Saturday, March 20, 2010

Poll: Are National Learning Standards Helpful?

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Teacher Said a Cuss Word!"

Well, that's what he thought. Every time I said the word "hail" during our weather lesson yesterday, one of my little gems pointed to me and accused, "Awwww! Teacher said a cuss word!" I cued the video segment to the hailstorm and indicated that it was "hail"- frozen precipitation. I wrote it on the dry erase board.

After yesterday, I thought we were clear.  But the bad word police was back on the job today. I had to write "h-e-[double hockey sticks]" on a sticky note and on a contrasting post-it write "hail."  (Can you guess which sticky note he wanted to take home?)

Although the student is an early reader, he was able to visually discern between the two words.  He was very pleased to have a new word he could read by sight.  With help, he was able to derive other words from that word (pail, mail, and sail) and play a game of matching and then reading the words.  This student normally struggles with wanting to engage in reading tasks.  But he stuck with this activity and remained enthusiastic throughout. 

Readers Respond

What do you think motivated my student the most?  Do you think he was motivated because he thought "teacher said a cuss word?"  Or was he motivated because the lesson followed his lead?  How would you have handled his accusation differently?  Post a comment to respond.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Letting the Students Run the Show: Student-Led Inquiry

So we decided to give student-led inquiry a try. As we embarked on our weather unit, I asked each student to be an inquirer. They each had to develop a question they had about the weather. Here are their (paraphrased) questions :

  1. How does the weather change?
  2. What kinds of weather are there?
  3. How can you check the weather?
  4. How can you catch the sun?
So far, we have focused our science time on investigating responses to the questions including and similar to the first three.  Question #4 provided today's winner of a discussion.

Me:(Reading the student's question.)  This inquirer wants to know, "How can you catch the sun?"
Student #1:That's mine.
Student #2:(Shakes his head.) You can't catch the sun.
Me:Tell us more.
Student #1Uh-huh. You get a cowboy and he get his um rope thing and he go like this (makes a lasso motion awfully close to Student #3).
Student #4:Bird catch the sun.
Student #1:Aint no bird catch the sun. Cowboy. Cowboy catch the sun.

At first glance, you might think I led my students astray.  I, myself, was starting to wonder where this was going to end up.  But the information they provided was priceless.  Student #2 understands that the sun is really far away, too far to be lassoed in.  Clearly, I need to teach about how far away the sun is, how big it is, and how darn hot it is.  What would happen to the rope or the poor bird that tried to grab the sun?

This also provided some information about how my students tackle problems.  Student #1 clearly is a risk-taker and is willing to try a creative solution.  Student #2 applies prior knowledge and logic to his problem-solving.  Student #4 needs to see an example before he takes a leap.  He then uses his prior knowledge to take on the problem.

Yes, we have our work cut out for us.  But when the kids decide what they want to learn, the motivation is built in.  And we have touched on most of the learning standards for the unit by using their questions.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Teaching Vocabulary: What a Word Does and Does Not Mean

"Write the definition of each word.  Then use each word in a sentence." I dreaded this assignment from elementary school through high school. The more words there were, the more tedious the task was, and the fewer word meanings I retained. Sometimes I was not quite sure what a word meant based on its definition, so I was able to pretend understanding by camouflaging the word in a vague sentence such as, "He [word] across the school."  Many verbs could fit this sentence- spit, cartwheeled, ran, walked, screamed, yelped, squealed, etc.  Only the strictest of teachers would not allow my ambiguous vocabulary use. 

Vocabulary in a Primary Special Education Class

Created at ImaginationCubed.Com
Fast-forward to the lesson my student's learned today on precipitation. After discussing a brief video clip on types of precipitation, I asked my students to explain what precipitation is. They offered some one-word answers (later in sentence form with prompting): snow, rain, hail.  Based on what we know now about vocabulary development, I provided my students with graphic organizers on which they were to draw examples of precipitation. 

Created at ImaginationCubed.ComHowever, one of the students provided that precipitation is "a weather computer" because he remembered there was a brief segment that showed a meteorologist using a computerized forecasting program.  This prompted a discussion of what precipitation is not.  As we continued the conversation, it turned out that some of the students were using precipitation and weather synonymously.  We needed to discuss weather on our weather chart (e.g. sunny, windy) that is not precipitation.  Students then completed the "not precipitation" graphic organizer by listing items in each category and depicting them. At the end of the lesson, all students were able to describe precipitation and name the kind of precipitation.  Our future lessons will further support meaning by discussing why precipitation is important and how it can be helpful or harmful. 

