Sunday, July 9, 2017

Use Board Games to Teach the Expanded Core Curriculum

Looking for another fun way to implement the Expanded Core Curriculum at home this summer? How about some fun board game play! Say what?! Yep! Here are three board games that pack a fun ECC punch.
It's just not recreation leisure ECC area that board games cover. Many students with vision impairments especially those with more significant vision loss struggle with asking meaningful questions to obtain information. It's a true skill for our kids and youth to learn how to discern useful information and know how to get it. This is something I have been working on teaching my students for forever. In fact, one of my favorite OM instructor and I used to joke that we were going to start a question camp just to work on the art of asking good questions to get meaningful information!

This year at my Theater Camp I figured out a way to work on this area. I got some board games that focus on questions, listening, information, etc. that were actually fun to play. The first of my favorite games is Hedbanz. This is a great game for question asking that also packs a lot of other ECC areas.

The first thing I do is make sure all of the students are familiar with the rules and the "how to" of the game. The pictures I've posted are of the game brand new. Next, I whip out some Brailleables, any kind of fave Braille labels or I just Braille right onto the card (I would do this if you are just buying for home. I use labels because I use them at camps over and over). I also discuss some of the objects on the card as a pre-teach for concept development. 

Note: I secretly keep tabs of cards that students did not know anything about so I can later get those items and teach about it. Most times the kids know the cards but I always have my teacher brain on....
Then I just play the game! There are a few versions like Disney Hedbanz and all are a lot of fun. They do give you sample question cards to help you ask good questions. I usually Braille those, too. This game is great for working ECC skills because you really can touch on almost all ECC areas. It's also just a fun social game. I play it with all ages of students to be honest because we all just have a great time. Sometimes we race to see how fast we can figure out the cards with older students or do something new and silly for them. 

Apples to Apples is another fun game that teaches ECC areas. I prefer to play the Junior version with most of my younger students. It takes awhile to get the Braille on but that, too, is an ECC teaching moment since I ask my students to help Braille them. We have a lot of fun with the combinations and again we discuss different social items related. There isn't too much for the question asking in this game but it still teaches a lot of meaningful ECC skills. 

What is IT? is an APH game that is similar to Hedbanz. I originally didn't know about this game until it was offered to me as we were cleaning out old items. What a diamond of a find! Check out the example I snapped a picture of below:
They provide tons of items and some helpful tips for teaching how to play the game. Once I see that students get the hang of it, I challenge them to come up with their own items by topic. For example, things you would find in a kitchen. See how I am teaching ECC here? I'm working some good independent living skills in a fun way. Then I can extend the lesson by asking students to find the actual items in the kitchen or discuss where to buy them/use them for different types of meals. 

It's been really fun to keep playing these board games and linking them to the ECC. I also love playing Left Center Right (see old posts for it) and other group games like Hottest (see older posts) that completely incorporate Expanded Core skills. 

If you aren't sure how you are implementing ECC while playing, break down the nine areas and see how they fit. I'll be sharing my favorite ECC worksheets that I use with my teachers to help them implement the ECC later. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bringing Braille Literacy to Art with Shoe Design

I love our new library gal! She has immersed herself in the Expanded Core and has a ton of fun ideas for integrating it in meaningful ways. She had our transition class work their ECC skills with the Vans Custom Culture Contest. How fun?!

Because literacy makes it's mark in many ways - we ventured down the road of Art & Design in our Library Class. Together, the class conceptualized and designed four pairs of shoes for VANS Custom Culture contest. Each detail, theme, and material was discussed until a clear end product was brought to the table. Our library curriculum specialist helped execute the plan.  All four shoes are awaiting review to hopefully move on to the next round. Each student brought specific ideas to the table, and their outcome is fantastic--  from Braille on shoes to SW Local flavour - each is super unique.

