Saturday, July 27, 2013

Liebster Award!

I am so excited to receive my first blogger award! I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Miss, Hey Miss, a first year special education teacher from San Antonio, Texas. Check out her blog!
Liebster is German and means “dearest,” “lovely,” “cute,” “beloved,” and “welcome”. I've been asked by the person who nominated me to answer a few questions and to share 11 random facts about myself, so here they are:

1.What grade/subject do you teach? - I teach K-5th grade students with severe and profound disabilities

2.What is your favorite school supply? - My favorite school supply would have to be Velcro dots! Velcro is a necessity in my classroom! We use many visual supports around the classroom and Velcro allows me to attach things to any surface.

3.Why did decide to blog? - I decided to blog because I saw so many great blogs and websites from a variety of teachers, but there is not a lot out there for teachers of students with significant disabilities. I enjoy exchanging ideas with other educators.

4.How do you decide on blog topics? - Well, to be honest, I haven't kept up with my blog as much as I would like to at the moment. When I do post, I choose my topics based on what's happening in my classroom (or my life) at the moment.

5.If you could go back and share one piece of advice with yourself before you began teaching, what would it be? - One piece of advice I would give myself before beginning this career would have been: Don't sweat the small stuff. Sometimes I can overanalyze everything! Not only with teaching, but in my personal life.

6.Describe your family. - My family is amazing! My hubby is the most supportive man. He supports me in everything I do. We don't have children yet. We have been married for 2.5 years. We love spending time with our families. He loves my family and I love his! We were blessed with great in-laws. :)

7. Where/What is your dream vacation? - There are so many places that I would love to vacation, it is hard to choose just one! Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, Africa, Tahiti are all places I would love to visit!

8. What food do you eat most often? - We eat a lot of potatoes around this house... baked potatoes mostly, but also fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc.

9. What is your favorite social media site? Why? (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, G+, Flickr, other, etc.) - It would have to be Facebook because I love keeping up with my friends and family

10. If you had all the money and all the time in the world, what would you do? - That's easy!... I would travel the world!

Here are 11 random facts about myself:
1. I played trumpet in high school marching band and in college jazz band.
2. I love animals and can't wait to bring another dog into my life.
3. I volunteered for a summer at an orphanage in Peru and loved it! I can't wait to go back!
4. I'm addicted to reality shows... I'll watch ANYTHING reality (Biggest Loser, Survivor, Amazing Race, Big Brother, Top Chef, Real World, Real Housewives... yeah, I watch those! Don't judge me! 5. I love to travel. This summer my husband and I visited 4 National Parks, including one in Canada, in 9 days. It was a whirlwind, but SO much fun!
6. I have a metal plate and screws in my ankle! I broke my ankle in 2 places after slipping on water in my classroom!
7. I love taking pictures! I have a gazillion pictures and albums on Facebook.
8. I'm not a very good cook. My husband does most of the cooking for us. He enjoys it.
9. My favorite class at the gym is kickboxing... my favorite machine is elliptical.
10. My husband loves college football and we have season tickets for Auburn Football! War Eagle! 11. I love children's books! I can spend hours at a thrift store, sifting through the books to add to my classroom library.

Now it is my turn to nominate other blogs I enjoy for the Liebster Award. Today, I nominate:
Sped-Ventures: A special educator that shares ideas from her classroom. I love following her because she often blogs about extension activities she uses with the Unique Learning System curriculum.
Adventures in Tutoring and Special Education
Autism Tank
Autism Classroom News
An Exceptional Education

10 Questions for my nominees:
1. What is the best piece of advice you can give to first year teachers?
2. What is your favorite book to read on the first day of school?
3. What is the least favorite part of the teaching profession?
4. Why did you decide to blog?
5. What and where was the last professional conference you attended?
6. Describe your dream vacation.
7. How do you spend your summers off?
8. What is your favorite non-teacher related book?
9. What is one book you would recommend for teachers?
10. What is your favorite holiday in the classroom?
11. What is your favorite inspirational quote?

