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Sep
15

Synonymous

Synonymous [Definition] 


Artist Name - Recording-of-blog-15-Sep-2022-Crecelius.mp3

Every year I have the pleasure of writing my blog the week of Mexican Independence Day on September 16. And no, I am not confusing it with our beloved Cinco de Mayo, a holiday to celebrate the removal of France’s support of the Confederates via Mexico during the Civil War. This year our family has a bilateral celebration as my husband got his U.S. citizenship. We have proudly been flying our U.S. flag since the day he got his naturalization papers and on September 16th we will proudly fly our Mexican flag in its place.man wearing USA jersey smiling with U.S. flag in background

As we navigate the life of a bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural family, one of the most important things for us is to honor and celebrate both U.S. and Mexican traditions, language, and culture. Oftentimes we have to choose between the two instead of simultaneously representing both. When this happens we have to be cognizant of how to bring both back to the forefront of our lives or balance spotlighted time for each. 


 [Image: Hugo, Amanda's husband,wear USA jersey, smiling with U.S. flag in background]

When we travel to and from Mexico different documentation is required. Passports, resident cards, visas, and tourist documentation; we’ve had them all, folks! These powerful papers indicate our status and our qualifications for privileges, responsibilities, and regulations. Without this documentation we would not be able to enter into either country and there would be no defined representation of our mutual commitment to individual and/or nation.

Although students are not defined by paperwork that they carry in school systems, the Individual Education Plan (IEP)/Section 504 Plan/Individual Learning Plan (ILP) often referred to as English Learner Plan, represent a similar promise from the school to make sure that the student is provided resources, accommodations, supports, services, and opportunities to succeed. The IEP/504/ILP are all legally binding documents of which school staff are responsible for identification, creation, and most importantly, implementation. 

This documentation follows a student through grade transitions, school transfers, and ultimately to independent living/employment/higher education, making it similar to the documentation required when traveling from one country to the next. Each of these documentation forms have different core purposes. All of them are living documents in need of regular updates, as students’ skills and abilities change, placement changes, technology changes, etc. Just like our balancing of bicultural life-- when one culture will falls back to bring the other to the forefront, these documents and their purposes might not always shine simultaneously, but they concurrently exist. 

This can often happen when schools move towards Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which is something to celebrate. Many schools in Indiana are leading the way in UDL by creating their own Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) for students and providing school-wide accommodations, including Assistive Technology, (AT), such as text-to-speech and dictation. 

While these are impactful and noteworthy actions, the spotlight has to re-adjust for students who formally only had access to these supports through IEP/504/ILP. Meaning that through the implementation of UDL, these students will benefit from an inclusive classroom in conjunction with continued documentation of their required services, accommodations, and specialized instruction. When these occurrences happen simultaneously, balancing the spotlight honors both inclusion and specialized needs. 

As we move toward a more inclusive school environment through UDL, remember that documentation with necessary AT and AEM is still part of equitable access for all. They can exist synonomously. 

Related Webinar: 

5 part series: AT in the IEP

Part 1 and Part 2 on September 29, 2022 

Register:

AT in the IEP: Getting the Money

AT in the IEP: Boots on the Ground

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Jun
16

Lost

Artist Name - Lost-blog.mp3

A fork on the trail leading into a wooded area.

My family and I, like many of you, travel over summer break. Exploring a new place is the highlight of any trip. Walking down mysterious streets, eating unfamiliar food, hearing the unique voices and sounds, and getting insight on the history of the region based on graffiti or architecture are a few of the reasons wanderlust is written on my heart. But pioneering a new path in an unknown place can also be terrifying. Without warning that right turn was the wrong turn, and now, everything that you know is out of sight. Loneliness and panic fill your brain and tears well up in your eyes. That feeling of being lost can seem demoralizing, making you feel helpless. Then, you turn one more strange corner and the home base comes into view. It is in that moment that you have this overwhelming rush of pride in finding a new road home. What was once obscure and complicated is now recognizable and familiar. Exploring and being lost become essential parts of the same story and are now part of all my trip agendas. 

Balancing the excitement and fear of being lost have not always been so smooth. When I was in first grade, I felt lost while the other students learned reading with ease. My classmates pronounced each of the words on the page effort-less-ly while I struggled to know the sounds and fumbled through read alouds relying heavily on images, context, and the whispers of the other students. It was scary and I felt like I was the only one who couldn’t learn to read. Those feelings of loneliness and fear impeded my reading progress and made every reading assignment feel like an overwhelming task. I had all but given up on reading until fourth grade when I turned a corner. One of my teachers, seeing my reluctance to read, suggested the short chapters of the Choose Your Own Adventure books. Engulfed in the stories and all the possible outcomes, I would read the same book several times which helped build my skills. I then moved on to The Babysitter’s Club book series (the 90s equivalent to binge watching), and I devoured each one, rushing to the library for the next adventure. Being lost in the learning process of reading made me feel ashamed and excluded but exploring topics that interested me gave me a safe space to practice reading. Today, my safe space resides in historical fiction which I read either with my eyes or with my ears on a daily basis. I was lost until I found something that I loved.

