Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Teaching the Tasks (part 7)

This Tasks Galore Publishing blog entry completes addressing the questions we ask when designing tasks:

•          Does the task address the student’s educational goals?
•          Is the task multi-modal?
•          Does the task incorporate student’s interests and strengths?
•          Is the task created using visual cues that will be meaningful to the individual student?
•          Are pieces of the task organized systematically?
•          Is the task designed so that the student can manage it independently?
•          Has the student mastered the task?

We addressed the first question in the blog entry on July 13, 2016, the second question in the blog entry on August 9, 2016, the third in the entry on September 18, 2016, the fourth in the entry on October 23, 2016 , the fifth on January 15, 2017, and the sixth on February 19, 2017. This entry will discuss the final question:

Has the Student Mastered the Task?

It is imperative to assess when our students master a task.  When they have, it is time to decide what is next for them to learn.

Once they demonstrate knowledge of a skill independently, we think about ways to generalize that skill across people or settings and teach a next step based on that skill. It is time to make new tasks.


For example, one of our students has mastered sorting different objects when these also differ by color. Next, we might provide a task, such as this one illustrated, that requires the student to sort objects that are all the same color and differ only by shape.

Another student has mastered the goal of putting away his belongings. He puts away completed tasks when at his desk and lunch materials after eating. We, next, design a task so he can generalize this skill in a new setting. A finish bin, similar to the one used at his work desk, is placed in the library. He places books left on library tables into this container. His doing this job helps the librarian who does not need to collect the books when she is ready to reshelf them.


After learning to match words to pictures and read some words, a next step is for the student to generalize these skills to reading text in a book.  To help the student accomplish this new goal while reading Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, we provide a picture dictionary as a reference to use independently.


Each time we make a task for a student, we

•          address the student’s educational goals;
•          make the task multi-modal and, hence, more engaging;
•          incorporate student’s interests and strengths;
•          use meaningful visual cues;
•          organize pieces of the task systematically; and
•          design the task so that the student can manage it independently.

We watch carefully as the students work on a task to determine when they master it. Not being satisfied with mastery, we further determine how to advance or generalize the skill. We are often amazed and thrilled with what our students can achieve when we follow these guidelines. More importantly, our students are pleased with their newly found competencies.



Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March 2017 Task of the Month


We often address the skills our students need to learn by thinking of task designs that are quick to make. These squiggly worms were easy to make as were the written word labels that we affixed to plastic bags. If a student is not yet reading written words, we change the labels by adding the numerals and pictures as cues to accompany the words.

Using worms for counting can support themes about what we see in the spring, what birds eat, what is in the garden, etc.

We advocate using themed storybooks to teach concepts. Then we use the vocabulary from the story to address other skills. This task could be used to reinforce the vocabulary from a story, such as Wiggly the Worm by Arnie Lightning.


To learn more about literacy-based instruction, check out our set Tasks Galore Literature-Based Thematic Units. This set includes a storybook with a colorful character, Triggy, and a theme about foods and a resource book filled with hundreds of teaching activities in a variety of early learning curriculum areas, all of which are designed in a multi-modal task format.

Storybook included in Tasks Galore Literature-Based Thematic Units

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Teaching the Tasks (part 6)

This Tasks Galore Publishing blog entry continues addressing the questions we ask when designing tasks:

•          Does the task address the student’s educational goals?
•          Is the task multi-modal?
•          Does the task incorporate student’s interests and strengths?
•          Is the task created using visual cues that will be meaningful to the individual student?
•          Are pieces of the task organized systematically?
•          Is the task designed so that the student can manage it independently?
•          Has the student mastered the task?

We addressed the first question in the blog entry on July 13, 2016, the second question in the blog entry on August 9, 2016, the third in the entry on September 18, 2016, the fourth in the entry on October 23, 2016 and the fifth on January 15, 2017. This entry will discuss the fifth question: 

Independence
We spend time assessing skills and, then, adapting tasks because we want our students to complete assignments independently. They feel proud when they can do something all by themselves. After designing structured tasks, watch your students and see whether they can complete these without help. If not, think about new or prerequisite skills to teach or ways to restructure the task so they can manage both the skills and the task independently.

One of this student’s goals was to learn to measure.

Here, he is to match the measuring cup to the appropriately labeled container, fill the cup with the proper amount, pour into the container, and replace the matching lid. His teacher observed, however, that the step with which he was not yet independent was filling the containers with the correct amount.


He needed to level the amount in the cup to get the proper measurement. The teacher’s physical assistance and verbal cues were not helping him learn this step. She, therefore, decided to design a task to teach the concept of a level portion in a measuring cup.

In the new task, he looked at pictures of measuring cups and decided whether the amounts were leveled off or rounded. This teaching step helped him return to the measuring job, fill the cup, and level off the amount. His teacher’s taking the time to teach this concept enabled the student to become independent in using measuring cups.



During writing assignments, another student needed continual reminders about putting spaces between his words. His teacher made a spacer out of a tongue depressor with a favorite character sticker attached. The student then independently used this visual tool to monitor his word spacing in writing assignments. Eventually, his teacher realized that he learned the routine of spacing his words and no longer needed this visual cue.



This is a clever task design that allows students to work independently without their teacher’s overseeing the work. After students finish this independent work, their teacher checks whether the spiders they sorted by color fell into the correct cups mounted under each slot.



Continually assessing students’ performance, the teacher notes if any student makes multiple errors. If that is the case, the task is redesigned so, perhaps, only two colors are used or objects are used instead of pictures.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 2017 Task of the Month

This Valentine task is a favorite of ours. It addresses the simple academic goal of halves to wholes but more importantly it helps our students to recognize their classmates and learn their names.