AND GO!... :)

Here are the rules of Liebster Award:
 1. Link back to the blog that nominated you.
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers.
3. Answer the questions posted for you by your nominator.
 4. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
5. Create 11 questions for your nominees.
 6. Contact your nominees by commenting on their blog or sending them an email to communicate the nomination.

Monday, July 1, 2013


Well we all know by now that Google Reader will be no more in just a few short hours... Bloglovin' is the place to be!  You can continue to follow me there. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Calendar Time - Morning Meeting

Today I am linking up for the Summer Linky Party over at Sharing Kindergarten. This week's focus for the Linky Party is Calendar Time. I love our morning calendar time (or actually I refer to it as "morning meeting" in my classroom because we do much more than just calendar during this time). It's a favorite for my students too. It is an interactive and fun learning group where we focus on calendar skills, weather, colors and other basic concepts. We pack a lot into our morning meeting each day!  We touch on a variety of goals/objectives during our morning meeting, including choice making, activating a switch, visual tracking, responding to simple questions, name/picture recognition, following directions, reach/grasp/release of items and maintaining attention to task.  

As you read through the descriptions of our morning meeting, keep in mind that my students are non-verbal, some have physical limitations and most of my current students require moderate to maximum assistance to complete tasks.

Below is a picture of my morning meeting/calendar area.  I display everything on the white board and I love this arrangement because it's MAGNETIC! It makes it super easy to grab things on and off the board to show my students up close. I can grab the numbers from the top of the board when we are reviewing numbers or grab the colored shapes when we are reviewing colors. I can even grab the calendar right off the board to show a student up close. The weather cards on the right hand side are removable as well and they are textured so that my students can "feel" the weather.


Here are some descriptions of a few of the components I use during my morning meeting.  I hope someone finds these helpful.

Good Morning:
We start our morning meeting each day by singing a good morning song. At appropriate breaks in the song I say good morning to each student individually and wait for a response.  Students respond by waving, reaching out to shake my hand or activating a communication device to say 'good morning'. This gives the students great practice in responding appropriately to greetings.

Communication and Choice Making:
Morning meeting is the perfect time to incorporate choice making. I use a variety of assistive devices during this time, including: Big Macks, Twin Talk, and Cheap Talks (pictured below)


There are numerous ways to use these devices for communication and choice-making during morning meeting.  Some of the ways I have used them in the past include: 
 - What comes next: I program the Cheap Talk 4 with morning meeting activities to be completed that day.  Students are able to set the schedule for morning meeting by selecting and "telling" me what they want to do next during our group time.   


- Song Choices: Sometimes we sing songs related to our theme for the week.

I give the students a song choice using the devices.- Answer Questions: We use the devices to answer questions during morning meeting: such as how do you feel today, what is the weather like outside, or what day of the week is it?

Attendance/Name Recognition:After singing good morning, we always take attendance and check to see who is here for the day. I have large name cards with each of the student's names. First students select their name from a choice of 2 - 4 cards (depending on what level they are working on... some of the names are paired with pictures, others are just the letters).  Then we sing the Bingo Name Song (sung to the tune of "Bingo.") The student points to each letter of his/her name, while the other students clap the letters. I have 2 paraprofessionals in my room and they assist the other students in clapping while I assist the target student in pointing and/or attending to his/her name.

In this class we have a boy
And Caleb is his name-o
C-A-L-E-B, C-A-L-E-B, C-A-L-E-B
We're glad you're here today!

We review the calendar by first singing a song about the Days of the Week. After the song, I choose a student to recite the days of the week. The students use the I-Pad or Step-by-Step communication device to recite the days of the week. We then review, yesterday was ____, today is ____, tomorrow will be _____.  We also talk about any upcoming events happening that week (CBI trips, assemblies, specials classes, holidays, etc.) and count down the days to that event.

