Sunday, September 28, 2008

Potato People Village

Just came back from the State Fair--first time I've gone in about twenty years! This display was in the last building we toured and it is beyond adorable. Use recycled scraps and choose a theme for decorating the potatoes. Requires joint stabilization for pushing objects into the potatoes, plus excellent bilateral activity.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Improving Scissor Use

When students experience difficulty with using scissors, whether due to visual impairments, lack of sustained attention or immature motor skills, try this idea to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Use thick paper or recycled manila folders and create interesting "stickers" for them to cut. Of course, these stickers will only stick when glue is added to the back. The thickness of the paper will aid in decreasing the wobble factor as they cut.

Show them how they can cut in toward the middle from one side of the paper at first, then turn the paper around to cut in toward the middle from the opposite side.

In some cases you may want to use a hot glue device* to create a little ridge on top of the cutting line. Hot glue dries much faster than white glue, but keep the device* far away from your students. If it's difficult to see the glue line in the above photo, try double clicking on the photo.

*We all call this a hot glue_ _ _, but I want the blog to pass through everyone's filters.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Showtime in the Classroom

To capture your students' visual interest, use a little contrast. If you're mixing up light-color batter, choose a dark bowl. If you're desperate, turn off the lights (briefly) and shine a small flashlight on the part of the activity you want them to view. It's showtime!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Curriculum-based activities for high schoolers and middle schoolers can be difficult to conjure up. Here's an activity we adapted from one used by an excellent teacher for students with hearing impairments in Richmond City Public Schools, Ann Hughes:

This activity starts out with lots of adult preparation, but over time it can develop into more student involvement.

The monthly class project revolves around current events for a single month of the school year. For example, the current events for September have been Sports and Entertainment. In October the current events might be the Presidential Election and Fall celebrations.

The adults bring in newspaper photos of Sports and Entertainment (music, TV, movies, dance) and the students discuss which of the two categories a few photos fall into. Then, students are given a handful of photos and asked to place a sticker on the photo which indicates whether it is a Sports photo or an Entertainment photo. The adults discuss the photos with the students as they work and opportunities for class discussion occur spontaneously.

Once a student has completed all their photos, they go to a huge poster and place their photos on the poster. An adult asks them about a few of their photos and points out their work to the class. This continues with all of the students placing their photos on the poster, time permitting.

Our class included a student with extremely limited vision. When we discussed Sports photos versus Entertainment photos, an adult bounced a tennis ball or played a note on a harmonica to include an auditory cue for the topic.

Follow up activities included placing additional photos on the poster and having the students use a die cut machine to create "September" letters to border the finished poster. It would be a cinch to have the students create mini posters for each month, using leftover photos, and this could be assembled into individual scrapbooks for the school year.

The dreamer in me would like to have members of the school's football team visit the classroom to see the completed September poster, as well as a student playing an instrument similar to one in a photo. To illustrate dance I almost grabbed a fellow teacher for a twirl but was able to control myself in front of the impressionable students.

This activity was used with high schoolers in a class for students with moderate mental disabilities. It can be graded for students of differing physical and cognitive abilities.

Don't forget to take pictures for alternate assessments; we also recorded the students' voices in case we ever create a presentation.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

e-friendly crafts

Looking for some environmentally-friendly fine motor ideas for younger students? Here are two contributions from a preschooler-friend, Cameron the Creative.

Scrounge around your home and classrooms for colorful scraps and objects to use in "abstract" art designs. When you send home these treasures, be sure to attach a little note about the great scissor use and bilateral skills your students practiced while having fun. Be cautious about the possibility of a student accidentally swallowing small objects and err on the side of safety.

Top photo features a functional scissors grasp modeled by a kindergarten-aged student.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Raise Your Hand For Writing

Have some students who just "don't get" how they're supposed to hold a pencil correctly? Instead of arm wrestling at their desk, try taping a piece of drawing paper on a smooth, vertical surface in the classroom and having them copy their spelling/vocabulary words vertically. For most students, this technique will help them automatically bend back their wrists and hold the pencil with the thumb and first two fingers. It often helps them remember to incorporate their non-dominant hand to either hold the paper steady or rest it on the vertical surface.

Students with typical hand strength and endurance will write for about 5-10 minutes in this position but students who spend most of their time in sedentary activities may only last a couple of minutes before tiring. Adjust your expectations but keep expecting more as they practice and develop greater endurance over the school year.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Foundation of Handwriting

This elementary student is on his way to a beautiful relationship with handwriting. His pencil grasp is still a little too tight, but he's got his thumb working well with his index and middle fingers, his wrist and forearm are resting on the desktop and he's using lined paper that is just right for his needs. Oh, and he's using his non-dominant hand to keep the paper steady and move the paper forward on the desk as he continues writing toward the bottom of the page.

More of the Scott Method for Organizing Your Desk

Here are more steps for organizing your desk:

5. If you have lots of reading books, put some away in the classroom or take them back to the library.

6. Open your pencil box. Throw away trash (crayon covers, broken pencils.)

If you have extra crayons or pens or markers then get a ziploc bag to store the extras at school. Ask your teacher where you should store them at school. Or, you might take the extras home.

7. Now, put reading books and your pencil box in the empty side of your desk.

8. Look through your folders or binders and rearrange any folded, crumpled or loose papers.

Look through your binder(s) and make sure papers are put away in the right subject areas.

9. If you have a large ruler, put it in the front of your desk, in the pencil tray.

10. Make sure you have two sharpened pencils in your pencil tray (inside your desk, in the front.)

Have Extra Time?

1. Go through your backpack. Throw away unnecessary papers, pencils. Shake out crumbs and dirt over the trashcan or outside.

2. Sharpen your pencils and colored pencils.

I walked into an elementary classroom last week and one smart teacher was already having the whole class clean out their desks at one time; it was messy but very necessary and everyone was participating!