Friday, December 29, 2017

Teach the Expanded Core at a Ninja Gym!

Teaching the Expanded Core Curriculum at Ninja Warrior Gym
Hi friends, you know I like to make the Expanded Core Curriculum as relevant and meaningful as possible for our kiddos so check out this community based instruction (CBI) lesson at a ninja gym! First, it is important to note that I didn't just show up at the ninja gym and to just play and hang out. The ninja gym was part of my short term program, Ninja Jam (a ninja twist on my annual December Jingle Jam). It was such an awesome way of teaching ECC skills! 
Before we headed to the ninja gym, we spent the morning discussing life obstacles. All of the students were divided up according to age. I write lesson plans for my staff so they can lead discussions with important talking points. I also made sure we touched on growth mindset as part of learning how to crush life obstacles. I love growth mindset for my students and my own kids. There is so much we can use from growth mindset as part of ECC instruction. 
Each student completed a worksheet (see picture below). Note: I made sure the font was a size that all my low vision students could see (some had theirs on 11x17 papers and we used 20/20 pens). We made Braille worksheets for our Braille readers (using simple peel & stick Braille labels and old school Perkins Braille writer). 

Here's a snapshot of my lesson plan discussion for my staff:
Can you see how we are working Expanded Core skills for this activity? We are hitting all the areas in this small group activity. 
Next we headed to the Ninja Warehouse in Ogden for an awesome ninja session! This took some planning and pre-teaching on my part. I went to the gym a few times before and thought about how I could take obstacles that were up in the air and make it meaningful. Thanks to the ninja coaches who gave me lots of help! My best tool for teaching about things up in the air: a white cane!

 We divided students into small groups and different stations. Students with no vision had a guide and we did tactile modeling of body positions.
The black & red colors were a bit tricky for some students because there was so much black & red but we managed well. Below is a picture of one of my students who has some vision (but is Braille reader) using her cane to see how high up the Devil Steps obstacle went.
 Then my daughter who was this student's guide runner in a lot of things we have done over the past year went side by side to show where to grab. Another note: I like to use peers whenever possible with typically developing students. I think there is too much of a stereotype that our kids always need an adult with them. I use peers as much as possible.

 We used A LOT of tactile modeling for body positions. We were very lucky to have Karson Voiles (owner of the ninja gym and an accomplished American Ninja Warrior come in and coach us.) He held a lot of positions over and over so students could feel how to position their body (major kudos to Karson because he had to do it a lot!).
 The ECC instruction covered everything from what clothes and shoes you should wear (independent living skills) to concept development (compensatory skills). It was a full ECC day of learning!

We had students with low vision, no vision and deafblindness attend our Ninja Jam. Check out my Instagram (9 More Than Core) to see video and more pictures of my students crushing obstacles. 
I'm not gonna lie. Some obstacles were a challenge for students with no vision such as the Warped Wall. Luckily there were kid sized walls that helped with the concept development. We had students feel the wall (to get the idea of the curvature) and the ledge. Then we did practice runs where I ran along side my students with our hands touching. I yelled "grab it" when we got up to the ledge. It only took these awesome students one practice run and they were climbing the wall like a champ! All of them pulled themselves up and onto the top. I did something similar on the larger version. It just goes to show you that it really isn't about what they see, it's about what they do!

Sample of Expanded Core Skills Covered:
Compensatory: concept development, reading & writing, spatial concepts, speaking & listening, organization
Orientation & Mobility: travel, body awareness, spatial concepts, locomotor skills, requesting/declining assistance
Social Interaction Skills: interpersonal communication with others and instructors; learning socially relevant conversation (why are so many people interested in American Ninja Warrior or parkour training)
Independent Living Skills: discussion of appropriate clothing and shoes for the gym, time management, organization
Recreation & Leisure: learning about obstacles, skills and activities (we had one very low vision student a student at the gym already!). 
Career Education: what jobs are available in this type of area; how to become a coach (and discussion about what make a good coach), following rules, waiting in line
Assistive Technology: We actually had an APPetizer party as part of Ninja Jam where we learned about different apps and how they can help in real life. Students took pictures of obstacles on their phones and magnified them so we could look at details that were far away.
Sensory Efficiency: We definitely had to rely on all remaining senses and vision to be engaged in the activities at the ninja gym.
Self-Determination: There were so many SD opportunities! Students made choices about what they wanted to do, developed preferences, learned about skills and talents for different skills and obstacles, requested assistance or identified where they needed it, made a plan of action (life obstacles). 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Braille Cheater Beater

