Saturday, August 23, 2008

Classroom Photos

NOTE: Thanks to Patrick Black from Teaching All Students and the Boardmaker and TEAL listservs I was reminded that I only have photo releases for my students for the school-sponsored web sites. I will repost the removed photos as soon as I receive new releases from the kids' parents. Sorry for any inconvenience. I know you understand the need for privacy and my own protection from angry parents.
Alicia 8/24/08

I've been asked by quite a few people to post photos of my classroom and some of the equipment we use. So here we go! Please excuse any mess. We're a busy place and things don't always get put away like they should.

Here is one of the kids using the "leisure" area of our classroom. He is positioned in side lying on the platform part of a Grasshopper positioning system. This is his favorite position and sometimes the only one he will tolerate. The Grasshopper makes it easier for us to move him from place to place when he's having a rough positioning day. He is using a mood light I picked up at Wal-Mart that is attached to an AbleNet Powerlink with a textured switch that he activates with his chin. He is also listening to his ipod. Yes, you see two TVs here. At the time of this photo we were in the process of reorganizing our sensory "room" and the extra TV goes in there.

This is our Communication Center (see previous blog post). Behind it is Teacher Zone. On the left is the 3 drawer system I spoke about. All our voice output devices, switch mounts, etc. are supposed to be kept in the cabinet on the right. The black crate on the left holds our velcro boards. This was where we kept the object symbol bin but we've recently put it away since all our symbol users are now using photos and PCS. The white crate on the right is the current spot for our newly developed "concept books" (more on these later). To the far right in the back you can see part of the cubby shelves I picked up at Wal-Mart a few years ago where we keep the kids' personal belongings. To the far left is the student computer area.
This is another shot of the side of our Communication Center. This is Ben's schedule board. He loves the sensory room but if we let him have it too soon he completely chills out and shuts down and refuses to do anything else. So we made him a reward board. We put symbols for all his required work over the symbol for the sensory room. As he completes each activity he pulls off the symbol, which we also use as transition cues (I've never been very successful using more traditional schedule systems). He has to complete all his work before he can use the SR. Unfortunately for him, he can't rush through and do everything at once because some things happen only at certain times. The wireless mouse I use with the Smartboard is also shown here (the Smartboard computer is actually positioned behind the board; the wireless mouse lets me see what I'm doing when I need to use a mouse vs. the touch screen/board).

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This is the student computer area. This computer has all our adaptations like Intellikeys, Intellitools Classroom Suite, Boardmaker/Speaking Dynamically Pro, jelly beamer switches, Magic Touch touch screen, and the Smartboard software. This kiddo actually HATES computer time but I managed to catch this shot of him giving a big grin after discovering the visualizer on itunes. Teacher Zone is to the right.

Next to the computer station is our swing set/sensory play area. Here you can see one student playing with chimes and other toys hung from a bungee cord on the left. Another student is playing in the toy tunnel. The swing set is by Class Champs, a subsidiary of the Playaway Toy Company that makes the Rainy Day Indoor Playground. These guys are awesome. They custom built the swing set and drove it all the way from Wisconsin to install it for us. The toy tunnel is the Actitunnel from Abilitations. We have mirror panels mounted on the wall behind the swing and blinking Christmas lights everywhere. The LCD projector for the Smartboard also projects over this area, letting us use the itunes visualizer and screen savers for sensory activities.

Using the net swing with a SoftTouch sitter for positioning. There's a Tumbleforms feeder seat to the left. We like the SoftTouch better, can you tell?

This student is using our HOPSA harness. He and another student have such severe orthopedic issues that they can't do weight bearing in a stander. The HOPSA allows them to be in an upright/standing position with as much or as little weight bearing as we choose. The swing set has a slider bar which lets the other student take steps, something she finds very exciting. In this picture you can also see our SparkleFlex lights.

