We finished off 2019 with three very successful Maker Days. Grade 5 and 6 students created needle felting projects, while the grade 7’s branched out and tried their hands at string art. Students were given their medium and from there had full creative control over their projects. Throughout this process students demonstrated organizational and problem solving skills, as well as resilience and grit. These Maker Day projects are a very important part of our programming here at RLA. This is one of the many school-wide initiatives that has been developed out of our collaboration time. Through these projects we are able to cover several curricular outcomes in a way that is engaging, hands-on, and accessible to all students in our school. The final projects were incredible and really showcased the talent and ability of all students.
We have kicked off 2020 with some team teaching time! Each classroom teacher has been paired up with one of our team members. Our focus was on teaching new tech tools to students to help enhance their learning. This was done under the UDL umbrella, and all students were included in these sessions. The idea stemmed from our visit in September from the SETBC team. Everyone is so grateful for all the access we have to assistive tech! We are discovering that it is hard to teach something to students that you, as a teacher, are learning as well. Teachers expressed that it would be amazing to have a colleague teaching with them when introducing new tech and tools as a sort of “safety net”; someone to help facilitate and troubleshoot if things went sideways. This is something we have talked about doing for several years now, and we are so excited that we are able to do it through this grant.
Some of our specific focus during these collaborations was the Read and Write for Google extension. Our staff level of comfort and confidence with this set of tools varies greatly, yet we know how much of an impact the tools can have. In one class we focused on tools for building vocabulary in a content area, while in another we cover the toolbar in a more broad fashion with stations. It was important to us that these team teaching sessions were not “cookie cutter”, that each teacher was able to access support for something that would be useful to both them and their students.
In other classes we focused on pairing the assistive technology with the “Get Ready, Do, Done” executive functioning tool designed by Sarah Ward and Kristen Jacobsen. While one teacher was explaining the lesson, breaking it down into sections, the other was able to demonstrate what the students would be doing. This meant that students were getting oral, written and visual instructions; ensuring that all students would have full understanding of not only the task at hand, but also the tools available to assist students through the process.
We have found that some of our most reluctant learners are the ones who would benefit most from these tools. However, they are easily frustrated when something “doesn’t work”. Through the opportunity for team teaching, we were able to instantly troubleshoot any issues with technology that popped up so that these students saw the benefits of the tools, instead of getting hung up on the frustration when something didn’t go quite right. Teaming up for these lessons was extremely valuable for reaching our vulnerable students with the assistive technology! Statements such as, “this is so much easier”, “this is way faster”, and “I finished 3 paragraphs” were heard from students who participated in the lessons.
Staff found the opportunity “meaningful and special” and would absolutely like the chance to do more team teaching lessons. Having both staff and students excited about this initiative is incredibly motivating for our school culture and we can’t wait to do this again!