This was not my sudden shift to embracing being lost. Fast forward to college decision time. As my peers began looking at career choices and college, I reflected on my understimulated time in high school. I had moved through general education classes with little connection or interest which led to an increased lack of effort on my part. I was lost in the possibilities since there was not a high expectation that I would even attend college. My grades were dismal and my confidence shot, high school did not seem like a good fit for me. Feeling pressure that I should do something with my life, I finally settled on studying business at a local community college. While I was attending this community college I turned a corner. My local church was looking for a youth group leader so I stepped into that role and found a love of project planning and working with teens. Soon I was headed off to university to study education. I thought that I had finally found my dream job until the results of my Praxis came back and I had not scored high enough to complete my course and get my teaching license. I felt I had taken another wrong turn and those feelings of being lost returned with increased hopelessness. But where Praxis said no, Spain said yes. Soon after my graduation, I took a position as an English teacher to multilingual students in Madrid, Spain. Following a month-long intensive training program, I stepped into my first classroom teaching English to adults. I followed that experience with getting my teaching license, and soon after, my master’s in education. Being lost led me to teach for over twenty years in three different countries and seven different subjects. I was lost until I found a place that was right for me.

My last experience solidified my many similar lost moments throughout adulthood. Arriving in Indianapolis after living in Mexico for 10 years, I stepped into job interview after job interview knowing that my lack of professional connections in Indianapolis overshadowed my background and education. I started in a job designed for a high schooler with low pay, long hours, and little consideration for multiple years’ experience, a master’s degree and being multilingual. Being lost and exploring work options with a small child depending on me took me to a new level of scary. I accepted those wrong turns and settled into a world of being lost. Those wrong turns seemed to be endless with each job leading only to temporary positions and little promise of a home base. The corner that seemed out-of-sight came into view when I was working as an adjunct professor at IUPUI and Jena Fahlbush and Katie Taylor came to present about UDL and PATINS. I started to see some familiarity return. Collaborating with co-workers, working with educators in Indiana, and seeing students get access to materials like those that I missed out on brought me full circle in my exploration process. I was lost until I found people who recognized that the road to success may look different for each individual.

Having access to materials that students love, creating a space that feels right for them, and recognizing various ways to get to the same target can convert feelings of being lost into an adventure of exploration. Experience the joys of being lost as you search the many titles on MackinVia and Bookshare through the ICAM for students with print disabilities, including dyslexia. Additionally Vox books, C-pens, and Livescribe Pens are just some of the items available in the Lending Library that any IN educator can check out for a six-week trial period. Don’t forget the built-in text-to-speech, word prediction, and dictation features on your student’s computer. Also connect with a PATINS Specialist to explore strategies, tools, and resources to open up new routes for you and your students.

I have often been off the beaten traditional path but in the midst of a state of “being lost” I have had many opportunities to explore the multitude of ways to reach my goals. Being on the outside has its own feelings of loneliness but knowing that this path is MY path has led me to embrace and even love being lost. 

This is my story, what’s yours? Share on Twitter #PatinsIcam.

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Mar
17

How to Incorporate MTSS into What You're Already Doing

Welcome Cassie Weaver of Cowan Community Schools, as our guest blogger today!
We are fortunate to have Cassie share her experiences with us. Cassie is a military wife and mother of two children, which she adores. They lived in North Dakota for three years and Alaska for four years before moving back to Indiana. She currently works as a special education teacher at Cowan Community Schools and in the past she has worked at the K-12 level for about three years. Prior to that she ran a daycare for four years. She has a contagious passion for working with kids and teaching them through STEAM activities, allowing to spark their creative and involvement in their own learning. Cassie is an advocate for Universal Design for Learning, students in Special Education, and students who are English Language Learners. She shares that she decided to write about MTSS because she found lots of resources that tell what MTSS is but not as many resources that say how to use MTSS in the classroom. When looking at the big picture of MTSS it can be overwhelming and Cassie felt like many educators might not know where to start. So she wanted to try to put a resource out there that shows how to build off of what the educator might already be doing. She also wanted to talk about how to make material more accessible for all learners, since that aligns with her educational philosophy. We hope that our readers find this information helpful.  

How to incorporate MTSS into what you're already doing. 

Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) is a framework for making data driven decisions. When developing a corporation's MTSS framework, it’s important to take into account universal screeners that are already being used and utilize those as the first step in the process. 

Teachers are currently overwhelmed with making up for the learning loss due to COVID-19 and students being quarantined. This is why it is crucial to use the tools already in place to make MTSS effective. If your corporation gives NWEA in the fall that should be step 1 of MTSS. Use that data to identify the students who may be falling behind more than others and have not already been identified under IDEA. Additional assessments for the MTSS students need to be conducted to determine skill deficits. 

