Sunday, July 19, 2015

Adapting Books to Support Communication and Interaction

Tis' the season for excellent finds in the dollar bins at Target!  Among the many amazing school supplies, books, games, and flash cards, I found six excellent board books that I just couldn't pass up. 

First up this series of four flap books: Are These My Spots? Whose Ears are These? Who Makes that Sound,  and How Do I Move? 

I added simple aided language pages to support students in answering the questions in each story. 

Great for students who have limited verbal skills or are just starting to use complete sentences as the pages will aid them in expand their responses to phrases and shorts sentences.  Such as, "The frog makes that sound" or " A turtle has a shell."

Simply print the pages, laminate or packing tape them, and tape the edge of each page to the last page of each book.  You can then fold the page inside the back cover for storing purposes.

NOTE:  If you print on cardstock or mount to thin cardboard the aided
language pages will hold themselves up so students have access to
the words as they look at the books.

Next up, Disney Pixar's Inside Out Colorful Emotion.

I added sentence strips and a Velcro word bank for students to work on pronouns, colors, and emotions. A great set of concepts especially for a book that was only a dollar!

This time tape the cardboard to the edge of the front page so you can fold it inside for storing purposes and then tape a sentence strip on each page with words on it.

And for my last dollar bin treasure, Fisher Price's Little People Time to Count.

For this one, I simply added instructions and questions with a permanent marker. 

For example, on this page I asked the student to circle the wheels and circle how many oranges.  Like I have shared in a previous literacy workbox post all you need is dry erase crayons to make board books interactive!

That all for now!  Just a short post to make sure you didn't pass up these great finds at Target!

Happy reading and shopping, Lindy

Friday, July 10, 2015

How to Talk to Parents about Behavior Concerns

Recently I had the opportunity to guest post for PreK-Pages about how to have Tough Conversations with parents and guardians regard behavior and social concerns.  

Sometimes we can't even put our finger on what the concerns are, we just know that there are things that make the child stand out in the classroom, and behaviors and social corks that are worrisome as they embed the learning of the child and possibly their peers. 

In other situations, we witness significant behavior on a daily basis that sends chills down our backs and all we want to do is get help for the child and their family.   But as chilling as the behavior maybe, we know that it will be heart breaking to talk about with the family.   No parent or guardian wants to hear concerns about their child's behavior or inability to interact socially with peers.  We want our children to have friends and be the perfect little angels we dreamt them to be when we held them in our arms for the first time. 

With this sentiment in mind, in my Pre-K Pages guest post, I suggested that teachers stay objective and keep the emotions out of the tough conversations!  But this is easier said than done! Why? Because. . . 

So how do we stay objective, my suggestion on the guest post was through data collection, so I began searching for data sheets that shared behavior and social concerns in a practical way. As many of you know there are a variety of data sheets out there but I couldn't find exactly what I had in mind.  I wanted a form that serve the purpose of helping parents and staff reflect on the impact a child's behavior is having on the classroom or how a students behavior is different from their 'typically' developing peers. Which got me thinking with a little tweaking a form I created for one our TASN-ATBS's early childhood trainings could be just the ticket!

Here is how it works.  On page one list your students' names and their information: their date of birth, how old they are in months and years, how many years they have been in preschool, and if they are on an Individualized Education Plan. 

The order in which you write your students' names on page one will assign each student a number. NOTE: I encourage you to be a little random about how you list your students so there is no way parents can calculate where their child's peers are in the line up.  (For example they maybe able to do so if you write the students' names in alphabetical order by first or last name.)  

On page two fill in the activities that take place throughout your school day in the left hand column.  In this section, I encourage you to write every activity that might cause students trouble not just the major activities.  For example, activities that often cause students issues are transitions and wait times:  waiting their turn at the sink, preparing to go home, transition to school from home, cleaning up after play time, and lining up to come in from recess. 

In column two, write the expectations that go along with each activity.  For example, at arrival time students are expected to put their belongings in their cubbies, wash their hands, check their job and sign in, while during snack preparation they are expected to leave group when told, wait in line, wash their hands, get their snack materials and sit in their assigned seats.
(If you need more than one page to enter classroom activities feel free to click page three
in the document you will get access to at the end of this post.) 

