Friday, 30 December 2011

DIY Classroom Projects

1. DIY Concentration-Focus Station for Independent Work:

I was googling different items that I wanted to purchase for my classrooms, when I came across something called a concentration station. Such a brilliant idea; I remember using something similar in school, but it was as a punishment not an antecedent intervention. It got the ball rolling on this...
View of the inside; not painted yet. I think I will paint it one solid colour for minimal distractions.

Side view

View from the back
We got a new computer for Christmas, and it came in a neat little box. It is narrow, but high, and opens like a drawer to reveal a little shelf inside. When I saw how conveniently it folds up, I knew it was perfect for my DIY craft.

2. DIY Crash Mat for in-Class Relaxation, Quiet Reading:
At school we made a huge crash mat, under a lovely OTs recommendation. We took an old duvet cover, and filled it with pieces of square foam which we bought (and cut up) from Walmart. Though it was DIY it was still a bit expensive, but nothing compared to what it would have retailed for at a therapy store :)
In this photo you can see that the crash pad is a bit wet in some spots; because it is a duvet it so super easy to spot-clean. When you need to give the whole thing a solid wash, throw the duvet cover into the washing machine. Please remember to take out to foam!

3. DIY Sensory Cool Down: it is Mobile too!
I have talked about my bean buckets before, but in case this is the first you are hearing of is some more information! After sesnory overload, or sensory meltdowns, some of our kids needs help learning to self regulate. By offering tactile opportunities, without demands, we provide a wonderful way for that child to regroup (which is something many of our kidlets struggles with). Kids plunge hands into bean bucket (usually initiated by he instructor at first, then the child once he or she begins to receive feedback from the tactile opportunities. See image below for example; here is what can go into a bean bucket!

-Dry beans
-Dry lentils of various colours
-Textured beads, multicoloured
-Gluten Free Pasta shells
-A sprinkling of corn flour

The bin is from Wal Mart; a nice heavy duty plastic that can withstand lots of use and not forget that this is very mobile! When you are in a shared space like us, mobility becomes top priority for clean-up days!

4. Re-purposed Book Rack
I really love book racks; I think they are a fantastic way to present themed literature to my little ones. I scoped it out online, and the best I could find was somewhere between 45-75$ for what I considered a decent purchase. I knew I could do better than that, so I headed to IKEA. I found a dish rack, the perfect size for paper back children's books; for about 10$ I had my new book rack and boy was it a steal! I still had overflow, so I purchased a few square tuperwares from the dollar store...and my book area was complete. I also found an increadible crash-mat-like item at a discount store, which I picked up for 27$ and VOILA! A DIY book area....for less than the cost of a book rack. I will post pictures as soon as it's set up at school.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Baking Baking!

Icing, Filling: GFCF Fluff and Jam
The batter is Betty Crocker White Cake; I made 2 batches, 1 with dairy-free chocolate chips, and 1 without. I did not put icing in the chocolate chip ones...overkill I thought :)

Love the baking tray; it was a Christmas gift I was itching to use!

I stuck the icing right into the cupcake; it was an airy batter so I did not need to scoop anything out.
The glossy look is from the fluff; not my cleanest work but GFCF and YUMMY!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Tis the Season Around MM

Kids Craft!
Getting into the Holiday spirit is inevitable with an impending Winter Holiday Concert; on top of rehearsals and learning new holiday songs, here are some ways we set the mood in the class and around school in a way that is sensory friendly!

-(Activity)Gluten Free Ornament Making; a sensory activity that requires kiddos to press down salt-dough, make an imprint with a cookie cutter, and peel away the excess; we added glitter to make our batter extra sensory! Next, you bake the ornaments--don't forget to poke a hole for the string! Microwave the dough on high for 2 minutes, flip it over half way through and be careful, it gets super hot! Kids practice waiting, and maybe eat a holiday treat or two. Equal parts salt and gf flour, add water gradually until you get the right consistency.

-(Theme)Candles: Candles are a universal sign for the holidays, and happen to be an important component of Kwanza, Channukah and Christmas; similarly for Diwali, it is customary to light lamps (just ask Miss Stephanies class, they have learned ALL about it). For our concert we will be singing several songs about Candles, and have decorated our classes with Menorahs affixed with all the necessary candles; we use these to practice counting 1-8. I cannot stress enough that candles are best not lit; they provide tons of colour without being overly stimulating and often evoke conversation and important terminology in our kids.

-(Decoration) Iridescent Winter Streamers: You know those streamers that change colour depending on the way you look at them, we found great ones at the Dollar Store and they are complete with Santa, Penguin and Snowman. We hung them from a re-purposed drying rack turned mobile (we are very thrifty) and hung the mobile from the tiles in the ceiling; the kids love to look up and watch them twirl and spin. Add a slight freeze from a fan and it is even more exciting.

-(Decorations, Activities)Dreidels:  Dreidels are a game traditionally played at Channukah; the simple fine-motor game involve turn-taking, waiting, and most importantly involves at least one period where every child gets to be either ahead or behind (both important skills to practice being gracious about). We have decorated our classrooms with multi-coloured dreidels, also purchased at the dollar store and used to increase reciprocal play (hint: provide a guide so that everyone can remember what each Hebrew letter means for the person who rolls it).

-(Decoration, Theme, Activity) Snowmen: If you walk into the office, a snowman will greet you on your way in; in our classroom, we have snowmen chair covers on select chairs, also purchased for $2 at the dollar store...such a bargain. I find myself calling upon snowmen a lot as a theme during Natural Environment Teaching (NET), I think this is because it seems to be on the minds of my everything they do. Look Miss Alley (we made a)* snowman! (Out of yoga balls in the gym!) Look Miss Alley, (I made a)** snowman (out of Glorb in the fine motor area); not to mention it also came up in Circle time (weather) and math (shapes). *was not included in original statement :P **was not included in original statement :)

-Bean Bucket On-hand: Kids sometimes feel the stress of the end of the year...can you believe it?
No matter the season, sensory meltdowns happen and when they do, you need to be ready to redirect and deescalate. One way we do this at work is by having a bean-bucket on-hand, to be introduced systematically and carefully, as not to reinforce undesired behaviours.

To be to come.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Zoom Zoom Zoom We're Going to the Moon

Some of you asked about more information about our brand new Drama Club!

Fridays second class was a huge success; with the class in almost-full attendance and with Going into Space as our theme, we practiced social skills in a totally hands-on way. Old friends reunited and the seeds were planted for new friendships to come.

Here are some of the skills we targeted...but shh don't tell the kids.

-Attending (Looking at at the teacher)

-Following instructions in a group
-Motor imitation 1:1, in a group
-Reciprocal Play
-Imagination/Pretending Skill Building
-Social engagement and sustained interaction
-Responding to peers

-Inviting others into play
-Accepting invitations from others

-Basic drama vocab
-Voice modulation
-Interpreting Facial Expressions/Body Language

We hit these marks in ways that were fun, interactive, and child-centered (THAT'S the buzz word around MM).

We had some goals in mind, and a handful of activities in our back pocket to ensure meaningful learning, but we also really let the kids lead the way. Coached by my team, it was incredible to see how these kids came together and formed the beginning of social relationships.

It is so incredible how a piece of costuming or a prop can bring a shy child into the world around him or her; with some good quality modeling (of appropriate behaviour and expectations) I can tell that our kids are going to thrive

See you next Friday!

The Director ;)