Exploring and reflecting on meaningful pathways to inclusive and personalized learning and living for students with complex developmental needs because education should prepare all students for a lifetime of inclusion, connection, growth and learning.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wish me luck... My Graduate School Application is Sent :)

This week I was able to send off my application for a Masters of Education Degree with a special study theme focus of Inclusive Education and Neuroscience.  The application deadline is not until November 2010 and the program doesn't start until July 2011. I'm so excited about the topic.  The program will take 3 years and eat up one month of my summer over those three years (as well as doing distance course work during the school years).  It will be crazy but I know that if I don't jump on this now I will regret it.  Wish me luck with the acceptance part of this.
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

2010-11 news-2-you

So I have decided to continue going with news-2-you for the 2010-11 school year but am looking to use it mostly for Individual Programming and Morning Meeting time.  We will have a "current events" section for morning meeting and will look at the news-2-you materials there.  As well, some of the students will work on the materials during their Individual Programming time. I am not looking to make these materials in to large themes the way I tied to this year but at the same time I did find some value in the materials for some of the students in our room so I don't want to let it go.

I will post any ideas that I have about news-2-you as well as the morning meeting things that we are doing related to the current news-2-you paper throughout next year.
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2010-11 Daily Schedule

So things are starting to fall in to place and I'm excited about what next is going to look like.  I have pulled ideas form a variety of sources and have also ordered Unique Learning System transition band as a place to get ideas from for next year.  I will not use the system exactly as is but am already seeing a load of ideas that I can incorporate in to our room :).

Here is an outline so far of where I'm going with the Daily Schedule:

8:20-8:45 - Morning Jobs
This will be completed by my two students who come earlier than the rest of the class.  They will have a checklist of the things that need to get done to get the classroom ready.  I'm drawing some ideas for this from the Unique Learning System Transition Band Core Activities Materials.
8:45-9:15 - Morning Meeting
Sounds like I'm getting a Smart Board so that will make this so much easier to do as a group :).  I'm very excited.  My plan is to do the regular morning meeting routine as well as to tie in current events through the news-2-you program.  I have ordered the news-2-you program again for next year.
9:15-10:00 - Individual Programming (Session 1)
I will work directly with a student during this time which will mean that every student is working 1-on-1 for this stretch of time :).  I will continue to use individual programming binders. One of the big differences this year is that I'm moving away from a rotation schedule and a majority of my students will work with the same learning assistant every day.  I'm hoping that this will put them in a place where they get more solid learning in.
10:00-10:15 - Morning Snack
Some of my staff members go on morning break during this time (not all get morning breaks as some just start late instead).  I'm thinking about doing a snack and drink basket where students can buy their snacks and drinks for this time.  This is another idea from Unique Transition band.
10:15-10:30 - Fitness
The younger students will go out for recess with the elementary students at this time.  The older students will have the gym for this stretch of time.  Each students will have one-on-one support so will be working on individual tasks at this time.  We will also be doing changes for the students who need it at this time :).
10:30-11:30 - Individual Programming (Session 2)
Same as above. Many of the students are involved in different lunch programs so time do this would be included here.  We will have weekly jobs to make and sell our hot lunch one day a week as well as a group of students who make their own lunch every day.  Those working on lunch would just start at the appropriate time as it is part of their individual program.
11:30-12:00 - Lunch
Some of my staff is on their lunch break at this time.  Others are helping students with lunch, clean-up and tooth brushing.  Once a student is done, they get to choose their leisure activity that they will do for their next stretch of time.
12:00-12:30 - Recreation/Leisure Time
Student choice time. Note that our younger ones are outside for recess with the other elementary students in the school.  I will have a different group of staff on lunch break at this time :).
12:30-1:00 - Religion Class
Again, another group of staff on lunch break. We will do a quick religion activity during this time. Activities will include explorations, videos, music, games, arts and crafts, stories...etc.
1:00-2:15 - Theme Work
I posted about themes a couple of posts back.  I'm using the idea of Star Reporter in that we will be working on producing a newsletter once a month.  I am still working on how to make this all work but I'm excited about this part of our program!
2:15-2:25 - End of Day Routines
Filling out communication books, cleaning up, packing up...etc.  We are full staffed until 2:25 so have to get everything but coats on before then.  I am thinking about making each person responsible for cleaning up/tidying one area of the room.  I know that for some the staff will end up doing a lot of it but it would keep things neat (I hope).
2:25-2:45 - Dressing and Busses/Pick-ups
Pick-ups start about 2:25 so we will just get students ready in the order that they get picked up.
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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Star Reporter, Unique or Going it Alone?