I wanted to share this because I thought it was a great and super relevant way to relate the ECC for our transition age students. There were so many connections to different ECC skill areas with working on this contest. Plus, our shoes are on display at our school for everyone to see and to feel. Looks like the ECC is pretty fashionable, too!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

On-the Go-Learning Resource

Hi friends,
I want to share one of my fave resources for my educational teams. Check out On-the-Go Learning from Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI).  They have archived webinars on a variety of topics including the Expanded Core Curriculum areas.  I took some screen shots so you can check out all of the different options.
You can also check it out here:

There two other things that I really like about these webinars: transcripts and chapters. Transcripts are common but they aren't always included in everything. I like to have them to handout to families or teachers (although watching the webinars are pretty rad, too!). I like that you can use transcripts for notes, too!  I also love that they list the chapters with the time so you can advance to different sections of the webinar. This is especially helpful if it is a 50 minute webinar. Some colleagues may lose interest so being able to tell them to advance to a designated time is really helpful. 
Bookmark this TSBVI site and share it with your educational teams!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Pairing Shapes with Everyday Concepts Using the APH Carousel of Textures

 This past school year I have loved seeing all the fun ideas from one of my talented colleagues, Keri. She has done an amazing job with creativity and instruction. Her classroom are lower elementary age students that although are awesome kids, have struggles with becoming learners. She has done a terrific job of pairing all kinds of core and Expanded Core concepts to everyday routines, concepts and experiences. I want to share two of her ideas that had a lot of impact on her students.
Keri, like all of our teachers, use the TSBVI Elementary Concepts Curriculum. She selected concepts that are most familiar to her students. One concept is their home. She used their home paired with squares and rectangles. This created some meaning with learning about shapes and lines. She used the APH Carousel of Textures to accomplish this. The Carousel of Textures has several different textured papers. 

The textured papers also allowed a secondary concept, texture discrimination, to also occur naturally. Keri worked with parents to find out if they lived in small homes or large homes. They went hands on with windows, doors, walls and tied them to shapes. They discussed big and small. Then after much simple instruction--chaining together concepts, they put together their homes. 
Look at the pictures and notice the use of lines, shapes and textures. These projects were simple enough that students could work with minimal support with making them but packed a big instructional punch. 

Now check out how another similar lesson teaches about shapes. This lesson used cars. The home lesson focused on squares and rectangles. The car lesson used the same concepts but also included circles. 

Here's my famous question: can you see how many areas of the Expanded Core are covered in these lessons? All of the areas of the ECC are covered in these lessons! Yep, these lessons involve all the areas from compensatory (concept development, organization, tactual readiness) to self-determination (self-awareness, making choices, self-instruction). These are great activities for the early childhood age students. 
You can purchase the APH Carousel of Textures from APH. Most of APH products can be purchased using quota funds. You can also check out activity ideas by using the TSBVI Elementary Concepts Curriculum. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Joystick Tactile Object Attachment for Tactile Calendar System

A long time ago I posted about this awesome assistive technology lady, Therese Willkomm, who did this great workshop on easy assistive technology solutions. I only got to see half of her presentation and always wished I could have learned more. As luck would have it, several years later I find myself enrolled in Therese's Assistive Technology Solutions in Minutes class through Perkins e-learning series. I highly recommend this class!
Each week we learn about all kinds of fun things--adhesives, PVC, corrugated plastics, etc and we build and share our new ideas. This past week we learned about instamorph and I am in love! 
I am excited about this idea that I camp up with (thanks to the class): it's a joystick attachment for calendar object symbols. 
I have several students that have a goal of grasping items in their hands. We have some joystick switches that work with our switch adapted toys. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to expand options for giving our students meaningful ways of grasping things. Many of my students use calendar object systems but they are limited because grasping their objects is difficult. We can use eye gaze but that doesn't work for students who have significant vision loss. 
I wanted to find a way to make a more meaningful joystick for students other than with toys. I combined the joystick with the calendar object system.  I used the APH Tactile Connections Kit for this project.
You can buy Instamorph at several places including Michael's and Amazon. It dries white but you can buy colored pellets to add color to it. You can grab a good size bag for about $20. It's totally reusable (about 6 different times to reuse for best uses) and you can make stuff in a snap. 

Here's the How To:
First, start with your original symbol. This is the music symbol for one of my students. 

 I took apart the symbol, grabbed two strong magnets and got to work with the Instamorph.

 I flipped the symbol foundation (the green thing you see) over and glued the magnet to the bottom.

I used my Instamorph and molded it into a joystick and made sure that I flattened the bottom so that I could Gorilla Glue it to the magnet.

It worked! I hovered the magnet joystick over the symbol (with the magnet on the bottom) and it instantly magnetized. Now my student can practice grasping things in a meaningful way and can make choices using their object calendar system. 

