Friday, September 12, 2008

It's News to Us!

We use the News-2-You adapted newspaper in our classroom nearly every week. It's the perfect solution to finding age-appropriate, interesting, and accessible materials for social studies and science for my students. News-2-You has helped us talk about topics I would otherwise have never thought of. Along with reading the paper and doing the simpler worksheets, we generally do a related project. The kids can also return to previously adapted issues for self-selected reading. This has helped tremendously in expanding our library into nonfiction books. Being an extreme fiction lover, I have often found myself neglecting nonfiction. News-2-You has also recently released a curriculum called Unique that I am anxious to hear more about. It's a bit pricey for my budget and after a not-so-great experience with the adapted Weekly Reader by AbleNet (NOT because of AbleNet, however, but because Weekly Reader could not get us issues in a timely manner; the AbleNet adaptations are AWESOME so I hope they can work out the other glitches), I was hesitant to jump on board immediately.

Even though it's already adapted, I do end up customizing the News-2-You even more to meet our needs. It comes in three levels: simplified, regular, and higher with a periodic advanced issue. My kids can typically understand more of the content than is available in the simplified version but get a bit overwhelmed by the content in the regular version. I also like to use photos, sound effects, and other media to help support their understanding. I usually use Boardmaker/Speaking Dynamically/+ to create our own interactive version of the paper which can incorporate more media supports for them. I use the Symbolate tool to copy the text of the paper, adapted as needed, on the background and add photos, etc. There is a "read it" button that speaks the text for that page (1-2 lines) and a "turn the page" button. Using Symbolate I can reduce the number of symbols included with the text, focussing on the primary message. I can also insert photos (my kids respond better to photos of people rather than vector drawings) and the News-2-You Symbolstix symbols. I then use the same symbols in a vocabulary worksheet (which of these words did we hear today?) and a comprehension questions worksheet, adapted from the ones provided by News-2-You. I also print a set of accompanying vocabulary pictures that we cut out and use to reinforce vocabulary as well as with the worksheets. Depending on the content and how much time I spend searching for support media, the adaptations usually take me 30 minutes to an hour to complete. I would love to share my adapted versions with you, but unfortunately the News-2-You is copywrite protected. If you want to contact me privately I would be willing to send you a sample page though.
We read the paper together using the Smartboard. The kids have really enjoyed this. They have even surprised me with how well they do with the worksheets, even my one student who I thought would NEVER do something like this. He is extremely hands-on and tactile, not to mention dual sensory impaired, so typically worksheets are not his "thing." Actually, typically worksheets are not anyone's thing in my classroom, but these seem to work for us. We can adapt difficulty and response mode to the needs of the student with extreme ease.
We also do a related project. I will try to add photos when I can. We post our projects on the classroom door whenever possible so others in the school can see what we are learning about. The kids' peers frequently talk to them about these activities, which is really cool. Here are the ones we have done so far this year:
Olympics: made an Olympic rings mobile out of small paper plates. The kids chose between finger painting or using a paint brush. They then chose at least one and up to 5 Boardmaker symbols representing different Olympic sports which were glued onto the inside circles cut from the rings and hung from the bottom of the mobile. We also followed the Olympics, watched the opening ceremonies, and talked about favorite events and athletes during morning meeting.
Political Conventions: has some wonderful simple art projects including an elephant and a donkey. The kids chose which project they wished to make (everyone chose the donkey, with no prompting from me I promise!). They then chose which color to use (red, white, or blue) for each part of the simple paper project, used a VOCA to request needed items, helped glue, etc., and chose whether or not and how to use stickers to decorate their project.
Trains: We had a very short week during this topic so didn't get to the News-2-You, but we would have read some train themed books, worked on simple shapes by making a paper train (square, circle, rectangle, triangle), and played with our Geo-Trax train set.
Iron Chef America: This was a blast. We watched a little of the Iron Chef show then had our own Iron Chef contest. The secret ingredient was pudding mix. The kids chose between vanilla and chocolate pudding then whether to mix it with milk or Cool Whip (for those interested, an 1/8 C. of dry pudding mix with approximately 1/2 C. of milk or 1 C. of Cool Whip makes about a 1/2 C. serving). They then chose various items to mix in (crushed cookies, crushed graham crackers, banana, blueberry pie filling, strawberry pie filling). As you can imagine we ended up with some very interesting concoctions! They then taste tested each other's recipes and voted for their favorites. Believe it or not, the vanilla with blueberry, banana, and chocolate chip cookies was the favorite and actually tasted pretty good!
Hurricanes (this week): We are going to learn a little about the most recent hurricanes and how they are affecting us here in Kansas (the kids went home early today because of flooding from all the rain), learn some fun rain-related songs, and do some hurricane/weather related science experiments: hurricane in a bowl, tornado in a bottle (we do live in Kansas after all), and experiment with "wind" and "rain" using an adapted hair dryer and a spray bottle of water. Brainpop also has a pretty cool video about hurricanes.
In upcoming weeks we'll be learning a bit about dolphins and the ocean, outer space and astronomy, popcorn, and baseball. The Activity of the Month from Mayer Johnson actually has some really good support materials for Oceans (July/August 08) and Baseball (September/October 08) that I'm looking forward to using. There are also some nice supports on the News-2-You site including adapted stories in Joey's Locker and extension materials to download.

1 comment:

  1. This is fascinating. I just subscribed to news-to-you for our son, because he's not getting much age appropriate text in school.