I'm really going back and forth with how to set up my themes for next year.  There is much that would be appealing about going with a packaged program but at the same time I'm struggling with finding a program that I can get excited about the whole package.  There are certain themes that I like in both of them but then there are ones that I either don't like or I know will be too American content heavy to use.  

I am really drawn to the idea of building a classroom newsletter as is done in Star Reporter but also wonder if I really need a packaged program to just go ahead and do that.

So after checking out possible themes from Unique Learning System, Ablenet Star Reporter, Aimee Solutions, and Mayer-Johnson Curriculum Companions I have decided to just try to create my own themes and perhaps buy some materials from Aimee Solutions and Mayer-Johnson as a starting point for building my themes.

Right now I'm looking at the following monthly themes:
September 2010: Individuality: Our main project for this month is going to be having each student create a tri-fold display about themselves. We will then take an afternoon, set these up in the gym and invite other students to come in and get to know our students better.

October 2010: Looking Good: Our main focus for this unit is going to be related to grooming and taking care of ourselves. We will go on a trip over to a local cosmotology program and have them groom us all up. We will also be doing a spa day in the classroom.

November 2010: Where Can I Buy It?: This topic will be related to what store we would go to buy different things. Our CBI trip for this month will be a mall scavenger hunt. We will tie in an upcoming Chistmas gift exchange to this trip as well. 

December 2010: Celebrating Jesus' Birth: We are Catholic school so we will take a few weeks out of our regular schedule to study and celebrate the Christmas season.

January 2011: Music Mania: This one is going to be fun. We will look at different types of music, make musical instruments and do a mathematics study in voting and data display/analysis.  We will probably also dive a bit into the study of sound.

February 2011: Super Science: Science Fair time!  We will create projects based on personal interest and then share our displays with the school.

March 2011: Mexico (Cinco de Mayo): Lots of great stuff to study as we explore Mexico - its clothing, music, culture, food...etc.

April 2011: What Should I Wear?: This is both a study of weather and of clothing.  We will be looking at what clothing is appropriate for what weather.  Other topics to explore are the concept of hot/cold and precautions to take in various weather conditions.

May 2011: Food and Nutrition: Lots of great stuff to do as we study food and nutrition. This one would not be complete without a couple of trips to the grocery store and perhaps even out for a meal somewhere!

June 2011: Camping Out: Just a fun unit to end the year :). 
My thought is to create a classroom newsletter each month.  I do want the students to participate in creating part of the newspaper and am thinking of using some of the same ideas as what Star Reporter does and brinking them in to smaller groups to work on their section of the paper.  I will, however, add a few sections tht are just meant to be informative for parents.  Here are some of the things I'm thinking about.  Realize this is a brainstorm at this point and it probably won't end up being all of this!
Classroom Update: This will be a general update on what is going on in our classroom. It will be a place to celebrate accomplishments of each of our students and of our class as a whole.

Feature Article: This is one of the ones that will be done by one of the groups of students.

Reader's Review: Each month we will study a couple of different pieces of literature - these could be books, articles, sections of magazines...etc. This section will be about student responses to the literature we are studying.

Social Connections: I got this idea from looking at information about Star Reporter. I think this will help me make a more conscious decision to create some social opportunties for our students each month. 

What's Cooking?: We do monthy cooking as a group.  We also have several students who will be working on a lunch programs where they plan out, grocery shop and make their own lunches.  Updates on all of our classroom cooking will be included in this section.