EasyCBM lite, is a free resource that allows you to assign benchmark assessments for K-8th grade students. When deciding what interventions or accommodations the MTSS teams would like to put in place it is important to make sure you are using evidence-based practice. 

Let’s talk about how to simplify MTSS. 

Adding in academic support to your daily routine doesn’t mean completely throwing away your current lesson plan. When examining your lesson plan, look for areas that you can add to it. For example, if you are preparing a lecture, you can add closed captions using Google Classroom, or add pictures to help illustrate a concept. Another option would be when teaching using multiple steps or directions, have each step listed out in order for students to refer back to. You could also add an extension for creating audio recordings, such as Mote, so the directions or content can be read aloud as needed. 

Use independent work time as intentional re-teaching instruction for students identified as needing MTSS. Rather than counting on the students to come to you for assistance, go to them. Engage with them 1 on 1 and have them explain what they heard from the lesson. This gives you the opportunity to correct any misconceptions or reinforce any positive behaviors or processes.  

Goal and progress monitoring

Create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) goals for your MTSS students. Don’t expect a student to produce a year's worth of academic growth in 6-8 weeks. Set a skill specific goal that can be met in the 6-8 week timeframe. For example student A will create a checklist of assignments and meet 8 out of 10 assignment deadlines per subject.  

Conclusion

Incorporating MTSS doesn't need to be time consuming, nor should it require you to rework your lesson plan. Use the resources you already have available. Make your material more accessible to students, by incorporating visuals, hands on materials, or written text paired with oral support. Use guided practice as a time to focus on breaking down objectives into smaller steps to help build students skills. I hope that this helps you in your journey with MTSS in the general education classroom.

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Dec
16

Guest Blogger: Access to Education…Access to Thrive

Introduction to our guest blogger, Emily Ott

Over the past year or so, I have had the pleasure of working with many dedicated educators who are committed to creating inclusive classrooms through the use to accessible eduational materials (AEM) and assistive technology (AT). One of those educators is Emily Ott, who is on a third year AEMing for Achievement team at Greenwood Community Schools. In her blog she describes her experience as an new educator and an active member of the AEM team at her school.

Access to Education…Access to Thrive

As I began teaching, accessibility was an educational term that, quite honestly, really intimidated me. I wanted to be an inclusive educator. I loved my students and wanted them all to succeed. The issue? I wasn’t sure how to get there. I wasn’t sure what accessibility was all about and I definitely wasn’t confident in my ability to make and provide educational materials accessible to all learners. Hopefully this post will encourage, challenge, and inspire you, as an educator, supporter, school nurse, parent, administrator, student, or, school guidance counselor, etc. Yes, you, the one in the thick of it. Let’s break it down now, y’all…

The What

Accessibility is simply this: giving all students access to learning in ways best suited for them…incorporating technology or not. This video will give you a brief overview of accessible materials in easy to understand language.

photo is captioned

Caption: A student having a conversation through sign language with his classroom teacher reflecting on how his day had gone, what behaviors he had improved upon that day, and his behavior goal for the next day.

The When

Students deserve to receive an accessible education every single time they step through the doors. Whether students come to school ready to learn or not, we as educators have the opportunity to create a safe place for inclusive learning with each interaction we have with each individual student. So the “when” is the moment the student walks into the building.

The Where

This is where accessibility becomes tricky. We can control what we can control, yes. However, we must also fight for what we believe to be right. Fluidity and communication throughout my building and district is started by ME. I can choose to begin a conversation about accessibility with colleagues in my area of expertise. When push comes to shove, the culture in my building and in my district is changed through me. The same is true for you. Challenge yourself to see each inch of your building as your “where.”

The Why and Who

The why and who are our students. They deserve it. They deserve the best. They deserve someone who fights for and believes in them. I believe in my students. I believe that their best is good enough, but I also believe that they can handle adversity. I believe that they are worthy of endless love and support as they journey through life. They’re just like me, just wandering around trying to figure it out. Let’s not forget why we show up and who we show up for. Here you’ll see some faces of my “who”. They also happen to be my “why”.

Left photo         Right photo    

Caption: (Left) A student is smiling with his work after completing an assignment using Co:Writer. (Right) A student is smiling holding a note that says “I love you.”

The How

  1. Start a conversation.
  2. Be vulnerable about where you are on this journey.
  3. Think deeper about accessibility.
Have your students reflect accessibility, as well.

Attending the
Access to Education Conference the past three years has been a huge point of growth for me. I encourage you to look into attending the conference next year. Lastly, reach out! I would love to give any advice or encouragement I can. You can follow this link to find my name and get in touch. Also, don’t forget the resources and staff at PATINS who are always available to train, coach, and support you as an educator. I will leave you with an affirmation to hopefully help you stay encouraged as we close out 2021. 

