Friday, April 27, 2012

How My Plant Unit Went

Hi everyone! Its been a while since I posted! I've done two units that I haven't written about at all... Since I'm graduating a week from today (!!!) I've been spending all of my time trying to get everything tied up and ready. Anyways I'll share my plant unit today, and then later I'll write about my fun egg unit! And next week you should be getting the chance to hear about our CHICKS! If they hurry up and hatch before we have to send them back to the farm, that is.

Okay. Plant unit. Lets see here.

The first day, we just concentrated on learning about what is a plant and what is not a plant. This is actually something the kids struggle with. They think rocks are plants, and school buses are alive because they move, and plants are not alive because they're not moving. We talked about what constitutes a plant, and the kids then got into partners and sorted pictures of plants vs. nonplants. 

We also read the book From Seed To Plant, by Gail Gibbons. (Who, by the way, has written a nonfiction book on just about every topic, and her books are amazing! Even teachers will learn a ton from these books, but they're written in a way that is friendly and easy for kids to understand.) We made a KWL chart, one of my favorite activities to do with kids when reading nonfiction books. Check out this KWL chart!
(Note that Jay insisted that I add that vampires hate sun, as a footnote to the part about sun helping plants make food. Vampires are one of his newest topics of interest!)

The next day, we learned about the things plants need to survive... air, water, soil, and sun. To drive this concept home, we planted our own plants... which, by the way, are still not growing. I'm actually going to try to grow some quickly at home using the plastic bag method, and then replant them in the kids' pots before they get to school one day. Shhhh... Don't tell them! Anyway, the kids had to put dirt into the pots, add seeds, water them, and figure out the best place in the room to put them. I didn't take pics because right now they're just pots of dirt.

We also read the book Growing Vegetable Soup, by Lois Ehlert. Then, as a group, we made up our own recipe for vegetable soup! The kids did pretty good at coming up with a realistic recipe. I had them think of all the steps. Here's what they came up with.

The third day, we learned about the parts of the plants. This was a little nerve wracking to me, because this was the day that I had to videotape a lesson for my professor to watch. I wish I could show you the video! It was pretty funny! Anyway we talked about the parts of plants and their jobs, and then they took turns shining a flashlight at specific parts of some large posters of plants. They were the most stumped by the fact that carrots actually are the roots of the plant, and that the stems of trees are actually their trunks. Finally, we made pictures of flowers on our lapbooks, added string for roots, and labeled the parts. I don't have a pic of that either. I actually have an example lapbook that I made, but my professor took it. I'll show you next week when I get it back!

We also write an acrostic poem, which I typed up and added to their lapbooks. Here's their poem:
Pine trees are a type of plant.
Leaves on trees are pretty.
Ants on some plants sting.
Needles on cactuses poke.
Taste a vegetable that grows on a plant.
Sunshine help plants grow.

The fourth day, we learned about the plant growth cycle. The kids went through learning centers. In one center, they made a growth cycle wheel for their lapbooks. In the next center, they did a puzzle that illustrated the growth cycle. In the third center, they put the growth cycle in the correct order in a file folder game. This was the kids' first time doing learning centers, so they were sort of baffled by the concept at first, but they really liked doing it!

We also read the book, The Tiny Seed, by Eric Carle.  I told them that it was a circular story, and they had to figure out why. We did a sequencing activity, on a story board I made that looked like this:
When it was finished, they managed to figure out why the book was a circular story! The circular thing also went nicely with the growth cycle lesson we did that day.

The fifth day was our review day! We played an awesome team game. I made a giant game board that I posted up on the board. Each space had a piece of Velcro on it, and the pawns had Velcro on them too, so we wouldn't have to try to deal with gathering around a table. I also brought my homemade giant dice for the students to role. The game board looked like this.

The students were in teams of three. If they landed on a pink space, I handed them a picture of an item and they had to decide if it was a plant or not a plant. If they landed on purple, they had to name something plants need. If they landed on green, they had to point to a specific part on a poster of a plant. Landing on blue meant telling me the next stage of the growth cycle, using a poster. Landing on red meant a Bonus question, worth two points instead of one, that had a multiple choice question that was a little trickier. A silver space meant they could choose any color. The kids really liked playing... they had big smiles on their faces! 

So that was my plant unit. They all did really well on the post test. Rosella actually raised her score from a 65 on the pretest to a 95 on the post test! I was so proud of her! 

