Monday, August 27, 2012

Great First Day, Tinkering with WBT

This post in a nutshell: First day success and the beginning of my test case for Whole Brain Teaching in a K-2 SPED class. And a real live llama...

So we survived the first day of school and I think it was a pretty big success in Lower El. This may actually be the first time since I've been teaching special ed that no one ran away or threw a tantrum on the first day of school! Yay! My little guys were ADORABLE and every teacher in school commented about what a cute class I have this year. There was a fight over which counselor gets to teach my pragmatics (social skills) class every Friday. They are just so loveable, even when they have their little monster moods!

My guys are used to pre-school length days (3 hrs or less) and we about to fall asleep on the table this afternoon with our 6 1/2 hour day schedule. I scrapped this afternoon's lesson in favor of rotating play breaks and DIBELS testing. I have to test my own students and it's too early in the year for these guys to do very much independently. I figure if we use this as a testing week, I can jump into curriculum and centers rotations next week. I've learned the importance of easing into it and avoiding tantrums from pushing them too hard. I want them to start off by loving school, not hating it. I have them for 3 years after all!

Whole Brain Teaching is my little pet project this year. I've seen amazing videos of general ed classes, but it's a whole new ball game in lower elementary special ed!! I'm in a predicament about how much I can use it, and how challenging it will be when I start splitting my kids into pairs for instructional time (kinders, 1st, and 2nd all in the room learning different things at once). Feel free to offer suggestions if you've tried whole brain teaching with kinder sped! When reading my thoughts, keep in mind I teach kids with autism, a brain tumor survivor, and a rare disorder that's caused an LD. I think the system is perfect for general ed, but I'm struggling a bit because of the social quirks of my kiddos. Of course, some of it will come with time and practice. It's only the first day!

Positives:
+ Great student engagement
+ The kids really remember things better
+ Great visual reminders with the posters I made (check them out here if you want a free copy)

Challenges:
  • Lack of perspective-taking ability makes it REALLY hard for them to copy/respond the right way. "Class? Yes!!" was nearly impossible! They almost always responded with "Class!" instead of "Yes!" to the point that I may just change it. They were great at responding when I wanted them to, which is the whole point, but they can't for the life of them get that they used the same sounds/tones, but say "yes" instead. This could be a great phonemic awareness practice strategy, but it could also be a loooong teaching process to have them learn to change the word.
  • Students with autism don't like to look at people, this makes the copy-the-motions part of the strategy a big challenge. They often repeated what I said, but didn't look at me long enough to get the motions right. This part I'm going to keep doing because I think they really need to learn the importance of looking at a person to understand body language means something.
Name mosaics we made today
Staff present from the Head of School (it's a lunch bag/cooler with a "cool school year" note)
Surprise First Day of School flowers from a friend. So nice!
A REALLY old winery I went to with my sister this weekend as we hunted for a wedding location for her. This was our picnic stop. Soooo lovely and peaceful!
I got to feed this guy's llamas at the winery!!! Fun!!
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