Improvement to be made: I will find thinner magnets for the back side OR make sure I put a piece of foam so that the symbol isn't slanted.
Of course you will have to modify based on your calendar system items. I actually did several more for my students. 
Now I can really work on two different goals with students easier: 1) grasping in a meaningful way and 2) encouraging students to make choices. Remember to go at the students' pace and teach/reinforce/practice a lot so that they get the meaningful piece of this.
Resources for calendar object systems:
Calendar Boxes and Schedule Systems as Literacy Tools
Check back to my other posts on calendar systems because I have posted several times about them in the past. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Accessible Group Games

Hi friends,
I've updated my accessible group games/ice breakers/team building activities list with some of these new favorite games. A lot of people ask what my secret is to these games. It's really simple actually. I just watch a lot of YouTube group games/ice breakers/team games (or group games websites) and look for games that can easily be modified for our kids. I'm posting some of my favorite ones so you don't have to watch hours of YouTube videos.

I always like to think about how the ECC supports these games. For example, during the holidays I will look for popular holiday minute to win it games and teach those games to my students. The way they can participate more in holiday parties.

Social themes, nonverbal body language, communication, etc. are all big things I look for to incorporate. These are all areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum. I also love games like Human Ladder where you can put yourself out there and really accomplish something (really builds that self-determination!). So many of my students have been so proud of themselves after they have gotten across the ladder. They have to incorporate so much communication, body awareness, etc. with these types of games. I have posted on Human Ladder before (look for my outdoor ed posts).

I stay away from messy games or games that really require you to be overly silly. I stay away from really messy games because they can get easily complicated. The same for games that require really silly body positions (like the empty tissue box on your bum and you have to shake out the tennis balls). Those type of games, although fun, can easily go another way and become a little bit more humiliating rather than exciting. Now I am sure some people play them just fine but it is my experience that they "toe the line" with making people feel really awkward. Many of my students already feel awkward and the point of these games are inclusion so it is my personal choice to steer clear of them.

Here are some of my favorite games that require little equipment and get a lot of ECC bang for my buck while playing them:

Five minute handshake game
Objective: teach different handshakes; personal space; how to give a good handshake (teach the difference between silly, business and friend types of handshakes)

Ritz cracker down your face
Objective: use your face to get a cracker from your forehead (down your face) to your mouth

Chocolate unicorn:
Objective: balance as many chocolate donuts on your forehead (player tilts head back to while partner places donuts on forehead)

Bowl on head game:
Objective: scoop marshamellows from a bowl (on table) to a bowl on your head.
Watch it: (speed up to 2:37 to see this game)

Pass the wooden spoon with your feet group game
Objective: Pass the wooden spoon using your feet only around a circle.
Watch it: (speed up to 4:48 to see this game)

Zip Zap Zop
Objective: helps with attention and voice intonation. Modification: I always have students say name + zip, zap or zop. For example, Zip-Monica, Zap-Chandler, Zop-Ross….

Hot Seat
Objective: Get to know someone by asking questions. One student sits in front of the group in the “hot seat” and everyone asks questions. You cannot repeat questions. This game is great because it teaches students to listen to each other and learn to ask meaningful questions to get meaningful information.

Wrap the present using potholders with a partner! (Doesn't have to be for just the holiday season!)
Objective: This is a twist that I made on the popular Christmas present game. Instead of trying to open the present with potholders on both hands, we paired up students with each wearing a pot holder (on one hand) to try to wrap a present together. Winners were determined by who had the best looking present.

Human ladder:
Objective: students all hold ladder rungs while one person walks across. Great team building game!

I also love to play popular PE games like Four Corners and Step Tag because they have the fun of chase games without the complication of chasing and running. I've also done a lot of relay games using scooter boards (check my other posts for those types of games).

I love to peruse these sites for ideas too:

Please share with me other great games with me! 

