insta fb tpt home about da pd contact

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Aquarium Field Trip 2022

Last Wednesday, we had a wonderful field trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

I thought that the trip might be a little too familiar to our students, but I was pleasantly surprised. Our high school students seem to enjoy any experience where we are out of the context of school and with their friends.

Last year, we read Cannery Row with our Basic English class, so we began our trip with a private tour at Pacific Biological Laboratories, also known as Doc Rickett's Lab. The City of Monterey helped us organize the tour, which included a very informative docent. It was special that the old building was only open to us. We got to see the original model of the building, the room where the Monterey Jazz Festival was imagined, and Doc's lab downstairs. I love experiences like these that bring our novels into relevancy! 

Ed "Doc" Ricketts

After the hour tour, we had a couple of hours to kill so we did a long loop (we walked almost 5 miles with 18 students!) from the historical worker's shed replicas to the spot where Doc's railroad accident the Hopkins Marine Station. 
The spot where Doc Rickett's railroad accident occurred. Often times, people put flowers in his hands.

Then, it was off to the aquarium!

We got to see the new Deep Sea exhibit, and many of our students were able to find the creature that they researched for their Aquarium research project. A couple of our students did the Bloody Belly Comb Jelly...a fragile, colorful species.

After our field trip, we ate at Carl's Jr, and then did another short walk/or went back to the aquarium, before we went home for the day. It was a memorable Monterey day with very few crowds...a fun day indeed.

In preparation for our field trip, we had an Aquarium Field Trip project that we did over a span of 4 days. 

The schedule is below:

Day 1: Introduced project, watched live webcams on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Website, completed the Outline

Day 2: Finished outline; converted facts to the Fact Sheet

Day 3-4: Worked on Diorama

When students came in, this was the setup that they saw:

Arts & crafts for the diorama; many were purchased from the Dollar Tree
A time when my Amazon shopping habit came in handy

Here is the link to the product if you are interested in doing it in your own classroom! It can be used for any aquarium field trip -- it doesn't have to be ther Monterey one.

Here are some of our students' finished products:

They did such a great job and it was a wonderful and productive lesson for the whole block period (1 hour and 30 minutes!). I would say they worked the whole time.

We have a couple more field trips planned for this year, but this one will definitely go down as one of the best ones we have had! Especially because we read a novel and did some pretty intense research leading up to the experience! This completely enhanced our experience. 

Do you have any field trips do you have planned this year? Have you taken a field trip to the aquarium before? Any tips for future aquarium trips? Hope your October is starting off well!!! 

Until next time, 

"What I Wish I'd Learned in School"

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Saturday Reflections: "I want to live with love."

For our independent reading novel unit, we did numerous book tastings, which culminated in a few trips to the library in which students chose a book to read for 3 weeks. For the first 10 minutes of each class, we would spend time silently reading and completing lit blogs. As students are reading, I am also testing the waters for new novels to read with a class. Because my class is a Basic or SAI (Specialized Academic Instruction Class), students in my English class can be with me for all 4 years. Because of this, I commit to never reading the same book twice. It also becomes a curricular challenge for me because I cannot as easily recycle full year lesson plans like most English teachers can. This week, I was reading Parrot in the Oven during our silent reading times. I took a quote from this novel as our quote of the week: "I want to live with love." As a teacher of students with special needs, I am frequently tasked with being nonjudgmental when students are presenting with behavioral challenges. This week really tested me! With every hard day, I still seek to understand, not to be misunderstood.

I thought in this post I would share a couple more back-to-school add-ons to the classroom that have helped a bunch this school year! But first...Halloween is coming! Here is my Halloween decor -- featuring all things from the Dollar Tree except for the orange Halloween must have been one of my daughter's hand-me-downs.

Back-to-School Essentials (continued)...

#1: Microphone.

I have often thought about getting a microphone to help with instruction. The need got real when I started the year using a mask because I was recovering from COVID. Now, I turn to the mic to use when I know that I am going to be lecturing for a little longer. I love using the mic because I feel like it gives a professional vibe to the class. It also allows me to practice using a microphone and being very careful with the words that I choose. Some days, however, I have energy and do away with it and I find that I can be much more dynamic without it. So it's every so often that I use it. Still, I love it -- especially for students who may have auditory impairments or for a simple "vibe switch" in the classroom.

#2 Scrap paper.

I know that we all have papers that we recycle on a daily basis. I have those dangerous guillotine-style paper cutters that I keep away from students. I frequently have scratch paper and a set of pens near the phone so that we can easily take down phone messages, etc. It's something small but it feels very utilitarian.

