Story Props

No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get Beth to pay attention to stories beyond a certain level. Like the “Pete the Cat” and “Dr. Seuss” level. If I attempted a reading of a story like Little Red Riding Hood, Tortoise and the Hare, Bear Snores On, or other similar books that were more sophisticated in language and concept, she just seemed to have no interest. I tried verifying she understood each page (classic who, what, where, when, why questioning), simplifying language, re-phrasing it for her, and buying simplified versions of some stories. Still, no interest. What was missing? I wasn’t sure at the time, but I decided to try story props. Many story props (felt board, puppets, play sets, etc.) exist for preschool stories, but they are often hard to find or do not exist for the level-up stories. So making these props was no small feat, but in the end it was worth it.

I understand now, the biggest thing missing for her was inference. The more complicated the story, the more you have to infer what is not on the pages. She was not paying attention because she simply didn’t get it. For example, Bear Snores On and other bear books by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman. The characters move around to various places but you don’t see them making the journey. On one page of one book a character is in a hole, then he is out the next page. The actual coming out of the hole is not shown. In another book the characters go through a variety of actions to take care of their sick friend bear, but a lot of the actions are implied. Beth needed to see it and do it to understand. Another huge problem with the bear books was the concept that other words or phrases have the same meaning as many other words and phrases in the world. In other words, Beth was not inferring unknown words from the pictures and hints in the other text. Through saying over and over while using the story props, this “means” she finally got the meaning of the word “means” and that there are a lot of words and phrases in the world that mean the same thing. As another example, the Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie books. Beth didn’t know that the characters were talking back and forth until we acted it out. It is essentially an inference problem, because the author never uses “said” or “says” in the books and there were so many back and forth exchanges. The above are just examples of how we can never take for granted that many kids with autism must be specifically taught concepts that those of us without autism and language delays do naturally.

Kids with autism primarily have a communication condition. It is not enough to question them on who, what, where, when, why and then hope they magically connect the pieces, which is unfortunately the approach of most reading programs for kids with autism based on what I saw in Beth’s K classroom and from what other parents have told me. There was not a single puppet or story prop in her K classroom before I pulled Beth out, but there were a lot of flash cards with single words. I strongly feel these kids need to see what is happening to connect ideas, but a lot of people are focused on making short term gains with flash cards because it is easier to collect data, it is less expensive, and it is easier to show progress. But later on, almost all the kids with autism I know in classes like Beth’s get stuck at comprehension. Have we lost the art of story telling? Have we sacrificed teaching comprehension and fostering connection of ideas for basic drills of single ideas in the autism classroom?  I think we should at least ask if this is part of the problem and if more efforts towards teaching comprehension should be introduced earlier in the process.

Below are some samples of story props I have created or bought that really worked to help Beth appreciate and understand these stories. In some cases, these props just added a new appreciation and a deeper understanding of old favorites, like Pete the Cat. In the other cases it was like a light bulb went on for her where there was absolutely no light before. It would take me an eternity to write down how I found or made all these things, but in general…stuffed animals, Folkmanis finger puppets, and figures from Amazon (Toob, Safari, U.S. Toy, Schleich-use half price coupons for Michael and AC Moore craft stores, if an animal doesn’t exist, like a mole, you may have to chop off some body parts and/or use acrylic paint!), felt, painting and cutting up boxes, calico critters / doll house / fairy garden accessories, and finding someone who sews (thank you Judy…the bear quilt was amazing and Pet the Cat’s groovy buttons are a big hit) can get you a long way. If you have specific questions about how I did something please contact me (tammy.lynn.graham@gmail.com). I will add more story props to this post as I make them.

Bear Wants More, Bear Snores On and Other Bear Stories

Bear Wants More

Sample concepts: Bears sleep all winter and wake up hungry and thin in spring, they eat a lot when they wake up, cave and the different names for cave, different forest animal names, decorating, strawberry patch, clover patch, fishing process, bears eat fish and berries, if you eat too much you get too big (and can’t even get back in the cave in this case), picnic is eating outside. You need two bears…one bigger that can’t fit back through the cave door after eating.

