Tag Archives: special education

Combining Cooking and Technology

This spring, Katherine and I have been running a combined technology and cooking club. We’ve taken the cooking club that teaches children to navigate a recipe and we added technology as a way for them to share what they’re learning.

It’s a pretty big group of kids to manage in the kitchen, so having assigned jobs is a necessity. The are seven students, and we’ve broken the club up into the following jobs: recipe reader, three recipe mixers, videographer, photographer, and two bloggers. As we rotate through the jobs each week, Katherine and I manage different aspects and pick up the eighth job, as needed.

The kids absolutely love being involved with all the aspects of the club. We have been using the KidBlog platform, which has been awesome. They are so proud to write about and publish their experiences. It’s amazing to find a way to inspire the writers and cooks within them.

Strategies for Working with Students with Speech and Language Impairments

Structure, structure, structure!

This point cannot be emphasized enough. Have a schedule and stick to it. There are so many unexpected moments and aspects to our day. Social interaction, emotions, and other moments cannot be planned or necessarily expected. To relieve some of these anxieties, it is so critical to provide an environment that is organized, predictable, and dependable. Seating arrangements (with visuals!), visual schedules, consistent routines that become ingrained for each child, and clear expectations help to provide this type of environment. Once these routines become completely innate for the group, you will have the space and time to push them even farther. It creates an opportunity to raise the bar and hold your group to these expectations, once you have built that structured foundation for them.

Follow through

This ties in with the last point.  It is critical to always follow through with anything you say whether it is a consequence or a promise. Building a trusting relationship with the children is one of the most important things a teacher can do. When a child sees you follow through, whether it is with a positive reinforcer or a less than desired consequence, that shows the child that you mean what you say and they can trust that. Establish this early and do your best to remember how important it is to give children many opportunities to trust in your words and actions. It also means that you have to carefully choose what you say and know that you will follow through with it.

Make a visual

Visuals can be so helpful for communicating expectations. There are many different kinds of visuals you can make.

Visual schedule – A visual schedule is grounding for children. Knowing the plan for the lesson or day can help lessen anxiety and increase awareness of his/her world.

Visual routine – This visual is important for complex tasks with multiple steps. For example, a morning routine may include unpacking multiple items, washing hands, and beginning morning work. Remembering the steps can sometimes be a challenge.

Visual routine with a storyline – Sometimes the visual routine isn’t enough. In this case, you can create a visual that follows a storyline.

Incentive visual – An incentive visual is similar to a star chart for reinforcing positive behavior. The difference is that the incentive chart is personalized with the child’s interest. There is no big prize at the end; children just want to know that you notice positive behaviors.

All visuals should be goal oriented and the goal needs to be as concrete as possible. Avoid vague goals like paying attention or doing your best. Define what that means and the child will be able to rise to the occasion. For example, instead of saying pay attention, you can write: X is working on having his/her eyes on the teacher and keeping his/her brain in the group (this is language from Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking Program).

Write it out

Spoken language is fleeting and often goes in one ear and out the other. If the child can decode, write or type what you’re trying to communicate. Reading the message will help regulate the child. It also makes the message more concrete. Even if the child cannot read, you can write it and speak it as you write it. Then, you can read it back to them.

Drawing a simple picture to convey a situation that just occurred can also be helpful in both regulating the child, as well as aiding the child’s understanding of that situation. Drawing the people involved in the situation and using thought bubbles, or speech bubbles, can help clarify the reasons why a person might have done or said something resulting in an undesired situation.

Validate feelings

All feelings are important and valid– how they are expressed should be your teaching point. We all experience a range of emotions. As adults,  most of us have learned socially acceptable ways of expressing those feelings. New teachers often react to the action rather than the emotion behind it. Start by validating the child’s feeling: I would feel mad if someone knocked down my building, too. Most of the time,  the child will relax a little because he or she will feel understood. The next step is to talk about how it’s OK to feel the emotion, but there are options for how we can show the emotion. At this point, you can create a list of ways to choose from. Be sure to choose a variety of desired and undesired reactions, and ask the child what they think is the best way to express their emotions.

Settle arguments with new ways of expressing

As a teacher, you’re bound to have kids in your class who have different language rules at home. Create your own that will unite the group. This can happen with strategies for the calendar.  For example, countdowns to important dates,  some people count today and some people count the day of the event. In my class, we counted by how many more wake-ups there would be. The common, concrete language unified the group and made the strategy for counting number of days consistent.

Give sentence starters instead of only asking a question

Children are often trying to formulate their language. If you provide an open ended question,  and you see the child is unsure how to formulate a response, you can give a lead in. “I am mad because…”

If something isn’t working, rethink it!

If there is repetition, something is not sticking with the child. Think of another way to help them concretize the support or message you’re delivering to them. A visual, validation, written language – whatever works best for the child. Not only will they be able to fully process the language, they will be able to accept and utilize the support you are offering.

