Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Group Instruction for Kids Who Hate Group Instruction | Autism Training Solutions

Check out this great training video.  Learn when your student is ready for group instruction and/or the general education classroom.

Group Instruction for Kids Who Hate Group Instruction | Autism Training Solutions

Monday, May 3, 2010

Are You a Special Education Teacher? Help Improve the Field of Education

Bradley Caro Cook, a doctoral student, needs the input of at least 1,000 special educators to complete his research.  Be a part of this important study on special educator burnout.

Show your support for a fellow educator by signing up to participate at

Friday, April 30, 2010

Capturing the Class' Attention: Signals for the Elementary Years

Recently, I found myself caught off guard in another teacher's classroom without a signal that would be appropriate for her group of students.  After sweating it out for a few seconds, I remembered a signal that was used at a recent training I attended.  "If you hear me, clap once." (Clap.)  "If you hear me, clap twice."  (Clap, clap.)  The signals I use with own students were developmentally too young for her group. This led me to investigate different ways to get a whole class' attention. 

Here is a list of signals I use and some that I have learned from other teachers:
  • Clap a rhythm and the students repeat it back
  • "If you hear me clap once." (Students clap once.)  "If you hear me clap twice" (Students clap twice.)  "If you hear me clap three times."  (Students cap three times.)
  • "Give me a clap."  (clap clap)  "Give me a snap." (snap snap)
  • Use a hand signal such as holding up a hand and saying "Give me five."  Each finger represents one of the following expectations which should be taught explicitly to students.

                         1. Eyes on the speaker
                         2. Quiet
                         3. Be still
                         4. Hands free
                         5. Listen

    I recommend that any teacher who uses this signal with students with developmental delays, speech and language needs, or English language learners also uses a poster to visually remind students of the expectations when the "Give me five" signal is given.  The "Give me five" signal is from The First Days of School by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong.  
  • Teacher chants, "One, two, three.  Look at me."  Students respond, "One, two eyes on you."
  • Sound a bell, chime, triangle, or other musical instrument.
  • Teacher raises her hand, then the students raise their hands.
  • Teacher says, "Hocus, pocus" and students continue, "Let's all focus."
  • Sing "The Echo Song" to the tune of "Are You Sleeping?" 
                         Be my echo (Be my echo)
                         Listen up (Listen up)
                         Sitting in our chairs (Sitting in our chairs)
                         Voices (voices off)
  • Allow your class to decide on a silly code word or phrase, to be their signal for attention and quiet.  Some examples include:  macaroni and cheese, green eggs and ham, we eat worms.  
Before you use a signal in the classroom, be sure to explain, model, and practice appropriate responses to the signal with your students.  Never expect students to know how to respond to a signal if you have not explicitly taught them that, "When I [turn out the lights], I expect you to [have your voice off and freeze where you are]."

Do you have a signal you would like to share?  Inform the readers at Teaching and Tech Tinkerings by sending a comment.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Making Writing Centers Accessible for All through Voki

My most challenging center is my writing center. Most of my first graders are not quite yet able to read and comprehend written directions. By the time they rotate to the writing center, they forget most orally stated directions. Pictorial directions have helped with routines, and I allow free writes on topics of choice or picture cards for topics. They have access to all of the usual items a writing center has: lists, notepads, booklets, etc.

This week, I have decided to offer my students the opportunity to write to a writing prompt via their favorite tool- the internet. Each writing assignment, incorporated into the science content area lesson on storms, will ask students to respond to a pictorial weather scene and a Voki avatar verbally describing the scene. The student will be expected to write about the type of storm depicted. Students will be able to replay the writing prompt as many times as necessary. Here is a sample of a Voki we will use:

At the end of the week, students will create their own Voki avatars and describe a weather phenomenon for their peers to define. They will need to first write their description before recording it. During science, the avatars will be used to informally assess students on their ability to identify storms. My hope is that my students will be able to use the writing center independently, remain fully engaged throughout the writing time, practice writing, and reinforce science content at the same time.

Please share your favorite writing center tips and tricks in the comments section.

Classroom Project Funds- Where Can We Find the Money We Need?

Looking for funds for an exciting project? Or maybe you need the basics such as copy paper, crayons, and art supplies.

Check out these reviews of funding sources:

Heard of Classwish?
Donors Choose - Worth the Wait

Go directly to the sources:


Best wishes. Let us know how your funding search goes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Autism Visual Aids Series #1: Show, Don't Tell

"A picture is worth a thousand words."
- Napoleon Bonaparte

What are visual aids?

The vast majority of children with autism depend on visual aids for organization, behavior support, social skills development, and comprehension. That being said, so do people who are neurotypical (without autism.)  So far this week, I have used several visual supports:

to do list
lesson plans
city map
street signs
day planner
sticky notes
grocery list
tv guide
store map

    How do visual aids help students with autism spectrum disorders?

    One of the characteristics of autism is impaired language.  So expecting a person with autism to take in verbal directions, understand them, remember them, and then follow through on them is a bit unrealistic.  I remember my friend and I being lost in Japan immediately after my arrival at the airport.  We knew very little Japanese.  When we pulled over for directions, I mustered up enough language to ask how to get to our destination.  However, I could not understand the verbal directions the man gave us.  He spoke too fast for my ability and there were words I did not know.  Noticing my confused facial expression, the man drew us a map.  That map got us home.

    "I see and I remember."
    Similar to the example above, our kids with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty with language.  As in my own scenario, they may struggle to make sense of what is being said.  Unfortunately, even if they are trying really hard to understand, spoken words disappear as they are produced.  This transient nature of spoken language makes processing and remembering verbal language difficult.  However, visual supports such as the written word or pictures, do not disappear.  Further, drawings, photographs, and actual objects can represent ideas and remove the added step of the student having to construct meaning or come up with a mental image.  You can re-read an item on a calendar as many times as you need to.

    Future posts at Teaching and Tech Tinkerings will provide examples of visual aids designed to assist individuals with autism.  Check back for images and descriptions of a picture schedule, a task list, and a first...then...grid. 

    Readers Respond

    Are there any visual aids you cannot live without? Send a comment or respond to the poll.  Results will be posted in the sidebar to the right and in the post below.

    Which Everyday Visual Aid Couldn't You Give Up?