Wednesday, December 30, 2009
This will be an ongoing post as I develop the unit. Feel free to add ideas and/or join in the adventure.
So for the chapter reading I'm going to do like I did with Little House and provide a 1-2 simple sentence synopsis of the chapter ("Laura was scared of the wolves." "The family was sick.") that we will use for context reading (I identify 1-2 key sight words per sentence and put the sentence onto communication devices; students read the sentence using communication device while following along on the sentence strip). Our sight words and phonics words (ALL curriculum) will be pulled from the chapter with an emphasis on simpler CVC words and high use words. These are matched with picture symbols and/or photos to enhance understanding and build vocabularies. As needed key concepts are also represented through multi-sensory modes (tactile, olfactory, gustatory, auditory). A list of props we used will be added as we develop them.
A few support activities I'm toying with:
Nature Guide: picture and brief description of animals and plants Brian encounters and/or uses for survival
Survival kit: what are the most important things you need to survive? What would be good to have? What are luxuries/not needed? Emphasis on basics as well as how our disabilities change those essentials (someone who uses a g-tube for instance vs. someone who eats by mouth).
Paper airplanes: choice of pattern to follow; give directions via communication device; decorate; have races; make predictions about how far plan will fly
First/then and cause/effect activities
Water play: (based on the episode where Brian learns to fish with his hands) Reach in and pick up objects placed in water; observe how water distorts vision
Exploration bin: various nature items like stones, sticks, leaves, dirt, pine cones, pine needles, etc.
Write-Your-Own Adventure story: I did this with Wizard of Oz using WoOz characters, simple choices, etc. The kids did a great job last year making choices to write their stories so I think we might try it again this year (where were you going? how were you getting there? what happened? where did you end up? what tools did you have? where did you live? what did you eat? etc.)
One class did a project they called a "jackdaw" where they collected/created artifacts from the story as the story progressed and created a final class project at the end. Something like that could be interesting.
We probably won't have time but mini studies on topics like: heart, airplanes/flight, turtles, shelters/houses, radio communication/telecommunication/forms of communication via technology, morse code/smoke signals/etc., Canada
Thursday, December 10, 2009
For those curious, the other pieces to my curriculum, all new to us this year, include:
ALL--reading/literacy from Mayer Johnson
Unique Learning System--science and social studies from the folks at News-2-You
News-2-You--current events (not new to us but we haven't actually had time to use this yet this year)
The Life Skills strand to my curriculum is individualized to the student and I don't have a formal curriculum for it. I have considered looking at the Next Transition Skills System also from AbleNet, however.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
Repost: (Background: at this time last year things were CRAZY in my program between absorbing the high school students and all their stuff, rearranging the room, and staff changes plus all the usual Christmas chaos)
Because I knew the adults were going to be pretty well tied up, as far as programming goes, I needed to come up with some activities the kids could do with minimum assistance but that were still meaningful. Then Kate posted this article about Speakaboos including the link to A Christmas Carol. Perfect! Then I remembered that Pete's Stuff had a sensory story about Scrooge (for another fun Christmas activity from Pete try Norbert the Green Nosed Reindeer). And I found an AWESOME unabridged recording of the book on itunes read by the phenomenal Jim Dale (who reads the Harry Potter series, my kids' favorite audio books; mine too). So we're using the sensory story and Speakaboos on the Smart board during morning meeting and then letting the kids listen to the audio book at times when the adults are tied up with the multitude of other things going on right now. If we have time on Friday we'll watch the movie too. Other activities you could quickly put together to do with this book: Make a "humbug" (scroll down to "undirected craft time) Recreate the characters with paper sack puppets Make paper chains for Jacob Marley Make a Christmas wish list for Tiny Tim (we would use Boardmaker PCS and pictures from toy catalogs) Discuss the emotions of the various characters (happy, sad, scared, mad, etc.) Compare Christmas traditions from the Victorian Era with today (presents; family get togethers; Christmas trees; crazy shopping days; dancing; etc.). If I were to do this with my students I would create representations of major traditions using Boardmaker. Then we'd create a chart or Venn diagram on the Smart board and help the kids decide if the activities should go in Christmas past, Christmas present, or both. Vote on your favorite character from the story and make a bar graph using pictures (Scrooge, the ghosts, Jacob Marley, Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchitt, etc.) Make Victorian bonnets or top hats Use some of these ideas for Victorian Christmas crafts Or play some Victorian era Christmas games Gee, all these ideas, that I found and/or came up with in about a 15 minute search, make me wish that we had time to do them! Maybe next year...