Hi friends, I am so excited to share this post because this is from my hot husband, Todd, who is an itinerant TVI. He has a handful of low vision students who are learning Braille. He kept finding that they always wanted to cheat and peek with their eyes. That's not uncommon. Lots of our kids who are learning Braille and have usable vision try to cheat while doing Braille lessons. My husband wanted to find a way to work bust the cheating and still have a little fun with instruction. 
[The picture below is a picture of the Braille cheater beater which is a black screen the blocks a student from being able to see the Braille. They have to use their fingers to read it only. On the black screen there are Braille cards with contractions on them]
He also made some Braille contraction cards to help with memorization. A lot of his students still like to look at items to learn so he has visual Braille cards. He puts the contractions that he is teaching on the screen to remind the students of the them. (He also made a Braille contraction Go Fish game with cards like this). 

[Side view of the Braille cheater beater screen. You can see how a Braille book fits and the screen blocks the Braille.]
The original version of this has the long legs (as seen in the picture). He later cut the legs shorter so it wasn't so long. He used black felt and CPVC. We just sewed it up on the side to slide over the PVC. It was cheap and easy to make and has worked pretty well with his students. 

 Below are the directions and the materials used to make one. It's worked like a charm to bust the cheating with Braille.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Teach ECC Using a Daily School Schedule

Hi friends! I wanted to share an easy way to teach the Expanded Core Curriculum: use the daily school schedule! This gem of an idea comes from our talented preschool teacher, Sandra. I was visiting her classroom and saw her fantastic display. I saw her daily schedule and immediately started seeing ECC areas popping out everywhere!
[Picture #1 description: a daily schedule in the formation of two Braille cells. Each dot position has a print and object to represent a part of the day. ]

Check out the close up pictures of the Braille cell formation schedule.  Each dot position has a tactile object, large print and Braille. 

This daily schedule chart is oozing preschool to early elementary ECC concepts! Don't think that this is just a daily schedule. It is an easy way to embed ECC instruction.
 Here's just a quick overview of ECC areas that are covered by this schedule:
compensatory skill areas (more than just the Braille formation, think about concept development, organization, etc.)
career education (following a schedule, the chore chart, etc.)
ILS (time management, responding to the cue with the appropriate action)
orientation & mobility (spatial skills development; knowing the location of the center or activity)
recreation & leisure (following rules--you have to know how to follow rules when playing or participating in a recreation activity)
social interaction skills: the social discussion of what is happening during the day, turn taking)
self-determination (identifying what they can participate in; seeing how they are part of activities)
assistive technology (students can use low tech devices and pre-concept techniques for accessing information)
sensory efficiency (using all senses for concept development. I also want to point out the contrast that Sandra used. It is not a visually complex schedule for students to look at.)

Check out the accompanying chore chart. Chore charts are not unusual in classrooms. This teaches career education. I always want to encourage teachers to use chore charts and assign meaningful chores for students to do. This helps with concept development and foundation career skills. 