In other news, I have exactly four more days of student teaching. Monday and Tuesday I will spend the mornings observing in some of the other special ed classes. On Wednesday I'm planning on bringing treats and small gifts to say goodbye. (I got them each a Skippyjon book, since they all still talk about Skippyjon all the time and always check out Skippyjon books from the school library!) On Thursday, I'm going with the fifth graders on a field trip to the zoo. Hopefully Starling won't flip out this time. And on Friday, I graduate. I cannot  believe it! Can you? Its gone so fast!

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Friday, April 20, 2012

What Do You Say In This Situation?

I'd love some people's opinions on what to do in a situation like this! Listen up!
My class is very culturally diverse. Of the ten kid (including the two who mainstream) Kite, Weaver, and Rosella are Hispanic. Kite and Weaver have very light complexions, and Rosella has a much darker complexion. Triller's family is from India. Oriole is African American. Martin is Greek. Finch, Jay, Starling  and Towhee are all Caucasian, with various European backgrounds such as Polish and Irish. Mrs. Eagle is Asian. One of the aides is Hispanic. So you see, our classroom has all different colors of skin, hair, and eyes, and several different languages being mixed in with English.

Yesterday during math, Triller ralphed on the floor. He was sent home sick right after that, of course! The other kids were alarmed and surprised, but they got settled back into what they had been doing after the custodian cleaned up the mess.

Today at snack time, Kite was sharing some of her crackers with Towhee. I reminded them that they are not supposed to share food. "We don't want to share germs," I said.

Martin called me over to his desk. "No sharing germs at school, right?" he said. When I confirmed this, he added, "Triller was sharing germs at school. Triller was holding hands. Thats sharing germs."

I assumed Martin was remembering the moment when Triller spilled his guts in front of everyone. I told him, "Its okay. We all washed our hands afterwards, and Triller is at home getting better."

"I have no germs," said Martin.

"We all have germs all the time. But you don't have any germs that are making you sick right now," I explained.

Martin shook her head. "You and me have no germs. I could touch your hand. White hands don't have germs. Only brown hands have germs."

As I realized what he was saying, I groaned inwardly. Who would have thought my sweet little Martin would be kind of racist?

I tried to explain to Martin that we all have the same germs, no matter what color our skin is. "Germs are too small to see. You can't see germs by looking at someone's skin. Our skin can look different, but our germs are all the same."

Martin looked confused. "Does Triller have germs?"

"Triller has the same germs as the rest of us."

Martin pointed at Rosella. "How about that? Does it have germs?"

(I wasn't sure if Martin was calling Rosella "it" because, since she has brown skin, he didn't consider her a person, or because Martin doesn't use many pronouns. He often refers to people as "somebody," even if he knows their name. For instance, if someone is walking around during calendar, he'll complain, "Somebody is not sitting!" If you ask him what he did over the weekend, he might say, "I went to somebody's house," or "I rode bikes with somebody." So "that" and "it" could have been just like "somebody" to him.)

"Rosella has the same germs as the rest of us. It doesn't matter what color your skin is. We all have the same kinds of germs."

Martin stood up. "Noooooo! I don't have germs!"

"We all have germs. I do. Mrs. Eagle does. Jay does. Towhee does. Kite does. Oriole does. We all do."

"Noooooo! I don't have germs! Martin doesn't have germs!" howled Martin.

At that point, I sort of backed out of the conversation. It didn't seem likely that I'd be able to rationalize with Martin. Plus, it was time for Language Arts.

I wonder if I should address this somehow in class, and how I could do it. I have never seen any sort of intolerance of any kind among the kids, before this. They are all buddies. They all hold hands, play with each other, and consider each other friends. They understand that some kids speak different languages, and they think that is very cool. 

What would you do in a situation like this?

On a lighter note... Weaver, one of the kids who mainstreams during the day and is rarely in the classroom, is a very serious boy. Part of this could be attributed to his having Asperger's Syndrome. He is a very sweet kid, but just not very silly or playful the way some of the others are.
Today Towhee and some of the others were commenting to Weaver that he never smiles. I think it came up when someone in the class did someone silly, and the others were all cracking up over it, but Weaver was just standing there with a perfectly straight face. 
"Not everyone smiles all the time. But I'm sure Weaver smiles when something makes him happy," I pointed out. "Right, Weaver?"
He looked at me and replied, in a deadpan voice, "Only on weekends." 

