You may have noticed that this month lacked the usual posting. It turned out to be a month of emotional upheaval so I decided it was better not to post until things turned around. We got the good news this morning at 6 am. We will no longer be on strike but will return to work on Tuesday morning. This was after a negotiation session that ran 18 hrs. at the end of a week of walking a picket line through mostly rainy weather.
Striking was not an experience I thought I would ever take part in as a teacher. I can’t say I was an avid participant of union events up until this year. This year I was glad I had paid those union dues. It made the difference with not having to accept a contract that was grossly unfair to us and the students we work with. It is no joke that teachers are under attack. We saw it happen here in our little part of the world as 4 districts had to fight it out. Not over the money like the press continues to say, but over contract language that took away things like prep time, employment tied to test scores, allowing verbal complaints to go into record, and contract re-openers which meant nothing really was binding.
I have to say that our parents were are best allies. They put the pressure on the school board, and supported us on the line with coffee, and goodies. Although some animosity developed during the week as classified staff had to continue to work, it also allowed for some bonding as people were able to talk and meet like they hadn’t before. Hopefully we will now be able to finish the next 2 1/2 weeks on more pleasant terms.
If you have followed my blog you know that I have used StoryKit in a few of my activities this year. I thought I would bring it to the fore front since I found another way to use it. I keep finding new ways to use it and it useful for so much more than just editing a story. For those who are not familiar with it, you can read more about it on the ITunes app store. It is available as a free download.
When you first open StoryKit its full potential is not apparent. When I first saw the books listed for editing I thought it was just another app for downloading children’s books. Then I realized I could create my own books and insert pictures I took with my iPad or my photo library. The program also allows for writing and multiple recordings on each page.
This led to use number one. I found it was great for creating directions for crafts because of the multi-modal presentation. A child has pictured, written, and verbal directions that can be repeated at the push of a button. If you look back on my bulletin board crafts, there are examples of directions posted using this program. The App creations are actually better on the iPad because they are presented as a book rather than in story board form.
Use number two was actually incorporated into use number one. I used the recording feature for expressive language and carry over for articulation. The students created and produced the directions. They were motivated to use clear and concise speech when recording them. If it didn’t come out clear the first time, it was easy to record it again They would make multiple recordings and in the end keep the best one. It really made them more aware of errors to correct and what details were important.
My latest use was making a book of “Unexpected Animal Photos.” There are all sorts of collections of photos on the internet. It is easy to take a screen snapshot of these photos to make a book. Students can add verbal commentary once pictures are added. I’ve found that animals are a good topic for conversation and the unusual pictures encourage students to use descriptive detail and make inferences. You can make your own by using Google to search for collections of unexpected animal photos. When you find a photo that you like, you can add it to your photo library by taking a screen shot. Here are the directions to create a screen shot. Even if you don’t have an iPad, the pictures can be printed off and used for discussion. Students always seem to like to talk about animals.
Today we continued to work with the social pragmatic group using the Superflex program. The lesson of the day required the use of a flexible brain to illustrate how the brain needs to be flexible to grow and handle changes in its environment. There is a comparison of a rigid brain with a flexible brain. For those who do not know the program, Superflex conquers Rock Brain who is not flexible and doesn’t adapt to change well. He keeps getting stuck doing the same old thing.
The lesson manual suggested using a brain mold to make a jello brain. I was in luck because I knew someone who I could get the mold from. The manual did not give actual directions or a recipe. I put this lesson off for as long as I could because I do not have a good history with jello molds. I have a history of jello that sticks to the mold and never turns out looking right. The thought of trying to work with one in the time line of classes had me worried. I figured the jello would melt and be over the table before the session was up.
I researched jello brain recipes on the internet. It turns out that there are a lot of these. Some of them are a bit on the gross side of things. I decided to stay away from the worm and bug infested brains although I’m sure they would be attention grabbing. I wanted something that would be close to flesh tone and stay fairly solid. So I settled for the following recipe.
