Category Archives: H1

Social Inclusion of Students with Autism

Working with students with special needs can be one of the greatest challenges for a teacher. These students are wonderful individuals, but many teacher preparation programs fall short of helping teachers be fully equipped to provide all of the resources necessary for students with special needs. As inclusion models become more common in public and private schools, general education teachers are not always prepared for the accommodations and modifications that must be made to help these students succeed academically as well as socially. In my Educating Exceptional Students course, we were asked to do a peer review article on a topic of our choosing. I felt that, since I find autism to be a fascinating disorder and a majority of the focus of inclusion models for students with autism is social inclusion, it would be interesting to look into an article that investigates how students viewed their peers with autism.

Peer Review Paper: Social Inclusion of Students with Autism

The article by Boutot and Bryant (2005) was, essentially, a survey to determine which students belonged to social groups, which students were well-known, and which students other students wanted to spend time. According to their very limited findings, “Students with autism in inclusive classrooms are as likely as their peers to be chosen for an activity…have the same amount of visibility…[and] be members of a very definite group” (Boutot and Bryant, 2005, p. 20). The most interesting part of the article I found, though, was in the Observational Findings section. The authors stated that two students who had been particularly successful were in general education classrooms that had underwent a training session for the addition of a student with autism. As a teacher, this helps me understand the critical role I play in that I can help my students be better prepared for what to expect when there are students with special needs in the classroom and know how to include them socially. As opposed to continue focusing on simply how peers view with students with autism, I will be writing my next paper for this course on the steps I can take as a teacher that can help students appreciate and accept the differences that make them unique.

Boutot, E. A. & Bryant, D. P. (2005). Social integration of students with autism in inclusive settings. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 40(1) 14-23.

Mentor Observation 3: Management Strategy

Students are at unique places in their lives. Classroom management systems should accommodate for this, as each student has different needs that must be fulfilled. In order to honor student diversity and development (HOPE principle H1), our management strategy needs to fit each of our students where they are, as well as help them work towards where they should be. In our classroom, students know the expectations and understand why we have them, thanks to hard work on my mentor’s part at the beginning of the year. While we have students with different behavioral quirks, we use the same system with each of them, with slight modifications. This system is centered on a behavior chart (see Image 1) posted at the front of the classroom.

Image 1 - My Mentor Teacher's behavior chart. All students begin on "Good Day" and are moved depending on behavior.

Image 1 – My Mentor Teacher’s behavior chart. All students begin on “Good Day” and are moved depending on behavior.

During lessons or transition time, my mentor teacher would ask a student to “move up your number” or “move down your number” in order to positively enforce good behavior or have students acknowledge that the teacher noticed their misbehavior. For some students, we enforce simple behaviors that they are working on, such as not shouting out and raising their hand instead. For others, who typically exhibit good behavior, the expectations are slightly higher before they are bumped up. Regardless, students who have a whole week on “Good Day” will be bumped up for the final day in order to reflect a week without serious negative behavior. This classroom management strategy is useful in that it allows the teacher to constantly reward behaviors, both positive and negative. Some students need additional motivation for positive behaviors, so a few students receive small rewards for achieving the “Great Job” status multiple times per week, such as a special pencil or notepad.

Parents get notified daily of their student’s standing. Students reflect what their standing is on their behavior chart on the back of their reading logs. Part of the daily homework is that parents acknowledge and initial their student’s standing for the day. This constant updating allows parents to express their concerns before students receive a grade on report cards or progress reports and opens the avenue of discussion about student behaviors. Additionally, the data allows my mentor teacher the ability to track behavior long-term (see Image 2). In my classroom, I will have a similar system in order to both monitor behavior and keep long-term records of changes in behavior or a student’s behavior trends. This data can help the student’s both current and future teachers understand the best way to create a learning environment with few behavioral distractions.

Image 2 - Collecting the behavior data can help teachers find trends and changes to student behavior.

Image 2 – Collecting the behavior data can help teachers find trends and changes to student behavior.

EDU 6132: Module 10: Asperger’s Syndrome

While our Pressley and McCormick text, Child and Adolescent Development for Educators (2007) considers Asperger’s Syndrome as not only separate from Autism, but also to be more akin to a nonverbal learning disorder, Autism Speaks considers it to “be on the ‘high functioning’ end of the [autism] spectrum.” Pressley and McCormick find that autism and Asperger’s have similar symptoms, including the social deficits, fixation on certain activities – though, for children with Asperger’s, the activity is more likely to be socially acceptable. Unlike children with autism, those who have Asperger’s are more likely to realize that they are being outcast socially, though they have difficulty changing what makes them “awkward.” While the textbook definitions can be useful, the explanation I found most helpful came from children’s television, with this clip from Arthur: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9eATBV-_lg

Helping other students understand what a child with Asperger’s is going through may help alleviate some of the rejection that comes with feeling so different. While many young students will have difficulty understanding, as not even scientists know exactly what is going on, building a place where students respect differences and honor what makes them unique is a key factor in creating a safe place for learning. Helping students understand, and helping myself remember, that some students may not understand implied meaning or gestures will help everyone learn to communicate more effectively with each other.

I chose this mental health issue because it fascinates me. I encountered many children with Asperger’s Syndrome working in a museum, especially those with fixations on space or dinosaurs. While the conversations seemed slightly robotic or blunt, they amazed me with their wealth of knowledge on the topic they loved, and you could see their parents light up when their child engaged in social interactions.

References:

Pressley, M. & McCormick, C. B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: Guilford Press

Autism Speaks, Asperger Syndrome <http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/asperger-syndrome>

EDU 6132: Module 5

Vygotsky’s theories include many aspects that could translate easily to the classroom. The main one I can think of as being useful is his Zone of Proximal Development. The zone of proximal development, according to Pressley and McCormick (2007), is the space between the most challenging task a child can perform on their own and the most challenging task they can perform with help. This is important in a school because we can “scaffold” students’ learning in order to help them do more than they could on their own, gradually giving less and less support, until they can do it independently.

An assignment I have been working on for my students is a Think Aloud. A Think Aloud is when you model strategies for students as you read, allowing them to understand the though process surrounding the strategy – making my private speech vocalized. While the text may be too difficult for some students, hearing how someone else approaches the text can help students better understand the strategy – like an apprenticeship when the understudy watches the professional. After modeling, the teacher coaches the student, reminding them to “talk to the text,” in order to remind them of the strategies they can use. After time, the strategy becomes a skill and the student is able to tackle the previously-difficult texts on their own.

I have had many assignments in which I’ve had to work with other students. At times, working with partners was simple because we “were on the same page.” I believe this derives from coming from a similar background and being on the same cognitive understanding of the topic and assignment at hand. There have also been times when it was difficult. This might have stemmed from differing backgrounds, differing opinions on how something should be done, or simply a difference in how we communicate causing friction. It is important for students to learn to work with others, since they will be doing so their entire lives, regardless of if they can learn to work with someone else or not.

References:

Pressley, M. & McCormick, C. B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

EDU 6132 Module 4

Piaget vs. Information Processing

In their most simplistic forms, Piaget’s theory is that of cognitive stages, while Information Processing (IP) theory likens memories to data stored in a computer. These two theories can both be seen at work in an elementary school classroom. While the Information Processing theory deals with the individual’s ability to make long-term memory from short-term memory through learned strategies, Piaget’s theory deals with how that information is obtained based on the cognitive stage of the individual. There are few conflicts between these two theories since one deals more with how the information is understood (Piaget) while the other deals with how the information is stored (IP).

Piaget’s theory claims that students will each be within a stage of cognitive development. This means they have a distinct way of thinking, as well as limitations on that thinking. A classroom may consist of students who are in different stages. In Information Processing theory, students will each have different abilities to use certain strategies for remembering. This theory has stages in regards to the ability to use those strategies, either with help or on their own. Students according to this theory may also be in different stages of strategy use. In both  theories, it behooves teachers to teach to a wide variety of thinkers using a wide variety of strategies.

This student work exemplifies a teacher’s attempt to better accommodate for a range of learners in the classroom. I can only assume that the student learned the procedure of counting the shaded-in tiles and all tiles and putting them, respectively, as the numerator and denominator. This student may be in Piaget’s concrete operational stage because he is unable to comprehend the abstract idea of having zero portions shaded. The exit ticket on the second page serves several functions in Information Processing theory. First, it is encouraging the student to reflect on learning, reminding him of what was supposed to be learned. It also encourages the student to relate the learning to their lives. Two strategies are being used to help the student remember the information. Finally, the teacher receives feedback on which teaching strategies are most helpful to the types of learners in her classroom. It is important for teachers to know which types of learners are present in their classroom and to encourage many strategies for remembering information.

EDU 6132 Module 3

Many factors influence student development and learning; Pressley and McCormick (2007) listed multiple factors including culture, family, community, and institutions such as religion, school, and media. It is important to understand that students come to the classroom with a wide variety of previous experience, all of which helps shape their understanding of what is taught and why it is taught. I’ve always appreciated the diversity of student needs, but have seldom considered how to adjust my teaching accordingly, and it seems as if many teachers aren’t sure where to start.

We were given a graph to take into consideration while writing this reflection on our learning. Figure 1 shows on-time graduation rates by general ethnicity groupings. At first glance, this graph would suggest that school systems are failing in accommodating for the needs of a diverse student body.

Figure 1: On-time graduation rate by ethnicity.

While it may look concerning as a teacher to see this distribution, as a scientist I never take a graph at face value. I realized that this graph looked shockingly similar to another I’d seen of income by ethnicity, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Annual household income by ethnicity.

The data is from 2004, but the data from 2000 (the same year as Figure 1’s data) can be found on the U.S. Census Page. The differences appear to be nearly the same, with Asian Americans having both the highest medium income and highest graduation rates, decreasing from whites to Hispanics to African Americans. These two figures in combination could suggest that income could determine graduation rate, which in turn influences income – a cycle unrepresentative of the “American Dream.”

Either why you interpret the data, some students are missing out. I hope to ensure that, regardless of background, students are able to gain footing in my class. Nobody chooses the circumstances from which they come. It is not their responsibility to adjust to my teaching style, but rather for my teaching style to morph to the needs of my students.

Module 1 Child Development: What I [Don’t] Know

Next week, I will begin another quarter of courses, including EDU 6132: Learners in Context. Before I begin this class, I have been asked to reflect on what I already know about child and adolescent development and how that relates to teaching. While pondering the topic, I realized that I know very little.

The only thing I know for certain about child and adolescent development is that no two people are the same. Identical twins, who are genetically the same at conception, can develop at vastly different rates. Some children reach benchmarks early, while others struggle to say their first words by a given time. Some of those “late bloomers” grow up to have no learning disabilities while others continue to struggle throughout life. What I have read thus far of Brain Rules (Medina, 2008) confirms this certainty, explaining that each brain is completely unique, even in its structure, due to different experiences and perspectives.

Most of what I know about child and adolescent development comes from the news – those 60-second segments that report on the findings of new research. A course on the subject will expand my knowledge, which will be beneficial both as a teacher and as, one day, a mother. It will help me better honor student diversity and development, one of our program’s HOPE Principles (H1). While we typically think that only those children who have been tested and diagnosed with a “special need” are those who learn differently, it is important to know that each student comes to the classroom with unique experiences, strengths, and weaknesses. Knowing more about how those differences develop will help me become a better teacher in that I will better be able to recognize and accommodate for those qualities that make a child unique.

References:

Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Classroom Management and Special Needs

Prior to my Classroom Management course (EDU 6130), I had heard many things about students with special needs in the classroom. Given the lack of funding but wealth of legislation, the statistics say it is inevitable that I will soon have a student that requires something different from the rest of my students.    While only a fraction of teachers are trained to deal with the special needs of these exceptional children, every teacher can be called upon to do so.  I am glad to have read papers on the legislation and techniques relating to differences in learning. These papers, that I found so helpful, were from The Province British Columbia’s (2011) and Laprairie, Johnson, Rice, Adams, and Higgins (2010).  It made me much more confident in my ability to Honor Student Diversity and Development (HOPE Standard H1).  Before, I had thought that my whole classroom would have to be turned upside-down by the incorporation of a student with different needs.  Edith, a classmate, said in discussion that all students have different backgrounds and are unique, therefore they all have different needs from one another.  That gave me a whole new perspective on the situation.  While more time and effort will need to go into planning for their strengths, I should be planning for a variety of different learning styles and abilities already.  When we wrote a lesson plan in class, our group had already addressed so many types of learning, even before we had placed special emphasis on students with special needs.  Though it may be a challenge finding out what works, I believe a strong relationship with parents and other teachers the student might have had in the past can go a long way in developing a curriculum that will allow the student to flourish.

Knowing more about specific learning disabilities, as well as specific types of legislation, were also benefits of the readings this week.  The Province of British Columbia (BC) article was especially helpful in laying out the different ways a certain disability might present itself.  Even after dating someone with dyscalculia, what he called “number dyslexia,” for three years, I had no idea how it would present itself in the classroom – or even what it was technically called.  The BC article also laid out suggestions for adaptations that can be made – something I will be referring back to when I get my list of different abilities in my classroom.  The Laprairie, Johnson, Rice, Adams, and Higgins article was useful in defining and describing legislation that affects teaching students with different abilities.  There are so many acronyms and so much special jargon thrown around, especially in our classes that include the special education ARC students, and now I feel better prepared to understand most of what to which they are referring.  These two documents will be in my resource kit for years to come.

References:

Province of British Columbia. (2011). Supporting students with learning disabilities: A guide for teachers. [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/specialed/docs/learning_disabilities_guide.pdf

Laprairie, K., Johnson, D. D., Rice, M., Adams, P., & Higgins, B. (2010). The top ten things new high school teacher needs to know about servicing students with special needs. American secondary education, 38(2), 23-31.