Tag Archives: Autism

Dinosaur Stop Motion

In a previous post I talked about using a stop motion app on my phone to make a video with my students.  Well, it looks like we’re going to do it after all (not King Kong vs. Pterodactyl, but something that goes along with our jungle theme).  Summer school is on hold for the holiday week, so it’ll have to wait, but I thought I would take a look at a couple of videos I made with some of my fourth graders with Autism this past school year.

Their classes were doing a stop motion project all together, but both of them were going to be gone when they were filming the video because we take our students to gymnastics once a week.  I didn’t want them to miss out on this awesome project, so I downloaded a free app called Stop Animator.  I had each kid draw their own scenery and tape it on the wall, as well as arrange the dinosaurs how ever they wanted for each picture.  It was difficult to explain to them what we were doing, and we could only take 20-30 pictures before they got impatient with the project, but the smiles on their faces were worth it.

Both of them watched their videos over and over and over and over and over again, and both of them showed their videos to their classes.  It was a great project and I can’t wait to do it again with the kids I have now.


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Faith in humanity restored!

This is a clip from ABC’s “What Would You Do?”  The scenario involves a family at a diner with their son who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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My car smells like finger paint

Welp, another day another craft.  I am really not the crafty sort.  I have plenty of ideas, but zero patience for actually executing them.  But now that I’m teaching elementary school kids I really have no choice but to follow through with my ideas.

This means that my car’s a hot mess (and I mean this in the most literal sense.  It’s been over 100 degrees everyday this week) full of rolls of tin foil and rainbow yarn left over from my Father’s Day prank (yes, I did actually have some left over), popsicle sticks, construction paper, glue, scissors, and finger paint.  I could probably make a pretty decent profit selling craft supplies out of the back seat of my car to desperate stay-at-home moms that need to keep their kids busy.

Anywho, so far this week the kids have made two paper bag puppets – a monkey and a parrot.  They seemed to really like both of the crafts, come to think of it, they like all crafts.  It doesn’t matter what we do, they always love it.  I could give them each one broken crayon and a dirty piece of paper and they would still have fun.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I used the same trick with some of the spots as I did with these flower/stars from the jungle collage.  They’re just cut out circles from dried paper plates we used for painting a few days before.  I noticed that today the kids were much more comfortable with the abstract-ness of the spots than they were before.  With the exception of the little girl that made this red bird, they all were willing to use them on their birds.  I’m all about helping these kids get outside of their teeny tiny comfort zones.

It wasn’t until after I sent them home with their dry monkeys that I realized I had missed a golden opportunity.  How amazingly cool would it have been to have a monkey vs. parrot fight!  King Kong vs. Pterodactyl right in my own classroom.  I could have used the stop motion app on my phone and pulled out the creepy barbie doll in my school-issued laptop case.  It would have been epic.  But, as my grandma used to say, “If we would’ve had some ham we would’ve had some ham and eggs, if we would’ve had some eggs.”  That’s just how it goes sometimes.

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To play or not to play?

As you may know, I’m teaching kids with special needs this summer. The school day is only 3 hours long and we only go to school three days a week. That’s not a whole lot of time to get to know the kids, and with all the IEP stuff and data collection we have to do it can be hard to find time to have fun with them.

We do, however, have a twenty minute recess. Usually recess is a plan time for most teachers while a few are on duty. But in summer school everyone is on duty – all of the teachers and all of the aides. So a typical recess at summer school is ten or so adults standing off to the side chatting while about fifteen kids play on the playground.

It may be wrong, but I love the unhelpful high school teacher.

I have to admit that adult conversation is a nice break from the kid songs and nonsense that usually come out of my mouth when I’m teaching, but recently I’ve realized that retreating into the adult corner is somewhat of a missed opportunity. Recess is really the only time in our short day that requires no data collection or teaching. This is a sacred time specifically and exclusively reserved for having fun.

