Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Social Express

Because of the four extra classrooms that moved over to our campus this year and the lack of space to feed 175 kids all at the same time, we were separated into two different schedules for breakfast and lunch. Unfortunately my three friends that I ate lunch with in previous years are now on the opposite lunch schedule as me. It's kind of a shame because we used to do a lot of things together with our kids AND we did major brainstorming during our many lunches together. Now I spend my lunches in my room, alone, looking for cool things I can do with my kids.

So, yesterday I stumbled upon a cool site called The Social Express while looking around Youtube. You can read about it in the box here <---- I love that the kids appear older, possibly teenagers. A lot of the videos I find for my students seem very babyish and trust me, they let me know. I watched this full 10 minute tutorial to get a better idea of what the site had to offer and was really impressed. You get a free 5 day trial and if you like it, it's only 4.99 a month!

There are 47 lessons in all and you can't move up levels (3) until you complete the level before. The small clips (webisodes) cover all different skills like self-management, listening skills and conflict resolution among others. The clips pause when there is a "teaching moment" and also when there is an option for the kids to choose. It also gives you an option to add your kids which I assume would be if they were doing them individually on the ipad or computer to track who has seen what. We did ours over the projector as a whole class and each lesson lasted about 5-7 minutes including our talking. There are also worksheets you can download that coincide with the clips. We did 4 of the clips yesterday during our afternoon class time and the kids stayed very involved in the clips and the conversation.

Check it out, remember it's free for 5 days, so start on a Monday and not a Wednesday like I did, doh! I highly recommend you check out the tutorial first so you can see see how it works and all it has to offer. Here are the links to the tutorial and website The Social Express 

One more day till the weekend!!


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Power Cards

Friday my school had a teacher in-service day. We were fortunate to have a woman come in and talk to us from CAPTAIN - California Autism Professional Training and Information Network. I had heard of CAPTAIN training but was unaware of all their services they provide for families of students with ASD. Among other things, they provide free hands on diagnostic testing to families, helping them come up with a plan and strategies to help their child succeed. Since CAPTAIN is run through the education department, kids must be referred through their school district. But again, it is all free, so don't let your district tell you otherwise. They even pay for hotel stays and food while your child is being evaluated at one of their three diagnostic centers. I took plenty of notes and can't wait to work on some of the things she taught us in the class. I want to tell you about a few of the things I learned but want to start out with this one first as I plan on starting it today with one of my girls. 
Power cards, have you heard of them?

"Power Cards are a tool for helping a child to change an unwanted, inappropriate behavior by capitalizing on an interest, person or character that has special meaning for the child."  

Right off the bat I knew of a student of mine that might benefit from one of these cards, and immediately worked on putting it together. This particular students wants to be an aide (in my classroom) when she graduates. She is a sweetheart but takes up more of my day than any other students at this time. On this card are the issues we have. They are the things I feel I repeat all day to her. 

Since she wants to be a teachers aide, we are capitalizing on that. This card is about 6 x 5 inches and laminated. It will sit on the desk in front of her at all times. Instead of constantly talking to her about her behaviors, I am simply going to say "I need you to read your power card". Her card has 5 rules. I probably wouldn't do 5 for most of my kids, but I think it will work for her. Since I think a lot of her behaviors are done so she can get my attention or get the chance to have me to herself. This will eliminate that, and hopefully decrease the behaviors. 
Every student has something they like. You can go the interest route like Power Ranger, pirates, princesses, or their favorite band. Or in the case with my kids, I would probably go with what their life goal is like working in a grocery store, restaurant, or vet office. Another card I saw simply stated, "Batman says: Stay in your seat until class is over". I think a simple card like this, with a picture of Batman and possible the student sitting in the desk, would even work with a non reader if you go over it a number of times. I can see myself with my non reader, pointing at the words while stating, "Sam remember, what does Batman say? Stay in our seat until class is over" then "reminding" him to look at his power card when I know he understands.

I'm totally new to this and would love to hear if you use or have used power cards in your room. Have they helped? Have you noticed some working better than others? I would love your feedback!

Have a great day,

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Restaurant Menu Activity

Everyone in my class is always on the lookout for "free" resources we can use in our room. Tuesday, one of my support staff brought me a class supply of Denny's To Go menus (don't worry, she asked). These are pretty high quality, quad fold, color menus and I was ecstatic! I immediately got to work putting together this worksheet.

Today, each student was handed the new worksheet, a menu and each group of two (we worked with our buddies) were given a tip and tax form. The students picked and added their own items to the order form for each of the four meals it asked for and determined their subtotal. We then worked together in our table groups figuring out their tax, as it is kind of new to most of them this year. After adding in their tax, they figured out how much tip they should leave then added it all together to get the total they would owe.

My kids really enjoy these kind of lessons. After today I plan to make a couple more worksheets that will require them to find different things on the menu and put them into an activity box for them to do during their free time. I am pretty sure after watching them today, that it will be a hit! 