I love sharing easy ways where ECC skills occur naturally. That's the key to ECC instruction: find routines where ECC skills naturally occur or are naturally embedded. Hope this makes you think twice about using a daily school schedule!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

CVI Supplies at Dollar Tree Holiday 2017

It is not a secret that now is the time to buy CVI supplies such as Christmas lights, garland, tinsel, ornaments, etc. I have blogged about it myself for years to buy up these hot items (and then go back again at Valentine's Day for more!!). I was at Dollar Tree again and saw the new displays of holiday decorations and thought I would share some sweet buys from this season. I also wanted to share some important tips for using these decorations without overwhelming your student. 
Let's get started:
  • Most important:  how to keep your decorations meaningful for vision. The old saying KISS comes into play here. Keep It Simple for Students. Know your student's what and where vision. This means what can they see (color, shape, 2D vs 3D, etc.) and where can they see it (peripheral, central, left or right/up and or down). 
  • Environment matters: This may be old hat to some of you but if you are new or unfamiliar to CVI, always remember that the environment matters. This means to have contrast (black background always works so that the decoration shows up nice without visual clutter). Other important factors are sound, lighting, etc. Some students simply cannot tolerate a cluttered background (includes sounds, smells and visual items). 
  • Work in items gradually and then just wait and I mean WAIT! Present the decorations and then just let your student see the item.
Every year Dollar Tree puts out awesome holiday items. 
Here's this year's top picks for CVI this year:
(below picture is a rack of garland, ornaments, ribbon and snowman in traditional holiday colors)
The ornaments are good (I prefer going for the shatterproof ones at Michael's or Joann on sale). You can hang them in a variety of ways to catch your student's attention. I really like the garland! It is shiny, has fun movement and has good color. Don't discount the snowman either! They have fun texture, contrast and you can add lights. 

Picture (image description: lots of different holiday ribbons and bows in traditional holiday colors).
These curler ribbons and bows are totally a hit! You can pull at them or lace some bells or other fun toys on them and they are tough to destroy. I like the standard bows and add magnets to them. You can use a cookie sheet (also can be purchased from Dollar Tree) to do fun activities (see my last year post on Christmas/holiday activities: 

Picture (image description: shiny silver buckets, plates, for food display). 
I included this one because these platters, buckets, etc. are so fun to reflect light or even act as a mirror. Most people usually stick with the traditional holiday color/decorations but miss the silver mirror type objects. They are awesome accessory pieces!

I wanted to include the garland again because it is such a fun hit. All four of these colors: silver, red, gold and green, work together so nicely. The gold and silver provide a nice contrast to the red and green. Red is a fave CVI color but I also want to encourage you to try green. Green has been an increasingly great color with so many of my CVI students. This garland is pretty thick though so if you are thinking of using it to hang other items, keep an eye out. Your object must be larger than the garland. 

A few other items that I like are:
  • the cookie tins (wrap them in shiny wrapping paper and put things inside to shake for sound). 
  • wrapping paper (pick the shiny kind!)
  • holiday leaves and decorations like poinsettia (they are just fun textures--watch for choking). 
I also recommend hitting up the coupons from Joann and Michael's. Joann coupon deals for fabric are top notch. I like to buy velvet or fur (you can get it in black!). I use it as a big mat/blanket for students to lay on or as a background. I have bought a TON of of ribbon in a variety of textures and colors from Michael's. There are so many activities to make with ribbon (both super fat width, normal and a little wide). 

Have some fun holiday fun!! 
Check out my post from last year that has a ton of fun holiday activities:

Thursday, November 2, 2017

ECC Lesson Plan Template

Here is one of my favorite resources for teachers and paraprofessionals for learning how to implement the Expanded Core. This is a simple template to help zero in on ECC areas. Here's how it works: teachers write about everyday routines, activities or a specific lesson. Next, label all areas that are being addressed within the activity. Teachers can use this template for everyday routines such as handing in homework or the arrival/departure routine. They can use it for activities such as centers or a specific lesson. It's quick and easy for teachers to do and it focuses them on how they are embedding ECC areas throughout their day. 

