Tag Archives: visuals

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

 

 

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.

Adapting a Chocolate Factory

“Can we have homework on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?” – This sentence shaped the last 3 months of my reading group. One of my students, who can be difficult to engage, actually requested a story and homework to go with it! I said yes immediately, and so began the adaptation phase of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Because this story is so incredible, yet very language heavy, I knew that it would require a lot of work, but that the outcome would be completely worth it. This is a magical story that can lend itself to so many goals I have for my group — inferencing, sequencing, predicting, vocabulary, making connections.

I’ll spare you the long and painful details of the hours I spent rewriting the text, taking pictures of the images on my phone, emailing the pictures to myself, copying and pasting into word, and rereading about a dozen times. Here’s a quick shot of what the final outcome looked like.

Sure it took a lot of time and effort, but adapting a story is a pretty interesting experience. I tried my best to capture the same magical and enticing storyline that Dahl provides, while making the language more accessible to my readers.

       

For students who benefit from specific language supports to best make connections to and understand a story, I was able to word the story around those adaptations. Let’s face it, parts of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are a bit scary. Imagining enormous Augustus Gloop getting sucked up into a pipe makes me a little anxious! Let alone Violet turning into a gigantic blueberry. So instead of having my readers dive into these scary moments, I put a little language to it that they are familiar with. Instead of the characters disappearing into the factory, Mr. Wonka would say the following:

“You did not follow my directions! That makes me frustrated. You must now leave my factory.”

As silly as that sounds to anyone who has read Dahl’s version of the text, this type of safe language really let them open up to these characters who were making bad choices.

In addition to just adapting the text and adding familiar language, I tried to make the miraculous and magical aspects of Willy Wonka’s factory truly come alive for them, as best as I could. For instance, we read about the giant inventing machine that swirls amazing colors together to produce Everlasting Gobstopper’s. Since I couldn’t get my hands on one of those machines, we did a little experiment. We mixed milk, food coloring, and liquid soap and here is what we saw:

Before the dish soap was added:

After the dish soap was added:

So it’s not exactly the same magic that Roald Dahl created in his story, but it wasn’t too shabby for a group of four children and their teacher sitting in a tiny classroom. The “oohs” and “aahs” they produced while they watched the magic happen gave me goosebumps – oh the joys of a reading teacher!

Here are some other snapshots of what the “Charlie” section in the classroom looks like:

**Spoiler alert!** 🙂

   Sequence:

Characters:

      Settings:

Keeping track of who found a Golden Ticket and who had to leave the factory:      Noteworthy, goose-bumpy, reading teacher moments:

  •  The color experiment (try it out!)
  • Riding our own school’s elevator before doing a compare / contrast to the magic elevator
  • When Charlie found the last golden ticket. Before breaking down the language and the situation, all four students jumped up, danced, sang, high-fived, giggled, and celebrated. Amazingness!
  • Upon finishing a section of the book and hearing -”But I wanna keep going! Please don’t make me stop!!!”
  • Spontaneously using our Charlie vocabulary – “My hobby is feeding the ducks in Central Park! I am going to do that after school today with my babysitter!”
  • Watching my students dig through fake candy bars, and then seeing their reactions as they all pulled out golden tickets!
  • After lots of context clue practice, hearing one student say “I can be a vocabulary detective! I am going to figure out what this word really means!”

Red and Green Moments

Teachers are expected to notice everything that’s going well as well as calm what isn’t going so well. In graduate school, I was presented with a ton of theory about behavior management or classroom management, but I never felt I truly understood how to achieve it before I became a full-time teacher.  I was warned about how easy it is to constantly correct and redirect students and how important reinforcing positive behaviors is. The idea behind positive reinforcement is so logical… but how do I do it without making myself crazy? Without providing a practical way to manage a classroom of different personalities, I was sent off into the world of being a teacher. The way it’s presented in graduate school is that if teachers constantly reinforce positive behavior, then they won’t feel frustrated, annoyed, confused, or have any kind of negative feeling– and if you do have those feelings, then you must not be doing it right. Trying to verbally praise every child for every positive moment is nearly impossible, unless that is your only duty. So, here’s my story of how I came to discover the idea of green and red moments in my classroom.

