Monday, January 8, 2018

FOCUS: My 2018 Word of the Year

Some years I have a word for the year, sometimes I don't. I can only remember a few without going and looking them up in a journal or art piece. My word for 2018 is FOCUS.

  • Focus. Stay focused on tasks that need to get done. Teaching. TpT store. Around the house. And don't forget to focus one other stuff such as emotional, spiritual, mental areas. These self care areas can get blurry and out of focus if they are neglected and affect everything else.
  • Don't get sidetracked!  I am the queen of getting distracted!  Or just forgetting. When I need to or want to, however, I can really focus and get work done, like writing an assessment report or IEP. I can tune out everyone else in my office, their phone calls, etc.  However, if it's not regarding teaching, I can really get sidetracked. Especially if it's not a preferred activity! (I'm just like some of my students!!)
Here are some strategies I quickly brainstormed to help. It's so funny that the first ones I thought of are good classroom strategies!! (Always a teacher!)
  • Use a timer...
    • to stay focused on undesirable tasks for small chunks of time, say 15 minutes.  Somebody once said, "You can do anything for 15 minutes."  Set a timer for 15 minutes and do that cleaning I keep putting off.
    • to stay off social media so I can get work done around the house, or spend time creating teacher products, reading, being artsy/crafty, etc. I do use social media for TpT marketing, but I can also waste time on it. So maybe set the timer for 30-60 minutes.
    • to get up and move around after sitting a long time.  Also use a timer to get in some exercise!
    • when I'm doing fun things... to keep from avoiding undesirable tasks, or from getting sidetracked on fun things too long.
  • I haven't really tried a First -> Then chart but maybe I should!! Visuals are good for all.
  • Have a plan! If I have a lesson plan, I follow it. I'm fairly able to follow instructions gives me. But I don't always have plan otherwise. Or I have a bunch of lists I forget about. 
  • Stickers. LOL! That is yet another classroom strategy. Hmmm, I know my grown child would focus and work for stickers for her computer (Hume, Dutch Bros, etc.) so maybe that isn't so childish after all!
What are other strategies that help you stay focused??? I don't have a very big list so far! Comment below. I'll update this as I think of more.  

Past words for the year (that I can remember) have been joy (after at time of sadness and grief) and fearless (in trying new things), and gratitude (after reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp). I always pay attention to seeing my word out and about, or reading about it. There is a lot of Bible verses regarding joy, gratitude and fearlessness. I'm sure there are verses about focus, but I wonder if the actual word is in there (might be easier to find in the Message version or use a thesaurus or Bible dictionary) - that will be an interesting task to check into.

So help me out, I need more ideas!!!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Growth Mindset Links to Help Kids (& Adults) Succeed

The Growth Mindset movement is spreading to more classroom, and rightly so. Our students need to learn tools to learn stamina and perseverance, examples of kindness, encouraging others, etc. They need to know they don't have to stay in a fixed mindset if something goes wrong during the day.

Here are some introductory videos that your class will love.  You could even send a link or two home in your classroom newsletter to help inform parents of growth mindset principals... as teachers we know that adults get stuck in fixed mindsets as well!! Families can learn about growth mindset together.

Finally, here are two Boom Learning decks I made to reinforce growth mindset lessons during independent center time, while also having kids work on keyboarding skills! You can get them separately or as a bundle. They are perfect for independent time/centers. In each deck, students practice typing letters and punctuation from a model, as well as using the shift key to capitalize letters.

I encourage you to go to the links and play before you pay! Be sure to try them out by clicking on the links below. Once you click through, choose "Full-sized Preview" to preview the first four cards of the deck with sound.

The first deck of Boomcards, "Positive Self-Talk" will help reinforce your growth mindset lessons as your students practice typing/keyboarding skills.


The second deck, "Say This Instead," helps kids come up with growth mindset phrases that replace the fixed mindset phrases "I don't get it," and "I don't know." Again, they will type the growth mindset sentences from a model.  If you want your kids to practice both decks, get the bundle here.


Boom Cards can be played on an interactive white board, tablet, smartphone, laptop, etc. using the internet or free "Boom Cards" app. Kids get immediate feedback and teacher can get automatic grading, collect data on speed, accuracy via reports. Teachers won't have to prep, print or laminate! They are perfect for the 1:1 classroom, put at a center, or even use whole class projected on a screen or SmartBoard. Go here for more information!

Hopefully this blog post has given you ideas on how to use videos and technology to extend and enrich your Growth Mindset lessons.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Activities for Chinese New Year in Your Class

Chinese New Year is coming soon.  2018 is the year of the Dog. Here are some activities to do.  First, you should consider reading the book, Ruby's Chinese New Year by Vickie Lee. Introduce simple vocabulary with a word wall and follow up games.  Create some fun crafts like a dragon mask or Chinese fan made from half a paper plate. In the past I have looked up some kid friendly YouTube videos showing Chinese culture. The one that the kids loved showed Chinese drummers and acrobats performing in a street parade. 


Find out if there are any Chinese restaurants in your town that give a Chinese Dragon parade. We just happened upon one when we went to eat at a Chinese food restaurant one year. They gave out Chinese New Year calendars, and had a parade through the restaurant with a Chinese dragon and some of the loudest drummers ever!  It was quite a show! I took some video of it and my class loved it!!  Plus I put up the calendar in my class. Finally, kids will enjoy using QR codes to hear New Year phrases in Chinese, then write them down in English.

If you're interested in more, here are two resources I have created. The Chinese New Year Vocabulary - Word Wall resource will introduce simple vocabulary for Chinese New Year.  Words, pictures and definitions are included in SEVEN formats! This provides tons of options and differentiation for children with different needs and abilities. These can also be used for students with autism or who are nonverbal.

Ways to use these:
  • Word walls, pocket charts, flashcards, games and handouts.
  • Student who read can match word and definition. 
  • Younger or lower functioning students can match picture to word with adult reading, or picture to picture (like a Memory or Concentration game).
  • Cards can be used at centers independently, in student pairs with with an adult para or parent helper.
  • You can use the PDF by itself projected on wall for whole class work, or post to your Google Classroom.
  • There is a bonus section which includes a dragon hat craft and posters for Chinese New Year dates an animals. Currently I have 2016-2019, but I will continue to update these for future years). 

   Here are two of the formats (words and definitions, and pocket chart size):

Kids will enjoy another Chinese New Year activity that uses QR codes (which are great for both special ed and general ed classes). Kids will get a kick out of using a device (phone, tablet, etc.) to scan the Qr codes to hear New Year phrases in Chinese, and then scan again to see the English translation, which they will write down on the handout.

Several formats are included, so you can adapt this activity to fit the needs of your general ed or special ed classroom.
  • NO PREP PAGE. Everything is on one page, so it is easy to print and go.
  • INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOK ADD-IN. Copy it two sided and follow the directions to pasted in in notebook (see photo above).
  • DIGITAL VERSION. Each code is on a separate page. There are several way to use this:
    • This is good for projecting on the wall if you want to use it whole class with limited devices. Just pass out the handouts, and have kids look at screen, while you have different kids scan the code. 
    • If you have a 1:1 classroom you can upload the digital version to Google Drive/Classroom or OneDrive. 
    • You can also print these out and post them around the room so kids can rotate to each sign to hear, see, and write the phrase in English on the handout.
In addition, there are resources on how access QR scanning apps/website for different devices (which were all working links when I created this product. I do check them periodically, but at any point some might not work since I don't control the links).

Check out both of these products in my TeachersPayTeachers store here.  Plus, see more ideas like the paper plate Chinese fan on my Chinese New Year Pinterest page.

Friday, December 29, 2017

How to use Boom Learning Decks with Google Classroom

Here is a great video that explains and shows how to use Boom Learning decks with Google classroom. The video shows how to assign decks to students different ways. This makes it so easy for kids to get valuable  independent practice work done. And easy prep for the teacher!

Link to video.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

TouchMath Inspired Printables - Supplement worksheets

I love, love TouchMath!!  My kids with special needs need extra practice to master concepts of simple addition, subtraction, problem solving, etc. I like how TouchMath breaks it all down to steps.  However, I have had students who couldn't make the jump from counting objects to counting the touch points.  So over the years I've worked on ways to help bridge those skills.