Have a nice weekend everyone! I hope to hear from you! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Assemblies Can Also Really Kill You

I know I mentioned before that Starling is terrified of field trips. Well, she is also terrified of assemblies! The noise and crowds really freak her out. It is nearly impossible to get her to set foot into the multipurpose room for an assembly! 
Today Mrs. Eagle and I learned that there was going to be a Multicultural Arts assembly in the afternoon. We heard that it would be some traditional Mexican dancers. We decided to try our hardest to get Starling to go to the assembly. We started out by talking to each other about how much fun it would be, and how we would love to hear the music at the assembly. Then Mrs. Eagle found a video online, and we all watched a preview of what we thought the assembly would be like. The video Mrs. Eagle found had dancers like this

So we talked about the pretty colors of the women's dresses, and the beautiful dancing. Starling loves bright colors, music, and dancing, so she started to get excited and say she wanted to go! 
At lunch time, another teacher suggested to us that someone take Starling to the multipurpose room before the assembly, so she could walk into the empty room, possibly meet the dancers and see them setting up, and get used to it before all of the other kids came flooding in. So this afternoon, right before the assembly, Mrs. Eagle asked Starling to take a walk with her.
But Starling was on to us! She cried and screamed and ran around the room like a chicken with her head cut off! Mrs. Eagle told her that all she had to do was walk down the hall and peek into the multipurpose room. But by the time Mrs. Eagle got Starling to budge, the multipurpose room was already filled with half the kids in the school. 
Still, for the bribe of a sticker, Starling took a step inside and hovered near the door. She became the greeter, saying hello to every single person who entered the room and giving them compliments. "I like your shirt! I like your glasses! I like your hair!" Starling is a very friendly, appreciative kid! She loves to see different colored clothes, glasses or nail polish, and different hair styles, on people. 
The rest of us got into the multipurpose room and got settled in. The principal came out and announced that the show was about to start. 
Suddenly and without warning, someone started drumming! The drum was super loud. The kind of drumming that you can feel in your heart and your belly. I like it, but some of the kids quickly covered their ears. I could see Starling covering her ears, too. 
And then these guys came out. 
(Well, not these exact guys, but some dancers dressed just like them! I didn't exactly have time to take pics.)

I thought, "Oh, Starling must be peeing in her pants right about now!" Sure enough, Starling ran screaming out of the room, and all the way back to our classroom.

You can't really blame the kid! I know the idea was to sort of startle and overwhelm everyone, to get all of their attention. The dancing and drumming was amazing. The kids who stayed at the assembly were wide-eyed and engaged. But for a small child, or a child or adult with special needs, you can see how these dancers suddenly appearing at the front of the room could be frightening! Starling had no idea what to expect. She certainly wasn't expecting dancers with giant headdresses and costumes! Combined with the very loud drumming, she probably went into a blind panic! I think it would be nice if teachers could get information on exactly what will be seen at a performance, so they could prepare the students who particularly need preparation. We could have shown Starling the pictures of the Aztec dancers in their costumes, and explained what they were, instead of showing her the Mexican dancers. (The Mexican dancers were part of the show, but they came later.)

Anyways, while Starling was back in the classroom sorting colored beads with Mrs. Eagle, the others were enjoying the show! Triller kept eating crumbs and dirt off the floor, but that's a whole 'nother issue. At least, when he wasn't sticking weird things in his mouth, he was  enjoying the show too! Everything went smoothly, until one of the dancers announced that some students would be invited to come up and dance with them. He started by saying everyone whose birthday was in April could come up.

Jay is the only student with a birthday in April. Jay is also a little dude with mild autism, sensitive ears, and a lot of anxiety. The other kids were yelling at Jay, things like, "Get up there!" and Jay just turned as white as a ghost! I hurried over and squatted down by him, to ask him if he wanted to go up and dance. Jay shook his head quickly. I assured him that he didn't have to if he didn't want to, and he relaxed a little. But the other kids kept grabbing at Jay, trying to get him to go up.

Behind us, a student from one of the regular ed classes was getting similar pressure from his classmates. That student ended up getting sort of pulled and dragged up front by his buddies. I think that freaked Jay out even more... he thought he might be dragged up there against his will! As the dancing started, he came and told me he was scared. I said he could sit on the chair by me for a while. However, as he sat there, Jay started saying he didn't feel well. He started rocking back and forth, covering his face, and saying he felt dizzy!

