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In last week's  post, we were talking about Morning Meeting and the FINISH THAT portion of this wonderful teaching tool in which we talked about poems, songs, and patterns.  If you missed last week's post, be sure and check it out here.




Today I would like to share about the calendar section of Morning Meetings. This can be one of the most fun sections to implement because there are so many different ways to do it.  Today we will focus on just a couple of them and ways to differentiate them and some ideas for keeping everyone engaged no matter what their levels.
A very common way to conduct calendar time is to have a calendar area on the wall and have different students take turns moving or changing the items on the calendar wall each day. Parts of this section usually includes the date, days of the week such as yesterday, today and tomorrow. weather, counting, shapes, appropriate apparel. and patterns.

The problem I found with this method for some of my classes was that it provided time for one or perhaps two students to interact with the calendar at a time, leaving the others sitting and waiting. For many students in self-contained classrooms, there is a wide range of skill levels. Using one calendar and one skill focus for the activity for the entire group of students is not the best way many times for them to be working on appropriate skills.

Another factor I consider is that kids with special needs, often need more activities that keep them motivated. It can be challenging to keep them still and attending while one student at a time goes to the calendar wall to manipulate pieces.

Don't get me wrong if you have a class that can handle this type of calendar, that is great! I have done calendar walls and bulletins boards many times and adore them, but today I want to address calendar time in a class with kids that may have a variety of disabilities with many different skill levels.
 How do we keep each child in this type of classroom on task for calendar and engaged on a level where they can function successfully.

Let's take a look at some ideas for Calendar Time in morning meetings and some ways to differentiate while keeping all students engaged.

I took the ideas from the wall calendar and personalized them into a mini-calendar for each child.
Instead of putting the calendar section on a wall or bulletin board, try one of these ideas.


  1. Interactive calendar notebook.
  2. Calendar desk mat
  3. Personalized calendar task card
  4. Individualizedcalendar wipe off board




Here is an example of a wipe off calendar where the student only has to circle the date it is. This could be varied with calendars the student needs to write in the month and the date or circle the month and the date. 
Another way to do it is to put each component you want a student to work on its own page and combine them into a morning meeting notebook for each child.
The advantage I found with this method was it gives me the ability to select the skill pages I wanted in each child's notebook and the skills can be modified up or down as needed for the child's skill level.


What I try to do is to have several skill levels available for the notebooks. For instance, for Today's Date, I might incorporate 3 different levels; 3 ways of responding. 
  1. One might be using words to designate the date where the student must read the words and select the correct cards for the month, the numeral date and the year.
  2. Another option I  use is a calendar for the specific month and all the student needs to do is circle the correct day or point to it. If the child uses TouchMath then I incorporate the points on the numbers to make it easier for the student to read and use the numbers. 
  3. Another alternative could use word bank of months of the year, dates and year. The students then would write in the information required.
Here is an example of a desk mat that has a rectangle place holder for the month of the year, a circle placeholder for the date and a smaller placeholder for the year.  Use one desk mat like this and then another blank one opposite to this with the date pieces the student can pick from. 
The teacher can control the number date pieces the student has, whether the pieces have words on them or pictures or a combination of both. It can also have pictorial representations of sign language if you need that. 



These are just a few springboard ideas for ways to adapt calendar time to meet the needs of your students. 

Join me next time for more ideas on Morning Meeting and how to introduce it to your class and get it up and running.



In last week's  post, we were talking about Morning Meeting and the Greetings portion of this wonderful teaching tool.  If you missed last week's post, be sure and check it out here.

Morning Meeting definitely is  powerful teaching tool. It is extremely versatile. It can be adapted for our student with special needs. It works great to review skills, use social skills, practice concepts, and use verbal skills. For the teacher and other staff, it is an optimal opportunity to  observe students interactions.  If you don't already use it, consider implementing it in your classroom.

During the design phase of my Morning Meetings each school year, I start off  with  4 basic parts depending on the students in my class. I used this foundation to begin the year. As the students gain skills, I frequently modify the structure, number of activities, the skill level of the components that are included in Morning Meeting. This is one way it grows with the students needs and it keeps it fresh and new for the students; and me too.

