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). 

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