Friday, July 26, 2013


PBS is doing a documentary on three people with autism and their view on people who are "neurotypical." The documentary features a four year old girl, teenage boy, and an adult woman. It premieres July 29th online and stays online from July 30- August 28! I can't wait to watch this documentary. Check out the trailer and extended information at:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Place Value Activity

Do you teach place value to your students? 

I just made a place value activity that you can use over and over again! It can even be a quick and easy assessment. Hop on over to my TpT page to check it out!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

IPad Key Guard

I found this idea from a wonderful blog called Caleigh's Cornor. After reading this post, I decided to try making my own key guard out of glue sticks for one of my students. All I did was hot glue glue sticks into a grid panel that wrapped around the back of the IPad. You can set up your grid to slide off the IPad, or you could even use Velcro dots. I would suggest using the thinner glue stick and maybe even some super glue if your child or student has a strong grip.

You can buy key guards, as well. Some of the guards are smaller and more durable. This was my attempt at trying out a key guard. I did not want to spend the money on a key guard without knowing how my student would respond.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Liebster Award

I was nominator for the Liebster Award by Learning Ahoy! You should go on over and check out her blog.

"Liebster" is a German word that means dearest, lovely, beloved and welcome.  To accept the nomination, I must:
1. Link back to the blog that nominated me.
2.  Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers. 
3. Answer the questions posted for you by your nominator.
4. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
5. Create 11 questions for your nominees.
6. Contact your nominees and let them know you nominated them.

So, here are the 11 questions Learning Ahoy asked....

1.     What do you teach?
     I teach middle school special education.
2.    Where did you go to college?
     I went to Longwood University. 
3.     What is your favorite book?
     My 5th grade teacher read aloud Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. I fell in love. Now I am going to read it to my class this year!
4.     What is you favorite place to get clipart from? 
     My favorite place to get clip art is my cute graphics.
5.     What do you like to do outside of school stuff?
     Outside of school I like to read, go on dates with my husband, and hang out with my doggies. 
6.     Where would your dream vacation spot be? 
     My dream vacation would be a trip to Italy.
7.     If you won a million dollars what would you do with it? 
     If I had a million dollars I would give a lot of it to my church, friends, and family. I would probably take a couple of years off from teaching to raise children, but I think I would be bored at home and go back to teaching. 
8.     If you were not a teacher what would you do? 
     I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in the 1st grade. Now, that I have been teaching for 2 years I want to make a difference that is bigger than the size of my classroom. When I am ready and decide to change jobs, I hope to be in a position where I am teaching teachers or advocating for students rights. 
9.     What is your favorite blog to read (besides your own of course!)?
      My favorite blog is Learning Ahoy. 
10.What is your favorite food?
     My favorite food is subs. 
11.What is your least favorite drink?
     My least favorite drink is a glass of milk. When I was young, I would get so excited when I had a fever because that meant I didn't have to have milk with dinner!

Now it is time for my 11 random facts.
1. I have 2 dogs.
2. I married my high school sweet heart. 
3. In high school I was a cheerleader.
4. When I was young I took swimming, roller skating, ice skating, baton, and dance lessons.
5. I am the youngest of three girls. 

6. I love my job! 
7. My favorite place to shop is Target. 
8. My dogs names are Lily and Shady.
9. I love water. If I am on the water I am happy and at peace. 
10.  I like to garden and cook. 
11. I have two wonderful parents who have helped me become the dedicated person I am today :). 

I would like to nominate: 

My questions for my nominees: 
1. Why did you become a teacher?
2. Where is your favorite place to shop?
3. Do you have a TpT store?
4. What is your favorite blog?
5. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
6. What is your favorite restaurant? 
7. What do you like to do outside of teaching?
8. What do you teach?
9. Where did you go to college?
10. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
11. Do you have any children or pets?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Classroom Pets

Do you have any pets in your classroom?

 Last year my classroom received a grant from pets in the classroom. We received a baby bearded dragon. The students voted on a name and came up with Little Red, because he had a little red spot on his chin. As the year progressed his name was changed to Big Red :). My students enjoyed feeding and holding the bearded dragon. I thought they would be grossed out by the bearded dragon eating crickets and worms, but they loved watching him eat. Even better it was a great hands-on experience while studying predator, prey, and camouflage!

Little Red 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Reading Log

Do you assign reading for homework? The more time students are exposed to reading the better they will become!

I just posted my reading log for FREE on my TpT store!! You can edit it however you would like. Enjoy!

Friday, July 19, 2013

New Student: Parent Meeting

I just created a quick chart for my new student parent meetings. This particular form is for students with special needs. It is FREE at my TpT store! 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Teaching Books

Do you need a good summer read? Here are my three favorite books that have helped me become a better teacher. Watch the video below to see what each book is about!

Visible Learning by John Hattie: 

Teach Like A Champion by Doug Lemov:

Words Their Way by Donald R. Bear, Marcia Invernizzi, Shane Templeton, and Francine Johnson: 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


During ESY we had a baseball theme! One of the cooking activities my students enjoyed was baseball cup cakes. This is an easy activity that incorporates motor skills and following directions.

