Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Up-Hill Struggle on the A to Z Road Trip

I haven’t posted an update on my A-Z road trip recently so I thought I would share a few blogs I have come across that have all made me realise what some people are truly going through.  Although I have called this an Up Hill Struggle, for some I think they must be looking up at a mountain.  

I really do not think I would like to walk in their shoes not even for five minutes but their blogs can be uplifting and their struggles will no doubt resonate with others and help ease their paths or build in the feeling that they are not alone.  I warn you though a box of tissues might be needed if you decide to visit.

I have seen Inger’s thoughtful comments on several of the blogs I have visited during the Challenge and Road Trip so far so decided to check out her own blog.  Unfortunately, she is going through a very stressful part of her life at the moment which she is now courageously blogging about.  My thoughts are with her. Her theme for the A to Z challenge was Good Things and her photographs of where she lives are stunning.  My geography co-ordinator head was certainly engaged and excited! 

Although the blog title might lead you to think it is all about despair, Carol sees the light and laughter in many things.  Her A to Z Challenge theme was about her rescue dogs and I loved the many photos and videos she posted – some were particularly laugh out loud.

When I say I work with children who may have a mental illness what I mean is that it is so difficult to get early diagnosis and help unless parents, health services and schools work together to solve behaviour issues and find out what’s behind that outward show.  Some children are dealing with so much these days and they have need of counselling and support from such a young age (remember I work with children age 3-11).  So I am always interested in blogs that can throw some light on issues, interventions and support.  Read through the A-Z Challenge entries to find out more about mental health written by someone who is on a mission to make others understand.

And finally ...

My Road to Happiness blog charts Andrea’s search for greater happiness in her life by trying various ways of thinking and acting.  It’s a wonderful journey she takes you on that makes you stop and think about your own life and how you live it.  She says that she is struggling with a depressive default setting, however I found her posts uplifting and beautiful (I particularly liked the one about her bike called Etienne) and as she actually runs three blogs I am slightly in awe of her creativity and work ethic!!

My very best to all of these bloggers in overcoming their own adversities and for their bravery and guts to be blogging about them – they are enriching the lives of others and I am sure giving comfort to those who are also suffering.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Share The Love Cherry Bun Freebie

Today, I am linking up with Cara at Creative Playground to "share the love" and a little freebie.  If you want to join please click on Cara's button below.  I know I'm officially a day late but I know Cara won't mind!

My little freebie is a new take on the song Five Currant Buns - as very few children I know actually like currants but would be tempted by a nice icing covered cherry topped delicacy!  The cards help children learn about quantities visually whilst singing along and decreasing the amount of buns each time.  The song is typed out just in case you don't know/can't remember the words and there is a link for the tune and music. Who doesn't like a bit of singing in the classroom especially in a maths lesson?  To download simply click on the picture below.

Teaching children with special needs has made me very aware of how much music and songs helps learning in the classroom.  Children who cannot remember things normally I find can remember the entire song after just three repetitions, children who normally do not join in will happily stand at the front of the class and sing and those children who find school a difficult place get a big thumbs up from their teacher because of their ability to tunefully sing.  Even children who do not connect to the rest of the world and their classmates for much of the time I have seen smile and nod enthusiastically when the familiar music starts up in class of one of their favourite songs and they clap and sing along with their peers finding that connection - truly miraculous at times.  Over the years,  I have either made up lots of songs or borrowed teaching songs from others around the world and the children in my classes (as well as my assistants!) have all gone off into the world singing little ditties to help them remember facts and figures.  I am a true believer that music does help the world go round!

This post also gives me the opportunity to say a big thank you to Cara publicly as I entered a competition she ran and WON!!!!!  So I will be choosing some resources as my prize not only from Cara but from some other TpT contributors over the next few days.  I love Cara's clipart so I think I will be in heaven looking at all her wonderful packs and I'll be letting you know what I chose later on - please head over to her store and have a look yourself.

Let me know what clipart you'd choose for your next project?  Do you enjoy singing in class and if so what songs would you recommend?  Have you got a child with special needs for whom music and songs makes a big difference?  I'd love you to share your thoughts and comments :-)

Sunday, 27 July 2014

School's Out & Sunday Smorgasbord

Well it's finally happened - the summer holidays have arrived!

This has obviously given me time to begin tidying, sorting and re-organising for next year but who cares - in these last few days of being in school nothing has arrived in my In-tray and that's "super-sweet"!!!