I took him to one of our classroom aides and she said she'd bring Jay to the nurse. 

The assembly ended shortly after that, and the other aide and I herded the remaining six kids back to the classroom. Jay was waiting for us there... the nurse's thermometer was apparently broken, so she hadn't been able to take his temp or anything. I really think it was just anxiety... but since Jay sometimes has seizures, we have to be kind of careful about that kind of thing. Poor Jay was a little on edge for the rest of the day, and ended up visiting the nurse once more before the day was over. Unfortunately her thermometer was still broken. 

The lesson learned? Assemblies are fun for some kids, but stressful for other kids, and even terrifying for a few kids! And for teachers, assemblies are fun, stressful, and terrifying! 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Funny Kid Conversations

I know I've probably told you about Martin, who is 10 year old, has mild autism, and is always says surprising things. I enjoy having Martin as a student because he always comes into the class with a smile on his face, saying, "Hi Miss Read!" Lately Martin and Jay are both really into Spiderman cartoons. Martin has also been very interested in New York, and the Statue Of Liberty, lately. He walks around with his arm in the air, saying, "I'm New York! Statue!" He's also been mentioning that his family plans to visit New York this summer. One thing about Martin is that, although he can definitely talk, he often chooses to use as few words as possible. For instance, when he wanted to know if he could work on the mini-book the other kids had made while he was at OT, he walked up to Mrs. Eagle and simply said, "Mini book?" When asking for a spoon, he might just walk up to you and pantomime using a spoon. If you can get him to talk for a few minutes, though, the conversation is always interesting! Here's one recent conversation I had with Martin.

Martin: "I'm going to New York on July 13."

Me: "I know! That's exciting! Who are you going with? Your mom and dad?"

Martin: "Yes."

Me: "Wow! Are you going to see the Statue of Liberty?"

Martin: "Yes!"

Me: "Cool! Do you get to go there in an airplane?"

Martin: "No."

Me: "No? How will you get there?"

Martin: "On a web."

Me: "On a web?"

Martin: "Yes."

Me: "You mean like Spiderman?"

Martin: "Yes.:

Me: "And your mom and dad are going on a web too?"

Martin: "Yes."

Me: "Oh! Well, that is an interesting way to travel."

LOL! I'm really hoping his mom comes to the parent conferences in a few weeks, because I want to ask her if they're really going! He has been saying a specific date and everything, so its possible they really are going to New York. I wonder if Martin will be disappointed if he doesn't get to swing there on a web!
Triller has been in a really foul mood lately, yelling at everyone, refusing to listen to teachers, spitting on the bus, and accusing other kids of hitting him or saying "bad words" even when they are way on the other side of the classroom. Since he sometimes gets grouchy when he's getting sick, we think he may be coming down with something... or, since he's almost eleven, it could be adolescence kicking in! 
Today, while Mrs. Eagle was helping Triller get ready to go home, I overheard this conversation.

Mrs. Eagle: "Triller, this art project won't fit in your backpack. Do you want to carry it?"

Triller: "What? No! Are you crazy?

Mrs; Eagle: "No. Are you?"

Triller; "Yes!"

Mrs. Eagle: "Well, that explains everything!" 

These kids keep me laughing all day long! I have only three weeks left. I can honestly say, I've enjoyed every day of this placement so far! 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Field Trips Can Really Kill You!

