Tuesday, 28 July 2015

How Can All Students Have Access to the Curriculum?

“One of the arguments I often hear from teachers is “Why are we wasting our time teaching Romeo & Juliet when they need to learn basic life skills?” Don’t all students have the right to learn about the world around them and find their place in it? I have seen remarkable things happen once we started exposing our students to general education curriculum – better communication, interest in the world around them, more acceptance by peers, and participation in the general education program. In other words, becoming a full member of the educational community instead of someone in a totally different curriculum housed in an educational building.”                                 Juanita Pritchard

Free Image: Dreamstime

                e) all students can learn, albeit at different rates and in different ways.  They [teachers] know      how (including when and how to engage others) to identify the students’ different learning styles and ways students learn. They understand the need to respond to differences by creating multiple paths to learning for individuals and groups of students, including students with special needs;
                                                                             (Government of Alberta, Ministerial Order #016/97)

Therefore it is incumbent upon all teachers to find ways to include all students in their classes. The decision becomes whether the student needs an adaptation or a modification to the curriculum being presented to the class.  From the ” Standards for Special Education, Amended2004” the terms are defined as:
                “Adapted programming” means programming that retains the learning outcomes of the Program of Studies and where the adjustments to the instructional process are provided to address the special education needs of the student.  “Modified programming” means programming in which the learning outcomes are significantly different from the provincial curriculum and are specifically selected to meet students’ special education needs.
            (Information Bulletin on the Standards for Special    Education, Albert Education, 2007, p. 3) 

A student’s IPP must reflect either the adaptations (based on curriculum standards) or modifications (based on alternative formats, specialized equipment and other services and supports as required).   

Teachers need to be intentional about planning for students with special needs in their classrooms.  In order to make this process accessible and easily facilitated for teachers, there are tools that can be used to ensure access for all students.

One such tool is a planning matrix that lays out the day for the entire class and then addresses how each student with special needs will meet the plan for the day.

Another tool would be a plan sheet for each individual student including the expectations for each subject area, the indicators that will demonstrate success and the strategies that will be used.  This would be an excellent over-arching planning tool once the IPP is completed.
Each tool is demonstrated below:

Daily Planning Sheet
Class/ Subject
Objective being met for all students:
Activity to meet objective
How students with special needs will meet the objective
Block 1:


Block 2:


Block 3:


Block 4:

Example for a grade 6 class
(Two students included: Joey – significant cognitive delay/ fine motor delay/ communication delay- expressive only  and Susan – Learning Disability in reading and writing)
Class/ Subject
Objective being met for all students:
Activity to meet objective
How students with special needs will meet the objective
Block 1:
Language Arts

Construct meaning from texts: observe and discuss aspects of human nature revealed in oral, print and other media texts, and relate them to those encountered in the community
Students choose to write a character profile of Nikki from novel study, “Dragon in the Clouds”. The student describes how and why Nikki’s attitude toward her cousin changes and how Nikki is like someone she knows.
Joey:  uses Kidspiration to complete a character profile of Nikki using pictoral representations when presented with choices by the EA.

Susan:  draws her character profile and then tells the how and why to the EA/ peer/ teacher.

Block 2:

Demonstrate an understanding of place value, including numbers that are: • greater than one million • less than one thousandth
Using a place value chart, create a number line of all numbers provided on the worksheet
Joey: using manipulatives, demonstrate numbers greater than and less than up to 10
Susan: completes the same activity as the class

Block 3:

Component 3
A. Artistic style affects the emotional impact of an artwork. B. An artwork can be analyzed for the meaning of its visible components and their interrelationships
Students look at a variety of art books.  Choose one piece of art and answer the questions:  Why did you pick this piece of Art? How does this art make you feel?  What do you think the artist is trying to say with this art?
Joey: Choose a piece of art that he is interested in?  Using his PODD, tell what emotion he is feeling.   Encourage him to choose several pieces of art and express the emotion he sees in the art.
Susan:  Orally share her answers to the questions with a recording device

Block 4:

Construct devices that move through air, and identify adaptations for controlling flight.
Conduct tests of a model parachute design, and identify design changes to improve the effectiveness of the design.  In partners, create a parachute, recording the flight in relation to a modification using pictures/ words/ measurements
Joey: partners up with a peer.  He launches the parachute created by his partner and the partner records the results – sharing them with Joey who puts them in his duotang
Susan: works with partners. She does the pictorial recording and partner does writing.

