Errorless #ResourcesThatGive Students a Voice and Give them Confidence

One thing that I have noticed with my special needs students, especially those with autism and/or those who are limited or non-verbal, is that they are often looking for the right answer. It didn't matter if I was asking them what they wanted to do for break, they wanted to pick the 'right' answer. No matter what I said, they would look at me and nod their head as they pointing to their choice, hoping that they were right. How sad!
 I knew this meant we needed to stop having so many right/wrong activities in my class. I needed to teach my students how to give their opinions. 

Errorless Question of the Day:
First I incorporated a question of the day, "What do you like?". Each question has visual answering options and there is no wrong answer. We do our question of the day first thing in the morning, which allows my students to complete their first academic activity errorlessly while giving them the support that they need.
 Once incorporating the daily questions, I noticed my students began to speak in sentences more often as they become so familiar with the "I like ____" structure of each sentence. The wait time to answer the question also significantly decreased as students become confident in their choices. Students were smiling and excited for their opportunity to share their opinions. Plus, I got to learn some really cool things about my students!

Errorless Journal Writing:
Journal writing is a wonderful open ended activity that many students participate in, and it's great because there are so many right answers...but what about when students can't write? Or don't have the vocabulary to express themselves? I realized I was limiting my students by not allowing them to express their thoughts in writing and only having them work on "wh" question activities. They have important things to say!
So, errorless journals were born. These journals provided my students with sentence starters (which I had been doing for years) but also gave them options to use when completing those sentence starters so that they didn't have to guess on a right way to complete the sentences. Also, my students who had never been able to write because they couldn't read or trace? Well, I made a symbol supported level for them too!

I can't even explain how wonderful the changes were that happened in my classroom after implementing these journals. Suddenly, journal writing was FUN! My students were excited for journal time and so proud of their work. My students who struggled with completing sentences were now doing it on their own.
One of my students who had never done journals because she wasn't able to write, just giggled and giggled and wanted to show everyone her cut and paste symbol supported journal.

Anyone worried that your students would become dependent on the options to complete their sentence starters? I'm not going to lie, I did too, but I saw multiple students get to the point where they were so confident with themselves that I was able to cover up those options and they did it all of their own!

Other Errorless Activities:
These errorless activities quickly became my favorite. Which is why you can find multiple daily question packs, journals for the entire year, and greeting cards, all designed to help students express themselves and give them the confidence they need and deserve.

There are so many times that we have to correct our students and tell them that they are wrong (and that's not necessarily bad, we have to teach them and they have to learn)! BUT, if we can create even just a few opportunities a day where all students can express themselves however they want and be successful without wondering, we will give our students more confidence. And with confidence, our students can do SO MUCH MORE!

Feeling Thankful for YOU + 50% off Products!

So, I love Thanksgiving. Absolutely love it. Some people jump right to Christmas, but I most definitely decorate for Thanksgiving. I love that this holiday is all about being thankful and setting time aside to appreciate what we have. I realize I have so much to be thankful for, but so much of it I often take for granted, don't we all? 
And of course, you can't forget about the PUMPKIN PIE! Oh, and the HAM! Turkey is fine and all...but ham is where it's at! ;)

This year I am especially thankful for all of you, my readers.  I'm completely serious, I want you to know that! Here's just a few specific examples of how thankful I have been of all of you lately.

1. Your Comments: I did my very first Facebook live video and was nervous to say the least. I got so many encouraging comments from you all and that meant so much to me! It makes me feel like I wasn't a complete fail even though I stumbled over my words more than a few times. Surprisingly enough, because of your comments, I think I'll continue to do more Facebook videos!

2. Your Feedback: I love checking my phone and reading feedback about how my products help you and your students. This feedback came in today, students asking for more work? WINNING!!

3. Our Relationships: I'm so thankful for the relationships that I have formed with some of you. (You know who you are!) I love getting your emails and comments on Instagram/Facebook. I love hearing what's going on in your classrooms, sharing ideas, and working together. It's the best feeling!

4. Your Pictures: When you share pictures of your students using my products in your classroom, I get warm fuzzies all over! Since I'm not in the classroom this year, seeing those pictures of my products being used by students is a huge motivator for me and helps me remember why I love blogging and TpTing.