Educator’s Affirmation

"I am a skilled and talented educator. I am not alone in the weariness of teaching. My best as an educator is enough. I do not have to strive for perfection. I will work as hard as I can to support all students in my sphere of influence."

About Me

I’m a second (and a half) year special education, teacher/dog mom, living and working in central Indiana (Greenwood to be exact). I began teaching in January 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It has been a wild ride, but I am working on being mindful, staying present in each moment, and remaining grateful. I love reading, spending time with my family and friends, supporting students, and encouraging others! I also recently started an accessibility team for my building as part of goals our district team created. We were third year recipients of the AEMing for Achievement Grant, so this was the perfect opportunity to think outside the box and create something great for students, families, and staff! 

photo is captioned

Caption: Miss Ott is smiling with her two year old Miniature Australian Shepherd, Maisie.

Extra Special Thank Yous

Thank you to Amanda Crecelius at PATINS Project, accessibility extraordinaire, for all of her support as I’ve dipped my toes into all this accessibility stuff. Thank you to Greenwood Community Schools and its leadership for being a community of lovers and includers.

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Sep
16

Viva! Accessibility!

Exactly one year ago, I wrote my first blog post for PATINS. I introduced my family and displayed our picture as we celebrated Mexico’s Independence Day on Sept. 16, 2020. This past year has brought me knowledge, friendships, frustrations, heartache, and awareness. I often feel overwhelmed by the amount of adapting that we all have had to do in this time period. As I write this blog on the eve of a celebration of Mexican sovereignty, I am struck by our own paths to liberty as we merge back into our lives with “battle” wounds, weary bodies and minds, and cautious steps toward a hopeful future. 

Last year’s blog post with photo of Amanda Crecelius and family wearing Mexican futbol (soccer) jerseys with the caption: Celebrating Mexican Independence Day, September 16th, 2020

As we walk toward that optimistic horizon, we are often faced with fear of the unknown. In an effort to move forward, we tend to rely on our former strategies and situations, albeit negative, to guide our way.
Spanish philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” and British former Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” 

If I could modify these two famous quotes I would say that “those who do not analyze, trim, add, and tailor lessons from the past will remain in a perpetual state of former struggles.” (Quote by: Amanda Crecelius, September 15, 2021) 

During the pandemic, schools scrambled to confront the arising (hidden) inequities that staff, students, and families faced in our own “battlefield” for accessibility and that got meshed with our “battlefield” against COVID. No one was truly prepared for the situation. Some schools used paper packets to reach their students academically, while others connected frantically to new platforms, extensions, and apps. Many educators, students, and families were frustrated with learning new technology, with new methods, with new home/school circumstances. After a long and, in some cases, painful struggle, we settled into a new normal. In many schools, family communication did increase, materials for learning became digitized and distributed via the web, and new methods of teaching and learning surfaced. 

And then a shift happened. It seemed that we were out of the danger zone and moving away from the COVID “battlefield”. So we filtered back into our school buildings. We set aside our virtual meetings. We picked up our paper and pencils. And we began again. This time we had increased our technology use and application and did utilize new techniques. But for some the opportunity to slip back into old ways was a sign that we had made it through. Unfortunately, for many students and families who had been provided accessible materials or tools to access materials, that ‘easy’ move back to the old normal was detrimental.  

Pre-pandemic we had methods, tools, and techniques that worked and we had some that did not. During the pandemic, we maneuvered into a new environment that had new methods, tools, and techniques that worked, sometimes better and sometimes worse. For each individual student, educator, and family the effectiveness varied in both in-person and online. What didn’t change was the need for all students to have access to equitable education.

So as we analyze, trim, add, and tailor from our past, we can look at a few guiding questions:

  1. What accessible educational materials (AEM) were developed in a virtual setting that did not exist or was limited in face-to-face settings? 
  2. What methods were used to provide materials to students and families in a virtual setting? 
  3. Are there options for providing materials digitally and physically? 
  4. Can we reevaluate materials that are one-size-fits-all?
  5. What worked for some and not for others (including family communication)? 
  6. How can we balance both old normal and new normal tools and tactics to create an inclusive environment at our schools?

