Monday, February 25, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Preposition Bingo

screenshot of older Bingo game.  Use tokens with the new one below too.

I went through a Bingo phase a few years ago, and thought I would revisit it.  This time it's with shamrocks, rainbows, leprechauns, and pots of gold. Print, laminate and play.  There are three playing cards, and you can use the loose pictures as the 'call cards'.  The children take turns picking a call card and describe it.  ("The pot of gold is on the table."  "The rainbow is over the house.")  Each child puts a chip or token or whatever you have on the appropriate picture.  These are made with Smarty Symbols through a commercial license that I purchased.

You can purchase this along with other St. Patrick's Day items for a modest price on Teachers Pay Teachers.  

Go here to get it.
Directions and vocabulary to pre-teach

with son Ben
wet, cold, done
 I actually ran in our local 'Shamrock 5k' two days ago.  The weather was miserably wet and chilly, but me and about 400 others showed up.  Most of the runners appeared to be on the UNC cross country team, or diehard racers.  I ended up near the end of the pack, but I still finished! 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tips for Inclusion---a letter to teachers

Teaching in a regular education classroom is a monumental task.......and I've never done it. I admire anyone who does! My own kids have had great teachers over the years, and I've worked with many gifted educators, watching them practice their craft in total awe.  Many teachers at my school have embraced inclusion providing children both with and without disabilities an enriching and rigorous school experience.

That being said, I've also worked in the public schools since 1987, and have observed several "not-so-wonderful" inclusion moments.  Since my passion is teaching children with disabilities, and I promote inclusion when possible, I've seen outstanding mainstreaming, and I've seen practices that make me cringe.  The following letter to my teacher friends is a short incomplete list of thoughts that appeared in the forefront of my mind tonight. 
Dear teacher, friend, educator,

Today you will meet my student---a wonderful child who also happens to have a disability.  A group of professionals who work with the student, and the child's parents, have determined that the child needs to be included with his peers in your classroom for most of the school day. You and the child are about to embark on a one-year journey together---one in which you both will be challenged in many different ways, but you both will also marvel at moments of success, laughter, and joy. 

To help you out, here are some hints to make this inclusive experience the best it can be:

1.  Please read the child's IEP.  If it's not handed to you, seek it out from your special education department.  Make sure you read it in its entirety since the child's special education services and classroom accommodations are legally required.   You may need to advocate for implementation of these services.

      One teacher I heard about didn't know speech therapy services were on the IEP.  She could have advocated for the child to receive what he was legally entitled to rather than letting the year go by with nothing.

2.  Make a plan to meet the child briefly before the school year starts.  Let the child and parents come in to see your classroom, seating arrangement, schedule, and your happy demeanor.
      A visit before the school year begins will help to alleviate anxiety both with the child and the child's parents. Some energetic souls even take the time to make picture books of various people and classrooms in the school for the child.

3.  Please post a helpful schedule.  This helps the child, but also helps adults who come in to work with the child in this inclusive setting.

     When I go into one particular classroom for reading workshop to work with a student, I never know what is going on.  I have to ask an assistant, or other students.  The schedule is never posted and often not consistent from day to day.  A posted schedule for reading workshop for each day would help. If I can't figure out the schedule, my language impaired student can't either!

4. You may want the child to have his own personal schedule.  You can ask his special education teachers, speech pathologist, or other EC person to help make one.

Child's personal schedule

5.Don't group all of the children with disabilities together for things like Reader's Theater or Partner Reading.  Don't put them all at the same table, and don't group them together on field trips.  The goal is inclusion, and having typical peer models.

     The Reader's Theater groupings actually made me really speak out---this was a public display of the old-school tracking system.   It's totally the wrong message for all the kids in that class.

6. Watch this video entitled Including Samuel.  This is a preview of a longer documentary about inclusion. It's only 10 minutes, and worth every minute.  I've shared this movie link with parents of children with disabilities, and they cried.  

I could probably write about 25 more tips, but that will be for a later time since this is a simple blog and not a textbook.  Inclusion is about acceptance, individualizing, creativity, and some planning.  Use the resources at your school (your special education folks) and advocate for what the child is entitled to on his IEP.  You and the children in your classroom will form a community where everyone will thrive.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Dog's Colorful Day---free printables to go with this adorable book

Happy Presidents' Day!   I really think I can learn to enjoy 4 day work weeks.  No problem!

Ideas galore, but impractical at the moment
During my day off, I've discovered a new book I'd like to try with the kids but didn't have visuals for it. The book is Dog's Colorful Day, and is reviewed here on All4MyChild.

A quick search on the internet revealed myriad ideas for visuals---but a lot of the ideas called for flannel, or pompoms, or fabric in nine different colors.  Did I really want to drive to Joanne's Fabrics in Durham, and make 9 individual purchases?  It seemed both time consuming and expensive, so I've created my own using a scanner, a photo editor, and Boardmaker.

 First of all, let me say that this book is about an adorable puppy who adds one colorful spot at a time.  Key concepts are colors, counting 1-10, cause and effect, sequencing, and other things depending on the child. 

   I've scanned in the dog, added boardmaker icons for colors, numbers, the cause of the color, and clean/dirty.  Laminate the dog, cut out the color icons and laminate, add dots of velcro, and you have an instant manipulative activity to go with the book.  Use the other icons as boards to model counting, answering questions and commenting.  Whatever you want---just so you don't have to go shopping for materials!   Have fun!

Click here to download the icons and dog in Boardmaker

Click here to download the icons and dog in pdf

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Memories fade, but do they ever go away?