Be Transparent

Always have a reason for what you do and invite children to question the reasons. Be ready to explain why you’re giving them a specific direction, completing an activity, or doing a lesson with them. Never just respond, “Because!” If you don’t have a reason, ask yourself why you are doing it. The “why” questions help keep us on our toes and remember how important each lesson is; make it meaningful, deep, and and worth their time.

Maintain calm

Sometimes it’s hard to take a step back from an emotionally charged situation, but teachers, it’s part of our job to remain calm in even the most tumultuous situations. There are times when I find myself on the verge of responding to a situation based on my emotions alone, and I need to remind myself to take a deep breath (or several!) before rationally reacting. It’s also important to model the types of strategies we use to calm ourselves down in a frustrating situation. In fact, sometimes I will explicitly tell my students, “That makes me feel frustrated, and when I’m frustrated I might say something I don’t mean. I’m going to take a few deep breaths to help me calm down.”

This blog post was collaboratively written by Jess, Caitlin, and Katherine

 

 

Teacher turned DJ?

One topic that continues to be one of the bigger questions that I have as a teacher is “how to motivate those most difficult to motivate?” I’m not one to jump to providing stickers and other seemingly meaningless “rewards,” so I have been trying some different, more internally motivating practices with my class this year. As with most things in my classroom, what works for some students doesn’t work for others. (Keep in mind the “others” fall under the more challenging to motivate group).

I’ve been looking for hints, starting more conversations, and looking out for any clue of what I could use as an additional behavior / motivation system for my kids.

One Friday afternoon, I had a light bulb moment. As I watched my students jump, dance, and belly laugh while enjoying a dance party accompanied by Kidz Bop radio, I realized I have a class of pop music loving children. They bond and converse about their favorite artists, top iTunes songs, and hum these, sometimes unfortunately, catchy pop songs.
Ding ding ding! Why not use this as a motivator? After some research and logistics, I have purchased an iPod shuffle for my class.

My next problem was developing a concrete, organized behavior system to go along with it. Here’s what I came up with:

goals for blog

Each child has an individual goal that they were a part in creating. Every day all of my students have the opportunity to earn one check towards that goal. The goals are completely differentiated and match exactly what that one child is working especially hard on right now.
At the end of the day I have a “check in” with each child. I let them know whether or not they earned a check for the day and then provide a specific and clear example of why they did or did not receive their check. This 30 second meeting has been meaningful, eye opening, and a safe place where that child and I can talk honestly about what they are working at becoming stronger with.
4 checks equate to the ability to request a song. In order to support their writing and reasoning skills, they must write their song request down. They include the song and artist as well as the reason why they want this song on the class iPod. Once teachers okay the lyrics and content, it will then be added to our iPod.
Now once they get 5 checks (one more than the requirement for a song request) they can earn iPod time in which they can listen to our class playlist.

ipod request for blog

So far this has been a great system. It feels great to completely differentiate their goals and have them work hard towards a fun reward.

Best of all the students who I typically am racking my brain over how to motivate are soaking this up. They are visibly working at their goal, seeking out teachers to help them achieve their goal, and eagerly engage in those end of the day check in conversations to see if they received a check.

And if it couldn’t get any better, my kids now help me stay on top of the coolest and most fun pop songs. Just another teacher perk. 🙂

Asking for Support

Dear followers, A fellow writer and educator is going to be running a 5k to raise money for her school. I agreed to be a team member to help reach as many people as possible to support the school and cause. 

Here’s a note from her:

Many of you have supported me in the past and some of you are new invitees to my circle of supporters. I will be running in two races in the near future for my cause. The first one, which will take place in less than two weeks, is the 13.1 mile race that many of you sponsored last year, but I became injured and sadly was not able to run. As promised, I am running in a half marathon on Sunday, March 16.

The second race will  be on May 10th and is a special run/walk dedicated entirely to the Lucy Daniels Center in honor of National Children’s Mental Health Month. It is for this special event that I am asking for your support.

Show your support here:

http://www.crowdrise.com/insideout5k/fundraiser/jenniferreid

I strongly believe that the combined efforts of many are what make the biggest difference in our world.

I guarantee that your help today will make a difference in a young child’s life.

Why do I ask for money for this cause every year?

Every year, I witness the pain a child feels when he is scared and doesn’t feel understood. I see what happens when children are overwhelmed with emotions that affect their capacities to make friends, learn, play, and do things that many of us have taken for granted… things as simple as venturing off for a day in kindergarten. This is what I do. This is my cause. Please help ensure that children receive the care they deserve.

Please make a donation today:

http://www.crowdrise.com/insideout5k/fundraiser/jenniferreid

More info from Lucy Daniels Center:

The Lucy Daniels Center has been working on the forefront of children’s mental health awareness, bringing positive emotional change to thousands of children and their families from the inside out. We are proud to be the largest and most comprehensive children’s mental health agency in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Join us on May 10, 2014 in celebration of National Children’s Mental Health Month as we walk to help ensure that help and hope are available for those in need. Please join us as we improve young lives and our communities one step at a time. Every journey begins with that first step!

