Tuesday, June 27, 2017

PECS Storage System & Giveaway!

Hi friends! I'm dropping in briefly today to show you how I organize my PECS using a toolbox from my local hardware store...AND to offer you a giveaway opportunity!
 This is the toolbox that I use. It is a 39-drawer toolbox and you can find it from Ace Hardware here. Other sizes could work too, but I like this one due to it having both large and small sized drawers. Some of our more frequently used PECS require larger drawers, and this toolbox is very deep, so even the small drawers store alot of pictures and also have a divider in each allowing you two sections if needed.

I then organize my PECS into categories. So some examples of the categories I have are:
school supplies
sentence starters....and so on.
The PECS you see in the picture above are from this set. I highly recommend this purchase if you are just starting PECS. You will have just about every symbol you could imagine right at your fingertips without the stress of having to create symbols you find you need as you go or worrying about what program you will need to create them. While I do occasionally still need to make a symbol from "Smarty Symbols" or "Symbol Stix," this set has been a major timesaver and is worth every penny. The symbols are all pre-cut and ready to use!

You can find this symbol set here and it is currently $15 off!!

Here is a close up look. I just love this system and I know you will too! I've tried binders with trading card pockets, hanging plastic shoe pockets, and cigar boxes even! This is the first system that has worked well and lets me easily retrieve my PECS easily and quickly as I need them!

If you're interested in the PECS Toolbox labels they are available here, but don't go anywhere just yet! 

I'm giving away one 39-drawer toolbox just like this one, to one lucky winner and I'm even throwing in a bonus! You'll also receive a set of my labels for FREE!

To enter, just pin the image below or pin from here and leave your pin URL in the comments! I'll choose a winner this weekend!

 Good Luck!


Monday, June 19, 2017


So you're a brand new SPED teacher....what do you need for your classroom? What are the priorities? I asked some of my friends from "We Teach Sped" and this is what they had to say.

~Alyssa from "Simply Special Ed" can't live without SAND TIMERS & SPORTS TIMERS on Amazon. Find Sports timers on Amazon here.

~Kate from "Fun in ECSE" can't live without VELCRO. Definitely a must. Feiner Supply is the best place to purchase your Velcro. Go here to purchase.

~Nicole from "Learning Lab" can't live without a DESK CALENDAR. She uses it to write in important tasks since it's always right on her desk and too big to lose! She also writes notes to herself on it so she can see them first thing every morning. These can be found at Walmart, Target, or any office supply store.

~Jennipher from "Teach.Love.Autism." says the best investment you can make is a personal LAMINATOR. I must agree, I LOVE my laminator! You can find the one that I have here for only $20 and it's worked great for over two years now! I purchase my laminating sheets from SAMS; 200 for only $20, which is one of the best deals I have found. You can see the ones I use here

~Pam from "Mrs. P's Specialities" encourages a ROLLING DRY ERASE BOARD that is magnetic. She says you can use it for directions, in the writing center, in the magnetic center, for small group instruction, and more. I love this idea! I found a few on Amazon, but a little pricey. I'm going to shop around a little more for this item.

~Erin from "You-Aut-A-Know" recommends DRY ERASE MARKERS galore! She uses them to write on the tables in her classroom. Yes, you can definitely never have enough dry erase markers. Students also just love being allowed to use these to write on their tables/desks. They're a little pricey, so when you catch a sale, STOCK UP!!

~Brie from "Breezy Special Ed" suggests MINI DRY ERASE BOARDS. She says their perfect for on the go first/then boards, token boards, and a place to write reminders of social stories!

~Now my turn....here are some of my most used purchases in my classroom that I truly could not live without! 

This timer is the greatest! I have timers going all over the place in my classroom and kids on reinforcement timers continuously throughout the day. With this timer you can set it for up to four students at a time. It is available on Amazon here.

Another timer I could not live without! This is the "Time Timer" from Lakeshore and it comes in 3 different sizes. I use this timer for center rotations and I love it because it allows me to monitor when the rotation is coming to an end and whether or not I have time to start a new activity or not. It's also great for those students that need predictable time and/or warnings of an activity ending. Now while I mentioned these are available at Lakeshore, check with your Assistive Technology Department first! I was able to get mine for free from my AT Dept. 

If you are going to be using a PECS program with any of your students, I highly recommend this purchase for new teachers or teachers just starting PECS. You will have just about every symbol you could imagine right at your fingertips without the stress of having to create symbols you find you need as you go or without worrying about what program you will need to create them. This set has been a major time and lifesaver for me and is available here. It is worth every penny!

One other thing I highly recommend is a pair of Titanium non-stick scissors. These will be your best friend for cutting Velcro. 

