Sunday, December 11, 2011

Classroom Stuff

It's been a while since I've posted--over a month!  Our family has been busy, like everyone else.  We've had lots to do, especially since my parents have been moving.  They are in the process of setting up house near our old hometown, and my mom is working at a new job.  Also, my nephew had his appendix removed last week!  Apparently, he is a tough young man, and I am so grateful that God brought him through last week.

The last month has been busy in my classroom, as well.  As I am journeying toward my goal of being a special education teacher, I am working as a Communications Aide in a classroom for children with autism.  We have been introducing the concept of centers to the students.  I have been developing our writing and math centers.  My colleague, Melissa, came up with a listening center that has really helped the students when they need to calm down.  We have a really cool listening bingo game that the students enjoy.  I am also slowly implementing a "write the room" center, but I still have work to do on that. :)  Basically, we've rearranged the classroom, and that takes time and delicacy.  Changing things too quickly can result in problem behaviors in the classroom.

I have been interested in sensory integration since graduate school. I have seen amazing--miraculous--transformations in children with sensory integration disorders.  I received training in sensory disorders while I worked in Early Childhood Intervention, and took a course in Bonding and Relaxation Techniques years ago.  Because of all of this, I am always looking for activities that promote organization of the sensory system.  All of this fits very nicely in the classroom I am in, as students with autism often suffer from sensory disorders.  Last month, I made pumpkin pie playdough, and it has gone over very well.  I had hoped to make some gingerbread playdough today, but I already have a pile of laundry waiting on me and pants to hem.  I am definitely making the gingerbread playdough for the students as Christmas gifts, and plan to put it in little plastic containers for them to take home on the last day of school before winter break.

This afternoon, I made scented and colored rice.  I found the idea on Pinterest, but we are using the rice in a number of different ways. 

I have made three different rice varieties so far.  Unfortunately, all are shades of red.  I am using about 2 lbs. of rice, mixed with 2 pkgs. of unsweetened Kool Aid dissolved in 1/2 cup of very hot water.  I mix the rice and liquid together in a gallon size zipper bag, turning numerous times to allow the color and scent to permeate the rice.  I made watermelon, cherry, and tropical punch.  I want to make blue and green next.  I just can't stomach the grape scent--it makes me nauseous!  At any rate, the rice needs to dry completely in a container for at least a day before it is closed up tight.  I bough plastic shoe boxes at Target, which should be roomy enough for the kids to dig around in.

We are using the scented rice to hide objects in for the students to find.  I hide two different types of small objects in the rice.  I used silver and blue marbles last time.  The students take turns finding the marbles, then the teacher records the number of each item on a chart.  The students have to determine which is more and less on the chart.  As a calming activity, when one of the students is struggling, I count out a number of objects and the student buries them in the rice.  Then he must find them and place them in a small bin.  This means that he must continue until he finds the original amount. 

I am finding that the students have difficulties with transitions, and that calming activities enable them to reduce their anxiety.  Additionally, the rice is an excellent reinforcer because the feel of the rice in their hands is pleasing to them.  They will work hard to complete their assignments in exchange for some time playing in the rice bin.  :)  This is a much better alternative to food reinforcers, which I saw a lot of last year in special ed. rooms that I subbed in. 

We'll see how my students like the new scents tomorrow.  Now, onto laundry!

Many blessings, Jennifer

P. S. I am linking to Susan's Metamorphosis Monday at