Sunday, 31 August 2014

'Twas the Night Before Back to School ...

Well here we all are again in the U.K. getting ready to set forth upon another school year and face a whole herd of new challenges (I wonder what the collective noun for challenges is?)  I am determined to become more organised so that I can accomplish more on both the school front as well as the home front so have set myself some blogging goals for the month of September (to post 20 times during the month!!!) and have downloaded some helpful schedules from others to try to keep myself on track.  I am also determined to try this scheduling posts idea so that they can appear even if I am not on-line which would be really useful at times!

As the weather for August has been so awful, I am hoping September will allow me some evenings to be able to get out into my garden (or should I say jungle!!) and I also want to be able to make a few more things for my home as well as for others (I am involved in the Pay it Forward Art Challenge - remember if you want to get involved just click on the button below to find out more)

I'm desperately trying to sort computer files ready for tomorrow (it's amazing how many odd documents are not filed in any folders!) so without more ado - good luck to all you British teachers out there heading back tomorrow and get a good night's sleep!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Five for Friday Helping Others Vikings & Dragons style

Five for Friday Link Up posting over at Doodle Bugs Teaching - why don't you give it a go?

5 Random Things from this Week

The balloon numbers are from :)

Organisation of Clip Art files
My computer has had a fit and decided it can no longer show me my clipart files with a tiny graphic by the side so now I don't know what I have which is rather a nightmare so I have had to be going through each file and making a note of what is actually in there!!  If anyone can help out with this technical issue I would be so grateful!!!!!

Watched this award winning movie for the first time this week (on TV) and sat there with tears streaming down my face.  So hard hitting and powerful and special needs to boot.  If you haven't seen it - this is a must!!

Meeting Up with Friends

Do not know where this holiday has gone (I say that every year) but with us all going back to school next week have tried to meet up or at least phone contact all those special people in my life that I just don't get chance to see once the school week of 50 hours plus begins again.

Helping Others Out

As teachers of children with special needs, we often find ourselves struggling at times to discover what is preventing their learning from taking place or trying to create resources that will help a specific child in a specific way.  Sometimes our working environments are far from satisfactory (my little room is too cramped at times for the amount of children who come there to work) or we do not have the right equipment/learning aids or sometimes the right qualified or even the appropriate number of support staff.  We are often the teachers that other staff members turn to for support not only for their school children but themselves as well and so we grow accustomed to helping others and that's why when we hear of things going wrong or being difficult for someone we want to help.  So I am asking for some help for someone who is too far away from me to go and lend a physical hand to and in a teaching establishment I have no experience of but I think others might be able to help and support.  This is my "Viking" blogging friend Jannike Johnson who has just changed schools and her blog and is now struggling in setting up a no equipment classroom with her students expected next week.   Please, please, please go and visit her new blog
and see her situation for yourselves and if there is anything that you can offer to do to help her out please offer and if there is nothing physical you can offer then send her a message of support and well being so she knows we are behind her and thinking of her.

In the spirit of her Viking ancestry, I have created this resource for discoveries in simple addition based on their Viking helmets and dragon headed longships to share with you and your students.

Let me know how it goes down with them as I have not used it yet with mine although I have used similar methods to generate the discoveries I talk about in the blurb.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Throwback Thursday Pirate Party

Joining up with The Teacher's Desk 6 for Throwback Thursday

Way back in May of this year, I talked about a book I was working on with a pirate theme written especially for the special needs children who needed practice in reading and learning their colour words.  I stated that it would be soon available on TpT but of course other things have happened and so this Throwback actually made me finish my description and submit it so if you want to go and get a copy it is now available from my store.

If you want to read the original post please click below.

And finally if you want to grab the lesson plans I used when I wrote the book please click on these pirates!

I would greatly appreciate any feedback on any of these resources or if you have any questions regarding either this post or my Throwback one please don't hesitate to ask :-)

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

100 Years On

This rather inspirational quote seems to have been following me around this summer holiday - I keep seeing it popping up in all types of places - and it's made me think what will our education system be like 100 years from now?

Will we still have schools in traditional buildings or will we teach children wherever they are in a cyber-based education system?  Will we have achieved an education for all in all countries of the world?  Will children have more of a say in the things they actually want to learn at an earlier age?  Will our focus still be on the 3 Rs or will children have a more genuine balance with the arts?  Will medical advances mean that some of the disabilities we regularly see are things of the past and will this mean Sp Ed is no longer a category in educational establishments?  What do you think?  Let me know :-)

Monday, 25 August 2014

Fabulous Forty and Freebie

Just back from hols, so imagine how surprised and pleased when I discovered I have 40 followers on TpT. I know this is tiny compared to the many of amazing store owners who have thousands but to little ol' me it's quite an achievement as each of my followers has clicked of their own accord (no offers or incentives given only my products).  So to say thank you I am posting a freebie that links to the number 40 only by way of incorporating that number as part of the dot-to-dot - but at least it's there!!  Click on the dinosaur below to grab the dinosaur dot-to-dot.