...Next, ahem THIS, year....
Kate at Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs recently posted her wonderful adaptations of Pete's Christmas Carol sensory story. They, and some support activities, are all available on Adapted Learning. We'll be making our own sensory characters. We'll read the audio book again as well as play one or two of Kate's games. We are having a Christmas get-together with our compatriot elementary class so we'll do the sensory story that day as well as watch one of the many versions of the movie. If we have time we'll add in some more of Kate's fantastic ideas (thanks Kate for saving me a ton of time and work!!!).
Monday, November 2, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
To balloon stamp, you need a partially inflated balloon, at least three colors of paint, a paint pallette (we use paper plates), and your project. Put a small pool of each color of paint (approximately dime size) on your pallette right next to each other so they are touching and form a triangle. It is preferably if the pools touch. Then dip the end of your balloon into the paint, dab off a bit, and stamp onto your project multiple times by bouncing the balloon. You get a really cool marble or tie-dye effect. We have yet to find a color combination that doesn't work.
I particularly like this technique for several reasons. I work with kids with little to no fine motor control. However, even my most involved student can bounce a balloon with help. They also like the feedback they get from the bouncing. In addition, this technique facilitates multiple opportunities to make choices, an important part of any art project for us. It also lets the kids show their individuality both in the colors they choose and how they stamp (lots of stamping close together or a little stamping far apart and everything in between). It is also a nice "no fail" technique. No matter what the student does, the project will come out looking nice
We use this technique all the time. We have made backgrounds for bulletin boards, t-shirts, greeting cards and stationery, as well as too many art projects to count (check out the constellations we did in this post). Using balloon stamping works for us. What works for you?
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Old t-shirts work for me as clothing cover-ups. What works for you?
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Throughout my career I've used a number of different methods to communicate with the parents of my students. I've used SOP (summary of progress) notes on NCR paper (expensive and challenging to store), spiral notebooks, and, my current favorite, photocopied checklists (I adapted mine from one Kate Ahern posted to the Boardmaker yahoo group and later to adaptedlearning.com ). My checklist, with full credit to Kate, is copied front and back. One side is School to Home and the other is Home to School. It contains boxes for information like mood, meal times, personal and medical care, reminders and "need-to-bring" lists, daily activities check list, and notes. Daily notes used to take me at least 30 minutes when I had to write everything out in the spirals. In addition, because of the repetitive nature of our business, I often felt like I was writing the same things over and over. With the checklist I have cut my note writing time in half and it's easy for parents to scan through for the essential information while still knowing what their child did that day at school. In addition, my paras are much more comfortable filling out the notes themselves and even related services providers have been seen to use them. We send our notes back and forth in three ring binders (the same used by the kids' peers in class). If there is a note I need to save for documentation I simply photocopy it.
My second favorite method of communicating with my parents is via text messaging. If I have a quick question they can quickly respond without disrupting their activities or playing phone tag. Often times they will get a reminder via text message that they might not see on the home note, or in those rare (ha ha ha ha) instances where I forget to note that a student needs personal supplies or snacks until after they leave for the day. Parents text me all the time with questions or for information too. And since I can print transcripts of my text messages I have documentation just in case of misunderstandings or difficult situations. Before texting a parent, however, it is a good idea to make sure it is OK as not all parents have text-friendly cell phone plans. It is also a good idea to let them know that it is OK to text you as well.
I know of other teachers who use Twitter (I'm way too wordy for Twitter--grin!), instant messaging, email, and blogs to communicate with their students' parents.
Checklist-style home notes and text messaging work for me when communicating with parents. What works for you?
Monday, September 14, 2009
Monday, September 7, 2009
For my families, having their kids develop a variety of interests is important. So is being able to engage in leisure activities independently (in other words, being able to play without adult involvement for short periods of time so mom or dad can fix dinner, take a shower, or just get a short sit-down break). I have kids who come to me with very few, if any, obvious interests; kids who are stuck in interests way below their chronological age (Bareny is for 3 year olds not 13 year olds); or who constantly demand attention and cannot spend even a second "alone." We spend a lot of time introducing our students to new experiences, developing more age typical interests, and encouraging independent play. Some activities are active (games; cause effect activities on the computer; using an adapted remote control, or in our case a voice output device since we can't find a remote to work with our TV, to change TV channels; using an adapted CD player on the computer; interacting with sensory devices and toys) and some are more passive (watching a DVD; listening to music or an audio book with an mp3 player). It is all dependent upon the needs and interests of the student.
