Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ummm....Helloooooo out there -ere -ere -ere !!!

Wow! Has it truly been over a year since I posted on this blog? That is CRAZY and a strong indication of just how busy I've been. And tired, oh so tired. I didn't realize, when our kids came, just how dedicated I would be to spending every free moment I have focused on them. School tends to stay at school and when I'm home they get as much of my (mostly) undivided attention as my students do during school time. So that has left no time for blogging here. And then there have been the changes at school, oh so many changes....

So to go back where I left things a year ago with the open ended individual projects:
Some of them went REALLY well. My two "artsy" girls made some phenomenal mask projects, starting off very simple and working up to some very complicated and intricate papier mache and mosaic masks including a three dimensional head that stared us all down during the last month of school and had a tendency to make our night custodian very nervous. :-)

My music maker and scientist's projects ended up fizzling out. Music Man enjoyed banging and experimenting but soon lost true interest and switched to working on other things, like actual READING (exciting!!!!). And my scientist could never decide on an experiment. But even though we never arrived at a "product" for these two, they did learn quite a lot and had many, many interaction opportunities while working on their project interests.

Now onto the changes we've incurred over the past year.
First, we have a completely remodeled learning space. Our building underwent and top to bottom remodel over the summer and that included us getting a second room added to our classroom (and necessitated packing up EVERYTHING we had, and after nearly 16 years that was A LOT of stuff). Yay! We were so crowded in the old space and spent as much time shifting furniture and equipment out of our way as we did learning and teaching. Our newly added room is approximately half the size of our original room but it almost doubles our functional space. And good thing too, as we essentially gained two students for a total of 7 kids this year (my oldest from last year exited), both of whom are extemely active. That also meant adding staff. And with the departure of pretty much all of my staff from last year that meant an entire room of new faces, reorganization and reprioritizing, and training training training. It took us most of first semester to really get settled and into a rhythm but things are working (mostly) smoothly now.

So what are we working on? So very much! A new component to our curriculum this year is Pati King deBaun's Teach Me AAC program, which teaches both AAC and literacy skills. There is a LOT I like about this program (too much to go into here). Comment with questions and an email address and I'd be happy to chat more. We dropped Unique Learning Systems this year as it just was not a good fit for me (a personal thing; I have teaching friends who adore the program; I just need more variety). We still use News-2-You heavily, however. They have added some nice new features if you haven't checked them out recently. And I recently rediscovered the website Praactically Speaking which has awesome resources. We are using their 12 Months of Core Words for language group in conjunction with Teach Me AAC and the kids are doing fantastic! In just three weeks of implementing the core words I have students who are pairing 2 and 3 symbols to form messages for the first time ever. Math is a combination of community-based math (measurement, money, address and phone number, etc.) as well as things pulled from Equals and Teaching Math to Students with Down Syndrome. All of this should help us be better prepared for the transition to the Common Core over the next year. I am very curious to see exactly how the new Dynamic Learning Maps alternate assessment system will actually work. It looks promising. Hoping it's not a giant headache!

So that's what I've been up to in a bit of a nutshell. Eventually I will get back to this post and link the resources I listed above. But right now I'm tired and it's my bed time. :-)