You need 3 boxes of jello with orange to pink colors (watermelon, peach), Evaporate milk (12 0z), green food coloring, and 2 1/2 cups boiling water
Dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water, Spray the inside of the mold with vegetable o spray. Add milk and cold water to the gelatin mixture and stir until smooth. Add 2 drops green food coloring. The mixture should look more flesh-colored. Add a drop at a time until you get the right color. Pour the mixture into the mold and put in the refrigerator. This brain turned out to be quite solid and kept its form several hours.
For the lesson, slips of paper with brain functions from the categories of social awareness, motor,and factual/science are inserted into the jello brain. The students take turns pulling these out and talking about them. I debated the best method of getting the papers in the jello. I ended up laminating the papers and poking them in after the brain was taken out of the mold. This way ends of the paper were left sticking out and easy to grab with tweezers. Surprisingly, the brain is still in good shape after the papers are removed and I can use it again for another group. No one asked if they could eat it. I took a picture of the brain so you could have a visual.
I hear Spring has come to some parts of the country. We are not experiencing too much of it here. After waking up to three mornings of snow last week, I am happy to settle for rain this week. Occasionally the sun peeks out and I run out to catch a few rays. I am looking forward to seeing more of that sun.
April is coming soon and I am using my Spring Break to make some plans. This is the time of year I usually try to focus on non-literal language and metaphors. I saw this pattern for a butterfly here at
http://www.marinmommies.com/ and thought it would be an ideal project. It meets my criteria. It uses a minimum of steps, concept vocabulary and recycled materials I already have on hand. The youngest to the oldest will find the end result enjoyable. I will put them on a Spring Bulletin Board with the following title.
Butterflies are self propelled flowers. R.H Heinlein.
It will lend itself to a discussion of what makes up a metaphor and if they can find more to add to the board.
I am having so much fun using StoryKit to make sequenced directions I decided to use it once again. StoryKit is a free apt that allows you to make an edit your own books. On an Ipad it has actual pages rather than the story board format.
The link for the butterfly directions is here.
There is no audio at this point. I will have some of my students add audio when I get back from Spring Break.
Here is a picture of the butterflies. I will put a picture up of the bulletin board when that gets completed.
Many of you may be familiar with the Unthinkables. It is a name coined by Stephanie Madrigal and Michelle Garcia Winner. They are part of the Superflex Curriculum that uses comic books and characters to teach strategies to conquer problem behaviors and gain thinking power over them. I was able to purchase the program through the generosity of our school parent group. This is the site for those who are interested. http://www.socialthinking.com/home
I have begun using the program with several of my students in small groups. So far I am impressed. I have a few students who are on the higher end of the Autism Spectrum and have difficulty with social pragmatics. They are often sensitive to anything that points out imperfections they may have. In the past, I’ve had difficulty getting them to participate in role playing. Their initial reaction is to declare an activity as boring and then not participate. Yep, my Destroyers of Fun. On cue, that is how we started out. The comic nature of the program roped them in and as soon as the props came out they included themselves.
The characters are a great feature of this program. They let the students step back and talk about problem behaviors in an unthreatening way. They actually start to recognize what they have in common with the characters. I was amazed how much information they had retained after three sessions and sending the parent letter home. They explained the characters and strategies to a guest therapist on the 3rd session. It appeared they had actually talked about the characters with their parents. I guess we all want to be super heroes deep down, and we all have those unthinkable moments we need to conquer.
I have been busy gathering materials to make the characters and props. You don’t necessarily need a lot of props. However they are useful in grab bags or quick role playing in limited space. Many children respond better to manipulatives and props then paper and pencil activities. A model of a brain is helpful to simulate the brain sensor. I’ve found it helpful to visit craft stores and thrift stores that have small toys, fast food characters, and pieces of toys. I’ve learned that even if your children have grown you should never throw those things out. Here is what I have gathered so far. Can you guess the characters?
Here is a quick way to make super hero capes. I found a large men’s short sleeve sport jersey in royal blue at the thrift store for fifty cents. I cut off the sleeves and came up to the neck and kept the neck band. The front and back gave me two capes. I cut off the lower cuff area on the sleeves. I then cut this circle and sewed each end to the neck band ends still attached to the cape. It was stretchy enough it could fit over a child’s head and I didn’t need to put on fastners. I did some hemming up the sides of the cape. This may not be necessary since it might be material that doesn’t fray.