Friday, December 20, 2013

See you in 2014

School's out--yippee!  Hope everyone gets some time off for the holidays.

Listen carefully at 7 P.M. Eastern time on 12/24 and you might hear my rusty alto voice warbling some harmonies on "Silent Night," or "O, Come All Ye Faithful."

Talk to ya next year!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

December in Williamsburg, Virginia

Enjoy these beautiful decorations from a couple of years ago in Colonial Williamsburg:

My wonderful friend, Lois, used to go a wreath-making seminar once a year around this time in Williamsburg.  She learned how to use the natural materials found in our area to make wreaths and other holiday decorations.

Last day of school until the new year is tomorrow--yeah!  I'll be celebrating Christmas with my family and friends.  Hope you'll be celebrating, too.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Glow lights and Garlands

Have some pool noodles that have seen better days?  We used cut-up pool noodles in an activity we did this morning with middle schoolers who have significant cognitive impairments.
We powered up a glow light to use as the point at the end of the string, then students chose a section of pool noodle which was decorated with a seasonal design (reindeer, candy canes, candles...) to string on the class "garland."  Did I mention, we turned off the overhead lights during this activity?

I must say, the students were either fascinated with the glow light, the string or the beads but not in the process of stringing a garland.

Next time:  1) use shorter string (the students enjoyed winding the string around their hands), 2) tape the photos onto the beads instead of trying to use pony tail bands to keep them on, and 3) make the table less "busy" so the students can focus on making a choice between pictures without seeing the glow light and string at the same time.

Recycled Grocery Bags Make Great Ornaments

Do you have a local grocery store that has seasonal designs on their bags?  Use 'em!
Of course, we stood at our raised "desk" to cut out the large, medium and small ornament shapes.

We practiced snipping into the little corners at the top of the design. 
Markers were placed on a low surface behind us, to make sure we did lots of turning around and bending down while we pondered which color to use.

Working on a vertical surface helped our wrists and fingers work a little harder while we fancified our ornaments.  Punch a hole, string a ribbon and these are ready to hang up.

Recycle Some Beauty For Your Workspace

Last year I gazed longingly at my co-worker's bulletin board over her workspace--she had some cute family photos and vacation pictures but I longed for more to keep me in a cheerful mood while we worked in our windowless spot.

Well, she retired last June and I inherited her bulletin board!  Since late August I've been filling up the huge empty space with newspaper and magazine clippings.  Some are seasonal, some emotionally uplifting and some just plain beautiful.

And, here's the bulletin board across the room that will be very crowded with pictures in a few months:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Seasonal Fine Motor Activity

Unless you have students who don't celebrate Christmas this is a fun fine motor activity to try with older elementary and up students.

Trace around the n'little stocking shape, then cut the felt design out with "good" scissors.  Make sure your students are safe with handling sharp scissors because those regular small student scissors won't work well on felt.

Smear white glue or craft glue on about 1/4 of the stocking.  I tell students to spread the glue like peanut butter.

To save time, the adults pre-cut the little triangles and squares of remnant holiday fabric.  Some students lined their shapes up in a very orderly manner!

This 4" strip of trim adds a little highlight to the overall look of the stocking.

Most of the students tolerated the feeling of the cold glue without adverse reactions.  Some of them quietly rubbed the glue off their fingers without mentioning it. 
These stockings will look lovely when hung up in class, along with all the other fun projects, including fundraisers, the students have been working on this month.

This idea can be done with a variety of shapes based on different themes--evergreen trees, dreidels--just choose fabrics that match the traditional holiday colors. 

Monday, December 9, 2013


These skid-preventers for the bath tub have been sitting around in my stash for several years.  I've given them out to teachers to use as motivators for students to keep their non-preferred hand on the desktop, as "parking spots" for the hand.

Well, tomorrow I'm going to give this little stegosaurus to one of my teachers who works with students who have significant cognitive disabilities.  One of her students doesn't pick up much of anything in class and I think these mini suction cups on the reverse side of the dinosaur might interest him to explore more with his fingers.  We'll know soon if it helps!

Counting Change Activity Using Computer

Counting Change Activity
This is the only activity I've viewed so far on this website, and it looks great.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Personal Spelling List Albums

To help students become more invested in their spelling skills we made personal spelling list books, using the spell check feature of their NEO word processors to locate the incorrectly-spelled words, index cards and $1 photo albums.

