Build a Paper Tower; A Cooperative Challenge

3 Mar

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.

Cylinder paper tower

IMG240

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

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Cynthia-Montalbano

Styrofoam Cups and Rubber Bands

15 Feb

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. yarn tool

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.

It’s How You Say it

31 Dec

I have been working on some new social pragmatic cards.   I found that most of my social pragmatic cards did not have answers included.  I needed  cards that students could use  in small group activities and would have an answer they could discuss if an adult wasn’t with their  group to get them thinking.  I also wanted to use them for  role playing.  I found that students really enjoyed video taping themselves and viewing themselves.  However a written prompt  was needed for some students.    Students will be told that the answer is a possible answer and there may be more than one possible answer in some cases.

These  cards  were made for  my students in 3rd through 6th grade.  I tried to include some more difficult scenarios  that would be beyond the school environment.  Some of my older students need to spread their wings a bit more.

I included 12 cards for download here and  under Social Language.   There are 20 more at the TPT store.

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Cynthia-Montalbano

Social Thinking® conference

27 Oct

I went to the Social Thinking® conference  presented by Michelle Garcia Winner, Pamela Crooke & Stephanie Madrigal in Portland.  Now I am energized to try new strategies with some of my social pragmatic challenged  students.  I attended the first 2 days which focused on Lessons and Strategies to Help in the Classroom and Beyond.  We were the first conference in the tour and it had to be one of the largest conferences I’ve ever attended with about 500 people.  It was so good to see the mix has expanded to counselors, administrators, and general education teachers.  Because it was the first session, it was a trial to see how much material could actually be covered.  Parts had to be skipped because of time limits but we still covered a wealth of information.  I especially appreciated the video clips of sessions from Michelle’s clinic.  I also enjoyed seeing the progression of students who were on video clips 5 years back.   This conference mentions the Superflex series and a new book in that series but does not dwell on them.

I attended a presentation by Michelle about 5 years ago and it is amazing how her program has expanded since then. Her program has become even relevant for our caseloads today.  She presented how our goals and objectives can tie in with the state core standards. The handouts are especially helpful when talking to parents and teams. I found it gave me a whole new reference point when determining strategies and actually used it directly the next day when talking to students and teachers.

Upon my return, I found myself reshuffling my schedule to make groups for instruction in Social Thinking®.  Our school counselor started to use Superflex for whole class instruction but I realized I had a number of students that were not getting what they needed in our large class sizes.  I feel this type of instruction will have the most impact for students as they mature.  I recommend you go to the conference if you have the chance.

October Bulletin Board and Activities

20 Oct

It really has been a busy month .   I decided I better post before the month is over.  Just to give you a heads up, I added another page to record group activities.  I am finding my group activities tend to get buried in the blog when I try to refer back to them.

I have been using a theme of spiders this month.  In our part of the country the spiders really come out of hiding and webs are very noticeable.  Children are always fascinated by them.  I am working with a younger population and students with more severe disabilities that require a lot of repetition and motor activities to keep them interested.   I find if I can use the same theme vocabulary with a little variety in the activity they are more likely to keep interest and retain the vocabulary.   It helps to find a theme that has a lot of activities. I discovered there are really a lot of songs, rhymes, and crafts around the topic of spiders.

The first project I started was the bulletin board.  I got my idea from enchantedlearning.com.  They had a craft that used glue, black paper, and glitter to make a spider web.  You know how the students and I love glitter.  Besides, we have a new janitor and I had to condition her.   She was nice enough to take it in stride although she said it may take awhile to get rid of the last sparkles.  I really do try to keep the mess down, but my drying box turned out to have a hole in one corner.   In the past, my room has had  a trail of glitter coming from it down the hall.

The spider web craft project was meant for individual webs.  However, I decided we could make one large web if we joined them.  I like to promote group effort for social pragmatic reasons.  Before doing this project with the students, I tacked black paper up on my bulletin board.  I then used a white crayon and string to draw circles from the center.  I then added intersecting lines to make the web.  I then took the black rectangles down and cut them into squares for the students to use.  The students put glue (white glue or heavy glue stick) on the lines and shook the picture in my glitter can.  They always love seeing their creation when it comes out.  This gave the opportunity to talk about parts and the whole.  Warning!  If you have a lot of squares it would be good to number them before taking them off the board.   We then tacked the squares back up on the bulletin board to form the web.

I decided to extend this project even further for some of my older students.  They read Charlotte’s Web for their “Battle of the Books” last Spring.  If you remember the spider saved the pig by putting newspaper clippings in her web and spelling out words.  I encouraged them to add positive words from newspaper clippings to the web like Charlotte did.  It was emphasized that old newspapers and magazines are used and not books.   I added a spider made of yarn and pipe cleaners in the corner.   The older students also used one of my favorite app programs “Storykit” to sequence the directions and provide the oral commentary.  This was used as a visual direction for the younger students.

The counselor and I run social pragmatic groups in the two Life skills classrooms.  We brought spider activities into those classrooms as well.   You may notice I have added a new page, listed above, to keep record of classroom activities for this population.

The  1st  session with this group involved calling a name of an individual to get attention, using eye contact,  and then tossing a small rubber ball to them.  This encouraged a number of social pragmatic skills around how to get someone’s attention and make a communication exchange.  It also was good preparation for the yarn activity coming up in another session.  We had pictures of the kids which we placed under colored paper leaves.  We sang the song “ Where is Thumbkin?” and used the kids names.  It promoted using names, the colors of the leaves, and asking where questions.

In the next week, session 2,  we used a ball of yarn instead of a ball  for the tossing and kept hold of the yarn with a left hand.  The yarn stretched across the center and built a web of sorts.  This promoted group participation because everyone needed to remain connected for it to work.  We added concept words such as over and under when talking about the yarn.  For a 2nd activity we introduced spider songs, “There is a Spider on the Floor”  from http://kinderkorner.com/spiders.html.  I used a free app called SoundingBrd to build a 2×2 communication board.  The board was used by our non verbal students to direct what body part the spider should go when singing the song.  This introduced body parts and basic prepositions.

For  week 3  we used a sheer length of fabric ( I think it was a curtain in a previous life) and placed a beanie baby spider on top.   The students grabbed hold of the edges and followed directions of holding it up, down, low, high etc.  The spider could be slid down the fabric by holding it up and down on the ends.  This introduced some more prepositions; up, down, edge, and end.  We sang there is a spider on the floor again and reviewed prepositions again.  We put pictures of the students behind leaves.  They guessed where individuals were behind the leaves saying a color plus the leaf.

For  week 4  of this theme we used spider rings from the dollar store.  The previous songs were used again.  The spider rings were placed in the locations mentioned in the songs.  Students were introduced to prepositions such as behind and in front.  A new song  “Little Miss Muffet” was added.  We hid the spider rings behind our backs and then sang up the notes as we crept up from our toes to our head.  For the end, we put pictures of the students behind cut outs of pumpkins and they guessed where individuals were.

For the older group we discussed near and far.  The students tossed bean bags as they got further and further apart.  We then used a spider in a game of warmer/colder except we used nearer/further.  One child closed his eyes while the spider was hidden.  The other students then called out further or nearer to the student until he located the spider.

We have conferences coming up so that takes us through the month of October.