Friday, April 19, 2019

Spring & Easter ECC Activities

graphic that says spring & easter activities with the Expanded Core curriculum

Happy spring! Spring season bring holidays like Easter and a lot of fun opportunities for Expanded Core instruction. Check out some quick, fun and easy to do ECC spring activities. The bonus: you can do these for Easter, too!

Clearance sign that reads 2.50 above a bin of colorful pillows
a bunny stuffed animal sits on top of bright color pillows
an image of the gym floor with bright color medium and large different types of eggs
Let's start with Easter. One of the most difficult parts of traditional Easter activities is the egg hunt. Many people have adopted the beeping eggs or using balloons on strings. Those are great ideas and I have done them. The problem I ran into with the balloons is that it ended up being super windy and the balloons were blowing around everywhere--gah! The beeping eggs are nice but what do you do if you have students with hearing impairments, in wheelchairs or have under developed sound location skills? That's what I was thinking about this year when putting together our Spring Carnival. 
I was in Walmart gathering supplies when I saw a clearance bin with these colorful, soft and lightweight "egg looking" pillows---yes! They were only $2.50--score! I purchased a handful of these pillows. I knew that they would be perfect "eggs" for many of my students. They are easy to see, fun to touch and lightweight to hold. Yes! They were such a hit! The students used them in so many ways. I made sure that I bought a red one for some of my CVI students. I have many students who use gait trainers, walkers, etc. Check out my Instagram--9MoreThanCore to watch how some of my students used it. 
I also purchase "large print" eggs for $1 because they are easy to see.

an image of a wall with large bright color eggs with buckets

That wasn't the only egg hunt we had. Who say you have to have just one egg hunt when we have students of all different abilities and interests?! My kids have participated in lots of family egg hunts where each child is assigned a color or a sticker for their designated egg. I took that idea and put my ECC thinking cap on. Again, what is an egg hunt that my students can fully interact with? 

I assigned students based on small groups (small classroom sizes) a designated color egg. The big eggs were hung on walls for the hunt. Each classroom looks for multiple eggs of the same color that are mounted to the wall. Each classroom is designated a spring decoration (i.e. bee, flower, polka dot) and will decorate their eggs as they find them. The decorations were in buckets. Students matched their color to their egg and bucket. We used Braille labels on both buckets and eggs for literacy purposes and for students who have no vision.
a large green egg decorated with yellow chics mounted on the wall

a blue bucket with large print word "blue" and Braille label
a close up of the large eggs with braille label "yellow"

It worked out great! Students still did an egg hunt but we packed in a lot of other bonus skills. I considered popular IEP goals (scanning, matching, fine motor skills) and infused them into this and the other activities for meaningful instruction. They were also easy and inexpensive to make! I used poster board from Dollar Tree. I bought a white poster board and used a shiny wrapping paper for one color. They were nice and bright and easy to see. (We laminated them so we can use them again!). We used die cuts for decorations and painters tape for easy application. 
an image of the large colorful eggs taped to the wall

an image of the garden box with garden tools, flowers, etc. inside
Another fun activity was the gardening station. This was a mix of live plants, artificial plants/flowers and gardening tools. I headed to Walmart nursery clearance rack. I wanted crocus flowers because they are super fragrant. I also nabbed some oregano and parsley for their scent and textures. 
I found a great idea from Pinterest for the sensory play component. I picked up some black beans and filled some containers to have "dirt". Bright color artificial flowers provided great contrast. 

a close up of a bee decoration on the garden table.
a close up of the garden table with the flowers and activities

Target Dollar Spot had some great cheap finds! I purchased kids gardening gloves, gardening tools and fun rocks. They also had some fun carrots and veggies that were soft. You can easily open the seam and fill them with some weights to give them a little bit more weight for sensory feedback. (We had the same idea for the spring friends!).  Dollar Tree had these awesome carrot eggs. I filled them with different amounts of beans for shaker eggs. I found a super cute bee and lady bug decoration from At Home which added to the garden table.
a close up of the carrot eggs half filled with beans to make shaker eggs

a long decoration of a kite flying in the sky

I always love having a motor activity. I created some motor movements that all my students could do (wheelchairs, supported standers or independent standers). I also added numbers on dowels. Students selected a motor skill and a number. Our PE teacher ran the activity. 

a close up of the motor activity signs "run in place" "clap your hands"

a close up of the motor activities "wiggle your body" and "stomp your feet"

a close up of the dress up table
We had a spring dress up station with all kinds of fun items. Why? We had a parade! A parade infused some fun ECC skills. It was fun to watch students dress up with all kinds of decorations. We worked some fun social skills with smiling and waiving in our parade (very simple parade so we can focus on skills). 

a close up of the spring friends table with different characters on it.
 A lot of my students enjoy music so the spring friends table was just the table for them! I found these fun spring friends that dance and move. I also went to the baby section and found super soft bunnies and a large turtle. Again, you can open the seams and add some weight to provide more sensory feedback. 
a close up of the spring friends table with different characters on it.

a long spring decoration of raindrops on a duck and baby ducks

 You don't need to save these activities for Easter. These are spring activities you can do do throughout spring! Plus, buying these right after Easter gives you a nice savings to your wallet. 

an image of large different eggs

Join the ONH Discussion Group!