Create It!: We are housed in a fine arts focused school so it is only fitting that we include a section to celebrate all the things that we create in our classroom. 

Beyond Our Classroom Walls: This section will include updates related to the things we do in the community.  This includes our community based instruction program, weekly hydropool visits, community based leisure activities, PCI Environmental Print excursions, and shopping for lunch program.

Photographs: This will be a section for photographs of things that are going on. I want to include this because so many of our students love photographs and this will open up more opportunties for parents to talk with their children about classroom going-ons.

Therapist's Corner: This is a section that I'm leaving open for the therapists that come in to our room.  I will send out an e-mail to them each month to find out if they want anything included.

It's Sensational: When I create themes I always add in sensory activities. I want to include a section on what these activities are as so many of the students enjoy them and parents may want to re-create them at home :).  As well, there are often lots of great pictures to go with this section!

Religion: This will just be a general update on what is going in our religion class :).

Current Events (news-2-you): I'm thinking of still doing news-2-you and then will include anything that might be important to put in this section.  This is a section that may or may not be there from month to month.
So there is what I'm thinking as it stands now.  I know things will change as we go along and I'm looking to only dedicating 3 or 4 afternoons to this project each week so will have all the other stuff going on as well.  Although it still needs a lot of tweaking, I'm very excited to be heading in this direction!
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday's Motivation: The Top Shelf

I recently found this great awareness blog entitled Square 8 that really makes one think about acceptance and awareness.  This post is the one that best spoke to my heart and told me that this is a person I can learn much from: For Parents.

This week I want to share one of the many videos that Bev has made and posted on her blog and on you-tube. If you have time I highly recommend reading through the rest of her blog as there is so much great stuff there!


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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Thinking About 2010-11 School Year

Wow!  It has been a crazy last few weeks and I just haven't gotten to blogging lately.  I miss it and am hoping to find more time to do it as we move through these last weeks of the school year.

For today, I wanted to just throw out a couple of things that I'm looking at for next year...

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Starreporter Ablenet Star Reporter

I'm looking at doing something other than news-2-you in regards to what our study themes will be for next year.  I have looked at Weekly Reader Ablenet Edition as well as the Unique Learning System as well as going back to just creating my own yearly or monthly theme as I have done in the past.  Weekly Reader seems to be very similar to news-2-you and I'm looking for something different.  I also didn't want to go back to just creating my own themes becuase it is nice to have something to start from even if many many modifications must be made to get it to the point of being ready for our classroom. 

This left me looking at Unique and Star Reporter. Both come with a big price tag so I will be using a good portion of my budget either way.  The reason I'm leaning towards Star Reporter is because I like the idea of us creating the final product and because I think that its a routine we can get in to and then begin to create our own topics in years to come (so wouldn't have to keep rebuying the curriculum to get new topics). I do like that there are already suggestions for incorporating the assistive technology and also training materials for staff.  I'm finding that with the addition of more and more staff as my class grows there is a real need for having some training materials for staff.

I have yet to find someone who has actually used Star Reporter.  I would love to talk to someone as my biggest struggle right now is in trying to decide if we should get the elementary or high school version.  I have students from grade 1 through 12 in my classroom and in the end I'm thinking I might need to get both but wanted to start with just one this year.  If there is anyone out there who knows anything, I would love your feedback.

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Podd-sample-books Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) Communication Books

I am seeing some changes in the type of student that our room is serving. We continue to work with alternatives to communication and I'm always looking for students to have ways to communicate that are on all levels of the low-tech to high-tech continuum.  we do use a lot of picture symbols in our communication and have various different binders and books. I have wanted for some time to look more fully in to PODD as a way of organizing these communication books for at least some of our students. So I have just recently ordered some materials related to this as I'm pretty confident we have a couple of students for whom this method would work well.

Again, I'm looking for people who have experience with this as I would love to learn from your experiences.
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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wow! Check Out This Blog!

Just came across this great blog and wanted to share.  I'm going to need to spend a lot of time writing down and implementing all the great ideas that have been posted here.  I'm thinking I have my summer project ;).

Check it out: Adaptions for Kidz
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