We are fortunate to have a large library of audio books on mp3 that are written for a mid to late elementary level all the way to adult. Sometimes students listen to them independently and sometimes we put them on the surround sound system and listen as a whole class. Our mp3 players are probably the most popular piece of technology in classroom.
We are "aging up" some of our students' interests. I still have SpongeBob lovers but have learned that a number of middle schoolers are still avid fans of the show. We also expose the kids to the plethora of preteen and teen oriented shows (Wizards of Waverly Place seems to be a current favorite) as well as game shows, the History Channel, science shows, etc. Now, don't let that lead you to believe that we watch TV all the time, because we don't. It is just one of the options available to the students in between other activities. When it comes to choosing "age appropriate" or "age typical" activities, I usually bow to my peer experts. If they say it's OK, then it is. And you'd be amazed what the average 7th grader gets a kick out of!
Sensory toys and devices are another favorite activity. My 16 year old has an extensive "sensory diet" and requires frequent access to a variety of sensory activities in order to regulate his system. He is now fairly independent in choosing how to meet his own needs and moves between our swing, watching blinking lights, "squishing" in a bean bag chair, listening to music, and "sensory deprivation" in our bathroom with the lights off and a flashlight on (I know, I know, but it's his choice and he makes it VERY clear that's what he needs--he has even problem solved to drag his bean bag chair in there, around equipment, people, etc., and has to come to us to request his flashlight be turned on; we're mean and put dying batteries in it to increase interactions). I have other kids who use a Powerlink and a switch to interact with various light toys. And we use Active Learning with a lot of the kids which gives them choices of toys, positions, and equipment (we have a resonance board, a positioning bench, an ESSEFF board, and a HOPSA dress along with a huge inventory of sensory toys). I credit Active Learning with fostering independent play skills in several of my students who didn't have them before using these techniques.
For group leisure skills we play a lot of games. Uno is a top favorite as it is easily adaptable to the needs of each child and lets us apply our number, color, and matching skills. We also like the Scene It series of games, Sorry, Yahtzee, card games (Texas Hold 'Em is great!), and "noisy" games like Jenga. We go out into the community to participate in bowling and every quarter we meet up with our buddies from another special needs class to do a project or have a party together.
We also do lots of art projects, although I don't think most of my students view these as "leisure" opportunities. They sound more like "work" to them. :-) I have a couple of students who have started collecting key chains. They like to play with toys that make noise and key chains meet that need in addition to being age appropriate, a conversation starter, and available everywhere. They make nice reminders of trips and special events too.
We strive to make all the leisure activities we do as active as possible. Even watching TV or a video can be made more active by programming communication devices (we often use step-by-steps) with crazy comments and questions that promote interaction. Even when staff is too busy to be "hands on" available for every student, we can respond to communication attempts. I know my kids' parents are appreciative of the fact that they can step away from their child for a few minutes or that they are no longer stuck listening to endless replays of Barney or Blues Clues. And they love that there are ways to include their children in activities such as "family game night."
Paras are essential to success in my classroom. I am fortunate to have 1:1 staffing (including myself) for my students. This makes it so much easier when someone has to be gone (I have one para on maternity leave at the moment; she will return just in time for a second para to leave for the same reason). We also have a complicated schedule with at least one student out in the community every day. I'm still trying to figure out how to work in out-of-the-room inclusion opportunities as we have a huge burden for state assessments, making it difficult to find the time in the kids' schedules.
I firmly believe in every staff member being able to work with every student. They all know they are expected to not only know and be able to meet the needs of each student but also be able to conduct all of the various programs. This benefits the students, who learn to work with a variety of people. As adults they will seldom if ever be in situations where they have the same staff for long periods of time. They need to learn now that it's OK to work with new people. For the staff, this policy prevents feelings of "ownership" for one student. Instead we are one big, mostly happy, family. And the staff can easily "trade off" when struggling with a difficult or frustrating teaching session.