Color Recognition:
We review our colors every day during morning meeting. I have several different color songs that we alternate but my favorite is "Rainbow of Colors" by Greg and Steve.  For this song we use colored streamers which I made from an idea I found on Pinterest! Before the song each student chooses a colored streamer.  During the song they wait for their color to be called. When they hear their color named they hold it up for everyone to see and wave/shake it around.

Counting Poems:
For a short counting activity, I use a felt board with laminated cut-out pieces to illustrate a counting poem. The poem usually correlates to our theme for that week or the season.  Students help count during the poem by using a Step by Step communication device or the I-Pad.  We also have some counting songs that the students really enjoy that I rotate throughout the week.

As you can see our morning meeting/calendar time focuses on very basic skills, but this is what my students currently need. I hope this has helped at least a few ideas for teachers of students with disabilities. I'm looking forward to seeing other ideas shared through the linky party! Thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Let the Summer Fun Begin!

Well... I know, I know... I have been MIA for way too long.  I love the blogging world and reading all of the many amazing educational blog posts on a day to day basis, but for some reason, I just can't keep up with mine!  I'm going to try to do better I promise! 

I am currently out on summer break and enjoying every minute.  In my free time, of course, I am searching near and far for fresh ideas to incorporate in my classroom.  There just doesn't seem to be much out there for teachers of students with severe and profound intellectual disabilities.  Any blog recommendations you have would be greatly appreciated. 

Here are a few of my favorite Special Education blogs:

Adaptations 4 Kidz
How Long is This Hall!?

What are your favorites?!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Survived Week One

One week down, and how many to go?!  Yep, my students and I have already been back to school for an entire week. The fact that all of my current students are returning from last year makes things a little easier. The students picked up right where they left off.  I did change up our schedule a little this year which is taking some getting used to and I have a new paraprofessional this year (she is FABULOUS I might add), but other than that, things are pretty much the same. 

Oh yeah, one thing that did change this year... my room decor! A few weeks ago I posted some inspiration pictures for my classroom theme, "Mrs. Holder's Nest!"  I have added a few "bird" inspired items to my classroom decor and plan on adding a few more elements throughout the year.  So far I really like the theme.  Here are a few pictures from my classroom.  Let me know what you think!

I foud this cute little welcome sign at Hobby Lobby for 80% off. I couldn't resist! 
It is hanging in the hallway right by our classroom door.

This bulletin board will display important school/class information under "The Daily Chirp" and student work under "Work to Tweet About!"  I love how the little birdies turned out.  They are cut from patterned scrapbook paper.
I plan to build a tree above this bulletin board to fill the white space of the wall.

 A close-up of the "The Daily Chirp." The chirp banner letters were created by Victoria over at City Cradle Designs.
Check out the free printable on her website.

Not really "bird themed" but still an important part of my classroom design, this is my Circle Time board. All of the pieces are magnetic so I can easily grab things on and off the board to show my students.  I plan to recreate the numbers 1-5 with different colored birds, instead of sports balls.  It's on my to-do list.

This quote, printed from unozip, is one of my favorites!! 
I used scrapbook paper to create the border and it is now hanging on our classroom door.

There are a few pictures I forgot to take, so I'll add those later, but this shows some of the progress I've made on my room so far.  I'm loving it!

~ Liz

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Vacay!