As a special thank you to YOU, I've teamed up with a few of my favorite sped bloggers to offer you some amazing products at a 50% discount. (Psst, check back on Facebook/Instagram on Sunday for another surprise Thank You!)
I'm offering my set of 12 math books at 50% off, valued at $20, regularly discounted for $16, now only $8! These books are great for extra practice and pair perfectly with my life skill math packs!


Community Places Curriculum

I love teaching my students about places in their community.  In order for our students to be successful in their communities, they have to know what places are out there! Plus, community places are naturally meaningful for students, so they are often motivated to learn about them as well.

When to teach it? Community places is a perfect social studies theme, life skills or daily living, English/Language Arts, or you can even sneak in some math!

Of course, it all depends on your students and the time you have available, but you can easily teach one place a week, spending about 15-30 minutes each day on this topic. For students who work at a faster pace, teach three places a week.

Keep things organized by giving each student their own folder with flashcards, worksheets, and data. 

Mondays - Discussion: I start with showing a poster with a picture of the community place we are learning about first. Then we will go over various questions in order to figure out what students already know, help them make connections, and see what they still need to learn! 
 
I then display these posters on the wall (with sticky tack or with magnets so I can easily remove it when needed) so that we can refer back to it as we continue to learn about these places. If we can print pictures of these places around us (ex, for restaurant, a McDonalds and an Olive Garden), they we will stick those under the restaurant poster as an example of types of restaurants around us.
Alternative idea: make a community places bulletin board, and display each week's poster in a "community place of the week" spot. 

Tuesdays - Worksheets: I have a variety of worksheets that we can choose from on Tuesdays. 

The first worksheets we start with are recognizing pictures for my non-readers and recognizing the word in a variety of fonts for my readers.

Depending on how much time we have, I might also have students complete some of the extra worksheets that work on skills like matching, writing, graphing, or cut and paste matching.


If students complete their worksheets early, they can review with their flashcards that they store in their folders.

Wednesdays - Review and data: On Wednesdays we review all of the community places in our current unit using the adapted book and task cards. We might also squeeze in another worksheet if we have extra time or if students are waiting for the turn for the book, task cards, or teacher data time!



And of course, special education teachers LOVE data! Using this data sheet makes it easy, check off what each student is working on (picture recognition, word recognition, or definition) and use a simple +/- to track progress. Students can help track their progress by shading in the graph at the bottom. (Flashcards are provided at each level and can be stored in each student's folder so that they can practice and are ready to go for assessment time!)

Thursdays - Research: This is quite possibly my favorite day. First, we look up the community place on Google maps. From there we can do so many things! We can zoom in and see the actual picture of each place (because Google is amazing like that). We talk about how far away it is, how long it would take to get there. We might also make a list of those places (i.e. tons of different restaurants you can look up and list, a police station you might only do one).

My students have research pages to fill out as they follow along. My non-readers/writers use this simple one, where they trace, color, and then answer three questions with symbol support.

My higher level students fill out this research page writing down information such as the address, what they learned (this is left open ended so the teacher can direct the students if desired, such as who works here, when you do go here, why would you go here, etc). At the bottom there is a place for students to draw, or they can print and paste a picture.


Fridays - Fun Day: Bingo is my absolute favorite review game and a great fun Friday activity to do while still making sure your students learn. You can easily differentiate a game of bingo by saying a description of the place for students to match, and then walk around showing the picture card for students who need to match. 

We also use this I have / Who has game to switch things up, or if (shock face) we ever get sick of bingo!

Community Trips: If we can, we will go to a field trip to some of these community places, or we will use our virtual field trips on Thursday and call it good enough. Remember, even if you can't take your students out on a field trip, they will go to many of these places with their families.

Check out more ideas to use while using this unit or teaching about the community in this Facebook video!

Grab all of the resources featured in this post (and more) BUNDLED HERE and be set to teach community places for the year! Or you can check out the units separately.