Individual Planning Sheet
This student is in grade one and has the following needs:  hearing impairment/ limited mobility- uses a wheelchair and standing frame/ cortical visual impairment – wears glasses/ feeding is by gastrostomy tube/ toileting assistance needed/ communication- both expressive and receptive/ requires range of motion exercises/ needs opportunities for relaxation throughout the day
Language Arts
(Student) will participate in language related experiences.
Student will experience language generated by peers and teachers in natural school environment; classroom, hallway, lunchroom, playground
-Student will respond by moving his lips to a yes/no question
-Student will anticipate functional activities
-Student will listen to audio tapes.
-Frequent opportunity to hear spoken and see gestural communication.
-Frequent concrete hands-on learning experiences
-Incorporate “signal movements” for anticipation of activities
-Use of paired stories
-Pair older children with student for reading.
-full access to the alphabet
-shared reading
-predictable chart writing
-alternate pencil use for alphabet (flip chart/tactile)
-word wall -use of some kind of book creator (eg.TarHeel Reader or Co-Writer) to created assignments

Student will interact appropriately with peers in small groups and with teachers.
-Student will cooperate with others in small group discussions.
-Student will show and tell items with help of peers.
-Peer models
-Student must be really close to readers/ story books/ auditory tools (present stimuli to student’s right eye)
Student will use concrete strategies to explore problems
Student will use manipulatives to explore problems
-use of manipulatives
-light box
-EA/ Peer assistance
-use suction cup handle on manipulatives
-use of computer

Student will participate actively in learning of mathematics
Using the light box and accompanying materials, Student will observe differences between geometric shapes
-light box
-EA/ Peer assistance
use suction cup handle on manipulatives
-use of computer
Social Studies
Student will demonstrate citizenship in the classroom
Student will participate in regular class duties.
Student will listen attentively when others are speaking.
Student will demonstrate he can work cooperatively with a partner or group.
-daily partner to help him during the day
Units to cover: The School/ Family/ Canadian Families
-emergent literacy strategies as listed in the LA section.

Student will promote positive self-esteem within himself and his classmates.
Student will demonstrate the important aspects of his own life.
-Peers will help student show and tell things he brings to school
Student will use appropriate sense in making observations
Student will experience a variety of sounds, scents, color and textures.
A variety of materials smell, touch, hear and see will be presented to Student in connection with the unit studies.
Physical Education
Student will take part in physical activities in all dimensions of the program
With assistance, in either wheelchair or standing frame, student will use a variety of phys. ed. Equipment
-with EA or peer, use of nerf ball, ball and scoop, Velcro ball and glove.

Student will experience success through participation in physical activities
Student will participate in activities designed to meet his individual abilities
-with help  from EA and partner, student will complete gross motor activities
Student will participate in the different musical activities
With assistance from EA/ peer, student will do different actions for songs/ poems.
With assistance student will keep a rhythm or beat with body parts.
Will listen to music either live or on an IPad.
Student will use rhythm instruments will assistance as needed.
- A variety of music on the IPad.
-various rhythm instruments
-variety of action and rhythm songs/ poems
Student will take part in the different art projects
Student will be given the opportunity to experience drawing, painting, coloring, or clay/ playdough/ plasticine projects
-use of Velcro on a glove to attach tools as needed
-different materials: paint, crayons, clay, plasticine, or other tactile materials
Adapted from Inclusive Education Stories and Strategies for Success, Raymond, H., http://dascentre.educ.ualberta.ca/inclusive-education#Acknowledgement

This type of planning could be done at the beginning of each unit and then the daily plan sheet could include specific ways the students will be included by intentional choosing a specific activity.  It is important to always presume competence and offer more to the student rather than less.

 Some Other Excellent Resources to Support Inclusion and Access to the Curriculum

The book, “Quick-Guides to Inclusion: Ideas forEducating Students with Disabilities” by Michael F. Giangreco and Mary Beth Doyle provides many simple, yet important one page guidelines to address 
the inclusion of all students.
·         The British Columbia Ministry of Education provides an excellent chart to decide whether one should adapt or modify: https://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/specialed/docs/iepssn.pdf#page=83
·         JPDas Centre on Developmental and Learning Disabilities http://dascentre.educ.ualberta.ca/inclusive-education#Acknowledgement
·         Centre for Literacy and Disability Studies http://www.med.unc.edu/ahs/clds
·         Take Ten Spotlight Series http://canlearnsociety.ca/resources/take-ten-series/
·         Alberta Education: the Inclusive Learning Library http://www.learnalberta.ca/content/ieptLibrary/index.html
·         Diverse Learning Needs: Albert Education http://education.alberta.ca/admin/supportingstudent/diverselearning/
·         Think Inclusive http://www.thinkinclusive.us

Who is Watching You?