The 4 basic components I start with are:
GREETINGS
FINISH THAT PATTERNS
CALENDAR
SHARING

No matter what portion of Morning Meeting I am developing or revising, I keep in mind the goals and objectives of Morning Meeting and also of the students that will be a part of my class. Here are some of the goals I commonly use.

1. Build community in the classroom
I want the students interacting with each other and  every student  involved in each activity.
2. Set a positive atmosphere for the day of learning ahead.
Everyone needs to be successful, so I remember to make sure the skills are ones already covered.
3. Provide an opportunity for academic and social skill learning to come together.
4. Reinforce skills
Morning Meeting provides another niche in the school day to more practice in.
5. Engage all students at their functioning level.
No matter what the students disabilities, I want to make sure I have all the materials necessary
for each child to participate at their level.

FINISH THAT

Today I wanted to share about the piece of Morning Meetings I call FINISH THAT. This section is  about category that can included many different things such as completing patterns, sequencing, verbal speaking, rhyming.
At the beginning of the year I start with something very simple. Depending on the age of students in the class and their ability levels, I sometimes begin with nursery rhymes or easy poems.

POEMS, SONGS and RHYMES

Poems, songs and rhymes make great vehicles to reinforce many skills. You can work on memory
Row, Row Your Boat
Most students know this old favorite, but if they don't the be sure to teach it first prior to using it in this activity.
After singing the entire song through at least once, continue singing the song omitting one word each time through the song, until there are no words left. You can substitute a clap in place of the missing word.
One variation I used with songs like these would be to have one section of the class sing the song and the other remaining students provide the missing pieces.

Row, Row Row Your Boat
Gently Down the Stream
Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily
Life it But a Dream

I like to have a song that we start with each day. One of my favorites to start off with was Are You Ready to the tune of "Frere Jacques".

Are you ready,
Are you ready,
to start our day?
to start our day?
We are ready to learn.
We are ready to learn.
Let's have a good day.
Let's have a good day. 


Finish the Pattern

Give each student a card with the designated pattern you wish to work on.
FINISH THAT IDEA..WHAT IF
Use crazy questions or statements to illicit verbal speaking.
Here are some ideas you could ask

1. What if cows gave orange juice instead of milk?
2. What would happen if all the streets were rivers?
3. What would happen if it really rained cats and dogs?
4. What would you do if you found a million dollars in your backyard?
5. What would happen if your cat/dog could talk?
6. What if you found a magic wand?
7. What if you woke up one day and your skin was purple?
8. What if you were going around the world and you could only take 3 people. Who would they be?
9. What is one thing you would do if you were the ruler of the whole world?
10. What would happen if you could fly?

Date Repeat
Incorporate the date into a short game and repetition activity. As the year progresses it is easy to ramp this up to match skills.
Teacher or activity leader:
Today is  Monday
Students repeat:
Today is Monday  or
they can reply back with a rearranged sentence. Monday is today
Teacher or activity
August 24
Students repeat:
August 24
Teacher or activity leader:
All day long
Students repeat:
All day long

RHYMING
 Students can stand in a circle for this one. Designated a student leader or the teacher begins by saying:
I am thinking of a word that rhymes with CAT.
Everyone repeats the word 2 times CAT, CAT
On the next chant, the next student in the circle chants, CAT and a word that rhymes with CAT
This could  be RAT
So it would go like this:
Student leader or teacher: 
I'm thinking of a word that rhymes with CAT.
Whole Group: CAT, CAT
Next student: CAT, RAT

Skip Counting

Whether you are working on counting by 1's, 2's 5's or 10's they can always be fun to incorporate into Morning Meeting. Its also a wonderful way to get some Math into Morning Meeting and reinforce those skills already taught.
Whether you have your students sit in chairs, rug mats or bean bags for Morning Meeting this can be an easy game to implement.
Each student gets a pack of cards from the Skip Counting packet. You can pick up the Skip Counting packet from my TpT store here. Each packet has a set of 5 cards.

