Friday, April 7, 2017

What I Wish Teachers Knew about my ADHD Child

I have the benefit, and sometimes misfortune, of not only being mom to an ADHD child but also a teacher. So often, it puts me in between a rock and a hard place. I understand the frustration of having a difficult child in the classroom that is disruptive. I also understand the frustration and joy of loving a wiggly little boy that is full of energy and silliness. That being said, it also gives me a different perspective of both sides.  Here are a few things that I know parents would love to tell you if they could.

1. Telling me that my child needs to focus doesn't help anyone

Part of the definition of ADHD is the lack of focus. I know how much potential my child has "if only he would focus." He is, by definition, incapable. He is an 8 year old boy and has not yet learned how to cope with this disability. Rather than telling me at every conference and on every report card about how much better he could do, why don't we work on teaching him the strategies that he needs so that he actually WILL do better? Let's work together as a team to help him succeed rather than constantly reminding everyone of his downfalls.

2. Parents need to hear the positive too

Yes, we will support you in all of the discipline concerns that you have. Yes, we will be there for our child when he is having a meltdown. Yes, we know that he is going to get into trouble and we will be there. But getting into trouble is not the only thing that he is good at. He is also genuine. He is thoughtful. He is smart. He is kind. He is sensitive. Don't define him by his faults only. You wouldn't want someone to do that to you. Don't do it to a child. Look for the good. Tell us about the good in him too. Don't let us be the only ones that see the good in him. I don't need to hear about every time that he was off task or talking in line.

3. Many ADHD children are unaware of their actions

ADHD children are impulsive. They do things without even thinking about them. Sometimes their brains are spinning so fast that they can't keep up. They lack filters. So often, my child will do something and not even realize that he has done it. He will be talking in class or spinning his pencil or leaning back in his chair. When you correct him, he will say "no I didn't" even though you just saw him doing it. It isn't because he is trying to get out of trouble. It isn't because he is lying to you. It is because his body and brain moves so fast that he honestly doesn't realize that he was doing it. He is unaware of his actions and his surroundings. He doesn't know that he is doing these things. You have to work with him and help him to become more self aware. He can't fix something that he doesn't know he is doing. Don't punish him for lying to you on top of the punishment for talking out. You can't punish him for every little thing. Be understanding. Pick your battles.

4. Frustration is a huge deal!

Imagine that you are on the teacups at Disney and you are spinning and spinning. At the same time, someone is telling you all about multiplying fractions and you have to complete 20 problems before the ride stops. How well could you handle it?

This is the same for kids with ADHD. They are trying to concentrate but there is too much going on around them that they are unable to filter out. Their brains are working overtime and they can't keep up. Would you get mad if you got a bad grade on those 20 multiplication problems? Would you argue that it is unfair? Of course you would, and so do our children. They can't explain to you why it is so frustrating for them. They can't explain why it is unfair. They need you to understand and be their advocate. They need you to help them to get through this frustration.

We, as teachers, tend to see the frustration more than we see the reason for the frustration. We hear the child say "it's unfair" or huff and moan under his breath. We see him slump in his desk or roll his eyes. We see him hide his papers in the back of his desk or tear them up to make them "disappear." We tend to fuss at him for being disrespectful or for not trying. The fact is, he's not trying to be disrespectful. He IS trying to do his work and what you are asking. He is at his frustration point. As a child, he doesn't know how to tell you that he can't concentrate or that he can't do the work you are asking. It is up to you. You need to be aware of what is happening. You have a choice to make. You can either discipline him for being disrespectful and lose his trust in you... OR, you can choose to find the reason behind the behavior and help him through his frustration.

