The Nurturing Game

29 03 2007

For social skills class today, my principal came in with a game called “The Nurturing Game.”  We spent the whole class period on it: 5 minutes to learn, 45 to play.  The basic idea is that kids get a chance to reflect upon and answer some questions that they probably don’t encounter on a daily basis.  Along with that, it offers the chance for “hugs,” (which we replaced with hive fives or handshakes in most instances). 

Wouldn’t you know it, the kids (and the four adults who played along) landed on the hug spaces more than any other.  For a while there, it seemed like everybody was piling up on the hug spots…and of course, that was the last space the kids wanted to land on.

I think this game had a positive impact on the students in a number of ways.  First, the open-ended (often “complete the sentence”) questions challenged students to come up with sincere, thoughtful responses to topics that may be taboo (too “touchy-feely”) for everyday conversation.  Secondly, it gave the kids a chance to learn something new about their peers as they opened their minds so frankly. 

For the most part, student interest was positive, and there was an aura of fun as we played this valuable game.  We ran out of time before anyone “won” (everyone wins, actually).  Had we more time, I would have liked to have each of the participants share one thing that he or she had learned about one other student or adult today.  Then I would have had them share one thing they learned about themselves today.

It was really nice to mix up our work on the Dog Treat Enterprise with a relaxing game.


Whaling Claymation Video

26 03 2007

My class just finished a long project on whaling during the colonial times.  The finished product can be seen at  (It is in Google Videos, so you may not be able to view it).

Here is the same video on – (not blocked yet by the district).

Please leave a comment or two, as we really appreciate the constructive criticism.

Week of March 26th, 2007

26 03 2007

Social Studies – Students are continuing with the critical reading unit.  We will start by reviewing some artistic depictions of the Boston Massacre to decide which is more historically accurate.  By Friday, we hope to have a good start at as we edit wikipedia’s entry of “Boston Massacre.”

Math – continuing work with fraction operations.  We will review multiplication and division of fracdtions and mixed numbers on Monday.  As the week progresses, we will move into the more daunting addition and subtraction of fractions and mixed numbers.  Expect homework every evening except for Monday.  Even if homework is completed, students could bring the fraction packet home and review a few problems with you from each section.

Social Skills –today marks day one of the Washington Students’ Dog Treat Business.  Students will be selling Monday-Thursday before school, during some lunch periods, and after school.  This sale will likely continue until the end of this school year.  We have been dedicating all of our classtime to the real-world business venture, so do not expect any homework.  However, it would be great to get some parental/community support on this project.  Profits go towards future business ventures in the Manitowoc Public School District, as well as towards any incentive (read: pizza or ice cream party…or Wizard’s Kingdom trip). 

Special Events this week:
1/2 day – end of 3rd quarter – this Friday, students are excused at 11:14am.

Anti-bullying quote of the week:
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. – Aesop

Conference Day 2

25 03 2007

Following are again some fairly unorganized reflections on Day Two.

Simplified definition of Autism: impairments in social interaction, impairment in communication, and restrictive repetivie and stereoyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities.

Pause Procedure – 12-18 minutes attention span=need to “turn and talk” at least that often (more for younger learners) to ensure comprehension. 

Change in placement, standards, goals, adaptations, supports, and instruction, should all be considerations when talking about least restrictive environment.

Honor first where people are already at (things they do well, things they , then help them build skills in other areas.  Like building off of their strengths instead of exploiting weaknesses.

Echolalia – used for many purposes: buying time, form of communication – could be seen as a very involved form of communication.

Inclusive schooling as an action
Right now, placement is supposedly based on a clinical judgment of the student’s performance, behavior, ability, etc.  This is a myth however: consider a student who is tested in Wisconsin and gets some placement.  Would that student get the exact same test results and placement if he or she moved to another state – or even another district?  Highly unlikely. 

Literacy – kids, especially those on the spectrum, get better at comprehension when they see their peers and the teacher make their own understandings of the text or pictures.  Comprehension requires background knowledge so that there is a context to place that new knowledge into. 

Some kids are able to understand communication better if that communication better if it is indirect.  Sometimes the means that information is presented is too “in your face” that the listener loses the entire message.
Methods for communicating indirectly: microphone, puppet, use accent, writing, singing/rhythmic language.

Overall – day 2 offered a look at the ideas behind inclusive instruction.  Not so much as a “place,” but as a spectrum of services.  For me, it was a reiteration of concepts I’ve been hearing and working to employ for my students.  Day 2 gave me an opportunity to really reflect on where my students are at: are they in the least restrictive environment?  Could they perform as well in the regular education classroom given some supports?  Before the end of this school year, I hope to apply this way of thinking to my IEP placements.  I want to ensure that all of my students are in the best learning environment.  I think it is worth the extra time and effort to find strategies to help them succeed there instead of “pulling them out” to be in the resource room just because that has always been the first response.

Conference Day 1

22 03 2007

Following are some fairly unorganized reflections on Day One of a high functioning autism/asperger’s syndrome conference I attended 3/22-3/23.

One reference was made that struck me as odd: A parent has come to this presenter, a specialist in autism and asperger’s, and was having trouble with the child at home.  This parent requested some intervention by a therapist or other professional.  The specialist recommended that the first intervention should be to look at what is going on at the school as the stressor.  The child may be internalizing the stress and then letting it all out at home, so we need to figure out what at school may be causing the problem. 

While I agree that schools should work hard to make the day as successful as possible, I believe that there does need to be an outside of school element.  The first line of intervention if a parent has trouble at home should be in THE HOME.  All too often I find that schools are the first to be singled out as “the problem” when there are so many other parts of a child’s life that are factors.

We know that students who have disabilities in the autism spectrum have trouble when routines are changed.  They seem to have an inability to be flexible.  What does this result in?  For some, it means things like visual schedules and foreshadowing of upcoming events such as fire drills and field trips. 

My question is this: how do we prepare students who have these extra needs to be ready for a world that does not offer foreshadowing or visual schedules?  Those children who receive excessive support at younger ages will end up being less independent as adults because they are so accustomed to being pre-informed to anything. 

I believe that students need to be given that balance of support and challenge.  Unfortunately, I see that is not always happening.  In a way, it goes back to the aforementioned comment: schools are expected to have all of the answers.  If a student loses it during the day, we become a treatment facility.  Again, a school should do everything they can to offer support, but if we do not adequately challenge the child, when real life sets in, the young adult becomes a basket case because there is no public entity who can regulate his or her day.

When and how do we move away from the manipulation of the environment (giving extra cues and other accommodations that may be necessary at young ages) to students maturing towards flexibility? 

Academic Functioning:

Be sure to keep expectations clear – focus on one goal at a time.  For example, if in language arts, we are working on writing reports about Greek gods, and students need to choose one god to write about (and no students can do the same as any other), if a slow-to-decide student finally picks one and it’s the same as someone else has already chosen, is it worth the battle to tell the second student to find another god?  What is the goal of the lesson?  Writing, right?  So forget the need to have every kid do a different god because that’s not the main objective of this lesson.

That makes sense to me.

Social Skills

We shouldn’t expect people  with autism/asperger’s to be like the “neurotypical.”  That is, they probably will never assimilate into the set of social skills that much of a culture employs.  Because people with autism disorders often have limited skills with understanding and/or using social skills, they have difficulty understanding that different situations demand different skillsets.  One will act differently at school that at a friend’s birthday party. 

More time in social situations does not equal more social success. 

 Hidden Curriculum –

“Unspoken social skills” should be taught to this population (as well as many other students).  Can use teachable moments to point out the necessity of these skills.

Transition –

Make sure that the people from the next environment know about the written and unwritten accommodations being made for the child.

When making the switch from special ed to regular ed, what skills will the child need to have to succeed there?  Make sure they’re prepared before they get there…


Executive Functioning
Social Supports

All are areas to consider when planning for success of child.

Summary –

The day seemed to have one overarching theme: students with asperger’s/autism need a consistent routine and a great deal of proactive strategies to succeed.

A good deal of strategies were shared.  Many books were noted as useful guides. 

My overall opinion is based on my first question: how do we move students from needing intensive supports to get them to reach their potential as independent adults?  Certainly, it would need to be based on the individual student.  I think it would benefit all who work with these students to focus on the goal of the child.  Do we expect the student to live independently someday?  Or, will he/she live in an assisted living facility forever?  Based on that long-term goal, we can make an assessment of whether or not the child’s progress is fair, and whether the interventions and strategies used are giving the student the best chance at success.

Week of March 19th, 2007

19 03 2007

Social Studies – Continued work on “critical reading.”  We are assessing websites to check their validity and usefulness.  Last week, we looked at “The Dangers of Bread” and the Lip Balm’s Anonymous sites.  This week, we will be applying that knowledge to historical websites.  Our goal is to improve at being critical of the information we take in on a day-to-day basis.  The final product will be a wiki at

Math – Fraction operations – last week, students really impressed me with their ability to work with fraction basics (reducing, changing to mixed number or improper fraction, etc).  As a result, we have been moving quickly through this unit, and students are now working in a packet of fraction operations.  This week, students will be doing multiplication and division of fractions.  Expect some homework nightly, as students will need to practice the operations to retain the method.  I will be assigning 1/3 of the available problems on each worksheet, but the rest will be offered as extra credit.  Encourage your child to work on them.

Social Skills – Continued work Monday and Wednesday on the Washington Students’ Dog Treat Business.  Sales begin Tuesday, March 27th.  1$ and 2$ bags of treats are available – please ask your child for a bag to try out – support their hard work!

Special Events this week:

Parent Visitation: Tuesday from 9-10:30am  

Spring Begins this Wednesday!

I will be at a conference in Neenah on Thursday and Friday and will not be coming to Washington at all.

Anti-Bullying Quote of the Week:
What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?

Week of March 12th, 2007

12 03 2007

Social Studies – students are moving from colonization to early revolutionary times.  We are working on some literacy skills while we learn about the American Revolution.  Students are going to work on evaluating the validity of websites and print sources as they learn about the Boston Massacre. 

Feel free to ask your child about both topics – what the Boston Massacre is all about as well as how a person would decide if a website is trustworthy or not.

Math – Students are continuing to work with fractions.  We will start the week by reviewing “reducing fractions” and other basic fraction concepts, and then work towards operations with fractions (multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction). 

 Social Skills – Students will be going to St. Mary’s retirment home Monday and Wednesday to produce the dog biscuits for Washington Junior High Dog Biscuit Business.   Sales for the dog biscuits will begin Tuesday, March 27th.

Other events –
Tuesday –
Guest speakers/presenters coming in – Climb Theatre and Cornerstone Basketball Program (wheelchair basketball).  This will occur in the morning.  After the presentations, students will go to regular classes for the rest of the day.

Anti-Bully Quote of the Week: “Treat others as you want to be treated.” The Golden Rule – needs little explanation.