Some other fun baseball theme ideas:
     -Play baseball outside
     - Word work game on a baseball field print out
     - Solve math problems on sport theme cards
     - Read baseball theme stories for guided reading instruction
     - Cook corn dog muffins
     - Make nachos 
     - Create a baseball themed graph
     - Measure baseball supplies
     - Solve word problems that relate to baseball

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

You Can!

I always start out my school year encouraging my students to follow their dreams. We discuss our goals for the future and how we can reach them. Throughout the year I spend time reinforcing these goals and incorporate them into academic lessons. I came across this video about a boy with down syndrome who owns his own restaurant. He followed his dreams! (See the link below.)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Words Their Way

I have created more spelling lists that correlate with the Words Their Way program! You can find them at my TpT store.

You can find:
 Spelling lists 1-20 for $2.50
 Spelling lists 21-50 for $2.50
  Spelling lists 1-50 for $4.00

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Spelling Words

In my classroom I use Words Their Way to assist in my students' spelling and reading abilities. I have made spelling lists for Sorts 1-20 in the Letter Naming stage. These spelling words are organized by beginning consonants, word families, digraphs, and blends. You can click here to see my spelling lists on TpT.

 I love this program because it has the students sorting words and sounds based off phonetic patterns. Students learn how to read and spell these patterns while working through the sorts. Patterns from sorting can be generalized to words that are not on the spelling list. Therefore, spelling words are not made for memorization but for generalization.

 During the summer I will be working on Sorts 20-40, lesson plans, and games to go along each sort. Check back in to see more of my spelling ideas!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Facebook and Pinterest

I started a new facebook page that links up with some of my posts, TpT store, and links other pages and blogs. Also, I have lots of great teaching ideas on my Pinterest page. Please follow me!!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

DIY Table Top Easel

I decided to make my own!

                            Front                                                                                                               Back        

 How can you use it?

I am planning on inserting a white board and Velcro board into my easel during small group instruction. 

Directions on how to make your own:

You will need:

  • Cardboard (I used a cereal box)
  • Colored paper
  •  Scissors
  • Knife
  • Pool noodle
  • Colorful duct tape

What to do:

1. Cut the noodle into pieces. The long piece on the bottom should be about 13 to 14 inches. Then you will need two shorter pieces for support. These two pieces should be 6 to 7 inches long. 

2. Cut along the long piece of noodle, as seen below.

3. Cut cardboard to desired size and add colored paper by placing duct tape around the edges.

4. Place the cardboard into the slit of the noodle. Then place the two additional noodle pieces behind the easel. 

5. Apply duct tape from the front to the back of the two supporting noodles.

6. Apply duct tape on the top of the noodles to the cardboard.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Token Economy

I am planning on starting out the school year with a token economy. A token economy is a behavior program that incorporates life skills. My students will be earning Harry Potter bucks   for coming to school on time, completing classwork, participating in class, and helping others. Every other week my students will be able to buy free time and toys at our store titled the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. As you can see my theme for the year is going to be Harry Potter!

Here is my token economy document I made today! You are welcome to edit it and make it fit your own theme and classroom needs.

                                                           It is $2.00 at my TpT store.

What are you planning for positive behavior management this year?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Parent Communication

Parent communication is always a must, especially when working in a special ed. setting. During the last two years I have used communication notebooks. This year I am thinking about trying to incorporate this document into my communication notebook.

                                                             Free at my TpT store!

How do you communicate with parents?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Dry Erase Crayons

I am always trying to find new ways to excite students about various classroom activities. I found these Washable Dry Erase Brayons by Crayola at my local Target store. My students love to use dry erase markers on white boards and their desk. I am really excited to see what they think about dry erase crayons!

I used all the colors except white on a dry erase surface.

It even comes with a washable cloth eraser and a crayon sharpener on the back of the box. 

Another way to practice basic math operations!

Welcome/ Teaching Philosophy

           Welcome to my blog Empowering Great Minds! I am making this blog to share with other teachers and parents. My name is Julie Lowery and I am a special education teacher. I teach self contained English, math, science, history, and life skills at a public middle school. 

My teaching Philosophy: All students can learn to read, write, and solve daily living math problems no matter any physical or mental limitations. It is important to give instruction in which students are spending more time on task. Educational lessons should consist of an introduction, modeling, guided practice, independent practice, and assessments. Behavior modification and instruction are most effective when evidenced based. Data of classroom progress assists in guiding instruction. Classroom rules that are posted, short, and positive help students know the expectations in the classroom.
Also, it is important for the teacher to assist in building a classroom climate of a want to participate, a want to learn, and a drive to do your best. Students learn best when the classroom is inviting, motivating, and positive. Students should want to be at school and included in the classroom lesson.  I believe teachers should have high expectations. If you give students high expectations, they will work to reach them, and if you give students low expectations they will do the work to meet the low expectations. It is important to provide scaffolding to assist students in reaching these high expectations.
Through exploring my teaching philosophy I have determined there is no such thing as a perfect teacher. We can always learn new skills and techniques to increase our students’ abilities in education. Therefore, I am excited to continue my educational journey, sculpt my teaching philosophy, and see how far I can advance my students.