The ASD Nest Egg

strategies to support kids on the autism spectrum

Category: Instruction (page 1 of 2)

The Power of Wordlessness (Part 2 of 2)

The Power of Wordlessness (Part 2 of 2)

by Jules Csillag

 

Last week, you read about the reasons to use wordless texts. Today, learn about how to use these texts, and review a few examples.

 

How?

There are many ways to incorporate wordless “texts” into diverse content areas, including ELA, history, science, SDI, and foreign languages. Some sample activities are listed below:

 

  • Inferences: Any time you present a wordless “text,” you can have students make inferences about characters, setting, problem, etc. For specific inferential questions to ask during some of the movies listed below, read this article from Understood.org.
  • Pause & predict: With an image, book, or movie, you can also work on making predictions. With images, you can try guessing what you think would happen next (allowing for multiple responses); with books or movies you would need to pause, and then you could verify answers afterwards (while still acknowledging if other responses could have been logical and relevant).
  • Thought bubbles and/or speech bubbles: Adding thought bubbles and speech bubbles works on cognitive flexibility, nonverbal communication, and inferences. You can add these to images, put them on post-its into books (or scan books and create Powerpoints or Google Slides from them), or print still images from videos. If students are interested in this task, you can even add words to videos (i.e. dub their voices) using iMovie, Quicktime, or this list of free, online video editing tools.

drawing of a thought bubble

  • Be a co-author: for books, in particular, students can take on the role of author to essentially narrate a story, thereby addressing inferences and text structure. If different groups of students work on the same story, it also inherently addresses cognitive flexibility.
  • Connection building, building up themes: Autistic individuals sometimes have challenges in identifying connections between two things, given a difficulty in central coherence. You can compare two silent “texts” and see how they are similar or different (in how they are made, in topics, etc.), or use a silent text as a jumping off point for a new topic (e.g. begin a unit on immigration with The Arrival; use a “What’s Going on this Picture?” to introduce a new place in a Social Studies unit, etc.), and refer back to this as you delve deeper into the novel topic.
  • Citing evidence: With almost any of the above activities, if students are required to explain why they think that, they will be using (visual) evidence to support a position. As students get older, you can link this to the need to cite evidence across subject areas.

 

What?

a camera icon

 

a book icon

  • Wordless books (arranged by books appropriate from youngest -> oldest readers)
    • Mercer Mayer series: stories about a boy, a dog, and often a frog
    • Pancakes for Breakfast by Tomie dePaola: the story of a woman who is trying to make pancakes for breakfast
    • Wave by Suzy Lee: the story of  girl at the beach
    • Float by Daniel Miyares: the story of a paper boat
    • Journey series (Journey, Quest, Return) by Aaron Becker: a series of stories about a magic marker & a pair of friends
    • Sector 7 by David Weisner: the story of a cloud factory (also enjoy his other wordless books, Tuesday and Flotsam)
    • The Red Book by Barbara Lehman: the story of a magic book & the two kids who found it
    • Zoom by Istvan Banyai: the book can be read backwards or forwards, and contains some interesting shifts in perspective (for upper elementary+)
    • Sidewalk Flowers by poet JonArno Lawson and illustrator Sydney Smith: the story of a city and its small details (for upper elementary+)
    • The Arrival by Shaun Tan: a long graphic novel about immigration (for middle school+)
    • If you’ll forgive the few words that appear in these books, I’ll also include the minimally verbal books: Blip! by Barnaby Richards and Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

a play button icon to symbolize movies

  • Wordless movies
    • Simon’s Cat series: a series of silent videos of Simon and his trouble-maker cat(s)
    • Oktapodi: an octopus escape/love story
    • Crumbs: a story of two mice trying to get a crumb
    • Snack Attack: a video of an old lady and her snack…with a twist (shout out to SDI Developer Susan Brennan for the recommendation)
    • The Present: a video of a mother, a son, and a present…with a twist (shout out to Jessica Price at PS 165 for the recommendation)
    • Wish Granter: the story of a fountain dweller who grants wishes (shout out to Jessica Arnone at PS 9)
    • Paper Man: a cute NY missed connections story (for older students)
    • Alma: a story of a scary toy store (for older students)
    • Looking for more? Look for Pixar shorts & Oscar-nominated animated films

The Power of Wordlessness (Part 1 of 2)

The Power of Wordlessness (Part 1 of 2)

by Jules Csillag

 

This is the first part of a two-part series on silent books and movies, and pictures. Today, we will look at why to use wordless activities, and next week, learn how to incorporate these into lessons, and read about specific, potential activities.

 

Aside from reducing your language in your classroom, and the importance of using visuals, there are benefits to using wordless texts (where “texts” can mean anything from images to books to movies) to autistic students.

