I've had the chance to test students on our district's universal screener. It's also the time of year that it's time to focus on student needs to prepare them for the next school year. Since the first part of my year was invested in student IEP's and getting them better aligned to the student's academic needs, I can really focus on student goals and making sure they are addressed.
Recently, I read a book that was, as they say, a "game-changer" for my thinking in terms of supporting student reading. The book is from Donalyn Miller and its title is "The Book Whisperer". Ms. Miller, a veteran reading teacher, takes the reader through her ideas for increasing student literacy rates with this idea: give students time to read independently. Though it sounds so simple, it isn't really, in light of the myriad of curriculum demands and other day to day obligations a teacher has. After reading the book and doing some soul-searching, I revamped my center work in my classroom to include a listening center, and a growing book library. Moreover, I have doubled-down on my small group rotation with the help of students universal screener scores and their IEP needs. This small shift in thinking has created in me a new energy as I see students excited about reading on their own or listening to great chapter books. Included in this strategy is a reenergized focus on a writing center to support students in their written expression. These pencils (above) are some of my favorite ways to excite students with this center because of their ease of use, fun colors, and great writing!
Navigating the holidays for many students with disabilities is challenging. The excitement, the bustle can serve to overwhelm many students. Further, many students may or may not celebrate the same holiday that I celebrate and I want them to know they are respected in my classroom. For me personally, it seems easier to find activities that are seasonally related with teaching strategies that continue to build them as students.
For this reason, I love the book by Martin Jenkins, illustrated by Jane Chapman, called "The Emperor's Egg". https://www.amazon.com/dp/0763618713/ref=rdr_ext_sb_ti_hist_1 It inspires activities that relate to geography, science, reading, math, and art. Here are some photos from my classroom where I used the activity I'm discussing in this post.
Here are some of the activities I did with the help of my paraprofessional, the amazing Ms. Allison!
1 - Choral Read the book in whole group
2 - Create Anchor Chart (K,W,L) before and after reading. Also, vocabulary was reviewed, students "rainbow wrote" the words to practice.
3 - From the facts learned, I printed them and cut them into strips for part of the writing center.
4 - Students were asked to write a personal narrative in either first or third POV (which we've been discussing in class with our CKLA curriculum).
5 - Students were asked to include at least 3 facts from the book in their narrative.
6 - Students were encouraged to name their penguin, and tell the penguin's story from either the male, female, or chick perspective.
7 - Artwork was created using student's hands. Students assembled these on one of the last days of school prior to the winter holiday break.
8 - We measured the dimensions in the book for adult penguin (up to 4 feet), and for the chick (6"). We put a piece of yellow tape on the wall after we measured and had the students stand near it to gain a perspective on how big an adult Emperor Penguin is! We compared it to 6". That was a great SEL moment - "How would you feel being protected by someone so much taller than you?" This was also included in their narrative if they chose to write about it.
9 - Student artwork was created against a winter backdrop with their narratives, along with Oklahoma State Standard objectives, for hallway decoration.
This is an engaging and wonderful way to invest some time on summarizing key skills for students and celebrate the winter season.
One of the most helpful resources for me in structuring my classroom is the work of Susan Kabot, Ed.D and Christine Reeve, Ph.D. In their work, "Setting up Classroom Spaces That Support Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. In this work, the authors introduce their ideas by quoting Further, Lovanne, Dunlap, Huber, and Kincaid (2003) which states: "A comprehensible classroom for students with ASD is one that is arranged in such a way as to elicit, facilitate, enhance, or support the acquisition of specific skills such as language acquisition, appropriate behavior, social interactions, and targeted academic goals. (p. 158)"
This guide is full of practical ideas that can be implemented immediately to create classroom environments that facilitate learning among with students with disabilities, including those with ASD. It is the one most impactful to me as I designed my classroom this year.
My next several posts will reference structure of the classroom with examples from my own. Before learning can take place, the structure of the environment has to be such that learning can happen. Students must feel comfortable, safe, and most of all able to make mistakes as they gain mastery over new ideas and concepts.
