A Tangram Puzzle is an old Chinese tile game that consists of seven geometric shapes called tans. The tans usually consist of a square, 5 triangles and a parallelogram. The shapes can be used to form various shapes and designs. I used the original square but also developed a Shamrock puzzle because this lesson was presented in March. I would do the shamrock after the square because it tends to be more difficult.
I have used these puzzles when working with my social groups as a cooperative activity. It is a good activity to work on problem solving, seeing another person’s perspective, using directive language and cooperating within a group. Hopefully you have had a chance to work on some of these skills before this activity and this will allow you a chance to observe and encourage their development.
To begin the activity you need a square puzzle printed out on cardstock for each student in the group. They cut the square apart into individual shapes. At its simplest level each student mixes their pieces up into a pile and then puts them back together into a square shape. The difficulty and need for interaction can be increased by having students mix their pieces of the puzzle with other students. They choose puzzle pieces from the mix and then try to put their square back together again. This forces students to look at the pieces they have and what other students have. They then need to negotiate and trade for the pieces they need to make the original square.
There are two free downloads for this activity. One is the square pattern and the other is a shamrock pattern . I hope your students learn from and enjoy this activity.
Square Tangram pattern
Shamrock Tangram pattern
Recently I found I have Irish in my DNA so I leave you with this Irish saying.
Life is like a cup of tea,
it’s all in how you make it.
At my recent assignment at the middle school, I did push-in speech therapy sessions with the life-skills classroom. Students had a variety of skill levels. It can be a challenge to find activities everyone can do and enjoy. There was not a curriculum or materials available to me so I ended up using my ingenuity to make lessons. That is when I was thankful for the history I have posted here. I dug back to the beginning of my post archives. I did find some inspiration but it was also an eye opener. My posts have come along way since then and the post really didn’t look to appealing. I thought a revision would be helpful since it is unlikely many are finding it from six years back.
The original post was labeled Concept Group 12. A real catchy title uh. That was before I realized the importance of a title for search engines or appeal. It was a time when I was pushing into Kindergarten classes and teaching concepts using group activities. Although each lesson focused on concept vocabulary, we also worked on taking turns, asking questions, and following directions. The lesson I used this last week with my middle school life skill students focused on the concepts of right, left, top bottom, half, whole, and match. The class still benefitted from working on social pragmatic skills, following directions, and concept vocabulary.
You need some old alphabet animal cards for this activity. Prepare the cards ahead for use in the classroom.
The ones I used came from an old reading program that was taken out of circulation. There are two free downloads available on the internet from Jason’s Online Classroom and Jan Brett’s blog.
To prepare the cards, I cut them in half.
Divide them into two piles. One pile should have the upper halves and the other pile the bottom halves. Count out the number of cards to the number of students. There is a possibility of 26 matched sets so you may not need all of them. Do make sure you have the matches in the two piles.
In the classroom, pass out the top halves of the cards to students and talk about how it is only the top half of the card or animal. Show them that you have the other bottom half of their cards.
Mix up the 2nd pile of bottom half cards and place them in a box. Let the students draw a random card and match it to the card they already have. This creates a somewhat cooky animal which often elicits some laughter. You can take this opportunity to ask them if they have a match and how do they know it is not a match. You can also talk about bottom and top.
The next part works best if students are seated in a circle. It involves following one and two part directions as you direct them to pass the top or bottom to the student on the left or right. I vary the directions according to the ability level of the group. They may not be able to handle two part directions such as hand the top card to the person on the right. in that case I bring it down to one step such as pass the bottom card and direct the direction. After each pass they look to see if they have a match. If they get a whole set they can keep it and discontinue the passing. Keep going until everyone has found their whole card.
I am just discovering the full potential of a free app called Tap Roulette – Make Decisions with Friends put out by laan labs. You can find it in the App Store for your iPad. I have no affiliation with this app. I just find that I use it consistently so I thought I would review it. Basically students put one finger down on the screen and lights appear alternating under the fingers until one is lit up. It is a random impartial way to make choices. Obviously it is a good app to use in therapy to choose quickly who goes first and who can choose an activity. I found out this tool actually has some additioal side benefits.
I have several students who have difficulties regulating their feelings and reactions with unexpected events in which they have no control. They end up with undesirable behaviors or refuse to join in an activity that is not of their choosing. I use Tap Roulette to set up such a situation so they can practice their strategies to remain calm and stay with the group.
It is very important to do pre-teaching of the strategies. There are a lot of programs out there that promote self-regulation and those techniques need to be taught before hand. Some of the strategies may be things you are familiar with such as deep breathing and self talk. I usually get student buy in and assurance from them before we start. We all have bad days so no use using it then. Even the ones that have the most difficulty usually want to do it. If they are not chosen and remain calm I give a lot of praise for keeping feelings in check and staying with the group. This seems to be a strong reinforcement that starts to break the cycle of an immediate blow up. This is such an important skill for students to learn socially in order to get along with their peers and function in a classroom.
