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Monday, April 29, 2013

Tips & Tricks :: Getting Your Donors Choose Project Funded!

Donors Choose 2If your school's like mine, the amount of money you're receiving from your district to buy materials for your students keeps getting smaller and smaller (if you get any at all!) And unfortunately, it's not looking like that's going to change in the next several years. Luckily, DonorsChoose makes it easy for teachers to request the materials they need for their students!  All it takes is a bit of time and creativity and you can get funding for anything from materials to technology, guest speakers, and field trips! Through getting several projects funded and donating monthly to other projects as well, I've learned several things I wish something would have told me in the beginning!

Look For Matching Offers Before Posting

MatchingThis one tends to be a bit frustrating for me. If you scroll to the bottom of and click on "Partner Funding Opportunities," you can see which companies are willing to help fund projects that meet certain criteria. Unfortunately, it isn't often for me that companies are looking to fund what I need, but maybe you'll have some good luck! In addition, it might be a good idea to "prewrite" several project ideas so if you see a match opportunity, you can post the project right away. I can't tell you how many times I've taken a few days to write and list my project and by the time it gets posted, the match opportunity isn't valid anymore. SO sad!!

Keep it Under $200

Under $200This is huge! Obviously, it's a lot easier to get a project funded when you only need $175 rather than $800. Also, as a donor, I can say that it's more fun for me to see the money I give make a big impact. I usually don't feel super motivated to give $25 if the teacher still has $700+ to go!

Sell It!

ProfileAs any successful business knows, image is everything. Choose a picture for your profile that is engaging and personal. While clip art of an apple may be cute, it doesn't tell me anything about your classroom! Pick one that conveys the smiles, excitement, and energy found in your room. I want to see the kids I will be helping! Then, clearly describe the items you are requesting and how your students will use them. Explain any challenges faced by your students, but don't bog prospective donors down with sob stories. Keep it positive! Lastly, make sure your project is free of spelling, punctuation, and grammatical mistakes. Nothing turns me off more than the prospect of donating money to an English teacher who doesn't proofread their own work!

Link DonorsChoose to your Facebook

FacebookI love that DonorsChoose allows you to connect your teacher page to Facebook. While you may feel strange asking for money from family and friends, often it opens up a really good discussion about what DonorsChoose is and shows how dedicated you are in getting what your students need. It'll also get you brownie points with any administrators who happen to come across your Facebook, which can be a nice added bonus :)

Get your Project Started

MH900314327At first, I used to think it was frowned upon to donate to your own project. However, I quickly realized that not only is it allowed, but many people do it! By donating to your own project, other people can see your dedication when you're willing to personally financially contribute (even though you probably already do privately)! It also looks nicer on DonorsChoose's main page to see that a project is already partially funded. Donors often like to fund projects that are already on their way. When I donate to my own projects, I often just write something like, "I donated to this project because my students deserve the best I can possibly give them," or something like that. Also, don't be afraid to use a matching code if there's one available (a quick Google search can often give you some ideas!) Then all of a sudden, $10 becomes $20 or whatever!

Share the Love

MH900411800Along with giving to your own project, I highly recommend becoming a monthly giver. No, I'm not being paid by DonorsChoose or anything to say that. The reason is, that in addition to giving you good DonorsChoose karma, you earn badges on the site for being a monthly giver or supporting other projects. As a donor, I personally look to fund teachers who make the sacrifice of supporting other DC projects as well. I just kinda feel like what goes around should come around. Plus, it makes you feel good knowing that you're helping hundreds of kids besides your own. What could be better than that!?

Good luck with your projects and have fun!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fun Freebie :: You're a Smart Kid: Multiple Intelligence Posters for Kids

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I don't know about you, but I find myself talking to kids all the time who feel like failures because they don't think they're as "smart" as their classmates or siblings. In these times, I often talk about how some kids are really good at some things and other kids are really good at others, but I always wish I had some sort of visual or other "proof" that I'm not just making something up to help them feel better!

Then I recently came across this awesome freebie on Pinterest. It was created by Susan Morrow and is available in her TpT store. It includes 9 posters based on Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences. Here's what Susan says about them:

"Every child is smart in a number of ways, but they often only think of kids who excel in academics as smart. Refer to the posters often in the classroom when doing different types of activities. It’s fun when you are studying biographies of famous people to talk about the different types of intelligence they demonstrate.
I hope you enjoy these posters as much as I enjoyed making them. Keep 'em Thinking!"

Thanks for an awesome product, Susan. I've already printed them all out and can't wait to laminate and hang them in my room!

