Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My!

No, we haven't stopped working on our Wizard of Oz unit and no, I didn't forget to post Part 3 of our journey down the Yellow Brick Road. We are simply stuck on Part 2 for the time being. Between MLK Day and Inauguration Day plus a community outing last week, we just did not have enough time to get through the material. Thus we repeated last week's plan this week. Today we made scarecrows and they turned out SO cute. We modified this plan slightly by using styrofoam balls wrapped in muslin for the head. Even Wayne, who HATES art projects, got into this one and made awesome choices and fully participated in the project. Tomorrow we read my modified Boardmaker version of the story and work on comprehension questions. On Friday we'll do the sensory story with our peer buddies, play with bubbles, and make magic wands.

Next week we plan to work on the following activities along with Part 3...
  • Heart collage: choose colors and sizes of hearts to create a collage; we'll probably add a texture component to this too
  • This lion project: we'll make ours a bit smaller and use photos of the kids' faces
  • If we have time we'll make our own poppies, letting the kids explore circles and choosing their own colors for their flowers
  • Cook a recipe with an apple theme, probably a simple apple crisp we can make in the microwave; this recipe lets us incorporate assistive technology by chopping the apples in the food processor; my "non oral" kids can taste test the different ingredients as well as help measure and stir so they are fully included
  • There is a lot that goes on in Part 3 so it will probably take us some extra time to become thoroughly comfortable with the story

Sunday, January 18, 2009

English Child Songs

Larry Felazzo just posted about the website English Child Songs. These are simple animated children's songs that include the printed lyrics. Very cool, particularly for younger learners. The animated videos will also display well on an interactive whiteboard, especially in full screen mode. I didn't explore the site very long but I thought accessibility could be a bit of an issue as the menu is a drop down box. However, kids could always use AAC to make requests. Switch access to the site would be pretty much limited to pause or play (they are separate buttons so can't be used to toggle on and off). The child could pause the song to indicate the desire to request a new song. There are lots of songs to choose from. It would also be easy to make song boards using Boardmaker. I especially liked the phonics-based songs that target every letter of the alphabet. I often use materials designed for English Language Learners with my students as the language and concepts are typically simplified and easier for them to understand. Another good source for music activities is Super Simple Songs. They have a number of videos available on YouTube that either illustrate the songs or show how to teach with them. There are also lots of good support materials on the site.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Still more Oz fun

I was in charge of a ROCKO event today. Because I already had lots of resources for a Wizard of Oz theme, that's what we did today. The kids had a blast making magic wands and Over the Rainbow necklaces (multiple colors of pony beads on lanyards). We even did an interactive viewing of the movie: singing all the songs, dancing along with Dorothy and her friends, blowing bubbles whenever Glinda appeared, booing the witch, etc. while we ate Munchkin Munchies (Chex snack mix).

We also played Follow the Yellow Brick Road:

  • 8 1/2 X 11 yellow paper (20 sheets or at least one for every player)
  • pictures of characters and places in the story to glue/tape onto the yellow paper (laminate for durability if you want to be able to use them again); a good source is Pete Wells's Oztastic unit
  • matching pictures for a "draw" pile or to put on an All-Turn-It spinner
  • sound track to the movie
  • small prizes (optional)


  • Lay the yellow paper "bricks" out in a circle, picture side up (we used yellow duct tape to secure ours to the floor)
  • Have the kids choose a brick to stand on
  • Start the music; the kids move around the circle until the music stops
  • When the music stops, everyone stops on their spot
  • Pull a picture from the "draw" pile or spin the spinner
  • The person standing on the spot can receive a small prize, become the Music Master, or whatever other activity you choose to use
  • Continue, engineering as needed to make sure everyone has a chance to "win"


  • Play like traditional musical chairs, removing one spot each time until only one player remains
  • Put action options on the All-Turn-It spinner; the person on the spot that is drawn gets to spin then do the action chosen (or choose someone else to do the action); options might be "melt like the witch," or "sing We're Off to See the Wizard" or "dance like the scarecrow" or "freeze like the rusted Tin Man," etc.
  • Let the student who lands on the "lucky spot" don a witch's hat and become the Wicked Witch to swoop in and "get" the next person who lands on the lucky spot
  • Have the student who lands on the lucky spot act out something related to their spot
  • Have each student identify the character/location/vocabulary term he/she lands on or tell something about the item
  • Have the student draw a card then follow the circle until he/she finds the matching brick
  • Have a race to see who can match the cards to the bricks the fastest; must follow the path; could do this as a relay race, just make the path a straight line and have one team per side
  • Could do the same as the matching activity but use comprehension questions instead
  • For better access for wheelchair users, put the path on the wall

