Celebrating Learning Disabilites Month

October is Learning Disabilities (LDs) Awareness Month across Canada. According to Stats Canada, learning disabilities are the fastest growing type of disability not associated with aging. How does this affect us as educators?

It is our responsibility to know what learning disabilities are and how to best support our students. The Learning Disabilities Association of Canada has great resources to inform our learning and teaching. We have eleven Learning Disabilities Associations to choose from and your nearest one can be selected here.

So how do we celebrate Learning Disabilities Awareness Month?

“An educated and understanding teacher can ease many of the hurdles a child with a learning disability experiences in the classroom” as quoted by the Learning Disabilities Association of Manitoba.

Now is the time to share your knowledge and understanding of learning disabilities with your peers, students and parents. The Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario has a great poster to promote understanding of LD’s:

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Enjoy sharing your knowledge and understanding this Learning Disabilities Awareness Month!

Open-Ended Playing with the First Look Light Table Kit

Look at this great resource!

So as you probably know if you are a regular reader, I am a big fan of light tables. Adding light to an activity, brightens everything, including my attention span!

This was the first time we tried out this resource, the First Look Light Table Kit so I laid it all out, showed Daisy the contents and let her explore. There are over 300  pieces in this kit and I couldn’t fit them all on the table!

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Daisy set to work matching colours:

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Clear Big Buttons were matched with colourful leaf, flower and butterfly transparencies.

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Here Daisy has matched the shapes of the Clear Big Buttons and the Fancy Stringing Rings.

I have realised the importance of letting children explore independently, without the restrictions of set tasks or outcomes. Simply playing.

The rule:

New Resource = Open Ended Exploration

The chance to fully explore a resource without the pressure of outcomes, allows children to follow their own thought patterns and investigate their own theories.

As teachers we are often too quick to narrow a resource into a set learning activity and then we wonder why students are playing with the resources rather than doing the activity we set! The pressure of following curriculum and meeting teaching targets means we often sacrifice open ended exploration.

ECE’s are wonderful at setting up explorations free from set outcomes. “Invitations” are happening frequently in daycare and preschool rooms. This carries into kindergarten where teachers still recognise the need for play based learning.

My wish: play based learning with open-ended exploration continues through elementary school.

Is this possible while still meeting curriculum targets?

My answer is yes, what is yours?

Learning to Tie Shoe Laces

A pair of cool black and purple boots are just longing to be worn.. but they can’t… until the owner can tie her shoelaces!

As a teacher, I understand the need for children to be independent; dress themselves, do their zips, take out their own earrings for swimming (yes, yuck) and change their own shoes. Hence these lovely shoes cannot yet be worn.

Wood Lacing High-Top to the rescue!

The diagram on the bottom of the shoe helps parents and teachers figure out how to tie a shoelace. It turns out that something you do every day is actually quite a process.

We used the over, under and then introduced a big tree and a bunny who runs around the big tree, into the bunny hole and off pops he. I think it is a knitting rhyme but works well here too.

Yeah, after much practice, one lace done. Much more practice needed but it is a great start!

How do you encourage independence in the classroom or home?

Would you like to win a Wood Lacing High-Top?

All you need to do is one of the following:

Before Friday November 23rd, 2012, 4 pm Central Time.

This contest is open to Canadian residents only.

Looking forward to hearing from you and good luck!

Other great products for learning to dress include the Dress-a-pillar and the learning boards.

Preparing Parents and Children for Kindergarten

I have been reading lots of wonderful posts on how to prepare children for Kindergarten. The count down has begun for Daisy going to school. She is getting excited.

What can we do to prepare together (yes, parents need to prepare too!).

Now:

  • Schedule play dates for your child without you being present
  • Visit the school, some schools offer staggered enrollment, open evening in June and parent conferences.
  • Practice the morning routine, getting up at school time, dressing and preparing as you would for school so children are prepared for the big day (this means going to bed at a regular time too)
  • Use the new shiny lunch bag for a picnic to the park with friends or simply in the back garden.
  • Encourage children to help with packing their own lunch, snacks and backpack (they will have to do it at school)
  • Label everything… yes everything. As a teacher I can tell you that so much time is wasted looking for things that have no labels or trying to find owners of objects that are not labelled.
  • Read, read, read, visit your library, have a book reading picnic, read whenever you can.
  • Learn how to identify first and last name and practice writing first name.
  • Memorize phone number and address.
  • We were very lucky to have a Literacy Links programme in our school district but you can do similar activities at home.
  • Allocate more responsibility; tidying toys away, making the bed, setting the table, preparing for an outing by gathering hat, shoes and water bottle. All these activities encourage your child to take more responsibility for themselves and their belongings as they will have to do in their classroom.

  • Learn how to tie bows and do zippers. If your child cannot yet tie shoelaces please send Velcro shoes! Teachers do not have time to tie 25 sets of shoelaces.

On the morning:

  • Follow the procedure you have in the week leading up to the first day of Kindergarten
  • Keep calm and try not to share your nervousness and anxiety with your child. Talk positively about the day ahead.
  • When dropping your child off say goodbye and leave quickly. Do not draw out the agony for you or your child. Advice from a friend who teaches Grade One now but has taught Kindergarten also. “When you have said goodbye. Turn around and do not look back”. Starting the day upset is difficult for child and parent. She advises as brief a goodbye as possible.
  • Take yourself off to have a nice cup of coffee or tea and a treat.
  • Give yourself a pat on the back for surviving one of the many heart wrenching moments in life.

