Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Sand Timers in the Classroom

Sand timers are pretty much everywhere these days, and I honestly can't tell you how much of a God send they've been on many occasions! In this blog post, I'm going to tell you all about sand timers, how we use them in our class and how our students have responded to them.

If you work in Special Education you probably already have a collection of sand timers in your classroom, it's pretty well known within our field of work that the sand timers have so many uses and just how well the students respond to them, but they can even work in mainstream settings.

So, in our classroom we have a range of different sand timers, they are; 30 seconds, 1 minute, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes. You can usually buy these sand timers online or in educational catalogues, each time usually comes in a different colour, once you've gotten used to the colours it makes it so much easier to grab one in a hurry.

Calm Down

Sand timers are a great way to help your students calm down, if something has upset a student and they start to become agitated or 'worked up', sitting with them (or giving them space if that's what they prefer!), showing them some visuals (or talking if that's what they prefer!) and having a timer can really help them. There's something very relaxing about just watching the sand move through on a sand timer, for this we usually use a 3 or 5 minute sand timer, depending on the student. It helps them to know that we're going to give them that amount of time totally on their own, having a relax and supporting them to calm themselves down independently.

Work Limits

One of the hardest things for our students to understand is how long they are going to be working for, they might have had one bad experience where they were sat working for ages and it's totally thrown them, or it could be a session where they need to work a little bit longer than normal, or one of their first sessions sat at a desk working and you're trying to break them in slowly. Just use a timer that is most suitable for your student and the task that you have set. Watching the timer will help them to see how long is expected of them and how much longer they have left before they can leave. 

Next Task

Have you ever had a student who wants to do something NOW? We've probably all been in that boat at one point, and sometimes our students just can't grasp that what they want IS going to happen - just not right this second! We have a student who would come in, knowing that the class would be going swimming, but he wanted to go NOW - swimming wasn't first thing so of course we had some time to kill first. We would put on some swimming songs on the computer and have a sand timer (30 minutes) - once the timer had finished he soon realised that that would mean it was time to get his stuff ready to go swimming - it made it much easier than trying to explain every 2 minutes when he would ask!


Have you ever had one item in your class that all the students decided they would want at the same time during choice sessions? Us too, don't worry! It can be so hard for our students to understand turn taking, so the sand timers really do come in handy here, we usually use the 3 minute sand timer for this so that each of the students has enough time with their choice activity. One the timer is up, they're asked to pass it to the next student and they choose something else - the first few times we did this, we had some hiccups, but as the year goes on and the students come to realise what it means, they get much better at handling the situation!

And that is how we use sand timers in our class with our students. Of course, one of the major bonuses of all of these ideas is that the students are being given the opportunity to start to understand the concept of time - something which is very difficult to teach, but sand timers really do help it become easier! 

Do you use sand timers, if so, how?

Monday, 19 September 2016

10+ Fun Ways to Write Your Name

10+ Fun Ways to Write Your Name

So, one of the most important things when working with children/students is to be able to help them write their name. For some students this is going to be harder than others, for the simple fact that literally, every student is going to be different. 

One child may pick up a pen or pencil and be able to instantly start to make marks and eventually form letters and their name, others may find it harder to hold a pen/pencil, may not be able to make marks very well, and forming letters may be very hard for them, so, take a step back and read through this blog post for lots of fun different ways to help your students practise writing their name - with more than just a pen and paper!

1) Sand

Sand is a great motivator for many students, they like the feel of it, the fact that it changes texture when wet/dry, that they can mould it etc. There are so many factors on why students love sand - but we won't discuss all of them. 

If you know your student loves sand, then using sand to help them write their name could be one of the best ways to approach them. Simply pour some sand into a tray - or table - and have your student sit down in front of it. Use your fingers or tools i,e paintbrush, to form shapes and letters in the sand.

I have to say it's really important that students can form marks and simple lines, shapes etc before pushing them to form letters. The sand is a great way to work on any aspect. If your student is unable to independently spell their own name at the moment, you can always have a print out of it above for students to copy or you can write their name in the sand for them to copy too!

2) Chalk

Chalk is a great resource in the way that it's also erasable so students don't have to worry about making a mistake, they can simply wipe it off! You can have students use their chalk on the floor outside, the wall outside or even on chalkboards. It's a great way for them to work in different settings and on different surfaces. Plus, with all the different colours available, they can make it even more fun!

3) White Boards

White boards are pretty widely available now, which makes this idea such a great one! Get lots of different whiteboard markers and students are off! This is great because like the chalk, it's also erasable so students don't have to worry over making any mistakes.

