Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ode to Microsoft Word

Don't know if it's just in Virginia, but every class I go into seems to use the 4-square graphic organizer template for writing down the main idea and four supporting ideas.  It looks like a 2 x 2 grid with a little square in the center for placing the starting, main idea.  Very often teachers tell me that their students write so illegibly in the template that they can't even read their own writing.

Hmmm.  We can suggest Inspiration software for helping students with this problem, plus many other educational software products.  Hmmm.  What can the students use at home to visually outline their ideas?

Enter our humble Microsoft Word program, which has been sitting there trying to get noticed while we thought about other software we'd have to locate at school or--gasp--purchase with shrinking funds.  Open a new document, insert a 2 x 2 Table, make the four squares of the table really big, insert a text box in the middle for the main idea and you're done.  Now, the text box might cover up some words in the bottom right square, but you can play with that and figure it all out.  If you show the student how to figure it out, too, then they can do this at home.

If you have some quick, easy ideas for helping students show what they know, please send them along.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eliminate Age-ism from Your Easter Egg Hunt This year

Last Sunday I watched hordes of children, and their ever-hovering parents, hunt for Easter eggs in the playground next to our church building.  How cute, all those little preschoolers searching for their eggs to stuff in their overflowing baskets.

Well, then my 27 y.o. daughter tells me tonight that she played an "urban" Easter egg hunt for 2 hours with her main squeeze, and his daughters age 9 and 13.  Yes, age 13!  The rules:  teams of 2 (one adult and one younger person) hide the Easter eggs outside on the windowsills, up in trees and inside the cover of dad's gas tank flap--anything outside that is within the yard or belongs to the family.  Each team had 10 minutes to place the eggs and the next team had about the same amount of time to find them.  My daughter said that at one point she had the 9 y.o. standing on her shoulders while the girl placed an egg high up in a tree.  The kids loved it and were begging to know "When can we do it again?"

So, remember not to rule out those older kids from what we think of as a preschooler ritual--who knew that a teen would be enraptured with the fun of an Easter egg hunt.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I've Drawn a Blank--HELP

Looking for some new activities to spark up your sessions? Here's a great site full of creative OT activities:

The Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K is being held this coming Saturday. Here's a photo of a famous Civil War (ahem, "The War Between the States") general, directing traffic during the 1 mile children's run last year.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Here's the rest of Laurie's response to the question of how to motivate students to write legibly, even when an adult isn't looking over the shoulder:

To remediate these problems I would work on one problem at a time. Look at your student’s paper and determine what the most important issue is first.

First spacing- I would model to the student how to write one sentence with exaggerated spacing. Then have him copy just one sentence. Then ask him to write another sentence using this exaggerated spacing just to get the idea.
On the click/away site that you can register (in the inside cover page of any Teacher Guide. there is a page that addresses this issue.

Next, I would work on only the letters that are difficult to decipher and to work on those letters, you can use list copying such as on page 66 of the 2nd grade teacher guide. It is very difficult to correct any poor habits (such as starting from the bottom) for an older student. I would just work on the legibility (the control of the pencil)

Letter size- you can try to use the hand sign activity - just for fun. Maybe use the reading word or spelling word list – just to emphasize the different sizes

Letter placement- Using our double lined paper for a short while seems to help get these students back on track with both the letter size and placement. In addition, demonstrating to the student how to write on the various lined paper that they encounter in class is important.

The most effective idea I had with a high school student who was not motivated at all to write legibly was the following. In NJ, the driver’s permit to obtain a license must be handwritten. I had him practice writing legibly, so that he could complete the application. This activity was the only thing that he was motivated to write correctly.

Karen here--I explored the resources Laurie mentioned above and realized how much extra material is on the site that I had never seen before. It's worth taking the time to register and explore resources for the different grade levels.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Handwriting Without Tears

So excited to receive this information from Laurie Nass, OTR/L and Curriculum Specialist for Handwriting Without Tears!!! This is the first half of the response she sent me, prompted by my question, "What do we do with students who have no interest in carrying over correct formation or attention to detail unless an adult sits next to them?" Stay tuned for the rest of her valuable information in a future post.

Thank you for your interesting question. Motivating students to write legibly is challenging, especially in the upper grade levels.