We used the following characters/places/things: Dorothy, Toto, Auntie Em, tornado, house landing on witch, Munchkin Mayor, Munchkin drummer, Lollipop Munchkin, Glinda, Wicked Witch, ruby slippers, Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, angry apple tree, Emerald City, Witch's castle, The Great Oz, the Wizard, and flying monkeys
Other items might be: rainbow, hot air balloon, Munchkinland houses, water bucket, broomstick, yellow brick, basket, Uncle Henry, Miss Gulch, oil can, magic wand

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thank you Enablemart

After the December edition of the AT Blog Carnival was posted, Lydia King from Enablemart contacted me. She had read my blog entry on "My Favorite Things." She had a gently used Little Step-by-Step that she wished to donate to my classroom. How awesome is that? Her generous gift came at just the right time. My high school home bound student, whose services I've just taken over, is in desperate need of a voice output device. His deaf-blind grant eligibility was allowed to lapse and at this point it would be difficult to get him requalified. Tight budgets meant little to no money to make a purchase for him through school, plus he needed something that could follow him into adult services, which has even less funding than the schools. Enter Lydia and her gift. The student is now happily communicating thanks to the donated Little Step by Step, with some programming help from his siblings. If you haven't checked out what Enablemart has to offer, I encourage you to go take a look.

Vortex Cubes

Our Vortex Cubes from Dale Air in the UK arrived today just in time for our Oztastic sensory story. They were worth every penny! The "farm" one smells pretty much like a farm, or at least one with lots of cattle. The "burnt wood" brought back fond memories of sitting around a camp fire and "forest" smells like the evergreen woods in Colorado. "Apple" made my mouth water and "freesia" is just heavenly (and really really strong). The cubes are hefty at around 2 inches (OK, I'm really bad at estimating sizes, but they are big enough to hold onto while fitting comfortably in the hand), made of sturdy plastic, brightly colored, and well labeled. The scents were strong enough to be smelled through the box, styrofoam peanuts, 2 plastic bags, and an adhesive seal, which I'm sure made the package very popular with the dogs when it went through customs. The cubes cost around $9 apiece, which includes shipping and import tax, and took exactly 7 days to arrive. I have found nothing like them here in the US, but I'm sure they would be at least that expensive, if not more, if there was a US manufacturer. Customer service is excellent as well. I received quick and friendly responses to emailed inquiries. And the company has so many scents to choose from! There are 82 food related scents and 117 non food related scents as of today. Some interesting titles include Boiler Room, Dragons Breath, Street 1930's, Flatulence, and Dinosaur. And if you have a specific scent in mind but can't find it on their list, try emailing them to see if they can recommend a substitute or maybe create a new scent. They add scents all the time. I can think of a few right off hand (in case Dale Air is reading :-) ): swimming pool, gym shoes, locker room, wet dog, snow, autumn day, asphalt, large vehicle exhaust.

The uses of these cubes are limited only to the imagination. Put a container of them in a multisensory area for olfactory exploration. Buy two of several scents to create an olfactory matching game. Use with sensory stories, typical literature, history lessons, science experiments, etc., to increase understanding and enhance memory/recall (since scent is supposed to be the strongest memory trigger). Match to familiar community outings (although suprisingly I did not see one for Swimming Pool unless the Brits use a different term) or use as transition cues for various activities. Use scents of favorite or common foods to make choices at snack or meal times. Pair specific scents with colors for people with visual impairments to make art projects more meaningful (we have done this successfully using liquid potpourri on cotton balls stored in film canisters but the Vortex cubes would work so much better). Match scent cubes to objects, photos, symbols, or words. Use them to do a like/don't like inventory with individual students or classes. Or branch out and quiz random people in the hall. Play a "guess what this is" game with the cubes, another fun hallway/peer activity. For even more fun, pair the scent game with taste testing Every Flavor Beans (hmm...think I might have just found my "after spring break" activity).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Follow the Yellow Brick Road...