Today I was reading a book we are doing for a book study in the fall, Well Aware: Developing Resilient Active and Flourishing Students by Patrick Carney.  The first chapter discusses the importance of positive mental health.  I know this.  We probably all know the need for this in our classrooms.  It is the second chapter that really hit home for me when the author said, "As a teacher, you are also a role model for behaviour" (p. 20).  How does this fit with inclusion?  Oh, it is everything...

How do you welcome the new student to your classroom who has a visible disability?  Do you give this student a "special seat" somewhere at the back of the class with his Ed Assistant sitting right beside him?  Do you insist this student does his work outside of the classroom because he makes "noise"? Do you announce his "special project" to the class that is very different from the rest of the students (because you are pleased with your "super" idea)?  Do you get the class ready for their work and then add "Oh yeah, he can watch a video on his IPad for this" (because you forgot to plan intentionally for this student)? Do you presume he can't read or learn to read because he can't talk and avoid teaching this important skill, preferring for him to hand out papers, take stuff to the office, work on endless printing sheets (because the sheets are alphabet, after all?)? Do you feel good at night because you "let" this student sit at circle today with the others (at the edge with his EA of course)? Do you stress about his "overbearing" mom who will insist he takes part yet again?  Do you avoid seeing her at all costs, instead letting the principal interact with her, because she says the "same thing over and over again"?

Who is watching your actions?  EVERY. SINGLE. STUDENT. They are all watching how you interact/treat/ behave with this student.  AND your actions will affect how they treat this student; how they accept this student; how they welcome this student; how they will treat other people with disabilities as they grow up.  Your actions will either change our society positively for people with challenges or your actions will cause students to continue with the status quo; people with challenges can keep to themselves, have to fight for real jobs with real income, have to fight to be accepted for their diversity.

Patrick Carney states, "We have students in our schools for approximately 1000 hours per year, over the course of 14 years" (p. 20).  Wow, that is a LOT of time. During this time, we have a responsibility to model acceptance for diversity and a welcoming attitude for every single student who walks through our door.  Every student deserves a teacher who will presume their competence, who will expect them to do their very best and who will guide them with a loving hand to do the best they can.

If we truly want to see change in our world, we can begin in our classrooms.  Remember, your students are watching you and your interactions.  Give them a positive role model.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

How is This for Homework?

This past year my sister was a first year teacher in a grade 2 class.  On the first few days, the students wondered when they would get "homework."  We talked about the need for homework for young students.  We looked at some of the current debate on the subject (here, here, here and here for a few).  We discussed the need for children to read daily with their parents, and maybe not just to practice reading but to be together.  We talked about "big projects" that are often sent home that take up great amounts of time for the family and cause undue stress on parents to afford materials and time to create an amazing product.  We talked about how these projects often become the parents' project and not the students'.  I gave the example of a bridge project in a grade 3/4 class.  The bridges that were returned for grading were amazing feats of engineering hardly completed by 8 and 9 year olds.  While these bridges were amazing and may have contributed to "family time", they were NOT projects solely completed by the students. Even so, these grades became part of the term grade for the student.  One little bridge that came in made of lined paper and glue and string was very obviously done by a youngster on her own.  This bridge received a poor grade and in reality was likely one of the only ones made by a student!  
Enough of my rant...

So the two of us came up with a plan to have "homework" as requested by the students and parents, but to make it authentic and useful.  So this is the list of homework we came up with:
1.Go on a nature walk with your family and collect 5 things to share on the 100s carpet.
2. Ask your parent for permission to write in a magazine and circle all the words you know.
3. Survey your parents about your name - where did your name come from? (to be used in class later).
4. Play a board game with your family.
5. Survey your family about their favorite drink.  Bring the information to school for graphing.
6. Count all the electrical sockets, light switches and lamps in your house.  Make a graph of the information.
7. Play outside with your family.
8. Find all of the things in your house that start with the letter A, B, C, etc.
9. List all of the people who live in your house and their ages.  Compare each of their ages to your age.  Who's age is greater than yours? Who's age is less than yours?
10. On your computer, go the American Art Gallery and use the collage maker to create your own masterpiece.
11. Write about yourself  as if your were introducing yourself to a stranger.
12. Take your word wall words home and make as many sentences as you can.
13. Make a grocery list and convince your parents why they should use your list.
14. Write down all the times you eat at home.  Compare the length of time between each time.
15. Sketch a tree in your yard.  Write five interesting things about that tree.
16. Write a letter to a grandparent or other favorite adult.
17. With a parent's help, make a dessert for your family.
18. Come up with an idea for a special day at school complete with activities for your classmates to complete.
19. Build a fort and read a story book in your fort.
20. Organize your toys into categories and count them.  Figure out which category has the most toys in it.  Why do you think this category has the greatest number?

This was a start.  What ideas would you come up with?