First, I had a card system with four levels (green, yellow, orange, red). Each level had a meaning, and each child started off with green each day. Green meant best behavior, yellow meant first warning, orange meant second warning, and red meant a phone call home or the principal’s office. We would try to remember to switch it back to green if the day got turned around– not surprisingly, that never really happened. What this system missed was the times between the hard times when children were kind to each other or made an effort to try something that might be particularly hard. Worst of all, the children became color-coded, the behaviors escalated, and there was no room to fully understand the child or the root of the behavior. Obviously, it needed to be tossed– it needed a replacement.

Using what I have learned from the wonderful children, speech pathologists, social workers, occupational therapists, and other professionals I have worked with, my co-teacher and I developed a green moments versus red moments system.

How we presented it:

In the beginning of the year, there was a lesson where we taught the children the definitions of red and green moments. A red moment is a negative thought about a peer or a negative behavior that might upset someone– all people think these thoughts all the time, but we don’t say them out loud. A green moment is something said or done that makes someone feel great. Once the categories were taught, students wrote down red moments and green moments. We walked around the classroom with the large red construction paper and had the children place their red moments inside. We folded it in half like a hamburger, and each child stapled the paper closed. We recognized that the thoughts are there, and they need to be talked about– just not to the whole group. We gave them options like quietly talking to a teacher or talking about their red moments during private social work or speech appointments. The green moments are, of course, out in the open and on display.

Red and Green Moments

How to maintain it:

This year, my co-teacher and I decided to add another layer… Now, the children have individual charts so they can visualize the green moments they dish out all the time. The classroom community is quite amazing and they love giving each other green moments.

Individual Green Moments Chart

I’ve gone through a few behavior systems in my years of teaching, and I feel I’ve found the best one yet. Even so, it gets tweaked a little each year. This is a simple solution to reinforcing positive behaviors in class and putting the power in the child’s hands. Each year, it has changed slightly to make it more concrete, more accessible, and more exciting for the children in the class. To be completely honest, it also makes my job so much easier– I hope that writing about this will be helpful to someone else!

What do I tell a conference group?

So, this afternoon I’m hosting my student teacher’s conference group to show them my classroom and answer questions about teaching. I always get nervous right before I host a group– I want to give them thoughtful, helpful, and amazing advice that is practical for their teaching… So, how do impart what I know or the most important things I know about teaching in an hour long session.

Last time I hosted, I showed the prospective teachers my creative behavior plans. They were engaged and excited about it, but I wonder how much they think about that now. I wonder if they got my message that all children want to do well and can do well as long as they are given the right environment. Is it helping them now?

I guess we’ll see how it goes tonight… Reflections to come. Maybe I’ll also give them a few questions to answer that I can post later.

Classroom Management

by Bilal Kamoon
Photo credit: Bilal Kamoon

Classroom management sets bells ringing in most new educators’ minds. When the words spill off your tongue, your mind races to find out what that means– it means control without having control, order and emotions, productivity and creativity. How can you possibly create an environment that is managed and still find that individual flare? I can remember being so nervous about this when I first started teaching. My worry was that I wouldn’t be able to get them all to follow directions. Here’s a bit about what I’ve learned.

Creating a routine is one of the first steps to management. Predictability is helpful for children and adults alike. Once a routine is in place, there is more room for thinking about everything else. To get yourself (and your classroom) settled into a routine, first create a list of things that need to be done every day. For school, the list can include all of things you want to child to do independently each morning or afternoon; this can include items that need to go in and out of a backpack, independent work, etc. For home, this list can include snack, bathing, homework, brushing teeth, etc.