Part 3 in our journey through Oz...
This week we have had a blast doing Oz activities. We read a story synopsis that I created using Boardmaker and liberally pirating the illustrations from Pete Wells' sensory story. It has sound effects and everything. Combined with a few tactile props for my visually impaired kids and we had a hit. The most popular part of Part 1 was the tornado. I made a tactile/visual version in a water bottle half filled with crystal beads. And EVERYONE got 100% on the comprehension questions. How cool is that?

We also started writing our own versions of the story. Each page of the book has a story prompt with three choices, basically a choose-your-own adventure. They've had lots of fun choosing and reading their books. I'm still waiting to hear back from Pete about whether or not it's OK to share these activities since I've used his work to create them. Hopefully he'll get back to me soon. This project was so popular with the kids I'm going to have to come up with more.

This afternoon we started the Wind Experiments. Between being short handed for staff, running late, and uncooperative kids, we didn't get very far. Only one student finished the experiment. The others variously protested, went on strike, or were too distracted by the other kids to concentrate. In retrospect I should have done a lesson on weight (heavy vs. light) and let them explore the objects as a group and set up the "wind" at a separate station in another area for individual use. The blow dryer was a real distractor to the kids who were still making choices or working on concepts. Not to mention that we were right on top of each other in our rather cramped space. That's how we'll set things up tomorrow when we try again.

We'll also do the Part 1 sensory story with our peer buddies tomorrow. If the response of my home bound student is any indication, it should be a lot of fun. Then our buddies can help us make tornado bottles.

This project has been wonderful for state assessment data for the portfolios. That's always a nice benefit. Interested in what we've done? Drop me a comment.

Next week, in Part 2, we meet the Munchkins, Glinda the Good Witch, and the Scarecrow. Lots of singing planned too. Goodness knows we've listened to the soundtrack enough. HA HA!

Other projects include:
  • Bubbles (for Glinda); so much fun and everyone is always motivated to talk; think I'll break out our bubble machine and hook it up to the powerlink

  • Magic wand craft to add to our story props

  • Scarecrow craft, although I think we'll use up some of the multitude of fabric scraps we have in the closet rather than neckties; this is a nicely tactile project with lots of choices

  • And of course the adapted story and the sensory story

The plan is to eventually post pictures of the whole project. I really liked the Voicethread Kate Ahern shared on her blog. I haven't explored Voicethread yet so this might be the perfect opportunity. We also have an Open House type night coming up at the end of the month. The first floor of the building (where my room is) will be opened up to parents and patrons during a home basketball games and we're all being encouraged to put up displays. I think we'll do a Yellow Brick Road timeline on the wall outside our room and put up the projects we've done, or photos of them.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore...

Part 2 in our Wizard of Oz journey...
Next week we will launch into Oz activities in earnest. This week we have listened to the sound track about 3000 times (did you know the song "We're Off to See the Wizard" is repeated about 30 times on the soundtrack? It's repeating and repeating in my head, that's for sure!), worked on some vocabulary, and pretty well put all the materials together for the unit (now that I have my own laminator--YAY!). We also worked some on Kansas facts and did an Oz art project (chose between making a Toto or a Dorothy; Dorothy was a small paper plate with a choice of yarn to create hair, a choice of hair style--pig tails or braids, and choice of wiggle eyes). Tomorrow I think The Girls are going to spend some time creating the Emerald City, a Yellow Brick Road, and maybe some other Oz scenery.

For week two we are planning the following activities:
  • Tornado activities: tornado in a bottle from Pete's Oztastic unit as well as Wind Experiments (look it up on Adapted Learning) and "tornado" sensory bottles (see below)
  • Read Part 1 of the Sensory stories (oops! Just remembered I forgot to order the Vortex cubes!)
  • Listen to the first part of the audio book
  • If we have time we'll design our own magic slippers too

Tornado sensory bottle
Empty water bottle with label removed, filled 2/3 with water
Glitter, confetti shapes, small items
1-2 drops food color if desired
Strong glue (we use Gorilla glue; hot glue tends to break)

Student choose items to put in their bottles
Glue the lids on the bottles
Shake the bottles and watch what happens; what happens when you swirl the bottle vs. shaking it?