5. It's not always the parents' fault

Yes, there are those few parents that you get frustrated with because it seems that they never discipline their children. Their children get away with everything and sometimes even get rewarded for bad behavior. That doesn't mean that every parent with a "behavior" child is that way. You can not "cure" ADHD with good parenting. Good parenting will help the child learn to cope and use strategies to get them through it, but it will not fix everything. There will still be lots of bumps along the way. Don't judge us too harshly. It wasn't something that we did to make our child this way. We are battling many things on a daily basis and we don't need the teachers to be another battle we have to face. We don't need to feel like it is our fault. Work with us rather than playing the blame game!

6. We don't have all the answers

Just because we are the parents doesn't mean that we have all the answers. Yes, I know my child better than anyone else, but that doesn't mean that I will be able to fix every problem. I will do everything in my power but it will take time. If I had a magic answer, I would have already told you. I am not hiding any secrets from you. I am doing the best that I can. When you call me out of frustration with my child, I am not always going to have an answer for you. Sometimes, my answer is going to be "I don't know," because I truly don't know right now. Not because I am a bad parent.

7. Consistency is key!

If you make a promise to my child, keep it. If he needs a break, give him one (don't make him earn it because that will simply never happen). If he has earned a reward, give it to him. Don't wait until tomorrow. It loses all of its meaning by then. If he has a plan to help him through his day, then keep the plan. Stay on track. He needs you to be consistent. He needs you to be dependable.

8. He is still learning

He is a child. He is not going to be perfect. He is going to struggle with understanding why he is in trouble. He is going to have trouble "seeing" his actions. He is going to have trouble paying attention in class. He is going to have trouble with his peers. Help him. Teach him. Don't be on his case about every single thing. Cut him a break. Remember that he is only a child. Help him learn his strategies and coping skills. Yes, we know that he won't be able to behave this way in the real world.  That is why we are teaching him.  He isn't in the real world yet.  We have 13 years of school to teach him and give him the strategies that he needs to survive in the real world.  Help us.

9. He deserves to be heard

We have already talked about the frustrations that a child with ADHD endures. Part of those frustrations also come from not having a voice. It is hard for a child with ADHD to express themselves. He has hundreds of feelings running through him and no way to explain them. Give him a voice. Take the time to talk with him. Even if he struggles, give him a chance. Even if his opinions are wrong or his perception is completely skewed, let him talk. His opinion matters. His feelings matter.

Sometimes a child with ADHD has perception issues. He doesn't "see" what is happening around him the same way that we do. Just like he doesn't see his actions, he often doesn't see how he is effecting others. When he gets into trouble, he doesn't understand why. He needs to you to explain it to him. He needs you to hear his side of it. He needs you to believe him, even if it wasn't what really happened. Let him tell you his side. Then tell him what you saw. You might see that he is not being intentional and be able to help him through the situation rather than just making him feel like a failure yet again. Just because it doesn't always match up, doesn't mean that he is lying to you. He is telling you what he sees and he needs you to believe him. Explain it to him. Take the time. Don't dismiss him.

10. Help him to make friends

It is hard for kids with ADHD to make friends. They are seen as trouble makers. They make other children nervous because of their impulsiveness. They can be overwhelming. They will try to show off for others to make them laugh; thinking that is the way to make friends. Help them to make friends; good friends. Show them the way. Give them some strategies. Help us as parents, to encourage good friendships with their peers at school.

11. Someone loves him!

When it all comes down to it, the most important thing to remember is that someone loves this child. No matter how difficult he is, no matter how frustrating, he is important to someone. Someone out there loves this child more than life itself. That in itself deserves respect.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Classroom Reveal

I know it is a it late, but here is my classroom!!

Come on inside!

It's not fancy and "Pinterest-perfect" but it is ours!!

The blue and green sit spots are currently being used as line up dots. It is SO helpful when teaching them how to stand in a line!

You can see I have flexible seating in my room.  The 2 low tables are for kneeling. My wonderful mama is making me some oh so cute pillows for the kids to kneel on. I have a tall table for standing. And I have 2 tables for sitting in chairs.  I am writing a grant for Hokki stools this year too..... Here's hoping!  Once my kiddos have mastered these choices, I will offer belly reading/writing on small bathroom rugs with clip boards.

