As a teacher and a parent, it seems that the story of our life is “trial and error.” When our students have needs, we try different strategies and interventions that we think and hope will support them to work toward a desired outcome. There are several valuable resources, programs, and strategies out there that have proven to be successful for many. Of course we know, one size does not fit all, so sometimes we need to tweak and adjust to find what works for each student.
The general education classroom can be a difficult environment for some students; The distractions, demands of multiple directions, and, as much as we try to prepare, the uncertainty of what is next. Add some anxiety to the mix, and this can lead to some tough days for some students. After many different “trials and errors,” I have worked to create the following, which seems to be working for one particular student. This is just an example of how getting creative with a few different resources can sometimes be the “answer.” (until it isn’t anymore, and then we tweak again!)
In a weekly Social Skills group, I have been working with 2nd graders using SuperFlex. They love the super-hero concept, and they truly relate to the Unthinkables! When the students are having a tough day, we (me, classroom teacher, aides) are able to refer to these Unthinkables and help prompt them through the moment. (available in the WAT library)
I have combined our work with SuperFlex with Sticker Strategies. We have combined some of the strategies offered by this resource as tools to “defeat” the Unthinkables. My students have their own “Flexible Thinking Book” that we add to each group. (All schools have a copy of this resource. It is also available in the WAT library)
For one student, we have reinforce the use of Flexible Thinking in the classroom with an Angry Birds Puzzle. The student is interested in Angry Birds, so earning a puzzle piece is highly motivating. Once the puzzle is complete, he earns time for a preferred activity in the classroom.
Although having these tools in place helped this particular student some, it still wasn’t enough. His anxiety in the classroom became so disruptive to his learning and participation in the classroom. The classroom teacher and I worked together to create a modified version of a work station for the classroom.
The teacher has set up an area in the corner of the classroom for the students to use as a work station. We created an Angry Birds themed visual for him. Only routine work, such as morning work, or review work is done in the work station. This offers the student a safe, expected place to work. Tasks are broken into 2 or 3 different “jobs.” Each job is in a folder. Once he finishes the job, he adds the angry bird to his board. When the visual on the board is complete, he takes a 5 minute “basket break” in his area. This has worked wonderfully for this student. The teacher is also able to utilize it when the student’s anxiety is heightened during a new task or instruction. She will have him work at his work station, and later, revisit the new concepts.
The last little nugget that has helped at the workstation: The iPad. If the student needs to copy something from the board or needs to refer to a visual on the wall, the teacher takes a picture of it so he can see it up close at his work station!
Be patient. Be creative. Know your students. Keep working to find what works best for each student. This took months to finalize as it is being used today!