Sharing Activities

We also gave ideas on ways to visually and otherwise support student independence during these types of technology projects. Our audience shared fantastic ideas and insight as well. (If you were in the audience, thank you!!)

Below, we share some sample projects and student-support documents. To download the file, click on the link. (To make the files as accessible as possible, we provide a choice of file types, whenever possible. The content is the same.)

Sign Matching Quiz

Now, the question is how did I miss these when I was in the classroom, hmmm?!

I talk a lot about Classroom Suite’s Activity Exchange, but there are other software activity and lesson plan sharing communities out there as well. The two other software programs I use the most are Kidspiration (or Inspiration, depending on student skill level) and Boardmaker (mostly for my own use).

  • Inspired Learning Community offers free Inspiration, Kidspiration, and InspireData shared resources
  • Mayer-Johnson User Sharing offers Boardmaker activities to download

Of course, there are many blogs and teacher-created sites with fantastic resources to share, for free. As my school year is winding down and my own activity-writing is indefinitely on hold, I’ll be osting some of the sites I run across.

In this unit on Traffic Safety, I felt is was important to give students the chance to look at signs and break them down – analyze their parts – in hope that this would help students recognize their meaning more readily. Before completing the following activity on their own, we gathered at the Smartboard and analyzed the visual conventions used in making signs, for example, the color red usually means stop, green means go, and so on.

Because it has a Symbol-Maker drawing tool, I knew Kidspiration was the perfect choice for this type of activity. (You can download the activity I made using Kidspiration here.) Using that tool, students recreated major pedestrian safety signs. A model of each sign was provided, for reference.

Screen shot of Drawing Pedestrian Signs, a Kidspiration activity

This activity is simple, but has profound benefits. I could see that some of my students were not picking up on color differences between signs, clearly a major indicator of what the sign means. This activity became an important assessment tool. As a result, I continued to teach and review sign identification and meaning and threw in more lessons about clues to sign meaning.

If you are interested in more Kidspiration community sign activities, there is a great one that comes automatically with Kidspiration (at least it does in Kidspiration 3, I didn’t check in earlier versions). It is in Kidspiration’s Social Studies activities folder. That activity asks students to match signs with their meaning. Lots of signs are included, too, not just traffic safety.

Interesting Article: Using Video Games to Train Brains

This is my last month in a classroom full-time (at least for now). Soon, I will be joining our district’s Office of Autism as an autism coach. My responsibilities will be different, more teacher-training focused. I tell you this because it means I won’t be posting activities within the context of big unit plans. I will, hopefully, be sharing tips and information from a much larger autism perspective, including a wider age range. One of my first assignments is to attend a week’s worth of TEACCH training in North Carolina. I’m very excited about this!

Crossing the Street: Learning and Practicing through Videos

Party Planning Unit
As our last full unit plan, my students and I explored different aspects of planning and preparing for a party. This unit followed our school’s autism pacing calendar, and it wrapped up several themes of the year nicely.

(Our school, by the way, has an outstanding team of teachers who create a very appropriate, logical, and useful pacing calendar each year. In following it, all 6:1:1 teachers – homeroom and cluster teachers alike – end up teaching and reinforcing similar content from different angles and perspectives. This pacing calendar approach goes a long way in helping students retain and generalize information. It also facilitates teacher-to-teacher collaboration. I strongly recommend it.)

Until then, to try to make up for our computer lab’s impediments to real-world, or near-real-world learning, the culminating activity for our recent traffic safety unit incorporated videos of streets and intersections in New York City. Now, these aren’t great videos — I shot them — but they present the student with different situations: when and when not to cross the street; the steps to follow when crossing the street; signs to look for when crossing the street; etc. The videos sum up all that we had covered in the preceding month.

To ensure that students were thinking critically about what they saw in the videos, I embedded the videos into an interactive book. Students watched the videos, looked at stills, and then answered questions about what they saw. (Through matching or typing, depending on the student’s skill level.)

