Saturday, June 7, 2014

These are a few of my favorite {IDEAS}:

I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Institute Designed for Educating All Students (IDEAS) 2014 Conference this week on St. Simon's Island. If you ever get the chance to attend this- definitely go. It was a game-changer for me and something that I hope to attend every year. Sometimes you just need to get together with a large group of people who do what you do and think like you think and bounce ideas off of each other. A lot of what I heard here was not new to me but helped me to think about things in a new way and come up with ideas of new techniques and strategies to use with me kiddos. Unlike other conferences I've attended in the past, IDEAS 2014 had a great deal of breakout sessions to choose from and (most of) the presenters weren't trying to push their own products. In fact, a great majority of the products & resources were freebies (!). I also liked that most of the presenters name-dropped the researchers behind the strategies so that I could ensure I was learning about evidence-based techniques. Here are a few of my favorite topics that were discussed this week:

1. Incorporating sensory techniques into instructional activities

Although I feel that I have a pretty strong understanding of how to use a variety of techniques in order to meet students sensory integration dysfunction needs, I tend to keep a separation between sensory & academic times. I allow for sensory breaks throughout the day but rarely use sensory materials in order to allow the students to better gain access to the academic curriculum. Jessie Moreau, from Gwinnett County Schools, was just one of the presenters who discussed this. She creates these incredible literacy notebooks using adapted books and adds detailed sensory materials along with additional visuals. I have seen a good bit of her stuff on the Resource Board before. Jessie's suggestion was try to create one book per school year. The overachiever in me is going to aim for two this year:)

Jessie Moreau's Books

2. Communication vs. Language

Jennifer Thomas from Houston County Schools did a great job presenting on Augmentative Communication in the classroom. One topic she discussed was the difference between communication and language. This is such a simple concept but one that I forget to distinguish between during my daily routine. I think that I put more of an emphasis with my students on tacting, labeling, acquiring new vocabulary, etc. (language) and less time on greetings, expressing needs, making choices, etc. (communication). She also introduced me to the term "core vocabulary." I have seen and used communication boards based on the Pixon Project but was not familiar with the terminology. Basically, the core vocabulary are the first words that toddlers use (ours would be paired with a visual of course). I spend a great deal of time in my classroom on non-core words (vocabulary words, labeling classroom materials, etc.) and very little time on those core words that are vital to actually being able to communicate. During Jennifer's presentation I got the idea of introducing a couple of core vocabulary words each week and using them in conjunction with our unit vocab words.

Example from BM Achieve

3. Core Words vs. Fringe Words

Thankfully Jennifer's presentation had introduced me to the concept of core vocabulary before I attended the Forsyth County's presentation of Communication: Peeled & Cored because they went into even greater detail on these basic core words. They use a large communication board with all of the core words pictured and then they add additional "fringe" words based on the unit/topic of discussion. This group discussed having a core board that the teacher used during activities and that the students could follow along (with para support) with their own personal lap boards. Another idea was to keep the core boards in a 3-ring binder and have strips of fringe words that can be flipped at the top.

4. Writing for Non-Writers

Most of the students in my classroom are not writing at this point so I was thrilled to see that my co-worker's mom was presenting with her colleague on this very topic. She gave me some great ideas- such as allowing students to choose between printed sticky notes to answer questions or to use them to order words to create a sentence but I was most excited about all of the materials ideas. I'll tell ya, these ladies must live at the Dollar Store. They had some wonderful ideas for using ordinary objects. For example, I plan to buy some acrylic picture frames that stand up for students to velcro their answers onto and cutting pool noodles to use as a sequence board.

5. Circus Time- Errr, I mean CIRCLE Time:)

My circle time can get a little wild at time so I am always up for new ideas. Gini Bramlett from Fannin County gave me several new ideas to try out with the kiddos. For one, I'm going to switch my attendance chart from saying school & home to use core words (here, away) and I'm also going to add teacher names and administrator names to the chart so that students are more familiar with those. One of the other attendees had the idea of pairing each day of the week with a specific texture and also using sensory materials when discussing the weather. Gini create a great smartboard file that she was willing to share with us all to take home and change as needed.

These presentations- and several others- gave me pages of ideas that I want to incorporate in my own classroom. I'm going to try to focus only on one idea at a time so that I don't overwhelm myself but I'll post as I work my way through on here with pictures and materials. IDEAS 2014= SUCCESS! While there were a couple of duds in the bunch, it was overall a really phenomenal week (the beautiful beach, delicious food, and fabulous friends didn't hurt either!).