Teaching Kids According to Their Needs

With a new season of life, I am ready to get back to where I left off a couple years ago. I had only just begun the blogging and TPT adventure when my mom and family needed any extra time I could give. I value the time spent with them and have grown as a teacher, wife, and mother. Even though the last couple of years have pulled me away from sharing my teaching ideas and passion, I have been researching, collecting, creating, implementing, and taking pictures from lessons I have used in my 2nd grade classroom. For my first post back, I want to share what I have learned the most from my son who has Auditory Processing Disorder or APD.
  
Today he is an amazing 14 year old standing at 6'1". he is a straight A, Honor and Superintendent Roll Student. He is a competitive football, wrestling, and baseball athlete that was awarded Coaches Award and Team Leader. He is compassionate and a gentle giant that respects authority and stands up for those in need, "His Peeps" as he call them. This was not always how his teachers or classmates would describe him. 

In preschool and Kindergarten he looked like a typical boy, played hard and did not want to sit very long to listen to a lesson. He was a little more aggressive on the playground and did not have a lot of control of his larger than average body. He was 10lb 4oz when he was born and he never dropped out of the 99% tile on the growth chart. Yet, he was a lovable sweet teddy bear that always looked out for the underdog and helped anyone he could. He loved school, and his teacher said he asked a lot of questions and was often off task. In first grade he continued to have more trouble on the playground, still asked a lot of questions, and never listened the first time. He was now getting a reputation as defiant and a "difficult Student". Teaching at the same school that he attended, I met with his teacher often and we tried multiple strategies to keep him on task and play nicely with his friends.

By second grade he was having trouble reading and frustration with his learning was evident. He scored high in math and spelling but reading, especially his comprehension was below grade level. He continue to struggle on the playground and he was becoming physically aggressive. His teacher that year, a good friend of mine poured into him. She made sure he understood what was being asked of him and was cautious of changing her routine during the day. In the classroom, he was making progress. But, his interactions with friends away from adult supervision and monitoring was getting worse. I really started researching Learning Disabilities and the associated indicators. ADD was emerging in many searches, but APD also sounded like it could be what my boy was struggling with. ADD is an easy diagnosis but I did not know much about APD. One thing that we knew is that he was not as much defiant when asked to do something as he was delayed. About a 20 sec. delay before he would began a task. Most of the time he would only do half of what was asked, forgetting a lot of the details.

In third grade his aggression continued and so did his frustrations in reading. His teacher was another good friend of mine and she spent a lot of time helping him through social issues. He flourished in math, but assignments were piling up and he just could not get his work completed on time. He needed to check for understanding continually and started to rely on his classmates to see what task he was supposed to be on. By the end of third grade he was diagnosed as ADD and Anxiety. I use the word diagnosed lightly, his teacher answered a questionnaire, we the parents answered questions, and then medication was prescribed. 


We began medication in 4th grade. We thought we would see a new child, unfortunately we saw the opposite. He had a new teacher that year. She was a kind, sweet, young teacher. She had a difficult class and her new teacher patience had not yet reached a level that was needed for this class or my son.  This is when I knew I needed to be an advocate for my son and learn how to Teach Him According to His Needs. I tried new strategies, I researched, I suggested teaching techniques that would fit his learning style. We were closing the gap between his processing time. The time from when he heard something to the time he reacted. But, it wasn't enough. The steroids were causing him to gain weight and we needed to increase the dosage. 

By the end of 5th grade he had gained 40lbs and been suspended multiple times. He was aggressive on the playground and did not do well when there was a substitute or a change in his routine. His peers teased him and egged him on when he was frustrated. He became the kid that nobody chose to be on his team. Instead of learning to deal with anger and his frustrations while on the medication, he became more irritable and he often broke down emotionally. Sports were no longer fun and he could not participate in anything that required him to infer a situation and respond accordingly. He was asked not to return to the school for his 6th grade year.

As any good mom would do, I took him off medication cold turkey. Oops, don't do that! We looked at this change as a new start. We realized very shortly that the combination of medications were working against each other and making him aggressive! So I researched again and planned out a life change that would hopefully bring my sweet lovable boy backed to us. We cut out all Red Dye 40, limited his sugar intake, planned sensory activities that would allow his body to release tension safely, and created organizational strategies that would help him be successful in school. 

Many times during his elementary years he asked why God has given him such struggles and obstacles to overcome. I said, "To make Momma a better teacher!" In future post, I will be adding strategies, pictures, and information that I have used to reach students in my own classroom. I have been blessed with many students with similar learning struggles and have grown as a teacher because of each one of them. I am passionate about Teaching Students According to Their Needs and adjusting  my teaching not making them adjust to my class!

I am looking forward to starting this new season of life, using my experiences to make me a better teacher, and to share what I have learned!




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Outside the Classroom Walls - Measurement




I love taking my students outside for learning. There is such an amazing transformation in a student's desire to learn when you give them guidelines, tools, and then let them create the problems and solutions. They expand the lesson more than a worksheet or directed lesson will ever accomplish.