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Bear Snores On

Sample concepts: Bears sleep all winter but many other animals don’t, friends were scared when they woke the bear but he was just sad because he missed the party, making popcorn, tea

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Bear’s New Friend

Sample concepts: the new friend owl is shy and hides from new people in a tree and in a hole, misunderstanding shy for someone not liking you, being scared when the owl jumps out, asking “Who?”

 

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Bear Says Thanks

Sample concepts: sharing, having different things one can share, different foods, being thankful

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Bear Feels Sick

Sample concepts: feeling sick, taking care of loved ones (with food, drink, cold cloth, checking fever, worrying), illness can be transferred to others, feeling well

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Bear Feels Scared

I found that after I did the above, I didn’t need the props for this one. But what a great book. Concepts: being lost and scared, having friends come search for you, feeling safe again. This was my favorite book of all of them!

Pete the Cat

Pete the Cat Groovy Buttons

My friend Judy made the shirt and velcro buttons (I had to paint one with acrylic paint to match the color in the story). The doll is from Amazon. She LOVED popping them off. The best part was showing Beth the buttons rolling away.

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Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes

pete the cat

This Little Folks felt set (purchased from Amazon) is great to show Pete stepping in things, staining his shoes, then having everything wash away when steps in the bucket (add all the layers and then take all the layers off when it washes and it tells the story perfectly).

Elephant and Piggie (Mo Wellims)

There is a Bird on Your Head!, Today I Will Fly!, and Can I Play Too?

Main Concepts: Friendship, being silly, inclusion and acceptance, humor, conversation with a friend

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The Mitten and The Hat (Jan Brett)

The Hat

Sample Concepts: Hanging clothes to dry on a clothes line, naming clothing and animals, teasing others and hurting their feelings, silly (animals wearing clothes)

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The Mitten

Sample Concepts: the concept of squeezing into something and stretching out something, silly (dump the animals out and make a big deal of the sneeze-that makes an impression!), knitting mittens (I used felt, but knitted mittens would be even better for this story…then you could teach making clothes with yarn), easy re-telling of past events (what happened? who stretched out the mitten?)

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In the Tall, Tall Grass and In a Small, Small Pond

Sample concepts: many different names for movements, animal names, where animals live (pond, grass, ant hill), animals eat bugs, berries, and sip flower nectar

In the Tall, Tall Grass

The bat finger puppets (Folkmanis) were a big hit because of the way their wings float.

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In the Small, Small Pond

Good luck finding a crayfish…just use a small lobster.

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The Golden Egg Book

Sample Concepts: Various actions (rolling down a hill-use pillows under a blanket to make a hill, kicking, jumping on, etc), guessing what is inside something, being lonely and making friends

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Rosie’s Walk

Sample concepts: prepositions, navigation, slapstick comedy (the fox is chasing the chicken but hits himself with a rake, falls into a pond, gets covered with flour, lands in hay, upsets a bee hive). The farm play set is from Amazon (Storytime toys) but any farm toy can be used.

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Update Post on Homeschooling. Goodbye Montessori, It’s Been Fun.

Sorry I have taken an absence from writing with absolutely no explanation. Beth can do a lot more work and fun things now, so we have been busy!  A few people have asked me how Montessori is going. The short answer is it isn’t. We hit the addition/subtraction boards with math and she hated them. I looked at the other math boards and went…whoa. This is not right for her. We got a motor planning and small attention boost from doing the Montessori program up to that point, but it was time to move on (I maintained the geography program, solid shapes, hundreds board, and bought other materials for maintenance of concepts). Here is what we are doing now:

Reading Anything and Everything Beth Will Read. 