For visually impaired kids, make sure to use objects that they can feel hitting the sides of the bottle
Some visually impaired kids might respond better to a bottle partially filled with pinto beans or small beads (pony bead size) so they can feel and hear what is going on

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

All Students Meme

Kate Ahearn at TLWMSN tagged me for a meme started by Patrick Black at Teaching All Students. The goal is to share three things you believe about all students then to tag others to join in on the conversation.

Here are some of my guiding philosophies (I tried to share ones that were a bit different from the old "standards"):

1. Going beyond the standard credo of "all students CAN learn," I believe that all students DO learn; WHAT they learn is very dependent on what the rest of us (teachers, families, peers, etc.) do in their lives

2. Every student/person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of age, ability, or any other descriptor you choose to use, including respecting and honoring differences and preferences, fostering interdepence not dependence, and creating an atmosphere of acceptance for unique qualities

3. Every student/person has the right to communicate their thoughts and feelings and to express their opinions, even if it's not something others want to hear or expressed in an atypical fashion

and just for kicks...
4. No one can do everything but everyone can do something and every student/person should be given credit for what they can contribute to any given project, activity, discussion, situation, opportunity, etc. and not have those contributions overlooked, ignored, or denied because of perceived "lack of ability" (Recognize the tagline on my email anyone?)

If you wish to participate, consider yourself tagged AnneMarie and Barrie.

Want to participate in this meme?
Share three things that you believe about all students.
Be sure to link to this post and/or to where you were first tagged.
Tag your response with AllStudentsMeme
Invite others to join the conversation by tagging them to be a part of the meme.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

We're Off to See the Wizard...

We are launching our Wizard of Oz unit this week. It should be loads of fun. I'm basing the unit on the wonderful work of Pete Wells and taking liberal advantage of his fantastic illustrations. Hopefully he'll give me permission to share these activities. If so, I'll post them to Adaptive Learning since what I've done is in Boardmaker.

We're going to take it a bit slow this week, getting back into the swing of things after over two weeks off. We're going to do a bunch of background work to prepare for really jumping into the story.

First, we'll work with the kids to make story props so they each have their own set. We'll make tactile/sensory representations for the characters and some of the major settings as well as gather the materials for Pete's sensory stories.

  • Auntie Em: an apron

  • Uncle Henry: ??

  • Dorothy: yarn braids with a bow

  • Toto: piece of fur or a small dog collar, for some kids a small dog doll

  • Witch: ?? I have a witch's hat, but it's a bit big; maybe make tiny brooms?

  • Scarecrow: straw; I also have a cool art project that we'll do during Week 2

  • Tin Man: silver card stock OR an aluminum or tin can (no sharp edges)

  • Lion: ?? I have an art project for this one too and a couple of lion dolls

  • Wizard: ??

  • Munchkins: I think we'll use some Little People or Weebles for these

  • Glinda: magic wand with a star and curly ribbon

  • Flying monkeys: ??

  • Ruby slippers: we'll make our own from cheep baby shoes or slippers and red glitter or sequins

  • Yellow brick road: we'll paint small blocks or bricks with yellow paint and glitter

  • Emerald City: ?? maybe some small boxes painted green with glitter
We'll also play some of the awesome switch games available from Pete's Oztastic activities

I'll do some of the activities from my Kansas unit including reading our All About Kansas adapted book, making sunflowers, and singing Home on the Range (for more fun switch activities from the Intellitools Activity Exchange, search on Bongo Barry's name; a very talented fellow Kansan)

We'll do some work with tornados by making a tornado in a bottle (see the Oztastic activities again or do a google search for lots of ideas) and doing some fun wind experiments with a blowdryer. I think I'm most excited about these experiments because we don't do nearly enough science. Being in Kansas, we have wind nearly all the time and several of my students have "wind issues" so this is a great topic for us.