Do you have a vocabulary success story or tidbit you would to share with Teaching and Tech Tinkerings?  Send a comment.  

Saturday, March 13, 2010

11 Autism Treatments That Really Work- Part III

Five More Treatments That Earned the NAC Stamp of Approval

Here are the final five treatments recommended by the National Autism Center (NAC) in its recent report (2009.)  To qualify as a recommended, or "established" treatment, the intervention had to undergo rigorous review.

Peer Training Package
Peer trainers, classmates or siblings of children with autism, are responsible for "facilitating play and social interactions" with children with autism after they receive instruction.
A school counselor works with a group of teenagers in a social group after school.  The group involves social outings for students with and without disabilities.  Mirabelle, a 13-year-old with Asperger's syndrome, benefits from being paired with Lacita, a teenage peer helper who models social skills prior to and during the outings.  Lacita also helps Mirabelle with conversation skills by directly telling her that it is time to change topics and letting her know what nonverbal cues she was giving that hinted at the conversation needing a topic switch.

Pivotal Response Treatment
Pivotal skills are behaviors that are critical and have a synergistic effect on a child's development.  Examples include responding to multiple cues, improving motivation, and self-initiation (e.g. asking questions).

Photo by WoodleyWonderWorks at
Photo by WoodleyWonderWorks at
Juan is a 5-year-old with autism.  His teacher is working with him to increase his ability to respond to multiple cues.  He is learning the names of his classmates.  Because Juan is overselective to stimuli, he usually attends to one cue to the exclusion of others.  For example, when he is shown a picture, shown a name in print, told the name, and shown the student in front of him, Juan only focuses on the printed name.  Therefore, when he is just shown the picture of the student, he is unable to identify the student.  The teacher emphasizes various stimuli by introducing and pairing only one of the stimuli with the actual student at a time. She eventually alternates the presented stimuli (printed name, spoken name, photo of the student) so Juan learns to respond to the multiple cues.

The use of schedules, as intended by the National Autism Center's report, refers to breaking down activities into their steps and providing a list of these steps.  A visual schedule may be in written, pictorial, photograph, or even object form.

A 4-year-old with autism is learning to wash his hands.  Above the sink at home, his parents have posted photographs of the steps involved in washing his hands.  As they are teaching him to wash his hands, they point to each step on the schedule. 

Individuals are encouraged to regulate their own behavior by setting their own goals and recording how often behaviors occur (or do not occur.)

Tyrone, a middle school student with autism, works with a special education teacher to set goals for his behavior.  He has been getting into trouble in English class for repeatedly calling out.  He decides he wants to work on decreasing this behavior.  He and his special education teacher develop a weekly sheet on which he will tally the number of times he calls out and the number of times he wants to call out but does not.  They will review the results of the data at the end of each week.

Story-Based Intervention Package 
Carol Gray's Social StoriesTM are the best-known story-based interventions used with individuals with autism. They are usually brief stories that assist a person in navigating a social situation. For a detailed explanation, visit The Gray Center.

Michael, a 7-year-old with autism, is going to the dentist.  His parents write a story, which is accompanied by illustrations, to assist in alleviating his anxiety about the visit and to help him know how what his role is in the visit.  Here is a paragraph from his story:

Photo by Suat Eman from
By Suat Eman
When the dentist is cleaning my teeth, I will keep my arms at my sides.  The dentist likes my arms to be away from my mouth so she can see what she is doing.  I will try to stay still.  The dentist is able to be more gentle when I do not wiggle.  She wants to be gentle. 
Do you have a favorite intervention from the 11 Autism Treatments That Really Work?  An experience with one of the treatments that you would like to share?   Send a comment.

11 Autism Treatments That Really Work- Part I
11 Autism Treatments That Really Work- Part II

Friday, March 5, 2010

Even Princesses Are Bullied

Apparently it's not easy being a princess these days- at least not for 8-year-old Princess Aiko of Japan, who has been skipping school in fear of a bully. 
Not even a privileged place in the Imperial Family's lineage was enough to exempt Princess Aiko from the deleterious effects of bullying.  So what can we do to prevent childhood taunting? 
  • strengthen our bullying education programs
  • develop a zero tolerance for bullying
  • communicate acts of bullying with the parents of all parties involved
  • supervise settings where bullying tends to occur
  • prevent access to settings where bullying tends to occur
Some states have laws that require these practices. 

Here are is a link to website for kids:
Stop Bullying Now

Monday, March 1, 2010

Food for Good Behavior? What Do You Think? Cast Your Vote.

Do you think teachers should use food as a reward for positive behavior?