It is nearly the end of the academic year. There are certain habits that occur this time of year with students, and it is probably the most important to remember that at the end of the day getting students through some of the challenges of the end of the school year is just a dance of push and pull. And sometimes when you tug, you find the student dragging you in the easier direction (with peers in class), and sometimes you will find that the student is dragging you in the other direction (to nothing that has to do with class or peers. This is what Renay found a few weeks ago with a mapping activity in class.
To be fair, Renay will admit that she has not been trying too hard on the modification front with the students she has been assigned, but since the assignment was a direct instruction, she figured she would convince her students to attend to task and do this with their peers.
Mapping assignments are direct in terms of desired outcomes. Most of the time, students are expected to copy an existing map or read to extract information. In the post COVID era, we have more access to more accurate maps more often, however, the act of writing and identifying locations on a map is important to help with orientation.
We are going to talk through Renay’s steps of preparing this modification because it does represent least to most prompting—the easier of the two main ways of preparing a student to do an assignment for class.
- The assignment is given to all students. Nothing is done at this point for the students. Nothing is removed. To be fair: Renay did not know this assignment was coming but again, Renay is not too worried yet.
- Wait for students to engage with the material. This part is a little harder. And it involves being patient. Some students started labeling across the class, and others listened to the verbal instructions and nuances of the map. Waiting until all the verbal instructions came through helped Renay strategize some possible interventions that could help the student be independent, but at the official instruction to work time, the student had not engaged in materials yet. Wait another two minutes.
- Renay reached and picked up one of the reference materials and started directly modeling for the student how to start the assignment. Prompts like “Did you write your name on your assignment?” and “Hey look the instructions are on the back here, what country should we label first?” helped direct one of the students to the activity. The student chose the country and Renay helped point out the country in the textbook map. This helped create some ownership of identifying and transferring information. And allowed the student to take the lead. And it is the balance between giving enough direction for the student to figure out the steps and letting the student make up steps to help them complete the assignment. In the spring, you do want to give students more space to grow in this regard. Finding out the edges of where they are uncomfortable.
- Doing this assignment with two students is a little more challenging. Especially when the motivation is quite different for each student. Giving one student an instruction where they can demonstrate some independence and then giving another student direct instruction helps quite a bit. However, it is also useful to have two or three prepared samples especially if the textbook is not the direct example the students will need to carry with them
- But what about students who have limited mobility? Well, Renay does not have a student who has limited mobility at this time, however, Renay has made mapping assignments for students with limited mobility. It involves copies of maps, coloring, lamination, and often assembly with glue or Velcro. Renay’s shortest time on map preparation has been in the ballpark of two hours from start to finish—but she did have help assembling the map.
Ultimately, one of the students had to redo their map because of an interesting interpretation using a marker that placed one of the major continents in contrast with the historic situation being mapped. A labeled map with the countries, a generated key for this student helped clarify independent instructions. Now, during class, all the students who need references during this historic event can turn back in their notes and point to the physical locations being spoken about and the geography of the area being influenced and creating borders can help be clarified.
So, we talked to Renay about peers and projects like this one. And Renay had a few things to keep in mind. While peers are very powerful, keep in mind the stress level of the peer, especially in the spring. Even if the students are rotated, sometimes, especially as students are older, things like AP testing will eat at a student and make working with a peer with a disability harder. There are also simple things like, peers not hearing how a classmate with a disability could contribute to completing an individual assignment.
It’s Teacher Appreciation Week…(Last Week)
All the teachers who have done extraordinary things this year, ‘Thank you’ seems insufficient. Extra sessions with students, working on extra lessons for students who were out sick, managing the return to full campuses, providing food for students who are without, getting student services that they need, building connections in the classroom, understanding what UDL actually is, trying to provide as many alternatives for students to participate with activities, reaching out to parents, and seeing parents who are comfortable without masks and with masks. The world demands change and teachers have managed to do this. And so have paraeducators. But for everyone who works with students, thank you.
A really awesome thank you to the parents who gift and are willing to navigate staff allergies (food, plants, etc). We know it is not a top priority, but those who have allergies appreciate being included in this tiny way.
Mission: Possible, SIP Conference (Also last week…)
We did not live attend as many sessions of Mission: Possible as we would have liked. As many self-advocates presented in their own sessions talking about the experiences they had in their lives. Among them, our friend Beth Foraker, from National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion, and her son, Patrick as a self-advocate. But also a team that is supported by Megan Gross, and several other friends of ours were there. While virtual– we were excited to be back together.
Virtual conferences allow for so much possibility, especially with the ability to be at work or home and catch the moments that make us excited again about our jobs. But one day soon, we know we will be in an in-person conference and there will be exciting pictures there too.
Do you have any comments about this month’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. ParaEducate is a company providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published once a month during the academic school year. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.