That evening and Ongoing

  • Discuss the positive points of the day “What did you most enjoy about your day?” and “Which friends did you have fun with?”.
  • Don’t worry if when you ask the question “What did you do today?” the response is “Nothing”. Young children often don’t remember details of their day and may need down time after school. Open ended questions such as ” How was your day?”, “What did you do at recess?” are less interrogating and more inviting for children. They may not always want to talk about school.
  • Keep the conversation opportunities flowing. We will be discussing books that address school issues at home.

Taking Care of Myself is a great book for initiating discussion about personal safely. It includes information on how to be healthy, play safely, explores what feels ok and standing tall. In the first few week of school many teachers will be setting rules and expectations for school and the classroom. It is the perfect time to open up discussion about personal safety.

How do you prepare for the first day of school?

Potty Training (part 2)

Well it is a month since I last shared our potty training experiences in                             Potty Training (part 1). Rose’s potty training has grown and developed in leaps and bounds during the last month. She is asking to go potty and is much more at ease with a variety of toilet options.

Warning: this post contains more poo and pee talk!

I did have friends ask some questions when potty training. These included:

“Did u just get a regular plastic potty? There’s loads of different ones which can be quite dear”

Yes we have a regular potty, bought for Daisy from Ikea.

We also have a potty and step stool in one which is great for leaving out in what ever room you are in. The handy lid covers up the fact it is a potty and it can be used as a step also. It is made by Safety first but I am not quite sure where we got it.

Neither is an expensive potty. The training conversation is what is important not the tools.

You can also get toilet training seats. For many children who are nervous using the big toilet these can be reassuring. The chances of falling into the toilet are diminished.

We have not tried these. Have you?

Do you use pull ups?

Yes, for afternoon naps. Rose is not trained when sleeping. I don’t believe you can train when children are sleeping. Accident free nights naturally follow daytime training, when the child is ready. We used a night diaper for a year after Daisy was trained. She was totally free of diapers by the age of 3. This seems to be unusually early but that is Daisy!

Rose is a totally different wee girl. She is able to tell us when she needs to pee and we have been celebrating more and more accident free days. Poops are another matter. She is not keen on pooping in the potty and training for # 2 is ongoing. Thank goodness for rubber gloves!

On a recent trip to Vancouver we did use pull ups for the plane and long car rides. Rose was out of her schedule and a combination of late nights and missed naps meant she was tired and struggled to remember to ask for the potty. The temporary use of pull-ups meant less stress for both of us but it was only for the 4 day trip and she seemed proud to get back into ‘knickers’ as we call them.

Do you play with the potty?

Absolutely not. We do play with dolls and teddies and have them go to the potty. We also have a mini potty from … somewhere and the dolls use it. It is important that Rose understands the potty is for poop and pee not playing with. We have had enough incidents of poop being played with in our house to last a lifetime!

Rose is enjoying her independence with potty training and her ability to tell us ahead of time is increasing everyday.

Remember Diapers Are Not Forever and neither is potty training thank goodness!

The most important thing to remember when potty training is Patience and understanding.

These little angels that have been entrusted to us, do their best and we need to accept this and help them on their journey.

Have you any potty training questions Rose and I can attempt to answer?

Sunday Snoop

Some great finds. Click on the pic to follow the link.

Aboriginal elders have called education the “new buffalo.”

A great vision of school time for 2020. Should we have to wait until 2020 is my question?

Playdough letter printing – early writing!

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High school coach fired for Facebook photos.

It is officially festival season! The count down to Folk fest 2012 has begun!

Learning to Read with Aboriginal Books

Learning to read is a challenging and exciting time. Having books that a child can identify with and understand makes a difference when encouraging a ‘love’ to read.

A child’s classroom is a safe heaven for them to feel confident to explore, make mistakes, learn and grow. Having resources that relate to their heritage help them to feel at home and welcome.

I have taught in various countries working with students with many different ethnicity but the common theme in my classroom was to teach and provide resources for my students.

 

When reading an article today “Closing the achievement gap for Toronto’s aboriginal students” I admired the efforts of Toronto District School Board TDSB to engage their aboriginal students. Isn’t that our responsibility as teachers; to engage all of our students?

After an alarming report admonishing TDSB on failing aboriginal students and a successful pilot project, TDSB are making positive changes to engage their students.

Changes they have made include:

  • idnetifying First Nations, Inuit or Metis students in order to refer them to the board’s expanding Aboriginal Education Centre
  • sensitivity training for staff
  • expanding the Aboriginal Education Centre
  • feasibility study on how to fix or completely overhaul a small First Nations alternative school
  • new alternative Native Learning Centre is expected to open this fall
  • TDSB superintendents have been given a presentation about the achievement gap

At the Bala Avenue Community School Ojibwa classes, drumming clubs, native murals and smart learn-to-read books with native themes shipped in from British Columbia are provided.

Of course the learn-to-read books caught my attention. I am the book selector for Quality Classrooms and always looking for quality books to offer our customers. These books described with enthusiasm by Principal Lisa Beischlagwe, Quality Classrooms currently sells.

Specifically designed to teach reading skills to Canadian children. these books explore Aboriginal and Northern Canadian themes with humour and illustrations that reflect contemporary daily experiences. Developed by experienced educators in early education (Frontier School Division), these books are designed to be used as a systematic reading series in progression from simple to difficult or simply as reading reinforcement. The colourful and warm illustrations portray happy and exciting lifestyles.

Another set of beginning readers Quality Classrooms currently offers are the Northern Learning To Read Series.

Perfect for emerging readers, these level 1 and 2 beginner books use simple language and beautiful illustrations.

“The gap in aboriginal content in the curriculum is bad not just for aboriginal students but for every Canadian.” Having resources that children can relate to, helps them to feel our respect for them.

“The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.” Ralph Waldo Emerson