When I arrived just after lunch, the students were playing with their new Wii system that was donated to the class by my young grandsons (their mom is teaching them about sharing with others when they have so much). Every student in the class was engaged. One of the students came running up to give me a thank you card to share with my grandsons and then proceeded to tell me how he won the sports game he had played. He was so proud. Then another girl from the class came to share a thank you card also. She was highly engaged and it is often difficult to get her engaged and smiling and she was doing both!. This gave students a motivating way to move and stretch and get some exercise as they bowled, played golf, boxed and hit the baseball. Now we just have to figure out how to get the kiddos with limited movement involved and playing (although I saw more smiles than I have seen in a long time!) I think that the fact the students were doing an age appropriate, "cool" activity contributed to the engagement and excitement. I hope they have many hours of fun with the Wii. My next suggestion will be to invite students from the regular program to come in and play with the kids in ISP. Should give them some "cred" with their peers and offer a bit of reverse inclusion for all of the students as only a couple of students are included in other classes throughout the week.
Now if that wasn't enough, the OT on the classroom Inclusive Learning team and I created an eye gaze alphabet stand for a student in the class who is in a wheelchair and has no voice (YET). This is the stand we created to start the process to help Tim learn to read. Yes, we hope to see him read. His mom is not quite ready for a video to be posted for all to see, but I am confident she will want to share with the world eventually. We based this process on work done by Karen Erickson at the University of North Carolina to create the stand. More information on the particulars about how this works can be found here.
So we started by letting Tim "scribble" because we always let emergent readers and writers play and this student is no exception. Until he has learned to play with letters, we cannot expect him to know and we certainly won't teach him with flash cards over and over again. This doesn't work with our typical kindergarten and grade one students, so why would we expect anything else from a student with significant learning challenges.
We played and followed Tim's eye gaze to choose letters. He was engaged for the short time we did this. The big excitement came when I read the letters he had written. HE WAS SO EXCITED, he almost rocked out of his wheelchair. On the three occasions that I read his work, we got the same reaction. He was genuinely excited about his work I believe!
Another win for today was the fact that his mom walked in while we were writing and SHE was excited too! I explained what we were doing and her response was, "Where have you two been for the last twelve years?" Brought tears to my eyes because she was so excited that someone could see the light in her son's eyes. I am so glad I was able to attend the recent PD with Karen Erickson so I can share this information with all of the ISP classes I work with in the very near future. I think I will be quite adept with the hacksaw and PVC pipe. For other ideas to use PVC pipe to support students, check out this link.
Not only was mom excited, but staff were excited to be doing this work too. They were surprised at his response because it can be difficult to engage him in class. So they were excited (and it is a Friday) and when I told them next week I would bring out an alternate pencil for another student that was slightly different, they were excited still.
Even the Assistant Principal who had limited expectations for the class was excited about what was happening. If we can get this many adults excited about moving the literacy skills forward in this class, it is an amazing day and I couldn't ask for more.
All the way home, I was on cloud nine because the grownups in the room were excited about meeting the literacy needs in this classroom. If it only takes a couple of people to share their enthusiasm to get others excited, then I guess we should be genuinely excited about our work so it will become contagious.
For some more great information on using Alternate pencils, check out Monica's blog: Eliminating the Box
How can we top this next week??