Then in columns C through V, rate your students' performance as + for meets expectations, E for emerging, or - for does not meet expectations in each area under their assigned number.

(In the example above I choose to take data on two different collection days using the same form but
 different colors of ink, this strategy could be used to monitor progress over time and make adjustments as needed.) 
NOTE: This is not about sizing up one child against another.  All children progress and develop in different ways and at different rates.  There may be several three year olds and even some four year olds that do not meet all the expectations or are emerging in some areas.  For that matter, you don't even have to show ratings of other students, the expectations of each activity and the student of concern's ratings in each area will tell parents and guardians a lot. 

One thing you might considering adding to the bottom of page three is your classroom rules, because each activities' expectation as shared above do not directly address each classroom rule specifically, giving you just one more way to open conversations about following classroom rules, and using good manners with data instead of opinion statements

NOTE: These forms are not normed or formalized and should not be used for IEP data or student files.  They are just a teacher friendly way for you to think about what students are having trouble, in what areas and open some conversations and reflections about what parts of the day a child or children does really well with and what parts of the day are more challenging. 

If you do decided to show the whole chart, remember it is not about picking out the flaws of one specific student. It is about showing that the expectations and demands of the classroom are age appropriate as most students the child's age are able to perform the skills expected.  It takes the emotions out of it, showing data regarding the student's performance during different activities throughout the day in relation to same aged peers helps show the concerns you have and opens up a conversation about next steps. 

That being said if you choose to use this form to start a tough conversation be sure to close the conversation with next steps and a plan for helping children be more successful in the areas they are struggling.  You don't want parents to walk away feeling helpless or all along. 

If you need some ideas and strategies to help you with the planning process feel free to click on some of my favorites below or just do a little Considerate Classroom blog surfing.

Click here if you would like to download the Student Performance Assessment and let me know how it goes below. 

Best wishes to you and the families and children you serve!   

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Leveled Puzzle Work Tasks

Chris over at Autism Classroom News had me worried with all her recent website changes, I was concerned Workbasket Wednesday was a thing of the past. . but lucky for us it is still going and on even better platform than before!  After you check out my leveled puzzle work tasks, be sure to head over to Autism Classroom Resources (formally known as Autism Classroom News) to see all the amazing things Chris has going on as she never fails to impress!

Let's get started...
Puzzles can be excellent workbasket items and with a little bit of tweaking they can even be leveled!  For example, I purchased four wooden alphabet puzzles from Target (for $1.00 each) several years ago and made four different tasks!

For level 1, I glued the puzzle pieces for rows one through three into the puzzle so the students would only have to put in the last row of pieces to complete the puzzle.  Then for level 2, I glued in rows one and two, for level 3 I glued in row one and for level four I didn't glue any rows in.  NOTE: I glued from the top down starting with the letter A rather than gluing from the bottom up starting with Z so student could see themselves complete the puzzle as they put the last few pieces in instead of putting the beginning few pieces in. 

If you look closely you will see Velcro on each of the pieces the children are asked to put in.  Velcro, you ask, but why the pieces are already inset into the puzzle? The truth is, I Velcro the puzzle pieces into almost all of my puzzles. If I am using them as a work task it makes them more permanent. When the students are finished with the work task and slide or dump it into the all done basket the pieces stay and the work is in tact.  Also I am less likely to loose the pieces and my students who are fiddlers or stimmers can be more successful.

Don't have the alphabet puzzles I purchased from Target five plus years ago... NO WORRY!  I picked up these alphabet puzzles (one upper case and one lower case) at the Dollar Tree just last week.   

They can be leveled work tasks without any glue or Velcro! 

To make the foam lowercase puzzle into a work task, I simply hot glued the base to a piece of cardboard and a bowl to the left hand side of the base.  Because the pieces are inset and they fit so snug to the base, I can simply take out the ones you want the child to put in depending on their individual level and ability.