Dot-to-dots are a really good way to help children follow the sequential pattern of numbers and practise their recognition.  Children who have difficulties in maths need lots of extra practice and as many children are interested by dinosaurs I created this as one of their practice sheets.  Starting at the number 10 also helps to get children to count on from a given number rather than always beginning at 1!!

I hope you find this little freebie of use and let me know what you think!  Many thanks :)

Saturday, 16 August 2014

I'm Having a Laugh!

Whenever I need a bit of a laugh I tend to find I can head over to a fellow Brit's blog (he now lives in Canada) Drew Llew as he never fails to make me chuckle.  This time it was pointing me in the direction of "demotivational" posters from so I felt I would share a few with you.  Let me know what you think!

Looking Sharp is Easy When You Haven't Done Any Work
I thought this was such a perfect picture for a school environment!

You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind to When You Have Vision, Determination and an Endless Supply of Expendable Labour
To be honest I think in Special Needs education with an endless supply of labour we probably could!!!

Just Because You're Necessary Doesn't Mean You're Important
Sometimes, I think we can all feel like this!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Am I "Otterly" Useless?

Well here I go again - trying something new to do with technology without really knowing what I am doing - everyone keep everything crossed!!

As it is a Friday, I am linking up with TBA for their Freebie Friday linky

It all began when I felt a creative urge to see if I could draw an otter using the paint package on my computer.  I was quite pleased with the results

 (although as you can see I am no artist) and thought someone else might like to use these little pics for something in their classroom.  But how do you create clipart someone else can use?

So I followed the advice of Miss Whismy and used the powerpoint feature "remove background" to create my clipart graphics and saved them to a folder.  Next, I needed to create a zip file to be able to share this clip art with others so I think I have done that now as I have successfully zipped the file and have sent it to one of my other e-mail accounts.

So now I need a willing volunteer to test this out and see if they can download and use the clipart I have created without a white box appearing around the graphic (as it has done in the past when I have just saved my creations as a picture).

If you feel you are ready to give it a try please leave a comment below along with your e-mail address and I will attempt to send you the zipped file so you can try it out and hopefully let me know how it went.

Thank you all very much in advance :-)

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Throw Back Thursday - Let's Hear it for SpEd!

Today, I am joining Throw Back Thursday over at The Teacher's Desk 6

and referring you back to a blog post I wrote this May celebrating some other special needs (SpEd) blogs I had found.   Just click on the button to travel back in time and whilst you're looking at the button please feel free to leave feedback on it as I am in the process of designing one for my site and want to know what you think about this particular design (many thanks).

Looking back at my post, it reminded me that at that time I was desperate to find information from "real" teachers working day in day out with similar children to the ones I was struggling to provide an education for.  I wanted to be able to read about the resources they had used, the diagnosis children had received, the research they had read, the methods that worked.  Those that I did find often worked with more challenged children than my school catered for however it always gave me the feeling I was not alone - I cared and worked above and beyond to help my students and so did these other teachers, I battled against others who could not see why I did things my way or why I bothered and so were other teachers (even if they were thousands of miles away) and this really helped me feel better on those days when you just don't know what more you can do :-(

However, SpEd blogs appeared to me to be little and far between and not easily available despite my frequent Google searches and I relied on the signposting of others to locate them.  Even then I often found broken links or sites that were no longer being posted to so it has been a much harder task than I thought it would be to build a bank of current SpEd blogs that I can visit on a regular basis.  I have been really pleased with the Bloglovin' capability to link and get feeds on a daily basis as well as the suggestions to other blogs (some of which are to do with special needs) and  the advance of linkys that have succeeded in focusing on a special need aspect and has brought to my attention other new bloggers out there.  I therefore decided yesterday that as I had now built up a bank of really useful SpEd blogs,  I should be sharing this info (just as others had done before me) on the off chance that if any newbie SpEd teachers happen across my blog in their search for info they too can be signposted to these really helpful sites too.  Therefore, I am pleased to announce a new page located across my blog banner which gives a list of all current SpEd sites I have come across.  Please feel free to visit it and leave me a comment if there are any others you know about that I could add.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

What's Up, Pussycat? Wordless Wednesday

Linkin' up with Miss DeCarbo @ Sugar & Spice for Wordless Wednesday

(No.1 son returned from festival and left sleeping bags strewn on floor - some cats just couldn't believe their luck!!)

I have created a possible design for my blog button - what do you think?  I would really value feedback before I try to create the actual button so please feel free to be highly critical and make suggestions on how to improve it.  Many thanks :-)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Super Hero Infographic

Once again, I am poised to try out something new in the blogosphere so please bear with me.  I am hoping to be able to share an infographic in its entirety from the Special Education Degree website using HTML so fingers crossed and here goes.

