Prepared to Teach Exceptional Students

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is something that has always fascinated me. Perhaps it is because the cause for it is unknown, or maybe it is because of the increasing frequency of children diagnosed with ASD. Either way, as an educator I feel as though it is important to understand what this disability is, how I can teach effectively to those affected by it, and what life is like for students with ASD after they graduate. 

For one of my summer courses, I took a class called Educating Exceptional Students. I had no real expectations walking into this class, but it truly changed the way that I perceive my students with disabilities. For an assignment (see attached below) I chose to delve into my questions about students with ASD. This blog post will be a way for myself to summarize what information can be found in my paper.

The first part of my research looking into the differences found in autistic children in comparison with their normally developing counterparts. I looked into the physical, social, and behavioral differences. Physically autism is not recognizable by specific features to the naked eye. My research came across a study however that compared the facial structure of children between the ages of 8-12 with autism to those who did not have ASD. “After mapping out 17 points on faces, the researchers found significant differences between the two groups. The study found children with autism had wider eyes, and a broader upper face, compared with typically developing children. According to the study, children with autism also had shorter middle region of the face – including the nose and cheeks – as well as a wider mouth and philtrum” (Jaslow). In addition to having different facial features, those diagnosed with autism are also discovered to have heavier brains and different molecular structures of brain tissue. When looking at the social and behavioral aspects of those diagnosed with ASD, the difference becomes fairly apparent. It is my understanding that autism is directly correlated with the inability to appropriately deal with stimuli. Specifically this can be seen in interactions or relationships with people. This is where the stereotypical hand flapping and rocking stems from.

As for how educators can best accommodate for students with ASD, it is important to look into the instructional methods. Those with ASD, tend to process things visually or spatially. Asking them to lesson to a series of informational lectures is not going to help with understanding and more than likely lead to frustration on both teacher and student parts. In order to best convey information to a student with ASD, pictorial representations of tasks are the best way. This gives the child a chance to look at something and decode the information on their own time and own terms.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this research paper was the information I found on transitional services for those with ASD. I feel like it would be more accurate to say the lack of services. All through their formal primary and secondary years of education, they have a team of specialists, therapists, parents, and advocates all helping them to get to their final goal, whether this be a diploma or simply finishing high school. After they graduate the rates for programs provided, numbers of of ASD people getting jobs or graduating post-secondary programs drops dramatically. In addition to having little to no work, finding healthcare and housing options are difficult because there is no system in place to help our citizens with ASD. It is my plan that now I am more educated about ASD, I will be able to find longer term programs for my students with ASD. Because of the dramatic increase and seriousness of this disability, it is my hope that others will feel motivated to make changes for students who otherwise are stranded after high school.

Understanding and Teaching ASD

Jaslow, R. (2012, March 28). Children with autism have distinct facial features: Study. CBS News.

Video Analysis #2

Watching and learning from our peers is one of the greatest sources of authoritative knowledge. This passes down information to us that we may not experience ourselves, and helps to prepare us for the future. For this video analysis, I chose to look at the a 10th grade close reading exercise. Throughout this analysis of the video, I will be connecting aspects of instruction to the book Classroom Instruction that Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement written by Ceri Dean. 

In the opening of this video we can see a classroom which is preparing to delve into reading and understanding some complicated text. The teacher begins by explaining the goal and suggesting that students chunk up the material so they can read through multiple times and interpret slowly. I believe that she plays to the students natural desire to problem solve by saying what a complex piece this is. She relates this reading back to her own college education which aids as a hook for students and also helps them prepare ways to succeed in college.

One area that this teacher excels in is preparing and laying the structure for students in terms of note taking. Dean mentions in chapter 6 the importance of teaching students how to take notes. “Effective note taking requires students to determine what is most important and then state that information in a condensed form. Students often struggle with this strategy because note-taking strategies are not intuitive. [It is recommended that instructors] give students teacher-prepared notes, teach students a variety of note-taking formulas, and provide opportunities for students to revise their notes and use them for review” (Dean, 2012). We can see the teach utilizing this information when she does things like explains the overarching topic, is it worse to fail trying or not to try at all. This sets the students minds to be looking for information in the text that is relevant to the topic. In addition this teacher suggests, underlining main ideas, circling words they don’t understand, highlighting sentences, and writing questions in the margins of the paper.

Asking students to be this involved and prepared will help prevent any sort of confusion, embarrassment and also help with their cooperative learning. After students read through a section they do something that looks a lot like a think-pair-share with their table groups. They read the text alone, pair up as a table group and discuss what they think, and then share with the class. This allows students to gain insight from other perspectives and also prevents students from being embarrassed if there is confusion on their part.