And lastly, be sure to have plenty of token boards on hand and plenty of reinforcers. 

I hope this post has been helpful! I wish you the best of luck!

Monday, June 12, 2017

THE FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL: Helpful Advice for New SPED Teachers

We Teach Sped, a collaborative group I'm a part of, frequently gets the question, "What is your best advice for a new Special Education Teacher?" With a new year coming up, we thought it would be a perfect time to answer this question for everyone. 

Here is what some of my "We Teach SPED" friends had to say. 

"Start off slow and build from there. Rome wasn't built in a day! You can only do so much at once!" ~Simply Special Ed

"Mark when all of your IEPs and METs are due at the start of the year and mark 30 days out from the due date so you have time to assess, schedule, and write up the paperwork." ~Fun in ECSE

"Skim over IEPs in the beginning of the year but get to know the student as a real person instead of as words written on a document." ~Learning Lab

"Always make a point to keep good communication with your student's families because when problems arise you will have them there by your side supporting you to help their child." ~Teach.Love.Autism

"Have a plan/route in place for every part of the day. Teach your students and staff the routines so you aren't being interrupted every 2 seconds. You should not be the only person in the room with all of the answers!" ~Mrs. P's Specialties

"Focus on setting up your classroom for student success. Provide all the visual supports they may need. Set up work stations and centers for students to use. You can always decorate bulletin boards and "make it cute" later." ~You-Aut-A-Know

"Start with a schedule but be flexible and know it will probably change as you get to know your students and their needs." ~Breezy Special Ed

This is all such wonderful advice! All great tips that will definitely result in a smoother start to your year! And now my own advice to you and a very crucial one..... 

"Starting with a solid and consistent classroom management plan in place on day 1 and teaching and practicing it with your students will help your year run almost seamlessly. Of course many of us will still have our challenging behaviors to deal with and our students will not master our CM procedures overnight, but with persistent consistency they will; and it will be so worth it in the long run! Classroom Management is the most important and is the foundation of running a positive and effective classroom efficiently, building a relationship with your students, and the #1 governing factor to student learning." ~The Bender Bunch

"Effective classroom teachers manage their classrooms. Ineffective teachers discipline their classrooms." ~Harry Wong

Being proactive and consistent is the key! Without a solid classroom management plan, you can forget teaching and learning! New teachers, or any teachers that still struggle with this, this is so important! 

Your classroom management plan will consist of many things you'll need to think out, like when or will you allow bathroom breaks during certain times, how will students ask for a drink of water, how will you line students up, where they will put their backpacks upon arrival, etc. You must have a procedure for everything and you MUST teach it to your students. It may seem like alot and overwhelming at this moment, but implementing a solid and consistent CM Plan on day 1 will make your life so much easier.

"Spend the first week or two teaching and practicing these procedures with your students." Role model and role-play. Set academics aside for the first couple of weeks and practice, practice, practice until your students understand the procedures and routines.

Download the checklist that I use to teach beginning of the year procedures to my students here.

I also highly recommend every new teacher read Harry Wong's book, "The First Days of School." I just love this book. It will prepare you for what your teaching program did not prepare you for! It is so powerful and was a very valuable resource for me when I first started out. It will answer all of your questions and help you start out grounded!

Harry Wong's Book is available on Amazon here.
I'm also giving one away for FREE!!

To enter: 
Comment below with your biggest challenge or fear! A winner will be chosen on 6/18 and the book will be shipped to the winner! 

(Unfortunately, this giveaway is open to U.S. residents ONLY.)

You can also read some other helpful tips that I cover in this previous post here

Be on the look out next month as I'll be blogging about part of my classroom management program and how it looks in my classoom. On the 20th, I'll be blogging about necessities you'll need for your classrooms! So don't miss it!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Look at My Oriental Trading Finds

I just love Oriental Trading and especially their "Teacher Supply" Section. So when they gave me the opportunity to do another product review, of course I said "Yes!" 

Here is what I picked out and I love it all! Everything is going to be so useful for next year!

Dry Erase Number Bond Task Cards
The set includes 50 cards, erases nicely, and I like that they are very thick and durable.
Check them out here.

Place Value Mats
I love these! They are very large, 14 x 18, and are very durable and laminated.
See them here.

Number Bond Pizza Wheels
So cute and fun, what child would not want to do these? It's hard to see, but these are wheels that children can spin around to reveal a new number. They are a little flimsier than I was expecting, but are laminated and also dry erase.
Check them out here.

Context Clues Puzzles
One of my faves! Context Clues are difficult to teach to students with intellectual disabilities. This will be a great place to start, allow me to target this skill, and will be easy enough for most of my students to do. I also like that the puzzle pieces are the same, so my students can't just try to match up pieces.
Find them here.