The whiteboards are also great in a lot of different ways, with some students we have 'dotted' the formation of letters (like dot to dot) and students connect the dots to form the letters. They're still working on their letter formation, writing their name and fine motor skills, just with a little added help!

4) Multilink Cubes / Unifix Cubes

Multilink cubes are a great resource for the classroom, not only does it help to improve students fine motor skills, it also encourages them to use their imagination and get creative with their creations. However, it's also a great tools for students to practise spelling their name. Although they aren't necessarily writing - they're working on spelling and forming letters.

Simply get students to write their name out of multilink cubes! They may find it difficult at first, but once they have the hang of it, it's a great way to encourage those students who may be struggling with the spelling and order of the letters in their name. 

If students are struggling on how to form the letters - there are lots of great tools on google where you can find examples of different letters made out of multilink cubes. 

5) Water on a Pavement

This will work best on a dry pavement and can be done with water or paint - whatever wet substance you prefer, we use water just because it's less messy! 

Simply dip a paintbrush into the pot of water and have students form their name on the pavement outside. This is a great way for them to work outside of their classroom - let's face it, sometimes we can all do with a break! Plus the water will disappear once it's dried up - so students don't have to feel self conscious over their name being left for everyone to see.

6) Paint

Now be warned, paint can be messy, I do suggest having a 'messy' area and getting lots of cloths, napkins and table cloth ready to help clean up the mess! 

Simply get out lots of different paint colours into the palette on the table - or floor - and hand your students paintbrushes, encourage them to write their names using paint on the paper - or have a giant piece of paper (sometimes we use backing paper on the reverse side) and cover the entire table. Students can paint their names as many times as they like! Plus, paint is easy for them to cover up if they're not happy with the way that their name came out!

7) Shaving Foam or Cream

Now, as someone who does not like textures, shaving foam always goes through me - and cream, but the kids LOVE it and it really does encourage them to work on their mark making and letter formation.

Simply spray some shaving foam or cream on the table and rub it out a bit to make it flat. Then have students use their fingers - or a paintbrush or similar if they don't like the texture - to spell their name in the shaving foam/cream on the table.

Be warned it gets messy!

8) Play-Doh

Play-doh is such a great resource to have in the classroom. You can either make some 'name mats' where you print out students names on a piece of paper and they have to roll/mould the play-doh into the different letters to form their name or simply allow them to freestyle and have them work out how they can make the different letters in their name with play-doh.

This is a great way for students to work on their fine motor skills as well as letter formation.

You could also have students roll out some play-doh on the table, then using play-doh moulding equipment - or even the bottom of a paintbrush, pen etc - have the students write their names into the pressed play-doh piece.

9) Icing Pens

You're probably looking at me crazy right now when I mention icing pens, but trust me, its going to work! You'll just have to have eyes in the back of your head to make sure the students are writing with their icing pens and not eating them! 

You can either do this on something the students have baked - or even bought from the store i.e biscuits/cookies - or just simply on a plate. It's something different for students to use, it'll smell great - and they know it'll taste great! It's a great motivator to have them working on their letters/name.

You can always reward your students with eating the icing once they've formed their name/letters.

10) Slime

Slime is actually pretty easy to make, we call it slime but it's actually just cornflour gloop. Just simply mix some cornflour, water and add some food colouring to make it very slimy. It's important to use around double the amount of cornflour to liquid to make it perfectly slimy.

Once it's done - you'll know, it gets very slimy! I recommend putting it into individual work trays or onto a table for students to work with. If they don't want to use their hands, have them use different tools like paintbrushes or glue spreaders. It's a great way for them to work on spelling/writing their name and forming letters as well as practising mark making. 

And we all know students love getting messy - so this will the perfect way to combine mess with learning!

And there you have it, those were my top ten fun ways to help and encourage students to write their name. There are so many more great ways for students to work on their name though such as:
  • Magnetic letters - on a fridge or tray, or even just a table
  • Foam letters
  • Lego blocks
  • Cut out individual letters
  • Overwriting - you write in a yellow pen and then they overwrite in black etc
  • Bingo dabbers - use bingo dabbers to follow the letter formations
  • Cotton bud and paint - dabbing along the lines of letters or even following the formation of letters
  • Building Blocks - write letters on each individual piece for students to build across 
  • Stones - have students collect stones from outside, or even bring them in from home, wash them then paint/write a different letter on each stone
  • Lolly sticks - write an individual letter on the bottom of each lollipop stick, students have to lay them out in a row to form their name
  • Collage - print out the students them in a thick bubble font, then have students use different ways to decorate the name - could be a collage and stick down different colour small pieces of paper or even crayons, pens, pencils, glitter etc.
  • Pegs - have the students name written somewhere then write individual letters on the bottom of clothing pegs, have students match the pegs to the letters of their name - or skip the matching phase and just have the pegs and have students peg their name across something - paper, card, hanger etc.
What ways do you work on names in your classroom?
Thanks for stopping by,

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Seller Spotlight Sunday: Christa Joy

Welcome to my Seller Spotlight Sunday.
Every Sunday on my blog there is a guest post from another fabulous TpT Seller. They will be sharing one free resource from their store, one paid resource from their store and something that they have been up to that week or similar! 