We made it through about 1/2 in the public school common core materials I borrowed (Harcourt Trophies, first grade). Wow, the material ramped up quickly in terms of length of the stories, which is extremely frustrating for a kid who is reading the stories aloud and has expressive language issues. At that point I paused and did motivating readers to boost fluency.  The Tug the Pup series was her favorite fiction mini reader set and is worth checking out. http://www.amazon.com/Learn-Read-Tug-Pup-Friends/dp/0062266896. Beth has improved a lot using materials she likes.  Her fluency is better and she has less errors, better tracking (she is still using her finger to track and I just occasionally bump her finger back gently when she makes an error so she can try again), less guessing at words, and better ability to start on the far left and find the next line (dyspraxia, crossing mid-line issues, and atypical occulomotor apraxia, how we hate thee).

Language, Language, Language.

We spent several months this year working in this book:

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I could write a very long post on this book, but I don’t have time so here is a quick summary. Bottom line is I recommend trying it.

Purpose: As the book descriptions says, “Upon successful completion of the program, children are able to understand and talk about: past, present, and future events in their home life, such as eating, playing, bathing, and dressing past, present, and future events in the outside world, such as visits to the supermarket, a trip to the zoo, and activities at school simple stories and other early literacy skills Mastery of these skills enables children to become more active participants in the world around them. The program may be implemented by a parent, teacher, therapist, or other dedicated adult. Who is the program for? The program is for children who meet the following criteria: In language—the ability to say at least two words in sequence, either spontaneously or through imitation, such as “go home,” “bye bye,” “want cookie.”

What you need: A lot of patience while you hunt down all the manipulatives for the program. The table in the book had useless links, so I suggest going with ebay loving family & you and me happy together dolls. The other manipulatives you can find on amazon (Toobs, etc).

What I learned and liked about the program: I learned that Beth likes models and they help her pay attention better. Screw flashcards, models are where it is at for her. I also learned to show Beth items and discuss them in view using present tense, then hide them under the table to talk about the items in past tense. I learned many other things, but these were the biggies. The author had extremely well thought out lesson plans that progressed very nicely. I have never seen anything this good in any system in terms of laying out speech lessons. Also, the generalization was very well thought out. And it made me realize why the VB-Mapp is total shit (but that is an angry rant for another time).

What made me scream in frustration: The author advised the teacher/parent to be business like and to restrain hands to get the kids to speak. I am sorry, but WTH? This is proof that old school Lovaas is alive and well in autism therapies.  I ignored that advice. I bought the previous book by the same author and it ended up in the trash (Spectacular Bond…more behavioral therapy gone bad). I bought the book after and didn’t find it to be that helpful. And yet, I am happy we did this book (sans the Lovaas crap). Also, although I liked that the author worked on motor planning (putting pictures in order, etc) before ever working on expressive language, when she asked my kid to remember things in order that I couldn’t even remember, I drew the line and moved on. It also would be better if the lessons were a bit more functional. Hug the doll…good to do. Hug a truck?  My kid looked at me like I was nuts and I agreed it was nuts and we just skipped it.

Did it work?: Yes a little. She definitely talks more. She is less frustrated when I asked her to tell a story with 3 part story cards. She more easily says whole sentences. She now has some ability to use past tense and suddenly started telling me where we were going when we were driving around (!). But getting her to want to speak like the book promised of her own volition hasn’t come yet. But I will keep applying the concepts with our speech therapist using play models.

There are language activities we are doing other than this book, notably positional /prepositional words. I have literally every game out there and I will try to write a summary post on these in the near future.

Lakeshore, Lakeshore, Lakeshore.

Basically, my house looks like a Lakeshore store. And now we have started buying the more expensive Lakeshore items. You get what you pay for, believe me!  Lakeshore is awesome and I am absolutely appalled that the school I pulled her from either didn’t allocate the money or had no knowledge of how wonderful their products are (and we have a flagship store nearby, so there is no excuse for that).

http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/

SuperDuper Publications Chipper Chat.

I have bought many Super Duper Publications products in the past and I was underwhelmed. But again, you get what you pay for!  Recently I bought the uber expensive Chipper Chat games and finally found the right products for us. There are other Chipper Chats, but we started with this and it is great:

http://www.amazon.com/Basic-Concepts-Chipper-Chat-Magnetic/dp/1607230860/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1453729817&sr=8-1&keywords=basic+chipper+chat

My kid just loves making the magnetic chips jump on the wand at clean up time. So I have been using these chips and wand for every bingo-like game we own now.

