Sunday, June 19, 2016

What Flexible Seating Looks Like in a Life Skills Classroom

Flexible seating, flexible seating, flexible seating! If you didn’t read/say that ala Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, then we can’t be friends… just kidding! But really flexible seating is all the rage these days thanks to TopDog Teaching’s Kayla Delzer. Her room setup is amazing, and having watched her classroom (via social media) it’s clear to see that her little's love the arrangement.

My room at the beginning of the year
I just finished my second year of teaching in SUCCESS, and my first year of using flexible seating. SUCCESS is a self-contained life skills classroom. All of the children in my room are intellectually disabled along with a heap of other disabilities.

I sent Kayla a message before I took the alternative seating route. I could see how it looked in a room of typically developing kids, but how would my kids benefit from it. I asked Kayla her opinion on how it would work with my kids, you know the kids that are two and three grade levels behind where their age says they should be. How would my kids with oppositional defiance take to it? Would my little's with Downs Syndrome be able to choose AND still do their work? Would the other adults in my room even be open to this drastic change? Her answer, “Absolutely. The biggest growth has been among my oppositional defiant and EBD students.”

“There is power in choice and the freedom to choose where to work.” There is power in choice… As soon as I read those words, I knew I had to do it. All kids crave power. They want to be in control. Giving them the power to choose how they work best was empowering for me as their teacher.

With this new sense of empowerment I went on quest to get flexible seating for my classroom. It started with a Donors Choose project titled, “Alternative Seating for Alternative Learning.” I asked for wobble stools, hokki stools, and floor pillows. I wanted to make sure that  had enough seating for EVERY student on those choices. The reason: meltdowns. I wanted to give my students choices but I needed to make sure those choices wouldn't cause chaos. So I opted to for various color choices. My project was fully funded and by December we were on our way to getting rid of the desks. Shortly after the seating started to arrive, I wanted more. I started a project for standing desks. After that got funded we made the move to remove all of the traditional desks in the room. When the kids returned from winter break, we had tables, stools, floor pillows, and standing desks. 

Floor cushions!!

And our first standing desk! (That is my kid modeling it!)
But now what? We had everything we needed to to create a wonderful, "free" learning environment. But how could I implement this with most of my kiddos functioning at a low cognitive level? How would I be able to get them to understand their choice? I couldn't. I made a flip chart, a physical chart, and icons... But it didn't really work. They weren't understanding the choices they were making. 

So we made the choices for them, at first. We told them where to sit. After a few weeks we started to notice which kiddos stayed on task and which ones didn't. We noticed that a certain little worked much better at the standing desk (he didn't want to be at the standing desk though). Once he figured out that he had to get his work finished before he could sit, he became so much more productive, and he began asking (with words!) to sit on the stools or the floor. By the end of the year he was the fastest at completing his independent work. I also have a kiddo in a wheel chair that uses a stander. Being in a stander is important for her to help build that muscles in her legs. 

It wasn't until after the third time that we put her in the stander that we realized that one of our  standing desks  was at just the right height for her to work at!

I'm still not entirely sure that I have this flexible seating thing down. I do know that my kids made amazing progress this year. Was it because of the flexible seating? I don't know. But I do know that we started something amazing last year, and I'm excited to make it even better next year.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

#realtalk #periscope

My friend Trina over at The Ordinary to Extraordinary Classroom did an amazing post about this new-ish phenomenon called Periscope. I say new-ish because I've been on this site since late April and did my first scope in May (on my non-teacher account). But it's taken off because of the TpT convention in Vegas. It's pretty neat to see the growth of it, and the amazing things that it can do. I've already met some interesting people and have found my #SpEdTribe because of it. But that's not what this post is really about. This post is about the real talk hashtag that persicope created. I'm sure that people were using this hashtag before, or some variation of it, but I found it on periscope so there.

I have been a SpEd teacher for a WHOLE year. I know right?! I must know everything after a year. Ha! Not even close, but, moving on. Before that I worked in a really unique co-teach program as a PPCD para for 6 years. For the last couple years the pre-k teacher was taking classes to become a counselor. All of last year she worked her tail off to get closer to making her dream a reality. As a her friend, (and someone who wanted back into that program that I held so dear) I even encouraged her to send out resumes and go on interviews. I encouraged her to keep trying and reminded her how much she loved her current job, just in case her interviews didn't turn into anything.

I had all but forgotten about the prospect of her possibly leaving. I mean, it is mid July at this point, after all. Last week I got a call that she had been offered a counseling job at a high school. At that point the wheels in my head started turning. Could I go back to the classroom that I loved so much? Did I want to leave SpEd and teach pre-k? Would they even want me back in that room in a new role?

Shortly after that phone call, our principal sent out an email about her leaving and wanted to know if anyone was interested in taking over as pre-k teacher, (yes, yes I did!) and that she would be interviewing for the job the following week. Wait. I had to interview for it? Really? I know this program like the back of my hand, AND I'm qualified to teach GenEd. AND I already work for you?! Okay, whatever, sure I'll interview. So I emailed her and said I would like to be considered for the job. So I interviewed. And it was... pretty awkward. I could have stayed home and the interview committee would have been able to answer the questions for me. As I walked out to my car, I just knew that my principal wasn't going to let me go back "home."