pictures of the ECC lesson template
I also give this template to our support staff. This can also include related services. I think it is important for everyone on the team to embed ECC areas. I really like this for paraprofessionals because they often are the closest with ECC instruction with their direct time with students. This works for paraprofessionals who work in the elementary classroom but also with paras who work with middle and high school students. Paras of students in high school have the unique opportunity to be the biggest facilitators of ECC instruction because they have a lot of access to students. Many high school teachers (general ed) don't know how to implement ECC and TVIs may not have the service hours to provide several ECC lessons a day. But paras do! They are there from start to the end of the day. They can be the ones who can identify opportunities to embed ECC instruction throughout the day. 
I created this as a word document but also as a fillable pdf file so that teachers can quickly do this on the iPad. I specifically created this as a one page document so that it can be a 'snapshot' of how to embed ECC in a lesson/activity/routine. It also helps teachers and support staff to see how quickly they can infuse areas. I get a feeling that when teachers see big text areas they have to write a lot of information. This is sometimes true but most times you can make a quick bullet list of ECC skills. Teachers need to see that we need to teach the ECC all day, every day! 
You can email me and I will send it to you to use.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Connect With the ECC on Social Media

Logo for the 9 More Than Core social media groups
Hello friends!
I am so excited to announce my newest project, 9 More Than Core! I wanted to find a way that ECC resources, support, ideas and discussion were more accessible to parents and teachers. My lovely school, The Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, were way supportive of this new initiate. I will also have a website that is on the way!! Woot, woot for more ECC support!! You can find me on Facebook and Instagram by searching for 9 More Than Core. I am pretty faithful about posting regularly. I am also still sharing ideas here on The Bee so check back for more ideas and projects. I look forward to connecting with more of you on social media!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Name Activity for Early Childhood

Happy back to school friends! Sorry for time with no posts. It's been crazy but I have lots of fun ideas all saved on my phone to blog about so I promise to get caught up!
This post is inspired by a typical activity from preschool. I kept seeing all these fun name activities to teach students their names. The goal for our school is to transition our students back to their neighborhood schools so I always like to see what activities they are doing in typical classrooms. 
I found this fun name activities and with a few tweaks made them for our preschoolers. 

Student name in Braille and print

The name activity I made for our Braille readers have actual Braille and simulated Braille using buttons, felt circles or pins. The green dots are textured dots so students can point out individual letters. NOTE: The enlarged dots (made with buttons, pins, etc) are for our pre-Braille readers. It is to "warm up" their fingers and get them learning about the dot combinations. I also used Braille labels to type out their names in Braille. You can also use the ABC stickers from APH (ask your TVI for some stickers--they also have print  & Braille).

I used the KG Red Hands font to make these. I looked around for some free teacher fonts and I like this font because it has a bold and an outline of the font. It's easy to read (not a lot of visual clutter) but still looks like kid font. It is important to know what font size or just size that your little ones can see. Regular ed teachers may need a little support for this from TVIs.  Also, be careful about the white background with lamination. It might be too much glare for some kids (both the laminate and the white could be too much). I made a few other versions of these and used green outline to the letters because some of my students see green (or red) when those highlights are there. Make sure there is still contrast (meaning don't use green letters on green paper--that's probably too much green).

Make sure that whenever there is Braille that there is print as well (as a cheat for people that don't know Braille). See the above picture with the Braille cards.  The teachers had a great idea of putting a straight line of Velcro so students can just put their letters on the line.

Remember to keep your Braille labels consistent like the ones in the picture above. I didn't want our students to feel all over the paper to find the Braille. The Braille letters of Maeve's name are consistent--they are straight and in the same place so she can track.  I liked this idea because it is something that our kids will recognize when they move to the district in an early childhood class. We did make some printouts (with the same font--in the outline version) so our kids could trace and start their writing skills. These are easy to make! You just need cardstock (I also like to add a pop of color as a frame), laminate (they also make non-glare laminate if you have students that are sensitive to glare), Velcro and items to make your Braille (be careful of the size of the buttons. I noticed that one set of sim Braille was a little too big for our students' little fingers).  Best part of this whole activity: it's teaching the Expanded Core Curriculum!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Accessible Number of the Day Board