Hi Y'all,

I have just returned from a week on the West Coast. My cousin got married in L.A. last Saturday so we decided to make it a vacation and stay awhile. We were in California for 9 days for a whirlwind tour!  I feel like we never slept, but we had so much fun! We arrived in L.A. on Friday afternoon and headed straight for Beverly Hills where we did some window shopping on Rodeo Dr. (that's all I could afford) and toured a TV Out of the Box Warner Brothers exhibit. That evening we went to Downtown Disney Land to eat dinner at the House of Blues and watch the fireworks. On Saturday morning we drove to Simi Valley to tour the Ronald Raegan Presidential Library. It was amazing! If you're ever in the area it's a must see! That evening, of course, was the wedding for my cousin and his bride-to-be. I was so glad we got to be there for them on their special day. It made me think back to my own wedding day only a year and a half ago. Such an exciting time! On Sunday we toured the Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank. It's a 2 and 1/2 hour tour worth every penny. We had a great tour guide and got to see the sets of Ellen and Big Bang Theory (two of my favorites!) and a whole lot more behind the scenes stuff, including props, movie sets, costumes, etc. After the tour we took in all the sights and sounds of Hollywood. I had been there before but my hubby never had, so it was neat to see it all again with him. That evening we met up with my parents, who were also in town for the wedding, for dinner at the famous chicken dinner restaurant at Knott's Berry Farm. On Monday we took a day to tour some of the more well known beaches around L.A., including Laguna, New Port, Huntington and Venice beaches, ending at Santa Monica Pier, where we ate dinner and took a ride on the ferris wheel.  Are you tired yet!? :)

Well we aren't finished yet! On Tuesday we headed north on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), a GORGEOUS, scenic drive with the Pacific ocean on one side of the highway and mountains on the other. We went through Santa Barbara, San Luis Obisbo, and Monterey, among others and toured Hearst Castle near San Simeon. One of my favorite stops along the PCH was at a overlook called Piedras Blancas. Here we saw hundreds of Elephant Seals sunning on the beach and playing in the water. It was an amazing sight and I could have stayed for hours just watching them play and listening to their "barks." Another neat detour from the PCH was a 17 mile drive which took us past beautiful beaches and ended at the Pebble Beach Golf course. My husband enjoyed seeing this as it's one of the more famous golf courses. On Thursday we finally arrived in San Francisco. This was my first time in San Fran! Our first stop was the Golden Gate Bridge where we were awarded an amazing view! When we first got to the bridge we had zero visibility due to the fog, but within 20 minutes the fog cleared and we were able to see the whole bridge. We stayed at the Palace Hotel near Union Square and had a nice evening getting familiar with the area. The next day we hit all the touristy spots, including China Town, Union Square, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, rode the Cable Cars and saw Lombard St. from a distance, though we didn't drive it. We would love to go back and spend more time in this city. There is so much to explore.

We had an early flight home on Saturday morning and spent all day yesterday recovering from our lack of sleep! Ever heard the saying, "You need a vacation from your vacation!"? Well for us, this was SO true! We went non-stop the whole trip but I wouldn't change a thing! We had so much fun and made so many memories along the way.

Now we are home and reality is setting in... I only have ONE MORE WEEK of summer!  Pre-planning starts next Monday. We do have a week of pre-planning without students but it will be a rude awakening having to set my alarm and get back in the swing of things. Where has the summer gone?!  I feel like I just turned off the lights in my classroom and closed the door on the 2011-2012 school year. Now it's time to start all over again! I'm jealous of all you bloggers who still have several weeks of summer left!

Well, since I shared all about my trip with you guys, I thought it might be nice to give you a visual.  Here are a few of my favorite pics from the trip.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Make it Easy... to pick up and hold

We play group games daily in my class.  Common games you may find us playing are Bingo and Memory.  These games are easy to create for any theme/topic you are teaching.  During a Bingo game, calling cards are placed face down on the table and the game caller gets to pick any card to call out to the players. To play Memory, all cards are placed face down on the table and students take turns flipping 2 cards at a time to find a match.

THE PROBLEM: The problem my students have with playing these games are being able to pick up the cards from the table. They just do not have the fine motor/finger control to be able to pick up thin objects from a flat surface.

THE SOLUTION: My simple solution... clothespins! I found these large clothespins pictured below at Ikea but I'm sure they can be found elsewhere too! I simply attach a clothespin to each card, place them face down on the table and now my students are easily able to lift the cards from the table during game play.

Large clothespins attached to a bingo game from the Unique Learning System curriculum.

During a bingo game, this student easily picks up a calling card from her tray.

Another student picks up a calling card during bingo and flips it over for everyone to see.
This simple adaptation has made many of my games accessible to my students with fine motor difficulties.