Monday, April 13, 2015

Another Circle Time/ Morning Meeting Revamp!

I have some of my students for a total of 6 years (yes, that's an incredibly long time), so I'm constantly trying to mix up my lessons and methods of teaching. I revamped my morning meeting yet again! I hope you enjoy the new pieces! You can read about my previous circle time posts here and here.


Geography:
-I added a task where students identify where we live on the map. Students also watch two fun videos about the states in the US.
Here are the videos we watch:
Learning Station 50 States in ABC order
50 States Songs

Communication/Literacy:
-I added a new voice output device (VOD) for students to say "good morning" to their peers by activating a GoTalk9 with students' pictures and names on it. The switch allows my students who are non-verbal to pick a specific peer to say "good morning" to.

-I added a Current Events/World News section. I use the News2You curriculum for my weekly adapted newspaper. I record the newspaper on a VOD and students activate the switch to "read" the news. If your district/school won't buy you a News2You subscriptoin, check out this free website that has newspapers for kids. The newspapers aren't adapted with picture symbols, but they easily could be!

The Big Mac switch students use to "read" the news.
-I added a task where students can practice identifying and matching letters. Each week we add a letter to the folder. The letters are adapted/texturized with pipe cleaners for students who have vision impairments. Each page has two letters at the bottom for students to practice matching letters.

(Students point to the letter at the bottom that matches the letter on the page.)

-I created a communication book for one of my kiddos to complete all of the activities in.
Communication book has the day, month, weather, and date.
The book also has a place for the student to match the letters. 

Do you do something different during your circle time/ morning meeting? I love to mix ours up, so please send me ideas!
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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tips for Task Boxes/ Independent Work Time

It's really important for all students to be able to work independently, regardless of disability! Independent work time/ task boxes are frequently used in classrooms designed for kids with Autism (think TEACCH and ABA). Since my students have severe/multiple disabilities (some of them have Autism), I have implemented some traditional strategies but don't 100% stick to them! I want to share some easy to implement tips to make task boxes more meaningful.

Tips/Ideas:
-Label each task with a simple "I can statement" or SLO (student learning objective). This helps the student, anyone possibly working with the student, and anyone in the classroom who is observing to better understand the goal the student is working on.


-Label boxes with students names (and possibly color coded or with a shape) so that students can identify their boxes and independently retrieve them for work time. (I change the activities in the boxes daily.)

-Move past the boring alphabet matching activities... Make letter matching more meaningful by having them match the letters in their names, places in the community, or one of their parent's names!


-For students who are working on matching pictures, picture symbols or words, have students match words/pictures in specific content areas linked to the Common Core (like words about Earth's materials, Solar System, landmarks, United States Presidents, bodies of waters, etc. The list is really never ending, but stop having kids just match basic pictures of food, toys, and body parts!


-Have the students match numbers on rulers, number lines, meter sticks, thermometers, etc.

-Have students match numbers that are in a pattern (counting by 2s, 5s, 10s, etc.)

-Have students match numbers in fractions
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Workbasket Wednesday at Autism Classroom News

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Facility Service Dog in a Severe-Needs Special Education Classroom

I've kind of fallen off the blog bandwagon the last couple of months... A lot of changes have happened, we bought a house, I started my Master's, and most importantly, a service dog, Ike, was placed in my classroom!

Ike was trained through the Canine Partners of the Rockies, a wonderful organization that trains Mobility Service Dogs for people with physical disabilities. Since Ike was first trained as a mobility dog, he can do amazing things like open and close doors, cabinets and drawers, turn the lights off and on, and retrieve a variety of objects. But the most beautiful thing of all, is the work he does with my students with severe disabilities!

When I first got Ike, I was in shock- I had ALWAYS wanted a dog to work in my classroom full-time, but I was terrified! There aren't many resources about dogs working in self-contained classrooms, so I have definitely been learning as we go. I want to share some of the fun ways Ike is improving the lives of my students!

Academic:
-My students spend a lot of time reading to Ike. Some students read to him by talking about the pictures, some just sit quietly with Ike while they look at the pictures and some students use audio books to read to Ike.


