Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday's Weekly Comments

Christmas CBI on The Autism Teacher: I love the idea of going through the whole process of making cards and then sending them out through the mail.  I'm filing this idea away to use next year :).

Saturday, December 26, 2009

PCI Environmental Print: My First Reactions are Positive

PCIenvirogif I have not yet had a chance to use these materials with my students but have spent a bit of time in the past week since it was delivered taking a look at it and I'm excited to try it out in our room.  I think it will work great for several of our students and also feel confident that I could use it for the whole class if that is the way I wanted to use it.  Right now I'm looking at using it with 4 students over the next year or so. 

I will know more about it as I start to use it but right now some of the things that I'm really like about it include:
Characters in the stories are teenagers or young adults (in assisted work placements).  Love this as the students I'm using it with are also teenagers or young adults.  It is hard to find print material that is this basic in content that is also age appropriate.

Non-verbal response activities: the curriculum includes a response matt (that would be easy enough to make as it just has "yes", "no" and "I don't know" on it but all the same its nice to already have it) and response cards for questions.  So, for example when you ask the question "What was the story about?" there are response cards and you can grab out two of them that have someone bowling and someone swimming on and the student would indicate which one the answer is.  Love this as so many of my students are non-verbal and this cuts down on the time that I have to spend making response cards.
The content is applicable to the "real world".  When working on things like comprehension questions you are also working on community safety awareness, functional vocabulary, community concepts...etc.  It is easy to reference this stuff back to my student's life.

There are many opportunities for community outings worked in to the curriculum as one of the lessons is to go out in to the community and find thes signs.  I like that the signs are grouped in a way that you would be able to find the group of signs in one location. 

I like the way of the concept of "title", "main idea", "main character" and "location" are worked in.  The features of the main character could be a bit more varied but the concept is there.
Some of my initial thoughts on things that I would like to see or things that I'm concerned about include:
"Walk" and "Don't Walk" on traffic lights are not included.  I understand this is the first level of the curriculum but I would rank these signs as some of the first ones that should be taught.  The concept of a traffic light is not even addressed in regards to red meaning stop, green meaning go...etc. 

It would be nice to have some sort of switch adapted materials to go along with this curriculum - a switch activated book, a power point, some kind of switch activated response program...etc.

Some of the signs are signs that will not always be the same in the same location (please wait to be seated for example) and there could be  a level of confusion there.  I will be taking pictures of a variety of similar signs to show students that these can be different.  I have not yet looked ahead enough to see if the curriculum addresses this or not.  They may already have it covered.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wednesday's Weekly Comments

Anybody else curious? on SMD Teacher blog: I have been looking at this curriculum for a while now and am really hoping that someone who has tried it with our population will respond.

Dish drying... on Teaching Learners With Multiple Special Needs blog: Always great to see ways that other people are using switches as you can never have too many ideas for switch use :).

Monday, December 21, 2009

One of my first experiences with teaching was when I was a teenager working for the summer as a lifeguard.  I was assigned to teach swim lessons and had to figure out how to teach young children to float.  Floating is an interest "skill" to teach as it is not really a "skill" at all because a child will pretty much naturally float as soon as they become comfortable in the water.  It was the first time I came face to face with the importance of environment and approach when teaching.  I had to set up an environment where the child felt safe and encouraged and then suddenly they were floating!  Fear and negativity had no place in the world of learning to swim.
I've carried this lesson with me through my years of teaching and have been amazed over and over again what students can accomplish when you assume competence and ensure feelings of belonging, love and aonfidence. 
This week I stumbled upon the website "The Fun Theory" and it reminded me again of how important what we do as educators in regards to setting up our classrooms and learning activities is.  I'm posting one of my favorite videos from this site.  There are many more worth checking out :).

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I have been going through a period of struggle/growth recently as it has become evident to me that it is time to make some big changes to how our classroom is run. I have really seen the need to establish more consistency in the programming of the students and therefore have made some big plans to make this happen.

