Sunday, April 23, 2017

Begining Activities for the Early Years

During our work with children and families and as teachers, we often worked with students who were just beginning in a structured learning environment.

To determine first goals and objectives for them, we considered what the children could already accomplish as well as their emerging skills. We thought about the developmental or curriculum areas that were important to address.

We hope the following example of goals and objectives for one such beginning child will add to your knowledge about “where to start.”

·       Developmental or Curriculum Area: Imitation/One way children learn is by copying what they see others do.
·       Objectives: Have your child copy your actions with objects – plays musical instrument as you do, activates toys as you demonstrate, pretends to feed, give a drink, bathe, brush teeth of stuffed animal or doll

·       Developmental or Curriculum Area: Fine Motor/Maneuvers hands or fingers for some desired result
·       Objectives:
1.     Uses 1 finger to poke a hole in a ball of playdoh or uses 1 finger to push object through opening in lid of a container.
2.     Uses 2 hands together to pull apart pop beads or Legos or play cymbals or roll a ball or make a ball of playdoh.
3.     Squeezes to pull clothespins or clips off can rim.
4.     Scoops beads or water with shovel or scoops and empties into larger container.
5.     Turns wrist to empty container with a small opening to get treat.
6.     Scribbles with a crayon or marker.
  
·       Developmental or Curriculum Area: Thinking/Young children work on problem solving skills with different types of play.
·       Objective:  Explores a variety of cause and effect toys figuring out how to operate them.

·       Developmental or Curriculum Area:  Matching/Sorting/Children organize all the sights and sounds they see and hear by grouping them into categories.
·       Objectives:
1.     Matches and sorts 2 dissimilar objects that are identical sets (spoons versus blocks, for example).
2.     In everyday life, practices putting away socks vs. underwear.
3.     Matches pairs of socks.

·       Developmental or Curriculum Area: Number Skills/First children learn the concept of 1-to-1 correspondence.
·       Objectives: 
1.     Places 1 object in each section of a muffin tin, egg carton, etc.; at first using objects that completely fill the opening.
2.     Once successful with this task, next places objects that are smaller so that more than 1 could fit into the opening.  Label each section with the numeral 1.
3.     When the student child puts in the object, point to the 1 and say, “1”.
4.     After much practice with this 1-to-1 correspondence task, next mark another egg carton, with the numeral 2, and see if he can place 2 objects in each section.
5.     After practicing with 2, then introduce 1 and 2 at the same time and see if the student can then make this discrimination between counting 1 or 2.

·       Developmental or Curriculum Area: Eye-Hand Integration/This involves a child’s coordinating his motor movements with what his eyes see.
·       Objectives:  Types of tasks include simple puzzles, shape boxes, placing pegs in pegboard, placing beads on a spindle, pipe cleaner, or string.

·       Developmental or Curriculum Area:  Understanding Language/How a child listens and responds to nonverbal cues and spoken words.
·       Objectives:
1.     Responds to nonverbal gestures, such as a point which shows where to place an object, outstretched hand which tells to give, or a gesture that means come here.
2.     Follows 1-step directions as part of a daily routine; for example, GET _________.
3.     Touches facial body parts when named (eye, ear, nose, mouth, hair).   You can draw pictures of the body parts and show him the picture as you help the students touch the correct body part.  Or have them look in the mirror as they respond.

·       Developmental or Curriculum Area: Expressing needs and wants/Children express what they want in a variety of verbal and nonverbal ways.
·       Objectives:
Gives an object to represent what he wants (bubbles, candy wrapper, cup). When he gives the object, give him what he wants and say the one word labeling the object.

In addition to these beginning skills, remember how important it will be to teach your students the meaning of first-next sequences. These can easily be incorporated into daily routines. Some examples include first, work—then bubbles; first, shoes – then outside; first brush teeth – then bath.

Also important is designing learning situations so that the students know when the end of the work will be. For example, if a student is working on identifying body parts, there might be 5 pictures of different body parts that represent how long the activity will last. As each is touched, the card for that body part is put into a finished container. Teaching the concept of finished within the work routines is equally valuable to the student. Knowing when some activity will be completed and what will be next enhances the students’ attention.


Our Tasks Galore books provide multiple visual tasks that can address the objectives in this example and many, many others.  
Tasks Galore Books offer many task ideas to assist you in addressing your educational objectives.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April 2017 Task of the Month


With this task, students match erasers that represent coins to amounts written on stickers and attached to individual sections of a tray.

Although best practice states that children with developmental delays should use real coins when learning money concepts, we often must start out with items that are larger and easier to grasp. These erasers overly exaggerate the details that distinguish one coin from another. They enable students to see the differences among the coins (size, color, wording) more easily.

Once students are successful matching coin amounts using these erasers as the “coins,” we then substitute these with real coins.

After students learn the concept of coin amounts and know a penny equals 1 cent; a nickel equals 5 cents, etc., we might set up a classroom snack menu with associated prices and have students practice which coins to use to buy their snacks.

We continually think how students can generalize their newly found knowledge to the real world. Using their skills in “real life” settings makes the skills more meaningful.

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.