How to Use Core Vocabulary in Your Classroom

Who here has non verbal or limited verbal students in their classroom and is overrun with communication boards and completely overwhelmed on where to go next? Well, core vocabulary might just be your answer!
I'm excited to have Krystie from AdaptEd here today to share a guest post on Core Vocabulary. If my students hadn't already come in with their own different communication devices, I would have loved to use core vocabulary for all of them! Seriously, the way Krystie lays it out, you'll be very tempted to give it a try! :)
So you’re ready to explore the wide-open world of core vocabulary! But . . . how do you get started? Chances are, core vocabulary is very different from anything you’ve tried before when it comes to communication.

Changing strategies can seem daunting, but consider these questions:
-How does eliminating the constant need to create icons sound?
-How does forging a sustainable system for classroom-wide language modeling sound?
-How does using one symbol set for EVERY activity throughout the day sound?

If your answer to these questions is something along the lines of “That sounds INCREDIBLE! Yes, yes, yes!!!” (followed by jumping up and down with joy), then we have something in common. And it’s a pretty good sign that you are on the right track with your AAC exploration.

Core vocabulary can be described as a set of the most frequently used words in communication. In fact, these common words make up roughly 80% of what we say. So the theory follows that if students learn even a percentage of those core words they are then able to express themselves in a vast variety of ways. Turns out that a more traditional icon for “cookie” can only take you so far, whereas icons for core words like ‘go,” “eat,” “want,” and “more” can really take you the distance. We’re talking requesting, commenting, asking questions, placing demands, starting and ending conversations and more.

Here are 5 tips to help get you get started with core vocabulary:

1. Choose your symbol set. In the world of AAC there are many icon families to choose from. Boardmaker icons, Unity icons from PRC, Pixons and Symbolstix name a few. Choose a set that works well for you and your students. You may want to keep the future in mind - - - are you choosing a symbol set that will transfer well from a low-tech device to mid or high-tech? To help you get started, check out this low-tech communication board for FREE!

2. Core out your world. There’s no way to understand how important core vocabulary is to communication unless you dive in and try it. Start thinking of the world in terms of core vocabulary and how you can express yourself using it. Those instructions that all of you teachers, SLPs, OTs and classroom aides give all day? CORE. Think about it: “sit down,” “listen,” “wait,” “look,” “stop,” “all done.” 100% core. Those games that you play with your students? OPPORTUNITIES FOR CORE! “Your turn,” “my turn,” “go,” “stop.” Those art projects your students love? OPPORTUNITIES FOR CORE! “Same,” “different,” “look,” “like it.” Challenge yourself to spend a day communicating in core.
3. One icon at a time. Yes, there can be a lot of new icons to learn. No, you don’t have to panic. Keep in mind that in the beginning you are just like many of your students: you’re a new communication device user! Give yourself the time and courtesy that you afford your students. Take it one icon at a time. Perhaps spend an entire day using the icon “go” in as many instances as you can. You might be surprised how many there are! “Go” to the bathroom, take time to “go” eat lunch, indicate it’s another person’s turn by saying “go,” ask for a walk by saying “go,” indicate you want a video to play by saying “go.” The list goes on and on. Pretty soon your hand will by flying to the “go” icon with no hesitancy and you’ll be ready for another icon. Who knew you were going to be such a fluent user?!

4. Get your model on. Too often our immediate and initial focus in AAC is student output. It comes from a sincere place- we want students communicating as soon as possible. But would anyone pick up a typically developing baby and immediately expect it to start talking? Of course not. We put months (about one year to be exact) of time into modeling speech and language for children BEFORE we expect them to demonstrate that output of their first word. So how fair is it expect a beginning AAC user to jump straight to the output phase without giving them that foundation of AAC language modeling first? The answer is it’s not very fair. So don’t be afraid to get your modeling on! In the initial phase worry less about how often your student is touching the communication device and worry more about how much you are touching it. Be the model that they need and deserve. Before you know it those little learners will be following that model.

5. Play follow the leader. A successful core classroom is one where EVERYONE is using core vocabulary, not just the students. So make sure that all the players have access to core, including those incredibly important classroom/student aides. If you are focusing on the icon “go” then empower your team players to use it as well. Think of it as a game of follow the leader. The more models that are provided the more enriching your core classroom experience will be!

So, if you’re ready to get started- Sign Up for the Getting Started with Core Vocabulary Email Course with Krystie and Meg from AdaptEd!
Krystie and Meg will walk you through the all steps they took to go from theory to practice. Who is going to give it a try?!
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