What Am I Game?
We actually played this on the last day of school and my kids loved it! Lots of fun and a great time filler when you need something quick.
Check it out here

Nuts 4 Contractions
This will be super fun and engaging for practicing contractions next year. The box and cards are thick and very sturdy. Include 50 contractions, 100 puzzle pieces in all. The only thing I would change for this resource, is a lid for the box. Since there is not a lid, it is more difficult to store and stack.
See it here.

You can read another OT review I did here on resources that I still use in my classroom.

BIG NEWS! Oriental Trading has also recently updated their site to provide a new and improved, explicit webpage just for teachers allowing a more pleasant shopping experience, called "Learn 365." Teachers can now shop by grade level and/or subject.

If you haven't shopped the OT Teacher Supply Section, you should check it out! They have lots of good stuff and it's ALL VERY reasonably priced!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

TPT Gift Card Giveaway!

Displaying $75 TpT Gift Card Giveaway An Apple  for the Teacher June 2017.jpg

Already thinking about next year? I still have 4 days of school left and I already am! 

For those already itching to plan for next year like us, we have a great giveaway to get you started! We're giving away a $75 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card to one lucky teacher! 

Prize: $75 Teachers pay Teachers Gift Card

Giveaway organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher)
Enter to win below. Giveaway ends 6/13/17 and is open worldwide.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Science Fair Kit Giveaway!

It's no secret...my students LOVE Science experiments! So when "Test Assured" wrote me and asked me to do a review on their Science Fair Water Testing Kits, of course I said, "Yes!" 

We're always looking for new Science experiments, so how can you go wrong! Well let me start by saying, we really enjoyed the water testing kits! They were simple enough for my students to use and we all learned a lot about the many things found in our water.   

This is the water testing kit I received from them in the mail. 

The kit included 4 individual test kits. I have 11 students, so I divided my students into 3 groups of 3 and one group of 2 to perform our water testing. 

 Each student kit includes the contents above. I gave each group a different water source to test.
Group 1 - School tap water
Group 2 - Spring Water
Group 3 - Bottled Water
Group 4 - Mrs. Bender's tap water from home 

Students got to test for Chlorine, Copper, Nitrite Nitrogen, Nitrate Nitrogen, Hardness, Alkalinity, PH, and Iron. Prior to testing our water, we discussed all of the above and why we did or didn't need these substances in our water, PLUS this handy little notebook included also explains each substance and has space for each group to record their findings. 

 My students had a lot of fun testing their water and matching their test strips up to the colors on the guide.

 The water testing kits were so easy to use, even for my special needs learners! Students just dipped the testing strip into their water vial.

Then they compare it to colors on the easy to use guide to find the levels of what they're testing.

Afterwards, we tested the TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) in our water sources using the TDS meter included, which was a bit shocking for all of us, and extended our experiment even further.
The water testing kit did not include detailed information on TDS levels other than they should be less than 500 according to the EPA recommended levels, so I printed this one out from the Internet. You can print it here. This would be a nice addition to the kit.

This is our findings:
School tap water - 546
Spring Water - 80
Bottled Water (Great Value Brand) - 70
Mrs. Bender's tap water - 533

When you compare this to the chart above, the tap water in our desert is near contamination level. Which confirms why most people in the desert DO NOT or at least SHOULD NOT drink water from the tap. 

Our results were so interesting and peaked such interest, that my aides and students wanted to test the water from their homes. I purchase my bottled water from a reverse osmosis machine, so I was interested in checking that too. So the next day the ones that remembered brought water from home and these were the results. 

Aide #1 tap water - 613
Aide #2 tap water - 535
Student #1 tap water - 546
Student #2 tap water - 518
My reverse osmosis & purchased water (from a dispenser) - 50
My filtered water from a Britta microfiltration filter on my faucet - 525

We learned from these results that not only is it not healthy to drink our tap water here in the desert, but that an expensive Britta brand water filter system is not worth the money. We also learned that the water you purchase for 25 cents from the reverse osmosis machines is the purest and cleanest water you can drink, with store bought bottle water being the second. 

My students really enjoyed these water testing kits and it was a great lesson on the harmful substances different water sources can contain and why people always say not to drink the tap water here in our desert. 

These kits also serve as a wonderful activity for learning to follow step-by-step directions, comparing colors, recording data, and working together in a group.

I know some of you have students that would have fun with these kits too, so "Test Assured" has agreed to let me give 2 water testing kits away! Each test kit is valued at $30 and would be perfect for a fun summer school project, summer camp, or for next year's Science Fair! To enter, just complete two simple tasks below.