Tomorrow is President's Day, and it's also an anniversary of a day a long time ago that lurks in the back of my mind, always.  My mother died on February 18, 1961.  I was four.

I often wonder where life would have led me had she never developed a brain tumor---completely different than what I know now.  My dad, after her death, remarried and then had three more kids, making a new life for himself and for me.    Life is what it is.

I've heard people say that children really don't remember events when they are young--I'll counter that with the fact that I DO remember, and a traumatic event such as a death, abuse, homelessness, a move, or an illness will stay with a child forever.  Hopefully, the traumatized child will be resilient enough to move beyond the event as he or she gets older, but I work with lots of kids who need extra boosts and a listening ear from caring grownups.

There's no moral to the story here.  This is part of me, and helped make me into who I am.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rainbow Hats---printable book with icons (beginning unit on attributes)

I'm over Valentine's Day.  Our school system has outlawed cooking or handling food in class, so no Valentine's Toast, or Friendship Hearts for us!  In addition, there's a nutrition policy which is great, but makes traditional valentine junk food taboo!  I do have a few items posted which don't involve food, but my brain is empty of further ideas.  In addition, many of my children either have conflicting religious beliefs or are from other far away countries or refugee camps, so Valentine's Day is really not within their realm of existence.  Maybe it's really not functional for many of my children.  I can live with that---personally I don't acknowledge the day much in my house, so why all the hype?

I've moved on!   I've posted many books about prepositions, and a great many on verbs.  My next few postings will be attributes (adjectives), starting with simple---super simple.  The constant is the noun, and the attributes are colors.  I found a very funny hat book on Tarheel Reader.  The book is not my creation, and you can go here to view it online.  I did download it, and made Boardmaker icons if you would like the kids to match them. 
My goals for my EC class are to:
  • attend to the book
  • use the language of book reading (e.g. 'turn the page!' 'I see a ___' 'Cool!')
  • match the icons to the pictures
  • produce a two word utterance
  • have fun trying on and labeling the attributes of the hats I bring in! 
I'll be posting more about attributes, and getting more complex, so stay tuned! In the meantime, if you like this, download the book, laminate it, download the icons, cut them up and laminate, and use velcro for assisting with the matching activity.  If you can't laminate or velcro (as in not having the resources), then kids can match without those.  I do that frequently.    Have fun!  Bring in hats from home!

 Download "Rainbow Hat Book" here.

Icons from SmartySymbol, google draw, and Pixabay are in this board which is the last page of the downloadable book.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Speech/OT groups---there's a method to my madness

I totally love my EC classrooms.  These are classes where the children can not function independently in a regular education classroom and need more intensive small group instruction.  Most of the children struggle with functional communication.  I realize that some school systems mainstream (include) everyone. Our system does not and this blog entry is not a statement about the benefits of either setting----These kids are on my caseload so I collaborate with the EC teachers and try to do many of my sessions in their rooms. The teachers need to see what I do!  

Every Friday, the OT and I lead a group in the primary EC classroom.  This group is always centered around a monthly theme, and has a literacy component, a fine motor component, and a 'fun' (otherwise known as a pragmatic language) component.  I can say it's totally fun. There's lots of laughter both from kids and adults---if the activity isn't reinforcing, then who would want to communicate about it?

So, here is the method to my madness---an outsider looking in might see a lot of chaos.  I actually have a schedule and structure to every group (plus IEP goals in my head for each kid).  With the help of my incredibly talented graduate student clinician and our OT, here is the latest session:

1.  Schedule:  We made a schedule (written and drawn) with the children.  In this case, the events were video, book, spider craft, and spider web.  We list the items on paper, and have kids each item off as we complete it.  The first item which was a Youtube video was a 50 second Itsy Bitsy Spider Song which was just to grab their attention to the theme (spiders).

2.  Literacy:  If you read my blog at all, you know that I adapt books.  Sometimes I even make them up.  Today, however, we used an Eric Carle book---The Very Busy Spider. You all know this book---repetitive, simple vocabulary, and easy to adapt.    You can find simple pictures to use with this book lots of places, and in the past, I've even used Beanie Babies to go with it.
If you have Boardmaker, hop on over to Boardmaker Share for this ready made board with all the icons.

3. Fine Motor Activity    Today, our fab OT had the kids make paper spiders.  You will notice the notebook on the right.  We are working on the kids using more core vocabulary words when communicating.  One child's communication book has a consistent core page on the left---and activity specific vocabulary on the right.  We add core words regularly along with new content pages, and with modeling and practice, he's communicating better all the time! 

4. Fun  Once the spiders were made, the kids made a group spider web by throwing a yarn ball across a big piece of bulletin board paper.  This was actually a great turn-taking activity and a way to teach attention-getting, calling a name, throwing, catching, participating.....   We had a page in our notebook of all of the children's and adults' pictures, so the kids could select who they wanted to throw the yarn to next.  After each throw, the yarn was taped down.  The spider web which resulted was perhaps not a perfect, symmetrical one, but it certainly was the kids' work!

5. Result   I thought this was adorable, and the classroom teacher proudly hung it on the wall outside the classroom.

Just to sum this all up, I love working with other professionals, and these groups are the highlight of my week.  The activities are not the goal---it's all about the process during the activities---naming vocabulary, requesting items, turn-taking, commenting, the list goes on, with the objectives varying with each student.

I have to give credit where credit is due----my graduate clinician planned and implemented a lot of this lesson---her first time for this group!   She'll make a wonderful SLP someday!  

 Happy Groundhog's Day!!!