#3 Art lessons on Block days.

Let's face it, block days are long for a self-contained classroom. 1 hour and 30 minutes long. Typically I do break the lesson up so that we can take a break outside with a snack about 1 hour in. However, this week we did something new. We took out modeling clay and students spent a good amount of time sculpting out a book symbol for their independent reading project. We played classical music and did this for a good 30-45 minutes long. Students were engaged and produced some great art! On Day #2 (after things had dried a bit), we painted with washable paint or acrylic paint. We used paper plates for the art. I am going to try to incorporate some artistic project 1x week in block days. It really made the period fly by. It's a great day when a student says: "wow the period is over already?"

#4 Networking with local businesses for student jobs.

This next one is based on preference. I am a sucker for a cold email or a cold call. You never know where cold emails or cold phone calls can go. Maybe that's the undercover sales person in me. At my new school, there are less Workability connections and so students come mostly to their Case Carriers for assistance in finding a job. I have found that to alleviate the "foot work," I can easily call a local business (and...bonus points because our working hours are usually their slow hours!) and ask them directly: "Hi, I was wondering if you were hiring? Do you hire at 15 1/2? Do you hire at 16?" I have done this a lot with local businesses and they have always been accommodating. Some ask the student to come in. I never say that I'm a's probably inferred that I am a potential job candidate...but it helps with reducing the footwork from actually going in!

I have done this for students for years, but this week, one of my students actually got their first job from this phone call! I was so amazed. Not all of my students follow-up on leads, but this one did and was asked to come in for a interview and got the job! 

I don't know where this is going necessarily, but I am trying to build a directory in-house of local places in the area that are hiring at 16 or younger (e.g. movie theaters, fast-food restaurants, etc.). It is one of my deepest passions to help connect students with work.

Okay, I think that's it for now. This last week I had back-to-back tri's and boy did I not anticipate how that workload would hit me! Also, this week I will be presenting at the California Teacher Association's 3rd ever Special Education Conference. I am honored to have presented at every single one so far.

I hope that you are able to spend this weekend reconnecting with family and relaxing.

Until next time,



Thursday, September 8, 2022

CTE speakers and a broken toe!

This week was supposed to be a pretty chill week due to the 4-day week as well as a guest speaker on our block (1 hour 20 minutes) day. 

However, the week started off with me having to be out for the first periods of the day due to a hurt toe. I was grabbing wrapping paper in the garage when an Indo board (skateboarding training board...bigger and thicker than a regular skateboard) crashed on to my toe. 

I went to urgent car during 1st and 2nd period, and after the x-ray, the doctor informed me that it was broken. My first broken toe at 36. Who would have thought.

I am now in a boot for 3-4 weeks. 

It's not as big as I thought it would be, but it certainly still hurts! 

This all transpired before 3rd period on Tuesday, so of course it set the tone for a pretty interesting week. 

I wanted to write this post about CTE speakers. We are fortunate at my new school that we have a CTE Coordinator that contacts career guest speakers and invites them to our classroom. She does an interest survey with students and then cold calls or emails different people in the community. So far this year, we've had Wildlife Game Wardens, and yesterday we had a representative from the Office of Emergency Services (makes plans for natural disasters).

Here are a few pics from the Wildlife Game Wardens:

Abalone (illegal)

Baby Mountain Lion rescued from under a car

Antler that was taken off a was caught in rope

Fish illegal to catch in our county

Here are some other pics from our guest speaker yesterday, from the Office of Emergency Services:

These were great presentations because our area is rich in wildlife diversity and also called the "Disneyland of Disasters" because we literally have a disaster for everyone.

Of course we love guest speakers because they break up the monotony of the classroom. Here are some tips that I've found are useful for having guest speakers in the classroom:

  • Have a pack of bottled water and some snacks on hand always as courtesy gifts to the guest speakers. I write parent groups for this. 
  • Have a pack of thank you cards/stamps on hand always, for students to complete after the guest speaker has left (or the day after)
  • Set up nametags on each desk so that the speaker knows every person's name, easily
  • Have the person's name projected so it looks professional when the guest speaker/students walk in
Other "Nice to Have's":
  • Microphone (working on submitting a grant for this!)
  • Print or Frame to give speakers with a nice design, something like "Thank you for sharing your talents with ____ High's CTE Program"
I'm not sure what we have in store next for our CTE guest speakers. We typically try to do 1x month, for the longer block periods to break it up. Last year we had a Fire Chief, Fitness Nutritionist, Mercedes Benz Automotive Technician, Land Surveyor and SPCA. We try to find speakers also that have jobs that don't require a college degree.