To celebrate, I thought I would chill out and take part in the Sunday Smorgasbord linky party hosted by Fabulous in First to unwind and do something different.  So please click on the button to find out what others have been up to and blogging about :-)

I have managed to get out in my garden and get some colour into my planters at the front of my house.  The weather has been so hot I have had to take care to ensure watering has happened regularly but so far everything seems to be surviving.  
Some of the plants were gifts from the children at school (they know I love my garden) and some were purchased from the car-boot sale I went to last weekend at a fraction of the price if I had gone to a Garden Centre!!

Celebrating my nephews (yes twins!) birthdays with lots of great Duplo.  They have now got to the stage of being able to do great "talking games" where they use their imaginations and it's just wonderful to listen to as they play with the varied Duplo pieces and sets.

I have been getting on with one of my creations for the 
If you would like to take part please click on the picture to take you to my previous post about how to enter.

As you know I always like to share activities and worksheets with my readers, so here is a self-correcting column jigsaw for children to practise their number order 1-21 with.  Laminating resources always helps to make them last just that little longer or at least print out onto card.
Click on the freebie button below to download.

Lastly, getting ready to go off on our canal boat for a lovely week of relaxing cruising and hoping that we have sunny weather for our trip exploring some new canals up north!

So don't be shy tell me what your holiday plans are?  How are you making the most of any sunny weather you may be having?  What have you created this week?  Or are you doing a late spring clean too?  I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Dragons and Special Needs

Well in honour of Erin, my new found blogging friend in special education over at Kindergarten Dragons,

who is celebrating her blog's first birthday today, I decided to write a piece connecting special needs to dragons as we share a common love of these mythical, amazing and awesome beasts.   I think this might be in part due to the spellbinding short story by E.Nesbit The Dragon Tamers where we discover that the reason we don't see dragons today is because they all turned into cats (look into a cat's eyes and tell me you can't see a small furry dragon staring back at you?)

Obviously, I would love you to go over and say hi and happy birthday to Erin and check out her wonderful special needs blog where she shares lots of ideas and stories about her teaching and class as well as lots of freebies and links to great products.  However, there are also other blogs who have had a dragon post you might like to read such as: - this post talks about the worries and concerns of parents of children with special needs and how they can cope with facing the dragons of today's society.  I always find it is so important to really understand the problems parents are facing (often behind the scenes) to enable us as educators to really offer the support that might be needed but not asked for and could be so beneficial to the child.  This blog helps to share some of those concerns and worries of parents and so bring to light potential problems and difficulties we as educators might be able to help and be more understanding about. - these posts all fall into the category of dragons as the term when fighting the system for getting things done for children with special needs.  This blog resonates with me as part of my role in school is also as the designated teacher for "looked after children" and so many of the children I have or have had dealings with have special needs in addition to being in care.  I often find myself far more surprised by those children that have come through their life changing experiences without it affecting their ability to learn or emotional well-being. - this post and blog are written by a talented artist with aspergers with the strap line "A place where I can be me" which I think should probably be the motto for every child with a special need and what school should provide them with on at least a daily basis or is this me in wishful thinking land again?

I obviously would also like to mention on a post about dragons and special needs about the films in the series "How to Train Your Dragon" which give a clear message that it is perfectly O.K. to be different and in actual fact as a society we actually need this for us all to survive!!!  Think about all of those most gifted, way out people stretching back through time who came up with those amazing ideas that brought us forwards in great strides and lots of them would have been given the label special needs at some point in their school life!!

Before I go I just want to leave you with a freebie - dragon related of course.  This was a resource I created for our Castles and Dragons unit for children to practise their alphabetical sorting skills.  It works well as a differentiated activity - you can take out any words which start with the same letter and set the level for completion at maybe three pairs of words in the correct alphabetical order, the alphabetical strip can be used or not as required, the child could stick the words on their recording sheet rather than write the them.  Use these sheets however works best for you.  Click on the green dragon for the word sheet and visual comparison box and the red dragon for the recording sheet.  My children loved this work and worked so quietly and quickly because they did not want to wake the dragon up!

Let me know - do you like dragons and do you have a story as to why you like them?  What are the "dragons" we need to slay/tame in our special needs kingdoms?

Friday, 11 July 2014

A Special Needs Blog Hop

Today I am trying something different and linking up with other teachers in the world of special needs.  How exciting!!  Tales of a Carolina Girl is hosting a special educators' blog hop so I am getting on board and visiting other blogs as well as posting about my life and advice in special education.  She made the lovely retro graphic below I've used.