Happy back to school friends! I hope all the back to school plans are coming together nicely. I've become quite a preschool super fan as I have been working with our new preschool teachers to get them ready. I've read a TON about our core standards, ECC early childhood skills and general education preschool. One of the activities that I collaborated on was an accessible number board. I started this project last year with one of our preschool teachers but was able to get it off the ground successfully in all of our preschool classes for this coming school year. This idea came from number of the day activities that happen in general ed preschool.
This number of the day board is easy to make accessible for preschoolers with vision impairments. I have to give major props to our faithful para who helped cut out fabric and worked to make this come to life. We took the APH Carousel of Textures and some fabric with good texture and cut out the numbers. Below is a picture of the numbers 1-9 in a variety of different textures. This is for our low vision students to feel the shape of the large print numbers. Note: number 6 is in a crazy visual pattern. This was from our prototype of numbers. Be careful with fabric patterns so they are not too overwhelming!

A ten frame with velcro (in each frame) and a Braille cell with velcro at each of the dot positions allow students to interact with each of the items. The picture shows orange and green smiley faces and stars that can go on the velcro spots for counting on the ten frame. The Braille cell has velcro attached so the teacher can attach dots to make different numbers in Braille. It also allows our Braille readers to make different numbers according to the selected number of the day. 

The picture below are the numbers in word form with bright colors and bold letters for contrast. 

The picture below is of sign language numbers. Now I know what some of you are thinking---why do we have sign language letters for students with vision impairments?  Well, as many of you know (or are learning...), some of our students with multiple impairments/ASDVI/deafblind use sign language to learn and/or communicate. That's why we added ASL numbers because we do have students that use sign numbers. 

Our next picture below is our large print numbers in print (so there is the line going through them as if writing on lined paper). That is for practice as our students with low vision can trace with white board markers and for addition or number play. We made sure to use a nice bold number large enough that is easily read by our students with low vision. 

The last two pictures are of a traditional number line and an area to practice tally marks. We added yarn using hot glue for a textured number line with Braille labels over each number to make is accessible for our students with no vision. The tally marks area allow our students to practice tallying. We also used Wikki Stix for our students with no vision so they can do tally practice, too. 

Lastly, we used our trusty Invisiboard (I swear I have a million purposes for this thing!) to put it all on. We cut off one of the folds. The black background made the perfect backdrop for our board. We added velcro to the back of all the number items so we can easily interchange the numbers and items. Remember to keep the layout the same each time you change the number to make it easier to anticipate each activity of the number board. I also made a print out with bold lines (for contrast) that my teachers print out this year so each student can do desk work with the number of the day. The longest part of this activity was cutting out letters BUT you can also use a Cricut and it takes no time at all! I made sure that I brought mine down so we can whip it out for all my teachers since so many will be making these. We laminated everything (be careful with laminating as sometimes it makes for a nasty glare). You can also use non-glare laminate (I have purchased it and it works pretty nice). Happy back to school! Good luck! I'll post more ideas from back to school prepping soon. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Recreate with Recreation

Hi friends! I know it has been a long time since my last post but I have been crazy busy with summer programs. Whew, it has been a fun summer!! I wanted to share this post about getting out for some awesome recreation activities for students with vision impairments. It was another great year for Camp Abilities UT. This year I went with the theme of "passport to recreation" and each day we ventured to a new recreation activity. We spent time with the students discussing what recreation is, how they can do it and most importantly, WHY recreation is important for everyone! The picture below is  the front of the Camp Abilities UT shirt. 