Last year I ended up with an entirely new staff so I started doing what I called "Rotations." Each staff member was assigned a specific curricular area where they showed special skills or interest: Cognitive Skills, Assistive Technology Use, Physical Therapy/Adaptive PE, Sensory/Nielson's Active Learning, Computer. I set up the lesson plans and after Morning Meeting the kids rotated between staff members every 25-30 minutes, depending upon the day. This seemed to work well for us last year and we were able to accomplish quite a lot. The drawback was that my paras started to become so specialized it was difficult to fill in when someone was absent. In addition, they started to get bored doing the same tasks every single day. I tried switching things up but had one staff member who refused to give up her territory. In addition, it was difficult for me to make sure the kids were working on all their goals and to get around to each staff member to make sure they were correctly following programs.
Over the summer my middle/high school paras were pretty much on their own as I had to spend quite a lot of my time working the elementary students in our summer program. They revamped Rotations a bit and started all working on the same tasks at the same time so they could support each other. They still rotated kids around though. After talking with them we decided to leave that schedule in place this year. This has turned out to be a good decision since the state made significant changes in our requirements for assessments this year. We have added two new pieces to our curriculum: ALL and Unique (I'm still looking for a good early math skills curriculum; ideas anyone?). That means I need to take back the "leader" role in instruction and provide much more direct and hands-on support to the staff since most of these activities are new to them. So now we do math and reading every day (last year we focused on math on Mondays, Reading on Tuesdays, and Writing on Wednesdays; Thursdays were community and Friday was Sensory Fun/Therapy Day) with either science or social studies in the afternoon (depending upon the Unique unit). The students are basically in three groups by ability/interest and two staff members "specialize" in each student, although so far everyone is doing a good job of working with every student. The most challenging student to staff is my 16 year old who is out and about every day as there are some limitations on which staff can go with him. So this year, so far, my schedule looks more like this:
7:40-8:30 Arrival, ADLs, breakfast or peer time, positioning, leisure skills
8:30-9:00 Morning Meeting
9:00-10:30 Academics: Reading, Math, computer time, assistive technology use, ADLs as needed; also several of the kids do positioning programs and/or walking within these activities; 16 year old goes on walk about if schedule requires or does Life Skills/work bin tasks
10:30-11:00 Repositioning and stretches for everyone; ADLs as needed
11:00-12:00 Lunch preparation (3 do this) or meds and tube feedings (2 do this) paired with leisure choices or finishing earlier work
12:00-12:30 Break time for students and adults (kids work on independent leisure skills)
12:30-1:00 ADLs as needed and classroom chores
1:00-2:00 Afternoon group activity (science or social studies); 16 year old goes on walk about if scheduled or participates in group
2:00-2:30 Journals, ADLs, repositioning, get ready to go home
Monday is "Hear new concepts/words/numbers" where I introduce new material, the letter/sound of the week, the number/math concept of the week, etc. This is more focused on listening
Tuesday is "See new concepts/words/numbers" where I introduce visual/tactile vocabulary and we start asking the kids to identify and differentiate new knowledge from previous knowledge
Wednesday is "Use new concepts/words/numbers" where we start asking the kids to apply their knowledge by answering questions, doing simple writing tasks, cooking, art projects, etc.
Thursday is Community day for the whole class
Friday is Sensory/Therapy day with swimming for two kids in the afternoon; I also use Fridays to assess kids on how well they are doing with new and old concepts so I can determine where to start the next week (do we need to stick with what we are learning now or are we ready to move on)
I'm still working out the kinks in all this new-to-us stuff and figuring out where everything fits in. However, the overall consenus from both adults and kids is that we like the new challenges.
So, that's What Works for Me when making staffing assignments and setting my daily schedule. What works for you?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Here is my CBE plan this year:
- Monday: 16 year old goes to Skill Development Center to work on vocational and home living skills
- Tuesday: two students go grocery shopping to stock up their food supplies for the week (they both prepare their own breakfasts, lunches, and snacks as part of home living skills)
- Wednesday: 16 year old goes to public library for vocational skills/volunteering (he dusts shelves and runs the vacuum)
- Thursday: the whole group goes somewhere, sometimes together and sometimes in smaller groups
- Friday: 2 kids go swimming at a nearby YMCA
- Trips to Blockbuster to choose a video to watch and purchase treats (this is great for my two kids who are blind/nonambulatory and don't eat by mouth as they get to put together the "voting list" of videos; this is also where they go on those times they don't accompany the rest of the class to a restaurant outing)
- Trips to Barnes and Noble bookstore (read books/magazines, listen to music, get a snack at the cafe; can differentiate easily for everyone's needs/interests and it's FREE, except for the snacks)
- Bowling Alley (we have an awesome one with Cosmic Bowling all day that is completely accessible and very inexpensive)
- The Mall (or course! We are teens after all)
- Nature Center (ours has a great hands-on museum with lots of multisensory experiences and is attached to a nature park with accessible hiking paths; and it's FREE too!)