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Here's the toy tunnel in action. We hang all sorts of toys and objects from it. Surprisingly, most of my students prefer highly tactile items over the auditory toys I thought they'd prefer. This student is playing with an inside-out ball stretched over a bag of marbles (no, they are NOT hanging over her head!), a skwish ball, a tangled up bead curtain of mini disco balls, a mylar pom pom, and a set of metal chimes. I'm sure there are a few other things in there as well as she likes lots of toys to choose from. She is using a large Huggz pillow to keep her from falling to her side. To hang the toys in the tunnel we use either link-a-doos (found in the infant/toddler department) or, my favorite, shower curtain rings. Shower curtain rings are cheaper than link-a-doos AND they lock, which keeps the toys from accidentally slipping off. We use elastic hair bands knotted together to give the toys "springiness." There is also a bungee cord stretched along the side where we can hang still more toys. This is especially useful for students who play while in side lying. Other favorite toy tunnel toys include: various tactile/"squishy" balls, koosh balls, tangle toy, metal measuring spoon, a styrofoam ball covered in feathers, wind chimes of all sorts and sizes, and a fuzzy bat I found at Halloween.
The Smartboard in action. It's on a portable stand so it can go in the closet when we're not using it. The LCD projector is mounted on the ceiling behind the boys. They are playing SwitchMan by R.J. Cooper.
This is our "sensory room." It's made up of a PVC pipe frame that is anchored to the wall. We used shower curtains for the sides and a plastic drop cloth for the top. And yes, the weight of the shower curtains makes the pipe bow but everything is glued together and then wrapped in duct tape so it's really stable. Inside we have blinking Christmas lights strung across the ceiling with various mobiles hanging down. We have a Somatron Cloud chair hooked up to a stereo. We usually have a TV in here too. We add other sensory items such as chimes, switch adapted mood lights, etc. as needed. Things like pillows, blankets, and bean bags tend to get stashed in here as well. On top we put the wading pool we use for a ball pool. This year we are going to adjust the sensory room into a "white room" by adding white curtain liners on the inside and across the ceiling so projected lights show up better. The door to the left is our bathroom.

This is a shot of our "kitchen." As you can see, it's not a real kitchen. We don't even have a sink in the main classroom, something I'm hoping will change in the near future as our building is slated for some major remodeling. We are fortunate to have a full-size refrigerator and a microwave. Those are Talking Symbols Notepads from AbleNet stuck on the side of the fridge. We use the bookshelves on the left as a room divider. The leisure area is on the other side. The door to the right is to our closet, half of which is taken up with a transformer and breaker box. The paras have dubbed this "the garage" as it's where they stick the wheelchairs when they're not in use. In the front right you can see our table area. I didn't get a picture of this space, but this wall has several cabinets that I purchased at Wal-Mart to store work bins and work materials, art supplies, etc.

As you can see, we don't have an overly large space. After 12 years here, I think we've managed to maximize what we have. We're hopeful that with the upcoming building remodel we'll be able to get the classroom that's on the other side of the back wall of the kitchen (this is the wall to that room's closet) with a door installed so we can effectively double our space. We're also hoping they'll install a real kitchenette for us. Fingers crossed that this will actually happen!


  1. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing those wonderul pix- I always love to be able to see other classes. It certainly looks like you have created an engaging and fun classroom environment for your students - YEAH! I stumbled across your blog and am glad I did! You sound sooooooo much like me-- well except I'm just a bit older!! Nice to meet you-- I'll be popping over from time to time to see what you're up to.
    anne marie

  2. Thanks for linking the No Limits to Learning Blog on your blog. I appreciate the referral and it is fun to read about your classroom. I will link your blog on mine and invite you to submit your classroom set up post for our AT Blog Carnival Back to School Issue in September. It is nice to find your blog.

  3. I'm honored Lon! I LOVE No Limits to Learning and the AT Carnival. I'd been playing with the idea of submitting for the carnival but was feeling a bit shy. :) I'll gladly submit for it and hopefully by then I'll have all my permission forms back so I can repost all the photos and/or have time to take new ones.