Thursday, December 5, 2013

More Tips for Large Group Success

Welcome back!  Last week, I shared one way of setting up large group instruction for morning calendar activities.  Well today, I'm sharing yet another way.  (Note: There is no right or wrong way to do it.  It's just a matter of what works best for you and your students!)  Today’s example takes a different approach and meets different goals and objectives.

At the beginning of this school year I realized that by using leveled lapbooks and having each student use individual systems, I was not supporting the students in attending whole group.  Each student was actively engaged through his/her individual systems but not engaged with one another, which in my opinion, is the essence of ‘large group’. 

Instructor's Insight: This may have just been a difference in my students’ needs and abilities this year.  Last year, my students were able to attend to their individual systems and attend whole group.  This year has been a different story as I was not seeing overall group it was time for a revamp!

Many of my students this year were getting distracted by the systems their peers were using next to them especially if their friend was using a different system. One day I told my staff let’s try doing group without any individual systems.  Initially, it was super challenging!!!  The students didn’t attend well.  They needed a lot of redirection and prompting to stay engaged until I added two meaningful whole group visuals.

The first was a schedule of the colored slides we would be doing each day.  

This image serves as a class visual to support the students in knowing how much work they have to do.  In the beginning, I would direct the students to this visual by pointing to the visual and saying,  “After we are done with all these colored pages, group time is over”.

The second whole group visual that was added is a photo flip chart that my paras like to call "my human billboard". :)  


I wear it as a visual to show whose turn is next.  I simply flip from page to page so the students know who comes up to the Smartboard next.
Why wear it you ask? wearing it I strategically train the children to look at the teacher for information.  So many of our children with Autism and other developmental delays have a difficult time filtering out unimportant information.  By wearing "the whose turn is it?" chart, the children automatically look at me to know when it is their turn to come up to the Smartboard.  See the magic??

Here's my kindergarten acting team video modeling this technique.  

(A special thank you to my husband, Miss Molly and my kindergarten acting team:  Oaklye, Olivia, Maci, and Emmitt for helping put this video example together.) 

Remember these students are acting the part of special needs preschoolers so in reality it doesn’t go quite this smoothly. However, you would be surprised at just how well ALL of our actual students attend.
Why are they so successful? Well if you notice, each child was able to get up out of their seat at least 4 times to actively participate.  By standing up, they get 10% more oxygen to their brains.  Also by having a specific job to do when they stand, we are putting them in organized movement patterns which increases the likeliness of their success! For more information regarding this concept, see the work of Dr. Becky Bailey.
As stated by Dr. Kathleen Lane, “The more opportunities a student has to actively engage the more likely they will stay engaged.” Dr. Lane’s work is available here.  

Not only were the students actively engaging each time they were asked to come up to the Smartboard, but they were also actively engaging each time I asked them to imitate actions like "Today’s a school day. The flag is up. Wave your flag.", or "Student's Name is not wearing red. Show not red by putting your arms across your chest like an x ."  Imitating the x across their chest keeps them actively engaged and also has them cross midline with their arms which helps to reactivate the brain. 

Like in last week’s post, it is very hard to see each Smartboard page on the video. Below is a closer look at the pages that are different from last week’s post.
Page 1:  The Good Morning Song  

This song is "Get Ready" from the Conscious Discipline CD, It Starts in the Heart. By starting with this song, the students and staff are able to get present, unite and connect as suggested by Dr. Becky Bailey’s BrainSmart Start.
Page 4: Color of the Week

This is a variation of page 4 on last week’s post. It is simply differentiating between wearing the color of the week and not the color of the week.  The great thing about this slide is that we can work on simple addition by asking questions like "How many friends are wearing the color of the week?" and "How many are not?" and "Added together equals, how many friends in all?"

Page 5: How are you?  

This page was creating after parent teacher conferences this year.  One of the parents expressed that they would like their son to be able to answer the question “How are you?” when asked.  I quickly realized that is a good skill for all the students to work on so we changed our check in page to a very functional “How are you?” activity. The kids ask each other "How are you?".  Notice the page only has good, fine and okay as those are common responses in social situations.  

For our non-verbal kids, we do have the option of using an audio button system for the kids to ask how their friends are and for them to respond.  

We use the button system at arrival time also to get an added experience of answering the greeting, “Hi! How are you?”.  Another feature we have added is a "How are you?" worksheet during direct instruction.

Pages 7 & 8: Letter and Number of the Week

Again, we have variations of the letter and number pages from last week.  I have found that every so often it helps to change up the pages just a bit to keep the kids' interest and up the skill level throughout the year.

If you don’t have a Smartboard, no worries you can create similar systems using an iPad and a projector or by using low tech posterboards.  Mrs. Lisa Holt will be sharing her low tech poster version next week so be on the lookout!


  1. Do you have these smartboard pages on SMART exchange? I'd love to add this to our morning routine!

  2. Do you have these slides that you can share out via email to me?

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