One way I provide a safe place for students is by providing them their own "supply closet" which features a photo of themselves for identification.
Additionally, the supplies that I provide are theirs to keep, even after the end of the school year ends. I shop for supplies during the summer months so they are of good quality and not expensive. Supplies like Crayola Washable Markers, colored pencils, headset/earbuds, pencils, dry erase board, dry erase markers.
Though not pictured in the photo above, I post each student's visual schedule so that when they enter our classroom, they know exactly where they are to go for learning. In my next text, I'll share more about procedures, the importance of them and how the creative classroom runs best when they are used effectively. The visual schedule, along with the supplies readily at hand, are effective ways for a student to gain ownership of their learning while organizing supplies neatly. The Supply Closets" are really just oversized and colorful magazine storage, purchased from Amazon.
I spent the day shopping for a new phone. I combed through the myriad of offers online and in stores and decided that I'd wait a little longer before plunking down 2 - 300 or more for a phone. I used to believe that I didn't need a smart phone. Now, like many, I'm addicted to it and use it for many activities during my day.
I wasn't aware, however, of the tremendous overlap between devices like smart phones and assisted technology for students and individuals with disabilities. Assisted technology is anything - a device or service - that allows a person with a disability to do things that were once impossible for them to do. From an academic stance, this can be important things like reading, doing math computations, and even socializing by talking with others.
Apple Inc., has led the way in developing devices that not only are essential for students and individuals with disabilities, but are user-friendly and beautiful. What used to be a clunky device that a student lugged around a school is now an easy to hold Ipad with some accessories. Here is a link to a story on Fast Company. As you review it, you'll most likely ask yourself, "What is the difference between a Smart App and an assisted technology (AT) device? The answer is this: Assisted technology allows for people without disabilities to do things better and easier. While Assisted Technology allows for people with disabilities to do things that were once impossible for them to do.
(Click on the link above and then click again when it says, "click on..." and it will take you to a video featuring Apple Products and people with disabilities).
The retail industry spends millions on retail design that engages customers while also imprinting key concepts on customers influencing their purchases and their behaviors while shopping. As a former sales trainer, I am interested in this and am learning more about using the same principles in influencing behavior in my classroom. Don't believe me? Take a look at this:
Think about this: When you go out to eat on date-night, you usually go to a restaurant that isn't a fast food place. Fast-food restaurants work hard to get your money quickly while luxe restaurants look forward to you sticking around a bit more. Consider how differently the two types of eating establishments convey their purpose and impact your behavior. Fast food has bright colors, bright lights, a menu that is usually posted somewhere, comfortable but not too comfortable seats. Date-night restaurants have different lighting, different textures and most of all a different price point and selection. C'mon, admit it: you act differently in one than the other. And you're supposed to. These spaces are designed to influence your behavior and buying practices.
As I reflect on this, I think about how poorly used most educational spaces are. Too often, the emphasis is on decoration not design. Yet this is one of a teacher's most valuable tools - their classroom that can impact a student's ability to learn and engage. Over the next few posts, I'm going to share ideas, including some from my own, that are designed to capture and engage students for learning.
Welcome to my blog! In it, I hope to share evidence-based practices about working with students from diverse backgrounds and abilities. I want to share my questions as I complete a Master's in Special Education, while also offering some ideas that really work when working with students who think differently.
I was not a good student. My family moved a great deal. Once, I counted that I had been in 13 different elementary schools. I was introverted, curious, and questioning which are not qualities most teachers enjoy in their classroom. I had a hard time with abstract concepts so math and science were difficult for me. The one thing I could do well was read and I read all the time which I continue to do today.
I am an unlikely candidate to be a teacher and even less likely to be in graduate school. What i hope to do in this blog is to provide ideas about students who learn differently, who think differently, and yes, act differently while also sharing my own struggles and questions about how we teach children to be successfu.