First, I ran the spell check on each file of their NEOs to find which words had recently been spelled incorrectly, then made a MS Excel spreadsheet of the words.  Using Excel lets me alphabetize the words quickly and print a list in whichever size font is best for the students to easily see when copying onto their index cards.

Students copied individual words onto their cards, sometimes needing two cards to write all the words. We're not working on penmanship here, just legible writing.

It was a little tricky to slip those 4 x 6" cards into those flimsy photo sleeves, but it could eventually be accomplished.  One student could do the alphabetical order of the cards easily and the other student needed quite a bit of guidance.

It's an ongoing project for these middle schoolers in a class for students with mild mental disabilities. Another way to do this project is to have the students gather the incorrectly-spelled words themselves and create their own Excel spreadsheets, print them out and keep the list inside their class notebooks.  If students don't use a word processor you can review recent classwork and look for misspelled words.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Letter Formation

Some students aren't too crazy about practicing their letters, especially if it's with regular pencil and paper.  How about changing it up with soft foam shapes and poster tack.  That way, your student can fidget with a purpose!

Well, the "E" on the right is a little wobbly but it looked better after a little re-do. to make the sloping sides of the "A" fit within the yellow background???

Still working on the tricky "A."

This student does not enjoy polishing the details of a project so it was frustrating for her to line up letters at 90 degree angles (like L and E).  However, having the poster tack to squeeze and smoosh made it bearable.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Exercise Video for Winter Months

Kids' Exercise Video
This is a great video for dynamic movement, including lots of proprioceptive and vestibular opps, for students to use under adult supervision.

Cost-Saving Measures--Make Your Own Chair Fidgets

One of my teachers for students with autism asked me about a band that a student's parent had sent in.  She wanted to know if it was okay to attach it to the chair legs in the student's resource classroom.  Oh, and by the way, the mom wanted me to call her.  Sure, I said.

After speaking with the very nice mom I told her I would probably put bands on a few more chair legs in the resource room, so the student would not feel singled out from among his classmates.  Theraband doesn't grow on trees so how to provide something with a similar function, but free?

Voila!  Those t-shirts I've been slicing up all fall might do the trick!  This morning I wrapped a 6" wide band of the t-shirt around one leg of the chair, then pulled with all my might to stretch it across to the other front leg.  Then, both ends of the strap were secured to the chair legs, using Vetrap (AKA Coban). 

I'm hoping it will stay in place for a long time and other students will also benefit from having the opportunity to wiggle and bop their feet around, in a quiet kind of way, during class.

Update 12-12-2013--needed to redo the Vetrap this morning since one side was sliding down.  Made sure the Vetrap was contacting the chair leg several inches above and below the band.

Update:  3-2-2014--My teacher buddy informed me that the student frequently wound the family-supplied  band around her feet while sitting, causing a potentially dangerous situation when standing up without first unwinding her feet--several "reminders" had not improved the situation.  Eek!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sharpen Your Pencils

Article on Older Drivers
You thought this post was about handwriting, correct?

Nope, it's about your writing.  How about it?  We have so much helpful info to share with folks at all stages of life's journey.  One of my OT buddies has started writing for fun and, often, for profit.  How about the rest of us joining in?  Start small by contributing a comment after you read an article that strikes home.  Build up by creating a slightly longer piece and giving it away for free to your favorite magazine as a reader blog post.  Step it up by writing an essay about a subject that is frequently mentioned in your city's magazine or local newspaper--and remember to do your homework about remuneration for such writing.

We had to write those long papers in school so we know it can be done.  It's a lot more fun when you're writing about something you know well, and enjoy.

Go for it!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Some students enjoy working together on de-cluttering their pencil boxes, tossing tiny crayon stubs and returning unnecessary supplies to the class stash.  However...

other students don't really see the purpose of doing this mundane task and aren't very engaged during the session.  What's the big deal?  I can find everything I want!  Well, their hard-working teachers don't often tell me the same story.

So, change it up!  Talk about art class and the ROY G. BIV mnemonic Roy G. Biv explanation on Wikipedia then work on arranging the broken bits of crayons in that order.  Some students may need some convincing to discard those little nubs of color, so you might measure the really short ones and toss any that are less than an mutually-agreeable minimum (2" or less???).

Have fun trying to talk some students into getting rid of all those pencils...