       Hi everyone! Today all of the fifth graders at Tree Elementary got to go on a field trip to the science museum. This included five of the eight kids in my class... Starling, Rosella, Triller, Kite, and Towhee. Mrs. Eagle and I went along with them, as did one of the aides. 
       The plan was for the more high functioning kids (Towhee and Rosella, basically) to join in with the regular education fifth graders, with the aide accompanying them. (At Tree Elementary, wherever the special ed kids go, a special ed aide has to go with them. The regular ed teachers aren't hot on taking responsibility for the special ed kids, even when they're socially high functioning and independent, like Towhee and Kite are!) Meanwhile, Mrs. Eagle and I would take the other three kids separately. We were also going to take Heron, a fifth grader from one of the other special ed classes. He was the only fifth grader in his class, so it was easier to just include him with us than send a whole extra staff member with him!
       Our little group was supposed to be Mrs. Eagle, me, Rosella, Starling, Triller, and Heron. Sounds like a good plan, right?
        We had lunch immediately when we got to the museum, even though it was only 10:45. Lunch went smoothly enough. After lunch, we herded our four kids over to the bathrooms. This took a while, but went well enough. Then we headed up the stairs, in pursuit of the first exhibit. 
         Halfway up the stairs, Starling flipped out! She started screaming, covering her ears, and sat down on the floor. The science museum we were at is very large, and a lot of the exhibits include noisy machines, and it just really overwhelmed her. I went the rest of the way up the stairs to wait with the other three, while Mrs. Eagle tried to coax Starling out. It was to no avail. Starling just crawled underneath the stairs and refused to come out. So Mrs. Eagle told me to go ahead with the other three.
        Now I was all alone, except for three kids... two of whom I already know can be very stubborn and unpredictable, and one of whom I had only known for an hour! (I know three kids doesn't sound like much, but keep in mind that these three function on the level of preschoolers, complete with tantrums, running off, bathroom accidents, etc!)
        First we went to the storm exhibit. The kids enjoyed this a lot. As for me, I spent the whole time with my head on a swivel, counting them! I managed to keep them all in my sight. Then Heron announced that he had to go to the bathroom! 
       I told the kids we'd head over to the bathroom, but Rosella and Triller didn't want to budge from the electricity ball they were playing with. Meanwhile, Heron was hopping around and moaning! I ended up just grabbing Rosella and Triller by the wrists, telling Heron to follow me, and marching them all through two other exhibits and over to the bathrooms.
       We usually use the family bathrooms, so we don't have to send the boys into the public restroom on their own. So Heron went into the family bathroom, while the rest of us waited. That's when Rosella decided to undo the rope on a roped off flight of stairs, and run up! She sat down on one of the steps and wouldn't budge. Rosella likes to test, and she seemed to know there wasn't really much I could do right then. Finally, I ordered Triller to stay right were he was, went up the stairs, scooped up Rosella and sort of carried her down the stairs. Once down, I let Rosella know that she could still lose minutes of free time (their incentive for good behavior) even at the museum. She protested, "No minutes!" I told her, "Then keep yourself safe. That means, stay with me. If you don't keep yourself safe, I'll have to take minutes!" 
         Heron finally came out of the bathroom, where he must have been doing a "number two" since he was in there so long! The transportation room was right across the hall, and Heron really wanted to go in, so there we went. 
         The train room actually captured their attention for quite a long time! There were two giant model train displays, and Heron and Triller just stood there staring at them, entranced. Rosella enjoyed clambering around on the trolley car and train engine. They stayed in there for at least forty-five minutes! 
          By then, it was almost time to meet our group downstairs. So I suggested we go find one more exhibit to see before we left. We started to walk out of the transportation room. Suddenly Triller screamed and laid down on the ground, covering his ears, saying, "I'm scared!" He wouldn't tell me what he was afraid of. I asked him to point at what he was afraid of, and he pointed in the direction we had just come from, so that didn't make much sense. Rosella and Heron had laid down on the ground in an act of solidarity with Triller, people were staring at us, and I was starting to get exhausted! Finally I just scooped up Triller and carried him to "safety" a few feet away.
        We did manage to see one more exhibit, before it was time to go meet the rest of our group. I had to threaten both Triller and Rosella with minutes to get them to leave. Apparently they were having the time of their life!
         We found our way back across the museum and to the group meeting room, where we thankfully met up with Mrs. Eagle and Starling. They had spent the entire time in the egg and chick exhibit, the only room Starling would agree to go in. Mrs. Eagle said, "I was at the museum, but I was never really in the museum!" I assured her that I hadn't gotten to see much of the museum either. 
          I spent the bus ride home sitting next to a very talkative Starling (who is very entertaining, I must say... I love that kid...) and when we got back to school, all the kid got free time because Mrs. Eagle, the aide and I were too exhausted to do anything else. In fact, I am very exhausted as we speak... I'll probably fall asleep in a few minute!
         So, I learned something today. Even though I think my kid are delightful at school, when you try to take them out in the world they can be a real nightmare! 
        Thanks for reading, everyone. I'll write more soon. 


Friday, April 6, 2012

My Easter Themed Week

Hi everyone! I'm back to report on my Easter-themed week! I already wrote about my Bunny Writing Prompt a few days ago. And now for the rest of the week!

On Monday, for Language Arts, I read the book Quiet Bunny, by Lisa McLure. We read Quiet Bunny's Many Colors during Spring week, so the kids remembered the character. This time, I created stick puppets for most of the characters in the book. Each kid had a puppet to be in charge of. When their character came up in the book, the kid had to make the correct animal noise. At the end, when all the animals make their noises together, all of the kids had to join in with their animal noises!

