Saturday, October 10, 2009

Northern Ireland Curriculum: Severe Learning Difficulties Thematic Units

Nic_logo A while back, I posted about transition portfolios.  Since then I've joined forces with the other Learning Assistance Program teacher in our division (very small division) and we have started working on gathering resources and information related specifically to transitioning in our area.  This will help me narrow things down a bit more and get these transition portfolios more focused.  

As is so often the case with me, while doing research I come across so many other things that springboard a whole host of other ideas.  This is what this post is about.  While exploring the Northern Ireland Curriculum website, I came across some great thematic units that have been put together for students iwth Severe Learning Difficuluties that address topics that are important for students who are transitioning in to the community to have exposure to.  Immediately I see many ways to incorporate some of these things in to our program and I thought I would share some thoughts... 

This section is about the issues that face all us in day to day living.  The units all include a PDF document iwth activity ideas as well as printables that include Boardmaker symbols.  Some of the units also include Power Points and/or Online Activities.  The units in this section include "Energry Exploration", "Houses and Homes",  "Money Matters", "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" and "Weather Watchers". 

I'm planning to use several of the ideas from the "Weather Watchers" unit during our morning gathering time when we are talking about weather.  Its one of those resources that once you see the different things you can explore you start to question why you spend so much time on just the type of clothing one would wear in a specific type of weather.  I am hoping to post more soon about how we are incorporating this in to morning meetings.

The units are "Energy Exploration" and "Reduce, Reuse, Recyle" just seem to be information that we should be passing on to all students as responsible citizens in our world.  Our students already are very active in these areas in our school/classroom but sometimes we just get to the doing part of it and forget about taking the time for the becoming informed part of it.  My guess is with everything else that I'm trying to get off the ground that this will be something to save for a later time.

Finally I would like to take the last two units ("Houses and Homes" and "Money Matters") in this section and modify them so that some of the activities can go in to transition portfolios.  Many of the students that I'm working with on this are still 4 to 5 years from exiting the program but as they get closer I would like for them to exposed to some adult housing options and be able to be a part of decision making processes.  As for the money end of things it also seems important to start to think about making decisions as to how money is spent.
We have done several similar activities to those in these sections. I can see ideas from all three units that I can incorporate in to our transition portfolios as we go through the highschool years.  Tons of good information on choices and awareness related to one's body, relationships and other choices that will come up in teen and adult years.  The three units in this section are "My Body", "Becoming a Teenager", and "My Choices Now".  Again these are units that I will need to do some thinking on and figure out how we will incorporate these concepts in to a transition plan that occurs over the last years that a student is in our program.
Some the information in these ones are a bit on the "overload" side for many of the students in our classroom.  All the same, the ideas are great.  A couple of areas that I want to put in student's portfolios are related to "preferences" and "personal traditions" so there are some ideas in the units "Festivals" and "Clothes Conscious" that can be adapted to allow for this.  The unit "Helping" actually fits nicely in to our religion curriculum as I try to instill in the students a sense of helping those in need.  There are things that our students can do to take on the "helping" roll and I think its important to remember to teach them this.  Finally, "The World on my Plate" unit again has some ideas that will help supplement the things that we are already doing in the area of food choices, shopping and preparation.  This would also aide in the "preferences" section of portfolios.
The first two units on this page ("Taking Part" and "Where in the World") are not ones that I'm going to find overly relevant to my students as we do our own work related to our school and classroom rules and also where our school is in the world. 

The third unit titled "What's Out There?" has a few good ideas for exploring the community.  I especially like the idea of exploring "sights, sounds and smells" in the community rather than just looking at the services, structures and buildings that are in one's community. Lots of great stuff in this book that will be a springboard for student's developing a profile for various sections of their transition portfolios. 

The final unit "Who's Who?" again has a couple of springboards for our transition portfolios related to a student defining who they are and what is unique about them.  It also gives a beginning step to look at jobs by looking at the different people who work around the school and what their jobs are.
Overall some really great ideas in these units.  Like so many other things, they need some modifications to allow for the needs of students in our classroom but they are still great ideas and it is pretty easy to imagine making these changes.  As I've begun digging in to create portfolios more I'm realizing that there is a whole lot more to it than just putting a binder togethre as there is a lot of material that needs to be presented and experiences that need to happen in conjunction with putting the portfolio together.  These are things we have been incorporating all along but it will be nice to start to streamline it a bit more while I work on putting this whole concept together over the next couple of years.

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