Math-U-See

We started over with math, because the common core Go Math from the school district was getting ridiculously busy in terms of page layout, and just ridiculously stupid in general. We are using Math-U-See, a homeschooling curriculum…what a breath of fresh air! The entire very long first book is a “don’t have to master” book. They introduce a wide range of K and 1st grade topics to give the kids a good overview of 1-100, counting, adding, subtracting, skip counting, etc. The idea is to expose and promote good feelings about math (what a concept, take that common core). The program has great manipulatives too. We finished the very long intro Primer book and we are moving on to the next book (Alpha).

http://www.mathusee.com/

Writing

After about a year of just letting Beth write sloppy, I finally tried to improve her penmanship. I am happy to report she is starting to get the “neatness” concept a little. A small but important step. She can practice with the dry erase board products and finally has enough control that she doesn’t fly outside the lines with abandon! Go us!

I am sure I am forgetting something very important, but I hope this helps someone out there. The important thing is to keep trying new things and keep flipping homeschool supplies on ebay to cover the expense.

Adventures with Montessori and Autism: Geography

Traditional Montessori geography is a hands-on system with a globe, a continents of the world flat map puzzle, six countries within continents puzzles, and a flags puzzle. To learn the names of continents and countries, there are control maps separate from the puzzles. Here is a pictorial summary (products can be purchased relatively cheaply from ebay):

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                 World Globe

Montessori Geography Puzzles

        Continent/Country Puzzles

United States Puzzle

                United States Puzzle

North America Control Map

North America Control Map

World Map with Flags

                     World Map with Flags

As with most things Montessori, I had to alter the curriculum for Beth. She has significant language delays and memorizing new material is not easy for her, so I don’t need her to know every country of the world and their flags at this point. For now we are focusing on connecting the globe to the flat world map, continent names, our country name and flag (United States), and familiar states (those she lives in or has traveled to). The control maps didn’t work for her, so we resorted to using trimmed post it notes so she could easily stick the names of continents and countries directly on the globe and puzzles. To cut costs, I am using a magnetic united states map and I made a little flag from dollar store flag stickers stuck to a tooth pick and just used play-doh as the anchor on the North America Puzzle. Connecting the continents, countries, and states to things Beth can see and experience is the only way I truly see Beth understanding geography. So I am using a combination of direct experience, videos, and toys to help her make the connection between real world and geography globes and maps. Here is a summary of our current program:

Globe and World Flat Map

            Globe and World Flat Map Puzzle

World Map with Sticky Note Labels

                      World Map Puzzle

In addition to the above globe, map, and trimmed sticky notes with continent labels, this was a great video to introduce Beth to world geography and help her memorize the continents:

Also, Beth and I watch a lot of nature videos, which is helping her connect what a continent looks like to the animals and people who inhabit it. In addition, we periodically read these books and play with this puzzle:

Books about Continents (Scholastic Rookie Read About Geography)

Books about Continents (Scholastic Rookie Read About Geography)

World Map with Animals

World Map with Animals (ebay screen shot because I am lazy, http://www.ebay.com/itm/World-Continent-National-Flag-Animal-Building-Educational-Puzzle-Montessori-/181335225815?var=&hash=item2a386bf5d7)

North America Puzzle

                North America Puzzle

North America Puzzle with United States Flag

North America Puzzle with United States Flag (dollar store stickers, toothpick, play doh…saved a mint on a fancy Montessori flag map)

United States Magnetic Map

United States Magnetic Map (Imaginetics brand)

Along with the magnetic United States map above, Beth loves this app:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kids-maps-u.s.-map-puzzle/id445921010?mt=8

Short of renting an RV and hitting the road, I was trying to figure out how to “show” Beth America and associate landmarks, monuments, and animals to each state. This series looks promising, so it is next up on our geography journey:

http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/shows/aerial-america/701