 

Why?

Wordless texts can be used to address a variety of skills that autistic students typically struggle with, including diverse literacy skills, cognitive flexibility, and nonverbal communication. Removing words and auditory information also supports autistic students since integrating information from multiple senses can take longer in autistic individuals, particularly if this information is linguistic. Removing words can therefore positively influence processing (Boddaert et al, 2004, Stevenson, 2014)

 

Using wordless books or movies can build diverse literacy skills in terms of making inferences, understanding narrative structure, and using evidence to support a claim. All wordless “texts” support individuals’ ability to make inferences, which is helpful since research shows that “students with Asperger syndrome…had challenges in making inferences from the text” (Knight & Sartrini, 2014). Moreover, researchers have found that “similar processes contribute to comprehension of narratives across different media” (Kendeou, P. et al, 2009), meaning that addressing visual inferences can transfer to inferences made during reading. Images and silent books or movies necessarily require students to infer what is happening, who the characters are, etc.

a photograph of a wooden bridge over greenish water

An inference is like a bridge between two ideas.

Wordless books and movies are also an effective way of helping students’ reading and writing by helping them understand text structure, especially narrative text structure, which is the understanding that narratives all have similar structures (e.g. character, setting, problem, resolution). Wordless books and movies are an often fun way of teaching text structure, as well as theme, and these skills are worth teaching as they do not always come naturally to students on the spectrum (Zajic et al., 2014, Gately, 2008). Autistic students may also have difficulty citing evidence to support a position, as that requires perspective taking skills and organization of language, which can both be difficult for them. As with inferences, you can use an image to practice this skill (e.g. “I think it is summer because I see the characters sweating and the trees look really green”).

a purple triangle that demonstrates a plot mountain, with beginning/exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and end/resolution labeled left to right.

A plot mountain is one way to demonstrate story structure (Source: readwritethink)

Given that images and wordless books and movies are open to interpretation, they also build cognitive flexibility, since there can often be multiple, logical ways of “reading” visual narratives. This can be helpful since cognitive flexibility is typically an underlying challenge with students with autism (Van Eylen et al., 2011). Cognitive flexibility is important for social situations (since perspective taking relies on cognitive flexibility), for problem-solving (since sometimes you need to attempt more than one solution), and for understanding any “grey areas” or subjective interpretations of an event or text.

 

Removing words also allows individuals to focus on nonverbal communication more. This has two distinct benefits: for one, it targets an underlying challenge many individuals with autism have in processing nonverbal information, “compared with both typical and atypical groups well matched for cognitive development” (Rogers, 2006). Furthermore, when there is a discrepancy between words and facial expressions, individuals with autism tend to give more weight to the words, so removing words naturally emphasizes the nonverbal communication and can thus put it on students’ radar and teach them its various functions (Watanabe et al., 2012). Emotional thermometers (Wesbty, 2004) to expand emotional vocabulary, and link to context, facial expression, tone of voice (where relevant).

 

Stay tuned for next week’s post on how to use wordlessness, and what tools may work!

Talk Less, Draw More

Talk Less, Draw More

By Brandy Stanfill

 

The mainstream classroom is full of language processing demands that can be challenging for a wide array of students.  Strategies to support comprehension while reducing language processing can benefit English language learners, students with ADHD, autistic students, and students with auditory processing disorders.  Here are a few tricks to try in your classroom:

 

Quick Sketch

During your next read aloud, mini lesson, unit review, or group discussion draw a quick sketch of the contents.  A stick figure labeled Christopher Columbus, a half circle and triangle to represent a boat, and 1492 written beside it can help students hold onto who is under discussion, what the action was, and when the events occurred.  No drawing skill needed!

 

Visual Priming

The next time you are introducing a new activity or procedure show the group pics of the materials they will be using with simple one or two words labels.  These images and labels can help students learn new vocabulary and remember the difference between a beaker and graduated cylinder.  Google images are a teacher’s best friend!

drawing of a thought bubble

 

Thought Bubbles

When discussing characters from books or historical figures thought bubbles with simple phrases or quick sketches in them can help a student to understand the character’s experiences, emotions, goals, and perspective.  A stick figure of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird with a thought bubble that says, “curious about Boo Radley” and a line from stick figure Scout’s eyes to a stick figure of Boo can help a student understand the motivation for Scout’s behavior.  Perspective taking is harder when characters and historical figures are far removed from a student’s life experience.  Use visual supports to highlight universal experiences and motivations like nosiness!

 

 

 

How to Do the Do Now

How to Do the Do Now

by Aaron Lanou

 

In middle and high school classrooms, the “Do Now” is ubiquitous. It is a necessary element of the lesson, with a dual purpose: 1) it gives students something to do during the start-of-class transition, and 2) it prepares them for the upcoming lesson.

