Friday, February 14, 2014

Tech is great but...

When the little things in your room start to happen that have nothing to do with tech, your heart begins to jump for joy. Sorry this post has absolutely NOTHING to do with tech but rather with the gains that my students are making despite the technology. 

My students this year have a wide range of needs ranging from visual impairments to autism, to needing a communication device, to cognitive disabilities. It is by far one of my more challenging years as an educator when it comes to meeting their needs, moving them forward and helping to coordinate the number of support staff that travel in and out of my room in the course of a day (at last count I had more than 14 individuals that work with my students in some capacity!) I have had many a day that I have come home and sobbed, felt like I am not an effective educator or contemplated how much longer I could do what I do... but then..... the wonderful happens....

you step back and begin to notice the little things such as:

1) My visually impaired student for the 1st time turned and pair-shared ON HIS OWN without a reminder and got himself right in the thick of the conversation! Awesome!!

2) My little guy who needs a communication device has gotten harder to understand recently but when stepping back... it's not because he's regressed, it's because he is talking soooooo much more that I just can't keep up with him. What a wonderful feeling to know he is that comfortable in my classroom to communicate without his device!

3) One of my CD students has made some really nice gains with her letter/sounds and is making progress in how to use a socially acceptable voice level when needing to talk to others. Just reminding her to use a soft voice, has started to pay off.

4) Another of my students learned to zip her jacket on her own last week. We jumped for joy and hooted and hollered to the point that the secretary came out to see what the commotion was all about. What a huge jump of independence for this little one!

5) Their independent skills have grown to the point that I feel we can finally do many of the things that we would normally tackle in November.... better late than never!

6) The room is beginning to have a hum of camaraderie, togetherness and helpfulness... everyone is accepting of everyone's strengths, weaknesses and differences! We are truly a school family- and that includes all of the adults that work in the room!

I know these seem so small but if you spent a few days in my room, you too would realize how BIG these small things truly are. 
That's why I am writing this post.... so I can come back and reread this post every time I have "one of those days"... you know, the ones when you go home and think there is nothing positive happening....the ones that make you wonder if you are in the right profession even though you can't possibly imagine doing anything else. The ones that have you staying up late pondering what else you can do to get a student to learn his letters and sounds short of standing on your head while wearing a red nose and singing the alphabet song. (Hmmm... I may have to try that one actually)

Teaching truly is a work or heart and I love what I do... the kids are truly the heart of what we do day to day (no pun intended being that this post is being written on Valentine's Day!) sometimes you  I just need to step back and relish the small things.  Thank you my young friends for helping me to again realize why I love what I do!

*Updated to add: One of my little guys today FINALLY learned how to tie his shoes independently!! SO Exciting... watching him today persevere on this task when normally he would come up and put his foot in your face and say, "Help me" was unbelievable! It truly was the icing on the cake today!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Pushes and Pulls

We are currently studying forces and motion in science. As part of our unit, we study the difference between pushes and pulls. Today kiddos partnered up and took 3 pictures of each with their partners and then created a PicCollage with their examples.

Although it was a bit chaotic, the best part of this lesson was that each of my kiddos had to team up with a student from another class that had never used PicCollage before which meant that they not only had to show what they knew about pushes and pulls, but they had to use what they knew about PicCollage to teach a friend how to use the app as well. I have to say, I was very proud of how well my kiddos took on this task. :-)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Skitch'in penguins

We have been wrapping our unit on informational writing this week by studying penguins. Kiddos spent some time working with a partner to read the National Geographic eBook, Penguins. While they were reading they took notes on interesting facts. We then used these notes to create an informational paragraph about penguins. 
We are now using our paragraphs to create a digital version of our research. As I mentioned earlier in the week, we used Popplet to web what we knew about penguins. Today, we again used the Pics4Learning site for copyright-free images of penguins- you can read more about this site here. We then imported our images into an app called, Skitch where students then labeled various features of penguins. These diagrams, along with our Popplets, will be inserted into our Doodlecast stories.
Skitch was very easy to use and students were able to independently use this app after just a brief introduction. The whole process of showing the app, discussing appropriate image selection (things such as image quality and size), finding and importing our images and then labeling took most 30 minutes. This was the 1st time we have used Skitch so I was happy with that time frame. I've found that with most apps, by the time we use them for the 3rd time, kiddos are flying through independently.