Friday, April 7, 2017

DIY Braille ABC Cards

Hi friends, this week I am sharing another project that was a collaboration with my awesome teachers. One day while I was hanging out in one of our preschool classes I noticed that are future Braille readers were left out of the ABC cards. This wasn't anything to be mean to our Braille readers. Our teacher just didn't have anything like the print ABC cards that our low vision students were using. 
Many print readers have large print letters and activities to help them learn how to recognize and print letters. Annie, our preschool teacher, wanted to include all of her students in the letters center but was a little stumped on how to include her Braille students with the same type of cards her low vision students have. We put our two heads together and came up with these easy DIY Braille cards. These cards are just one idea of many brilliant Braille ideas. 
These are simple to make but a tad time consuming. 
We made a template of the Braille cell and then copied them so that we would have one for all 26 letters of the alphabet. Then they were laminated and cut out. I bought buttons in black and white colors (for contrast). All the buttons were hot glued into the different Braille dot configurations to make 'Braille letters'. Kudos to our amazing paraprofessionals who helped make these sets. They were all hole punched and put on a book ring to keep them organized and easily managed. 
The contrast between the buttons and the paper was meant to be fun for young students. You could easily switch up the colors if you like. Contrasting colors may not always be relevant to future Braille readers. The colors help with appearance with other children in a classroom.
You could also make one Braille cell template, add velcro to both the dots and the buttons so that students could arrange Braille letters (or match to one of the Braille cards) similar to how print students trace or match print letters. 
These ABC Braille cards are part of the Expanded Core Curriculum. Braille instruction is part of the area of compensatory skills. Now don't go thinking that compensatory is the only ECC area covered by these cards! The implementation of the cards can also cover other ECC areas such as career education and independent living skills.
We use these cards in our preschool and with our primary grades (that have children with some additional disabilities). However, feel free to use them with whatever grade or ability of student you would like. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Cheat Sheets for Teachers on the ECC

Hi friends, This week I am talking about some Expanded Core handouts that I made for my teachers. I spent a lot of time with a variety of teachers from outreach (or itinerant) to our deafblind teachers and listened to how they explained the Expanded Core. I noticed that they had a grasp on the ECC but seemed to have trouble with having the ECC points quick to say. I spent time with our support staff and realized that they also had the same issue. I am so proud of all my colleagues because they have been working so hard at learning the Expanded Core. I thought about how I could continue to support them and viola! I created some cheat sheets that they could use to explain the Expanded Core and have as a quick reference. 
I have two cheat sheets. One has points about the ECC such as why we need it, how to implement, how others can teach ECC areas and a bit about the nine areas. The other is dedicated to a synopsis of each of the nine areas of the ECC. I spent time on all our great sites such as Paths to Literacy, ECC Advocacy and TSBVI to create the best synopsis of each area. 
These handouts are also useful for sharing with education teams and families. Our TCVIs (teachers for children with vision impairments) must be able to convey why we must teach the ECC to parents and education teams. I find that many good teachers can't express it successfully and as a result, there's not much support for ECC instruction. I hope my cheat sheets help our teachers and support staff continue to develop their understanding of the ECC and help them get everyone else on board. I am happy to share my cheat sheets. You can email me at and I will send you a copy. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Resource for Teaching Both Core and Expanded Core Curriculum

Hello friends, I bet you thought I quit posting because it has been so long! But have no fear, I am here and have lots to blog about! I will have regular new blog posts every other Friday (starting right after this one...).
I am SO excited to share this resource with everyone. Many of you probably know about the Texas School for the Blind (TSBVI) Elementary Concepts Curriculum but if you haven't, have no fear! I a sharing it with you now. I L-O-V-E this from TSBVI! In fact, we have it implemented in all of our classrooms on our campuses. 
The TSBVI ECC is designed for elementary age students and students with multiple impairments. It's awesome because it is a curriculum designed specifically for children with vision impairments. Teachers can easily implement this curriculum with general education core standards. 
 Each unit has academic support units such as reading and writing activities (see picture above). It does come with an assessment and a full overview of how to use it (see picture below). The curriculum does not specifically spell out which of the units are Expanded Core (the only flaw). However, take out your cheat sheet of the nine areas of the Expanded Core while selecting activities. You will be easily be able to label Expanded Core areas. It's a win-win for teaching both Core and Expanded Core.
 I can't say it enough---I love using this curriculum!! It is also very supportive for our kids who are just under grade level or require a lot more hands-on experiences. It is my favorite for our classroom teachers (who have classrooms that consist of children with vision impairments).
 I divided my TSBVI Elementary Concepts Curriculum into three binders because it just enormous! It also makes it easier to share with our general education teachers. There are goals and objectives within each unit. These goals and objectives make it easy to help with potential IEP goals too.

Here is the description from the TSBVI website:
This curriculum is written for students younger than twelve years of age who have visual impairments and are not yet reading, writing, and doing math at a first grade level. It is based on a thematic approach to teaching. Specific units of study have been included because an understanding of these topics gives students a foundation in their ability to understand themselves, their world, and how it functions. Unit activities include concept development, math readiness, reading and writing readiness, music and games, arts, cooking and eating, pretend play, story time, and extended discussion or activities.