 SKIP COUNT FREEBIE
Prior to Morning Meeting the teacher removes 2 of the cards from each pack. I usually did this at the end of the activity the day before by just swapping out the cards as the students handed them in.

1. Give each student a pack of skip counting cards minus, each missing 2 card.
2. The missing cards are gathered in a group face up such as a blackboard marker tray or on a table.
3. Students lay out their cards from their group.
4. Students go to the group of missing cards and find the cards they need to complete their set.



Sort That

Sorting activities are great activities to include in Morning Meeting. They can be very simple or more complex depending on your students. You can use all types of things for the sorting objects. This works really well to use pictures of real objects, or real object themselves to begin teaching sorting or for those kids that work better with real objects than pictures on cards. 
Basic sorting activities can be done very nicely using the students themselves. I love doing this type of activity as one of my main emphasis is morning meeting is keeping all the student involved. I put 
Basic Sorts using students.
Sorting activities are also very flexible as they can be done on the floor, on a table or desk, in a pocket chart, at a morning meeting bulletin board. 
If you are making cards for sorting activities; you can use clip art, magazine pictures, or even photos.
1. Designate the areas for the groups you want sorted. I use circles. Use tape and make 2 or 3 circles on the floor. I usually have these on the floor already as they are extremely useful for activities other than morning meeting. Another idea is to use different color hula hoops to designate the groups. 
2. Determine what you are going to sort by. I usually plan mine out in my lesson plans for the week.


Thanks for joining me today for some ideas on songs, patterns and rhyme activities in Morning Meeting.
Come back next week for another portion of Morning Meeting activities.


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Morning Meeting is one of the most powerful teaching tools in the classroom.
Each school year when developing my morning meeting components, I make sure my goals of what I want the kids to work are firmly in mind and I am addressing each students IEP goals.
I want to make sure I take into consideration what skills students they a have mastered and what they need to work on. What are their strengths and weaknesses and what accommodations would they require?
Here are some of the more common goals I have used.

With my Morning Meetings I want to:
1. Build community in the classroom
2. Set a positive atmosphere for the day of learning ahead.
3. Integrate academic and social skill learning.
4. Reinforce skills.
5. Engage all students at their functioning level.


At the beginning of the school year, I start out  with 4 very basic parts to my Morning Meeting. Those parts usually consist of something like these.

I. GREETINGS

II. FINISH THAT

III. CALENDAR

IV.  SHARING



As the year progresses and the student skills grow, I always change it up; adding more components and modifying the ones I have, to grow and change with the students and to keep things fresh and interesting.

Today I want to share some ideas about the Greetings portion of my Morning Meetings.

Greetings are paramount, especially at the beginning of the school year.  The greeting activity should be fun and positive. Its one of the first things the students do each day. Greeting can be done on so many levels, but I want to make sure the activities I incorporate reinforce social skills and extend verbal skills. We also work on eye contact, different ways and appropriate ways to greet others.
Here are a few ideas to try. When I have used these, I have always had nonverbal kids and  for whatever greeting activity I used, I made sure I had visuals to be used, or their ACC device programmed for the activity. Instead of speaking these kids could select the other child's name from their board.



GROUP CHANTS FOR MORNING MEETING


BROWN BEAR BROWN BEAR
1. Group begins the chant using the first name of student A.
    First name, first name, what do you see?
2. Student A turns or goes over to to student B and  replies using their first name.
    I see first name SMILING at me. Hello, first name!
3. Group chants again using the first name of student B.
    First name, first name, what do you see?
4. Student B replies using the first name of student C.
   I see first name SMILING at me. Hello, first name!
The chant pattern continues around the circle until all students have been greeted. At that time
the group chants:
Everyone, everyone, what do you see?
I see children smiling at me.