On Tuesday, we read The Easter Cub, by Justine Korman Fontes. We played the 5 W's game. All I did was take a poster board and divide it into 5 categories... who, what, when, where and why. I wrote questions about the story on the sticky side of Post-it Notes, and then stuck them to the poster board in the right categories. The kids couldn't see the questions. They had to pick a category, and I'd read them a question from that category. Basically, its just a more novel way to do comprehension questions on a book. 

That same day, we did the Bunny Glyph I made last week. The kids who have more difficulties had to get very close, step-by-step assistance from teachers or aides, but all in all it worked out as a great following directions activity! It was a good exercise for the kids because they had to listen, make a connection between the choices I gave and which one applied to them, follow the direction that went with that choice, and then stop and wait for the next direction. I actually took pictures of the completed glyphs so you can see how they turned out! Starling, of course, got a little out of control with hers! If you want the code to decipher their pictures, here it is:

I colored this bunny in a special way, so you can learn all about me.

If his EARS are BROWN, I am 9 years old.
If his EARS are GRAY, I am 10 years old.
If his EARS are WHITE, I am 11 years old.

His EYES are the same color as MY EYES!


His FACE is the color of my HAIR.

If his BOWTIE is BLUE, I like READING best.
If his BOWTIE is RED, I like MATH best.
If his BOWTIE is PURPLE, I like SCIENCE best.

If his BELLY is WHITE, I’m the only child.

If his FEET are YELLOW, I like GYM CLASS best.
If his FEET are GRAY, I like MUSIC CLASS best.
If his FEET are BROWN, I like ART CLASS best.

If the REST OF HIS FUR is BROWN, I like playing outside.
If the REST OF HIS FUR is YELLOW, I like video games.


Now you know all about me!

On Wednesday, we read a very funny book called Here Comes the Big, Mean Dust Bunny, by Jan Thomas. The story is about some dust bunnies who love to rhyme, all the time. So we brainstormed a whole bunch of rhyming words! 

That day we also played an Easter memory game. A lot of people may have heard this idea. I bought lots of Easter erasers and Fun Foam sticker shapes from Dollar Tree. I put an eraser or sticker in each egg, making sure that I put two of each item in both sets of the game. The kids played it just like regular Memory, but instead of turning over cards, they had to open plastic eggs and see what was inside. Each set had about 26 eggs. The more higher-functioning group (Kite, Towhee, Martin and Oriole) loved this game, did very well with it, and played it twice in a row. Meanwhile, the lower group (Rosella, Starling, Triller, and to some extent Jay) played one game for the whole time, with two adults assisting them, and never got a single match. By the end, we were really coaching them, saying things like, "Remember, the BUTTERFLY is in the DARK BLUE EGG! If you get another BUTTERFLY, choose the DARK BLUE EGG!" And at some point I just started rolling the correct egg towards kids and hoping they picked it up. I wanted everyone to get at least one match before we went home! The lesson I learned? Next time, give the first group the large set of eggs, and make a very small set with about twelve eggs. for the Rosella-Starling-Triller-and-kind-of-Jay group. 

On Thursday, we read the book The Night Before Easter, by Natasha Wing. For this one I used an idea given to me by someone from this blog (I cannot find the comment anywhere right now, but I remember it well.) I told the kids that there were three ways to read a book. (The commenter actually told me about four, but the kids don't really write during Language Arts... thats more of a Unit thing.) First we did a picture walk through the book. (Even though I hate the phrase "picture walk." I have no idea why but it gives me the heeby jeebies! It may be the Asperger's coming out in me... when I first heard the word "picture walk" I imagined a teacher taking a group of children on a cool walk through lots of giant pictures. When I found out it just meant looking at the pictures of the books, I felt sort of nauseous. Ever since then, I've felt sort of sick whenever anyone said "picture walk." I'd rather say, "Look at the pictures." But I digress...)
 The second way to read the book is just the normal way, for me to read it to them. And finally, the third way, was for them to retell the story to me. Whenever we retell a story, it is really just Kite who retells the whole thing. For the other kids it seems nearly impossible! So I've been trying to get them to practice it often. 
Today we also painted eggs. The kids had been asking to paint eggs, but Mrs. Eagle thought it would be difficult to bring hard boiled eggs into the classroom and then have them transport them home. Three quarters of them would probably forget to take the eggs out of their backpacks for several weeks, and they'd start to rot in there! So I found some Styrofoam eggs at Hobby Lobby, and I brought them in with some paint brushes and neon poster paints. I stabbed each egg with a toothpick and then stabbed the other end of the toothpick into the bottom of a small paper cup, to make a little egg stand. This way the kids could paint all of the sides of the eggs, plus the top and bottom, without trying to turn them around in their hands or having them roll all over their desks. The eggs turned out rather lovely, if I do say so myself!