The major themes are:
Description and Use
Self Theme
Happy Healthy Me Theme
Environment Theme
Where I Live Theme
Holidays Theme
Cycles Theme
Transportation Theme
Safety Theme
Recreation Theme
Animals Theme
Work Theme
Tools Theme
Others Theme
Community Helpers Theme

In addition, the curriculum includes an Assessment and Ongoing Evaluation that includes infused skills in cognition, communication, sensory and motor skills, readiness, work skills, and music skills. These skills are identified as a need through the assessment and then taught through the themes.

It's also a steal of a deal at only $105! (If you have ever purchased curriculum before, you know that this is a great price especially for what you are getting. I promise you that I do not get a cut of sales. I am just eager for teachers to have a curriculum that is specifically designed with the needs of children with vision impairments in mind.).

Check back to my Valentine's Day post and you will see ideas of where to use this. I also will keep posting lessons that are based on this curriculum. See you next time!

Friday, February 10, 2017

ECC Valentine's Day Activities

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! It's that time of year to stock up on CVI supplies since so many stores are carrying shiny red everything. Hit up our favorite CVI supply hot spots like Dollar Tree and Michael's for sweet deals. I was just at Michael's and they have all Valentine's day decorations for 40% off. 

I teamed up again with our awesome preschool teacher, Annie, to develop some Valentine's Day that teach Expanded Core skills and are fun to do. At our school (Utah School for the Blind), we are big on using curriculum that is specific for children with vision impairments. One of our favorite curriculums is the Texas School for the Blind Elementary Concepts Curriculum (if you don't know much about this, come right back to my blog because I am blogging about it NEXT!).  We used some units from TSBVI ECC with some fun ideas we found on Pinterest to create some awesome Expanded Core Valentine's Day activities. 

Check them out:
Activity #1: Love Potion

Materials: kool aid, clear cups, Sprite, water, red food coloring

Activity: Students can choose to make their love potion using water and kool aid or with Sprite and food coloring. Students can compare and contrast flavors and taste.
Expanded Core Main Areas: ILS, SD, SS, SE

Activity #2 Conversation Hearts
From TSBVI ECC Friend Unit (page 24)
Materials: candy conversation hearts, cutout hearts
Activity: teacher writes/Braille conversation starters and finisher on hearts. Each student takes a turn selecting a heart and identifies if it is a conversation starter or finisher. Teachers can put print words in a smaller print to create a magnifier use activity. Students may use a magnifier to read the print. Students can eat conversation hearts on their turn.  Follow objectives a, b and d from Others Unit B: Friends, page 24 in TSBVI ECC
Expanded Core Main Areas: SS, Comp, SD, CE, C
Write conversation phrases on hearts. Use an optical device to practice reading or locating text.
Add a Braille label for students who are learning Braille. 

Activity #3 Friendship Cookie
From TSBVI ECC Friend Unit page 30
Materials: cookie dough, cookie cutter
Activity: From TSBVI ECC, follow activity #3. Activity #5 for an additional cooking activity. Students each make their own cookie and then they merge them together to make one big cookie. If possible, let the kids put them in/take out the oven.
Expanded Core Main Areas: ILS, SS, SD, SE

Activity #4 Heart Hunt
Materials: cutout hearts in a variety of colors and textures
Activity: Send students on a heart hunt. Give them a selected color or texture to find around the wheelchair tray, classroom or the hallway.
Expanded Core Main Areas: OM, SE, SD, C

Activity #5 Heart Attack

Materials: cutout hearts in different colors/textures, directions cards
Activity: Students can select a classroom door to “heart attack”. Teachers prepare 4 different direction cards with up or top, down or bottom, left and right printed on them in print and Braille. Teachers can draw an arrow (and add texture for blind students) to indicate directions. Students select a direction card and put the heart on the door that correlates to the direction. For example, student selects “bottom” card and places the heart on the bottom of the door.

Expanded Core Main Areas: OM, C, SS, RL, SE

direction cards. Annie put the card on the door and her student had to place their valentine heart in the correct direction. 

Some heart cutouts used puff paint for texture. Other hearts were made with textured paper from the Carousel of Textures from APH.