Crossing the Street Video Review

Students watch videos and look at images of urban (New York City) traffic signs and signals and answer fill-in-the-blank questions through identifying a variety of signs, signals, and steps to follow when crossing the street.

Because of the size of these files, uploading them is impractical! I am working on uploading them to the to the Classroom Suite Activity Exchange site (also difficult because of their size). I will update this post if that is successful. In the meantime, please check out Intellitools Activity Exchange. It is free to register and download activities, plus you can find so many wonderful activities — on all subjects — there.

Adapted Stories for Students with Autism

Yesterday, Office of Autism director Stephanie McCaskill and I hosted a workshop on ways to integrate technology into middle school/high school Autism classrooms. We focused on using technology to address universal, major skill areas in Autism education (see visual beloTo demonstrate, we discussed and shared sample projects, including digital photograph collections, community skills practice, digital movies, interactive social stories, and digital resumes.

Workshop Documents: Integrating Technology

There is no real substitute for learning through real-world experience. Ideally, all students — most especially students with autism — should have many, many structured, safe, real-world learning activities. Learning traffic safety is an excellent example of why this is. What possible substitute can there be?

Researchers have explored using virtual reality to teach students with autism to generalize traffic safety skills. I look forward to the time when this technology is more widely available!

Until then, to try to make up for our computer lab’s impediments to real-world, or near-real-world learning, the culminating activity for our recent traffic safety unit incorporated videos of streets and intersections in New York City. Now, these aren’t great videos — I shot them — but they present the student with different situations: when and when not to cross the street; the steps to follow when crossing the street; signs to look for when crossing the street; etc. The videos sum up all that we had covered in the preceding month.

Inspiration

I don’t present the text of each book to you here, for brevity’s sake, but for students with autism it is essential to teach the meaning behind social events (Even if it may seem like a superficial topic or a superfluous allotment of time on the subject, it’s not.)

Lastly, this was a super fun unit. The students loved it. And, because their other teachers were also teaching party planning, many students were immediately able to apply and generalize the information we covered in planning real parties in their other classrooms.

How To Turn Your Instructingautism From Blah Into Fantastic

This screen shot above is from the medium-level interactive book. In it, students can look to a picture-cue on each page to help them uncover an answer to the question. On this level, I generally expect (with some exceptions) that the student will type the word or phrase shown, rather than a full, independent sentence.

This level can be further differentiated by requiring a sentence instead.

The more simplified of the three interactive books, shown above, has a couple of major differences. First, the text of the book is automatically presented in audio when the student turns the page. Also, each page displays both a picture-cue and a text-cue. I expect the student to both match the picture AND type the word or phrase (in all caps to facilitate emergent typing).

In my computer classes, I expect any student who can use a mouse can begin to use a keyboard, even if they are still working on alphabet recognition. In fact, this type of copy-the-letter strategy is a way to sneak alphabet-recognition, word formation (you can set up the text options in Classroom Suite to automatically read a word after you type it), and text familiarity (such as the concept of reading left to right) into the activity.

Do You Make These Simple Mistakes In Instructingautism?

This screen shot above is from the medium-level interactive book. In it, students can look to a picture-cue on each page to help them uncover an answer to the question. On this level, I generally expect (with some exceptions) that the student will type the word or phrase shown, rather than a full, independent sentence.

This level can be further differentiated by requiring a sentence instead.

Lesson Plans

Above is a screen shot from the highest level of activity. In it, students who can read and write are asked to read the question about what to do before a party and answer with a full sentence. he picture-word toolbars help students interact with the text visually by finding the picture that makes the most sense. It also gives the student a clue when answering the question, promoting independent, in-assignment prompting, rather than verbal help from me or other staff.

This level can be further differentiated by allowing emerging readers to listen to the text as they read along, and/or by asking emerging writers to type the word or phrase rather than a full-sentence.

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