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Promoting Achievement through Technology and INstruction for all Students
Mar
31

Routines and Comfort Zones

I recently attended a Professional Development Webinar from edWeb.net the presenter is a high school biology teacher in Massachusetts named Bonnie Nieves. Check it out,  "Increase Student Engagement: Decrease Your Teacher Workload."

The very beginning of her presentation really got the wheels in my head spinning. Getting kids to have more ownership in their learning is an important first step - it gets students more engaged too. The hook for me was her discussion about routines and how vital routines, plans, and expectations are for students.

Students must feel safe before they can engage and learn. They need to know what content to expect, classroom rules/expectations, daily schedule, quiz/test schedule, modules of learning, and throughout all of these routines - there must be a clear beginning, middle and end. You can start with Visual Schedules - It's good practice. If your student has a visual impairment, review the schedule aloud or offer an accessible format.

Reach out to PATINS staff on our Educator Support page for assistance.

classroom visuals for schedule listed vertically. Each activity includes and image and word.  For example, the topmost item is morning announcement snad has computer winrdo with a magnifying glass.  Further down the list is pack up with a backpack.

We all have routines (e.g., wake up, (some exercise early), let the dogs out, start coffee, feed the dogs, get dressed, eat, brush teeth, go to work/school, etc.). Each of us has a morning routine and it's hopefully something that sets a good mood for the day. It's comfortable and known.

Alarm Clock

Routines can be stressful if they don't occur as planned. Morning routines can vary depending on planning from the night before, work schedule, and more. Stress can factor in when the routine is disrupted…overslept, allergies kicked in full force, spilled coffee, out of coffee filters (solution = use a paper towel), no clean socks, or forgot lunch at home. What if your students don't have exposure to positive routines at home (e.g., inconsistent food, disrupted sleep, minimal/no homework support, etc.)?

You can't control your students' routines outside of school but you can at school!

Discovering Your Inner Peace - rock cairn on water

It's a beautiful, sunny and warm day. You arrive at work early, find a close parking spot, all is well. Upon arrival to your classroom, it's clean and organized, you prepare for your students with the lesson you created last night. You feel good. You used the PATINS Project UDL (Universal Design for Learning) Lesson Plan Creator

Using the Lesson Planner can help with your teaching routine to ensure that you consistently consider the needs of all students in the areas of EngagementRepresentation and Action & Expression. Your students will feel safe because they know you have optimized your teaching and their opportunities for learning for every lesson you create. It's part of your routine and thus you have increased their independence and success.

Be clear in your routines (e.g., time, expectations, lesson format, options for response formats, access to Accessibility Tools, organization, etc.), use the resources that are available to you and you will also decrease your workload.

postcript: I did not initially follow the PATINS guidelines/routine for posting this blog as shown below:

Proofread, proofread, proofread

  1. Have your screen reader read it back to you
  2. Have at least 1 other staffer proofread your blog 
  3. Grammarly extension helps to identify mistakes
  4. Hemingway helps clarify wording
  5. Print it out and read it on paper

I had a fellow staff member proofread and was ready to publish...I thought I should review the guidelines!  Practice what I'm preaching here. Original word count in MS Word was 450...good. [updated word count is 595]. Below is a screenshot of me using Read&Wrtie to read aloud the content I was preparing to release. Yikes! Numerous errors, mostly you/your substituions. What an eye opener!

portion of text highlighted with Read&Write from Chrome. Sentence is highlighted in yellow and current word is blue.

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May
27

The Learning Continues During a Sense-sational Summer

Smiling son on round web swing being pushed by his mother

Last year at this time, we had just wrapped up an unprecedented school year. What a difference a year has made! As the 2020-2021 school year is soon wrapping up, or maybe just has finished for students across Indiana, I want to encourage parents, teachers, and students to have a “Sense-sational” summer! We have gone through a lot the last year and a half. It’s time for some fun! Engaging in activities that entice multiple sensory experiences and both incorporating a schedule and keeping kiddos on a schedule, can set a family’s summer up for success!

