This year has had some major challenges- most involve new technology and loss of what I had access to last year.  The good new is I still have all my files...the bad news is we have lost most of our software access temporarily.  Although not related, I have no email contacts and cannot print.  Those will get fixed!!!

The one biggest challenge is I have a new student that does not communicate.  Transitions are extremely difficult, leaving the classroom is not fun, and by the end of the first day of school, I knew I had to do something.

Years ago, when I taught in a self-contained room, I used Boardmaker and my students that could not communicate would use their boards.  Remember, I said I don't have access to software...no Boardmaker (yet).  By Friday, I had made him some basic visual schedules to help with transitions and to help him know what was coming up.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to go to a new school, and not be able to communicate and not know what is going to happen next.  The day went so much better!!  I can tell he is used to using pictures, but on the first day we didn't know anything :(

I made these 5 boards to help us get started.
-Basic Communication Words (2 pages, 30 pictures)
-School Words (3 pages, 45 pictures)
-I'm Sick Words (1 page, 13 pictures) *This page was created after someone threw up on the first day.
-Self Help Words (1 page, 15 pictures)
-Toys (1 page, 15 pictures)

Since he is five, we are just focusing on handing the teacher/para pictures to express what he needs.  Using the pictures, he can communicate his needs, since he is unable to talk.  We can also help show him what to expect during the day.

This is how I have things organized and how we use the pictures.
1) I print the page twice.
2) One page goes in the binder and over each picture I place a velcro dot (rough side).  The binder pages and cards always have the rough side of velcro, and the pictures that students move have the softer side of velcro.  If you do this, the pictures will always stick (literally).

This is an example of a page that I put in the binder.  Row one has the actual picture the student will move placed on the matching picture.  Rows two and three have the velcro dots waiting for the matching picture.
When you don't have lots of pictures, this works well.  

I copy everything on card stock.  I've also seen file folders cut to 8.5x11 pages, and the card stock page glued on it, then laminated to make it even more durable.

These are some basic templates I set up.  I made:
I feel
I want
I need


These strips helps when there are two things being requested.

This board is for a step of four directions.

I also use strips to organize smaller parts of the day.  This strip was for lunch (the most difficult part of the day)!  At the bottom, I made a little holder that says DONE.   When activities are complete, the student puts them in the DONE folder.

The strips always have the rough velcro strips placed on them :)

This system has helped quite a bit.  I also have strips for the morning, recess, after recess, after lunch, and afternoon.  I'm hoping that this will make communicating easier for this student!

I think it has taken me 3 weeks to get this post together.  That's what going back to school will do to you!!!
This was my Saturday project :)  I got this idea from Queen of the First Grade Jungle and I loved it.  She had letters that spelled out the word DREAM...since I didn't have big letters, I made words.




I love these FREE posters by Khrys Bosland!
You'll see the words written on the polka dot paper.  That was from an idea we are doing school wide from Jon Gordon.  Here is the video that explains it!



Here is another freebie to hand out at the beginning of the year!  The students loved getting these tags with the glow bracelets you can get from the Dollar Store!  Click her to get these for free (PreK-6th grade)!



I always use table mats and this year I made new ones!!  This first one had to be done over, because it got bent in the laminator!!!  Isn't that the way things seem to work when you are trying to do 500 things!!!!  Table mats are a great way for all students to know which table they are sitting at and they are assigned a number.  Spots 1/2 and 3/4 are should partners while spots 1/4 and 2/3 are face partners.  You can say things like, "Twos, you need to get the team box."  or "I want partner A to go first."  



My friend recommended this book and I just started!! I'm not sure when I'll ever finish it, considering I'm falling asleep by 9pm!!  Gone are the summer days of staying up until midnight and sleeping in!!!



I posted about fluency earlier in the summer, but I've updated my post with a few more ideas for the Reading Crew's Weekly Summer Linky Party!

Depending on the groups of students I work with, if students need extra help with fluency, I will add a poetry warm-up to our lesson.  Students receive a poem on Monday and we spend about 2 minutes a day practicing our poem.
Monday:  I read the poem and they read through it one time.
Tuesday:  They read the poem twice.  I listen to two students.
Wednesday:  They read the poem one time to themselves.  Then they read the poem to a partner.  I'm partners with a student.
Thursday:  They read the poem to themselves and then to a different partner.  I'm partners with a student.
Friday:  They read the poem to a partner.  I'm partners with the final students in the group.

By Friday, I've heard everyone read.  I tend to rotate my order, that way I don't always listen to the same students on Tuesday.

Some of my favorite books to use are:



Using Volunteers to Help with Fluency

I have found that having volunteers work with students during fluency work stations is a win-win for everyone!  To keep it organized, I like having a fluency crate.  I have copies of the pages I want students to work on.  It is just a matter of changing some of the pages from the fluency books.

1)  Our reading series has weekly fluency passages for students.  That's something they always practice twice.  They have these copies with them.

2)  There is a folder in the crate devoted to fluency phrases.  The students run through the phrases with the volunteers.  Then they can use the Voice & Expression cards from Cara Caroll.  The students love reading the cards using different expressions and voices.    (See picture below).


Other Options

Students like doing the Roll, Read, Highlight from Rock Your Fluency!

Another option are these read aloud passages from Scholastic.  These also have comprehension questions that students can work on with the volunteers.   They have their own folder in the crate.  I only put one at a time in the folder, so I know who has done which ones.


Students enjoy these You Read to Me, I'll Read to You stories.  These are another option in the crate.


At the end of the work station time, they use this rubric (download for free) to evaluate how they are doing on the fluency rubric.

Practicing fluency is a great way to keep volunteers busy, and students are able to practice reading with an adult that can be a great model for them!



Say it isn't so!!!  August came WAY, WAY too fast this summer!

I had the best summer!  I say that every summer, but I really had an amazing summer :)  We traveled quite a bit and I spent lots and lots of time outdoors, which makes me very happy :)

The big thing I need to remember this school year is that my "to do" list will always be there, and not to get stressed by it!! As long as I have what I need to have done each day...that's great!!  It isn't worth missing out on family time!  :)

I love Farley's idea of spreading random acts of kindness. I've been stocking up on school supplies, so teachers will have a stash they can raid :)




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