March 20, 2018

Calming Lap Toys

Confessions of a Frazzled Teacher

Weighted blankets and vests may be needed for autistic students. They are not, however, the only students that may benefit with these resources. The problem is that many regular education (as well as special education) classes are not provided with funds to purchase these for their classrooms. I found a cheaper alternative to the weighted blankets. They take up less storage space and can be made very inexpensively. In our classroom, we having Calming Lap Toys (although I don't necessarily use the word toys with my students). 

This is the Calming Dragon we use in our room.

Here's how to make your own. Please note that most of these materials can be found at the dollar store.  I listed where I found my materials to help you search for your own.

Materials Needed
* Dog toy (I got mine from Petsmart since I happened to be there already. Amazon has a lot of great ones at a similar price. I added my affiliate link to them if you are interested in purchasing them.)

The key to these are that they have to be long. The shorter ones will not lay across the lap easily.
* Needle and thread (already had at home)
* Duct tape (already had at home)
* Kitchen towel (dollar store - doesn't matter what is on them)
* Materials for weight like marbles, stones, etc. (dollar store)
* Plastic bag (dollar store)

1. Cut on the seam of the dog toy. Pull out the crinkle paper and squeaker toy if there are any as they will drive you crazy if left inside!

Using the seam in the middle of the dog toy is the most convenient to use.

2.  Place filler material into a plastic bag. Some materials at the dollar store include marbles and rocks. These will be covered and students will be protected. The total weight should be about 10% of a child's body weight. The typical third grader weighs 50-60 pounds so your filler should weigh 5-6 pounds. Adjust the weight based on your students.

The size of the bag will vary depending on the size of the dog toy. You may want multiple snack bags or a larger size bag.

3. Tape the bag up with duct tape to make sure it will not leak. Then place that taped bag inside a dish towel. Tape this up as well to continue protecting from leaks.

I do not leave anything to chance. I want the insides protected!

4.  Place the bag inside the toy and sew up the side. Unless you are a great seamstress, this will not be perfect. I will not show you an up close look at my sewing! It is presentable though. Now the children can use it.

These work well for students with anxiety or ADHD. I have a couple of students that respond well with these! Having the different animals are also a comfort as well.

Do you have any special tools you use with students with special needs?

March 16, 2018

Weekly Recap - The Good and the Bad

Confessions of a Frazzled Teacher

This was another five day week! Most of it was spent on PARCC testing. At least we had some fun days to celebrate like Pi Day and St. Patrick's Day.

Confessions of a Frazzled Teacher

PARCC Testing Comments - Of course my bad part of the week includes PARCC testing. This week I thought I would post the ridiculous questions/comments I got during the middle of the test.
           "Why do the lights look weird? If the school shakes, they will fall down."
           "Is our classroom underneath this room." (Our classroom is on the second floor. The computer room is on the second floor just on the other side of the building.)
           "What is a straight jacket?" (This particular child kept asking about straight jackets were all week. I thought I may need one before the week was over.)
           "My brain won't work."
           "I'm working hard on Moby Max!" (Ummm...he was taking the PARCC test.)

Surprise Meeting - Isn't it great when a sub shows up at your door so you can go to an IEP meeting that no one told you about?'s not? That's what happened to me this morning. This led to a lot of running around - creating plans that the class could do, taking attendance, and answering the phone that rang a million times all while trying to get out the door. I was exhausted before 9:00!

Confessions of a Frazzled Teacher

Testing Ends - My class is officially done (make-ups and all) with PARCC Testing! I can now resume teaching normally.

Pi Day - I love wearing my Pi shirt, pie necklace, and pie earrings. We did a lot of activities to celebrate the day. My favorite was eating apple pie with my students. Yummy!

Confessions of a Frazzled Teacher
I even loved the price...$3.14. I also loved my coworker, Rachel, for getting them for us! Thanks Rachel!

Subtraction Tip - While I was upset with my students for writing down any answer on a quick subtraction review sheet just to get it done, it did remind me of a favorite subtraction with regrouping trick. Have students highlight the larger numbers in a math problem. If the bottom number is larger, the student has to regroup.

Confessions of a Frazzled Teacher
So, I have no I idea where the 2 (above the 9) is from, but this student did much better after reteaching.

Sometimes, I forget my favorite strategies for teaching a lesson. This is probably because some things work great for one group of students but not another. 

By the way...if you are undergoing testing, you may want to check out my post on 5 Ways to Survive Standardized Testing.

How was your week?  
What was good and bad for you?

March 13, 2018

5 Ways to Survive Standardized Testing

Confessions of a Frazzled Teacher

I know that I am not the only person that dreads standardized testing. My class is in the midst of PARCC testing as I write this. We just finished day five of testing today...two more days to go! I know we all need some help getting through it. Here are five ways to help you survive standardized testing.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Clicking on them will cost you nothing but earn some money for me.

