Friday, June 20, 2014

Sharing What Works: News ELA

I was reading through other bloggers posts about four or five months ago. There were a few teachers that were excited about this website that offered opportunities for kids to read about current events that interested them and then answer comprehension questions about what they read. I was sold when I heard it helped students with comprehension because that is a constant battle in my classroom. Also, it incorporated technology that my students loved using whether it was an iPad or a computer. Oh yeah, and it's common core aligned, can't beat that!

I knew from the beginning of the school year I wanted an independent activity for my higher functioning students and some of my lower students that could work a mouse. I loved the idea of an audio/listening area where students could listen to stories and then answer questions but, my elementary listening center wasn't what I felt a 7th or 8th grade student should be doing especially when the books I had on tape and CD from previous years of teaching were books like "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie". So, I was introduced to NewsELA. It is a website that takes current events and write articles or adapts them to be read by students of varying reading abilities. The lowest it goes is 3rd grade (not sure if they would take a suggestion and attempt to lower them even more). That's why I said it was good for my higher functioning students. It does go as high as 12th grade reading levels so for teachers of students in that reading ability it can be super useful.

One thing that is nice about it is you can pick articles based off your student's interests whether it is sports, money, the environment, health, the arts, animals, etc. I also got really technology crazy when I figured out how to take the articles and have it so it read them out loud to the students. I added both a button on the iPad for the students and a desktop icon to use it and on the computer. I set up their account and went from there.

Yes, it did take time to show them how to sign on and how to work the reading and the quizzes. However, I have to say that once they got it, it did not take long to get them using it everyday, independently, and it was keeping track of what they read, and their scores on the comprehension quizzes. Maybe if more teachers like the idea of this website we can contact them and ask for a lower reading level for some of our other students and let them be included on it as well. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Taking a breather...

I have to apologize to both my readers and myself. I made a promise to myself that when I started this blog that I wasn't going to be one of those people I hated that never blogged. They took up that wasted space of a name and a URL to not blog. It drives me nuts because I only subscribe to blogs that I really feel are worth my time reading because they are teachers that I can get advice, ideas, and admire. So I am apologizing because I have not posted since the last day of school, and they say teachers have more time to do things when they are off for the summer!

So here is my excuse and what I have been doing...

I have been taking some time since the end of my first year teaching in special education to reflect. I have taught for 5 years prior to this year but, it was a year of many firsts because I had taught in the elementary grades. I first wanted to take a weekend and a little more to just relax, enjoy my family, and get a little caught up on life. I dive in wholeheartedly to my work and sometimes my homelife suffers because of it. I'm sure I'm not the only one that can relate to that thought.

I tried to think about things that have worked well, things that I'd like to do differently, and new things that I want to try for the first time now that I have some experience in my classroom and in my district. 

I plan on coming up with a list and trying to tackle much of it this summer to prepare for my next school year. I know that my major struggle right now is that I do not have a set curriculum for secondary students in my district. In the elementary grades the gap of academic abilities is not as wide so those teachers can adapt the regular education curriculum with more ease. Still not fun but, more doable. I have assisted my district by attending curriculum meetings with supervisors but, there hasn't been a solid decision made yet. Waiting on this to happen may take forever.. 

So here I am taking a breather but, in the back of my head freaking a little because I don't feel any more prepared for this year than last year. I have had the opportunity to gain information and ideas from all the wonderful bloggers out there and from some amazing TPT products. 

I'd really like to have an academic curriculum and a social skills curriculum that can guide my teaching. Any special education teachers reading my blog have any thoughts or suggestions on things that work for you?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

End of Year... Hellooooo Summer!

So, as normal, the end of the year is always crazy lots of extra events, field trips, and exciting things happening. I don't know why as teachers and school districts we do this to ourselves because as the year gets closer to the end we think it is great to do these fun things, but they are so much work!

I love every minute of the end of the year time. Not because school will be over soon but, because I like to think back to how my students were when they first came to me and where they are now. How at the beginning of the year I didn't understand that this student had escape behaviors (that I know now) or this one has a fear of watching people chew gum (not lying, true story!). It is amazing to think back every year to the people you knew at the beginning and who they are now. 

I'm not trying to get all mushy or anything but, as my first year as a special education teacher I understand why those who CAN do, TEACH. I always hated that line and I think my newer phrasing is much better. Our jobs are hard and our students are no piece of cake either. There are many long days in that road of a school year that we embark upon. We sometimes have no idea where we are going but, in the end we arrive at the destination that we needed to be at where our students are better people then when we first met them. This might be a little late because of teacher appreciation week but, I want to thank and commend all teachers that have stuck it out this school year when it might have been tough to do so. 

Happy Summer Everyone! Rest up and before you know it, it will be time to start another year all over again! 

Monday, June 2, 2014

June Currently... Seriously Summertime?!?!

Linking up for the Currently of the month with Oh Boy Fourth Grade! 

Listening-- Okay, I love trashy TV. Anything that is mindless, stupid, pure drama filled, is usually a reality TV show, and makes me laugh I love. My husband hates it because he is a CNN, History channel kind of guy. Obviously we don't share the TV very well. I LOVE RHONYC... I actually like most of the Real Housewives shows but for some reason NYC is my favorite. Maybe because they are close to where I live so I feel like I'm there, but I'm not because I'm not rich like them. They make me laugh with their cattiness and their fancy things but, it really is great entertainment.

Loving-- 2 more days of school for me! I swear I love what I do sooooo much, but I need a break, I need to spend time with my daughter this summer, enjoy that I'm a teacher for once and not work all summer. I busted my butt this year and had such a great year that I know I deserve this. I am a workaholic though so you know that I'm still....

Thinking-- about next year and what I can do to make it better. (Did you like how I made them work right with one another?!?! Maybe you didn't get it and I'm the weirdo that thought it was cool. That happens a lot but, oh well.)  I want to fix some things, make better use of the time in the classroom, train my paraprofessionals better, get a hold of a good curriculum. Lots of stuff but, honestly, I will be thinking about it all summer and it will stress me out that I won't know my schedule til a week or two before school starts. I'll still bust my butt coming up with cool ideas or taking them from another awesome teacher that blogs too...

Wanting- I have had ups and downs this year with my success to be healthy and get back to my pre-baby weight. Problem is... I don't have a baby anymore and it's not really an excuse. She will be 3 in September... A friend of mine started talking about this 21 day Fix and I might just do it with her once I read more into it..

Needing- I know I will never do this because it is not in my nature but, relaxing and doing absolutely nothing a few days this summer would be nice..

Summer Bucket List- I'm SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO excited! For my 30th birthday and my mom's 60th birthday my husband got us tickets to see Billy Joel in concert! I have loved him since I was little and my dad would constantly play him in our house and I would twirl around the room singing the songs. I'm a lover of music and I get it from my dad. He loved everything (when I was in middle school he listened to N'Sync with me) and I do too. So in honor of my dad (it's been 4 years since he passed away) I had to add going to see Billy Joel in concert to my bucket list.