These menu's are actually something I would have probably paid for had I found them in a catalog. So, don't forget, there are free resources all around you that can easily be incorporated into a lesson. Be on the lookout!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Restaurant Skills

I finished the unit on restaurant skills and turned it in yesterday to my boss!! Along with each of these sections: Restaurants, Paying Your Bill, Restaurant Tax & Tip, Restaurant Etiquette, Table Manners, and some Restaurant Skills role play cards, I also have a video on manners that we will be watching and some Power Point slides someone was kind enough to share with me! Our end "plan" is to eat out a restaurant! One of my aides just happens to know a guy who owns a cafe in town. He is willing to let each of the kids eat for free! In a perfect world, my kids would be paying for their own meal, but I can't use any budget money for that or ask them to pay. They are also too keen for fake money, so this will be a lesson on kindness as well. I am going to have them leave a tip for their server for sure. Not sure how long it will take to hear back, but I think the kids will really get a kick out of eating out as a group if we can make this happen. I'll let you know how it goes!
Here is the link to the unit on TPT Life Skills - Restaurant Skills/Eating Out

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Martin Luther King Week

This week we will be preparing for Martin Luther King Day! So far I have a little activity planned for every day that we will work on after our lunch instead of our free choice time. I have never seen or even hear of this video "Our Friend, Martin" until last week. The entire movie can be watched on Youtube free of charge! I watched about the first 10 minutes of it the other day and I really think it will hold my kids attention. If you haven't seen it here is a little excerpt from the internet: 

My Friend Miles: This is the story of a black teenager named Miles, who has to go on a class field trip to the museum to learn what Martin Luther King Jr. did for humanity, he thinks that he'd rather play baseball. But the trip turns into an exciting adventure when he and his best friend, Randy, who's white, are sent back in time meeting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr at several points during his life.

It stars the voices of Ed Asner, Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopie Goldberg, Samuel L. Jackson and James Earl Jones to name a few.

Tomorrow we will be working on a timeline that coincides with this Brain POP video clip about Martin Luther King. We will watch the video once before I hand out the timeline, then watch it again stopping every time we get to one of the dates after the kids have colored and cut them out. The clip is only about 4 minutes long and I suggest you watch it first to get the dates. I had to watch it again Friday with a teacher who swore up and down some of the dates were missing, lol. I printed the timelines on cardstock to make them a little more durable.

I also have a 3 page fun pack in my store about Martin Luther King. It include a word search, a fill in the blanks and a cryptogram. You can find it HERE

Wish me luck this week, I have been working hard all weekend putting together a unit of Restaurant skills as my boss wants me to submit a proposal before he will agree to let me take my kids to a restaurant to eat (he's already turned down 2 teachers). I'm going to give it to him good! That way he can't possible say no, right?

Enjoy your week,

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Social Errands

I take every opportunity I have to send my kids on social errands. Sometimes I really need to get something somewhere or something brought to me and other times I just need a little break from that certain student (I know, you know, what i'm talkin about). Sometimes a little fresh air and a walk can make all the difference in the world. So, I don't think I have told you this before, but I am the "leader" of my focus group where I work. Pretty snazzy huh? During a process of elimination and a nasty game of "straws" I was "awarded" the title. This title gives me LOTS of opportunities to get or need things from my fellow focus groupies. Hence, my kids get plenty of practice running social errands. 

How social errands work - In order to do this successfully, you need to get your co-workers on board. They will be key in making sure that the social skill is completed properly at their end. Now, how you handle the social errand with vary widely depending on your kids. Some of mine, I just send. "Tom, I need you to run over to Ms. Jones' class and ask her if we can borrow her stapler". I don't need to call Ms. Jones, we are in cahoots. Some of my non-verbal kids I will send with a note, "I need you to take this note to room 2 and give it to Mr. Smith and then come back, ok?". Sometimes a phone call is in order to give the other teacher a heads up on what you're trying to accomplish since a lot can be lost in translation. We all do it, so we know when a kid comes in our room, to follow out the skills. If they don't ask voluntarily we ask them until we get the information (or in some circumstances I have had to call the room). Manners are important and we make sure those are addressed as well on both ends. It's funny, my friend has a boy that she sends to my room for things weekly so he can blow off a little steam. He comes in, tells me what he needs just as clear as can be and leaves. My phone will ring a couple minutes later and she will be confused because what he brings her back is not what she asked him to get, lol.

Most of the time I don't even make it an option to run these errands, because I know my boys, and they would "opt out" if given the opportunity. I usually start it with "I need you to....." and they are out the door before they know what hit them because if they think to hard about it, they won't be able to do it. In the beginning of the year I always think there are one or two that will have a tough time, but really almost all my kids have and will become pro's, in their own way. This is a great way to bring these guys out of their little social bubbles. Kids who were very intimidated by it when we started don't even blink an eye over doing it now, halfway through the year. 

Hopefully you can find another teacher or two that you can do this with at your school. Maybe even the office if another teacher is not an option. I think you will really see a difference in the way your kids approach uncomfortable situations with others. It's also a great work skills!

Take care,