Do you have guest speakers come in to your specialized academic instruction classes? What are some of the best you have seen? One of the best that we have seen was the Head of Radiology from our local hospital! He had such a motivational speaker and gave candy throughout. :-) 

Have a great rest of your day!


Friday, September 2, 2022

High School Academic Support MUST HAVE'S!

I recovered from COVID and was able to return to school on the 3rd day of school. Phew! 

I decided to write this post on some of the new finds from this year.

Even though I commit to not spending extra money on my classroom at the beginning of the year, I still inevitably devise systems that I think will work better than last year...and some other things that I am continuing because they just make sense!

Here are some of the things that I added to my classroom this year.

Quote of the Week section on the Whiteboard

One type of reading that emboldens me is reading inspirational quotes. I hope that it benefits students as well. I decided to try this Quote of the Week section especially for our Academic Support classes. I found the letters in the cabinet from a teacher who left it behind. 

Monthly Expanded Calendar on Whiteboard

One of the focal points in my classroom is an extended calendar that I put on the whiteboard. I put down Minimum Days, breaks, IEP's (so co-workers know when I will be out), Holidays, SUB days (when I will be out)....Spirit Days, etc. It's pretty big and I cross off the days as I go. It's one of the most helpful things to me organization-wise. It also helps us visualize time as it goes by...

Resource Board

I took this idea from a previous teacher...writing down teacher's names and having a section on the whiteboard where I can clip up important resources, notes, study guides, that the teachers share with me. The ambitious teacher would put down assignments from Google Classroom as they come in. I tried that for one year and could not keep up with it. This is much simpler and helps us organize test reviews and materials as they come in.

Deflect-O Interlocking Horizontal Tilt Bins

I saw this at my daughter's Back-to-School Night from one of her teachers and I just knew that it was going to change our game up in Study Hall. Previously, all of our supplies were just sequestered to 1 or 2 shelves and students had to ask me where to go. Now, they are in clear bins and they make my "extra" teacher persona very happy. The supplies look plentiful this way, and students know exactly where to go for any study material that they may need.

Crayola Colors of the World Colored Pencils

In our English class we do a lot of coloring/art projects, and these skin-tone colors also up the game in this regard! Students can color their assignments in such a way that they look more realistic and they can play with the colors to blend them to their needs. 

IEP folders in my locking desk

I like having IEP folders in my desk because they are much more accessible than in a file cabinet. I also keep notes on the student, career interest inventories, notes on phone calls, etc. in these folders.

Treat chest

Every year, I write a grant to our Parent Organization for monies to buy "Study Skills incentives" for our students. Every week during block period (typically 1 hour and 30 minutes), students get a 5 minute break and are able to enjoy a snack of their choice.

Message-board type writing on the whiteboard

I no longer put agendas on the whiteboard. Instead, we write down important tests, quizzes, assignments and another announcements...message board style. I also put down messages to students...that way if I forget to ask them about something, they remind me. ;)

Emails to Students (High School Level)

When students are absent, begin to fall behind, I like to get in the routine of communicating to them by email. A lot of times they will answer! It's a type of communication that does resonate with them. My goal every year is to send positive emails as much as possible...and I will continue that tradition this year. 

This year, these are the things that have made a big change in my classroom, vibe-wise. I still have many more things to add....right now my classroom is mostly whale themed but I have more to add! What are some of your Academic Support Class MUST HAVE'S?! Would love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

Happy Teaching,


Wednesday, August 3, 2022

How my First Week of School is Going

Well, the new school year is certainly starting off interesting.
It finally got me.
Or perhaps, it got me a second time. My symptoms this time around are almost identical to the flu symptoms I got in March 2019. Horrible sore throat, fatigue, etc. Only this time I am not dehydrated thank goodness. That was miserable in 2019.

I hope that you all had a wonderful summer. Ours consisted of a lot of outdoor time, some kid camp time, and our last trip was one to the Big Island of Hawaii. Amazing summer days with our kids. 

On Monday, (when I thought I was just "tired" from the flight and still testing negative) I did get to visit my classroom and set up/organize a little so at least I did get to have that. Here's a "BEFORE" how my classroom looked at the beginning of last year, and then the "AFTER" is the set-up for this year.

