Saturday, December 19, 2020

Teach the Expanded Core Curriculum by Writing Letters to North Pole Friends

a graphic that has a big envelope that says Teach the ECC by writing to North Pole friends
Writing letters to Santa Claus is a very popular activity for this time of year. However, you can include a lot more kids and A LOT more Expanded Core skills if you put a twist on this popular activity and write letters to North Pole friends. 
This twist give you a handful more opportunities for skills. Here are some ideas:
Learn about the post office and writing letters free matter for the blind
Addressing envelopes (almost a lost art at this time)
Learn how to write a letter with a greeting and a closing. 
Developing and practicing a signature. 
Make choices about the friend you want to write to (I gave my students Santa, Rudolf or Frosty) and what you want to say or write to that person
Teach about weather (what type of weather do you think the North Pole has?)
Writing to North Pole friends as opposed to just Santa means you can do letter correspondence into January (feel free to pick other North Pole friends).
Give different writing prompts (It doesn't just have to be about what you want for a holiday present--you can write about different things).
Literacy, literacy, literacy! Lots of of opportunities for literacy in a project like this.

an image of a big red mailbox that says letters to the North Pole
I found these super cute mailboxes at Target (there's even a light in the outside). We set up the North Pole mailbox in the office with our secretary because that's where the mail is delivered at our school. However, if you are doing this virtual or just at home as a parent you can use your own mailbox. 
I provided students with three choices for their letters. Santa, Rudolf or Frosty. I whipped up these images on Canva. Notice that I used strong contrast for the pictures to make them friendly for low vision and CVI students. My amazing para took the next leg and put the tactile items on it. We LOVE the APH Carousel of Textures kit but you can also hit up a Joanns or Michaels for some tactile paper. She didn't do the whole picture tactile rather just the critical features of each to highlight them. 

a green background with a simple Santa graphic where his beard is made from cotton balls

an image of a black background with a reindeer cartoon smiling with antlers and nose made tactile

A green background with a while snowman wearing a hat and scarf with tactile on those parts
Our students could write in any writing mode that worked for them (and then received a letter in return in that mode). We received letters in Braille, large print and pictures. Now this is the cool part, we had our high school students write the Braille replies. So if you are a teacher with older students, this could be a fun project that your high school students do for younger students on your caseload! 

4 pages spread on a table each with a simple sentence and a picture from a student to Santa
I wanted to include pictures of how we did the picture letters because sometimes that is tricky for folks to know how to do. The above picture is the letter from a student that uses pictures. There are Braille labels over the large print with large clear pictures. We returned his letter in the same format and signed it from Santa with the same Santa picture (plus tactile beard) as the signature. 

4 pages spread on a table each with a simple sentence and a picture as a reply from Santa. the santa picture has cotton balls on the beard.
Now we started this by writing letters to North Pole friends (again, I meant for this to be inclusive for students who do not celebrate Christmas) but can you see where you can keep this going in the new year? You can continue to use actual letters or you can keep practicing and learn how to transfer this to digital communication such as an email or have a lot of fun and move to Twitter!
Teachers, you can make this as a kit and send it to families and then work together virtually. Parents, you can do this in your home. It's an accessible activity that practically every child can participate in. Happy holidays! 


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Power of Theater and the Expanded Core Curriculum

A graphic that reads The Power of Theater and the Expanded Core Curriculum for students with vision impairments. A new blog series for youth with vision impairments with Blind Ambition's Frankie Ann Marcille. 

As a visually impaired adult now working towards developing a career in teaching the Expanded Core Curriculum, I have thought a lot about what the most meaningful experiences were throughout my teenage years. I’ve thought about experiences that gave me real time, true to life opportunities to learn valuable lessons in the ECC. One such experience was my time participating in theatre.

I first started participating in theatre when I was just two years old. My parents signed me up for dance classes and let’s just say-that was it! I fell in love. I have never stopped dancing. From there my passion only continued to grow when I performed in my first musical at age six. I continued performing, participating in at least two shows per year with my various schools, dance studios, etc. from elementary school through high school. I even went on to major in Theatre for my undergraduate degree.

Looking back, I realize how much the arts did for me as a child/teenager with a vision impairment. Participating in theatre/dance programs taught me discipline and advocacy. Because I was the only person in all of my programs with a vision impairment, it was up to me to let my instructors know what I needed and work with them to find a solution as to how I could best participate. They taught me confidence and self determination. Theatre showed me how I could be confident in myself and my abilities as a woman with a vision impairment. I felt like if I could get on stage and perform for crowds of people, I could stand up and tell people about my vision/ I could engage with others in meaningful discussions about my future and my dreams. 

Most practically though- theatre helped me to understand basic social interaction skills. There was so much that I realized I didn’t understand as a person with a vision impairment. I didn’t realize I didn’t make eye contact. I didn’t realize sometimes that my facial expressions said more to others and I often missed seeing other’s facial expressions and picking up on subtle cues. However, theatre helped me to work on these skills. Because of this, I have come up with a new way to teach social interaction as a part of the ECC.

I have put together a curriculum of social interaction based theatre games to help other blind and visually impaired students to learn these same skills in a way that is more than just educational. This curriculum is emotional, engaging, true to life, and did I mention...FUN!! I am so excited to share some of them with you here on “The Independent LIttle Bee”! Keep an eye out and until then…

Stay Ambitious!

Frankie Ann