sustainable grant each year which grants you $50 to maintain an existing animal in your classroom.

So how am I using it? I wanted it to be something that the students had to earn for good behavior. My idea was that when our Elf on the Shelf left after Christmas he would leave the aquarium with a note explaining that they earned the aquarium for being good in December. Well, guess who forgot to bring it to school the day after break? Oops. So instead I used the tank as a reward after we saved up a bunch of ClassDojo points in January. The nice thing about using a class pet as a reward is that you can gradually release the rewards (and with a grant it's a cheap system!). Take a look:

One month of good behavior
Earn the tank

One week of good behavior
Earn the rocks in the bottom

One week of good behavior
Earn some decorations for the tank (you can drag this out for many weeks)

One week of good behavior
Earn the water in the tank

One week of good behavior
Earn a fish!

Right now we are earning 1 fish per week. You can also mix it up and some weeks earn a fish or some weeks earn a new plant for the tank. The kids love that they are part of the process and they love the responsibility of caring for a pet. It's also motivating because I can use caring and feeding the fish as an incentive for good behavior. Erica Bohrer has a great packet in her Teachers Pay Teachers store that has resources for every kind of class pet! 

Our Aquarium

Our First Fish!

Some of my boys teaching the fish how to count by 5s with a hundreds chart :) How cute!


Welcome Letters for Parents

Seriously!? It's hard to believe August begins this week. Where does summer go?! The first few weeks of summer I couldn't even think about school. Then in the past week as I was on vacation (pathetic, I know) I started to get that itch. I'm not ready to go back yet, but I started to get the itch to get things ready. On our 9 hour drive to Maine, I worked on my laptop the whole time. I know I am not alone! August starting in my school means that letters with teacher placements will go out to families this week and kids are back-to-school shopping. Although my school sends home a letter to inform the families of teacher assignments, I always send home a welcome letter from me. It puts the families at ease to learn a little bit more about the teacher and to feel as if they've been reached out to before the school year begins. Here is a look at what I sent home!

My welcome letter includes:

  • A brief biography and background of me
  • A brief overview of my philosophy of teaching and parent communication
  • A request for a letter back from the parents (this wonderful portion of the letter comes from Beth Newingham's opening letter)
  • A supply list
  • One sheet of Avery labels with the student's name on them (I like everything labeled and this way I know it is labeled to my liking and it also helps the parents out!)
  • An invitation to Meet the Teacher Day (This is optional, but since I teach a K-1 self-contained room, it is helpful for the families and students to be able to come visit the classroom and meet me before the first day of school. This is also a good idea if you have students who have recently began receiving special education services or are transitioning to a new building or special education setting.)
In addition to welcome letters at the beginning of the school year, I have always sent home introduction letters to the families when I was in long-term substitute positions.


An Open Letter to a Teacher Basher

This week one of our local news stations posted an article "exposing" what a teacher's pension was. I came across the link to the article on Facebook because one of my friends had commented on it. Like any news story that goes through Facebook, there were over 40 comments from people putting in their two cents about the article. Most were teachers saying, "Hey leave us alone for once!" Some comments were from people that were seemingly pleased that this news station "exposed" this public information, as it added fuel to the ever-burning fire that people have against teachers. As I read through the comments, I started getting angry as this person continued to bash teachers, calling us babysitters, overpaid, ungrateful and "simple". Teachers continued writing back to him, defending what we do and correcting his grammar, as to prove a point that it is ignorant people that must hate teachers or disagree with our pay scale and pensions. I attempted to write a response to this internet troll, but found myself not being able to find the right words to explain to him why he was wrong. I kept typing then erasing, editing, typing, erasing. I wanted him to so badly understand that we earn our summer vacations and pensions and incomes just as much as anybody else. My blood was boiling. I wanted to teach him a lesson (no pun intended).


My Favorite eBook App- and a Giveaway!

Last summer while I was setting up my new classroom, I wrote this blog post, searching for input on a great program or app that has audiobooks for kids. I used Storia from Scholastic, but it was expensive and I couldn't justify buying books after a while. I loaded up iPods with audiobooks from the library, but my kids got sick of the same twenty books. My school subscribes to Raz Kids, which my kids loved this year. Raz Kids is nice because it is from Reading A-Z, so I can print the books and resources for my kids for guided reading, and they can read the books on the computer on their own. I still didn't have an app that I loved for centers/Daily Five on the iPad though, because I liked to reserve Raz Kids for my direct instruction and guided reading only. I wanted my kids to have an app they could go on and just explore books with no assignment or guidelines. I also wanted them to feel like it was a game or a reward. Then I found FarFaria! You guys know how much I love a good app and bringing technology into my classroom.

FarFaria is an app for Apple and Android devices. It's $3.99/month and it is TOTALLY worth every penny. I use the iPad app and it's amazing. FarFaria has over 600 books for kids ages 2-9. They add five new books each week. Here are some of my favorite things about it!


Wedding DIY: Homemade Jam Favors

This weekend we celebrated our six month wedding anniversary.  We are halfway through our newlywed year. Where does time go? Next week will be one year from when we got engaged. Yes, I planned our wedding in five months! As I kick off my summer vacation this week, I can't help but think about the past year and how much happiness there was. I had so much support from my family, friends and fiancĂ© as I planned my dream winter wedding and did as much of it as I could on my own! I also can't help but feel relieved that I am not getting married this summer (that was our other option), because I would have been wedding planning this entire year.
Here is some of the first DIY that went down when we began wedding preparations. A friend of mine once said she thinks all of the people who got married before Pinterest should get a re-do- haha. I think she's right! I mentioned this favor to my mom in the summer because my mom and I love to can together, and she immediately jumped on board. I seriously don't know what I would do without my mom, she is such a selfless person. My parents have an apple orchard and so my mom totally took over the favors. In a matter of 4 weeks, she had picked, peeled, canned and decorated over 300 jars of organic, homegrown apple pie jam. The apple pie jam went along perfectly with our wedding theme, because we had a winter wedding and all of the preparations took place in the fall. The bridal shower that my best friends had for me was fall/apple themed- and we had an apple crisp dessert bar at our reception.


Easy Guacamole

Guacamole has always been a favorite party snack for me, and my go-to when I can't think of anything better to bring to a party. Now that summer is around the corner, I've been getting away from the hot and cheesy comfort dips and opting for fresh and healthy appetizers when entertaining. For years I have been meaning to measure and figure out exactly what my guacamole recipe is. Most of the time I'm guessing, throwing in things that I have in the fridge already. Last weekend I finally wrote down exactly what I did when I made a good batch! Our Farmer's Market opened last Saturday so the chips & salsa are from a local guy. They are to dieeee for.
Easy Guacamole
-3 ripe avocados
-1 medium, ripe tomato, diced


Let's Hear It For the Moms!

Happy Mother's Day to all of the wonderful moms in our world! Being a teacher is a lot like being a mom. Although I don't have my own children yet, I got a taste of that proud mother feeling on Friday when we hosted a Mother's Day Tea. I was so proud of my kiddos for all of their hard work and how well behaved and polite they were to our classroom guests. Here are some of the snapshots from our week of MOM!