With student names as examples, and using waving as a greeting,  it would go as follows.
Student A: Sally
Student B: Sam
Student C: Michael
Student D: Roger

Group: Sally, Sally, what do you see?
Sally: I see Sam waving at me. Hello, Sam.
Group: Sam, Sam, what do you see?
Sam: I see Michael waving at me. Hello, Michael.
Group: Michael, Michael what do you see?
Michael: I see Roger waving at me. Hello, Roger.
When all the students have had a turn, the whole group chants
Everyone, everyone, what do you see?
I see children smiling at me.

VARIATIONS:
A. You can change the action verb for what the students are doing during the greeting such as the word SMILING to other words such as WAVING, LOOKING, or WINKING to name just a few.
B.  You can vary the greeting each student says such as Hello! to other ones such as Good Morning, How are you? or Nice to see you!


HELLO, HOW ARE YOU?
Students take turns in a circle greeting their neighbor (or assigned greeting partner) with this chant.
Hello, hello and how are you?
I'm fine, I'm fine and I hope you are too. 
As the students chant, they can turn and greet another student using a wave, a handshake or high five.

2, 4, 6, 8 CHEER
Assign an order of the students to use in this cheer or the teacher can stand/point to the next student in turn in the cheer. You could also assign a helper to select the next student.
This one doesn't necessarily practice specific greetings, but it does give an opportunity for all the students to be positive toward each other.

1. Students stand/sit in a circle. Students clap and chant, naming the first student.
Two, Four, Six, Eight
Who do we appreciate?
First name, first name Yeeaaaaah, first name.

2. As the students are chanting, the named student walks inside the circle giving high-fives. When he/she returns to his/her place, everyone shouts out, raising their hands above their heads,
Yeah, first name
3. Continue in the same manner until all the students have been named.

VARIATIONS:
You can modify this by adding the use of different voices for the day or for each student. For instance, you could whisper the chant, put it in a song, do it in a crying voice, a deep voice, or even a squeaky voice.

MATCHED PAIRS GREETING 
This activity has unlimited variations. This activity requires you to make a set of cards for the class. Some of the easiest ones I start out with at the beginning of the year is colors, numbers or letters. You could also use any other type of patterns. For a class of 10 you will need 10 cards of 5 matching items.

1. Distribute cards to students.
2. On the teacher's signal, the students locate the classmate with the matching card and greet them appropriately. 

I adore this activity since it can be modified in so many ways to fit the needs of the students. Usually with this activity at the beginning of the year, I start with one type of greeting such as "Hi!"  or one skill such as eye contact to focus on. As the students skills progress, I can add different types of greetings.

Thanks for joining me today for some ideas on greeting activities in Morning Meeting. Store the ideas away for next school year.
Come back next week for another portion of Morning Meeting activities.

Reading has always been a favorite of mine to teach. I adore working on decoding with students but my passion lies in helping them detect the meaning in the words on the page and grow in their comprehension skills. After all, isn't that what reading is all about? Detecting the meaning behind the words?

In a previous blog post I wrote about some simple ideas to increase understanding of what the main idea is. Here is a blurb from that post.

MAIN IDEA is finding the information that tells what the entire text or picture is about. It is the message or the point the author of the materials wants to convey.
When teaching main idea I use key words such as WHO and WHAT. Another idea to use is what is the BIG IDEA of this story or what you are trying to teach is how to pinpoint what the author is targeting.


HOW
Picture Main Idea
Start at the picture level. Use an easy to understand pictures from magazines, photos, picture books or comic book.  These can be  extremely useful for main idea. When working with materials at the picture stage, be sure and include the use of key phrases to prompt the correct answer such as What is happening in this picture?  What is the boy/girl doing? Pictures depicting things familiar to the student are particularly  helpful at this stage such as the one below.

 Here are a couple of examples of picture stage.


Here are a few types of questions  you can ask about pictures when working on main idea.
1. What is happening in this picture?
2. What do you see in the picture?
3. What are they doing?


Main Idea
Here are some ideas for working on comprehension skill of main idea in your classroom.
Sometimes real pictures are better than words. Use a real object such as target with a bull eye on it.