Every recess I’m torn between hanging out with the cool teachers and going down the slide with the little stinkers that keep my stock in Excedrine in the black. Some days I choose the cool, jaded teachers and other days I choose the stinkers, but I’ve noticed a definite change in my view towards the kids when I play with them. Student A isn’t IEP goal 3.1.4, she’s the brave little one that likes to go down the slide backwards (this is totally against the rules btw). Student B isn’t just working on extending patterns and finding rhymes, he’s building a strong friendship with a kid in another class by playing tag.

I’m not a mushy, sappy, lovey-dovey person with an unrealistic and rose-colored view of “being the change” or whatever, but it is my experience that spending a few minutes to enjoy my students does have a positive affect on their education. On the days I play with them, something kind of amazing happens – they’re more willing to follow directions and stay on task. I really don’t know why. I’m not more lenient and I’m not their friend. In fact, I’ve gotten more strict with them as the days go on. Maybe they feel more comfortable with me? I don’t know. But whatever the reason I guess I would just encourage anyone else who works kids with special needs to spend a few minutes to just relax and have fun with them.

Related Article: Power of Playtime by Science Daily

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I wanted to share something I started using in the classroom this week.  It’s a website called classdojo.com.  It gives each student an avatar (or you can upload their pictures) and lets you give and take away points for positive or negative behaviors.

Here’s a screen shot of the Demo class (and no, I did not play favorites when I awarded points.  Ok, maybe just a little…).

The positive and negative behaviors are completely customizable.  Here’s what some of the standard positive and negative behaviors are:

And here are some things I might add for my class:

It also gives you an overall performance breakdown.  This one is from the Demo class:

What makes this site so awesome is I can award points with my phone.  So if we’re on the play ground and little Angelina Jolie decides she wants to go down the slide backwards, stop half way, stand up, and yell at the people patiently waiting in line behind her, I can take away a point right then and there (not that any situation even remotely like this occurs on a daily basis…).

The kids have really gotten in to this.  On Tuesday we took a class vote for what reward the kids with a certain number of points would get at the end of the week.  I think they really like having a concrete list of behaviors that are positive and negative.  So much of the behaviors that are “acceptable” in our culture and society are behaviors we learn through observation.  But these kids don’t have the skills needed to pick up on the social queues that can make or break someone’s social life.  Hopefully this will help them out a little bit.

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Chewbacca showed up today

Today was the first day of the second week of summer school, and other than one of the little girls affectionately trying to choke me with my scarf, it went well (she was just admiring it and thought it was pretty.  she didn’t realize it was tied around my airway).  I might have to rethink my choice of accessories.

After everyone finished their breakfast we went back to the classroom to start our morning meeting.  One of the things I ask the kids to do is to sign in on the smart board.  Today one of the kids thought it would be appropriate to to make Chewbacca noises as he signed in.  He wrote his own name, but he sounded just like Chewy.  It was great.  I wonder if he takes requests.

We also did a jungle collage.  I cut up pieces of construction paper and aluminum foil, but then I got really crazy.  You know those paper plates you use to put paint on for kids when they’re painting a picture?  DO NOT THROW THOSE AWAY!  Set aside and let them dry because they can be an awesome addition to another craft later on (I learned this trick from the Firehouse Art Center).

Here are some examples:

I thought my flower/stars looked pretty awesome, but only a couple of kids used them.  Maybe they were too abstract and unrealistic.  All well, I’ll try again some other time.



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French Impressionists

I asked the kids to paint a jungle.  This is what I got.

Those brownish/blackish spots on the top middle picture are monkeys and the red lines are snakes.  The picture on the top left is of trees – there are no animals in his jungle.  The one on the top right kind of looks like a rhino, but I don’t think that’s what he was going for, maybe an elephant?  I don’t know.  The middle right picture is also trees.

Watching the kids make these paintings was the highlight of my day so far.  I honestly don’t see anything remotely resembling a jungle in any sense of the word, but they did have a lot of fun making them and that was the main purpose of the activity anyway.

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