Classroom library. How cute are those chairs??  A parent of a former student donated them to our room!

This bulletin board is for holding fluency strips and individual sight word rings.

Our focus wall!

Brag tags! My kiddos LOVE these!

Story board. This bulletin board keeps us focused on the comprehension of our shared reading story. Each week, we focus on a new story.

Writing center word cards

Closets, helpers, birthdays, numbers

Water bottle storage

Hope you have enjoyed checking out my little corner of the world!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Year Long Plans

I wanted to share my year long plans with you.  I have had a lot of inspiration from other teacher bloggers when creating these plans.  That is what we do best isn't it?  Share and learn from others?  Perhaps you can gain some ideas from mine as well!

I like to be detailed in my year long planning because it saves me time throughout the school year.  It also helps me get into a routine/pattern.  I think that having an expected routine/pattern helps when teaching Kindergarten.  The consistency that it builds helps our little people to adjust.

My plans are divided by advisory.  We have four advisories.

First advisory:

Second advisory:

Third advisory:

Fourth advisory:

You can see that we use Superkids as our reading curriculum.  I have only paced out Superkids for the first semester.  That allows us to adjust our pacing as needed for the second semester.  I also go above and beyond the Superkids curriculum, so I have included the other phonics skills that I am teaching as well. I include phonemic awareness daily, so that is not included... it is implied.  Those skills include rhyming, segmenting, etc.

The nursery rhyme that I use weekly is for teaching Concept of Word.  If you haven't checked out my Nursery Rhyme products, you definitely need to!!  It includes so many great skills!

The book each week is for our shared reading time.  During this time, we start by reading the story for fun.  Then we do different activities with them for building comprehension and writing skills.  Sometimes we even do a craft with it for fun!

You can also see that the fourth advisory is not complete for sight words and alphabet.  That is because I want to wait and let my kids direct me by that point.  I want to see how they are doing and where we want to go from there!

My hope is to share with you every week throughout the school year so that you can see all of the fun we are having!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Bulletin Board Hack!

Confession:  I do not like changing out my bulletin boards throughout the school year!  Once it is up, it is up.  It's not coming down until the year is over.

So, I need my boards to look pretty and new all year long!  I need them to last!

I learned quickly that bulletin board paper crumples no matter how carefully I put it up!  I leaves holes when I take something down to put up new.  And it fades!

So that leads me to Hack #1: Use Fabric!
I started to use fabric and have not looked back since!  Each year I check the clearance bin at Walmart for cheap fabrics in my colors.  I might buy one or two new fabrics a year, but often times, I don't feel the need to buy any new.  I have been using fabric for 9 years, and the first ones that I bought still look new and fresh!  Buying a little at a time, helps to save my wallet (and husband) from being so upset with me.  I love looking for ones with a small print.  It adds a little texture to my room without being overbearing.

My other downfall is borders.  Borders crinkle and crumple.  They don't always fit and I can't stand little pieces. I always overlap my borders so I don't have to cut, but that means I need more border for each bulletin board.  Trying to store them throughout the year is impossible, especially when you have a lot of different borders.  Not to mention, my OCD kicks in if the border just doesn't quite fit with my fabric that I have up.

So that leads me to Hack #2: Use Fabric!!
Haha, I know!  It's the same as Hack #1, but I think that's the point.  The past two years I have decided to use fabric as borders to add a little texture and oomph to my bulletin boards.  It holds up SO much better AND it looks pretty and bright all year long!  At the end of the year, I simply fold it up and put it with the rest of my fabric.  I love it too, because I can use the same fabric on all of my bulletin boards to bring my room together.  And it won't cost me a fortune!

So I bought a corresponding color of fabric.  I bought black to offset the bright colored fabric that I have for my background on my bulletin boards.  You can see it has little white polka dots, just to add a little something extra.