 

Too often, the Do Now falls into some predictable traps:

  • The task takes students too long, and it becomes the Do Forever…
  • The directions aren’t clear, and it becomes the Do Wha?
  • It’s not posted when students arrive, and it becomes the Do dee do (the sound students make while twiddling their thumbs waiting for directions)

 

To get the most out of the Do Now—and to structure it in a helpful, predictable way for students with ASD—it’s best to make it:

Short – Active – Ready – Relevant

 

an icon of a timerShort

The Do Now should only take between 3 and 5 minutes. Any longer, and it cuts into valuable teaching time. Provide students with a task that gets them ready for the upcoming lesson, but doesn’t bleed into the lesson—there will be more opportunities for independent work later in the period.

 

Do this: Usually have a Do Now that takes longer? Identify a short 3- to 5-minute chunk of the task that students can complete as the Do Now, and find a place in your lesson to continue or expand on it.

 

an icon of a hand squeezing a bar, showing strengthActive

The Do Now should require students to do something active, and directions should state concretely what is is they should do. A Do Now like, “What were the primary causes of the American Revolution” doesn’t communicate to students that they should do anything, besides sit there and think. Always start the directions with a verb, and consider what you want to see students doing for these first 3–5 minutes. For students with ASD, the more concrete we can be with directions, the easier the directions are to follow.

 

Do this: Brainstorm a list of a half dozen verbs that you will use to start the directions of every Do Now. Some good possibilities: write, complete, annotate, solve, jot, etc.

Image of do now: write a paragraph answering this question. What were the primary causes of the American Revolution? Cite evidence from your reading packet from last night's homework.

an icon of a projector screenReady

The Do Now should be prepared and posted before students enter. Students should always know where to look to figure out what to do the second they step foot into the classroom. The Do Now also shouldn’t require an explanation—you want them to Do… NOW! The teaching comes later, when the lesson begins.

 

Do this: Post the directions for your Do Now in the same place every day. This could be on the chalkboard, whiteboard, projected on an interactive whiteboard, or even on a sheet of paper they pick up as they enter—so long as it’s always the same. This predictability is helpful for all students, particularly those on the autism spectrum.

an example of a do now. Text says: Do Now. Read the passage at the top of your guided notes packet. Annotate the passage using the four symbols we have been practicing. Annotation symbols: star icon= this seems important. Question mark= This makes me wonder. Checkmark icon= This confirms something i thought. X icon= this is different than what I thought.

icon of a link or chainRelevant

The Do Now should be connected to the content you’re teaching. It can either be a preview or a review. A preview prepares them for what they’ll be learning in the upcoming lesson, such as a reading about a historical topic that they’ll be debating. A review helps them practice something from the previous day’s lesson or homework. This can be good for math classes, to give students another opportunity to try their hand at a recent algorithm a couple more times. Since the Do Now should be quick and doable without directions, be careful not to present brand new, potentially challenging material in the Do Now—this may cause unhelpful frustration or anxiety right at the start of the period.

 

Do this: Decide for each lesson, what is the best way to link to what we’re doing today? Is it more helpful to review something we did yesterday, or preview something we’ll be discussing next?

an example of an algebra do now that says: Solve the following two equations. When finished, write an explanation of the order of operations you used to solve each. 5x-10=45; y/2+7=13. Explanation example: First, I used addition because...

So, do this… Now!

icon of a timeran icon of a hand squeezing a bar, showing strengthan icon of a projector screenicon of a link or chain

Make your Do Now:

  • Short. Plan it taking no more than 3–5 minutes.
  • Active. Tell students what to do, starting directions with a verb.
  • Ready. Have it posted when students enter, in the same place every day.
  • Relevant. Connect the task to the previous or upcoming lesson.

 

For more about the Do Now, see this post from Teach Like a Champion.

 

Fostering Independence in the Classroom

by Lauren Hough-Williams

Fall is an exciting time for students and teachers alike: Sharpened pencils, pristine classrooms; new books and opportunities for a new year. There is a mix of nervous anticipation and the excitement of potential in the air. Returning students are ready for the challenges of a new grade and year, and teachers envision just how far their students will come by the end of June. Fall is full of possibility. So, be sure to take advantage of this opportunity and set the stage for a year of student independence and success.

Teachers, sometimes in our efforts to maintain a pristine classroom and establish efficiency and order, we overlook one of the fundamental goals we have for our students: developing independence. We manage the materials students will be using, we tell the students what to do and when to do it, and we solve their problems. This might help us keep the wheels on in September, and might be necessary as we introduce the rules of the classroom, but where does it leave us and our students a few months down the road? Are we finding ourselves frustrated with the lack of student independence and self-management come December? Here we are, still frantically scampering around the room passing out papers, reminding students of classroom procedures, and being the ones putting out fires!

