It is September 20 and we are finally feeling like a more cohesive program. With a clustered inclusion program, it always takes time. To build cohesion, we incorporate games like Sorry, Twister, and teamwork in our garden and common goals. Turn taking, and switching from leadership role to student.
The 2013-2014 year has begun! This year we are educating 9th through 12th grade. The school is filled with students and new staff/faculty. My program has expanded by 4 students. Each has a unique schedule (upper right corner) and each day brings its new set of challenges and victories. The academic profile changes each year, and this year the distribution of skills and learning styles is the most diverse I have since becoming a classroom teacher. I am relying on the SLP experience to meet this wide range. I am pulling out iPad apps for guided and extended practice as well as creating small learning groups within the life skills period. One class will have a book club, while across the way, others are getting fluent with "Dollar Racing" where coins are exchanged to create dollars, with the third group finding patterns, matching and listening.
Our goal is to grow! I want each student to grow in academic skills, motor skills, and with the support of peer tutors to grow personally. I want them to BE BRAVE. I want them to dare to walk the halls, and participate in the Jordan High School Experience. I hope for them to go to student activities, and to dare to participate if they choose. I want them to love to learn and respect those who choose to teach them.
Like our garden, we will experience the seasons. We will bloom at different moments. We will need support and to be nourished as the days pass. Above all, we will work as a team to make our year at Jordan High one to remember!
Today I spent a half an hour with a colleague who came to me stressed and in tears. She was struggling with her website and getting content from one device to another.
Okay this is it, the moment of truth ... can I really help someone else with a real deal problem? And it clicked ... so I went down to her room and within a few minutes I had helped her with her issue.
My tip? When you are using different input devices, try and use the same browser. Know what each device can and cannot do. Within a few minutes we had downloaded Firefox and Chrome.
Next tip: Make you tabs or menu bar contain both the actual online site NEXT TO the working site. For me I have it organized like the picture. That way I can toggle between sites and see the changes. But remember to refresh your actual page after you have made changes.
Third Tip: If one browser isn't working well ... it is not you ... switch to the other and see if that one works better. Why, really you do not need to know because you are not going to reprogram so MOVE ON ...
In the afternoon, I was lucky to reconnect with my former paraprofessional ... who is now a SPED educator and obtaining his endorsement through Utah State University. Do not get me started on how wonderful that program is and the quality (HARD!!!) Anyway; he has taken a program that was dysfunctional and turned it around for behavior and social skills! He was given 2 iPad2 devices and that is as far as he has gotten. So we spent two hours together. I showed him what I was doing this year. He remarked that only one unit of curriculum was the same from last year. Every year I seem to spend so much time struggling to make the individualized educational programs truly individual and true quality. I struggle because I am evolving into a blended and flipped classroom. I showed him how to make and use Showme apps for units of instruction as well as Sentence Builder for reading and auditory skills.
His question was: "But does this count as teacher directed instruction?" He watched a video of these apps in action. 100% engagement, with self correction, focus and true self directed learning. My answer is "YES", I created the curriculum, I designed the instructional system, I analyzed my students' entry levels of skill and I am monitoring the progress. What is lacking the labor intensive repetitive live action "I do it ... We do it ... You do it" model. For the ECC the use of Flipped and Blended models means the "I do it" is the app and classroom is the we and you; with less focus on the we and more on the you. Isn't independence the ultimate goal? YES
Final tip: NEVER EVER BE AFRAID TO MOVE FORWARD because it is bumpy and yet ... when you move forward everyone does .. in my program it is students, staff, and me!
When you look at this picture you see an example of a blended classroom. What is that? It is a new buzz word in education. It is a very old concept that special education and Open Classroom teachers have been implementing for over 40 years!
Simply put, it means teaching differentiated curriculum within the same setting. In the Extended Core Program this is the foundation of learning. No two students are at the same level of mastery for any one concept. Their programs (IEP) are unique! I write goals based on each student and not one goal fits all. Nightmare??? Could be EXCEPT ...
I use educational technology tools to blend. In this picture, the students in the foreground are working on the same extended core curriculum standard. On the right the student is practicing letter formation using the iPad application Cursive Writing Practice. The student to the left is using paper pencil to practice cursive signature for documents and applications with the focus on line and space management.
In the background you have a peer tutor learning a unit of regression/recruitment data collection and its application for the program with a mini quiz. To the left is an adult paraprofessional learning the same unit and how to implement a learning unit on reading with corrective cues.
All 4 are learning. All 4 are fully engaged. All 4 are fully utilizing the learning time.
Blended learning is made possible because of iPads, headphones, mobile learners and having learned how to combine educational technology and instructional systems into the extended core program.
Because we now have access to a lending library, I am creating curriculum that will let students be even more independent. Rather than have the instructions read to them, the students may put on headsets, tap the Showme lesson and complete the activities. We tried our first one, and everyone listened, moved along, and completed the sheet 5/5 correct!
I will be working diligently on our next set of curriculum lessons knowing students can tap the lesson, never miss the lesson if they are absent. This will apply to both ECC students and peer tutors ... Stay tuned for the next generation of instructional designs for the ECC!
When I first began working with the extended core program, which was called a cluster, I found the students had goals with regard to compliance, looking at person speaking, sitting up, and handwriting. When I looked at the students, I saw weak and uncoordinated students. They could not follow a direction that has right/left or before/after, if/then, or when/do. In addition , they lay on the table, their posture was mostly curved back and slumped shoulders. Yawning was an ever constant event beginning about 10:00. Dining etiquette was not pretty. Utensils held like shovels and moth down to food as opposed to hand come up the mouth.
Did they do this on purpose? Obviously not! So why did I expect those goals on the IEP to be met if they didn't have or had lost the underlying foundation to meeting the goals. If you can't hold you head up, you are not going to look up. If you can't hold your head up, you are not going to follow your speaker with your eyes. If your back muscles and stomach muscles are weak, you are not going to sit up and have the posture for good handwriting. But most of all, when you ask these students to work, they simply don't have the stamina nor endurance.
So what is the poor teacher to do? Continue to demand from slumped over kids. Kids who are anxious. Kids who are whining. Kids who are yawning. Or you can get up and move it, move it. Then at 11:30 when you work on writing you get .... legible signatures, focus, and progress!