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Erin Condren and $130 TpT Giveaway

Some of my favorite special ed teachers got together for this great giveaway!  Good luck!!

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Longest Closed Shape Challenge

Today, I challenged my kids to see who could make the longest/biggest closed shape out of paper.  I am extremely competitive and bragged explained that I would win this challenge AND I wouldn't use any tape.  My kids were super excited to try to beat me.  The each received 1 piece of paper and about 18 inches of tape.  I gave them half an hour to construct the largest shape they could.  Here's the results:

The kids did a great job and almost beat me.  (I was a little worried that I wasn't going to win.) My shape is the long blue one and won by about 6 inches.

So, here's the trick to beating your kids.  First, fold your paper in half.  Notice how the first and last cuts are made.  Those are the 2 most important cuts.  You will go back and forth the entire length of the fold.  The closer you make these cuts, the longer/larger your shape will be.

Next, you will cut the fold.  DO NOT CUT THE FIRST OR LAST FOLDS.  Open it up slowly so you don't rip it.  It will easily be over 10-12 feet long.

I have also used this trick to challenge my kids to make a shape large enough for a person to walk through.  They always think it is impossible and love to learn how to make 1 piece of paper stretch so much.  I usually have 1-2 students go home and try this bet with their families!

Paper Shovel CHallenge

Today's challenge was to create a shovel using only 2 pieces of construction paper and 12 inches of tape.  The kids worked together in partners or by themselves.  We tested the shovels to see how many lego pieces the shovel could scoop.  We had a tie.  These were the winning shovels.

They each scooped 25 lego pieces!  

Here are the shovels the other groups made.

The kids had a great time!

Paper Chain Challenge

We have weeks of state testing this year.  To help my kids to stay focused and motivated, we are doing STEM activities in the afternoons.  Today, our challenge was to see which group could make the longest paper chain using only 1 piece of construction paper and about 12-14 inches of tape.  The students jumped right in and started creating.

After 20 minutes, we compared the lengths of each paper chain.  The green chain is actually folded in half!  The kids had a great time working together!

Motivate the Unmotivated

I have a great group of kids this year, but they are not very motivated.  They will begin their work when reminded, but they are often off task so it takes them forever to complete anything.  I tried several different approaches but none of them worked until I implemented STEM bins.  This has been a life changer for me!

I purchased several different kinds of building materials for my kids.  I also went through my stash I already had at school.  I put each material in a different plastic container with a lid for easy storage and clean up.  
When students finish up their work, they are allowed to choose a STEM bin.  They can build anything they want (as long as it's school appropriate.)  If they need ideas, I found some great STEM task cards on TpT.  I had to put a limit to no more than 2 students per STEM bin to help with noise.  They can get a little loud while they are creating!  Here are some of the amazing things they made just before our Christmas break.

horse barn

gear tower



flying craft



This has changed how quickly my students complete their work. My students stay on task and stay focused.  They cannot wait to get their hands on the STEM bins.  I am so glad that I implemented this new system in my class!

Awesome Pencil Sharpener

One of the biggest problems we have in the classroom involves pencils.  We can't find them and when we do find them, they are never sharp.  The new Classroom Friendly Pencil sharpener has solved the sharpening part of our problem!  I love how easy it is for my students to use and it's super quiet.  My favorite feature of the pencil sharpener is that when the pencil is sharp, the sharpener will not continue to sharpen the pencil.  I have several students who will continue to sharpen their pencils on my old sharpener until it is about 2 inches long.  The pencil comes out of this sharpener perfect every time!

You know how sometimes pencil lead (especially colored pencil lead) gets caught in the sharpener part and you have to dig around with a paperclip or other device to try to loosen it so you can use the sharpener again?  With this sharpener, you are able to easily remove the sharpener part by turning the base of the handle.  This allows you to pull out the sharpening mechanism and easily remove the lead without damaging your sharpener or hurting yourself!  It slips right back in and turn the base of the handle to lock in place.

If you have never used this type of sharpener before, please take just a second to look over the directions.  It is super easy to use, but if not used properly, you may damage it or hurt yourself.  Simply squeeze the top two black, plastic pieces together and pull out.  Squeeze the two black pieces again and insert the pencil (see picture 2).  Place left hand on top of the yellow part of the sharpener and turn the handle with right hand to sharpen.  When pencil is sharp, it sounds/feels different when you turn the handle.  Even if you continue to turn the handle, it will not continue to sharpen the pencil.  It comes out perfect every time!  You can find out more about this amazing sharpener {HERE}  By the way, it's a lot cheaper than many school sharpeners.  You can get one for about $25 or 3 for about $54.  I paid more than that for my last electric sharpener and it didn't even last the school year.


