Tuesday, January 24, 2012

[Student Stories] Going Invisible

I have a couple of students with Autism or Autistic-like behaviors (an actual thing when the diagnosis isn't clear on an educational level).  Without going into a long discussion (yet*), let me oversimplify by saying that some students with Autism struggle with social skills, understanding social cues and non-verbal communication, and it is quite quite common for a student with Autism to be very literal in their thinking.  The teaching standards for Language Arts in the middle grades in my state include lots of figurative language.  Good expository and narrative writing includes lots of figurative language. I am constantly trying to teach these kiddos nuance, metaphor, allusion, and a sense of themselves outside what they can see and hear. Or, failing that, how to navigate the world around them.  Below is a conversation I had recently with one of these kiddos.  On the surface it seems like an odd conversation.  Threaded in there though, are some beads of brilliance on his part.  Let me 'splain...

Kiddo: This week is going by slow isn't it?

Me: (sighing, rubbing my forehead) Yes, it really is.

Kiddo: Is it really, or like 8th-graders-are-literal kind of slow. [BEAD #1]

Me: (starting to smile) Nah, I think it really is.

Kiddo: (mischievous twinkle in his eye) And maybe slower because we have 8th Grade Disease? [BEAD #2]

Me: [smiling] Yeah, maybe it is.

Kiddo: And would it be better if I became invisible? [BEAD #3]

Me: Maybe if we all did, yes.

Kiddo:  See you tomorrow.

Me:  Not if we're invisible

Kiddo: Yeah.

BEAD #1--I always tell them that it's okay if they see things literally at first, because that's what 8th graders are really good at.  I play out scenarios where 8th graders are literal, and then we try to be more figurative.  He realizes that the week going slowly isn't literal, and he's turning that over in his mind.  He caught himself being figurative (yay!).  Also, we use hyphenated modifiers in our writing, and he made it clear he was using one in his talking (you have to find it yourself.)

BEAD #2--Here Kiddo is showing me that he remembers something I said.  He sees that I'm tired, that it was a rough day.  He knows I talked to the 8th graders about having 8th Grade Disease earlier, and he is trying to connect.  This is huge. He knows he was a butt-head himself earlier, and wants to fix it.  The fact that he is trying to reach out of his own head in a social way is a big step for him and a stretch. He also does it quite well, which is super-cool.

BEAD #3--Earlier that week (actually the day before, but as I mentioned, it had been a long week), Kiddo was not paying attention to our conversation about the word "uncanny" and kept talking about how being invisible would be cool.  Even after explaining that invisibility was more of a magic power or super power, he kept blurting out examples using invisibility.  Finally, I tried my "pushing-in-instead-of-pushing-out" trick (I just named that right there. Did you see how I did that?) and stopped fighting him.  I challenged him to try to put invisibility into our conversation five more times before class ended, or before I did--whichever came first (not before I ended, but before I used it five times.  Heh.  That sounds funny so I'm leaving it).  My next example sentence was "It is uncanny how Kiddo has the ability to incorporate invisibility into each of our conversations." and it went from there. Here, he is bringing up an old joke.  This is a big social skill he is learning.  Connecting to a previous conversation like that, and continuing a joke in an appropriate way. I was tickled pink. Or purple.  Or some color that you can be tickled to be.

So you see my caped friends, a ten-second conversation at the end of a long day can, in fact, be full of learning.  What a lucky duck I am to be able to experience it! It's... uncanny! Or invisible.

*NOTE--Two of my caped family members know way more about this than I do.  They study it and work with it and can explain it much better.  I am glad to try, but think I will outsource this particular topic to the experts.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

[Photo of the Week] Pickle Skins

I noticed J. nibbling at his pickles.  Here is the conversation that followed (he speaks very precisely.):

Me: J.  Whatcha doin'?
J: I am peeling my pickles.
Me: How come?
J:  I do not like the skin.
Me:  That's awesome.  May I take a picture?
J:  Oh.  Yes.  Do you like it?
Me:  Yes.  I like it very much.  It makes me happy.
J:  I can make them into the shape of an octopus if you would like it better?
Me: No thanks.  I like them just the way they are.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

[Quote of the Week] QOW #21

Me: Okay dudes, there's something we need to get done today.  Third period started on it today, and it didn't go very well.  In fact, I was kind of frustrated.  I'll tell you what it is, and maybe you have an idea for how it can go better?

A: We could just pay attention.  I bet it would go better if we did that.


Monday, January 9, 2012

[Teaching Writing] Many Good Things A.K.A Fresh is the New Cool.

More specifically, 100 Good Things.

I discovered a new magazine recently.  I was drawn in by the cover (see photo to the left).  True, the word GOOD screams out at you.  This may have been the first thing I saw.  Additionally, the cover is made from a matte-artsy-mod-hipster material and I wanted to pick it up.  Once I did, the articles and ads were equally fascinating.

Even better, I found my first-day-back-at-school-super-cool-lesson idea within the non-glossy-hip-and-cool pages.

Today we began our own 100 Good Things list using this interactive list as our mentor text.

Some examples from the list that caught our eye:
  • Gaming is the new teaching tool.
  • Glitterbombing is the new yarnbombing.
  • Supper Club is the new restaurant
  • Touch is the new click
  • Twitter Spoiler is the new TV Recap
  • Doing is the new Talking
  • AIRBNB is the new Craigslist
  • Pie is the new cupcake

Here are the rough ideas from our list:

  • Modern Warfare is the new Halo
  • Green Lantern is the new Superman
  • Dubstep is the new Techno
  • iPad is the new iPod
  • Teased hair is the new Bump-it
  • Google Earth is the new Google Maps
  • "Smile Bracelets" are the new "Silly Bands"
  • Facebook is the new MySpace
  • Google+ is the new Facebook
  • Texting is the new calling
  • Sears is the new Kmart
  • Fresh is the new cool
  • Astin Kucker is the new Charlie Sheen
  • Takis are the new Flamin' Hot Cheetos
  • Blu-Ray is the new DVD 

Just a little window into the souls of our next generation.  Some hopeful, some scary, yes?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

[SDAWP] Shameless Self-Promotion

I LOVE the people in this publication.  I am equally tickled that this is where I got to be "published" for the first time.  So, in honor of shameless self-promotion...  here I am!