Join us for the ONH Discussion Group! The ONH Discussion Group is a free resource group to learn about optic nerve hypoplasia (ONH). We increasingly see more students with ONH. ONH is another spectrum vision impairment. Many of us in the vision impairment education community struggle to understand the educational implications from ONH. 
That is why I created the ONH Discussion Group! Come and learn in our free Zoom meetings about resources, strategies and information about ONH. Each month we have a different topic related to ONH. Parents, teachers and related servers are all invited to join and contribute to the group. 
Join the distribution group email: . The distribution group email will send updates and meeting information for monthly Zoom meetings. We also have an ONH Google Drive resource folder.  
Join us!

Monday, April 1, 2019

Teach Coding with the Expanded Core!

Teach Coding Using the Expanded Core Curriculum graphic
I have been loving teaching STEM as part of my Expanded Core instruction. There are so many areas where you can overlap both and have meaningful instruction. Coding can be difficult for students with vision impairments. There are some new things coming out to help with this but in the meantime, what do we do? Coding is often not accessible because most assistive technology readers are for text recognition. Coding programs are often object recognition and not accessible with screen readers. I did a lot of research about how we can still teach the foundations of coding. There are a ton of good ideas with teaching offline coding. Offline coding teaches the principles of coding without using a computer. It's not completely ideal (since we do want to teach all of coding for our students) but it does have a lot of ECC benefits. 

The offline coding cards are scattered on a table.
You can buy a variety of different offline coding activities from sites like Teachers Pay Teachers (I love that site!!). I have a new robotics unit that I developed and coding or programming is the foundation skillset. I needed to make sure that these skills were solid before applying them to the actual robots. Many of the lesson plans that I could purchase weren't super accessible. The main problems were too cutsy fonts that weren't easily read by students. I decided to research and learn about making my own coding cards. See the pictures above and below for what I made. I used a nice clear font with contrast in specific places. I also organized them with the same layout--meaning that there is an object or logo on top (so that students can learn to read or code by object), the directions (turn left/right, go straight, etc.). Last, there is a square box and that is where we use mini post it notes to indicate the number (i.e. spin around 4 times, repeat 2 times, etc.). We laminated them. I'll admit that I was nervous about using traditional laminate. I almost used the non-glare laminate. My students ended up being good with traditional laminate but always consider that when laminating. Then my best para in the world made all the Braille labels for me. 

Offline coding cards are scattered on a table

The first half of my lesson is all about teaching what writing a good program means. I include how specific their line of code has to be. Then we discuss each card so that everyone is on the same page with instruction. I have the students stand up and do this. Everyone turns right, left, goes straight, etc. so that they can perform the task exactly. You will get great ideas from STEM teacher blogs about their ideas with teaching this. I put my ECC hat on because I knew that I was working some good OM skills with this. I made sure the students could execute a 90 degree turn or 180 degree turn with good foot placement. You can do this for typically developing students and for students that have additional disabilities. For students who need more basic lesson plans, we stick to following the directions from the line of code. My typical students continue to more complex coding and I include if/then situations for them. 

An image of a students hands reading the Braille labels on the coding cards
This is a great team building project too. Now I can incorporate other ECC areas in this as the students work to program lines of code for each other to follow. They have to work together to make sure that the student does exactly what the line says. They problem solve and inspect their own work. Once they get a good feel for it, they program  for me. They have the challenge to get me from a designated point one to a point two with an obstacle. I do exactly what they say. They have to get me from a chair on one side of the room to the door. We use tactile maps and other supports as we put together a line of code to make this happen. Are you getting ideas on how you can infuse ECC skills?? I have students write me a line of code to get a backpack from a locker, go into the kitchen and get a snack, etc. You can do so much more than orientation & mobility with this AND you are teaching STEM! Want a set of my offline coding cards? Send me an email and I'm happy to share (FREEBIE!!). You just have to do your own Braille ;)

A female student arranges the cards into a line of code
STEM & the Expanded Core are a great mashup of learning. So many opportunities for our students!