Rounding is a concept that many of my kids really struggle with.  A teacher friend shared this idea with me.  Tell students they are shipwrecked on an island.  This island doesn't have anything on it.  However, there is another island nearby that has lots of delicious fruit trees.  There are 9 stones connecting the two islands.  Student 1 decides to jump across the stones to get to the other island.  He jumps on the first stone, but before he can go any further, a huge wave comes.  Ask the student, "Are you going to jump back to the island of nothing, or jump ahead to the island of plenty?"  Student 1 is going to jump back because he is closer to the island of nothing.  Continue this process with a student making it one stone further each time.  When the 5th student jumps to stone 5 ask, "You are exactly in the middle of the two islands.  Are you going to jump back or jump forward to avoid the wave?"  Students should answer forward because if they are half way, why not go forward to where the food is?

Then we related this to numbers.  I gave the students a number such as 52.  I explained that 52 was between 50 (island of nothing) and 60 (island of plenty.)  They were on the 2nd stone.  Which way are they going to jump if the wave came?  This strategy helped my kids see why we round the way we do.  It was so much easier for them then to try to remember some little poem.  I hope this helps your little ones with rounding.  Best of luck this year!

Art in the Special Ed Classroom

We have been in school for almost a month.  (I can't believe it either!)  So far, this is the BEST year yet!  My kids love art and I love teaching through the arts.  I am always on the look-out for amazing art resources to use with my kiddos, but they are hard to come by.  This summer, I found an incredible resource that was created by Whimsy Workshop.  She does ALL of the work for you!  There are background information sheets for each type of art that she includes.  There are 3 art projects for each country, and each project has step-by-step directions with pictures!  Not only are we learning about cultures from around the world and geography, we are also creating lots of art and learning about different techniques. Here are some of the projects we have completed already this year.

Surfers from Australia 


Chinese Dragons

Chinese Flower Blossom Fans (before we folded them) 
Koi Fish

 Pretty amazing, huh?!  The techniques that Whimsy Workshop shows, are easy enough for kids of all ages and abilities to be successful!  My kids are so proud of their work!  Check out her product, Art Around the World.

Back to School Tips and Tricks

I know what you're thinking, "Back to school already?!"  But, some of us, including me, will be heading back to the classroom in just a few weeks.  If you are one of the lucky ones who still have weeks of summer left, just save this post for another day.

1.  Lesson Plans:  Last summer, I worked really hard on my writing lesson plans to make my school year easier.  It worked better than I ever imagined.  I made a list of skills, the order I want to teach them, and notes on anchor charts.   If you go to my TpT store and download the preview, you can try it out for 2 weeks.

You can find it {here} in my TpT store.  You can read more about it {here.}

I love my new Smart Phonics series.  I have been busy working on it this summer.  You can use it on the Smartboard or on an iPad using the app.  You can find it {here}.  There's also a free file so you can try it.  You can read more about it {here.}

2.  Technology:  I use technology everyday in my classroom.  I love my Smartboard and often use it with my Elmo.  All of my students also have their own iPad they can use in class.   Here are a few of my favorite sites that I use with my students.

Nearpod-Nearpod can be used on a computer or on an iPad.  It allows teachers to make their presentations interactive for students.  Teachers can insert videos, quizzes, and other sites for students to explore during the lesson.  Teachers can also add in slides that allow students to write, type, or highlight.  My students will complete 20 problems in math with me using Nearpod with little to no complaint because they only see one problem at a time and they can choose their ink color on the iPad.  You can see a math lesson I prepared for my students {here}.  The best part of Nearpod, it's FREE!

EdTech Software- EdTech Software allows teachers to organize their ebooks in one account.  This not only makes it easy on the teacher, but puts all of the students' books in one place and makes it easy for them to use/find.  This site also allows teachers to customize their textbooks/lessons because they can insert videos, quizzes, games, and other articles.  So, if your school/district has your textbooks online, you will want to check out this site.  You can try it {here} for free.

You can read about some of my other favorite apps {here}

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EdTech Software provided me with compensation in exchange for this sponsored blog post. However, all the opinions expressed here are my own.

Oceans of Deals, Steals, and Giveaways

The amazing Cyndie Dunn from Chalk One Up for the Teacher has organized over 80 TpT sellers to offer you all some amazing deals this week!

On Monday, there will be some great $1 deals.  Search #MondayMadness.

On Tuesday, you can get some great resources on sale for 50% off.  Search #2forTuesday.

Wednesday is full of FLASH FREEBIES.  Make sure you follow me on Facebook to get the freebies.

Thursday is deals on bundles.  I will have my writing curriculum and my newest phonics resource on sale.

Friday is a huge giveaway.  There will be 7 $50 gift cards up for grabs.  Check back on Friday for more information on the giveaway!

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