Swimming & Snow

The most sought after summer accessory as a kid was the brightly colored wristband that gave the wearer the right to navigate the deep end of the pool.  With this, you were no longer restricted to the shallows and instead were allowed free reign of the diving board and slides.

Before you could obtain this treasure however, you had to pass THE SWIM TEST.  This involved swimming a certain number of laps, being able to jump off the diving board and not need rescuing and the most dreadful of all, treading water.

On the surface, treading water seems the most innocuous of all the tasks, after all, all you have to do is keep your head above the water.  No real skill, style, or bravado needed.  After even a short time of treading water though, it is clear that this is the most trying test of them all.  It’s not long before your arms and legs start to tire and your chin gets closer and closer to the water.

So what has me thinking of swimming and summer when I’m surrounded by the nearly three feet of snow that has incapacitated our area and cancelled school for the past three days?  It was a comment Jessica made about how we should be back to blogging by now but that she’s been feeling she’s treading water in her classroom and that it’s taking all she can to keep her head up.  Of course, if I can liken teaching to sky diving like I did here, I can pretty much tie anything to teaching.

The parallels are there. Diving off the board is like the beginning of the year when you can’t wait to just jump in. Swimming the laps is like when you’ve found yourself in a little bit of a groove and things are going well.  And the rest of the time, well, that’s when you are just keeping your head up treading water.

But as I’m starting at the mounds of fresh snow out the window, I’m wondering if treading water isn’t the most important skill of them all. How bad it is if, every once in a while, we dunk under water.  As long as we don’t drown, being immersed can be refreshing, a reminder of why we got in the pool in the first place.

It is with this perspective that I’ve decided a few things:

  1. Treading water is essential to becoming a strong swimmer and enjoying the deep end.  Feeling a little like it’s taking all we can just to survive is proof that we can do plenty but that we don’t have to be perfect at it all, all the time.
  2. Since we don’t have to be perfect at it all, it’s ok to share when we are feeling a little under the water.
  3. It is time to get back to blogging!




What is it?

Many are familiar with Scholastic the publisher and seller of books, magazines and the like but their website is so much more than just a place to order things. They also publish magazines geared to different grade levels.  When you purchase the magazine you have access to additional online resources. They do offer other free online resources without magazine purchase as well.

My experience is with the magazine that my school ordered for me. We were able to choose how many in increments of 10. The articles in the magazines are all non-fiction learning tools and have vocabulary and worksheets related to most of them that will guide both teacher and student. The magazines are broken into grade level and have different names based on which level you choose. For example, Scholastic Action is for Grades 6–12 (reading level 3-5)

Who is it for?

Scholastic is not just for educators in the classroom. This is a great resource that can be tailored toward your needs. They have items for librarians, different grade/reading levels, and so much more. They have a parent and student section on the website and the magazines can be used at home.

Why use it?

Scholastic is a wonderful resource that has amazing website features. The site lists that it has links for teachers, parents, librarians, administration, students, and even links to common core standards. In my classroom we use it to help with fluency and comprehension for a variety of grade and reading levels.

Favorite aspects?

My favorite aspects of the online supplements to the magazine are the audio setting on some articles as well as the worksheets that are made available for certain articles. The audio setting is not an option on all articles but when it is, you can change the settings to read fast or slower and there is even an option to change the article reading to a lower reading level. I have an auditory learner who loves this aspect as much as I do.


The worksheets that come with the website are great!  They help to focus on on main topics and reiterate comprehension.

While scholastic magazine is a paid subscription, don’t be deterred. Make sure to check out the free resources they offer on the website. Another money saver is to team up with someone who might need the same grade level magazine and share web access. I hope you enjoy scholastic.com as much as I have.

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Pom Pom What? From Erasers to a Victorious Visual Schedule

Some days my brain works better than others.  Some days, I have “Ah Ha!” moments.  Some days, those two things happen at the same time.  One such example came when I was sitting in my living room, talking with Aileen.  She says, “I used pom poms on the dry erase markers.”  She continued on with the conversation and I had to stop her and ask what in the heck she wanted to use pom poms on her markers for?

She explained that on Pinterest ( check out our Web Wednesday on that amazing resource) she found this awesome idea to create dry erase erasers by using pom poms on the dry erase markers.

Thanks to Fifth Grade Frenzy for this quick but incredible tip.

My mind was officially blown.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of that myself, or much sooner for that matter.  I immediately put it to practice in my classroom!  I LOVE IT!

In that discussion, we also talked about an idea I had not completely formed.  My students were struggling with their morning and afternoon schedule.  I really had trouble with them following through on tasks that were everyday occurrences and had been for the last 1.5 years.  I had already created a visual schedule that we broke down into tasks and made it available for them to see every morning and afternoon.  This did not work in getting them to follow through.  I was discussing a checklist that would hold them accountable for each task and had not figured out how I was going to make this work without creating more work for myself.

Combine the PomPom Ah Ha with the need to improve our daily routine and the visual schedule went to to checklist/task form.  I placed them in page protectors so that the students could use dry erase markers to check off the tasks as they complete them.  Another great part of them being in page protectors is that I can easily flip them so the students see their morning responsibilities in the morning and their afternoon tasks in the afternoon.


Simple but effective and life changing, the perfect Ah Ha Epiphany.

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TTAC Image

What is it?

T/TAC is an online resources for teachers created by the VDOE. It stands for The Virginia Department of Education’s Training/Technical Assistance Centers (T/TAC) For Persons Serving Children and Youth With Disabilities.  If you are in Virginia, this is the website for you.  If not, you you can still find good information here.

Who is it for?

This website is to provide special education teachers with resources, education and training.  Parents of children with special needs can also use the provided resources.

Why use it?

There are strategies and lesson plans linked to what we have to teach our students.  It also helps you identify resources specific to different areas of Virginia.

Favorite Aspect

It lists instructional strategies not only for the different areas of Math, English, History/Social Studies and Science, but also strategies related to specific areas of weaknesses like attention, organization, following directions, recall…  THEN, it also provides information about instructional strategies and accommodations for different special populations and ideas for accommodations.

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Welcome to Space On The Spectrum

You know those ideas that just don’t seem to go away?  The ones that even when you think you’ve seen the last of them, pop back up in some small corner of your mind?  You go months not thinking about it and then one day you realize they are still there.  Waiting. Starting a website has been one of those “won’t go away” ideas for us.

For a long time we’ve talked about how rewarding, challenging and diverse an experience working in special education is.  We’ve thought about how much inspiration and help we give each other and get from others and wanted to find a way to reach out for more and share what we discover.

Check out About Us and About Space On The Spectrum to see what we are all about. Then make sure to keep checking back for more exciting additions!  Our first batch of posts below describe the different categories we will be posting under and give you a little of what to expect from us.   It’s a lot to attempt, but we are willing to try and hope you will join us along the way!

If you’re wondering what we think about something,  struggling with something we or someone else might be able to help with, or if you have something to share, let us know in the comments or by contacting us.

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