- Periodic special needs showing of current movies at a local theater with other special needs classes (great fun to meet up with good friends and we go out for breakfast/brunch first)
- Restaurant trips (we tend to do "sit down" dining rather than fast food; fast food is saved for shorter trips like grocery day; we've also done buffets which is a real adventure)
- Local "spa"/beauty salon (girls can choose hair, manicures, pedicures; boys can choose to soak hands/feet or go next door to the coffee shop and get a treat and listen to music)
- Special trips to museums when they offer hands-on exhibits (most of my students have significant vision impairments so can't see most typical museum exhibits)
- The zoo (we have two to choose from in our area)
- Target, Super Wal-Mart, etc.
- When the weather is icky or too cold we will also do an "inside outing," usually a video we haven't seen or playing wii and other video games (a class favorite for everyone including staff; we are AWESOME at wii baseball!)
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
As I've said before, I've never used the Smart software nor have I had any training in using the Smartboard. The board itself is very straightforward and easy to use as it is essentially a giant touch screen. There are a number of good sources for more ideas on how to use the Smartboard: Talking Smartboards and Much More and Teacher Love Smart Boards are just two of them; check their resource lists for even more.
Some of my favorite programs that my kids love and/or that would work well for early learners include:
Big Bang by Inclusive TLC
The Choose and Tell series from Inclusive TLC (just be aware that the vocabulary is British)
The SwitchIt! series from Inclusive TLC
The cause effect videos and other activities available from Priory Woods School (student favorite and free))
The SimTech single switch collection--especially the Sights and Sounds series
SoftTouch has several titles that are good (Attention Teens, Away We Ride, Teen Tunes, etc.) including these specifically for preschool (which are available as individual titles as the bundle is a bit on the pricey side)
Switch Man from R.J. Cooper
Sensory stories from Pete's Stuff (loads and loads of fun! oh, and free!)
Itunes or Windows Media Player visualizers
And any of the kid-friendly websites out there are great to use as well (Kate at TLWMSN has a great post outlining some switch friendly sites, Power Point collections, and more special needs software )
As far as access, most of my kids use an AbleNet jellybeamer (or two if they are two switch scanning). I have two who access directly on the board as well.
Intro to Cause and Effect
Wheel of Sounds
Cause and Effect Cinema
More of the SwitchIt! series
Saturday, August 8, 2009
So, welcome to the clan Monica from Building a Program That Works and Exceptional Paradise. I look forward to reading more of what you have to share.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Monday, August 3, 2009
On my last post about Unique Learning Systems Michie commented to ask about my data notebooks. Oh, data, how I loathe thee. It is so essential to doing what we do, measuring student performance, looking for problems, proving successes, etc. Why can't it be easier to deal with? The customizing, revising, printing, copying, hole punching, filing, storing, interpreting, compiling, shredding, etc. can lead a teacher to drink (only S*nic limeades, however, we are at school after all)! I've spent years messing with different systems and none of them really worked for me. There's the "fill in the circles" type and the "mark the rubric" type and so many others. There are even websites that will let you print out data sheets. I think that's where I always run into trouble. If it's too labor intensive I just don't tend to get to it, and printing and/or copying daily or weekly is labor intensive in my book. Add to that the fact that my daily lesson plans usually make it through about the first 15 minutes of the day (30 if I'm lucky) before they have to be adjusted to meet the students' needs, and taking data had become beyond frustrating for me, until I came up with a solution that works for me:
Sprial notebooks. Yep. That's it folks. Simple spiral notebooks. Each of my students has one. In it we keep all of our documentation from daily lesson plans (which I do during breakfast) to communication logs to cognitive skills data to behavioral charting. They are sort of like a daily diary of each student's activities. I start a new page with the day's lesson plans for that student and indicate where I need data (how many times does he initiate with his computer vs. gesture? what did she score on the sorting task? what level of assistance did he need to complete the laundry task?). The notebooks follow the kids around all day and whichever staff is working with them at the time knows what to do and what to record. There is also an overview sheet that explains the basic type/s of data for that student where I lay out rubrics, when to do tally marks, when to use +/-, etc. If they are asking multiple choice comprehension questions (or giving choices of any sort), they know to write down the question, the presented answer choices, and the student's response. If I need a specific way to take data I can just make an example right next to the lesson plan entry. Staff can easily take anecdotal notes as well, which is very helpful to me when evaluating effectiveness, problems, etc. We can attach photos of projects, actual worksheets, printouts from computer programs like Stages, Switching On, etc., and "sticky note data" (don't we all wish we'd bought stock in that company way back when!). I glance through everything every day to look for glaring concerns and more thoroughly once a week or so to compile data to judge progress. This is relatively simple since I generally use averages, depending upon what I'm looking for. I should probably create a spreadsheet for this but usually just do it by hand on sticky notes which then get used as place markers. That way I can multitask during activities like faculty meetings (I am one of those people who cannot just sit and listen; I have to be doing something with my hands and the other half of my brain at the same time).