Hot to Teach a Superhero

I do not actually take credit for finding this amazing creation that belongs to my fellow blogger who is still going strong 7 years after creating her first blog posts charting her entry and subsequent years teaching in special education.  Believe me when I say she is a superhero in her own right!!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Keys To Success

Over at Mrs D's Corner,
teachers are sharing what they consider to be the keys to a successful school year so I decided to write this post from the perspective of a special needs co-ordinator/teacher which I hope might be beneficial to others in this field or about to embark down this path.

Getting together with other staff to discuss the children and their progress is the most important key to success and by no means an easy task.  My "door" remains open through all break and lunchtimes for staff (and dinnerladies) to have catch ups about children if they so wish and this certainly isn't as arduous as it sounds - I probably get asked for a catch up once a week for 10 minutes duration by most teachers. However, time is available during our after school teacher meeting each week as well as Special Needs training/information dissemination is timetabled once a month during this slot to give me a chance to let teachers know about important issues.
I schedule weekly meetings within the school day for catch-ups with my support staff (teaching assistants & learning support assistants) who work with those children who have a statement to receive feedback on how teaching has gone that week (many of these staff members teach specialist lessons with their designated child being one of the group or 1:1 lessons) and then monthly meetings for other support staff who teach lessons and support in class for children who are on my SEN register at school action or school action plus.  These meetings are essential for me to know how the lessons and teaching are working for those children and if any tweaks are necessary as well as to give support and thanks to my staff who all work above and beyond.  They need to know their work is valued and their viewpoints listened to and unfortunately not every teacher can find time for this within their working day.  Once again my support staff know they can talk to me at any time about any issues whenever or wherever they crop up!

Spend time talking to those children on your SEN register.  One of the most amazing things I have discovered is how even from an early age children know what is working and not working for them.  Child voice is an important and powerful tool - especially in those meetings where other people (who do not work at the chalkface!) are trying to tell me how these children should be taught in order to save money! Allowing children the right to be truthful about what they think of the teaching they receive, the subjects they are taught and where teaching takes place gives great insight in to how to help them develop their learning and most importantly gives them ownership of their learning.  Remember you can be the best teacher in the world but if the child does not have the inclination to learn then they are not going to progress (horse to water and all that) and the effort the vast majority of my SEN students put in is second to none once they gain their voice and are listened to. 

This has not been an easy one for me (due in part to the reticent nature of most of my parents) but working to get parents behind their child's education and empowering them as their child's best advocate and influence helps move their child forward.  Ensuring that parents are kept informed about their child's achievements, reducing the fears and helplessness they may feel when told about their child's difficulties and supporting them (as many also have problems to overcome) is incredibly beneficial.  Do not think this will automatically mean they will help their child arrive at school on time or ensure they do their homework or read daily but they will help their child be positive about their future and they will begin to be less resistant about meeting you.  There will also be those parents who really do change it around and become amazing supporters of their children and these children will make massive leaps and actually catch up with their peers educationally or become much better in controlling their emotions/behaviours and actually come down or even off the register with all the support they receive at home and in school.

In Special Needs Education there are many professionals not just teachers and learning assistants who are involved with these children and I have found that getting on and collaborating with them is a really important key to success.  Many of them are also under pressure and being able to see that and understand their pressures helps when trying to make progress for children with SEN.  Being flexible in working relationships, giving support as well as asking for it, providing opportunities for people to talk freely and building relationships with others will bring many rewards.  I have succeeded in the impossible at times due to my willingness to meet others outside of the school day (even in school holidays) & accompany them on their scheduled visits (health/social) to parents' houses - this means I get insight in to their roles and problems and also gives us the ability to sing from the same song-sheet in order to solve difficulties.  When people know I want to work with them rather than against them things become much better :-)  It doesn't always work but 9 times out of 10 things move forward.  Word also gets around that you are a person others can work with and doors open or my calls get put through when others don't!!  Build teams around the child and get everyone thinking that way - it is amazing what can be accomplished!

Lastly, but by no means least:

PLAN TO SUCCEED! What needs to happen to make success occur?  How will X, Y & Z get done over the next half term?  Draw up timetables, sort out staff rotas, research new ideas, schedule meetings and plan lessons that meet the needs of the children you are responsible for as SENCO.  Remember things do not have to work as long as you can show why you have tried that way and what has happened and the possible reasons why?  Planning based on previous knowledge of what has happened before is essential. Plan in when assessments need to take place, for monitoring work, team meetings, important information to be disseminated and still be prepared for everything to go out the window.  Remember that in the world of Special Needs nothing runs smoothly but planning will at least help when everything seems to be turning upside down and give others a clue about what should be happening when it's all hands to the pump!