I use Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking® curriculum with many of my students. One of the concepts that is explored in this curriculum is “I have thoughts about you and you have thoughts about me.” In other words, people are always thinking about each other and they may have comfortable or uncomfortable thoughts depending on their actions. This may affect how they treat individuals in the future. People want to be with people they are comfortable with and have good thoughts about. They may avoid those that don’t make them feel comfortable. Therefore being able to tell the difference between what is expected behavior in given situations and what is unexpected can help us when making and keeping our friends. You can find more information on her concepts at http://www.socialthinking.com/
I needed a good set of task cards to review actions that students may do or observe others do. You may find them useful if you are teaching from this curriculum. They are double sided with an unexpected behavior on one side and a matching expected behavior on the other side.
I put the cards in a draw bag. The students reached in and drew a card out, and placed it on the table. They then decided if the side facing up was an expected behavior or unexpected. They talked about how the actions make them feel. If the unexpected is presented first, students can talk about what they think the expected behavior would be on the other side.
Students checked their answers by using the Top Secret UV light which I got at our book fair. I put a U or and E in the box for them to check. There is also a QR code for those who would prefer to use a scanner. My students find this motivating and they can self check if they are working in small table groups.
The draw bag is an easy thing to make. I took a sleeve off an old sweater and sewed across the bottom. The cuff makes a nice finished opening and the bag is stretchy. It has got to be the easiest bag I have ever made.
In my TPT packet, there are 28 expected cards and 28 matching unexpected cards side by side. They are meant to be printed on card stock, cut on the horizontal lines and folded back to make a double sided card. I put a box on each card so I could write with my UV light pen a U or E in the box. Students can light the answer up. I also put a QR code for those who like that option. The QR code is from http://www.qrstuff.com/. When scanned it will read expected or unexpected to correspond to the side it is on.
I am putting 2 pages of the cards below for you to review as a freebie. If you like them consider getting the full set at TPT. Just click on the cover page button at the top for a direct link to the product. Your patronage covers the cost of this website and keeps it advertisement free, except for me I suppose. I am trying to keep the commercial aspect down and provide resources. I know most of us are on really tight budgets.
Teachers Pay Teachers is having their Back to School Sale on Aug 4th and 5th. If you are waiting for the right time to get back to school materials, now is the time. Don’t forget to use the Promo code when you check out to get the full discount.
In a previous post I mentioned how I worked with students to recognize comments and questions and how they should make a reply. I made comment and reply cards last Spring. I have since updated them to include pictures. I’m putting a trial set here for my readers to try out. If they look like something you could use, the full set is on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Reply to a Comment trial set
Quick link to Teachers Pay Teachers.
Students are sometimes referred to Child Study Team (CST) because of difficulties relating to peers. Concerns revolve around the student saying inappropriate things, being picked on and starting fights on the playground. When you talk to the student, you may find they have limited interests and talk excessively on one topic. They have difficulties taking turns during a conversation. In their attempts to enter a conversation they say something that can be perceived as an insult or bragging. This results in a fight or peers not wanting to interact with them. The student then feels picked on or shunned.
Sometimes these students have a diagnosis of Aspergers or high functioning autism and are on our caseloads. They may need direct instruction on how to have a conversation. Learning the art of having a conversation can help alleviate some of the difficulties. However, it is a very difficult skill to teach without structure. Left to their own devices, the a session may go something like this. A student will start a topic of high interest to them. The other students interrupt to make off topic comments. One student dominates the topic with multiple comments until another student manages to derail to another topic with multiple comments. It becomes a competition to control the topic rather than enjoy an exchange of information. No one feels they have been listened to and arguments occur as they interrupt each other. Each student feels that only their topic and comments are right. I have actually had a student say they won because they had the most papers out.
How do we provide structure so it becomes a learning task? It is important to break down skills in in smaller increments so they can understand and practice. I have used colored paper shapes as visual cues to illustrate turn taking, topic changes and questions and comments.
Can you guess which conversation is interactive with multiple people talking about a topic. Which conversation is more likely people talking for themselves?
During this process I have discovered many of our students do not know how to start a conversation or recognize when another student is giving them an opening to start a conversation. They may not see the differences between a question and a comment and do not understand the hidden expectations of both. When a comment is said, they may misinterpret its intent and not respond appropriately. I made comment and reply cards so that my students could work on this directly. There is a full set at the TPT store. You can reach them directly by hitting the button at the top of the page or the button below.
There is also a set of trial cards here.