After that, the kids got to do an egg hunt, which Mrs. Eagle plans every year. They do it in a kind of unusual way... One student goes into the hallway, while another student hides five eggs. Then, when the hallway student returns, he hunts for the eggs while the others give them hot-or-cold hints. Its kind of a problem solving and team building exercise, as well as a fun party game! 

So that ends my Easter week. I had a blast planning and carrying out this week's unit! Next week is my plant unit, and then we start eggs and chicks. 

In an interesting side note... Yesterday I logged onto Blogger and saw that I had gotten 75 views on my Monkey In My Chair post! I was kind of excited, thinking so many people had been interested in the organization. But when I checked my stats, I saw that 65 of those views had come over from a large anti-Obama website! (In case some people reading are not bloggers,this wouldn'tmean that people did a Google search for something and came up with my blog. There would have had to be a link to my blog somewhere on the anti-Obama site, so viewers could come straight here from there.)  I cannot figure out why... I went to the site to see if somehow my post had ended up in some sort of news feed. I couldn't see it anywhere. So, where did all of these anti-Obama readers come from? I guess I'll never know. 

I hope you all have a nice weekend, and a nice Easter if you celebrate it! Thanks for reading! 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Monkey In My Chair

I've been blogging, and reading blogs, for much longer than I've had this particular blog! There is one blogger that I have followed for about five years now. She used to be known as "Baggage," and she had a blog called "Baggage And Bug." Baggage was a single mother who had adopted her daughter from the foster care system. As the blog progressed, Baggage also began to foster parent other children. At one point she had five foster children, plus her daughter, all at once. Two of the children Baggage was foster parenting were known as "Bubba" and "Snowbaby" in the blog. They were toddlers who had been severely neglected, abused, and exposed to many dangerous situations. Baggage gave them the kind of loving, motherly care that they had never known, and the children began to flourish. At the time, the social services departments' goal was to reunite Bubba and Snowbaby with their mother. Baggage went through the agonizing feelings of wanting to keep the children because she loved them and didn't want to lose them, also wanting to keep them because she was afraid if they went back to their mother they might be exposed to abuse and neglect again, but also feeling bad for wanting to keep the children because she knew what a big deal it is to end a mother's relationship with her children. Thankfully, after Baggage had foster parented the children for several years, their mother's rights were terminated. In 2010, Baggage adopted them! 

However, the kids' rough road didn't stop there. Last year, Baggage (now known by her real name, Michelle) found out that Snowbaby (now known as Tori) had neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on the body's nerves. It turned out that tumors had already started to grow on little Tori's nerves. She had a tumor in each eye, and one in her brain. Tori, who is now six years old, had to have brain surgery this past February to remove the brain tumor. And now, she is undergoing chemotherapy to get rid of the tumors in her eyes. Unfortunately the chemo has been horribly rough and painful for this brave little girl. 

The reason I wanted to share this story with you was partly because Tori could use all the fans she can get... so if you want to visit her blog, Team Tori, that would be awesome. Tori knows that her mother is keeping a blog for her, and Michelle reads all of the comments to her. They really cheer her up, especially now that she is unable to go to school. So, if you have a minute, go check it out! 

The other reason is that I wanted to share a resource with you. Since Tori is missing a lot of school (she'll be missing months of it, since it is not safe for her to be exposed to germs every day during chemo and since she's in too much pain most of the time anyway) there is a stuffed monkey sitting in her chair and guarding her desk. His name is Bananas. He works for a program called Monkey In My Chair. 

A lot of times, when a child is seriously ill and has to miss a lot of school, he gets a lot of attention from classmates in the beginning... but as time goes on, they get used to him being gone, and start to forget about him  The child can feel isolated and lonely, and when he does eventually go back to school, he may feel like he no longer belongs there.