The uppercase space puzzle is even easier!  It has it's own cardboard backing so I can simply take out the pieces I want the child to put in and I have it leveled to the child's needs.

NOTE:  A lot of students learn the letters in their name first, you can use these puzzles to support students in learning the letters of their name by simply taking only those letters out of the puzzle for the students to work on.

You can also take a photo of the completed puzzle and use it for a visual of what the finished puzzle looks like.  I packing taped my visual to the edge of the puzzle and folded it under the puzzle so if a student is struggling I can simply flip the visual up for additional support and even point to it as needed!

Need more. . . I also found these two puzzles at the Dollar Tree.

These also fit snug to the base and have a cardboard backing making them easily leveled!  However I took these puzzles one step further by purchasing two of each, one to keep whole and the other to cut apart into mini puzzles. 


For some students even when you only have a few pieces out for them to put in it is overwhelming.  Visually they are not ready for a puzzle of this size regardless of the number of pieces they are expected to put in.  By cutting a puzzle apart into smaller parts students can experience the puzzle in a successful way and then you can build up from there by presenting them different levels of puzzles as they gain skill. 

That is it for now!  Happy puzzle leveling until next time,

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Intentionally Teaching Classroom Rules through Video Modeling

Amy over at Delightfully Dedicated is doing a Summer Series Blog Link Up. This week the topic is the ever dreaded BEHAVIOR! 

A lot comes to mind when I think about behavior, but one of the things I think we miss is being intentional about teaching appropriate behavior in a preventative manner.  I have done a few posts on Rules and Expectations in the past, but in this one I thought I would share a bit more about how to intentionally teach the rules and expectations of the classroom. 

As I have shared before, brain research from Dr. Becky Bailey states that children think in pictures until age 9.   By having rules posted at all times, students can start to make connections with what is expected of them.
But sometimes pictures are not enough, especially in a world where technology is at the finger tips of our students in a variety ways.  In many cases they prefer to get information from the interactive and fast paced world of computers, iPads and other technology devices.  For that matter so do we!  When was the last time, you googled how to do something, and purposely clicked the Youtube how to version rather than the word and picture version? 

What we expect students to do can be fairly abstract to a young child especially when the rules and expectations are different from what is enforced and expected at home.  By sharing video examples of appropriately following the rules, I have found that my students can make connection with what they couldn't connect with or understand in the past! 

Which leads me to our morning meeting!  Each morning we review the classroom rules and expectations at opening group time via the Smartboard, but before we do so, we share a video model of one way to follow the rules.  The video is usually regarding a skill the students struggled with the week before.  For example:

Lining Up and Coming In From Recess

Transitioning From One Activity to the Next (and Sharing)
Raising Your Hand at Group Time
and Managing Upset and Frustration in an Appropriate Manner

Or skills and activities that are new to the students, for example:

Learning a New Song 
(the song in this video is from Jim Gill's The Sneezing Song an other Contagious Songs)
Playing a New Game at the Sensory Table

Using a New Visual Support
(for more information about this visual support click here)

or Using a New Communication Support to Request a Break When Upset
(for more information about this communication support click here)

Okay, I know what you are thinking. . . these are great, but how do you ensure your students are gaining meaning from the video examples? Well first off, from the students' behavior but secondly from a reflection after watching the video model each day. 

The rule helper for the week comes up and shares what rules the video example followed.  See a video of how it all comes together below:  (The Feeling Buddies in this video come from Conscious Disciplines Feeling Buddy Curriculum.)

So there you have it, Intentionally Teaching Classroom Rules through Video Modeling. 

A special thank you to my former student Bryce and his family for allowing me to share this video!  As well as my son EJ and his Friend Oaklye for creating a library of video model examples for students to grow and learn from.

Until Next Time, Best Wishes,

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Honoring the Flag

Happy Fourth of July Considerate Classroom Friends!

Photo by Tracy Perrett Photography
In honor of our beautiful country, I thought I would share the process we went through to teach our students how to honor the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Each morning our principal, a form military man, would get on the loud speaker and say the Pledge of Allegiance with great pride and enthusiasm. The first few days my staff and I joined him as we tried to corral our students to do the same, however it only took us a few days to realize this was not working! 

Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance requires students to have attention to tasks, joint engagement, and the ability to imitate and communicate.  All skills most of our students did not have. 

So during the second week of school, we added an environmental support,  I took the American flag out of it's holder and held it at eye level for the students to look at as they honored the flag.  This modification was a total flop! Me holding the flag did help the students see what they were suppose to look at, but it didn't keep their attention for the duration of the pledge, especially since me holding the flag meant that the students I was originally supporting during week one didn't have a staff person with hands available to support them so the second day of week two, I handed the flag to one of our students who had the most difficulty attending to the flag, I supported him in holding the flag as we did the flag salute this worked for him put not for the 8 other children in the classroom who where suppose to be attending to the flag too! 

So next up, a visual support.  We added this step by step visual to remind our students of their responsibilities before our principal came on the loud speaker for morning announcements. 

This visual helped some student but was still quite abstract for students, who were not yet ready to attend to a visual support so next we added a hands-on feature.  Each student had the opportunity to hold their very own mini flag throughout the pledge.  This did in fact help all of the students but it did mean I had to modify the original visual support.

Now things were running smoothly for the Pledge of Allegiance but we had several students who did not want to give up their flag at the end of the pledge and the system for handing out the mini flags was very chaotic to say the least!  Students shouted "I want a flag!"  "Me too"  and "GIVE ME A FLAG!"  while others ran up and grabbed a flag from my hands not noticing the students they ran into as they did so or even worse students who took a flag right out of their friends hands!

So in comes a system for passing out and gather flags, before and after the Pledge of Allegiance.  I used an old Clorox wipe container with the following cues on it.  For getting a flag, a communication support stating "I want flag."

This gave all students the opportunity for requesting a flag each day in an appropriate manner.  Note: the support was printed on a gray background to helps students cue into the fact that the support was for communication as all our aided language boards and mini communication books have the same background.  Gray was picked as the background color for all of our communication supports so that they would look similar to a PODD book for future generalization and use.

The back of the Clorox container had a visual support that said, "All done put in" 

This visual support is taped to the inside of most of my toy and manipulative tubes and as well as direction instruction task boxes.  It was added to tubes to support my staff and I in using consistent language in helping children give up preferred items.  If you have worked in special education for any reasonable amount of time you will recognize that this is a skill that many students struggle with!

By have the visual taped to each container we expect kids to 'put in', we are able to use consistent language and it is no longer about staff being the bad guy.  The container says "all done, put in!"  Which also limits power struggles, we are not physically taking the item you prefer, you are simply putting the item in a box/container for later and in this case the container strategically only had a small opening to put in so students are not enticed to take out flags instead of putting theirs in. 

I am sure you are thinking, so that is great each child holds a flag for the Pledge of Allegiance but what about when the students enter kindergarten or attend a more 'typical preschool classroom', those classrooms are not going to have a surplus of mini American Flags nor is the teacher going to have the time to pass out flags in the fashion described above and you are right... with every modification or accommodation that gets put in place there must be a plan for fading or decreasing the support over time as students gain skills.

As our students gained the skills necessary for attending to the American flag, we started having them hold this visual reminder instead of the actual mini flags. 

This still gave students something to hold while they honored the flag but became less intrusive.  Then over time we moved to them holding nothing and simply putting their right hand on their heart. As we used this visual that was attached to our quick prompts on an as needed basis.

NOTE: The success of honoring the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance didn't just come from the system itself.  All the skills I mentioned at the beginning of this post: attention to task, joint engagement, imitation, and communication are skills we teach across classroom activities and throughout classroom routines as they are life-long skills that truly benefit students long term success.  It takes a great deal of planning, organizing and think outside the box to support students in learning these foundational skills in a functional manner that will generalize to further success. 

When I say planning I do mean the little things too!  For example, our little Clorox container system was strategically placed next to our class flag. This ensured that staff always knew where to get it when morning announcements started and helped the students start to recognize that the Clorox container-- turned mini flag holder was a part of the class American flag and Pledge of Allegiance routine. 

