Monday, November 16, 2015

"You have to be in it .... to win it."

We sometimes struggle to discover ways to meaningfully include students with special needs into regular education lessons. Animated Step-by-Steps™ strive to address this challenge by providing an engaging central focus. The fact that they use animations that can be triggered remotely using a switch, can at the very least, provide a participatory role to heighten engagement not just for the child with special needs, but for everyone in the group.

The engagement piece is crucial. If a student is not engaged in the lesson, it is unlikely that he/she will be learning much from that lesson. It is also highly likely that the disinterested child will be disrupting that 30-40 minute lesson, if he/she is not engaged in a meaningful way.

When conducting a science lesson such as the Bean Experiment, Egg-Cola Experiment, Mealworm Life Cycle, Dry-Wet Mealworm Experiment, you can use the Animated Step-by-Step™ (AsbyS) PowerPoint on the interactive whiteboard to pace the class through a group project … OR … you can use the ASbyS to provide an overview of the actual project that will be conducted individually, or in pairs at student tables, or at an activity center that students rotate through over the course of the morning.

When using the ASbyS as an upfront lesson, it is important to ‘hook’ everyone into the lesson in a meaningful way, whatever their level of functioning. For most children the ASbyS are engaging, in and of themselves. For some children, however, the presence of multiple animations per page and the ability to activate those animations using a remote switch might not be enough to ‘hook’ them into an ongoing science lesson. The interactive whiteboard may be physically too far removed for some children.

In a previous post we discussed the options for bringing the content ‘closer’ to the child by using Splashtop Classroom (which presents the interactive whiteboard content on the student’s iPad; or using the Microsoft PowerPoint app (which presents the exact same PowerPoint file on the student’s iPad; Having the content ‘up close’ within their immediate visual field may be just the right strategy for ‘ramping up’ the engagement piece for that particular child.

For others, however,  even the ‘parallel universe’ of using an iPad to present identical content may not be sufficient for engagement. With some children, I have found the simple strategy of introducing and using the props paired with their Dual=Representation symbols to be a powerful way to keep them ‘hooked’ into that lesson.  When conducting the Dry-Wet Mealworm Experiment, for example, the props (paper plate, paper towel, water, marker to denote half and the center of the plate, a cutout of a mealworm) would be quietly introduced to the child by the classroom assistant/speech-language pathologist as the lesson unfolds and would be used to concretely act out the steps being discussed.  

A velcro receptive multipurpose fabric easel (available from Mayer-Johnson/Dynavox/Tobii) can be used to present the Dual=Representation Symbols paired with the props.

As they say in those lottery commercials … 

“You have to be in it … to win it”.  

Fingers crossed that this might be just the strategy you’ve been looking for … the strategy that positions that challenging child for more meaningful learning during a group lesson. 

…’til the next post (new posts every Monday)

Follow me on twitter @AnimStepbySteps

©2015 Carol Goossens’, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator