Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Why I Took My Behavior Chart Off My Wall!

I shared with everyone the other day about the struggles I had with my own son and his ability to learn.  As you can imagine, this really began to shape the way I approach teaching and learning for all students in my class.  With this came some pretty big changed in my class and so I wanted to start sharing this with you and challenging you to do some of the same.

The first change I made was pretty major and a whole lot of little scary.

That's right.. I removed my behavior chart!

Let's start by saying my son was never a behavior problem.    That actually worked against us I think because if he had not been so mellow and easy going in class  that he may just have got services a little quicker.

That being said, I really started to think about what happens when kids don't understand.  What behaviors and mannerisms come out during this time.  What are the root causes to the issues that happen and what am I REALLY doing to help?

So with that... my behavior chart came off the wall this last school year!  It felt a little crazy; a little bit like what on earth am I doing but I am so glad I did it!

So why did I make this move?

I really felt as if I was quick to just call people out and have them go pull their card.  Someone was talking while I was talking... I gave a warning and then they had to pull their card.  They had to do the walk of shame over to the wall and their card had to be on my yellow pocket chart for the rest of the day.  But did I really give that child a fair chance to explain why they were talking.  Simply stated - no.  I would have a conversation with them after but the emotional damage and embarrassment was done and that really started killing ME inside.  And then to post it on the wall for everyone to see just seemed unfair.

So we started focusing on rules more!  I made these great rules to use in my room and we began to make that the focus.   Every day we would stand behind our chairs and my handy helper would point while the entire class recited the rules.  Every day... we never missed.  I started referring to my rules in my instruction.... I would say remember the rule and they all would repeat it.

I have posted these rules on my blog a couple times and I honestly just made them for me so this summer I cleaned them up and made them editable so you can change the words on them if you want.    These are the rules that I use for my own specific classroom that I have found to be effective but the file is completely editable so you can change the pictures to say whatever you want!  They also come with an emergent reader, graphic organizers, and writing pages that are all editable so you can make them match what you choose to do in your classroom!

One of the best pieces of the download above I went ahead an included in the FREE PREVIEW.  It's the parent note home.  I always did the calendar where I colored what color they were so my parents always knew what the day looked like but rarely wrote notes or explained what rules we had talked about that day. That's where this form came from.  So if I speak with a child about a rule, at the end of the day (or when we talk) they have to circle what rules we talked about.   I stressed to my families and kids it did not mean they were 'in trouble' but that we just talked.  This was hard for them at first but they eventually got it... we were just informing family what we talked about.  Parents were required to sign and send back the next day.  It was not a punitive thing but a learning thing.  

Again the above form is part of the freebie of my rules program in the preview option but you can really get rid of your wall clip chart with any rules program you use!

So what exactly did my behavior program look like?

At the end of every day each child got a card and there were 3 options.

- a orange card - they had a perfect & expected day
- a purple car - I picked a couple a day to get purple
- or a yellow - a rule reminder card (which is the form above)

3 options - that's it!  This came from a conversation I had with my friend  friend Callie at Teach-A-Roo.  She is the Clip Chart Queen and has a whole program that will help you be successful at it if you are not willing to take the leap with me.  The cards are a part of her program where at the end of every day she gives kids a card - like an award to take home.

At my school we had a school store and students traded those cards in for money to use in the school store (10 cards good cards (orange) or 5 excellent (purple) cards for $1.)  If you don't have a school store, you could easily trade in 10 for a treasure chest pick.  Kids just store their reward cards in a pencil pouch in their desk.  Kids then colored their calendar the color of their card for the day.

Next natural question is... did you have consequences?  YES, of course!  Consequences were always teacher choice which was most of the time 5 minutes lost of recess.  Felt crazy at first, but if the goal is AMAZING behavior, why do we post loss recess and call home on the wall?  I shifted my focus towards the positive and the kids knew it was my choice if need be.  We did a lot of talking how consequences would be fair and sometimes I let kids pick the consequences.  Those were WAY worse than anything I could come up with.  These were always done after I shifted focus in the lesson or after the lesson.  (As you become more positive - your kids do too and the need for this is less and less.)

I really began reflecting on what I was doing and where I was putting my focus when those behaviors happened. I goal was to make the need for consequence way less than it had been in previous years!

So what exactly would it look like when I have that situation?  Our lessons are filled with many different components.  Say little Johny was being disruptive during a story - I would go sit on the other side of my carpet closer to him (student were trained to just move their eyes with me.)  I would become more engaging by acting crazy as a character in the story.  We would stop and remind ourselves of a rule as a class - never calling out that student but reciting as a full class.  Children generally want to please you and so it began to be the tone that I expect you to sit and be respectful!

One trick I used I posted about a few months ago called passing the positive.  Here I just took an object and the  kids passed it to the person I saw doing something good.  So if there was a student with an undesired behavior - I would say oh thanks Johny for sitting quietly, please pass the fish to Amy who is sitting on her bottom.  You want to see all of your kids fix themselves to sit on their bottoms super quick... definitely try this strategy! The kid with the fish at the end of the day got a treasure chest pick. This NEVER got old and the kids would be so excited to have a chance to hold the fish each day even if they did not have it last!

Now what about when a student is being defiant or out of control.  We all know that planning and management is KEY in your classroom - whatever works for you works for you!  Reflection again - is this part of my lesson too long, is that student not engaged, is the partnering off?  Don't be afraid to change your lesson in mid stream - things don't go as planned all the time and tell kids that so they become empathetic towards you and a part of the experience.    This strategy can also be used to divert the other kids attention if there is an issue so you can deal with what you need to without causing any embarrassment.

And that's ultimately the thing for me... we don't want children to feel embarrassed for things that are out of their control or call attention to poor choices in front of others.  Often times these types of behaviors are a coping mechanism for being uncomfortable for many reasons like not understanding or being afraid.  .We should never want them to learn anything from that negative or embarrassing experience but learn through the positive experiences.  Some will probably argue with me over that statement I am sure but when it's your own child acting a certain way because factors are not ideal for them to be successful it may be a little different (home life, academic understanding, hunger or whatever it may be,).  We want them to learn from the positive not the negative experiences that happen in our care!  And by no means am I saying students don't make poor choices but I want my modeling to be of positive interactions.

Now - did I have the students who would have outbursts and need to go sit at their seats.  Yes - but those students often had bigger issues we needed to address.  As a matter of fact, two of those students this last year were eventually placed in self contained classrooms.  The key here to think about is the misbehaviors could be indicators something is off!  This is so important especially in the early years as we are often told to wait for testing - there is no magic age a learning difference kicks on so if they have an IEP or not if they are showing indicators of certain issues we should provide those accommodations as a part of our differentiation!    To not give kids the benefit of the doubt that something else is going on is so not worth the cost of losing years of interventions and I think that's where I ultimately am coming from!   Can I get an AMEN?!

I know this all sounds crazy and very Mary Poppins to you... but I swear it's not.
Take the leap.  Pull that public statement off the wall!  It will all work itself out!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Magic School Bus Science Kits!

I seriously am in love with these things and I brought them to Vegas to show all my teacher friends how we are missing out on this amazing resource in our classrooms!

My love for these started at home.  I had a homeschooling friend who emailed me and said... "Hey Jen, have you even thought of getting those Magic School bus Science kits for Braedon?"  The come across Educents all the time and I have seen them but never really looked into them but I was definitely intrigued.  So I ordered a set of 4:  Weather Lab, Nature, Microscopes, and a Slime Lab!

I was SHOCKED when the box arrived.. talk about excitement!  Each set comes in it's own box shown above!  Over 40 activity cards that start with basic science safety, supplies you would not be able to find at home like tubes, a thermometer, stuff to make your own compass, and a science journal are all included!   Everything fits nicely back into the box when we are done and so I had one happy camper who was excited for science!!!  (Now that's what I am talking about!)

So I started to think... this stuff would be AMAZING for school!  The items included in the kit are SO DURABLE and meant for little hands!  My kids could so easily do these activities in a center without breaking the items.  Now - some of you are saying.. but wait.. we don't do science centers!  I know, I know.  But if you paired these activities with a writing journal in your writing lab you would be gravy!  You are giving your students first hand experiences with weather so they can then go and write words and sentences about it!  Amazing!

Each kit comes with from what I can tell over 40 activity cards.  Take a peek. 
Activities include:
making clouds in a bottle
making rain
making a wind vane
building a weather station
greenhouse effect
making a thermometer
making a tornado
making a pinwheel
creating a rainbow
making a swirling snake (wind)
creating your own weather chart
using the sun to read time
making a compass (to see which was the wind blows)
making water disappear

With 40 activity cards you can see that not every activity has a hands on component to it which is great because you teach these things in slow steps your students will understand!  

Check out this experiment below.  Have you ever been asked "Mrs. Kadar, what happens to the rain on the ground?"  Insert your own name of course.  =)  I have a million times and I tell the kids 'oh it evaporates.'  So with this activity we mark the water in the circle and actually see it disappear over time - drawing a circle around the original puddle with your Scentos markers.  Then in a followup activity we explore clouds through a sponge... and how when the sponge gets more and more water in it, it will start to drip (or RAIN!)  The activities are so simple and yet they create that meaning for the kids! 
This is making learning so much more meaningful for kids!  And these kits are perfect our classrooms!  For kids like my son who struggle to learn, this is paramount!  

They will need a few minor adjustments because the activities are made for one instead of several.  For example, the wind snake you are given one but it's just spiral on a piece of paper.  Many of the activities you will do as demonstrations and then they can journal about them very easily based off what the class as a whole experiments on.  

Overall... as a parent and a teacher these kits get an A+, an Exceeds, and two thumbs up!  

Educents runs these kits often and so right now you can get a full years worth, I believe it's one kit mailed at a time to you at 50% off!!!!  It appears that these ones don't come with the boxes (which to be honest if you had 12 of them it would take up some room in your storage area if you have that.)  From what I can tell all the kits are in different combinations so this may be a good way stock up on science curriculum that is hands-on, meaningful, and fun!

Happy Science Everyone!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Never Run Out of Tissues Again - A Bright Idea!

It's Bright Idea time again... and I have to admit.. this is totally not my Bright Idea but one that was shared with us at school one day and SO worthy of sharing with the world!!  We all work with so many amazing teachers who don't blog or share on social media but is too cool not to share with the world for her!

Does your school provide tissues?  If you are like my experiences in school it's very limited and then we move towards donations.  Then we eventually move towards... go get some toilet paper in the bathroom or the ever so popular (and hard to break) using of the sleeve... ewh!

So... why not put that toilet paper right in your room?  And guess what - it fits on a paper towel holder!!!  Two whole rolls!  How cool is that?  LOL.  So I headed to the local Goodwill and bought the cheapest one I could find!  It's missing the top and looks a little funky but hey...!  And toilet paper is so cheap (and I bet many schools will give it to you for free too!)  Super Bright Ideas right?!

To see other Bright Ideas from more teachers click the links below!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Amazing & Free Sight Word Ninja App

I am just in love with the Sight Word Ninja app... I had to officially share with you all!  Totally free and all of your kids will love but especially your struggling readers!
I used this app in my classroom last year with just my personal iPhone.  I had zero technology so this was honestly my only option to integrate technology!  So I would put a student at my small group table on the side or on the floor so I could monitor them.  My son Braedon LOVES this app too!  As a matter of fact, my almost two year old likes to slice the words and at this point I don't care that can identify the words or not... he is playing with words and that is all I care about!
But being honest.. I did not know about all the features this app had until I had time this summer to really go into the settings!   So to get in you have to do a 3 finger password.  

This is where you can really customize the app to what your class needs!  

From what I can tell from using the app:
Difficulty - the speed at which the words fly through the air.
Random Playback - words repeating
Game Duration - how long the game lasts

But it get's better:

You can select the grade level!  How cool is that?!  But wait....

You can go into each level and select what specific words you want to include!  I just think this is amazing.. I can customize what words we are practicing for the week!!!  How cool is that!

Kids just absolutely love slicing the word they hear!  It's a great play on a very popular game they already play for sure!  This app gets an A+ from me!
This is GREAT for your struggling readers because when you use technology reading becomes multisonsory!  Click here to see an article on why iPad's are good for the dyslexic brain - but don't let the word "dyslexic" stray you from reading it... multi sensory is good for ALL STRUGGLING READERS dyslexic or not!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Struggling to Read, Struggling to Communicate, & Struggling to Connect

I have put off this post for SO long for so many reasons including not knowing how to start to talk about this... but what I am about to write about is not only so important for my own little family of four but also for you all as teachers!  I hope someone out there learns from  my experiences as a teacher and a parent!

This post is all about my son Braedon and how he has struggled to learn to read.  There are kids in your class just like him... kids with no phonemic awareness, kids who know the letters but can't blend them, kids who can't remember sight words or really directions.   I often feel so judged and like I am not doing enough.. just my perspective as a parent on the other end of the table!

Braedon is starting second grade this year but we knew something was different with him about the age of 2.  He did not speak, he did not follow our direction, he had to have everything the same, and he just had this general uncomfortableness with new things (and books believe it or not.)  Going into second grade now - he is significantly behind in school (it would be easy for me to list thing he cannot do to make you understand but we try to stay positive and so I will refrain.)  As a matter of fact, when we finished up 1st grade we were told if we were to stay in the current district we were enrolled in that he would not be in a general ed classroom but a self contained special ed room.

My mom begin to hint to me about the age of 2 that she thought he maybe was autistic... he did have some tendencies but he was able to maintain eye contact and the doctor assured me every time that he was fine.  We sought out help from the medical world and were told not to worry that everything was fine and even had him evaluated by our state's child find system and he was denied assistance.  I started to notice feeling like my parenting was not to par and that people felt if I would just hold out food until he talked or punish him when he had a melt down he would behave when things don't go as he is used to.  I cannot stress enough how we need to have more understanding and support for each other - that 'bratty kid' may have real issues that are outside of his control!

At the age of three we finally started to get some help when the school district evaluated him.  It was identified that he had a sensory processing issue and would also receive serviced in speech and language because he was very delayed in speech for the age of 3.   Below is Ms. Donna his developmental preschool teacher for two years.

Preschool the feedback was that he did not want to participate, would not try new things, seemed to not pay attention during instruction whole group and small group, and as he spoke more we began to notice more and more grammar errors that made it really hard to understand what he was trying to say.  Preschool was filled with sensory experiences and speech therapy!  I felt like we were somewhat moving in the right direction.  I continued to speak with out doctors but they assured me the school will handle it.  

Personally, in our home life, Braedon just appeared to be "bratty".  I appeared to the be a bad mom who just gave into him.  Well... I did not appear to be... people would tell me this.  I cried many times over the things people who were my close would say to me... I am trying to get help as best I can and yet I feel like we have not quite put our finger on what exactly is going on.  Things I would see that were red flags were things having to be exactly the same (like who was in the pool when we were at someones house), growing out of our socks and having to wear new ones, and focusing on a task.  Simple things that most kids his age need some support with would create huge huge issues for us!

At the end of preschool his preschool teacher pulled me in for his transitional IEP to kindergarten and informed me that they felt something else was going on.  The testing they did showed he was not ready for kindergarten.  He was not able to remember basic things like shapes, colors, and letters.  I immediately refuted back that his developmental preschool did not have an alphabet posted - how was he to learn the alphabet when there was no alphabet posted?  As a teacher myself I was like how can they say that - where is the explicit instruction?  This was my mistake - but my reaction did not deny him any services or screenings. Not to mention heart broken because my own child was not ready for the grade I taught.  Sigh.  So we moved to kinder with only limited speech services because they too could not pinpoint what it was.  

It's hard to explain his journey without inserting a few extra details... I was moved schools that summer.  So knowing how he was - and well being a teacher - I wanted my son at my school.  He was put in one  of the 'top kindergarten teachers in our district's' class.  By mid meet the teacher night and I  started to bawl.... this was not going to be pretty.   He refused to do things the teacher asked, would be defiant,  and every single item on his get familiar with the classroom hunt got a circle with a line through it.  I was shocked he even knew how to represent that anger feeling in pictures!  Again something is wrong but how do I help him, what do I do?  

I would ask how he was doing and I would be told he was fine from his regular teacher... but then I would get a text from my sub who was a friend saying he was having issues on the playground or whatever.  This teacher is a future teammate.. I was emotional from just having a baby.  I had no clue what to do!!!  One afternoon the speech teacher called me and said "well we have been working on the 10 parts of the eyeball and he can't remember them."  Seriously... do YOU know what the 10 parts of the eyeball are?  I did not feel as if they were even in the ballpark with what was important to teach him even if he did not have a learning difference!  Who not only teaches kinder this but then holds them accountable for it?  Just beyond ridiculous.

Braedon would not separate from me in the mornings with ANY ease and we got no support from his teacher.  She even told my boss that she was concerned about how I was going to teach when he can't even line up.  Continuing every day to lose trust in this situation.  I could also see the quality of his work was not what it should be... check out the picture below.  (And as a matter of fact.. going to the second grade we still don't understand people have bodies... he really struggles with that!)  The final straw for me was during a kindergarten performance.. I had told his teacher he would be the star of the show if she could just support us in the transition but when my husband walked him over and he started stressing she brushed him off as if it was not worth her time.  He did not separate from us until the last moment and pretty much stood on the stage and stared.  Broke my heart!

Then one day in the parking lot his teacher put Braedon in the car and before I drove away she opened the door and said we need to talk because I feel like he needs to be moved to a special ed classroom full time.  IN THE PARKING LOT she told me this!  Are you kidding me?!  

Devine intervention happened in the mix of all that... I got a call from a friend that changed our lives.. she had a kindergarten position open at her school and they wanted to know if I wanted to take that position and keep my sub at the school I was at.  YES YES YES!!!!  (This was actually the day of our performance - we never withdrew him - and just did not show up that day.  District let me in on the weekend to get my things and we left with no goodbyes to anyone!)

SO we moved schools and that was such a blessing.  He was no in kindergarten with an amazing teacher.  She read his IEP and called me at home to see what she could do to help.  I told her my story and how something was just off and we have been trying to pinpoint and come up with nothing.  You want to talk about going above and beyond... this lady did exactly what she should!  He went 7 weeks with the teacher above and could barely write the B in his name and on day 6 with Mrs. Hilliard he could write his whole name!
 One time he showed some anxiety and she redirected him attention with no issues.. all it took a small amount of effort - go put my keys on the table was exactly what she said.  He learned his alphabet names and sounds, struggled with sight words, and was able to count to 10 by the end of the year.  I so wanted to retain him... he had no phonemic awareness and that's the you get the most in.  The school started giving him resource for reading under his speech and language label and told me I would not get that in kinder because there were no other kids in kinder to form a group.  So my choice was pretty much stay in kinder and continue to get limited services or move up and finally get tested and services.  So we moved up.

First grade was hard for Braedon.  He was in a room where it was Friday test day and the offices came out!  He would wake up every day and say "Mommy is it friday?"  He feared those tests because not only could he not read them, but he could not understand them orally at the pace in which they were given.  She would give him the whole test but modify it by only counting a couple questions which to me was like why even bother?  The tests showed us nothing about where he was at and created huge anxiety for him!  But truly, all of his work was like this.

Homework was another huge issue!  Modified to his teacher meant that he got only the 10 research based Harcourt words and not the additional 5 they added for the rest of the kids.  His homework also said modified on it nice and clear so it was a bit of a discouragement for him because it pointed out he was different.  As mom, I would go in his room and my heart would break because I would see his desk facing south when everyone else's desk faced north (I get teary eyed just thinking of it.)  Why do people do this to children? The kicker for me though was seeing the projects the other kids would do and he would not get to do because he was in his resource classes - oh and missing things like assemblies because he has resource at that time.  Anyways - his teacher was a very nice woman - don't get me wrong!  She does amazing things with student and fantastic lessons!  She actually helped get the ball rolling with testing and backed me up many times in IEP meetings.  She is well respected on our campus and was definitely brought into our lives get things moving for us!

First grade started and the curriculum got really challenging!  My little baby still could not blend words and now we are doing digraphs and vowel teams.  It all started to compound the problem.  Yes he was pulled out for reading instruction but that was only 30 minutes a day tops and our reading block was 90 minutes so he was getting a world of confusion mixed all together.  So early first grade year I called a meeting to get him tested and was again talked out of getting tested.  "We need to wait until he is 7," and "what if we test and he does not qualify."  At the age of 7 they could use the Woodcock Johnson assessment which apparently was more reliable but still... a learning disability is a learning disability no matter what assessment you use!  I worked with these people and so I trusted them!  I still trust them to be honest with you... they know the system in which we work and have seen it steer so many families in opposite directions I wanted to go!  They were doing what they knew was best for Braedon and I just trusted.

So we focused more this year on identifying what he needs (getting a label so we knew what to google) and getting him the help he needs!  We also thought... you know this kid works SO HARD and he needs some breaks!  So we focused less on homework (that was torturous to him) and more on things he enjoyed!
Look at that smile!  Getting there and waiting for his turn was anxiety like no other.. but boy when he does something he puts his heart into it and does well!

We were approaching his 7th birthday and that was the magic time time to be tested.  In passing in the hallway I would remind... Brae's birthday is coming... make sure he gets on the schedule for testing.  Nothing every in writing (which was my first mistake in all of this.. if you are in my shoes at all.. always put everything in writing.)  Anyways... I made a lunch visit to his resource classroom with my husband one day and I asked her how he was doing and she said to me "Braedon has not learned anything all year with me."  What... are you kidding me?  How could student come to your class every day and not learn anything and it be January? It makes no sense.  Not to mention his progress reports and report cards said he was making slow progress which is totally different than NO PROGRESS!  Flexibility - now gone!  I was angry.  I am a parent first and foremost and why does telling me seem so casual all the time.  I know I am friends with these people and have expressed I trust them, but we are talking about MY child.

This ignited a fire and I started not taking no for answers.  And guess what... it was suggested we wait until 2nd grade to test because the Woodcock Johnson was changing over the summer.   We were tested by a developmental pediatrician.  To make a long story short - he refused to participate for two reasons.  First that he hated to read and he was not about to fail in front of a stranger and second that the whole situation was new and that made him uber uncomfortable!  He gave us a tentative diagnosis of dyslexia so that's what we ran with!

Now - I live in a very populated part of Phoenix!  Schools every mile, about 5 Walmarts within a 15 minute drive, and a major city in our area.  But guess what... there is one place on our side of town who does tutoring with dyslexic kids and they had a pretty big waiting list.  So, I made friends with them!  Started going to parent support meeting and just talking to anyone who would listen!  And we started tutoring in March!  And guess what - 3 1-hour tutoring sessions AND WE WERE READING!    It is just crazy to me that I have a masters degree in early childhood education, a reading endorsement, and a structured English immersion certificate (which I thought would help with the language piece) and I could not teach this kid!  Kindergarten teacher we had was AMAZE BALLS!  She is the teacher the district calls on to cover those self contained special ed classes and she could not teach him to read beyond learning letters!  If I had not seen it with my own eyes, I would never believe it!  So here we are now withdrawing our child for a few hours a week to go to reading tutoring outside of school!  Braedon and his Barton Tutor Meriah who has been such a blessing in our lives!
One last thing about our tutoring - the schools here in AZ don't offer the style of reading instruction even in their special ed classrooms.   Insurance as well does not cover because they see this as a learning style issue.  So we pay out of pocket for him to attend tutoring so he can learn how to read.  Likewise, we also take him to play therapy - we tried traditional therapy with him briefly but he would not open up in a stuffy old office where the therapist asks him questions (he has a language disorder) and asks him to draw (he hates writing.)  This too is not covered but both are important pieces to he puzzle and so we find a way to make it work!  And trust me - there is more we would do if funds were unlimited. 

I feel like I have talked forever about this and there is SO MUCH MORE to my experience with Braedon learning to read and getting an appropriate IEP that I want to share!  Some of it went as I felt it should... some of it not so much!

When I told the school psychologist that my son was diagnosed tentatively with dyslexia her response was "dyslexia is meh."  That's pretty much the attitude I got for the duration of getting a proper IEP.  We walked out of our school on the last day with a MET (which is all the testing results) including limited short and long term memory, auditory processing, language disorder, occupation therapy, and an emotional label.  It was their recommendation that my son be moved to a cross-categorical academic classroom (which means self contained special ed in this district) for the start of his second grade year.

As a teacher I could not help but think kinder and first are the two grades where you really learn to read and we just threw him in a class, ignored requests for testing, and the testing eventually lead to a  self contained classroom setting.  

As a parent I lost huge amounts of trust in the system and began to really see how we are doing some children a huge disservice!  If you are a teacher - you know what I mean.  Asking parents to wait for testing and sending kids to intervention and accepting "give them time" as an answer for not making appropriate gains.  As a parent I feel - I don't care that you only have 1 psych on campus who works 2 days a week paid and 2 unpaid - this is not my problem.  But for some reason as a teacher we bow down and go with the flow and we know what happens is not always best for kids.

So... we are moving schools next year.  Back to our neighborhood school where he went to preschool for 2 years.  It is a performing arts school which means that maybe if he struggles he will at least get a little more variety and meaning in his instruction.

So for us as teachers what do we take away?

Current research shows that 1 in 5 people (not just children) have some range of dyslexia!  It's out there and has real effects on people.  Watch this video to see how Braedon feels while trying to learn..

This is totally Braedon!   I know you are thinking now... oh this kid and that kid... oh that makes perfect sense now!   

Kind of hard to read, but you can see that at the age of 5-8:
- they resist reading, don't find pleasure in books
-are reluctant to read
- reads from pictures still
-are stressed about homework!  

I would also add from my own experiences... 
- phonemic awareness just never clicks in kindergarten
- level two interventions are unsuccessful
- the students can't blend even two letter words

These are all red flags that should be looked at!!!  We as teachers often hear "Well we have to wait to give them a chance" or "they are just young and immature" and oh as parents we hear "just keep reading to them."  Let me tell you... the cost of waiting is not worth it.  We talk about how important reading is in the early years but then when we have students with issues we just wait until the early years are over!  Crazy!

My son has many strengths!  He is almost never a behavior problem (even though him not knowing how to process information can sometimes cause him distress.)  He is gifted outdoors and he excels in sports when he can get over the anxiety of trying new things!  He is eager to please and an overall great kid!!!!  Oh - and very polite and kind to everyone!

Click the above to see all of the tips that work well with students like Braedon!  

I just love this sign because I am doing exactly what the original saying says... I am making lemonade!  I am becoming as much of an expert as I can in this topic and so I can advocate for my son!  That is my biggest tip I could give a parent in my shoes... surround yourselves with people who are in your shoes!  Start with just doing a simple search on Facebook for groups as there are tons of support systems out there!  Learn from these people as they have paved the way for you no matter what developmental delays you are facing!  

That being said... my second son is already showing the early signs of the same issues.   Don't worry... we are on it and he too has a social worker and occupational therapist who comes to the house and he is not even yet 2!  It's strange though.. because Brody loves books and Braedon hated them from the get go!!!  So hopefully that's a sign that he will love books!

He is another 'sensory seeking child' so we get lots of upside-down photos and it drive my mom nuts - but here's a much better photo of him!