PATINS staff have specialized expertise to guide this process through consultations and training. Just this week the session: The Barriers that COVID Conquered: Shining a Light on Equitable Ed 4 All Webinar was offered and can be recreated and tailored for individual school’s specific needs. Also, this topic will be covered in our upcoming virtual conference Access to Education (A2E) in the session titled: “Returning FTF Without Abandoning Virtual Strategies" by Sarah Gregory & Kelly Fonner. Check out a preview of the session

To recap, as we dust off the old ways and apply the new ones, remember to 1) analyze the effectiveness of strategies and tools, 2) trim those that did not meet our student’s needs, and 3) add and tailor the new strategies and tools that have worked to provide access to all. In doing so we can move from lessons of the past to our own liberated future echoing el grito (the shout) from Mexican Independence Day: Viva! Our schools, Viva! Our students, and Viva! Accessibility!
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Jun
24

Realizing Student Capability

As my first year at PATINS wraps up, I reflect on all the beautiful relationships that were built solely via Zoom. Not meeting people in person has taught me that the heart behind the screen is bigger than circumstances and that educators utilizing PATINS has made an impact in the lives of their students. Our guest blogger, Erica Telligman, is one of those educators. She has been teaching for 16 years in second grade, junior high special education and currently first grade at North Knox, one of our AEM teams. She is currently finishing up her administration license this summer and she works with her teaching team to utilize tech tools to enhance her teaching by reaching all students. She has two kids, 13 and 10 years old. They enjoy fishing, riding four-wheelers, and playing in the mud on their farm. Erica’s enthusiasm for having a UDL focused classroom has helped her students engage with materials and build their confidence in their work and with their classmates.

Realizing Student Capability
By: Erica Telligman

As a teacher, have you ever stood in the middle of your classroom feeling like the plates you are spinning could all come crashing down at any minute? I have been in this scenario so many times. There would be 20+ of them with their hands in the air staring at me and only one of me available to answer their questions. They aren't able to access all the components to be independent... or so I thought!

Enter Snap&Read and Co:Writer to the rescue! If you have never heard of the Don Johnston resources, you are missing out. I teach first grade. The thought of my students being able to utilize their technology to seek out information and understand that information when it more than likely is above their comprehension level made me seize up like an old rusty motor every single time I thought about trying to get out and use Chromebooks.

The journey of implementing and using these extensions was slow and steady for me. I knew after last spring being sent home due to COVID, we had to have more resources in place to help our students reach their full potential and our instruction to make the most impact. Phase one of implementation began in small groups. Two groups were taken and shown how to use both Snap&Read and Co:Writer. Apprehension was a major understatement. I couldn't sleep at all the night before this lesson. I just knew there was no way this was going to go well at all. I couldn't have been more wrong. These students were like sponges. It only took us 10 minutes to have all of theirs completely customized to their preferences. I was shocked. I decided to press on to the planned lesson for the next day of accessing information online so that they could use Snap&Read.

child on ipadWe picked the generalized topic of animal facts for kids for the students to type in for their search. I am quite sure I looked like a deer in headlights when my students typed that in, found an article they wanted to read, clicked on it and used Snap&Read to listen to the article. I actually went numb. I was partly excited because they could do it, but mostly I was terrified my students were going to come up with questions I wasn't prepared to answer. My fears were in vain. My students didn't have questions. Instead, they had facts they learned that they wanted to share with me and their classmates. It was so exciting!

Phase two was where I literally felt like my brain might actually explode. I now had two small groups (10 students) who knew how to use Snap&Read. These students were now my resource and allies. They partnered up and showed another student how to use Snap&Read. I stood useless in the middle of my classroom. We had done it!  They were independently working without an ounce of help from me. They were actively engaged and learning all kinds of facts that we would turn into a story later using Co:Writer. That was the day that changed my students' education and my instruction forever. I had now equipped them with the knowledge and access to the world at their fingertips in a classroom.

woman instructing children in classroomThe discussions and conversations we had in our classroom from this point forward were never the same. My students were able to make deeper and more meaningful connections to concepts. They could find and report facts to extend thoughts and defend answers they had come up with.  Because my students were able to do fact-finding independently, it freed me up to be an active participant in conversations.

I continued pulling my level of support back and gradually released my students to initiate the process of discovering they had questions that they needed answers to, finding the answers to those questions, and stretching their thoughts even further. We even used Co:Writer to write our letters to Santa this year. Due to COVID restrictions I couldn´t have parent volunteers come in to help me write all 20 letters, so I turned on the topic of Christmas and away we went. My students were so proud of their letters to Santa. It took all the frustration away from students not being able to get their thoughts down on paper due to struggles with spelling.

Children are truly not given enough credit for the power they have for their own learning. I know I was probably a teacher who never truly realized the potential my students had for taking control of their own learning or their abilities to seek out and obtain information independently. I know I learned just as much from my students this year as they learned from me. I pray they realized their own potential the same way I realized the capabilities of them.

Photo Credits: Tricia Hall
Photos used with permission.