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

New(ish) Product :: Anger and Coping Skills Bingo Game

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One of the lessons I find myself teaching constantly is about coping skills. Whether I was working with kids who had difficulty managing stress or kids who got into trouble frequently for fighting with others or arguing with teachers, the common thread was that these kids didn't have the tools to deal with frustrating or stress-invoking situations. I also found that many of these kids needed lessons to be really interactive or fun for them to really invest in learning how to manage their stress or anger.

This was my solution! It is designed to help students learn many different coping strategies in a fun, interactive way. The strategies they learn can help them handle stress and anger in safe, appropriate ways. This game is great for those groups or students who tend to resist "traditional" coping skills lessons. There are 2 versions included, a shorter one and a longer one depending on the attention span of your students!

Several times, my kids have actually come to my room and specifically requested to play this game. It's pretty crazy, actually! The download includes several different ways to deal with anger or stress and provides everything you need for students to create their own bingo cards and play the game!:

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If you're looking for more activities to help kids deal with anger, check out my Dealing with Anger Activity Pack. You can find everything in my store. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pinterest Find :: Organization Binder Printables

Organization Binder

Last weekend, I came across this awesome website on Pinterest! It's called DIY Home Sweet Home and contains tons of free pages you can download and print to create an organization binder. Many of them are specific for home use, but a bunch of them could be used for school or work use as well! She did such a great job!

I especially loved these:

Week Notes Month Dates to Remember Contacts

Note: all photos on this post are from DIY Home Sweet Home. I didn't take any of them!

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Helping Kids Cope With Tragedy

There are no words that can adequately express our collective shock and sadness after hearing the news of the tragedy at the Boston Marathon. In being a runner myself, I can especially empathize with the families and runners who were there for what was supposed to be a celebratory situation but cannot imagine the grief and pain they are going through tonight.

And it is in these times that we as adults have our own worlds shaken. That same is true for children - both our biological ones and the students in our classes. Here are a few things that can make helping children deal with crisis and trauma a little easier.

Find Out What They Know

Often times, kids know more than we think. They may overhear adults, classmates, or media coverage. Don't assume they know everything, but don't assume they know nothing either. By asking them what they do know, you can correct inaccuracies and avoid giving too much detail as well.

Acknowledge and Allow their Feelings

Don't get upset at a child for feeling anger, fear, sadness, or guilt. Acknowledge that their feelings are ok and allow them to express them in appropriate, healthy ways. Some children may find it helpful to draw, write, make cards for the people involved, volunteer, etc. Also be aware that some children may express these feelings in what appear to be "behavior problems."

Assure them of their Safety

Often times, one of the first thing kids want to know after a tragedy is "Can it happen to me?" And while in reality none of us know when we will be affected by a tragedy, the risk that an individual person will be exposed to one in the near future is extremely low. Reassure the child that there are adults that love and care about them and that they are safe. Remind them of your family/class safety plan to help them feel secure in knowing what to do if something scary does happen (fire drills, intruder alert drills, etc.)

Focus on Positives

Don't fill the child on every single detail surrounding an event, but do tell the truth. Yet with that, focus a majority of your emphasis on the stories of the good guys - the firemen, the doctors, the policemen that help people, people donating blood, etc...knowing that there are good people out there to help people who need it can help kids feel more secure.

Limit Media Exposure

This is a tough one. Humans are observers; we are obsessed with watching events as they unfold and knowing all the facts that we can possibly know. Yet these tendencies, combined with children's incredible imaginations can make crisis situations even more traumatic for kids. Even if you want to watch the coverage, find ways to do it that don't involve exposing your children to it as well. News coverage was never intended to inform young children...this goes for television, radio, Facebook, etc. It might be a good week for family game nights or other outings to keep them away from the TV and computer.

Allow Time

Grief is a very difficult situation for children to deal with and it will take time for them to heal, especially if they were closely exposed to or knew people involved in the situation. However, if you notice changes in appetite, sleep, or behavior that are long-lasting or severe, please talk to your child's doctor or a mental health professional to see if they are in need of additional help.

Take Care of Yourself

Even if you weren't directly affected by a tragedy, you may suffer from secondary or indirect trauma just from hearing news reports or watching videos of the event. Talk to people you can trust, make sure to get plenty of rest, and take care of yourself first. The kids in your life depend on it!

A final thought...