Monkey In My Chair was started so that children with cancer would still feel like they were a part of their classrooms. The monkey sitting in the child's chair is a very visible, and lighthearted, way to keep the child in the minds of her classmates. He also comes with a book that the teacher can read to the students to help them understand what the child with cancer is going through. And, the program includes an online, secured message system where teachers and students can send messages and documents (like "we miss you" cards and, well, homework) to the absent child. Through all of these ways, the child is able to stay connected to his classroom and still feel like he's part of the community. 

When I read about this program on Tori's blog, I wanted to tell you about it so that you might remember it. If you ever have a child in your classroom who gets diagnosed with cancer and needs to undergo treatment, please remember this program and contact them. In fact, although this program is specifically for children battling cancer, if you have any child with a serious or chronic illness who misses a lot of school, you may want to use this idea to implement your own program. It could be a stuffed bear or a stuffed dog in the chair, and its pretty easy to set up a blog or email address for your class to communicate with a sick child. The point is, it is very important for children with serious illnesses to feel like they are still, first and foremost, children. They want to talk to their friends, do homework, and keep up with what is going on in class. If you can help them preserve this sense of still being a part of the class, it can really make a difference in the life of a child who is going through a traumatizing experience. 

So, if you have time, please check out Tori's blog, and then check out Monkey In My Chair. Let me know what you think! 

Monday, April 2, 2012

How THe Bunny Writing Prompt Turned Out

Hi everyone! Today was my first day back from spring break. It was a great day! The local special rec organization took us on a field trip to play Wallyball. Talk about hilarious! Most of the kids could not hit the ball or serve it over the net for the life of them. But they didn't care... they were all having fun anyways! We played with big rubber balls... the really colorful, air-filled ones that are sold in stores this time of year... so even if they smacked someone right in the face, it wouldn't hurt much. 

Today was also my first day of being in charge of "unit," which is really just a time to do any type of activity that is based on the theme of the week. Today I did the bunny writing prompt with the kids. I shared it in another post, if anyone is interested in picking it up! 

I took pictures of a few of the kids' papers, to show you how they came out, and the level of work the kids are doing. Want to see? This first one was done by Oriole. He used the regular version because, as you can see, he is more or less able to write sentences. 
"One day I woke up, and noticed I'd turned into a bunny! I will hop. I ate carrots. I could jump. I will hop in the woods. I felt happy that it was only a dream."
- Oriole.

This next one is by Rosella. She did the adapted version. I was very excited because Rosella, who can be very distractable and who also often refuses to work, did a really good job on this. I gave her a smiley face and a star when I graded her paper!
"One day I woke up, and saw that i'd turned into a bunny! I felt happy. I said, "I have bunny ears." The first thing I did was eat a carrot. Then I went to jump rope. I saw more bunnies. I ate with them. When I turned back into a kid, I felt happy."
- Rosella. 

The next one was written by Martin. Martin has autism and sometimes has trouble with creative writing, so I think he copied a little off of the adapted version, at first. He also tends to write about the same thing no matter what. For instance, since we went on a field trip today, Martin would have written about a field trip no matter what the writing prompt is. But it's still great work!
"One day I woke up, and noticed I'd turned into a bunny! I felt happy. I am a happy bunny. Happy bunnies are good. I said I want to eat a carrot. I went on a field trip."
- Martin.

Finally, we have the work of Starling. She's such a cool kid! She also has the most severe cognitive impairment in the class, and cannot read or write at all. I read her the text, and she dictated what she wanted filled into the blanks. I wrote her words in marker, and she somewhat tried to trace over them. You can see the trouble she has... but her ideas are great! 
"One day I woke up, and saw that i'd turned into a bunny! I felt happy. I said, "I have a tail!" The first thing I did was go find my dog. Then I went to camp. I saw a wolf. I ate a muffin. When I turned back into a kid, I felt happy."
- Starling

I'm going to try to include a writing prompt in each unit! But one thing I've learned is that it might be a good idea to include some sort of graphic organizer or brainstorming tool. Some of the kids who did the regular version had such a hard time coming up with ideas, it was like pulling teeth to get them to write! Does anyone have any experience or advice about things like that?

In other news, tomorrow Mrs. Eagle is going to be out for the day. There will be a substitute teacher, but for the most part I will be in charge for the whole day. I am so nervous! Even though by now I plan and run all of the lessons, I've never been completely in charge of a whole day before! It will be like a test for me. 

Thanks for reading, everyone! I'll write more soon!