So, don't forget to check back every Sunday or sign up for my email list to get notifications of new sellers!

Up this week is Christa Joy from Special Needs for Special Kids

Hi, my name is Christa Joy and my TPT store is Special Needs for Special Kids.  I originally started out my career path by graduating from veterinary school in NC and practiced small animal medicine, a life-long dream of mine.  Then, in 1997, we had a son who was diagnosed at an early age with severe autism and an intellectual disability.  So, after giving up my career in medicine, I went back to school and pursued a career in special education with the hopes of helping him as much as I could.  Out of that, came a love for these kids and the special teachers who work so hard with them. 

All of my products are developed for students with significant challenges.  I feel every student deserves access to the same curriculum content as our regular education students.  I try to make my units as in depth and complete as possible while providing a lot of visual structure, support, and differentiation. 
My son is now 19 years old, and although he still struggles daily with his challenges, he is a happy young man who loves life.

One of my favorite ways to teach any type of content is through the use of stories.  Almost all of my units, including math, science, and social studies, have a story as part of the content. 

Grab this resource to give it a try:

It is part of my more complete unit on pumpkins which you can grab here:

I know there are not enough resources readily available if you teach this population of students.  I am hoping to change that, and by creating these resources provide a way for our kids to experience all this amazing world has to offer.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Check for updates on your TpT Purchases

Often when you make a purchase on TpT, now and again the TpT seller may update the resource, but how will you know if they've updated it? It's actually a very simple process!

Go on to your TpT account, hover over My TpT and then click My Purchases

Once on the page click on the Sort by option and click Recently Revised

Now all of your purchases will go in the order of the most recently revised resources.

If something has been recently revised, you will see in red writing Newly Revised Re-Download, underneath this it will say Description of Revision, if you click this it will tell you what has been recently revised. 

If it has be revised, just click DOWNLOAD NOW and it will download the most recent version to your desktop!

Be sure to check this every now and again so that you can check if any of your previous purchases have been updated.


Thursday, 8 September 2016

Don't Say It! Ice Breaker Game

You know when you get so excited over an activity you find because you just KNOW your kids are going to go crazy for it and just love it? 

Well i'm hoping that's what this resource will do for you, because as much as I hate to blow my own trumpet - I definitely had that feeling over one of my very own resources - Don't Say It! Ice Breaker Game.

It's a great resource to use during your first few days of School to help your students feel more relaxed, comfortable and confident in their surroundings as well as starting to form relationships - however, it's also a great game to keep going all year around - your kiddos are going to love it, and it will be great to pull out during those gaps in time - plus they'll be having fun AND learning!

This game can be done in pairs, small groups or even as a whole class activity - it's totally up to you and your students. Plus it's comes in black and white as well as col so that you can print whichever you would prefer - let's face it, ink is not cheap these days!

As you can see in the image above I've also included a cover and instruction card for the game - these are great to keep at the front of the game in case you ever have to go over the instructions briefly before it taking place - for yourself or your students - or even for a sub! And the cover is great for you to be able to find it quickly when put away in storage. 

The game has also got the alphabet included - there is a card for every letter of the alphabet - meaning a total of 26 cards. This can also be added into the game as well if you feel your students are able to - i.e start with the person who has letter A, then B etc.

The main idea of the game is for each student to be given a card (or more if there are left overs), they then have to read the word that they have - but don't say it!! - and then use different words to try and describe what they have, with other students listening to their clues and trying to guess. Each card also comes with some example words at the bottom to help students if they get stuck.

I really do recommend cutting out and laminating each of the individual cards, mainly because they will be stronger and longer lasting, but also so that they will be thicker - so students are less likely to be able to see through the paper (unless you print on card!).

It's the beginning of the year and I've already had so many compliments and great feedback on this resource - so how about having the chance to win it? Just simply enter in the rafflecopter below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Save $$ on TpT

If you're anything like me, you are a TpT addict! Who isn't going to love the site where you can get pretty much anything you could possibly need for your classroom in just one place, and support other professionals at the same time!

 But, let's face it, there's times when we could all do with just a few $$ savings on some resources. Well, did you know theres a way that you can do just that?