Thank you for your time and your generosity.

 

 Please remember:

·         All donations are 100% tax deductible.

·         1 in 5 children in the US have a diagnosable mental health challenge. Most do not receive help and are alone with their troubles.

·         All levels of support and the generosity of donors help ensure that children receive help and services early in life. No donation is too small. It all adds up.

Thank you so much for all of your support! 

Image Libraries for Digital Citizenship Lessons

Working to integrate technology into classrooms has been so incredible. With the fifth grade group, I’m working on building general computer fluency skills as well as a deeper understanding of the integrity of their work. Through mini-lessons and research assignments, I’ve taught them how to legally find pictures that can be used for their projects.

Here are the image libraries I used:

Wikimedia Commons is great for finding photos to accompany written work.

Find Icons is a fun site with great icons for free.

Edupics is great for coloring pages for younger grades and images for lessons. I have also used this site as a visual dictionary.

Pics4learning is also great as an image dictionary and great for finding pictures for presentations.

Next time this group is in the computer lab, they’re going to find images related to the curriculum and related to their interests. They have demonstrated that they can easily find pictures on their own online, but they had no idea that there were laws surrounding pictures. This is such an important skill for them to have; I’m looking forward to seeing how they do with this project and how well they are able to generalize the idea.

Meet Katherine

It’s been a long road that led me to a career in teaching. Throughout college, and for several years after graduation, I sought the answer to that elusive question of “what I wanted to do with my life.” After several unfulfilling jobs, I felt the desire to do something more meaningful with my time. As a result, I began volunteering as a tutor at an after school reading program. After years of searching for the right profession, the meaningful moments I found when tutoring were when it finally “clicked” that teaching children is what I wanted to do with my life.

Wary of making yet another career change, I began taking classes at Bank Street College of Education, just to test the waters, but it wasn’t very long until I was hooked. Nearly three years later I find myself with a Master’s degree in General and Special Education from Bank Street. For the past year and a half I have been teaching 2nd grade at The Parkside School, a self-contained school for children with a variety of speech and language impairments.

I was drawn to Parkside because of its philosophy to educate the whole child. I aspire to create a learning environment that supports the diverse learning needs of my students. I believe it is crucial to play off of students’ strengths in order to provide the ideal learning context for each individual student. I feel so lucky to be teaching at a school with so many amazing students; every day I am awed and inspired as my students rise to overcome the challenges they face. I hope that I can continue to grow in my practice, as well as find new ways to engage and support my students. I come to the blogging world with hopes to both reflect on my experiences, as well as learn from the experiences of fellow teachers.

What It Takes to Be A Teacher

When I tell people what I do and who I teach, they say, “Wow, you must have a lot of patience.” I nod and smile and say, “It’s understanding I have.” There’s an article I read in graduate school that has had an incredible influence on who I am as a teacher– I even remember the professor who assigned it. “Food for Thought. Patience or Understanding?” was written by Nancy Weber-Schwartz in 1987 with the conviction that good teachers aren’t patient, they understand the whole child.

I follow this, as is evident in a few of my previous posts– it’s my mantra as a teacher. Don’t get me wrong, I have felt frustrated working with children. When I do, I step back and reflect, sometimes catching eye contact with another adult in the room to indicate I need a minute away. In these times of frustration, finding different ways to approach the situation is imperative- I make a visual for the next time, chat with the student when he or she is not upset, or make an incentive plan based on the child’s goals. Knowing exactly what impacts a child’s ability to complete a task or follow a direction is key to providing the necessary support for the child to be successful. Providing the support is what makes a good teacher.

Good teachers who work with toddlers understand that they touch everything because they are curious and discovering their world, so they give them the tactile input they need. Good teachers who work with teenagers understand that their rebellion is something to be embraced, so they ignore the fact that they were late and instead give them a reason to be on time. Good teachers who work with children with special needs discover patterns of behavior, so they can preempt behaviors with necessary support. All of these good teachers have something in common; their work is centered around understanding the child.

Stemming from what can sometimes be crippling compassion and understanding, there’s a high level of dedication and follow-through that good teachers have. Sometimes this follow-through means dreaming about the classroom, not being able to sleep at night, working late and early hours, needing multiple venting sessions in a day, and needing someone else to tell them it’s time to take a break from school. If school schedules didn’t dictate vacations, teachers would rarely take the time for themselves. Most of the teachers I know drag themselves to work when they’re sick because they are overridden with guilt if they miss a day.

I think about the perspective required to understand teachers, and there are few outside the profession who have it. Unfortunately, the ones who really don’t understand are the ones making decisions in schools. Successful teachers aren’t measured the way they should be. Schools get graded based on text scores and test score improvements, not on actual growth of the children. What will it take for our system to recognize what we’re doing to both teachers and students?