FOCUS ON MAINSTREAMING
A few weeks ago I thought of a boy named Sean who was in the self-contained special education class, which I taught over 15 years ago. He had been mainstreamed in Math, and was a child that the other students looked up to. He was a model of what to strive for; a move toward the least restrictive environment.
I began to think about a six year old boy who I am working with. He is in a self-contained classroom where he receives ABA therapy. He is instructed to follow directions like, “Do the puzzle” and is asked which reward he is working for, which he receives after completing 2 or 3 short activities. I considered the idea of mainstreaming for him, and wondered which subject would give him the best shot at success. It occurred to me that he had a good memory for the spelling of words. “Okay,” I decided, “Spelling it is!”
STEP 1: SPELLING WORDS
Previously, I would give him letter tiles or alphabet blocks and have him spell his name and then short words (first copying from a word card with a picture on it). When he was stuck I taught him to choose the letters I told him to, and then he began to spell better and better from memory. Previously, the spelling was an end in itself, but now it was the first step in a journey toward mainstreaming.
I began our quest toward mainstreaming by asking him, “How do you spell _______?” and he answered correctly, spelling aloud each word that I put into that blank.
This success forced me to think further ahead.
“What was a first or second grader expected to do as a classroom Spelling assignment?” “What about Spelling homework or the process of taking a Spelling test?”
STEP 2: PUTTING THE SPELLING WORD INTO A SENTENCE
A. Putting a word into a sentence? Does he even understand what a sentence is? That’s such an abstract concept. I was nervous. Would he be able to do this?
I began by putting the words to a sentence on index cards (one word per card). I spread them on the floor and said, “Let’s make a sentence.” I did the first one. I arranged the mixed up cards into the sentence: The car is red. He did the sentence, I like the car, and after a few more successful attempts at making sentences, I knew he understood what was being asked of him.
B. In order to get him to make up sentences without the concrete manipulatives (cards), I made a game during which his mother and I would model making sentences before it was his turn. We used the same word “duck” to make many sentences. I wanted him to understand that it is possible to make a variety of sentences using the spelling word. That there was not only one answer. You can see the results below. We each picked a color marker. I wrote all the sentences down as they were offered. You will see that my sentences are in purple marker, his mother’s sentences are in blue, and his sentences are written with the green marker.
For his first attempt, I cued him, “The duck says…” and he replied, “quack.” I then wrote it down and had him read it aloud. I praised and encouraged him by saying, “‘The duck says quack’! That’s a great sentence! You have one point!”
His sentence, “The duck is broken” confused me, but I wrote it down. On his next turn he said, “The duck is fixed” and it all made sense. It was a mini story. First the duck was broken and then it was fixed; problem and solution!
STEP 3: CONNECTING A WORD WITH ITS MEANING
I wrote words down the left side of a piece of paper and definitions down the right side of the paper. I showed him how to draw a line from a word on the left side to the correct definition on the right side. He understood and, with practice, connected the pairs with a slightly winding or shaky line.
STEP 4: WORD FINDS & CROSSWORD PUZZLES
I wrote a small simple word find and a 4-word crossword puzzle (with clues/meanings). His mother and I took turns practicing doing these with him. Since his fine motor skills are not strong, he needed assistance with most of the pencil strokes. The concept of finding and circling the WHOLE word in a word find, not each individual letter was a bit of a challenge for him. We worked on the process of doing the crossword activity, but I realized that to make the answers legible, the use of technology/keyboarding would be necessary, especially for printing small letters.
STEP 5: WRITING EACH SPELLING WORD 5 TIMES EACH
Practicing Spelling words by repeatedly writing them is often expected of young children. I knew this little boy would have difficulty with so much writing. It was at this point that I decided to let him use keyboarding, not only to write Spelling words or Spelling sentences, but to have the skill as a back-up for whenever he became frustrated and had difficulty speaking or explaining. Perhaps he would begin to journal or express inner thoughts or feelings that we had no idea he had…like the duck that was broken, but then was fixed!
STEP 6: TAKING A SPELLING TEST
We are at the point of having to practice taking a Spelling Test.
Cat…The cat is white…Cat.
He must learn to write only the spelling word, and just listen to the sentence. I know that we will practice and he will succeed.
He is a smart little boy, and he has shown us his ability to learn new skills over and over again. Besides, his parents and I have great plans for him, and I think on some level he understands that and it pleases him.
Fingers crossed, his Child Study Team Case Manager will look at the evidence of what he has accomplished this summer and agrees that trialing him for mainstreaming in Spelling (with the support of a teaching assistant) is a really great idea!
UPDATE: He is now mainstreamed for spelling, and within weeks has earned a 100% on a spelling test that he wrote the answers to himself, and has stopped self-talking (most likely because he is in an environment in which he feels more stimulated). He is completing his spelling homework assignments, and is very proud of himself. Now we’re working on getting him prepared so that he can be mainstreamed for MATH!
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I’m Noelle Michaels, Speech and Learning Specialist, and I truly love my job!
Noelle Michaels, MA, CCC-SLP, LDT-C, * Author, Trainer, Tutor & Speech Therapist *
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