A Week in Dryandra Unit
The classroom environment has been specifically designed to cater for students with various learning styles. Dryandra Unit consists of eight students ranging in age from six to eight years old who live with an Intellectual Disability coupled with other disabilities such as Autism, Chromosomal Disorders, Global Developmental Delay, Vision and Hearing Impairment and many have a Health Support Plan.
The students are actively mobile, however some face physical challenges. All the students in the class have Complex Communication Needs and require an Augmentative Communication System to communicate. Each student has a Negotiated Education Plan with Individual Learning Goals in each curriculum area.
I aim to offer the students in my class the same curriculum program as their mainstream peers with an individual focus. Students with specific learning needs require educational activities which are highly motivational, relevant to the ability of the student and above all fun.
Routine and classroom structure are also vital components when implementing a success based learning program. As a teacher of students with specific learning needs I am always attempting to gain access to the latest in assisted technology; however the ongoing cost continually impedes my vision.
Each day starts with the students walking up to the classroom from their transport and unpacking their schoolbag. Using the picture cues they are then encouraged to choose an activity, when all the students have arrived the day can begin.
Starting with the Interactive Literacy Session all the students come together as a group, I have a student with Autism who chooses to stand on a carpet circle rather than sit on a chair. I am very fortunate to have an Interactive Whiteboard which greatly assists in gaining and maintaining everyone's attention, as most of the students are visual learners this equipment is essential.
A "Good Morning Song" is played to each student and they are encouraged to respond depending on their ability by using a BIGmack (a voice activated communication device), a picture cue, by signing or verbally.
Next the students participate in a Shared or Guided Reading session; I make my own readers using the slide show in PowerPoint. For consistency I also print and laminate these books to use as take home readers.
During the reading sessions I include a step by step voice activated communication device so that all students can participate in reading the book. An interactive counting song follows. I use many other whiteboard activities which are included in the whiteboard software.
Following the group activity each student works individually with me to develop their writing skills. The aims for the writing activity are that the students will hold the texta and either trace the first letter of their name, trace or write their first name and or surname. All students require visual, verbal or physical prompts to complete this task.
Writing skills are practiced in a display book using a whiteboard marker for tracing; a sloped desk is useful for extending the student's concentration skills.
While I am working 1:1 with a student the rest of the class are participating in a small group activity with the class School Service Officer. This activity is always sensory or fine motor based, such as play dough, threading, shaving cream, lacing and sorbelene cream.
Maths activities are hands-on learning experiences with a focus on concepts such as Number, Colour, Shape, Time and Money as identified in the student's Negotiated Education Plan. During the Maths activity the class School Service Officer and I teach individual students while the rest of the class is encouraged to occupy themselves with a preferred activity.
I use the same routine when I teach all of the curriculum areas; the students are veryfamiliar with this routine and independently come to the table for their turn.
In Design, cutting and pasting are the focus skills. The students start by cutting on straight lines and as their skills develop they move on to cutting out geometric shapes and then using these shapes to construct various pictures. I offer the students spring loaded scissors and blue glusticks so they can see where they are applying the glue.
In Technology the students receive individual tuition in mouse and keyboard skills on the classroom computer, which also has a touch screen for those students who require it. The computer is linked to a printer so I will often print out the student's work for their assessment folder.
"The Right to Know Program" is a Health and Personal Safety Program produced by the Down Syndrome Society; I modify the activities within the program to suit the needs of the students, this year the focus is on Emotions.
Our school has a purpose built Art Room so once a week I take two students at a time to participate in an Art activity. The planned Art activity has a focus on following verbal instructions and developing creativity. I try and expose the students to a variety of Art media which is always fun and exciting.
In Science the students have been participating in hands-on experiments with magnets, I make a visual worksheet to reinforce the concepts taught.
Our class Community Access Program consists of a weekly walk in our local community, the students hold their friend's hand and are encouraged to walk together as a group. Developing road safety skills and learning to follow visual and verbal instructions is the major focus of the walk.
Once a term I take the class group on an excursion into the wider community to a place of high interest, I always invite the parents to come along.
The highlight of everyone's week is the swimming lessons at our local indoor pool, the students are taught water confidence, swimming strokes and rescue skills. This program is amazing and the students benefit in far too many ways to mention.
Well that is an example of a busy week in Dryandra Unit. I hope that you have found some of the information and ideas I have shared useful, and that you can try them with the students in your class group.
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