Wednesday, December 30, 2009


We had so much fun doing a mini literature unit based on Little House on the Prairie from the October Unique unit that I decided we should do another one. Our librarian recommended Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and I think it's a good choice. Short chapters, lots of action, and age-appropriate (for the most part). And everyone should enjoy having a boy as the protagonist as the last couple of lit studies we've done have starred girls. This is also one of the audio books we purchased last spring that we haven't listened to yet. That will be a nice support piece.

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

Anybody else curious?

I've been looking for a structured, standards-based math curriculum to add to my curriculum "collection." AbleNet recently released Equals. Anyone out there have any experience? It looks promising what with a comprehensive program that covers everything from pre-numeracy skills through grade level support including all the manipulatives. Is it worth the $1700 price tag? Would sure love to get my hands on some materials samples or a demonstration kit. AbleNet has an awesome reputation (they are my "go to" source for assistive tech; excellent product quality and excellent service). BUT will the curriculum truly meet the needs of my students with severe and multiple disabilities or is it geared more to the moderate-high severe range like so much of the other curricula out there "geared" to this population? Will it meet the needs of my sensory impaired students (blind, deaf, and/or deaf-blind in addition to severe physical disabilities) or is it primarily visual and/or auditory in nature, making it fairly useless for most of my students? Unfortunately my ability to acquire the curriculum will have to wait until grant season this spring. Hopefully one of my available grants will come through with the funding.

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

50 Best Blogs for Special Education

I'm not big on self-promoting my blog but wanted to share this resource. SMD Teacher is listed along with other wonderful bloggers, many of which can be located in my Blog List, including Kate, Patrick, Michelle, and Lon (and 45 others). It's a great resource for anyone in special education. Take a look. I must say it is exciting to have my efforts recognized even though I didn't start this blog for that purpose.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Christmas Carol Part Deux

Part of this post is a repost from last year. Part of it is new stuff. So enjoy!

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!!!).