Wind experiments: Concepts of heavy and light; prediction (check Adaptive Learning to see if I've had time to upload the activity)
  • Materials: objects with various weights such as feather, rock, book, paper, toy; a blow dryer; a powerlink and switch

  • Procedure: List the experiment items on paper (or use PCS symbols); allow the students to explore the air moving from the hair dryer and to "play" with the hair dryer using a switch; have students explore one of the items (or incorporate choice by letting the student choose which item he/she wishes to experiment with); ask him/her to predict if he/she thinks the item will move when the "wind" blows on it (yes or no in column 1); have the student perform the experiment by blowing air on the object with the hair dryer (could place item on table or in student's hand, depending upon sensory needs); have the student indicate what he/she observed (did the item move in the "wind"? yes or no) and record the response in column 3

We'll also work a lot on the basic vocabulary in the story using the flash card activities Pete includes in his unit as well as just letting the kids explore the character cards and props.

I was able to pick up some cute props from The Kansas Store including a head band and wand for Glinda, Tin Man's axe, a miniature Toto with a basket, etc. In addition, the older sister of one my students is absolutely obsessed with the Wizard of Oz (she prefers to be called Dorothy, thank you) so we may be able to (secretly) borrow some things from her. I downloaded the soundtrack to the movie from itunes as well as two really well-done audiobooks performed dramatically (one by The St. Charles Players, based more on the movie, and the other by The Colonial Radio Players, which stays true to the book).

I created a board game with two different sets of cards. One set has comprehension questions about the story. The other focuses on the concepts of "real" and "pretend." Both use the same game board. Of course, we won't be able to play them until a bit later in the unit.

So stay tuned for our journey down the Yellow Brick Road. I'll share more as we come to it. The original goal was to finish on Jan. 29, Kansas Day, with a Wizard of Oz party, but I'm not sure we'll make it. Between a couple of short weeks and the need to talk about current events such as the upcoming Presidential Inauguration, I'm sure we'll encounter some delays.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year!

I hope you have had a good holiday. I know I've appreciated the "time off," even though it seems like I've spent quite a bit of break working. I've been busy sorting through all the stuff I got from incorporating the high school program into mine. Two of my paras and I spent an entire day on Monday organizing everything. The strangest thing was nearly doubling my inventory and ending up with more space than we started with! Not quite sure how that happened; sort of a "loaves and fishes" thing in reverse. So far everything fits but we haven't added the bodies yet. We'll see how it goes on Monday.

I've also been working on IEPs and programming for my two new students. Bubba is an old friend. He was with me for 5 years before becoming too fragile to come to school and transitioning to the high school teacher. I'm really looking forward to working with him again. Lea is new to me. It's been interesting getting to know her. I have less than 10 days to evaluate her and write her new IEP (WOW!). I think I have it mostly done except for specific information in the performance levels/descriptive parts (social/emotional, academics, etc.). I'm hoping I can fill those blanks in before the IEP. I was actually able to come up with some really good goals for her which are both meaningful to her (I hope) AND transition-oriented (since she's almost 17). I have an awesome schedule planned for her, taking advantage of a partnership with the YMCA and using the brand new vocational training center our cooperative is creating. I'm also working with a teacher friend who works with high school students to give Lea some same-age peer time. Now I just have to hope that transportation can accommodate our daily needs for a van. Lea has an awesome para who is coming with her from the other program. She is very excited about the program changes and possibilities available to us.

In addition to all of this, I've been organizing and planning for state assessments. We can start taking data for the Kansas Alternate in January. I'm more than two instructional months behind because of all the other changes, so we'll see how that goes. There are some things, like "understands cause and effect" that I know we can get data on right away. Other things like "recognizes body parts" and some of the vocabulary related items will have to wait until we get in some more work.

I don't believe in setting "New Year's Resolutions" because I can never stick with them anyway. However, I do like to set goals and the beginning of a new semester is a good time to do that. This semester I have goals to:
  • Finish the Wizard of Oz unit (future post coming)
  • Put together a really good Solar System unit
  • Have Morning Meeting every day except Community Day
  • Get The Girls trained in using more technology more consistently with the kids, especially computer-based activities
  • Be as involved as possible with my new high school program while not neglecting my younger students
  • Stay ultra organized with state assessments and move through them as quickly as possible
  • Push for the expanded space I'll need to accommodate our new program
  • Learn what there is to learn about transition issues and adult services in our area
  • Survive without losing all my hair

Good goals, I think, for what is promising to be a nutty, crazy, wonderfully busy spring semester.