Tuesday, August 19, 2014

These are a few of my favorite things for Back to School- btw I know you are singing just like Julie Andrews

With just one week to go before the start of school, I was perusing some of my older posts and decided to do a little best-of products and ideas summation.

Favorite Lunch Box:Planet Box
We are now on our third year of using Planet Boxes.  These are stainless steel meal boxes that might remind you of an old-school frozen dinner plate.  But it is much more than that.  Using the Planet Boxes has made making lunches sooo much easier and quicker.  It helps to create a balanced tray that doesn't look visually cluttered or overwhelming.  Since their inception into our daily routine, my picky eaters come home with empty lunch boxes; which did not happen before.  Though expensive initially, the Planet Box has probably saved me more money in food waste and a gave me a priceless peace of mind that I am making my kids balanced eaters.  Not only that, I have not had to purchase another lunch box for school.  I just purchase new magnets for $3.95 for the beginning of school and the boys are thrilled. Since my first post about this lifestyle change, they have added another version, the Shuttle, which is slightly smaller and would be perfect for preschool and daycare.  I have the Launch, and the boys have the Rover. I get lots of comments at work while I am eating (and logging my treatments).   These are truly an investment for building solid eating habits and organization.  Bonus factor, kiddos with fine motor challenges or sensory challenges can easily access these boxes to open and shut them.

Favorite App:Writing Wizard
L'escapadou hit the ball out of the park with this app.  It is still my favorite app to support good handwriting habits.  The customizability of this app is outstanding.  Many of the teachers that I have introduced to it have incorporated it into independent work stations and vocabulary lessons.  Because you can easily input words and record the pronunciation, it provides a multi sensory learning experience for those with learning challenges.  But because it is visually fun without being nauseating, kids enjoy using the app.  What I especially love about the app is that during the tracing activity, it prompts correct letter starting points and formation.  Though I use Handwriting without Tears formation, the app has D'Nealian and Zane-Bloser formation too so you can choose what works for your classroom.  Overall, this app is well worth the $2.99

Favorite Office Supply:3M Post Its.
I put them on my forehead, my shirt, my IEPS, my computer, basically anywhere I need the cue to remember to do something.  But I also came across Avery See Through sticky notes which are so convenient to have around to help visually highlight reading words or math problems so that homework doesn't seem so overwhelming.

Favorite Math Game: Think Fun! Math Dice
Any version of this game is a great go to for independent or group stations. It is easily differentiated for all levels of learners and abilities. From Math Dice Jr. to Math Dice Tournament Kit, students will be immersed with skills from number recognition to exponents.

Favorite Reading/Language Game- Think Fun! Zingo
Zingo! is bingo with an (educational) twist.  Early readers can benefit and begin to associate words and pictures as they match the tiles to the boards. Or for emergent readers, and even for small group resource time, use Sight Word Zingo to increase and fluency with sight words.

Favorite Mom Item- True Lemon, Lime and Orange
Nope, not coffee. But these True Lemon packets make me drink.  I have to be motivated to drink water. So when I finally added these little packets of bliss into my Thermos, my hydration levels improved. I don't need it sweet; I just need a little essence of citrus to make me suck it down. So not only is a caffeinated mommy a happy mommy, so is a hydrated one.

What are your favorites back to school things?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Back to School Tried and True

By this time of year, I am prepping to return to work and have found something that I cannot wait to use.  But honestly, this year, I can't wait to go back to my tried and true, my go-tos, my faves.

1. Music
People think I am nuts, but I sing everything. EVERYTHING becomes a song. Working with 3-5 years olds all day long will do that to you.  Almost each session incorporates something from Handwriting Without Tears Get Set for School album.  Kids love it.  I love it.  The songs address so many things from socialization, left/right discrimination, body awareness, language, pre-math concepts, I could go on and on.  In fact, the students even when they leave preschool, still expect to sing the Hello Song and do Tap, Tap, Tap.

My other top music pick incorporates technology.  Inclusive Technology's apps have such catchy tunes that I'll incorporate an app for my kiddos that need to work on cause and effect, assistive technology access learning, turn taking or counting.  The activities are great one on one or in groups.  I often will connect my iDevice to the Smartboard in the classrooms after our music and movement activity and before we move to the fine motor fun.  They just released two multi-songs apps that I might just splurge on, because I know I'll use them.