Is the first thing you think of when you think of Summer Break: Intentionally planning activities that will help students grow and thrive in literacy, math, writing, communication, sensory, and behavior? Well, probably not. However, we can plan a fun summer with lots of intentional, educational experiences. Why not make the most of the outdoors and engage the senses while you’re at it? I have created a list of activities/strategies that parents can use to make learning fun this summer and to avoid hearing the dreaded words, “I’m bored. There is nothing to do."

First thing first! Have a plan, maybe even a plan that can vary and be added to on the go, but a schedule nonetheless! Research has proven that children thrive in the safety and predictability of a schedule or routine. They are used to it from being in school everyday. One can plan a day, week or month at a time. The children will benefit from a schedule, no matter how simple or complex you make it. You can write a schedule on a white board, draw on paper, create one on an app, use pictures or create one on a program like Lesson Pix. I have included a version daily visual schedule checklist as an example. No matter what, letting the kids know the expectations of the day will help everyone in the household.



Develop a schedule that includes movement, play, and leisure. Plan for all the senses and incorporate lots of movement. Modeling play activities for your children can be super beneficial. Allowing your children to make choices in some parts of the day will increase their independence and control of their environment. Ask you children for their input and specifically ask what activities they want to do with you this summer. You may be surprised by their answers! 

Another consideration while setting up a schdule that will encourage showing positive behavior, following directions, following the schedule, and keeping up with expectations is adding a reward. A reward can be a praise, a fun activity, or something out of the ordinary. A reward such as a walk to the park for a picnic, could encourage your child to follow the schedule for that meaningful reward. Adults and children alike enjoy something to look forward to on the calendar. Make the reward achievable and fun for the whole family!

Finally, be sure to include all the senses when planning your summer activities! Given that all of our sensory systems are unique and may not function similarly, you can modify this list to individual or family needs.

  1. Touch (Tactile) - Play in different media - paint, pudding, water table, water beads, or sand, introduce different textures and warm/cold temperatures to touch, or walk or put barefeet in the grass.
  2. Sight (Vision) - Seek out bright colors, high contrast, and play games like I spy (i.e. "I spy something blue." or "I spy something that is a rectangle." Be sure to add more descriptions for children with low vision such as "I spy something at the sink that is blue and has one rough side and one side that is bumpy with holes in it."). Notice the colors that catch your eye and point them out to your children.
  3. Taste (Gustatory) - Grow or buy some new veggies or fruits to try. Describe them, their taste, texture, temperature, spiciness, etc. Make your own popsicles or pudding. Try new foods and have fun trying to describe them.
  4. Smell (Olfactory) - Seek out the scents of the season: flowers, fresh cut grass, the scent of ozone after rain, and notice the scent of the pool. Make your own play dough and add scents or spices to make the activity more “scent-sationally” fun!
  5. Hearing (Auditory) - Listen to and identify sounds in the environment. Create conversations around sounds and music. Ask questions like: Do you hear a bird? Do you hear the sound of the cicadas? I hear fireworks in the distance, do you? Read with your ears. Make music. Feel the vibration of music in a speaker or on the piano as it is played. 

As an occupational therapist (OT), I am quick to add the two additional senses beyond the five senses I learned in grade school. There are actually seven senses to consider! In my work as an OT, taking the last two senses in consideration and planning for them was a large part of my role in the school system. Let’s cover some activities to engage them too!

  1. Proprioception (Body Position in Space) - Think of heavy work activities such as pushing a wheelbarrow, jumping on a trampoline, having bear crawl races, doing wall push ups, carrying “heavy” objects from one place to another, and doing activities that put a good amount of weight through your joints.
  2. Vestibular (Movement) - Swing on a swing, take a spin on the merry go round, slide on slides, rock in a rocking chair, spin in circles, ride a scooter board on your stomach, or do somersaults.

Make this a great summer of connection and lasting memories through activities. Create a notebook and keep track of the experiences of the summer. Use pictures, words, symbols, drawings, and reflect on all experiences that were intentionally planned -the new and the old. I would love to hear your favorite sensory rich summer activities too! Please share in the comments or reach out to me!

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