-My students are more motivated to work when Ike is laying next to them!

Communication:
-My students use sign language to request Ike to do certain tasks. One student signs "more" to request that Ike opens and closes the cabinets.
video
*Sorry for the poor quality!

-Students also use voice output devices to request spending time with Ike and to request that Ike does certain tasks. (Photos to come!)

Behaviors:
-Ike is amazing at stopping and preventing problem behaviors! Sometimes it's as easy as saying, "first you work, then you get Ike time." Or having Ike go to a student who is behaviorally struggling and providing the student with comfort.



PT/OT/Sensory:
-My students take turns using a job chart to take care of Ike. Some jobs that work on motor skills include: filling the water bowl, grooming Ike, putting his leash on before recess, and brushing Ike's teeth


-Playing fetch with Ike at recess is great for their gross motor skills!

-My students love to practice their writing and fine motor skills by writing Ike's name and drawing pictures of him!

-Rubbing Ike with their feet is great sensory input!

-Ike gives students sensory input and physical therapy by giving massages!

-Ike works with our students on their range of motion by motivating them to reach for him and pet him.

-Ike models bowling for my students on community based instruction trips.


-Ike gives my students great comfort during rest time and when students are getting PT and stretching.


If you have fun and innovative ways of incorporating a working dog into your classroom, PLEASE share them with me!

Check our these great resources for more information:
Canine Companions for Independence's Facility Dog Handbook
Canine Assisted Therapy and Remediating Reading
Animal-Assisted Therapy in Counseling and School Settings
Who let the dog in? How to incorporate a dog into a self-contained classroom

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Back to School- Creating a Culturally Responsive Classroom

With so many ELLs (English Language Learners) in my classroom, it's important for me to create an inviting environment for all of my students and their families, especially those who come from a different cultural background than me. I'm sharing a few tips to help make your classroom welcoming to all students:

Label classroom objects in English/Spanish (or another language spoken by students):
Any classroom item I label in English, I also label in Spanish. It will help my ELLs to learn English, but it can also help my English-speaking students to learn Spanish words.

Decorate your classroom with maps:
Although I don't have a picture of it, you can label all the places on a map that students have traveled, where students were born, or where they have family living.




Display classroom rules/ school values in a variety of ways to reach all students (pictures, English, Spanish, etc.). If you're having trouble developing classroom rules, check out this post for tips.
You can purchase a set of classroom rules in English and Spanish and with picture supports here.






International Cooking:
An easy and fun way to incorporate international learning is through cooking. Students love to cook (and eat!) and it is a great opportunity to teach students important functional skills. Before each cooking lesson, we find the country where the dish is from and label it on our map, which ties in social studies and geography. Sometimes we even look at different pictures of that country and people from the country. We cook an international dish at least once a month. Coming soon: I will post an entire adapted cookbook of international recipes! 

Let me know if you have any tips for creating a culturally responsive classroom!
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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Setting up independent work stations

It's important to give students opportunities to work completely independently, it increases their self-esteem and allows classroom staff to have a chance to work with other students who have higher needs.
Independent work time should be highly structured and students should only be working on tasks that they have 100% mastered. Here are links to task examples that my students typically work on during this time.
Task Book Ideas
Task Box Ideas
Task Box Ideas Continued
Task Boxes 2
Math Task Boxes

I love independent work time, because when some students are working independently, my paras and I have time to work 1:1 with our students who have more severe disabilities. During this time, we re-position students in wheelchairs, provide sensory stimulation, give them switch toys to play with, or anything else they might need.


"We can statements" are displayed for people who come to our room to visit. The chart explains how the boxes are labelled. Pieces are in bags to easily change the labels on boxes and tasks on student's cards. 
The shapes indicate the subject (math, literacy, and fine motor) of the box. The color indicates the level of the box (I did a level 1, 2, and 3).
Student work space. The tasks cards change daily. Students are expected to find the boxes that match their task cards. 

Note: The work stations in my classroom will likely look VERY different than one set up in a classroom only for kids with Autism. I have students in my classroom with a variety of levels and disabilities, so the structure may look different. 

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