Posts Tagged ‘learning disability’
Imagine a classroom of five very active boys mesmerized by a book. This isn’t a book about dinosaurs or Star Wars or cars. These aren’t gifted children who you can leave in a library all day and come back and find them quietly doing their homework. These are very active fourth grade boys with a variety of learning differences some of which include such difficulties as hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention and memory problems to name a few.
The book I’m referring to is “Wild Swans,” a Hans Christian Andersen classic, retold by Mathew Price, published by Mathew Price. To tell you the truth I was leery about reading this book to them. It’s basically a love story with princes and a princess but it’s got a wonderful moral. The reason I decided to use this book is because it is available on Big Universe, it shows beautifully on the Smart Board, and the graphics are absolutely gorgeous. The combination of the graphics and the engaging language really pulled the boys into the story.
The questions the children asked after the story were incredible and they were able to answer some fairly high level questions. There will soon be assessments available on Big Universe so I’ll be able to let my students take an assessment right after I read them any book or they read a book on their own!
Children need language. Children need a lot of language. I have my computer set up at all times to be used with my Smart Board. Whenever we’ve been working for a length of time and I see the kids are getting fidgety I pull up a Big Universe book and read. It’s a great way to use language in the classroom and the children love it!
As our world becomes more and more diverse it becomes even clearer that the vocabulary, expressions and idioms of the English language have to be directly taught and explained to our children. As a special education teacher I work with children everyday who don’t know the vocabulary of things I have always taken for granted – garage, valley, harbor, barn… I read through everything, on the look out for vocabulary that I need to introduce to my students so they can understand what they are reading. It’s not just the special education students. It’s the general education population. We, as teachers and parents need to make sure our children really understand their world. Vocabulary is the first stepping stone to reading comprehension.
This week my group of fourth graders, the majority with learning disabilities is reading The Baseball Card . Wherever possible I use books that are accessible on the Internet. They are less expensive, ecologically friendly, and my students love reading on the computer. The Baseball Card is available on Big Universe. The Baseball Card a beautiful picture book that tells a story of a little boy’s special experience with his father. It all centers on an old fashioned playground game and a special baseball card. Even a book about baseball has vocabulary that is confusing to children who don’t have English as their first language or who don’t have background knowledge about baseball. Some of these words and phrases are – slugger, card shark, snicker, and the phrase “tip of the hat”. These are all great starting points for a reading lesson. Vocabulary should be introduced before reading the book.
Introduction of vocabulary can be quick but it needs to be visual. The Internet has made this easy. Using the Smartboard and Images any teacher can make a quick 5 minute vocabulary presentation before a reading lesson.
After the vocabulary is understood, read the book together then have each student read the book on their own. At this point it’s time to gauge their comprehension. As we prepare for the Virginia Standards of Learning I have found that having the students do tests similar to the SOL for the text they are reading is very valuable. It helps them generalize their knowledge. SOLtypetest1 (worksheet).
Reading and vocabulary are a necessary combination. As teachers and parents we need to realize those connections are not being made naturally. Direct instruction is necessary in order for students to comprehend reading material. It’s our job to see that we use all of our many resources to link what we are teaching in a way our students can understand, through visuals and clearly defined vocabulary. Beautiful picture books, like those on Big Universe do some of the work for us, now we have to fill in the blanks.
“When can we write our stories again?” “I’m just finishing up book three and it’s going to be the end of the series so I’ll have to start a new one.” “Please edit my book now so I can publish it!” These are all statements made in one of my recent classes. I teach special education and the students making these statements are fourth grade elementary school children with learning disabilities. “When can we write?” is not a question I’ve been asked by a child with a learning disability until I started using http://www.biguniverse.com in my classroom.
Big Universe has a tremendous area for creating, publishing and printing books. Kids, parents, teachers, anyone, can create their own book. Children, who normally can’t write a complete sentence, let alone one with adjectives, are able to do so when they are doing it around creative pictures and backgrounds. Teaching paragraph writing is much easier once a child realizes that writing a story, which they love to do on Big Universe, is the same idea as writing a paragraph. There’s an introduction, supporting details, and a great conclusion. Watching a child, who normally isn’t able to produce a cohesive piece of writing, print out their own book, is very rewarding. Big Universe makes this reward possible.
I always have my children read at least two of the beautiful picture books on Big Universe before they start working on their own books. I walk around the room as they are reading these books on their laptops and ask them questions about the way the book is set up. Now that they are writing books they notice the way the art is set and the text is put on the top or to the side. I also want my students to see that they can write two or three sentences on a page. Reading and writing are a natural connection. This connection is made flawlessly when the children can read a book and then write their own book on Big Universe.
Posted on May 1, 2009 by Big Universe in Uncategorized.
Tags: 4.5a, 4.5b, 5.6a, Education, learning disability, online learning, online teaching, Reading, reading online, SOL, Special Needs, VGLA, Virginia SOL
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Books that are readable and have a reason to be read are usually hard to find for special education students. I feel like I’ve found a gold mine at Big Universe. The book Our Earth by Kenneth Walsh is written at the reading level of 2.6 but looks and can be read by children in the 4th and 5th grade who have reading difficulties.
Our Earth is a chapter book, with an index and glossary. The topic meets the criteria in many science curriculums and can be used easily as it is interesting to many 9, 10 and 11 year olds! What more can you ask for in a book? The fact that it’s online only makes it more enticing.
As a special education teacher in Fairfax County Virginia my first thought is always whether I’ll be able to gather any VGLA (Virginia Grade Level Assessment) material by reading a particular text. The VGLA is a portfolio assessment designed to collect material that a student has produced to show that they are at grade level on each and every Standard of Learning (SOL) strand. The assessment is for those students who can’t take the multiple choice test, successfully, at the end of the year, but are able to produce grade level work. Let me tell you I’m starting to realize what an oxymoron that statement is!
With a book like Our Earth and a media like the computer and http://www.biguniverse.com the VGLA becomes more feasible. I read the book and designed a couple of activities that I could use right away for the VGLA for a non-fiction book. I’m going to add more to finish up the standard as I have time.
I think the big idea here is that with the right book, with the right website like Big Universe, teachers can find what we need more easily than we thought. Our job then becomes making the most of it and making it work with what we need.
The following link will take you to a couple of pages of worksheets to use with Our Earth as a VGLA assessment or just a general assessment of your student’s comprehension. 45a45b56a1 (worksheets click here)
It was a typical Friday morning and I had my typical classroom of 8 students. But, none of these children are typical. One is “labeled” as noncategorical, because he fits into so may special education categories, two are learning disabled, but I would call them learning disabled with gifted tendencies, one is learning disabled with tendencies in the complete opposite direction and 3 are typically learning disabled with a true discrepancy between their ability to learn and their actual learning. The saving grace as a teacher of children with such a wide range of differences, is the computer!
I consider the computer the great equalizer. I can always find a way to make a computer lesson that is successful for all of my students. The wonderful thing is no one ever says…”I hate the computer, can I write a paragraph instead?” Giving my students a book to read on the computer, an educational game to play online or an activity to complete on the computer definitely aces a teacher standing at the board! And, lets face it…on a Friday…as a teacher…the computer aces me standing at the board anytime if its going to help my students learn.