Coin Identification and Sorting

Beth and I have been working on coin identification all year. We have tried everything and we are very close to mastery, so I thought I would share all that we have tried in hopes that some of these things will work for other struggling learners out there. The first step for Beth (and for any kid) was to find out an association that she could make to each coin (1). For Beth, pennies are brown, dimes are small, quarters are big, and nickels have a smooth thick edge works for her (smooth and thick are concepts we covered at length in Montessori). But still the expressive language for coin names does not automatically pop out of her mouth even though she understands their characteristics, so she needed lots of practice and exposure to coins (and their variations which is maddening in the U.S. -nickles have two different heads, pennies have all sorts of backs). Ideally, the activities would be something she can do mostly or all on her own to minimize frustration. Of course we also work on “give me a penny” and “what is this?” But it is so much better if Beth can practice on her own with the types of activities shown below.

Coin Sorting Mats

The first thing we tried was coin collection mats. Unfortunately to Beth a circle is a circle and she thought throwing a penny in a nickel or quarter circle was a match. So this did not work very well for her.

 

Coin Sorting on Mats

Coin Sorting on Mats

Coin Sorting Using Coin Collection Folders and Tubes

My next attempt was to change the mats into something with recessions so that she understood we were sorting by size, not just shape. I bought some used Whitman coin collecting folders (https://www.whitman.com/store/Inventory/Browse/Whitman-Folders) on ebay, cut out one panel for each coin, blocked out the writing with a black marker, and wrote the coin name on top. I was a little disappointed that the coins did not easily slip into the recessions, even after I pounded in several coins with a hammer!  But Beth did not seem to mind…she just set them in the recesses and did not obsess about pressing them in (I can see this really bothering some children though). These worked okay, but trying to get her to say the coin name for each coin was hard because she had to keep reading the name at the top and her focus was on the array of coins and not on the overall category.

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Coin Folder Sorting

 

Close up of two coin folders

Close up of two coin folders

Beth Hard at Work

Beth Hard at Work

We also tried coin tubes (http://www.air-tites.com/coin_tubes.htm#.VWhFxflVhHw), which I bought on ebay. I carved out a holder for each tube in a foam board. This worked better than the folders because there was no array of coins to steal her attention and the focus was on the coin name. But it was a little hard to judge the size of the clear tube relative to the coin size for say the dime versus the penny. Of course I still had to prompt her many times to carefully look at the coin in her hand and say the coin name before she became more independent. At first it worked better to just use two tubes at a time, so I had to remove and block the names of the other tubes.

Coin Tube Sorting

Coin Tube Sorting

Coin Sorting with Boxes

In order to keep the focus on the coin name and not the array, and because the tubes and folders still did not give the ideal prompt for size, I started experimenting with boxes. First I tried just throwing the coins in a box with a card label on top. Of course this was not errorless and she made many errors with this approach.

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Box/Card Coin Sorting

 

 

Beth, Hard at Work Yet Again

Beth Hard at Work (Yet Again)

Finally, I got to the semi-errorless, size-based, focus-on-coin-name approach that worked best for Beth! I bought stiff cardboard craft boxes from a craft store and put my X-acto knife to work (just make the slit a little smaller than the coin, then force the coin through and move it around in the opening to enlarge it to the exact size of each coin). Then I pasted cards on top. These worked the best because the coin name is right near the slot and you can’t fit the quarter in anything but the quarter box and the nickel and penny are partially errorless. Because the coin name was right in front, it prompted her to say the name better than all the other arrangements above.

Coin Sorting Boxes

Coin Sorting Boxes

Close-up of 2 Coin Sorting Boxes

Close-up of 2 Coin Sorting Boxes

Other Coin Identification Ideas

This cash register says the name of each coin when you put them in the slot on the left. It was helpful to get us part way to receptive identification (http://www.amazon.com/Learning-Resources-Pretend-Teaching-Register/dp/B0006N8X3M/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1432898380&sr=8-3&keywords=cash+register).