It's all about TpT Credits and today I'm going to show you how you can earn them and how to spend them!

So, first of all, log into your TpT account, hover over My TpT and then click 
TpT Credit Balance

This is how your page will look once loaded..

At the top you will see how many TpT credits you have - as you can see, I have 72.

Now it gives you a brief description of how the credits work - how you can gain them, and how they are used, 50 credits are worth $2.50, 25 credits are worth $1.25, 100 credits are worth $5 etc. etc.

Now you can use credits either to pay towards a purchase a discount or you can use them to pay off the full cost of a purchase.

Now, back to earning some. To see if you have any credits available to earn, hover over My TpT again and this time click My Purchases

Once it's loaded, on the top left click sort by then click Needs Feedback

This will now bring up all the purchases that you have made that need feedback. 

Be sure to go through and leave feedback on all of those purchases - if there are none that need feedback leaving - great job, you've already done it all!

If you've left new feedback, repeat the first few steps and go back to check on your updated TpT credit balance. 

Now, once you are ready to purchase something, go through and add whatever your purchasing to your cart, once you're finished, go to your cart.

Now underneath check out - see the little bit that says Redeem TpT Credits

Click Redeem TpT Credits and it will produce a drop down box. Here it will tell you how many credits you have available. Underneath the apply button it says 20 credits = $1. This transaction I could have my purchase for free if I put in 60 credits. You don't want to put in too many that will be more than the purchase price although I'm sure there'd be a way to fix it if you accidentally did this. 

Once you have added the TpT credits, just click APPLY and it will take the price off of your purchase, then just click CHECKOUT. It's important that even if the full cost of the purchase is covered by TpT credits that you still checkout - even if it says Total: $0.00, you have to check out for the purchase to go through. 

And that is how you save $$ on your TpT purchases. Be sure to always leave feedback on paid purchases so those TpT credits can start to add up nicely in your account!


Thursday, 1 September 2016

Giant Jaffa Cake Recipe

If you're not from UK you may not actually know what a Jaffa Cake is. It's quite hard to explain and there's a lot of debate over whether it's actually a 'cake' or a 'biscuit' - tbh it's a bit of both, but I know you'll love it!

This recipe is going to show you how to make a Giant Jaffa Cake! It's pretty easy but can be a bit fiddly at times! Follow the instructions below and let me know if you give it a go making one! We had a lot of fun making ours!

1) Put 225g butter into a bowl. If using the blocks make sure you leave it out of the fridge long enough for it to be soft - you don't want to make extra work for yourself!

2) Add 225g of caster sugar to the bowl.

3) Mix together the sugar and butter.

4) Beat 4 whole eggs and add them to the mixture. Mix altogether.

5) Add 225g self raising flour. Mix altogether.

6) Add 1 teaspoon baking powder.

7) Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix it altogether.

8) Now you're going to pour the mixture into your 'base'. Many recipes said to use a frying pan - but we used a silver foil cooking bowl and turned our perfect - plus less messy! We still put some baking paper underneath the mixture just so that it wouldn't get stuck. Then bake for 20 minutes at 180 degrees.

9) While the mixture is baking, we can move onto the jelly part. First, boil water and fill 570ml into a measuring jug. Break up 270g of Hartley's Orange Jelly cubes and mix it together until there are no lumps left.

10) Now, most recipes said to cover a frying pan in loads of cling film and then pour this on top and put in the fridge. Again, we used cling film over a silver foil baking bowl and done it this way instead, then put into the fridge to set - this can take a long time so just keep checking on it. We left it overnight to make sure it was fully set.

-- Now hopefully you haven't forgotten about your cake base in the oven - check if it's baked, if it is, take it out and leave to cool - again we left it overnight just to make sure. --

11) You're now going to cut off any edges to make the cake base round - if needed. Then, pull the jelly out of the fridge and place on top of the cake base - again, cut off any pieces to make it round if needed.

12) Now it's time to make the top chocolate layer. You're going to melt 200g dark chocolate - I usually do this in a bowl over a saucepan filled with water and put to boil, but you can do it in the microwave or however you prefer.

13) Once melted, pour the chocolate over the jelly - be sure to spread it around quickly and don't pour it all in one place or you're going to melt the jelly! This bit is the trickiest part. 

14) Put in the fridge to set - preferably for around 30-60 minutes. Remember the chocolate part on the top is going to be hard after being in the fridge for a while so it let 'warm' for a bit at room temperature so it will be easier for you to cut.



Quick Shopping List:
  • 225g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 270g Hartley's orange jelly
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • Baking Paper
  • Foil Cooking Bowls

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