We are counting down with 4 1/2 weeks of school left. We even saw some sunny days which made people think that summer will make it yet. We get a lot of rain this time of year so sun is appreciated. It is hard to keep students interested when they would rather be outside. I am especially low on ideas for the life skills program. I came across this BINGO game and it was the perfect activity for this week. The students took turns drawing the call cards and making the faces so everyone could guess which one it was on their Bingo card. Even the students with limited verbal abilities had a good time. You can find them at http://peoniesandpoppyseeds.com/ here
May is also the month I bring out the Pear Tree for Homonyms. It seems to look different every year. I thought you might like to see how it is looking this year. I am still giving out lollipops for each homonym pair a student comes up with. After doing this several years, I am pleased to find that students that contributed when they were younger do not need prompting to come up with words now.
This is an activity I use with my social pragmatic groups. The activity requires students to use a trial and error method of problem solving. It is a good one to use for defeating Rock Brain because to be successful students need to be willing to try different moves. For students who fall apart when they are wrong, it provides opportunity to defeat Glass Man. This activity can be used to reinforces the idea that mistakes are not necessarily bad and can be used for learning. It is important to talk about this before you begin so students have the tools to work through their feelings in a constructive manner.
This activity also teaches students to work together toward a common goal. The solution will be found by observing the mistakes of everyone and it would be very difficult to succeed individually. Students also need to use their short term memory and make inferences to predict the pattern.
This activity can be used with small groups of students, two competing teams, or with one or two students. The object of the game is to cross a 6×6 grid of steps using the correct pattern. I lay the grid out on the floor so that students have a good view and can use motor movement.
Pattern cards are made A judge, who could be a student or teacher, is selected. The judge takes one of the pattern cards that will be the solution to the stepping pattern. A student begins the challenge by stepping on one of the stars in the first row and moves one row ahead for each step. As the move is made the judge indicates if it is the correct one by saying right or wrong move. A buzzer for a wrong move adds a game show feature and are available free as an app. If it is the right step the student continues to move forward. If it is the wrong step the person returns to the start or the end of the line and watches the attempts of others until they get to the front of the line again. The students may notice that a pattern is developing as students discover the correct moves. This will speed up the progress until someone finally makes it across. Everyone that was paying attention can then make the crossing. Students should be reinforced for working as a team and not as an individual competition to make it to the finish.
It doesn’t take much to make pattern cards and a grid on your own. However, if you prefer to have some of the work done for you, I am putting a set up on the TPT store for download at a minimum cost.
It seems a lot of people were enthused about the rubber band and paper cup activity. If you liked that one, you may also like the paper tower activity. It has been in the social pragmatics section. Sometimes when directions are just on paper you don’t see how great an activity is. I think the paper tower might be one of those activities. You usually don’t have to go far for materials. Just empty out your recycle box.
This activity works well with Rockbrain if you are doing the Superflex program. A little instruction about being flexible with your thinking and allowing other people to have different ideas helps on this one. I have used this activity with different sizes of social pragmatic groups who were sometimes divided into competing teams. They were given flat pieces of paper out of the recycle bin and told to build as high of a tower as they could. No other materials were allowed. There really isn’t a wrong way to do this. It seems they typically divide into the cylinder group, or the fold into squares or triangle group.
It really is a good activity for group participation and sharing of ideas. They have made it as high as 6 levels. By that time a student is standing on a chair and no one is breathing. One false move and the whole thing comes tumbling. Hopefully no one will have a Brain Eater moment.
Just a note to let you know I updated the (Comprehension of Complex Sentences) I am putting 3 pages for a free download here.
I have 36 cards available at the TPT store
Having a party day mid week sure throws off the concentration. There was a level of energy that was hard to contain. It made for a long week with a lot of interruptions.
This month the 4th grade students studied different types of machines. The final task was making machines that would deliver valentines to their valentine boxes. The styrofoam cup activity that is in the pragmatics section is a good example of a tool/machine operation. I decided to bring it out again to reinforce what was happening in the classroom and add my language component. I used it previous years with larger social pragmatic groups so some of you may already have found it and used it. I thought it was worth mentioning again. I would love to hear how it worked for you if you tried it. Please go to the pragmatic section to download more specific directions.
This time I adapted the activity for my smaller therapy groups of 2 to 3 students. We used 6 to 8 strings on a rubber band and each student pulled 2 of them. I added myself to the mix. Basically the tool is a rubber band with 2 feet lengths of yarn tied to it. Students take a yarn in each hand and pull to open it enough to fit around the end of a styrofoam cup placed bottoms up on a table. They were instructed not to use their hands when moving the cups. When they released the tension the rubber band grabbed the cup and they then lifted the cup with the yarn pieces and moved it into position to form a pyramid. 15 cups make a nice size pyramid. Students took turns being the leader to give directions.
I found adding myself allowed for some sabotage. I just didn’t move unless specific directions were given. One person not moving can make a big difference in the operation of the rubber band which is the beauty of this activity. They learned quickly to use positional words and to work cooperatively. I pointed out that “Whole Body Listening” is important here. One person can ruin the whole operation if they are not focused on the group and cups. That rubber band can assume a rather flat appearance and not be functional if someone isn’t pulling right. Also they can’t make assumptions that people will know where to move.