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Mar
18

For the Love of Reading

Image of Library with books on bookselves and text: For the the Love of Reading by Amanda Crecelius
QR Code to audio For the Love of Reading Read by Author
Artist Name - For-the-Love-of-Reading-Audio.mp3


For the love of reading 
By Amanda Crecelius

I love reading. I love reading for pleasure, for current news updates, for educational purposes, for self-improvement, and tips and tricks. I love reading with my eyes and with my ears. I L-O-V-E reading. I often have a stack of books by my bedside that I have started to read, some in the living room, and at least one in my daughter’s swim class backpack. My Audible account has around 30 books on my wishlist waiting, not so patiently, for my next credit. My top two genres are Historical Fiction and Psychology. Sometimes, I read both at the same time. As my eyes move over the letters on the page or my ears tune into the tone of the reader, my mind chain links the information to various parts in my memory, my knowledge, and my experiences and it is close to euphoric. There is nothing equally as satisfying yet saddening than finishing a good book. As I look around my world, I see fellow lovers of reading and others who have little or no interest in reading at all and this baffles me. This mystery has been slowly deciphered as PATINS’ staff work our way through the LETRS curriculum, along with several social media groups and podcasts dedicated to the science of reading. Through each I am reminded that our brains have not evolved to naturally develop reading like our brains pick up the spoken language. According to the US Department of Education, most children aren’t reading until the age of seven. While speech development can be heard in the babbles of babies shortly after birth according to The Journal of Child Language

I have blocked out my own reading preparation and the challenges that I faced in a curriculum of guessing and memorization. I forget that I myself struggled with reading early on and that I still have a mini panic attack when I need to read out loud (also when I read aloud for blog recordings). Those panicked moments bring flashbacks to sentence counting, so that I could practice the words that I would be called upon to stumble over in front of a class full of excellent readers. Every now and then I come across a word that I do not recognize and I stop, pronounce each letter, and my usual response is “huh, so that’s how you spell that.” Since working at PATINS these personal experiences and the knowledge that I have gained through professional development, including the LETRS training, have enriched consultations and webinars. One of those sessions is coming up on March 30th as we discuss the overlapping literacy strategies used for English Language Learners and students with Specific Learning Disabilities.
 
Over the past few months my daughter, who is nearing the end of kindergarten, has been going through this learning process. And although she is learning through methods fueled by the science of reading, she still has to force her mind to practice and focus on rewiring itself for comprehension of the letters on the page. Frustrations can result in books flying through the air or a stalemate when it is time for bedtime reading or doing homework. 

So how did I develop the love of reading that I have now? I remember my mother sitting with a book in her hand at the kitchen table, on the sofa, in the car, at my volleyball practice, and basically any free second in her day. She read book after book, sometimes not able to put them down until she was finished. I was drawn into her passion for reading. And she filled our lives with exposure to books. She took my siblings and I to our small local library to listen to storytime and let us pick out books to take home for her to read to us. As she read the books she replicated an imagined voice of the characters, showing excited energy for each word on the page. She took us to “The Big Library” which was a two story building in New Albany, IN. For a small town girl, this library was gigantic. She let us wander around freely choosing books and playing throughout the stacks and shelves, as she worked on research. I remember checking out materials that sparked my interest from “The Babysitters Club” to the latest issue of “Seventeen” magazine, even learning Spanish via cassette tapes. Being able to obtain information in a variety of different formats opened the door to the travels, tales, and tips that made me keep coming back.  

Valuable strategies to help students with developing reading skills, include phonemic My daughter sitting on a bench with legs crossed, holding a book in front of a wooden wall that looks like a bookshelf with books on it.awareness, vocabulary building, and comprehension. These strategies build the ability to read but do not necessarily create a love of reading. A love of reading is held in examples of others reading with their eyes and ears, of others sharing their reading experiences, of connecting stories and information to student’s interests, and allowing them to choose from and float around in the sea of reading options in the different formats including read-to-me, audio, parent/teacher/peer read alouds, ebooks, captions on videos, and physical books in large, small, and braille print.

Although I value my daughter’s development of reading skills, I also want her to love to read. So tonight as the stack of Bob books (a series of simple phonetic stories that we use for practicing reading) sit at my daughter’s bedside, I ignore them and the urge for me to rush her brain to learn all the strategies of reading. Instead, I let her dash excitedly to her bookshelf to find her favorite adventure for the evening. As I prep my character voices, we cuddle up and turn the pages to take us away to a castle or a pirate ship and I watch my daughter’s eyes light up with love.

Sources:

Oller, D. K., Wieman, L. A., Doyle, W. J., & Ross, C. (2008, September 26). Infant babbling and speech*: Journal of Child Language. Cambridge Core. 

Typical language accomplishments for children, birth to age 6 -- helping your child become a reader. (2005, December 15).


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17

Our DIY School Year

Artist Name - Read-by-Author-DIY-School-Year.mp3

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After much of my adult life as a happy nomadic creature, my husband and I decided to
put down roots and purchase our first home. We found our nest tucked in our favorite neighborhood and near some of our favorite people. It had just a few “fun” DIY projects. Once we started the DIY process I discovered that it really stands for Discovering an Infinity of Yikes, rather than Do It Yourself. We dove into project after project with high hopes that our inspiration could overpower our inexperience. We wanted to do each project correctly from the start, knowing that a good investment now would help create a home we could truly love. Despite the ups and downs, we came through with a beautiful home filled with love AND with sore muscles, paint splotches, tears of frustration, and lots of other things that we shoved into closets.