Our students with autism often do not recognize faces of those around them. This can be for many reasons. One reason being that our students may see the details in the world around them but fail to pull these details together to create the whole picture. This inability not only affects their academic world but their social world as well. Failing to see the face as a “whole picture” may also interfere with the student’s ability to read emotions. They may be so focused on one detail of someone’s face that they fail to see that the person is happy, angry, or sad. If I don’t recognize you nor understand your actions, then why should I interact with you?


If we are to build facial recognition and social skills, we may begin with simple tasks like this one. Here the student is presented the task using container organization. The student takes a card from the left, studies the face, finds the matching face from the next container and when assembled places it into the “all done” container. As an added step once this is mastered the teacher may wish to add the students’ names. After mastering this task, a next step may be to pass out the valentines to the friend whose photo is on the card.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Teaching the Tasks (part 5)

This Tasks Galore Publishing blog entry continues addressing the questions we ask when designing tasks:

•          Does the task address the student’s educational goals?
•          Is the task multi-modal?
•          Does the task incorporate student’s interests and strengths?
•          Is the task created using visual cues that will be meaningful to the individual student?
•          Are pieces of the task organized systematically?
•          Is the task designed so that the student can manage it independently?
•          Has the student mastered the task?

We addressed the first question in the blog entry on July 13, 2016 , the second question in the blog entry on August 9, 2016, the third in the entry on September 18, 2016, the fourth in the entry on October 23, 2016.  This entry will discuss the fifth question: 

Are pieces of the task organized systematically?

It is so helpful to the students if they can look at a task and know where to begin and when finished.  Many students need stabilized or segmented pieces that are easy to manipulate and do not fall apart.  Determine how you can make your tasks organized with pieces separated for easy pick-up and parts affixed so they will not drop or disassemble when the students handle them.  With systematic organization, you can incorporate left-to-right and top-to-bottom routines to define the sequence.


To help students sustain attention throughout “This Little Piggy Went to Market” rhyme, they remove a cut-out pig following a left-to-right pattern. A picture, representing each verse of the rhyme, is placed in front of each piggy. Students remove the first piggy, listen to or say the verse represented by the picture, and then place that piggy in the “finish container.” Students enjoy the game because the order is predictable and, thus, understandable.


The pieces of the task are systematically contained within a shoe box with the “finish container” nearby. Moving the pigs becomes a simple process without distractions from items being hard to handle. To complete a collating assignment, students choose one paper from each tray by following a left-to-right routine. They staple the pages together and place these in the clearly marked “finish box.” Segmenting the pages by providing spaces between them as they are positioned upright in the trays allows for easier manipulation. Such thoughtful and systematic organization of a task encourages independence and competence.


This task address the issue of quality control, an important job skill. Students choose a fork and examine it to determine whether it is “ok” or “broken.” They then place the items as the labels direct. See how all the pieces of this task are contained inside the box and how forks are segmented for easy manipulation. Students, therefore, do not need to address how to handle the pieces and can instead focus on the concept being taught.

Monday, January 2, 2017

January 2017 Task of the Month

Happy New Year from all of us at Tasks Galore Publishing! We thank you for joining us on our journey as we enter our 14th year of serving and donating to people with autism and their families. We won’t even mention how many years we have been working in the field!!

Our Task of the Month for January 2017, designed by early learning teacher Megan Bruce, is one that we love. As everyone knows it is extremely important that we read to our children every single day. We teach them to “read” and comprehend things in their environment through whatever means is the most meaningful whether it is an object, picture or word. We also must teach our children to answer questions or interact with what it is that they read. We want to create more than labeling of pictures or spewing of words. From the time children are born they hear the rhythm and intonation in our voices as we read to them. Reading in turn is equally important to language development.



Our students with autism often learn best through routines. In this task Ms. Bruce creates a routine question and response for each book the child or teacher reads. It is important to work on the skill of using a book for information as well as teaching our students to improve their sentence building. Students will demonstrate a multitude of skills including comprehension, matching, counting, and so on. By making the task multi-modal we include fine motor skills.

While teaching this task as the pages are turned the teacher will point to and read each section of the question. The student then pulls the appropriate card to answer the question and will in turn point to each section and read the answer. This is great for our nonverbal students too as they can still place the appropriate answer card and point to the words in a left to right sequence as they “read”.

As with all skills it is important to generalize them. A helpful hint would be for the teacher to use these question and answer cards during story time and to make copies for families to use at home.

For great examples of how to tie simple reading to literally ALL aspects of curriculum through task-making you will enjoy Tasks Galore Literature-BasedThematic Units. This book was several years in the making with immense insights into curriculum for preschool and elementary learners. A copy of the fun board book I’m Hungry, I’m HungryWhat Shall I Do? comes along with this book. I’m Hungry, I’m Hungry WhatShall I Do? is also sold in sets of 5 for classroom guided reading. This fun color-filled board book emphasizes rhythmic and repetitive reading for student success. Check it out at www.tasksgalore.com.

As we enter 2017 don’t forget to check us out for fun ideas and promotions on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter!


Thursday, December 1, 2016

December 2016 Task of the Month




This is a great self-contained task that addresses many skills. Using colorful snowflake-shaped pieces similar to ornaments, students choose a wooden stick from the “start container.” They hold the stick with one hand while pulling off the snowflake (which is attached to the stick with Velcro) with the other hand. This step of the task enhances the student’s pincer grasp and finger strength. They next decide the color of the snowflake and sort it accordingly. Finally, they need to fit the stick into the slot provided requiring the fine motor skill of wrist-rotation as well as eye-hand coordination to place through the opening.