Types of data most likely to be taken in my classroom (I know there are others than these):
right or wrong/+/-
multiple choice (more than 2 choices)
levels of assistance/rubric:
0 = resists activity/refuses
1 = maximum assistance (according to student prompt system, generally hand over hand)/choices reduced to 1
2 = moderate assistance (according to student prompt system, usually a touch prompt, model, or other "large" prompt)/choices reduced to 2
3 = minimum assistance (according to student prompt system, usually a small visual cue, redirecting attention, etc.)/choices reduced to 3
4 = independent/no assistance/4 or more choices
For each trial the student can earn up to 4 points. I then create an average score based on points earned over points possible. So in a 5 trial activity the student could score 20 points. I can then estimate level of assistance:
90-100% = independent
75-90% = minimum assistance
50-75% = moderate assistance
25-50% = maximum assistance
Below 25% = resisting activity/need to reevaluate procedures
Now this is pretty general and I adjust the rubric depending upon the task. Sometimes we only use 3 levels, sometimes we use 5. I might also look at range (look at me using my fancy dancy math vocabulary) rather than average or otherwise interpret data. Is he always missing certain colors? Does she have a tendency to choose the answer on the right? Etc.
What I really like about this system is its simplicity. Everything is all together in one place for me. It's easy for me to pick up a notebook and write down what I want done as well as to make adjustments and changes as the day goes on. I can leave myself or the staff notes and they can do the same. Questions, needs, and concerns can be jotted down "in the moment" before they get forgotten or lost in the chaos, I mean shuffle. The mountain of loose data sheets is eliminated and the spirals are easy to transport from place to place. Plus spirals are a common tool used by all the students in our building so no one stands out. And because it's all "attached," nothing gets lost.
This is what works for me. What works for you? Leave a comment or link to your own blog.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
- Two levels available, similar to the levels available for News-2-You. This came in handy this summer because I was working with kids age 5 to 16 and used the same curriculum for all of them. The younger kids couldn't sustain attention to the longer readings and needed more work with basic vocabulary. The older kids, who have been doing activities like these longer, did better on the longer readings and answering comprehension questions.
- The question guide at the bottom of the chapter pages was handy. It meant I could make the assignment and my paras could formulate questions themselves using available vocabulary pictures and/or yes/no responses. They would record the questions they asked and the kids' responses in the kids' data notebooks. It reduced the amount of worksheet creating, printing, cutting, and pasting that needed to be done.
- The length of the unit made it easier for me to pick and choose what to focus on. There were some areas we spent lots of time on (what is an ocean; ocean animals; beaches) and some we spent no time on (oceanography).
- The combination of science and social studies was nice and leant itself well to extension activities.
- PDF format was nice as well as being able to access the curriculum from an online account rather than needing to download it.
What I didn't like as much:
- Some concepts were far too abstract for my students (Oceanography) and I couldn't make them concrete enough to gain their understanding.
- More visuals would have been good such as actual photos of oceans, beaches, people engaging in related activities, ocean animals, etc. (I know I can go out and find my own, but having them included in the package would be very helpful)
- More support for multisensory learning would have been good such as ideas for objects/ object symbols, tactile experiences, sound sources, etc. We needed ways to make the concepts real or concrete for the students. Being in Kansas we couldn't exactly take a field trip to the beach/ocean and few of my students have had those experiences.