I reconfigured the desk because I found it was hard to work with students on a 1:1 basis the other way (and virtually impossible in the classroom like near their desk because of the size constraint of the actual room).

Also, when people drop in to have check-ins or meetings, they will have a place to sit.

Due to my COVID positive test, I am standing by to see if I am actually able to attend the first day of school. The last time I was unable to really hold class on the first day of school was in 2017 when I walked up to campus and all of my things were outside of my room like a mad ex had gotten angry and hurled everything outside, lol. It turns out that my room had FLOODED due to a faulty AC. Definitely a teacher nightmare that lingered for weeks (I had to hold class in the library).

Luckily, because of Zoom, I am able to listen in on some of the department affairs going on which I think is so extremely important. 

As I await the first week of school, I do like to spend this time to think about my goals for the upcoming school year. Here they are...

1. Teach by "Surprise". For the last two years, I have learned so much about how the element of surprise can delight and engage students. I've learned this from my co-teacher and also my daughter's piano teacher. Simply having something new on their desk when they walk in, or trying a wholly new strategy of learning is a creative way of teaching that I haven't tapped into as much. I would like to focus on "surprising" my students as much as possible this year and I hope to document this here.

2. Quarterly Assessments, Writing Benchmark, Writing Conferences. Say no more. The Writing Conference is such a powerful be able to sit 1:1 with a student and discuss their writing with them individually is invaluable and also helps build rapport.

3. Send good emails to students. Praise students in my own way by sending kind notes, and sending kind notes home about student progress

4. And then, a goal that is always on my list from year to year is to build trust and routine with the Instructional Assistant whom I work with. I am very challenged with delegating (don't like to burden others...I know this is a common teacher feeling). But I want to get better at it for the sake of efficiency and teamwork. 

What are your goals for this upcoming school year? Would love to hear what you as an educator are working on, whatever stage you might be in. Teacher journeys are the best kind.

Talk soon,

- Kristine

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Distance Teaching: Week 2 Reflections

We just ended week 2 of Distance Learning in Santa Clara County.

I’ve learned a few more pros/cons:

Pro: I’m able to collaborate more with other professionals more than I have ever been able to. I’m able to meet 15 minutes before class to discuss progress with my IAs (unheard of in a school day). 

Pro: challenging behaviors can be managed more creatively. The other day, a student put inappropriate music on in class. It was easy to mute the student’s audio and then either go into a breakout room to discuss or discuss after class.

Pro: I enjoy Canvas as a platform. It allows me to do more with curriculum planning and it migrated my grades to our school platform. It also emails me when students submit work.

Pro: I have much more time in the day to call parents, students, and to document case management notes.

Pro: I feel like lesson plans can be more dynamic with the technology available. I can switch from sharing my screen to speaker view, put an online timer easily, and show student work easily since I have dual screens. It’s also easy to model.

And, some Cons.

Con: it is harder to help students with special needs. Typically I can sit down next to a student, engage in light conversation, and steer them to do an assignment with me. Now, I have to go in a breakout room, share my screen (which expands onto theirs), and hope that they’re following along. 

Con: I feel the tech gap. Students have connectivity issues. Their chrome books heat up. You name it. I feel fortunate that we were able to get a used iMac for my daughter. Working on a chrome book is hard. The screen is small and the connectivity can be slow. 

Con: it is very, very hard to juggle teaching with having your children at home. My eldest daughter is in distance learning and has questions or challenges throughout the day. My toddler wants to sit on my lap the whole day. As a family and as a Mom we need to plan for lunch, cleaning the kitchen as we go, and random house errands since the house seems to get messier since we are all at home. 

Con: I need to remind myself to strike a balance between students mental health and curriculum demands. I think I assigned way too many assignments the first week (we did a daily assignment and they had an assignment to do for homework “on their own”). Many students couldn’t complete the work and they have missing assignments in the grade book. Yet at the same time, sometimes I feel like I’m jipping them because we only meet twice a week and consequently there is a huge content limitation. I absolutely cannot get through all of the curriculum that I have deemed “essential” in my head. I have to be okay with that. I know everyone is a little stressed with learning a new platform and also attempting to do most of the assignments on their own. But I also want their education to be “quality” so I’m always trying to make a rational decision as to what we will do that day. 

What leaps or hurdles have you encountered in distance learning/teaching? I would love to hear them. 

- Kristine 

LINK for CTA Session 1 & 2

Session 1 Here! Session 2 Here!  Link to Folder