In this lesson, students were given a simple recording sheet and asked to find objects they could measure in centimeters, inches, feet, and yards. Each student had a ruler and a clipboard.

Some students worked in pairs, some in groups, and some preferred to go at it alone. Then they were asked to list objects found outside of the playground that they could measure in the same units. The list were creative and far beyond what they could of thought of in the classroom. By giving them tangible items they could touch and compare, they were then able to visualize other objects with the same measurement. It was hard to get them to stop working. Once we got back to the classroom, we used our collected data and started to convert the measurements. This was an awesome way to differentiate math. Some students used repeated addition, others used grouping and broke numbers apart, while a few even attempted multiplication. Overall, this was a great lesson taken outside the classroom walls.



Landforms and Bodies of Water

My kids have had so much fun with our Land-form and Bodies of Water Unit. First we talked about each form and what it takes to create each one. After that I put the kids in groups, and they made a poster about their form.
When they were finished, they shared all of its features with the class.
Next the kids made the form out of clay. I had to add on an extra 15 min. to my lesson just so they could play with the clay! They did a really good job and had a lot of fun too.




Today we got messy with paint. A little more mess than I wanted but they had fun! The conversations were great. They needed to decide on what colors to paint and why. They blended colors to add weathering and realistic features.


Next week we will be discussing how weathering and natural disasters affect the forms. The students can't wait to destroy, they are all fighting over who gets to represent the earthquake.

FRIENDS

Being a student is about more than just learning how to be a mathematician or a good reader and teaching is about more than teaching the standards. Finding opportunities to teach students how to be a good person is equally important. Sometimes we forget that children do not automatically know how to interact with one another. These skills have to be taught, practiced, and talked about. I found these great posters made by
 Digital Divide & Conquer Thank You!

I was planning a chapel for school and knew I wanted to do something on friendship, these posters were perfect. My students all had a part and we told the group we were going to "Spell Out" how to be a good friend. We went through the cards one by one and gave examples of each concept. We ended the chapel with a skit on solving problems on the playground AKA "Rock, Paper, Scissors".

My students and the other classes loved the chapel and I see them using the strategies on the playground and in the classroom. I may not have gotten to everything on my lesson plans that week, but it was worth it!

Happy 2015!

Happy New Year, I can't wait to see what God has in-store for me this year. I have made my mental list of things I want to accomplish, create, and improve. If I make a real list, I will just be overwhelmed and it would take too much valuable time. I need to shorten the list! Life has been crazy, like I am sure it has been for most people. I feel like I never have enough time to do everything that I want to accomplish.. I am in the stage of life where I am taking care of and making decisions for both my parents and my own kids. It is a hard stage of life, trying to be the perfect daughter and not let your parents down and be the perfect mom who is there 100%.  With that being said, I think balance and being satisfied with what I do accomplish, will be my number 1 and only thing I write on a New Year's Goals List. Take this post for example, it was supposed to happen yesterday, it happened today.  But yesterday I took a shower, put on clean PJ's, and never left the house. It was the best day ever and I worked most of the day on a new writing packet that I hope to have done by next weekend.

I have 3 days left of Christmas Vacation and I am heading to Palm Springs with kids 1 and 3. Kid 2 has basketball and baseball evaluations on Saturday. My friend at Anchors Away in First Grade is organizing and running a family retreat for a local church. She is in-charge of the kid's program and she went with a Super Hero theme. Kim asked me to go along and be in charge of the children with special needs. I can't wait to be blessed by these little people and see what super powers will be present over the weekend. My own kiddos will be helping me, which I love. They always amaze me with their compassion and love they show the kids.

I know I will be recharged and ready to go back into my class on Monday. I only worked on my room for one day during vacation, I think that is a record. My closet was taking on a life of its own and was causing me a little anxiety. I can now walk in and find what I need, which always helps with my energy filled class. If I take too long transitioning from one thing to another, I pay for it throughout the day.

While I was going through old papers and trying to figure out the best way to file them, I had an idea. Control-Alt-Delete. That's my new phrase for starting from scratch. Why put all the energy into filing old stuff when I enjoy creating new things and looking on TPT for the amazing creations of others.
So my Game Plan for the new year is.... Stop trying to fix and change what I have done in the past. Just start doing it the way I want it to be done!

Author's Purpose

Happy Fall,
I am so excited that I have finished my Author's Purpose packet. I have used parts of it for many years in my classroom, but this year I feel that I am doing a much better job of hitting this topic multiple times. My students get it, and understand the concepts. Below is a preview of the packet available on TPT:
My TPT Store

I would be happy to answer any questions on how I use these products in the classroom.

Personal Narrative Completed Stories

My students have finished their personal narrative stories and I love how they came out. The transition from the graphic organizer to the rough draft template was very smooth. The kids are really understanding the concept of adding details to their sentences and providing examples of each topic. I chose to use the blank final draft paper so the students can illustrate their own party, we topped each page with a party hat. I have already started revamping other writing projects, using these same formats. You can find the personal narrative pack on my TPT store.
Personal narrative completed work