It can be a challenge when you are first thinking about recreation activities that work well for students with very little to no vision. I have a few thoughts that I consider when I am planning recreation activities for my students--both my younger elementary students and my older middle to high school age students. First, I think of interest level. For example, are students interested in physical recreation activities, solitary recreation or low key (but interesting and fun) recreation? It is easy to just assume that recreation is going to be sports or physical activities. There are so many options (many that require minimal modifications or support) for youths with vision impairments! Gardening, cooking, theater, book groups, board games--and so many more are great options that are not physical.  The picture below is bowling with the black lights on. One of our students is getting a quick coach from one of our lead teachers as he throws the ball down the lane. 
Most of this post will discuss recreation activities that are community based. I am always looking for ways for students to be more active in their communities or future college campus. I think it is important for our kids to have connections that will help them be visible and active in their communities. 
Here are some fun recreation activities that our kids can do with friends and family with minimal modifications:
1. Bowling: bowling is great because you can have fun with any level of it. You can be on a league and be competitive or like many of us, just go and laugh at yourself for being a bad bowler! The main modification is that our kids just need to know where to line up to walk straight. We do bowling every year and all of the kids love it!! Our elementary age kids to high school have a great time bowling, listening to music and chatting with their friends. I usually spend half the time with the lights on but then we go for black light bowling. We have a wide range of visual needs and the black light doesn't really take away but usually adds to the fun for the students. 
The picture below is of four bowling balls in a square formation with a folded white cane on top of them. 

2. Ropes course: take a challenge on a high ropes course or a low ropes course! We took on an adventure course that was waaayyyy up high!! I usually like to do a quick preteach for my students that have no vision of just what the course layout is or footing sequences they will need to use (i.e. walking across a broken bridge).  The picture below is of the adventure ropes course with all the different routes you can travel on the course.

3. Stand up paddle boarding: SUP has become a huge hit in the Camp Abilities circuit and for many people in general! The only thing SUP requires is decent balance and a fun attitude. We go paddle boarding with KoliFit Fitness. They are a fantastic club that have taken us out on some fun adventures. The only equipment needed are the paddle boards, paddles and life jackets! Preteach moment: the kids get on the board on land (to check out the layout/size of the board) then onto shallow where they kneel initially to establish their balance. Fun for the whole family or out with friends! The picture below is two students on paddle boards. One student is kneeling with instructor behind them paddling and the other student is standing while paddling on their own. 

4. Wibit: You may be wondering what a wibit's a giant water inflatable playground or obstacle island to play on. So many kids (and adults) have a blast playing on the wibit. Our local rec center has Wibit Wednesday where everyone can go play on the wibit at night. There are different wibits but the standard one is pictured below. It is long and stretches across the width or length of the pool. It's enormous and has a variety of different obstacles such as a slide and things to climb over or around. We do a quick preteach just to make sure students have an idea of where and how to travel the wibit. We sometimes put an adult staff member in the middle for verbal coaching. I let students go one by one or sometimes let them race depending on their comfort level. Our rec center Wibit Wednesday is every week throughout the year so even in the winter, we can still have pool fun!
5. Archery: Yes, archery! It may require a little bit more hands on learning but it is a very doable option for our kids. One quick modification is that we put a sound source to identify which location to aim. We have used a standard sound source from APH (available on quota funds) or wireless bluetooth speaker. Archery is a nice option because much like bowling, you can be on a team and compete or you can do it for fun and increase your skills. The picture below is of a young woman with a bow aiming at a target. 
6. Fencing: FENCING!! This was a new idea that was way fun! Special note: fencing does require a lot of technique to do competitive footwork and it does help to have a good fencing coach. However, for some fun recreation fencing was a great choice! Fencing is a sport that does not require vision. Whisper coaches can stand behind the athlete and provide coaching. We did a long preteach session to work on footwork (i.e. lunge, retreat, etc.). We did foil but we also considered epee. Low vision as well as our Braille reader students successfully participated fully. Lots of fun! The picture below is two students in fencing attire in a one on one competition. 

7. Horseback riding: This is a popular option and many of our students have done it before. It is a fun option for students of lots of ability levels. We were fortunate to have a young adult man who has no vision come and ride with us. There is more than just being on the horse for our students. We took time to brush the horses, feed them and just spent time with them. The picture below is a student riding a horse while an adult leads it. 
These 7 activities are fun recreation options that our kids can do with their families and friends. But don't think that there are just 7! There are so many options. Feel free to share more ideas with me. There are many advantages for recreation for everyone; not just people with vision impairments. It recreates us physically and emotionally. It is important for our kids and young adults as it is a designated area of the Expanded Core Curriculum!