I think this post has been very cathartic for me and has allowed me to reflect on things I haven't really thought about in quite some time.  Do not feel you have to plough all the way through it - you can just skip to the advice at the end!

I graduated from university with an honours degree in a totally non-teaching subject and began my work life in the world of business.  
My life as a teacher began when my children were born and I became a stay at home mum watching them grow and learn so rapidly until it was time to go to nursery (age 3 1/2) and then onto school.  I helped out as a parent at nursery and then gained my first educational job as a classroom assistant supporting children within a mainstream classroom (when my youngest entered full time education).  This role rapidly turned into supporting those children with behaviour problems and learning difficulties!  The school I worked at had not encountered these problems before so it was a real sense of teachers feeling rather lost and all of us learning new methods to deal with the issues confronting us.  
I remember my lovely headteacher apologising to me that because I was "unqualified" he could not pay me what he felt I was truly owed and that he thought I should seriously consider becoming a teacher to help other children and be paid accordingly and so I returned to university for a year and gained my teaching qualification.
My first year as a newly qualified teacher was a baptism of fire in an inner city school with a class of Year 1 children (ages 5-6) that included so many with learning difficulties, emotional and social problems, major behavioural problems as well as children with visual and hearing disabilities that they far outweighed those without difficulties.   I truly loved my class of misfit children and they were the ones that pulled me through each day.   Unfortunately for me, I had had the wool pulled over my eyes during my interview and it was only when I started working at the school I realised the appalling nature of how children were treated (they were supposed to be "broken" so that they would follow instructions!!)  Obviously, I did not buy in to this principle and I was glad to have the classroom at the furthest end of the school down a long corridor so that I could pursue teaching individuals not broken children.  My teaching assistants (I had a succession of three during the year as all suffered terrible life changing events that required me to support them personally inside as well as outside the classroom) were all young college students (16-17 years old) who I had to train so you can imagine the support they were actually able to give in reality.  Despite this and the appalling bullying nature of the leadership team I survived and gained my full teaching qualification.  I did have a very good relationship with the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) throughout the year, this was in the days when the SENCO did not have to be a qualified teacher and she was actually a teaching assistant with years of experience.  We bonded as she believed in the same things I did , and I thought about this as a role I would possibly like to pursue.
Having had far to many run ins with the headteacher and senior leaders, I chose to leave the school (the head decided to take early retirement - probably due to my persistence in standing up to his bullying - honestly I'd write a book but no-one would believe it!!)

On to much happier days at other schools being a mainstream class teacher , experiencing many new ideas about special education some good some bad, working with children with English as an additional language and teaching children in years 1, 3, 4 and 5 (ages 5-10) and finally winding up in my present role as SENCO responsible for the overseeing of all children within my school with special needs (3-11 years old), children in foster care, parent liaison and whatever problem comes through the door!

My advice is to get the child's view as much as possible and give them the ability to tell you things warts and all - I have had tremendous success with special needs children taking ownership of their learning and striving to achieve their own goals and targets.  If they can tell you what works for them and what doesn't then this helps tremendously in the support that can be offered to them.
I also think that quieter places for studying and learning also helps these children maintain their concentration levels and focus on the teacher.  Speech and language skills improve as the child and teacher can hear one another clearly without background noise.  So think about utilising space outside the classroom where this can be achieved for those 20 minute sessions that can be so useful.
Saying thank you to those staff and children for all their hard work on pretty much a daily basis!!  I know a thank you goes a long way (and let's face it often our teaching assistants are on a very low wage not commensurate with their actual workload) so saying thank you keeps us going as a team :-)

So now that you've read about me please head over to read other advice and views from lots of teachers involved in special education by clicking on the button below.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Wednesday Worksheet 6

Well here it is again - Worksheet Wednesday - and this time with a Back-to-School theme - which is a bit difficult to get my head around as I am still at school!!  Summer holidays begin end week of July for me (well I say holiday - all you teachers know what I mean!!)