 

Dean, C. (2012). Classroom instruction that works research-based strategies for increasing student achievement (Revised/Expanded ed.). Alexandria, Va.: ASCD.

10th Grade (Close Reading)

Generating and Testing Hypotheses (Module 7)

When thinking about the world hypothesis, our brains naturally are triggered into thinking about scientific investigation. “generating and testing hypotheses applies knowledge by using two thinking processes that can be used alone or in tandem with each other. one of these processes is deduction, which involves using general rules to make a prediction about a future event or action. induction, involves making inferences that are based on knowledge that students already have or information that is presented to them” (Dean, 2012).

I mentioned this in my previous blog in regards to finding similarities and differences, but hypothesizing is another way to help our youth understand and interpret events happening around them. It is because of this reason that using hypothesizing is something that needs to be a part of every classroom. In my art classroom, it could be something as simply as the color wheel. Asking students to predict what kind of color would be created with the combination of several is a way to not only meet state standards for the visual arts, but also asks students to perform tasks and come to their own conclusions rather than simply being instructed by a teacher.

Dean, C. (2012). Classroom instruction that works research-based strategies for increasing student achievement (Revised/Expanded ed.). Alexandria, Va.: ASCD.

Identifying Similarities and Differences (Module 6)

I believe that naturally our brain learns by finding similarities and differences to things that we already know to be true. From an education stance, asking our students to compare/contrast, or find similarities and differences is a way to help them think more critically.

In chapter 8 of Classroom Instruction that Works, Dean provides four strategies for identifying similarities and differences.”Comparing – is the process of identifying similarities between or among things or ideas. The term contrasting refers to the process of identifying differences… Classifying – is the process of organizing things into groups and labeling them according to their similarities. Creating metaphors – is the process of identifying a general or basic pattern in a specific topic and then finding another topic that appears to be quite different but has the same general pattern. Creating analogies – is the process of identifying relationships between pairs of concepts or identifying relationships between relationships” (Dean, 2012).

As an art teacher, the idea of comparing differences and finding similarities is incredibly important. In art history, we look at what the culture of the time was as a way to explain artistic choices made. I believe that teaching our children to apply this creative hypothesizing and thinking is an excellent way to prepare them to analyze the fast paced world around them.

Dean, C. (2012). Classroom instruction that works research-based strategies for increasing student achievement (Revised/Expanded ed.). Alexandria, Va.: ASCD.

Providing Recognition and Encouraging Cooperative Learning (Module 2)

Despite the fact that my history of teaching is quite limited, I have already gained much insight into understanding how to recognize my students achievement in an art classroom. It has been my observation that the kind of feedback I give my students needs to be well thought out and I need to explain my expectations well before the project begins.

Chapter 2 of Classroom Instruction that Works is based entirely off of reinforcing effort and providing recognition. It is my experience and belief that in order to get effort from your students, you need to do several things. First, I think that it is important to explain clearly to your students what is expected of them daily. For example, if we are working on an art project that day, I will ask my students to be at a certain point in the process by a specific date. In addition to making expectations clear, it is also important to attract them to an assignment. When students feel excited or interested in a learning activity or project, it has been my observation that they will put in more time and effort into the creation. The best way to get students motivated is by asking them what they want to do within certain boundaries for a project. For example, on a final project I created in a ceramics classroom, I allowed students to pick from 3 different options or create a project they wanted to with my permission. Unlike previous assignments, these students were highly motivated, classroom distractions were down, and quality of work was up. “Students’ increased sense of competence and control contributes to a positive learning environment and their motivation to learn” (Dean, 2012).

In regards to Chapter 3, Dean discusses the idea of cooperative learning. I have always been very against group projects. My memory of being forced to work with my peers usually consisted of myself picking up the slack for everyone else in the group. However, after reading this chapter on cooperative learning, I realized that my teachers had the right idea but they had not prepared us to work in situations like what they were expecting. Dean suggests three things for excellent classroom cooperative learning tasks, “1) include elements of both positive interdependence and individual accountability, 2) keep group size small, and 3) use cooperative learning consistently and systematically” (Dean, 2012). I realized that as an educator, it is my responsibility to prepare my students for the work place. One thing that I can do is I can have them practice working in a “job” like situation. In the work place, groups of people will often need to collaborate together to accomplish a project or task, by having students practice in an environment that welcomes failures and practice they will eventually succeed and become proficient team members.

Dean, C. (2012). Classroom instruction that works research-based strategies for increasing student achievement (Revised/Expanded ed.). Alexandria, Va.: ASCD.