In the beginning, create a checklist or visual that reminds the child of the routine. Stick to your visual, and soon it will become automatic for the child (or your classroom). Motivation plays a key part in this– some children are capable of remembering the routine with the visual and some children need a little more support.

For more resistant children or a child with executive functioning or attention challenges, a more creative approach may be necessary to get those neurons firing. In the past, I have created story lines using children’s interests. Using the list of things they need to do, I’ve made a visual for them to do things like they’re more interested in. For example: freeing the tiger, getting the triceratops to the watering hole, or scoring a touchdown– all based on the child’s true interest to make the tasks more engaging and motivating (and you won’t need to repeat the same thing over and over again). Turning stressful times into a game or story has taken stress of both me and my students.

Laminating and using Velcro dots keep the visual intact and ready to use again and again. All visuals were made on Boardmaker.

Check out the visuals below:

Freeing the Tiger

The tiger moves from box to box until he or she is free from the zookeeper.

Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 11.09.26 AM

Getting the Triceratops to the watering hole

This visual has a triceratops that moves through each step of the routine until he or she gets to the watering hole.

Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 11.11.11 AM

Scoring a touchdown

This visual is great for the sports-interested child. He or she can move the player down the field to score a touchdown.

Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 11.10.23 AM

The child can also record when the tiger is caught by the zookeeper, when the triceratops goes to bed thirsty, or when the pass gets intercepted to squash the touchdown attempt. Keeping track can give the child a more enticing incentive, which leads to a feeling of accomplishment, a new sense of independence,  and increased confidence.

Writing has been a particularly difficult subject to teach. For one, there is so much that goes into writing a single sentence: idea formulation, subject-verb agreement, word choice, spelling, grammar rules, letter formulation, etc. It’s something that we take for granted as adults. Working with children who have language difficulties or delayed motor skills adds another layer of challenge. Writing just isn’t concrete enough to teach. For my first few years, we used editing checklists that had the dreaded “add more details” box for children to check. This year, I did some thinking about that box… How could I break it down and make writing, and especially editing, more meaningful to the children I’m teaching? Here’s what I came up with, and it’s working out well this year.

First, I scrapped the idea of an alphabetical word wall. We have very limited space on the wall, and I wanted the wall to serve more than one purpose. Plus, alphabetizing and scanning alphabetic lists is becoming an obsolete skill (we use search boxes). Many of the children I work with have difficulty comprehending the words they can decode, so we use a program called Visualizing & Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking® by Nanci Bell. I took the visuals we use for reading comprehension (made on Boardmaker based on the V&V program’s structure words), and posted them on the wall.

Next, I taught the class the parts of speech, starting with nouns. They generated their own lists of words. Having the children create the list meant that the list would be way more meaningful to them. After color-coding, printing, and laminating them, we put them up on the wall. The children problem-solved which categories made the most sense, and for the most part, we followed their lead. This exercise was helpful for them to understand that language is not concrete– sometimes words can be in multiple categories. If you have a reason, then that works. In doing this activity, we also added categories (or structure words) that aren’t in the program (person who, feels like). I also saved myself a lot of time after school.

We played games using the word wall like Hangman and our modified version of Scattergories. The kids got to know the word wall and learned to sort words by parts of speech and by meaning. The next step was to take it to the writing process. Thinking that the wall was enough support, we just referred them to the wall to add more details. As you can imagine, the same troubling thing happened: they were stumped and needed support to verbally break it down to: add three color words or four feelings words.

So, I created a checklist that made the idea of adding details less abstract and therefore, more independent. Using Boardmaker, I made miniature versions of the visuals on the wall with check boxes for how many times it should appear in their writing. It’s easily differentiated for the whole class. You can also easily add punctuation reminders and capitalization reminders to a list like this.

The most productive writing has come of this, and teaching them the breakdown of editing in a meaningful way helps solidify the skills that great writers have. It also frees up time to have more productive consultations with them about their writing.