I have several big bulletin boards, so I bought a piece that was 3 yards and a piece that was 2 yards for a total of $15.  When you buy fabric, it is usually already folded in half.  That is a plus.  I fold it in half one more time (longways) and then cut the folds so that I have 4 long pieces.  Each piece is about 6-8 inches wide or so.

The next part takes a little time, but it is not hard and it will last all year.  That makes it worth it.  When I put this up, I just bunch and staple!  Bunch, staple, bunch, staple, bunch, staple.  As you go, you can fluff it up.  You can't really mess it up, because it is all bunchy!

Here is the end result!  I love it!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Organizing Your Classroom Library

The task of organizing a classroom library can be SO daunting.  Where to begin?  How many tubs to do I need? What is the best way to sort my books?  How can I make it easy and inviting for my students?  This has been my summer task and today I am sharing with you how it is going.  Please keep in mind, that I am nowhere near done (it will take me ALL summer to organize the number of books that I have) but I am getting there!!

This is my confession to you!  I own so many books it is ridiculous!!  I have FIVE bookcases FULL at school and FOUR bookcases FULL at home.  (These are NOT small bookcases.) My husband swears that he will not buy me anymore bookcases because I will just fill them up!  This is terrible, but part of me cannot wait until my littlest son is older so that I can take all of my children's books from home into my school classroom library! My name is Jessica, and I am a book hoarder.  I also have a really hard time letting the kiddos touch my special favorite books (isn't that terrible?).  It truly is an addiction!

Obtaining a full classroom library truly takes time and money (something that we teachers do not have a lot of).  We are helping you find some cheap places to gather these materials!  Awhile back, Emily compiled a list of great ways to gather books for your classroom, over on Adventures in Literacy Land. You can check out Em's list here.  She has tons of great ideas.

I know that here in Virginia, we have what is called the Green Valley Bookfair.  It is a serious addiction.  Every few months they open up this huge warehouse (it used to be a barn and they have had to add on to it) filled with discounted books.  Teacher's Paradise!  Do NOT let me in this place with a credit card!  (My husband only allows me to go twice a year!)

Since my classroom is currently being cleaned, I can't really get into it at the moment.  Instead, I have loaded up the car and brought some of them home.  I could only fit about half of them into the back of the van but it gives me a good start.

Next, I had to decide how I wanted to sort my books.  There are many ways to go about this and a lot of it depends on you and your school.  Personally, I like when my students can find books that interest them.  I want them to easily be able to find their favorite race car book or Pete the Cat.  The other thing that I want to consider is the reading levels of my books.  I have had years when I sorted my books strictly on book level and students were only allowed to choose from certain shelves that contained their level.  This is great for readability but not for interest.

This year, I have decided to do BOTH!  Each book will contain 2 stickers on the inside cover, one with the topic of the book and the other with the level of the book.  Books will physically be sorted by their topic but students (and I) will also be able to see what level the book is.  At my school, we use Fountas and Pinnell.  This is what I will be leveling my books by.  I prefer this leveling system to AR, grade level, and Lexiles.  I think that it considers the book as a whole better than other leveling systems.  It looks at the readability, content, vocabulary, and appropriateness of the book.  I do recommend looking to Lexiles for your outlying students however (older students reading at a low level, younger students reading at a high level). But that is a topic for a different day! =)

So, why am I choosing to sort using both concepts?  Many teachers do not believe in letting students know their reading level because they judge one another and themselves against their peers.  I get that.  I do.  I also get that students are going to do this regardless of us telling them their reading level or not.  I think that this strategy can be used appropriately and with gentle care, and can then be very successful in the classroom.  In my classroom, my students track their own progress throughout the school year, using this chart that I made.  You can pick it up for free at my store.

Guided Reading Student Goal Setting Chart

They always know what level they are.  We set goals together.  We discuss their reading progress together.  Please understand that I also spend a lot of time helping students to understand that they are capable and that everyone has strengths and weaknesses.  We celebrate each time that a student meets their goal and I put more emphasis on reading growth than on reading level.