HWT program helps to make writing more fun through the music CDs and through its workbooks. Instruction should be only 10-15 minutes a day, emphasizing quality of work (through the Learn and Check) rather than quantity. Once poor habits are formed, such as writing from the bottom, it is difficult to change the letter formations.

Good posture is also encouraged through the proper height desks and chairs.

Next, for the student who still turns in illegible work “just to get it done,” you may want the teacher review the assignment. Is it too long in length? Can the student still show his knowledge using several words rather than in full sentences? Do the teachers still accept illegible work and thus lower their expectations. Some children can “sense” the teacher’s acceptance.

I have worked with many students in the middle and high school levels. Sometimes I have discovered that the older students could not even read back to me what they had written. I have found there are several common problems, usually in the following order.

1. Not enough spacing between words. –
2. Poor formation of letters-
in particular the closure of magic c letters – thus the a looks like u, the d looks like cl, the g looks like a y. the o looks like u.
diving letters- so that the r looks like v
3. Letter size – capitals and lowercase are the same size
4. Letter placement on the lines – descending letters not placed below the line.

To remediate these problems I would work on one problem at a time. Look at your student’s paper and determine what the most important issue is first.

Look for her suggestions about these different handwriting problems in a future post.

Enhance Independence via Accessibility

Here are some links about Accessibility features commonly found on PCs. Please consider the questions at the bottom of the list--as OTs we are always to improve independence on the part of our clients.

Accessibility Options—Resources for Further Learning
Microsoft Windows Accessibility Resources (Main Page)
Comparison of Accessibility Features in Various Versions of Windows
Describes features of on-screen keyboard, and options for use.
Microsoft Accessibility Guides (Main Page)
Information regarding Universal Design for Learning
Everyday and historical examples of how innovations to help people with disabilities have benefited a wider audience, and vice versa. Just for your reading interest.

As you consider using accessibility options, please ask these questions:

1. Is it likely that using this feature will aid the student with greater independence at the computer?
2. Is there anything about using this feature that might decrease independence on the part of the student?
3. In rare instances, there may be a contraindication for using a feature in accessibility options. For example, the visual alerts designed to aid persons with hearing disabilities might possibly present an optical trigger for a person with a seizure disorder. Can you think of any reason why an accessibility option might be harmful, or perhaps just distracting, to the student?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I See Squares

The Standards of Learning tests (SOLs) are upon us and teachers are panicking. All kinds of student concerns that have been nagging teachers during the year are now surfacing and reaching critical mass. As dutiful OTs working in the schools we know that students are only permitted specific accommodations/modifications on the SOLs, and that the student must be using those accommodations throughout the year in order to use them for the testing. If you're like me, you're already thinking about what to do differently next year.

Stick this link in your "To Think About" file for Fall 2010--it might come in real handy if you help middle and high school math teachers who have students who demonstrate difficulty with graphing. The graph paper can be sized according to the student's needs.

Thanks to Janice Johnson, teacher for students with visual impairments, who gave me this great website.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New York, New York

Well, my search for a June/July/August job is over---I'm moving to New York for the summer! Read this fascinating article about the demand for pediatric OTs in NY.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

There's a Pot of Gold In Those Pages

Donna Deprato was putting away her holiday props last week and I remembered how thrilled I was back in December when she showed me her "enhanced" story books. She adds a little surprise under each flap of the story book so the preschooler can lift up the flap and "grab onto" a part of the story. These little add-ons work great as page-fluffers, too.

Start looking for shamrocks and slap 'em on your St. Patty's Day books for little ones who need to get involved with reading.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tape Marks the Spot

Painter's tape is the best--it comes in the prettiest colors, it's cheap and it doesn't crumple up as easily as regular masking tape.

If you have students who seem to pay little attention to the cutting line, warm up their eyes and attention spans by placing little bits of painter's tape along the perimeter of the shape to be cut. Oops, that piece of tape is on the line, we better move it over a little so we can cut on the line. Hmmm, the student's pinch is looking a little better, too.

When the student starts cutting they have already tuned into to the fact that there really is a line, and squeezing the scissors feels different if they accidentally begin cutting through the tape. Ta-da! A great circle!