Our home, a view from the front yard of a red brick house.

I see a lot of parallels between my family’s DIY home projects and the “Discovering an Infinity of Yikes” school year. Just as a strip of duct tape here and glue there can be quick patches, this school year has seen a number of temporary fixes. But, I believe that if we take the time to make repairs correctly from the start, we can reshape our educational system into one that we all love.

The Right Tools

This school year, we awkwardly slipped back into remote learning with packets and phone calls. The struggle was similar to turning a rusty screw with a butter knife. Yes it might eventually work; but, the extra time and effort, combined with the possibility it might not work should be enough to start the search for a better tool. In my family’s case, an electric screwdriver made seemingly impossible tasks more manageable. It was just one example of our learning process, as we moved through various never-before-needed gadgets and equipped a toolbox with enough to be the envy of any contractor. 

Just as my family struggled, through tears of frustration and sore mental muscles many teachers and schools have started utilizing support tools (like Schoology, Google Classroom, Canvas, and Seesaw) to enable centralized communication for students and parents. The hard work early on of teaching students (including Kindergarteners) to login and find assignments built independence and a foundation for success when students later moved to remote learning. Through evaluation and reflection, schools using synchronous learning moved from full-class zoom calls to focused, short, small-group sessions with specific goals like collaboration and interaction. Schools also created a balance between asynchronous and synchronous learning, adding even more tools (like Epic, Starfall, Khan Academy, ABC Mouse, BrainPop, Kids Academy, TED, Mendeley) to help balance teacher workload and student engagement in other ways. Another example of added tools were: a variety of Chrome extensions and apps for students are used to practice, learn, and respond in a variety of ways supporting a more universally designed classroom. This has included the increased acceptance of accessible materials and assistive technology, breaking emotional and educational barriers for many students. 

Tips, Tricks, and Expert Advice

When we first opened the door to our adventure in home remodeling, we had many inspiring dreams of what could be; but, the reality of our inexperience prevented us from taking the first steps. So, we called in the experts. We had many professionals give us recommendations on types of paint, low-cost options for tile, and how best to arrange our kitchen. Without this advice, we would have spent countless hours struggling to do these projects. With this support to boost our confidence, we googled how-tos for smaller issues and watched YouTube for our mini projects. 

For teachers, this year has been Professional Development after Professional Development (PD). Consults, webinars, and YouTube tutorials have been equally accessed. Teachers have been in a state of emergency, training and (in some instances) being forced toward technology integration. 

Some popular tips from PDs that I have noticed include: creating a Bitmoji classroom to build a fun space to communicate with students, using Flipgrid to create videos for and by students, and using interactive slide tools like Pear Deck

Inexperience with technology is a barrier that continues to be a stopping point for some teachers trying to reach their students. At PATINS, we have seen an increase of teachers and administrators requesting personalized/individualized training or one-on-one sessions (provided by the PATINS/ICAM team) to create universally designed online classrooms for ALL students. 

The Risk

For many of my family’s projects, one of the biggest barriers was fear. Fear of the first step, fear of messing it up, fear of the cost, and fear it would take too much time or turn into something we hated. One of my biggest fears was to use power tools, especially the table saw. It is big, scary, dangerous, and once you have cut something, it is final. However, at one point in a project, we needed a small piece of wood to be cut before we could move forward. Waiting for a contractor would have increased our wait from one week to up to three months! I stayed up all night convincing myself that I could use this saw. I finally got up, put my safety goggles on, and picked up the table saw. I practiced on a couple of scrap pieces, took measurements, and marked where to cut. I blasted through it with no fear. Did I do it perfectly? No. But, we were able to move forward quickly after that point, and I now can start building my table saw skills. Before this school year, many teachers dabbled in technology integration in the classroom, but some avoided it at all costs. 

Today, many still struggle with the same barrier: fear. One of my AEMing for Achievement Grant  team members, Melissa Harrison, has an inspirational quote in her office: “You never learn anything by doing it right.” In many of life’s fearful experiences this rings true, such as bike riding, public speaking, going on a date, or starting a new career. The level of risk is high, but necessary for success. 

As for our DIY school year, we have all been risk takers and continue to learn new methods and use new tools. The results are not perfect, but the more steps educators have taken toward a seemingly scary new form of teaching and learning, the more enriching experiences have resulted for both students, parents, and teachers.  We are forming bridges and exploring methods that have not been utilized before, and as a result, we are seeing a bright path toward an educational system that we can all love.

Melissa Harrison, smiling and holding a sign that says, “You never learn anything by doing it right.”

