Thursday, August 20, 2009

Community Based Experiences

Community experiences are a huge part of my curriculum. We love to go out and about and I have students in and out every day. We go lots of fun places. Our school is in a very small community so we frequently have to plan our trips to nearby communities or even the "big city."
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
Our Thursday trips are the most fun. Some of the things we will be doing include:
  • 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!)
For more great ideas check out Building a Program That Works. Make sure to read the comments!


  1. I think it is so cool that you get to do so many outings - and that you have some that your non-ambulatory/non-verbal, etc group can join in on. I wish I could take my kids out more.

    I am curious how you have the non-ambulatory group put together the "voting list" for videos, etc. This year all of my students need to do "data, statistics, and probability" for state testing, and I think I will do a lot of graphing/voting projects. Some of my students can hit a switch to ask people questions, but I have two who can't access a switch and who's primary means of communication is answering yes/no questions. Deciding what should be on our voting list might be something we can do with yes/no that will help them be part of the project in a meaningful way.

  2. Fun! Love this kind of stuff. Do you have your own classroom Wii? I have been thinking about buying one for our room.

  3. Hi Monica!
    No we don't have our own wii. Not in the budget (I could say "what budget?" as in Kansas the state legislature did a real number on us). I have one at home though that I bring in. We like wii Sports, all the Mario games (hand-over-hand, choices, and the kids get a kick out of us old fogies trying to figure out the controls), and Big Brain Academy (OK, that's an adult favorite but we buddy up with the kids to play). We also use it with peers.

  4. Hi Michie!
    When we get to the video store we ask the kids if they want to look at "older movies" or "new releases." There are two of them who help make the list and they almost always choose the new releases. :-) We then start at the beginning and (selectively) read out the titles and description of the movies (we avoid inappropriate content, Rated R, etc.). Each student then gets to decide if he/she wants to put that video into his/her "voting list." We make a pile and meet up with the rest of the group (who have been picking out snacks). Then we offer votes by twos to everyone (would you rather watch this one or this one?) and narrow down our list to one to two videos. My ambulatory student puts the unwanted videos away (with help) while we finish making purchases and pay for our videos (he does NOT like waiting so this keeps him distracted/busy while we deal with everything else).

    We do lots of graphing and voting things too. Most of my kids do it through yes/no (do you like this? etc.). We also work on interpreting graphs with questions like, "which one (of two) was liked more" (fits in with our standard on more than/less than/equal to and can be phrased as yes/no questions). For my low vision/blind kids we use a tactile representation (usually blocks) and count out loud with them. My kids are just starting to grasp number and quantity concepts so this is pretty tough for them.

  5. Thanks Alicia - gives me some things to think about.

    Last summer I was trying to do a question of the day (sometimes it was of the week) and it was usually a yes/no question. That worked well, and I think I will do that again this year, but I was thinking that answering one question a day only gave them one opportunity a day to answer a yes/no graphing question. Sometimes I might like for them to have a couple more opportunities at a time or in a day. It might be interesting for me to ask some of them to help me with what to include for the questions or the voting list.

    It is so tricky coming up with just the right "phrase" for the skill that my students will be working on for the Alt Assessments. The "technical" speak is one of the hardest parts for me.

  6. As I'm sure I've said before on here, state assessments drive me nuts and I wish they were more meaningful. I feel like they are assessing my creativity as a teacher more than the skills of my students. Even though I work really hard to assess the things they are working on sometimes my hands are tied by the parameters. They get stricter every year and eventually some of my more involved kids are going to fail simply because they are not able to do the skills/responses demanded by the powers that be. At the same time, the assessments have stretched me as a teacher into giving my students opportunities that I probably wouldn't have otherwise. It has probably directed our priorities away from what I've always viewed as important stuff (communication, adult/daily living skills, fundamental skills), but then, what we're working on now is important too. I think it will always be a difficult balancing act to meet the kids' needs and meet the requirements from the state/feds.
    If you ever need help with technical speak, by the way, shoot it over. I'm pretty good with that. Sometimes it's not just a matter of looking outside the box; sometimes you have to build a whole new shape. See what I mean? Came up with that one all on my own. HA HA :-)

  7. Sounds like your students will have another meaningful and fun year! Kudos to you and your staff. Have a great 2009-2010 school year!
    anne marie

  8. Alicia -

    I appreciate your offer for help with the "technical speak." I often have to write things in "English" first, to brainstorm what I want to say, and then "translate" it into "technical" writing. I guess this is why I never became a technical writer. LOL

    Oh, by the way - I had my kids vote on what book should be our first read aloud book, using some of your ideas. I had four books and tried to get my kids to narrow it down to two, so we could vote. They had a hard time with it at first - they kept saying, "yes" to all four books, even though I tried to explain that I only wanted us to choose two to be on our list. But eventually we figured it out and then took a vote between the two. It was a fun activity - I'm hoping to try more "voting" activities. Thanks for the great idea.