I was right. No going back for me. So, I am now back where I was a year ago. Which is, not a bad thing. In fact, I'm happy where I was/am. I love my littles in SUCCESS. I love my two wonderful paras. I love my classroom. That doesn't mean that I'm not disappointed. I spent 6 years married to the people in the classroom that I wanted to go back to.

Nobody likes rejection. So of course I felt bad being told no. But then I had some wonderful people tell me that I was really good and made such great progress in my room that they thought I was told no, because I would be hard to be replaced. And just like that, the anger evaporated. (Hey, disappointment, can you follow anger out the door, please?) Thanks friends!

So now I'm back in the game of planning and creating for my special little's so we can have so much Fun in SUCCESS this year!! (I had too, Sorry. I won't let it happen again.)

Also, if you feel so inclined, follow me on social media! I'll be scoping about my homework folder and behavior chart soonish! (I gotta go type up some notes for that, since it just came to me as I'm typing this!)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Day 16 of summer break...

It's been a little over 6 months since my last post. I'm pretty good at the bloggin' thing, right? A lot has happened in that 6 months. First and foremost, school is out! I SURVIVED my first year! And with mo major injuries! I also waited about a week before I started to fix all of the things that didn't work this year. So I will have lots of free stuff posted to TPT as soon as I can get it transferred from one computer to the other. So stayed tuned for that, or ya know, comment and send me emails telling me to hurry up and post stuff!!!!

That's all for now! See ya in a few weeks when I post again on the anniversary of this blog!

<3 Sam

P.S. I love this new look for the 4th!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Time flies!!!

As I sit here working on grad school stuff and updating my phone, I realized that I haven't posted here since July. So here I am, exactly six months later posting about school. It has been a crazy, amazing, and exhausting six months.

Let's just rewind for a minute.

August....I almost didn't make it to the second day of school. But I did make it to noon before I cried on that first day. And I'm sure I would have made it until the end of the day if someone hadn't asked me how everything was. But I persevered and went back that next day. a blur. I can't really remember a whole lot that happened that month. Other that we read a book on the rules at school and the rules at home for the entire month, and that today the kids still remember those rules!

October...the first month that I felt like a real teacher (shhh don't tell my parents that!) I planned out the entire month around farm animals. As a SpEd teacher I get to choose when we learn about certain things, I don't have a regular curriculum to follow. We had out book character dress up day on the 31st, and we (me, Mrs. Ashley and Mrs. Nancy and the kids) dressed up as Charlotte's Web, hence the farm theme for October.

November...We were all about that harvest. No summer. (Try and not sing it, I dare you.)

December... Frozen. I think it's safe to say that EVERY kid loves Frozen. On December 1st we started to turn our room into a winter wonderland and it culminated in a Frozen themes Christmas party. It was delightful. (And really I was just trying to make it to Christmas break, because DISNEY! Yep, my family spent New Year's in the most magical place on earth. And who can concentrate when you're getting ready for Disney!)

And now here we are in January... I'm still getting the hang of things, but I think we (me, Mrs. Ashley, and Mrs. Nancy) get better everyday. The biggest thing about being a SpEd teacher is documentation. It is something that we have struggled with since the first day of school. And while I'm sure we could be better, we finally have a system down that we ALL know how to use! So yay for documentation!

I have some pretty low kiddos in my class so I'm having to get creative with variations on activities. So while I was checking out TpT the other day I saw a set of flashcards, and thought, 'hey I could make those!' So...I'm in the process of working on some pretty fun stuff!

So stay tuned!

Friday, July 18, 2014

24 days...

There are 24 days until I can get into my classroom. I know most teachers are savoring these last days to relax and spend time with their families. I am partially with those teachers and partially excited to get into my room and set it up. I have spent most of the summer planning as much as I can out. But the last couple of weeks have been spent buying stuff!

First off I got a rug for our circle time area. It's from IKEA and goes perfect with the wreath one of my co-workers gave me. (There's also a little helper showing the size of it!)
Then came the pink chairs! (Also from IKEA!)
A chair for me, Mrs. Ashley, and Mrs. Nancy! (I'm going to paint our names on them too!)
Then there was the Target dollar spot.

Okay, maybe I am more on the excited side.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hi! Hola! Ni Hao! Hello!

Wasssssup! Okay, maybe that one was a bit much... Anyway... I am so excited to launch this new blog! If you've passed by Fun In PPCD then you already know me. (Hi!) If you've never heard of Fun In PPCD, then, Hi. My name is Sam. [waves]

I am so excited to undertake a new role in the classroom this year. TEACHER! I signed my contract on Cinco de Mayo! Yep, I am going to be  teaching (as the TEACHER) SUCCESS this coming year. I was a teachers aide for 10 years. I worked in an autistic classroom for 4 years, then moved to PPCD for the last 6. I absolutely love working in SpEd! This will be first time in a life-skills class, but I am so excited.

I will have tons of great ideas to share with y'all just as soon as I practice them with my kiddos. I hope you guys will stick around on this new adventure with me!