Friday, December 12, 2008

Favorite Christmas activities

Recently it seems a lot of people have stumbled across SMD Teacher when searching for information on Smart boards, Christmas activities on the Smart board, and, the number one item, cause and effect activities. I thought I'd share some of our favorite Christmas activities both with and without the Smart board, with an emphasis on cause and effect as this is also a great time of year for more involved projects.

SwitchIt! Christmas by InclusiveTLC is a top favorite. Great for vocabulary building, sequencing, and discussion. Like all of Inclusive TLC's products, it is adaptable and accessible to any user, and of course focuses on cause and effect. It looks awesome on the Smart board too.

Some of the kids' favorite activities were created by me (and others) using Intellitools Classroom Suite including: Christmas Words Cause Effect, The Happy Reindeer, and I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, which I couldn't post to Intellishare because of copyright (too bad because it's cute, and annoying, which means it's the number one most played activity in my room right now). If you search on my name you'll find a bunch of gingerbread activities I did too. There are TONS of other great Christmas activities available on the Intellishare site. And ICS works great on the Smart board.

I haven't had the time to use any of them yet, but Mayer Johnson's Adapted Learning site also has some fun-looking Christmas activities.

Listening to Christmas music has been a top activity for everyone in my room. We have used itunes, but when my computer started protesting about memory issues, I switched to Pandora. Pandora is part of the music genome project and it's free. It lets you create custom radio stations based on your music preferences. Just type in a song or artist into the "Create New Station" blank and Pandora finds you music that matches your request and plays music by artists with similar characteristics. You can also listen to "genre" stations. You can't repeat or download the music, although you can pause and fast forward (cause effect if you engineer the mouse and a switch correctly). What I love about it is that it has allowed us to explore music in new ways and discover new artists that we really like. Know a kid who's "stuck" on the same artist? Try Pandora and see if you can open up their world a bit. There is an amazing number of artists available including such kid favorites as The Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana, Disney, and Raffi. No visualizer available, but we just turn on the one from itunes when we want visuals. (Don't worry, itunes, we still love you. Couldn't run our ipods or play DJ without you).

Other favorite cause effect activities:

Of course, Christmas lights paired with a PowerLink is a must at this time of the year. We have them year-round in our multisensory area. The ones with music are even better, especially since they drive me INSANE, making even my least motivated student more than happy to hit that switch over and over and over and over.... If you have room for a small Christmas tree, consider hooking its lights up to a PowerLink (I'd love to do that but we'd have to hang it from the ceiling...hmmm....chandelier?).

We have a whole collection of singing, dancing cause effect Christmas characters. You know, the kind where you push a button and they boogie. I've had the best luck finding them at Wal-Mart and sometimes Walgreens. We also have a switch activated snowman that lights up with music that was given to us by an SLP years ago, but I have no idea where she got it.

Jingle bells of all sorts are always a huge hit. Get the right kind and it takes hardly any movement to get a big reward. The best ones are in the holiday section of stores like Wal-Mart. I tried to find a link to show you but walmart.com wasn't very helpful. Our store has lots of wreaths and other items made out of jingle bells.

As you can probably tell, music is a BIG THING in my classroom. Nearly everything we do has some sort of music component to it, even if it's just me making up something silly just for kicks. Some of my favorite "teaching" songs for Christmas (or anytime, really) are on Geof Johnson's Songs for All Seasons (totally worth the investment; I got my copy from itunes). We love "I Hear Santa Clause" (lots of Ho-Ho-Hoing on voice output devices) and "We're All Going to the North Pole" (in which we are continuously attacked by polar bears). Another favorite is from our friends at Super Simple Songs. If you work with special needs kids or English Language Learners, you HAVE to check these folks out. Awesome stuff! For Christmas we like their songs "Santa Where Are You?" (I "hide in plain sight" either Santa dolls OR Boardmaker pictures of Santa for the kids to "find") and "What Do You Want for Christmas?" (This brings to mind that I need to write a post on my current favorite kids' music that I use in my adapted music classes for ROCKO).

Another favorite activity involves recording the names of favorite songs on a switch and allowing a student to use step scanning to force--ahem request that Alicia sing a song as LOUD as she can (or in a squeaky voice, or like Dracula, or whatever else my paras can think up). After a couple of hours of this it can sound really interesting. Celine Dion I am NOT.

We are also known to label the toys in the toy tunnel with specific songs for our low movement students. Each time he or she touches a toy, we sing that song. It was awesome to see some intentionality and repetition emerge.

We also like recording an actual song in bits onto a step switch, either by singing it or by recording from a CD. The top favorite of one of my girls? Madonna's Santa Baby, or course.

It's always fun to read Christmas and winter themed stories complete with sound effects and props. If You Take a Mouse to the Movies is a big favorite. So is reading and acting out The Gingerbread Man or Gingerbread Baby. I'd recommend any of Jan Brett's books (Night Before Christmas, The Mitten, The Hat, Trouble with Trolls, Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?, etc.). (Look for a future posts on my favorite children's/picture books, based on those in my somewhat extensive collection; my husband HATES that the Sci Fi-Fantasy section in our Barnes and Noble is right next to the Children's section).

No Christmas season would be complete for us without a rousing game of "red light-green light" with some friends. Great to do with a Little Step by Step or an italk2 (gotta get me one of those!).

Another fun activity is to make gingerbread men and hide them around the school (we program a step switch with "go go go stop!" for our kids who can't mobilize independently; when we stop the student is asked if he or she wants to hide their gingerbread man in that area and give them choices about specific locations). Then we post "wanted" posters around to encourage other students to locate the missing gingerbread men, write down their locations, and bring them to our room for a small prize.

I have a ton of other fun gingerbread-themed activities we've done as well Polar Express/trains, snowman, and bears. If you're interested post a comment and I'll work on posts to share with you.

Well, there you go. A few activities to share with you right before Christmas. A number of them can also be done after Christmas as part of a winter-themed unit. Have fun!

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