2. Scissors
I love cutting.  Put a tool in a child's hands and you can see their eyes and bodies hone in on the activity.  Snipping the paper strips or theraputty is, well, therapeutic.  Snipping through the resistance of the putty builds strength of the intrinsic hand muscles, while forcing bilateral hand skill development.  Adaptive scissors help to make it accessible to most, if not, all students, with the just-right assistance level.  And I started downloading or making play mats from Teachers Pay Teachers to support early math skills like one to one correspondence, number recognition and counting.
Scissor Assessment Kits from Achievement Products
Scissor Assessment Kit from Achievement has a great variety of left and right adaptive scissors for just about any need or ability.

3. The Peanut Ball
I think I need to order about 5 more this year.  The peanut ball is such a great tool for core strengthening, balance, attention, and upper body strengthening, that its versatility equals its weight in gold.  Sit on it. Straddle it. Lay on your belly. Lay on your back. Throw it. Kick it. Carry it. Roll it. Do any of those while participating in an activity and the session gets even more bang for the buck.

4.  Theraputty
I  have been having so much fun adapting and creating activities using Fun and Function's variety of putties.  I heart the Animal Rescue Discovery Putty.  But over the year, the kiddos have lost most of my animals.  So I purchased the Emotions Putty which are totally cool.  It comes in Calm which is labeled as Soft. When cool, it is blue. When warmed up, it turns purple, like the old school mood rings.  It also comes in Energize which is labeled Firm.  It's this metallic glob of fun that reminds me of Terminator 2 when Robert Patrick oozes and molds into forms.  It is so mesmerizing that kids and adults alike will choose it.  The Putty Elements packs are a great addition. Because they are named Earth (green/ medium), Desert (red/ extra soft). Sun (yellow/soft ) and Sky (blue/extra firm) that along with science, it can support persistence and strength.  Note, it felt like their resistance did not match their labels; but that was ok.  For the ages with whom I work, I am less concerned with the resistance level than I am with engagement with a substance that will either challenge their sensory or fine motor needs.
Calm Emotions Putty
5. Dice
I am not just talking about the standard dot dice from the board games; I am talking about turning a couple of those random blocks you have laying around and creating new activities.  Roll picture/word dice to create silly sentence that not only address writing skills such as spacing, formation, and capitalization, but also supports language development and awareness.  Roll a move, dance a groove.  Easy way to add a movement break into an activity or the order to which a student completes an obstacle course.  Changing the way a learning center or activity is built, such as adding the playful component of dice, can change the attitude and engagement of a student learning a novel skill.
Foam Dice with Who? Where? Verbs? When? Boardmaker Pictures to prompt sentence expansion
Now that I have shared some of mine, what's in your back to school tool box?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Got Zucc? Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Even if your kids don’t like veggies, they cannot resist these insanely moist and chocolaty muffins.  Mudge said, “These taste like brownies, but they're healthy.”  Plus, the added bonus of cinnamon gives it a little Mexican hot chocolate flare.

Preheat Oven 325 degrees.

Bowl 1- Dry Goods
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
4 tbsp Dutch cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
 Bowl 2
½ cup milk
¼ tsp white vinegar

Bowl 3- wet ingredients- Blend until smooth and airy; it looked like frosting!
½ cup butter
½ cup canola oil
1 ½ cups white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
Now add Bowl 2’s milk mixture until well combined.  
Then slowly add the dry ingredients from Bowl 1 to the wet mix.  Last fold in:
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips
Scoop into paper lined (I prefer parchment liners) mini muffin tins.  Bake 18-20 minutes until the tooth pick comes out clean (unless of course you pierce a chocolate chip).  This batch will make 72 mini muffins.  My kids will eat 5-10 in a sitting depending on how hungry they are.  If you use a standard-sized muffin tin expect approximately 20-25 minutes for cooking.

Now I have to tell you that I didn’t make them as muffins this morning. I had to try them in the waffle maker.  But because this is such a moist product, getting the waffles out was a giant pain in the arse.  Spraying the waffle iron with non-stick worked but many of them broke apart during the removal process.  They cooled on the cookie rack and are now set in the freezer for easy breakfast pickings.  The flavor still rocked, but I wouldn’t do it again.  Okay.  I guess everything is not better as a waffle. Regardless, this recipe still makes killer muffins.  Give it try and let me know what you think….