So I have decided to take a year off and pursue some other projects I have going on. This will free up some time for me to really learn as much as I can about my children so I can help them!  I am not going anywhere... we bloggers have lists and lists of topics and files and files of pictures we never get to so I still have plenty to share!  I also plan on volunteering a lot - I have many kindergarten friends who would love form me to come do small groups or help organize or do bulletin boards!  And actually - if any of you live in AZ and want some help one day... just ask!  =)  I am sure you all understand - family first!  

I have already learned so much about working with children with dyslexia!  They need a multi sensory, systematic approach.  So my kinder teacher head thinks... well that's us... I am multi sensory and systematic.  But it's different - and over the summer I have had the time to figure out what those difference are.  And so I am going to start sharing some of that with you as well because it's just good teaching for all students!  I remember when we went through the structured english immersion changes and so many people complained that 'they don't have language learners in their classrooms' or 'all their kids speak English.'  Well now that we know what it is all about - we recognize it's just great strategies you can stick in your teaching tool belt that will help all students understand! 

I also started a Pinterest Board for Dyslexia in Little Learners! There is so much that really is just good teaching! Follow Simply Kinder's board Dyslexia for little learners! on Pinterest.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Back To School with Freebielicious

Reality is that back to school is just around the corner!

No seriously...

Totally joking of course!  But there is something about the back to school aisles that just make me smile.  Am I alone here?

OK. I am not as happy as this guy for sure but there is definitely something about new crayons and clean notebooks that get teachers excited!  

But there seriously is so much to do!  Classroom setup, planning the year, meet the teacher, making copies, and oh yeah... enjoy the last few weeks of 'your time off.'

And so me and my girls at Freebielicious have teamed up with Educents with some instant downloads for you! Loaded with great products for back to school including book studies, craftivities, classroom prep, and content materials for back to school!  With 23 instant downloads... you have to check it out!  

My product included will surely be loved by your students!  It's not so much back to school but Fall in theme.  It's my Welcome Autumn Learning Journal.  I just love these books because you assemble them, add nonfiction books, and you are ready to go!  And each activity is interactive so the kids are not just coloring.. the tree below the kids finger paint on leaves!

For a limited time it is $29.99 from Educents which is 73% off!  Twenty-three products for your kinder and first grade classrooms and over 1200 pages of materials from some of your favorite teachers!  Classroom decor, printables, centers, book units, craftivities, and so much more, it's a bundle you are sure to LOVE!

Take a moment to take a peek at some of the other teachers featured in this bundle - what that have going on for back to school and what they are featuring in this deal too!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Las Vegas Giveaways!

We are all setup in Las Vegas for SDE's national conferences 2014!  Are you here?  Be sure to stop so we can meet you, tell you all about our websites and Freebielicious, get a sweet treat, take a fun photo, and win some prizes!

I will be at the booth off and on all week (I am Thing 1 above) but Tuesday afternoon is my official day to work the booth and that's when I will have an extra special treat for those here!    Pick a Laffy Taffy from me & win big!  

You of course get to keep and eat the Laffy Taffy BUT there are prizes on some!  

I will have ONE AMAZING JUMP DRIVE with 29 of the Freebielicious sellers best sellers on them.    Seriously... over $200 worth of products from top TpT Sellers!!!!!  (You have to be at the conference and pick the winning candy from me Tuesday afternoon for this one!)

$50 in Edubucks for one lucky person in Vegas, and $50 in Edubucks for one lucky person at home! How cool is that?!  (PS - a birdie told me they have a HUGE amount at their booth too so stop by there!!)

And this super cool wine sipper from Mrs. Hoffer's Spot... it is Vegas ya'all!

And I am giving away 10 of my Alphabet Bundles (delivered via email)!  

I only have 146 Laffy Taffies to pick from so when they are gone they are gone!  (Yes.. we ate a few in the car!  LOL - don't judge!)

Not in Vegas?  No worries!  You can win at home!  Enter below:  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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