Each student in my classroom has a book box.  They are allowed to choose 3 books from my library each week.  Two of these books must be within their reading level and one can be ANY level.  This is to give them the opportunity to just enjoy reading!  I have made my reading levels color coded and in groups so that students who are reading at a C, D, or E are all reading books with green stickers.  These students may choose any book with a green sticker.  Keep in mind that this should be their INDEPENDENT reading level, not their instructional level.  I plan to keep an index card paper clipped to the inside of the book box that will contain a sticker for the student's current level as a reminder for them.

So now that I have decided HOW I am going to sort, it is now time to do it.  Where to begin?  I find it easiest to begin with my books that are in a series.  These books are obviously going to go together.  Magic Tree House in one tub; Cam Jansen in another.  Little Bear in a tub; Frog and Toad in another.

I found these great tubs at the Dollar Tree and started sorting them.

Then I began labeling them.  I created these labels with the topic and a space that says "This book belongs to ________."  These went on the inside cover of the book.  (I didn't put them on front because I don't want it to be distracting to the students).   I will also place a matching sticker on the front of the basket that holds these books.  So a Magic Tree House sticker will go on the inside of the book AND on the tub holding the Magic Tree House books.

Next, I had to find the guided reading levels for each of the books.  I found that Scholastic Book Wizard had the majority of the levels that I needed.  Book Wizard even has an app now where you can scan the bar-code for easy look up.  I had a little trouble with the scanning, but since I was only looking at series books at this point it was easy to search Magic Tree House and find all of my levels.  Then I place the leveling sticker on the inside cover of the book under the topic sticker.

You can get the guided reading labels for free here!

Next, I started in on my picture books.  This part is still on-going.  Picture book topics come in a huge range and determining the topics is the most daunting task (for me anyway).  I am a bit of a perfectionist so I have a really hard time with this.  I think the easiest thing to do is clear a big space on the floor and spread them out.  Find a few books that are on a similar topic (probably an easy start would be animals) and put them into a basket.  Keep going until all books are "categorized."  Then go back and look at your baskets and see if any of your topics need to be broken up into smaller categories, such as farm animals and ocean animals.

You can see that I laid a piece of scrap paper with the topic written on it in front of each basket to remind me of its contents!

Once I have the topics labels in my picture books I will go back and add the level for each of these.  I have found that I have a lot of old books from the Rigby series as well as others.  These are obviously not going to show up in the Scholastic Book Wizard.  I will share with you below a few places that I have found for finding levels.  Please understand that there may be some discrepancy among these levels as they are not coming directly from the Fountas and Pinnell website.  Sometimes you just have to use your own judgement.

A-Z Teacher Stuff
Hubbard's Cupboard
The Classroom Library Company - This one had my Superphonics book levels from Rigby
The Story Box - McGraw-Hill
Sundance - Little Red Readers
Rigby and Harcourt Levels
Conversion Chart
McGraw-Hill Science Readers - grade 1
McGraw-Hill Science Readers - grade2
Rigby Grade Level Chart

If you have a series of books that you cannot find the levels for, my best advice is to find the publisher's website.  I was amazed at how often I was able to do a search on the company website and find the reading level right there!

Have one basket just for damaged books - The Book Hospital - and one basket just for returns!  This is a classroom job in my room.  My librarian helpers return the books to their correct baskets simply by matching up the topic pictures on the inside cover of the book!  Every week or so, I will fix any damaged books placed in the book hospital basket and move them to the return basket for my librarian helpers to put away.

Now, once I have topic stickers and guided reading stickers in each of my books, my library should be able to run itself. Students can easily find the books that are their level.  They can easily find books of interest to them.  They can easily PUT THE BOOKS AWAY to the correct basket!

I want to know how YOU organize YOUR library!

You can win a set of my library labels by commenting on my Facebook page!! The contest closes Saturday!  Good luck!