  • First put objects on large TouchMath numbers (provided in kits). Or just make them yourself.  One number per piece of paper. You could also write a number on a magnetic white board, then use circle magnets on the touchpoints.
  • Put big posters on the floor, then you could use large objects on the touch points, such as books, school supplies, or get creative and use shoes, or actual kids (I see a total body PE/math activity!).
  • When counting the objects, have the student make one mark on the touch point on the paper to show it was counted.  Make sure they only make one mark...if they make an X- they might count it twice since it has two marks.
  • Usually kids learn numbers 1-5 easier than numbers 6-9 (since those have a dot and a circle sometimes). I have found that kids have trouble counting the dot and the circle around it as two.  Put two objects on those numbers.  Again work on crossing out each part.
From there the TouchMath program I've had in my class moves to worksheets with simple addition problems. To start off we still use small manipulatives on the numbers on the worksheet. When counting, I have them make a line across the dot while counting out loud (so they know they counted  it).  After they get used to it, they don't need to mark it out.  Just remember, they should only mark it with one line (do not make an X - because that is made with two lines and they might count it twice be accident).  After a bit, most kids figure out counting the dots for numbers 1-5.

I follow the same procedure described above when introducing numbers 6-9, however some kids keep struggling and just can't get the concept.  So I have started using my Counting Pictures and Dots packets to give student more practice with counting pictures before moving all the way to counting dots and circles. Every one of my students (mild/moderate learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities and/or autism) has gotten it. Some need the supports longer than others, however they are successful. If you're interested in see my Counting Pictures and Dots packets - there are two - Part 1 and Part 2. I also have addition, subtraction, and multiplication flashcards using my counting dots font, as well as digitial/no prep online task cards/activities you can check out here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Automatic Data Collection on Boom Learning Digital Task Cards

I found out about Boom Learning over the summer, and it has been easy to incorporate into lessons with my students. There are two main reasons why I signed up for it. First, is that grading and data collection is so easy... meaning that it does it for you!! I just love the data that is automatically collected.

While a student plays a Boom deck, he/she is given instant feedback whether they got the item correct or not. If the item was incorrect they almost always get to correct it before going on. After he/she has completed the Boom deck, in progress reporting below is accessible to both teacher and student.  

Let's take closer look at the graphs below.(If you click on the photo below, a larger version of it will pop up so you can see it better).  

As the teacher, you go into reports and above is what you see for a particular student. The top graph shows green for items that were correct, and red show items he make an error on. Usually the deck is played in random order, so the blank section means he didn't finish the deck. If you click an item that was incorrect, the screen below will pop up, showing you exactly what they got wrong. 

This screen shows the actual item. Note the correct answer is in the box being held by the cool cat. However, the thin white bar above says, "Student typed 6."  It is great to see the actual item and what his wrong answer was so you can analyze why he got it wrong. Pretty cool, huh?

Here is a video that also gives information on this topic:

The second reason I signed up for Boom Learning was that it is easy to make my own decks and customize them for students in different grades (I work with kids birth-age 21). Kids love getting instant feedback and beating prior scores. But that will need to be discussed in a future blog post.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

$3 or Less! Christmas Themed Deals that Won't Empty Your Pocketbook! And a Freebie!

If you are looking for fun ideas that will keep your students on task the last week before winter break, check these out! Several are specific to Christmas, but others are good all winter long. And what kid actually wouldn't like to keep the Christmas spirit alive for a few days in January after returning to school?

First up is a counting pictures and beginning addition math packet of worksheets (sums to 18). This is great for when kids need to still be doing academic work, but you want something Christmas themed! 

Next, is a review game that can be used with any questions/topic you want. It comes with a Tac, Tac, Toe board and fun game pieces that can be used over and over.  I also include 100+ game cards with CVC words on them, but you can use any questions you want. 

Great for Centers!

Next, are a set of two number stack games. Find out why kids love these games better than bump games!! (Similar but game pieces are not bumped off resulting in hurt feelings, which really helps with my students with special needs). This is a gentler way to learn about being a good sport during games.

2 Math Stack Games Winter Sports Christmas Holidays

Finally is my Christmas freebie, Write about Nouns: Christmas. This is part of a series of Writing Freebies in my TpT store.  Use this for independent work or small groups. Students copy from a model (with picture) to print words in a box. Next page say simple multiple choice questions. Students will fill in the circle by the correct answer (helping Pre-K, TK, Kinder, etc., special ed, etc.)

Click here to see all my writing activiites, including the others my Write about Nouns series.