- Vocabulary access--I can't remember if the SymbolStix symbols for the unit were included or not; I tend to use Boardmaker but sometimes the SymbolStix symbol is better.
- A source for extension activities and sharing (see Kate's post for more information on ideas for this).
- Access to the illustrations separately would have been good for making discussion cards and flash cards without having to print out the entire page (I only have a pdf reader so can't edit).
- A range of levels for the extension activities would be good. For instance, my kids couldn't do any of the math activities (all involved money) because they don't have a grasp on those concepts. Sorting, matching, simple counting, more than/less than, comparison, and classification activities would be helpful. I want more than simple participation like activating a switch to give a (prerecorded) correct answer. I want my kids to work on actual skills development. They can do so much more than cause effect responses.
Some of the extension activities we did with the ocean/beaches unit:
- water and sand play including "clean the beach" where the kids dug through the sand to find "trash" and sorted "trash" and "good beach things" (shells, starfish, rocks, etc.)
- numerous ocean animal art projects I've collected over the years
- kids' literature like Rainbow Fish, Swimmy, Herman the Hermit Crab, etc. I also have several nonfiction books about ocean animals
- Is It a Fish? activity (on Adapted Learning so log in first)
- a number of computer based activities from Boardmaker/Adapted Learning and Intellitools
- threw stuffed ocean animals into our ball pool so the kids could go "scuba diving"
- discovery box filled with various ocean items and toys (shells, fish, plastic aquarium sea weed, aquarium "coral," scuba mask and snorkle, etc.)
- various cause effect ocean themed toys (our speech path found several at Enabling Devices --this was a favorite-- and I have a mini bubble tube with fish in it among others)
- listening to ocean sounds and "beach music" in our Somatron "music chair"
- Moon Sand sand castles
- Ocean in a Bottle (water bottle; choice of blue, green and/or purple food color; choice of glitter or sand; choice of small ocean themed items to put inside and stickers on the outside)
Overall I'm excited to have access to a true curriculum designed for my students. It's been a long time coming. With the addition of the creativity of others that is available out here in cyberspace, this promises to be an exciting adventure for us. I'm really looking forward to using it with state assessments this spring.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The first part of today's post talks about federally mandated state assessments (NCLB). I agree with everything Rob states in his post. I won't repeat it here (go read it for yourself). I most liked his comments about kids with disabilities and how they are affected by these tests. You mean a kid on an IEP "failed" the reading test? Well DUH!!! I cannot come close to explaining the frustration I have as a special educator to be forced to put students into a no win, sure to fail situation. And then to be held accountable as the teacher for the fact that the child has a DISABILITY that INTERFERES with his ability to learn like other kids, take these tests, and in general, "meet proficiency" at "grade level." And I'm one of the fortunate (she says tongue in cheek because this is soooo not fun) few who gets to give the Alternate Assessments, which gives me the flexibility to basically pick and choose what my students do for their assessments (no bubble sheets or computer-based tests for us, just a small forest of trees in paperwork and way too much time away from kids). Every year I spend countless hours devising assessment activities, taking assessment data, compiling assessment data, filling out the forms, and putting together portfolios. THEN we get to score the things in a team of three. And what are we testing? Is it really relevant for a deaf-blind 13 year old with severe CP to be able to label his shapes? I mean, come on! The kid can't effectively communicate his wants and needs, why on earth does he need to know his shapes? Worse, these are a "point in time" assessment and can't be used to compare performance from year to year. Not to mention that we are basing our ratings on 3 pieces of "evidence" of 5 trials each, which is SO not best practice for determining student performance. In the end, the assessments are not an indicator on how well my students are doing with mastery of the state standards. Instead, they are an indicator of how creative I am as a teacher in making the "indicators" (tested items) work for my kids with a minimum of disruption to them (other than the fact that I'm stuck with paperwork for far too many hours instead of actually working with my students). The procedures are actually designed so that I can manipulate the data to make it look really good (good thing I'm an ethical teacher, but I do know other teachers who are "encouraged" strongly to do just that). I could go on and on about the absurdity and uselessness of the state assessments as they currently stand, and not just for special ed. I think they're pretty much a waste of time for everyone, except the bean counters. And if the Powers That Be read this, go ahead, audit me. I'm not worried. I know how to follow the rules. HA HA HA HA HA HA
OK, enough for that soapbox....