Let’s remember the opportunity that the fall provides: the opportunity to establish routines and expectations that support student independence. Setting up our students to both expect and succeed in the area of independence can do wonders for our classrooms, our students, and our own sanity!

Here are 5 tips for building student independence in the fall:

1) Set the stage for independence: Consider your classroom set-up

What can you do in the environment that sets the expectation of independence?

  • Keep materials students will be using visible, accessible, and organized.  Don’t hide everything in the closet or keep them out of students’ reach! If they’re using materials regularly, students should be able to access them independently (and taught how to do so!).
  • Get assistants: Use classroom jobs/student monitors to help with repeated routines (passing out papers, retrieving table bins of tools). If you’re always the one handing out materials, you’re teaching your students to sit and wait rather then thinking about and gathering what they know that they and their classmates will need.

2) Stop repeating yourself! Create visuals for all classroom routines (post them and reference them early and often).

Repeating routines, rules, expectations, and directions is ineffective and frustrating! If verbal reminders are not sticking, create a concrete and permanent visual for students to reference independently.

  • Have one spot in your room where you ALWAYS post the directions. Whether the directions are in words, pictures, or a list of steps, this will serve as a reference point for students to begin to use independently. (Short on space and materials? Laminate a large piece of paper/chart paper and use that for your directions visual).
  • Post classroom expectations throughout the room, and reference them often. For older students, “If… then…” charts can capture lots of routines in one place (if I need a pencil, then I can…; if I forgot my book, then I can…, if I have to use the restroom, then I can…). Check out some great examples of classroom visuals here. (Nest Pinterest link)
  • Create a “What do I do when I’m through?” chart, showing students their options if they finish work early (independent reading, help a classmate, work from their independent work folders/on their independent project, etc). Explicitly teach this routine and then, when students, ask, simply direct their attention to the chart. No words necessary!

3) Offer options: Give students choice and encourage critical thinking

Options can help to increase active engagement, internal motivation, and self-reflection.

  • Ask students to make a choice about which strategy they will practice today in math (array? algorithm? picture?), and push them to articulate what it is about their strategy of choice that they feel works best for them.
  • Offer options for how they want to capture their thinking in social studies (graphic organizer? post-its? voice notes?).  Ask if there are any benefits/draw-backs of the method that they chose. Would they chose that same method again next time?
  • Have students decide how they want to handle situations where they feel that they’re stuck and need help. Will they ask a classmate? Try to skip the part they’re on and tackle another part of the assignment? Review their notes? Sign up for a conference time with the teacher? Take a quick break to calm down and regroup? Is there a way that your students can let you know which option they feel works for them that you can expect to see?

4) Comment rather than command: Use declaratives rather than imperatives

When we always tell students what to do, there’s little thinking they have to do for themselves.

  • Rather than reminding your student, “You need to get out your math reference book,” make a comment: “I notice that your table-mates have a book on their desks.” This encourages your student to take the extra steps of noticing what their peers are doing, assessing what they themselves might not be doing, and problem-solving for themselves. It’s a small shift in language, but a big step in terms of encouraging students’ active participation in their learning.
  • Use open-ended questioning when giving individual formative feedback: “I wonder what would happen if you…?” Or “What if you considered…?” For more information about formative feedback, see these 10 Tips for Formative Feedback and read about the Power of Formative Feedback.

5) Build metacognitive muscles: reflect reflect reflect

Stop and take the time to help students think about their own thinking and consider what they might do (maybe even with more independence) in the future!

  • Encourage students to set goals both big and small: “How long do you think it will take you to get set up for reading today?” or “Show me how far you think you’ll write on your paper today in writing. And let’s think about what helped you write yesterday…” This can be done individually or class-wide: “Circle how many math problems you think you can tackle in the first 10 minutes of work time today.”
  • Give students the time and the supports to reflect independently on their work and progress. A routine for exit slips can be great for this, but perhaps instead of offering only one type of exit slip, students choose what type of reflection works best for them: written reflection? Picture? Bulleted list? Reflection partner? And can these slips be referenced at the following lesson so students can be set up to learn independently from past experiences?

Building independence is an active process, and it is not something that will just happen for your classroom and for your students. Set some goals for yourself around building student independence. What do you want to see your students doing with more independence by the end of November? How about by the new year? Have a clear understanding of what this independence will look like in your classroom: what will be different from what you see today and how will you know your students are then ready for the next step in their independence?

Looking for more ideas? Here are a few additional resources:

10 more ways to build student independence in thinking!

Learning strategy resource

5 ways to Empower Students

 

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