In the past I have rotated our staff through all of the students and have worked myself in to this rotation to ensure that the students are pretty much working 1 to 1 all day long. It has become evident to me that I can no longer work with a student all day and coordinate everyone's program and ensure consistency in staff approach when they are rotating to new students. I have decided to take myself out of the rotation and just do "coordination" types of tasks during the day. I will still work with students as needed. The other thing that I've thought a lot about for next year is to break the students in to two groups and have staff only rotate through 4 or 5 students instead of rotating through 8 or 9 as that will help with the consistency end of things. Rotating staff is still important to me. Its just that I need to rethink the best way to do it in regards to our students. I'm also seeing that we have two different sets of needs in our classroom and am feeling like we may need to specialize staff in to those two areas as the crossover becomes a bit of a exercise in major changes to approach.

The physical lay out of our classroom is also evolving. One third of our class now falls on the autism spectrum and I'm seeing a real need to eliminate sensory input and to more clearly define spaces in the classroom. With the concept of changing staff rotations, I have defined three individual programming areas for the three groups of three students that we will have in the new schedule. I'm currently taking measurements for curtains and rods so that we will be able to divide these areas during work time. This will eliminate distractions for both students and staff as I'm also finding with myself and seven learning assistants in the room that staff on-task time can become an issue. During group times, we can pull the curtain back. One of the other things that has prompted this changes is the fact that our school board is paying to add some extra tracking from our bathrooming area (which already has tracking) to about half of our classroom. This area will now be redefined as work space for the students who need the tracking and it will make their programs run much more efficiently :).

In the middle of all this I'm seeing the need to get a better outline of student's programs in their programming binders so am spending time this holiday getting that together.

Its going to be a lot of work but I'm excited to see where it goes. Over the holidays, I am hoping to work on and post information about the following: 
  • Lunch program that I'm working on for one of my students (which will hopefully expand to be other students over time). I posted a bit about this already but will be putting together and posting a bunch of materials over the next little while. 
  • Environmental Print Curriculum that I have just gotten and will be using with several of our students starting in January. It looks great and I'm really excited to use it. Very appropriate and some great modifications for my students already in place. 
  •  Change to Morning Routines that we will be doing come January. I have decided to do more individual work with morning routines as it just seems to work better. I will be posting the new materials that I'm working on for this. 
  • General information about our new schedule. More information on our Community Experiences and Community Recreation programs that were stalled due to down time with pandemic issues and transitioning of students into the program. 
  • Changes to news-2-you approach. Although we are still using it, I'm finding that it is not really driving our programming as we have so much else going on. 
I will post about the changes and plans for using it in the new year. Never a dull moment in our room. I constantly feel like there is so much more to learn and do in this job (which for me is a good thing). With that, I'm off to spend some time with my son as he has just gotten up.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Functional Curriculum Resources Review Document

Just wanted to share this document that I stumbled across the other day.  Its a list of a lot of different resources to develop a funcitonal curriculum broken in to the categories general texts, planning, life skills, social skills, personal care, sexuality, transition, and academics (math, science, social studies, language arts, combined academics, general academics).  One of the things that I really like about the document is that it has one section that tells you what population the resources is intended for.  I haven't gone through it in too much detail but have added it to my bookmarks for future reference.

Here is the link if you're interested in checking it out: Functional Curriculum Resources Review

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lunch Program: Ham Fried Rice Recipe

Over the next little bit I'm going to be building a recipe book for the lunch program that I mentioned below.  I thought I would start sharing the recipes that I'm using.  Note that I will print off double of the visuals so that we can use them to do things like make grocery lists and find needed items.  I will velcro a copy of each visual (for items and ingredients needed) on to the visual that is already on the page.  After a put up a few more recipes, I will include some pictures and explanations of how I'm running the program as right now its just a work in progress.
Note that recipe itself came from GFCF Recipe Website and the visuals used are either exact pictures of grocery items or Boardmaker symbols.