Hopefully, in sharing my keys to success this might help other teachers/parents/professionals out there understand the role of special needs educators and what it can entail as well as help other special needs teachers think about tackling some of the issues they will be facing during the up-coming school year.  I'm off now to read up on others' keys to success to hopefully help me do likewise.  Let me know what you think as it's always good to share :-)

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Wordless Wednesday Cat Herding

Click's Clan has just reminded me that it's Wordless Wednesday - head on over to her blog to check out her beautiful photo posted today (as well as all the other photos she posts).

This is mine -

Here are some of my tribe - I'm not known for being a Cat Herder for nothing :-)

UPDATE - Angela over at the Teacher's Desk 6 has just reminded me there is this 

So I am linking up to share :-)

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Blog Hopping & Give-Away Fun

Having had the amazing experience of actually winning an on-line competition for teaching stuff courtesy of  Cara's Creative Playground

I am participating in two current blog hops as well as a give-away which I thought I would share with you.  I know most teachers fund things for their classrooms from their own pocket
so getting the chance to win something instead makes a pleasant change!
First the give-away hosted by Amanda Madden over at 
Teaching Maddeness
which is actually the chance to win things for oneself instead of for one's class - unbelievable right?

Next head over to begin the blog hop hosted by The Teaching Tribune by clicking on the button below - you have to find various hidden things but the prize of a TpT $50 voucher is really worth having!

and when you've finished bouncing all over the blogosphere with that one check out the blog hop going on over at Lesson Delicatessen where you get to find out great teaching tips for B2S as well as stand the chance of picking up a whole host of teaching goodies.  I came across this blog hop due to my bloglovin' updates from a special needs blogger Little Room Under the Stairs
In this post, I am also trying out HTML text again and seeing if this will work within my blog post so bear with me if it doesn't!  Fingers crossed :-\
Update - although not perfect - I have been able to get people's blog buttons to work and get a link established to a typed name using the HTML code so hurray!!  I figured out I had to change the options in my side bar post settings from showing HTML literally to interpreting - amazing what this little difference makes :-)  Now I'm off to do more blog hopping and win myself some prizes - how about you?

Monday, 4 August 2014

Sales, Second-hand, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Sorting and Suds

The TpT sale begins today - with a fantastic 20% off plus another 10% if the special code is used at the checkout!  I know lots of teachers will be getting some of the items on their wishlists in preparation for going back to school.  I was hoping I would have been able to launch a new product in time for the sale but somehow time has got away from me and I have a whole shed load of other things that need to be done today so better luck next time I think!!  Obviously, if I do get chance I will be editing this post later!  Click on the button below to head over to my store and check out all of my other products on sale.

I have also decided to join the very popular "Currently" linky hosted by Farley - I have admired these lovely info-posters on many other teachers' sites for many months now and although I am late in joining (what's new?) I am sure no-one really minds if I use this three days late.  It will also help to make sense of my blog post title today - I do so love alliteration :-)

Now I'm off to comment on others' blogs (as required for the Farley linky) and then it will be on to tackle those jobs - oh boy am I looking forward to being on a boat ad unable to do any of the inevitable housework and holiday jobs!!!!

Let me know what you've got planned for today or this week?  Are you heading off somewhere nice or do you have a ton of jobs to get on with?

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Back to School - Say What????

Well here I am having just broken up from school and I'm taking part in a back to school freebie linky - how bizarre is that?  However, as they say there is no rest for the wicked busy - so here is my offering.  I have put it as a freebie on Teachers Pay Teachers as I am also hoping I may grow a few more followers and hopefully get some feedback from those of you who decide to download.  Please click on the button below to go straight to my store :-)
Sorting exercises are a good idea especially at the beginning of term as they allow teachers the ability to eavesdrop on the conversations children have as they work through these type of activities.  Teachers can also watch and ask questions as to why a child might have sorted something in a particular way (there is no better brain than that of a five year old child who can think of things and ways we mere adults could never even have dreamed of in a month of Sundays!!)  I have often learnt much more about my students abilities by observing and listening in than I would have if I had given them a paper and pencil exercise - the lack of social skills or intransigence for some of our more intelligent students can also be detected using this method as can the evidence for a possible dyslexic student as their reasoning skills and language ability may often shine during these exercises compared to what they would show in normal class.

Remember there are a lot of other freebies out there to collect for your back to school folder so click on the link below to head over to Teacher's Take Out who is hosting this super linky with a big deserving thank you!

Let me know what you are wishing for as you head back to school (new resources, colour schemes and themes for your classroom (cupboard under the stairs!!), children's study guides and learning journeys) or like me off on your summer holiday and travels (new holiday wardrobe, good weather, new recipes, new sites to visit etc)?