5 - Picture Books

I read aloud to my students everyday. I use books to introduce new concepts or review ones that need extra practice. Of course, this includes books about testing. Here are my favorites...


I am a huge fan of series books. In our class, we have been reading books starring Mrs. Hartwell and Miss Malarkey. I really think I may change my name to Miss Malarkey. I can relate to her so well! As for the Anti-Test Anxiety Society, this one is great for your little ones that worry about testing. 

These books are all great to open discussion on expectations about testing as well as worries.

4 - Tapping

This one is a little woo-hoo-ish (I just coined a new word)! Basically you tap different areas on your hand, head, and neck while repeating a calming mantra. I admit that I have been doing this myself for over a year. I recently saw a video of the benefits of teaching your students to tap in the classroom. We started doing this everyday in January. While tapping, we repeat mantras like "I am calm," "I am focused," or "I will have a great day!" For me personally, I have found myself much more calm and relaxed. My students have definitely liked tapping and remind me if I forget it during our morning meeting! I notice that my students will also start tapping when they need a positive escape during class. 

If you are interested in learning about tapping, click HERE for a link to YouTube video that I think explains tapping really well.  

3 - Brain Breaks

I am a huge fan of brain breaks on a normal day. Testing definitely increases the need to have these in the classroom. My favorite website for free brain break videos is definitely GoNoodle! We love doing the Zumba Kids videos. There are also great relaxation videos on the Flow channel. I just have to remember not to do them when students are testing below us (we are on the second floor with the library underneath our room).

2 - Changing Up Your Schedule

I definitely believe in structure for my students. They need and feel comfortable with a schedule that is consistent. Testing already throws this out the window. While we try to maintain our schedule as much as possible, I try to throw in extra recess time or include extra fun activities that still relate to standards. After one day of testing, we had an author (my former student) visit and we talked about the writing process of books. Tomorrow is Pi Day. I have tons of fun activities planned for that which will include writing and word building skills that my students need. I love these fun activities that support our classwork but give us an excuse to change things up a bit.

1 - When in Doubt, Bribe Them

This sounds really bad, but sometimes a teacher has to do what a teacher has to do!  I may have bribed students to work hard in order to get treats like goldfish (jokes on them...they had a math activity relating to Dr. Seuss) and a movie (thank you Ruby Bridges - Black/Women's History Month). Sometimes, you just have to take it easy. Testing is already stressful. Don't you deserve a little break?

How do you survive 
standardized testing?

March 9, 2018

Weekly Recap - The Good and the Bad

This week flew by. First of all, it was only four days. (Thank you Casimir Pulaski!) Second, we had PARCC three of those days. I'm still glad it's the weekend though!

Disclaimer: This post contains some Amazon links for their affiliate program.

PARCC Testing - I HATE these tests! They last us a whole week (7 days, not a school week) with one test each day. My students do not have the stamina to focus on these tests. I don't blame them, because I do not have the stamina for them either! 

Testing - Surprised that I put that here? I am choosing to look at the positives of testing. My planning for the week was lessened greatly! I also took the testing as an opportunity to get steps on my Fitbit! I like to do laps around the computer lab. To vary it up, I do figure eights and change direction quite a bit. By the end of testing today, I had over 8,000 steps! I was even able to leave early each day since I didn't have much grading or prep work at all! 

Reilly Visits - My former student, Reilly (from my first year of teaching), came back to visit my students. He brought pizza and his new book too! My students adore him. They shared their books they have written for him. I'm so proud of him!

Reilly reading his book to my students.

Check out his new book by clicking the pic below!

How was your week?  
What was good and bad for you?

March 6, 2018

Winning the Pencil War

Confessions of a Frazzled Teacher

I have been trying to find a system to manage my students' pencils for YEARS with no luck! Because of this, I was willing to try any new strategy. For example, I was super excited when I heard about pencil pouches and rewarding students that have all their pencils in at the end of the week while replacing those that had missing ones. While this has cut down on the usage of the pencil sharpener during the week, most of students were missing pencils. By Christmas break I was down 1,000 pencils! This was ridiculous! Looking for a better solution, I surfed Amazon (Disclaimer: This post does have links to Amazon products that will help me earn a little money if you click on them.) until I came across this beauty...

It suggested using regular pencils but I knew that would lead to a lot of sharpening. That brought up new issues I didn't want to deal with! I was hoping to use the big fat primary pencils but the sleeves for the pencils were a little to slim. I, therefore, settled on mechanical pencils. I know many people frown on them in classrooms, but it does help to give a lesson on how to use them. I don't have any issues with them in my room.

I made the pencils pretty obnoxious with large flags made from duct tape and their numbers put on each one.

Not attractive, but it works!

This has saved me so many headaches and a lot of money in the long run. I have been using this system for two months now. I have only refilled the lead in one pencil. My students have also been working on their manners in asking to get their pencils from pencil parking. It's really amazing how having such a simple thing taken care of can ease so much stress! 

Have you won the Pencil War?