I am linking up with The Teaching Tribune to bring you this addition/subtraction secret reveal Back-to-School colouring sheet which should hold your children for a good fifteen minutes in order to get a little bit more of that first week sorting done.  It does not matter how long you spend in your classroom during the summer holiday there is always so much to do during that first week back!!!  So use this simple worksheet as a starter for a maths lesson, morning register time, finishing off work time - use it however it best suits your students - just provide coloured pencils and you're away.  Click on the image below to download :-)

I have also been busy getting some of my freebies posted on a separate Freebies page now displaying across the top of my blog.  So please feel free to browse and pick up some other helpful resources for your back-to-school classroom.  Have fun and let me know what you think as I love to read your comments :-)

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Throw Back Thursday

Today I am posting a Throw Back Thursday and linking up with not only The Teaching Tribune

but also The Teacher's Desk 6

I am sending you back to my post written during the A to Z Challenge way back in April.  It is a topic that is very important to me as a special needs co-ordinator that of Inclusion but re-reading it I also think my post is about celebrating individualism which I have to admit I find harder and harder to achieve as school teachers are told to make things the same in each classroom (my school is turning into a one colour beige at the moment!). I know there are plus points for it too but I like things to stand out from the crowd and I certainly like to inspire children to think for themselves and look at things from a new angle - and I certainly find them amazing when they challenge me and stand things on their head because of their own original thoughts - children are our builders of tomorrow if we let them be.

Here's hoping you find something useful to take away with you as a thought for the future by looking at the past.  Click on the button below to take you to the post: IEPs and Inclusion

I also want to flag back to a previous post this week about The Pay it Forward Art Challenge which I invite you to get involved with.  I know teachers are such busy people but we normally have a very creative side too and giving ourselves something else to focus on and devote time to is good for the soul and our sanity at times!!  So why not give it a go?

Here are the rules again or click on the picture above to take you to the actual post.

I promise that I will make a small work of art for the first five people who comment on this post and say that they in turn will make a blog post about the challenge and commit to making a piece of art for the first five who comment on their blog post.  Leaving a comment and saying you like the idea is not enough!

The piece of art has to be your own work, made by you and sent out to the recipients before the end of 2014.

It can be anything art based: a photograph, drawing/illustration, knitted item, cross-stitch, origami, the list is endless (but possibly not a life size bronze statue of a person seated on a horse as postage costs must be considered!!)

Please remember to leave your e-mail address if you want in so that you can be contacted and I liked my friend Fil's idea of if you have a preference of colour/s let me know.

I'm looking forward to your comments on either past post so let me know what are your views?

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Worksheet Wednesday Week 5!

                        Yet another Wednesday link up with worksheets over at The Teaching Tribune

I think I should probably say that without The Teaching Tribune my blog posts would have been far fewer this June so I'm keeping my fingers crossed they continue their series and linkys over the summer.  These last few weeks of the summer months are so busy in school - there are so many loose ends that need to be sorted and tied before the summer holidays so that everything is all ready for the start back in September.  That means that getting my head around blogging comes way down the list unfortunately so having someone else co-ordinate activities that you want to get involved in is wonderful and very motivating.  It's another thing I should really have said thanks for on Thankful Monday!!

Anyway, on with the show as they say and my worksheet can be found here for the one page 

or here for the complete activity pack available as a brand new freebie on TpT!


Please remember to leave feedback on TpT if you download this pack - feedback is always replied to and really lifts me up :-)  It's always so nice to hear from others who appreciate what you put in and that it's actually useful to someone else.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Pay It Forward Art Challenge 2014

I have decided to take part in the Pay It Forward Art/Craft Challenge that both Fil <a href=>Fil's Place - Old Songs & Memories</a> and EvalinaMaria <a href=>This & That</a> have posted about on their wonderful blogs. 
(Oh why is this not working and showing just the name of the blogs that people can click on and go to????  Please someone let me know!!)  

I must confess that as a teacher I am a bit of a hoarder of art and craft supplies at my home and I have now probably got to the point that if I did an art project every day for the rest of my life I wouldn't use it all up (this is the problem when quantities are always thought of in terms of is that enough for 30 children?)

As school breaks up later on this month, I am really hoping that I will have enough time (and I must promise to make some) for using some of these items and relaxing into creating art and craft pieces. So really you will be helping me out in lots of ways if you would like to sign up for this particular challenge!

The rules appear simple enough:

I promise that I will make a small work of art for the first five people who comment on this post and say that they in turn will make a blog post about the challenge and commit to making a piece of art for the first five who comment on their blog post.  Leaving a comment and saying you like the idea is not enough!

The piece of art has to be your own work, made by you and sent out to the recipients before the end of 2014.

It can be anything art based: a photograph, drawing/illustration, knitted item, cross-stitch, origami, the list is endless (but possibly not a life size bronze statue of a person seated on a horse as postage costs must be considered!!)

Please remember to leave your e-mail address if you want in so that you can be contacted and I liked Fil's idea of if you have a preference of colour/s let me know.

As always, I love to know what you think.  Does art inspire you in the work that you do?  Does it help you relax from the frenetic life you lead?  Would you like to create more but just don't have the time?