One that works really well is a velco target.
This is a great way of emphasizing with students, how we need to get to the most important piece of information in text. We always need to drill down to the the bulls eye to understand what is being said.  I like to modify the  target with details of a well know story, such as a fairy tale or such.
I fasten story details in several of the places on the bull eye and the main idea in the center. The kids LOVE throwing the balls to try and get to the center of the target. This becomes a great learning "hook" on which to refer back to during main idea instruction to help them understand what we are looking for in a main idea.




Another idea for working with main idea is to use headlines from newspapers or magazines. I find kids newspapers and magazines the best to use for this. Headlines are great for finding what the main topic is.
I like to laminate them so the kids can use wipe-off markers or crayons on them and circle the word(s) that are the main topic of that sentence.
Following the activity, they are easy to wipe off and use again.



You have any ideas for teaching main idea to those kids that really struggle with this skill?
I'd love to hear about them.


This time of year is so hectic and jammed full of activities both personal and work.

At school, you are wrapping up the current year, assessing your students, analyzing all the assessment data and having end of the year IEPs and packing up your room. It's absolutely chaotic and you are downright exhausted at this time of year. Right? Well take a moment...right now and just breathe! You DESERVE it!




Even with any of those factors and ending up the school year, one of the most important things to do is to think ahead!

Here are some ways you can THINK AHEAD, ACT NOW and save yourself lots of time later.

Here are some ideas for for getting organized and jump starting your new year.

1. Get organized for the beginning of next year as much as possible. 

Before you walk away for the summer. This will save you so much time when the new year rolls around. 

2. Supply and materials storage. 

When you are packing away all your materials from this year, be sure and weed them out. One of the best things I started doing as I was cleaning up at the end of the year, was to start a FREEBIE box. As I was cleaning out, I would toss items into this bin if I knew I wouldn't be using it or if they were materials for an age of students I was no longer teaching. Then I put this bin outside my door with a Big FREEBIES on it. You should see my colleagues flock to it. I even send out email to fellow teachers letting them know where the FREEBIES box would. This all helped to make room for new materials for the coming year and gave some of the materials to other teachers that needed it.

3. Next year's materials go in front. 

Get all your name tags, get acquainted materials, classroom rules, and first week ideas organized and set up in one place. Put these materials at the front on the shelves or in the drawers. This way you can pull them out easily when you return. 

4. Returning students' materials easy access

If you teach special education, you know you are going to have some of your students returning to you the following year. Be sure to keep their portfolios, assessment information and work samples handy and easy to grab first thing in the year.

5. Organize your student files by color. 

In a special education classroom, you are always working with a multitude of grades and even more ability levels. I love organizing by color because its visually pleasing and an easy to use way to tell one set apart from another. Organize each grade level as a different color notebook. Use actual grade level or functioning level, which ever works best for you. I'm a firm believer in using 3 ring binders with the slip in sleeves on the front and back. This way I can color code any way I want and they are easy to change out. You can also use file folders or pocket folders. 

6. Before you leave 

Update each students information. Make sure they have a current IEP in the notebook, current assessment information and where you left off in instruction. Its amazing what might slip your mind over the summer. Keeping information about where instruction stopped makes a nice smooth transition when starting up the next year.

7. Determine First Day Activities

Determine some get-acquainted / Day 1 and Day 2 activities you would like to do with your class the first day/week of the new year. Prepare the number of activities and materials you need plus a few more in case you get new students. Gather all the materials you need. I like to put all those materials together in a plastic tub and store them at the front of all the supplies so they are the first things I get out when I return. 

8. Ready Theme Materials

I also found a good idea was to decide what theme I wanted to use in the classroom and put all the name tags and things in the tub . As you put things away in storage, put on the labels you want to be using next year. 

9. Take Pictures

If you aren't sure what theme or decor you want to use for next year, be sure and take pictures of your room before you leave. This will help you in planning over the summer and help your purchasing of item be more productive. 

10. MOST IMPORTANT 

Leaving your room in tip-top organization will make the beginning of next year so much easier.
Take a few minutes now and it will pay off later.


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