"This is a giant planet and we're lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they're pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We'd have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, 'The good outnumber you, and we always will.' "

- Patton Oswalt

My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this horrible situation. You are not alone!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

New Product :: Social Superstar Game


If you're anything like me, you want to like a lot of the social skills games on the market, but you just can't. Either the kids hate it, it's way too deep and "therapy-y," the board game looks like something out of the 70's, or there's no possible way you can finish it within 30 minutes, etc. etc. Yeah, you know those games. In fact, I have an entire office full of them that I never use!

On the other hand, social skills games could be really awesome! They don't take a whole lot of planning, and the kids could have fun WHILE learning skills they need! Win-win, right?

Which is why I can't tell you how unbelievably excited I am to finish this project!  I've been working on it for the last several weeks and am SO happy with how it turned out! First of all, it's not made by some educational company who "thinks" they know our kids. I made it (and tested it with my kids), so I know they'll enjoy it!

The music-themed (no singing required-don't worry) game contains 150 cards (including some blank ones and decorative card backs) of the following types to teach social and pragmatic language skills in students with Autism, Cognitive Impairments, or other social skill deficits:

- Home Social Skills Questions

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- School Social Skills QuestionsScreen Shot 2013-04-13 at 9.55.57 AMScreen Shot 2013-04-13 at 9.56.13 AM

- Community Social Skills Questions

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- Communication Skills Questions

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- Conversation Acting Topic Cards

The game also includes a cute printable board game in color or black and white, 8 colored “record scorecards” for each player, and reward stars for the student’s scorecard. You can even download a preview before to see if it'll work for your needs!

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It's normally $9 at my TpT store, but for this week, it'll be on sale! Grab it while you can :)

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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Fun Freebie :: Encouraging Class Poster Set

Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 8.53.25 PMLately, I've seen a lot of really colorful posters on Pinterest! Unfortunately, a lot of them are more "teacher-focused," and not so counselor-y social worker-y psychologist-y special ed-y, so I made my own. Click the images above and pick them up for free!


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review :: Creative iPad Case

71nckx5SQBL._SL1500_I was recently lucky enough to get an iPad Mini funded through DonorsChoose for my students! I'm super excited because there are all kinds of awesome apps to teach social skills, communication, and problem-solving. Unfortunately, I had to way to use the apps without an iPad!

It's supposed to arrive sometime in the next couple weeks, but in the mean time I've bean searching for a good case for it. There's tons of cute ones out there, but so many don't provide the "military-grade" protection I know I'll need...haha!

Luckily I came across this one! Not only is it very cute looking, but I also love the handles and that it appears to be very durable! It's also made for all different models of iPads. Some of the reviews mention that it doesn't stand up well, but that's not really why I'm buying the case to begin with! I ordered one in purple and I'll post an update after I get it to let you know how it holds up :)

Anyone know of any must-have apps while I'm waiting!?

Happy Sunday!

Update 4/11/13: I definitely REALLY love this case!  It's a bit tight to get the iPad mini into, but it looks fantastic and I know it will hold up to the abuse my students will put it through. It even stands up on the desk. I've already gotten tons of compliments from my coworkers :)

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Student Funnies :: Act Like a Human?


I recently found a game on Pinterest that involves rolling 2 dice - 1 with an emotion word on it, and the other with an animal. Students then get to take turns acting out a sad cat, excited mouse, nervous monkey, etc. I decided to try it in a class yesterday and this was the result. The other teacher in the room and I couldn't stop laughing...luckily the student didn't really understand what was so hilarious about it!

Me: And what animal will we act like when our dice rolls this?

Student: A cat!

Me: What about this?

Student: An elephant!

Me: And what will we act like when the dice rolls this?

Student: A human, but there's no way I can act like a human!

Could be the truest thing I heard all year considering the licking and barking I witnessed earlier this week. Anyone else sometimes feel like they're working in a zoo rather than a school!?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pinterest Find :: What Kids With Autism Want You to Know


In honor of Autism Awareness month, I wanted to find some great suggestions for working with students with Autism. I don't know about you, but I personally find Autism to be such a complicated diagnosis. As a social worker, I've worked with tons of kids with Autism but unfortunately, what works with one doesn't always work with the others, which I think is part of what makes this particular diagnosis so difficult for me. There's nothing more frustrating than watching a student be frustrated, upset, or uncomfortable while we troubleshoot a couple days (or weeks) of strategies to help them!

Which is why I really like this article. It doesn't offer a "do this, don't do that," of specific strategies, but reminds us of some of the common threads that unite all kids with Autism. It reminds us of their difficulties, but also that they're not always as different from other students as they may appear. Definitely a great reminder for me this week!

On another note, if you're looking for a great organization to financially support, I'd highly recommend Autism Speaks or DonorsChoose. They're both doing awesome things to help students with special needs!