Like any new homeowners, our new place will probably be under construction for the rest of our lives, but the process of creating and recreating a space that we enjoy and cherish is invaluable. Similarly, teachers, parents, and students continue to grow as our schools are reimagining what education could be. We still have a long journey ahead, but a universally designed educational system is in our sights. Just like any home remodel, it was not easy and there are still are many unfinished jobs, surprise repairs, and exhausted workers. But we can continue to build our toolbox, seek expert advice, and be brave enough to take risks with that we can continue to build a place we truly love. 

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Sep
17

Silenced Voices, Let Them Be Heard

Amanda Crecelius with husband and daughter.  Amanda and husband are wearing Mexico soccer jersey and daughter is wearing a shirt with Mexican dolls.

Celebrating Mexican Independence Day.  September 16, 2020
Photo Credits:  Hugo Salmeron

Artist Name - Read-by-Author---Silenced-Voices-Blog.mp3

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As a new addition to the PATINS team, let me introduce myself. My name is Amanda Crecelius (Cri-sil-yus). I grew up in a small town in Crawford County in Southern Indiana. My mother was an elementary school teacher in one of only 5 schools in the county. My father owned his own mechanic shop which based on the number of men hovering over my dad as he worked, was what I considered one of the hubs of the community. My mother instilled in me a love for reading, learning, and teaching. My father taught me to work hard and that my dreams and my voice were valuable. They both taught me the merits of being independent and caring deeply about others.

Those principles led me to leave home and live abroad in both Madrid, Spain and Mexico City, Mexico for over 13 years of my adult life. From living abroad, I gained a language, a family, and an infused culture. I gleaned empathy for the struggle of a newcomer and an understanding of cultural clashes, racial tensions, and the unfairness of discrimination. Privilege and value were given to me through circumstances that I did not earn and taken away from others for no reason other than their place of birth and/or color of skin. I wrestled with the predetermined value of my voice against the unheard voices of those deemed unimportant, those who showed generosity with empty pockets, who showed love despite abuse, who when I looked in the mirror of their hearts, I saw my own reflection.

When I returned to my home state of Indiana after living abroad, I wanted to find some way to use my voice for the voices that do not have the words to speak for themselves. Many times when I was on the streets in cities abroad, I was not able to communicate my thoughts, my beliefs, my objections, my concerns, my rights, or my dreams. As I state this, I acknowledge that many others have language barriers amplified by poverty, discrimination, and racism.

The first step for my voice to be used was to become aware of the current situation in my area. According to the 2018 Census, approximately 63 different languages (identified on the census) are spoken in the state of Indiana. Of the 559,000 who speak another language and that completed the census (and remember that some did not), 195,000 approximately identified that they did not speak English well. Meaning that 195,000 voices are not being heard. They are not invited to participate in the conversation, in the community, and sometimes in the lives of their children and grandchildren. It's not only language that is unshared but also culture, traditions, and community connections.

When we moved back to Indiana, my daughter at age 3 spoke only Spanish. My husband and I spoke Spanish to each other, while a mix of Spanish and English to her. She went to daycare and soon learned that not everyone understood two languages. Within three short months, she stopped speaking Spanish completely. We were shocked at how quickly she rejected her first language for another. The thing that I have observed over the past 2 years is that she has slowly and unintentionally moved away from her father’s language, culture, and traditions, a heartbreak that I can only imagine for any parent. I know that many parents are experiencing this and want to find ways to connect and participate. If my child and I do not share a language, how can we share the joy of our traditions? How can we build and curate our shared culture?

Over the past 10 years, I have witnessed a growth of the Latinx population in Indiana. This has led to an increase of written material provided for Spanish speakers. I am thrilled to see this incorporated into many aspects of our daily lives but what about those that speak Spanish but do not read it? Apart from providing written translations, how are those who do not speak English invited to participate in our community conversations? In classroom conversations? What about those that speak another language that is not English or Spanish? What do they do? How is their voice heard?

As someone born and raised in a small town, I know the love that a community has and how that love is shown and used to surround each of its members. What are the first steps for us to extend to those that are in our community? I am still in the process of learning how to be a voice. I invite each of you to brainstorm with me about how to use tools, technologies, compassion, and love to build our community to be inclusive and to recognize the value of inviting those that do not share our language and culture to the decision-making table.

Now that we are aware, how can we show that we care? As this is deeply personal, I am hoping that we can each look for ways to create and project the silenced voices around us. Here are some of my resources to help aid in your next steps. If you are a teacher, I am currently offering a Power Series to help ELL parents. In addition, I am happy to set up a time to discuss the needs of the students and the parents in your community and how we can help to get them involved. Also we have many organizations who need volunteers for connecting foreigners to the community, such as, Exodus Refugee and Immigrant Welcome Center to name a few. Also if you have a neighbor, a friend of a friend, or even a stranger on the street, acknowledge them, be patient with them, and listen to them. There is value in their voice. Let it be heard!

Sources:

U.S. Census Bureau 2018. Language Spoken at Home. Retrieved from tinyurl.com/34wf4tt4.

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