By Gayle Solis Zavala
Special Education Teacher, Gove Elementary, Belle Glade, Fla.
CEC 2009 Clarissa Hug National Teacher of the Year
Last week someone posted a question related to grading. In response, I would have to ask whether the students are working toward a regular diploma or a special diploma. I believe in our state (Florida), if the student is working on a regular diploma tract, the student would be graded the same as their nondisabled general education peers. The difference would probably be in the accommodations developed and included on the student’s IEP.
In Florida, they have developed Access Points for students taking the alternate assessment based on the state standards for the core subjects. Our school district report cards for students who are identified as taking alternate assessment are based on the Access Points (participatory, support, independent levels). Feel free to visit the Florida Dept. of Education Web site for a thorough description. I hope that helps.
I hope you enjoyed my last post about “stories on a string.” Another wonderful strategy demonstrated by the same group was the use of “physical statues,” which could be used many ways and in a variety of content areas in the classroom. In teaching it is essential to consider learning styles, especially with kinesthetic learners; these are the students who need movement incorporated into the learning process. “Physical statues” is very much like the childhood game of “freeze” in which the students move or dance around in an area and the leader orders everyone to FREEZE!
Physical statues takes the old freeze game in a more academic direction — but still includes the fun. It begins with a warm-up session in which students are asked to walk within a designated area until the leader tells them to stop and pose like a statue. The next warm-up would be the same, but with the direction to express a specific emotion (i.e., happy, sad, mad, proud, lonely). One or two students can be pointed out as exceptional examples, with the leader noting their specific expressions or body language.
The warm-up can continue with students pairing up with other students closest to them to express a specific emotion when the leader directs everyone to stop. This activity can also be done with groups of three or four students. Once the warm-up is completed, the students can then be asked to work alone or in small groups to retell parts or all of a story or historical event. It is really the creative decision of the teacher or the students to use physical statues as a kinesthetic strategy to help with comprehension as well as increase cooperative learning.
Another excellent use of kinesthetic learning that I have incorporated into my classroom is Brain Gym. This is a program that a certified instructor can use to demonstrate a number of wonderful body movements. More info can be found at http://esl.about.com/od/englishlessonplans/a/braingym.htm.
At least once a day, my classes participate in a series of fundamental activities called PACE (which stands for “positive, active, clear, and energetic”). Using PACE in between transition times, especially if the students have been sitting for a while, is an excellent rejuvenator.
PACE encourages students and staff to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Next we move to activating our brain buttons by rubbing our temple with one hand and our belly with other for two to three minutes while breathing in deeply. Next is cross crawl, in which the student reaches across the midline with one hand to touch the knee on the opposite side of the body (this helps draw the left and right sides of the brain to work together) and then repeats on the opposite side. The cross crawl can be done by counting to 20 by ones, twos, fives, and tens, or by reciting the alphabet, days of the week, or months of the year. The last part of PACE is the “hook-up” in which the students clasp their hands and lay them on their chests and, if possible, cross their legs at the ankles and breathe in deep for a couple minutes.
There is a similar program called Focus2Learn available through www.integrationscatalog.com. I also recommend moving to music by Jack Hartmann (www.jackhartmann.com) and Dr.Jean (www.drjean.org). So get ready for school and get ready to move!