Thanks for stopping by on the Fourth of July. . . What class routines do you have that need a little shaping to decrease chaos and increase quality learning and teaching?  I would love to hear about them, please share below!

Happy 4th of July and Best wishes!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Fishing for Communication

As I have learned from my friend at Codding Hollow Associates, the concept of Go Fish can be used to learn and review a variety of topics everything from farm animals, to vehicles, to dinosaurs and academic concepts such as colors, numbers, letters, and shapes. 

And now in true Considerate Classroom fashion, you can use Go Fish to practice communication skills with students who are non-verbal or have limited language using aided language boards specific to various Go Fish Games!

The various Go Fish Games include dinosaurs, zoo animals, farm animals, people, places, vehicles, letters, colors, numbers, and shapes.  It is simple!  Just print, cut out and laminate the Go Fish cards: 
And print and put the aided language boards into page protectors.
Or even better take a little advice from Mary Asper, and print pages 27 through 33 of the communication set on Avery 25395 Name Tag Badge Paper.  
Just stick the name tag badges on cheap playing cards from the Dollar Tree and you have a durable set of Go Fishing cards specific to your aided language boards!
If that is not enough, check it out, the cards and aided language boards can double as a memory game!
Or even an independent sorting activity! 
My sorting labels can be printed from the communication set. they include two levels.  One in which the child reads, and the other in which the child looks at the pictures to determine which cards go where.
So where can you get the Fishing for Communication Set? By contribute to Codding Hollow  
Codding Hollow is a project my friend and colleague Mary Asper is working on.  Mary has believed in me on many occasions and now it is my turn to believe in her.
It is my honor to support her and her associates efforts in opening a therapeutic center for adults and children with disabilities in Vermont.  For more information about her dream and vision visit the Codding Hollow Facebook Page and their Go Fund Me Site
Until Next Time Go Fishing!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Work Baskets and Fun Actvities for Boys!

I'm Back!  Sorry for my absence, I have been busy with my 'real job' lately.   That being said we have some great things in store for Early Childhood Educators in Kansas for the 2015-2016 school year be watching the TASN-ATBS Facebook page for more details Kansans!

Now on with today's post, what better way to start back up then with some Dollar Tree inspired work tasks and fun activities for boys!  All you need is to purchase the Dollar Tree items in the photo below: an Ultimate Spiderman board book and piggy bank, toy skateboards, 2 3 packs of match box cars, Easter egg cars and black ponytail holders.

Task 1: Spiderman Put In

Task 2: Spiderman Put On
We like to pretend that the black ponytail holders are spider webs.
A great activity for strengthening little hands:)

Task 3: Car Assembly
This tasks might be hard to come by the cars are actually Easter eggs. 
Write yourself a note to pick them up next spring. 

Task 4: Superhero Colors
Print page nine from this free Teachers Pay Teachers product and use scissors, packing tape, cardboard and Velcro to make this work task book.

And now for the activities! 

Activity 1: Skateboard Prepositions
Print page three and four from this free Teachers Pay Teachers product and place page three in a cardboard box lid. 

Have students push the skateboard across the sheet and then use the aided language board below to help them describe where the skateboard landed.  For example: "The red skateboardstopped behind the pig."  For similar activities for sports lovers click here!

Activity 2: Color Car Listening Activity
Print the cards on pages five through eight from this Teachers Pay Teachers product
Then use a Velveeta cheese box, scissors, a marker, and black duct tape to make a brown and black garage. 

Next use the cards shown in the examples below as a listening activity.  Read the text on each card without showing the student, then after they put the colored cars in the garage show them the card you read and let them lift the cardboard garage up to see if they listened correctly. 
You can do cards with both the black and brown garages to make it more difficult for higher students or even call out the numbers on the cars rather than the colors.

That's it for now!  But if you need a few more oldies but goodies that little boys with love click here:  Sports Sorting and Wiffle Ball Fun!
Best wishes! Until next time,

Workbasket Wednesday at Autism Classroom News