Sunday, November 6, 2011

What to do with the extra hour?

What am I going to do with the extra hour today?  Write another blog post.

Remember how I said I started this blog so I could share what I am doing in my classroom?  I am so excited to share this next thing that it couldn't wait another day -- it's that fabulous.  Well, at least I think so.

Most math curriculums encourage the use of number lines as a strategy for adding and subtracting in the early grades.  This is a great idea except for the fact that my students have trouble remembering which way to go when adding or subtracting.  

To solve this problem, I created a vertical number line.  With a vertical number line my students know that adding means to get bigger, so they know to count up the number line and subtracting means to get smaller, so they count down the number line.  It makes more sense to them than a horizontal number line and they can add and subtract basic math facts independently and correctly.

I am going to share with you both the large number line that hangs on my wall (you'll have to piece it together) as well as personal number line strips for the students.  I hope you find the vertical number line as useful as I have.

PS:  It's color coded for odd and even.

Show Me the Money!

In my classroom, my students earn "pennies" for each activity during the day for staying on task.  At the end of the day during math time, they count up the pennies they have earned and I pay them using realistic plastic coins such as the ones in the picture from Lakeshore Learning. They then trade in their pennies for silver coins.  

In order to make this easier, and to help them learn which coins are equivalent, I made two charts.  The first chart shows the coin equivalencies and the second chart shows three different ways to make $1.00.  I also made sure the coins were the same size as real coins to help with matching.  Click on the pictures to download the charts for yourself.
On Friday, the students use their money to purchase an item from my treasure box or save for something that costs more such as a coupon for free time, lunch with the teacher, or slipper day in the classroom.  I set the prices based on how much they can earn in one week, so the "better" items will take 2-3 weeks to save for.

It is amazing how quickly my students (1st and 2nd grade special education) have learned the names and worth of the coins as well as how many pennies are needed for a nickel or dime. They are also learning about saving.  This has been a great way to tie behavior management with academics!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Leaf Man

Earlier this week, we went on a leaf hunt to gather leaves for our project to be completed on Friday.  Before beginning our leaf project, I read the story Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert.  On each page there are objects and animals made out of leaves.  It was really fun to try and find what was hiding in the leaves on each of the pages.

After reading the story, my students then were to create their own leaf man or animals using the leaves we collected.  Most of them chose to make a leaf man, but I did have two decide to make animals.  Here are some of their creations:

I thought they all turned out really cute and they really got creative adding eyes, ears, and even a hat on the last one pictured.  I put them all in page protectors (in case any of the leaves fall off as they're only taped on) before putting them on display in the hall.  This project will be on my to do list every fall!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

We're Going on a Leaf Hunt

This week's theme is leaves.  Luckily there are still some falling from the trees so my class could go on a leaf hunt today.  Before going on our leaf hunt, though, I read the book Going on a Leaf Hunt. It's great for both text to self as well as text to text connections with the book Going on a Bear Hunt.

With their Ziploc bags in hand, off my students went on their leaf hunt on our playground.  They had so much fun!  They were especially excited when they found leaves with a color other than brown (and I was too since I knew what these leaves were going to become).  And just what are these leaves future purpose?  Well we're going to make leaf animals with them.

I found this beautiful book, Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert, while browsing last week at the bookstore.  If you can, get a chance to look at this book in person.  The illustrations are simply amazing as well as how the pages are designed (I'm not going to give away all it's secrets as I want you to discover this book for yourselves).  As you can see from the cover, the different leaves form a "man".  In the story, "fall has come, the wind is gusting, and Leaf Man is on the move. Is he drifting east, over the marsh and ducks and geese? Or is he heading west, above the orchards, prairie meadows, and spotted cows? No one's quite sure, but this much is certain: A Leaf Man's got to go where the wind blows."

I then stumbled across this picture, thanks to Pinterest, on the blog Charlotte's Fancy.   

And I was inspired to create leaf animals, just like the ones Leaf Man blows by in the book.  I can't wait to do this activity on Friday and come back here and post the pictures of how they turned out.  And my students are dying in anticipation to find out what they are going to be doing with the leaves.  Check back this weekend to see how the animals turn out.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tom Turkey

One of my favorite projects I did last year with my students involved Tom Turkey.

Tom is very afraid as Thanksgiving is getting near. He needs to find a way to hide from the farmer so he doesn't become Thanksgiving dinner. He decides that the best way to hide is to wear a disguise. It is up to your students (with help from family) to develop a disguise for Tom. As an extension, they can also write a simple persuasive argument as to why he should not be eaten. For example, if Tom is disguised as Santa, his argument could be "If I am eaten, then there will be no one to deliver presents to all the children on Christmas."

I had my students do this at home with their family and I gave them about a week to complete the project. Before assigning the project I read to them the book Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano.

In this book, Turkey disguises himself as different animals so as not to be eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. When he realizes that he can't hide as another animal, he disguises himself as a pizza delivery boy and brings the family a pizza for Thanksgiving dinner.

I then send home the following (click on pictures to download):

This is in a Word file so you can edit it as needed.

And here are some examples from last year:


True Jackson

Santa Claus


a star

a DJ

Indian Chief

an IU volleyball player

a carnie

So hopefully you can download the documents and have your students disguise Tom Turkey so he doesn't become Thanksgiving dinner. *gobble, gobble*

Hello Blogging World!

11-1-11: I thought this was a good date to "officially" start my blog.  I've had the page for at least a month now, but it sat empty with only my About Me section filled in.  So why am I here? 

At the beginning of September my cousin introduced me to this fabulous site called Pinterest.  If you don't know what Pinterest is, you must go check it out now!  I'll wait ...........

Anyway, in discovering Pinterest, I found all these fabulous teaching blogs with the most wonderful ideas that I began pinning like crazy (I have over 1600 pins in just two months).  And most of these wonderful ideas were coming from blogs of other teachers out there wanting to share what they do in their classrooms (For that, I and my students thank you!).  The more ideas I pinned, the more I was inspired to share what I was doing in my classroom in return.  And so begins my blog -- Teaching is a Work of Heart.

So just who am I?  My name is Heidi and I am in my ninth year of teaching special education.  I have taught all grade levels from 1st-8th grade in resource and self-contained settings.  I currently teach in a self-contained cross-categorical classroom consisting of 1st and 2nd graders.  This is only the second year of this program in my district and I was the person to start it at the elementary level.  I now have a partner in crime who teaches the 3rd-5th grade classroom.  It's been a challenge to start a program from scratch, but I have loved being an integral part of starting something new.  In addition to being a special education teacher, I am also a certified Reading Specialist, but I use that knowledge to support my special education students.  I have a nine year old daughter in 4th grade and am blessed to be a teacher at her school.  It's nice bumping into her in the halls every now and again on the few occasions I am able to escape from my classroom (that's the one thing I miss about resource, the FREEDOM to move about the building on a regular basis).

After this post goes live, I am going to attempt to post my first activity that I have been dying to share.  I wanted to get it posted ASAP because the longer you have to complete it, the better.  Fingers crossed I can figure out how to share documents.

Well, off to share this wonderful new blog on Pinterest because I don't know a better way to get people to start reading this blog.  And if you just stumbled across this blog my chance, come follow me on Pinterest (