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!