Learning Resources Pretend & Play Teaching Cash Register

Learning Resources Pretend & Play Teaching Cash Register

These types of search and find worksheets are all over the web. I like this site for easy worksheets:

http://www.math-salamanders.com/kindergarten-money-worksheets.html

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There are other tools out there I am sure, but we are sticking with the boxes, the cash register, and worksheets for our final stretch of coin identification. Good luck and I hope the above helps someone out there!

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(1) Try to find an association that makes the most sense for each child. I suggest a lot of observation…sometimes kids associate more with the back or certain characteristics of coins rather than size. For us, size seems to work fairly well so far.

 

 

Adventures with Montessori and Autism: Color Box 2 and Beginner Dressing Frames

Color Box 2

The first two color boxes in Montessori are used for color matching and identification (1). Beth knew the colors in color box 1 well, so I started with color box 2, which contains the colors in color box 1 plus other colors. Beth knew most of the colors in color box 2 at the start of this work, but sometimes confused brown, gray, and black. As always, the problem wasn’t so much the overall goal, matching the colors and color identification, it was the building process used with the color tiles during the activity. The book I am following wanted Beth to randomize the color tiles and then build columns, as show in this video:

The problem was that Beth hates randomizing the color tiles and is driven to line the pairs up horizontally (I believe due to an autistic tendency and/or motor planning impairment and/or hyper focus on a part of the material instead of looking at the whole process).  I got a lot of comments after stating similar randomization and lining up issues with the pink tower in a previous post, and I think I was somewhat misunderstood in my intentions. I don’t care if Beth prefers lining things up and she can do that if she wants to most of the time (although she doesn’t choose to line things up unless I ask her to do these types of activities). The problem is Beth is so limited in the number of motor plans she makes, her tendency to line things up and continue initial motor plans is preventing her from experiencing new motor plans. I am trying to help her with her motor planning, so I believe it is worth encouraging her to create different patterns to expand her motor planning abilities. Also, Beth’s tendency to make a long line of the color tiles horizontally caused her to lose her place and make errors. So clearly her tendency to line the color tiles in one long line is at odds with accomplishing the goal of making color matches. Here we go again…I had to create another work around.

I took two approaches to having Beth make independent color matches.  In the first approach, I lined up half of the set in one long line, randomized the other matching half within the box, then had her match in a two-row format. She did this task easily. In this video I show her using this method and she demonstrated that she knows the colors in the color box (we did not have to do a full 3 stage language lesson, since she was already close to knowing all the colors and she quickly sorted out her confusion with brown, gray, and black):

In the second approach, I taped pieces of material in a two-column format to poster board (the same material I used to make her pink tower, brown stair, and red rod mats, so she knew she was supposed to build on that material). I still had to randomize the color tiles before she started, but this modified “strip mat” allowed her to create a series of color matches on her own in columns, which brought her closer to the original Montessori process. She was so stuck on continuing to make the first column that she would replace tiles at the bottom with new ones or try to crowd other tiles onto the mat at the bottom.  I prompted her to make the new column by pointing to the top and stated that the first column was “full” so she had to start a new one. Here is a video of her using the strip mat with color box 2 where she was able to motor plan the activity without prompting, and a close up of the strip mat layout:

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With the strip mat, going from one column to the next still requires occasional prompting to start the next column. But she knows her colors well, can create color matches from the tiles, and seems to understand making columns, so we will move on and occasionally circle back to color box 2. The next step with color tiles is a complex one…using color box 3 to make a light to dark flower-shaped creation on the floor. Oh my.

Beginning Dressing Frames

The book I am using said start with the “simple” dressing frames for period 1. The problem was that all of the dressing frames were hard for Beth at first. We ended up starting with the big button, velcro, snaps, and zipper frames because they seemed the most applicable to her life (big buttons and snaps on her rain coats, velcro on her shoes, a zipper on her jacket). I wasn’t super picky about technique, as tasks like these are hard enough for her as it is without demanding perfection. After a lot of demonstration, encouragement, and flat out begging her to keep trying, her hand use really took off after she mastered a few frames. Most notably, I noticed an improvement in pincer grasp and thumb use. I didn’t even have time to write this post before she had already mastered a few more frames and was well on her way to mastering 7 frames. Also, I was surprised how well the activities transferred to the real clothes on her body (with the exception of the snaps, because she figured out she could just press down with her thumb to snap the dressing frame snaps). Here is a video of Beth doing a few of the “simple” dressing frames:

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(1) This will be a quick and poorly edited series because things are happening fast and I just want to write it all down. My daughter is almost 7 years old and we are starting the Montessori program from the beginning using this book, you tube videos, and common sense alterations. We homeschool and do other standard K activities. Montessori is an attempt to fill in developmental gaps and increase independence. See this fellow blogger’s post on the division of the work into periods as outlined in David Gettman’s book: http://thehometeacher.org/2009/03/sequencing-your-activities-more-on-montessori.html. We are starting with period 1 activities (taken from the book), with adjustments of course:

Period One

  1. Practical Activities – pouring beans between two jugs, opening and closing containers; buttoning; buckling; other simple dressing frames; carrying and laying out floor and table mats; saying please and thank you; carrying a tray; lifting, carrying, and putting down a chair, sitting down and getting up from a chair at a table; climbing up and down stairs; walking on the line; folding, hanging clothes on a hook;  brushing hair; dusting
  2. Sensorial – Cylinder blocks; pink tower; box 1 of the color tablets; presentation tray of the geometric cabinet; sensitizing the fingers; touch boards; presentation of Geometric solids; stereognostic bags presentation
  3. Language – Classified pictures exercises; speech stages – I Spy; book corner and library
  4. Math – none
  5. Culture – land and water presentation

Period Two

  1. Practical- pouring water from a jug, medium difficulty dressing frames, simple braiding, setting table, polishing surfaces, washing hands, washing cloths, scrubbing a table top, sweeping sawdust, brushing clothes, folding clothes, hanging clothes on a hanger, handling a book, scissors exchange, greeting people, kindness to visitors, being silent
  2. Sensorial- advanced cylinder blocks exercises, brown stair, red rods, boxes 2 and 3 of color tablets, geometric cabinet exercises 1-4, binomial cube, blindfold, tactile tablets, stereognostic bags exercises, sorting grains, sound boxes, preliminary presentation of bells, three stage lessons and the names of Sensorial qualities
  3. Language- classified picture exercises 3 and 4, stage 4 of I Spy, exercise 1 of single letter sandpaper letters, metal insets, frequent speech questioning
  4. Math- none
  5. Culture- Land and water exercises, first maps, places classified pictures, preliminary work for classification by leaf.

Adventures with Montessori and Autism: Land and Water

When I got to the geography section and saw “land and water” I was pretty sure this lesson would be a hit. Beth loves water. I mean REALLY loves water. I would describe it both as an obsession and a useful interest. It is an obsession when we go to the park (all she wants to do is water play in streams to the exclusion of everything else and it dominates her entire attention) or anywhere we encounter fountains/ponds, etc..  But water is also an interest and a strength. Beth basically taught herself how to swim (a sort of breast stroke, see here…http://wp.me/p2OomI-111) and she is more social with other kids during swimming and some types of water play.

An Overview of Traditional Montessori Land/Water Lessons (My Interpretation)

The book I am following (1) said to just introduce this sand globe in period one and have the child explore the globe independently. Also, high-level geography terminology is introduced in period 1, such as earth (“we live on earth”), land (“land is something that is dry we can stand on”) and water (“water is something fish swim in and boats float on, etc.”).

Sand Globe

Sand Globe

 

And according to the book in period two (1), something called land water trays come after the globe presentation, where the children pour water in trays and learn where the water settles in various land/water presentations.  Many people online also use land/water sand cards to connect the sand globe to a flat surface presentation (a bridge to flat maps).

 

Land/Water Trays

Land/Water Trays

 

Land/Water Sand Cards

Land/Water Sand Cards

Eventually the children go on to name the bodies of water and land formations they explored in the trays and sand cards so they can identify features on a globe (for example, they learn isthmus, straight, gulf, island, peninsula). Also, they eventually do tons of map work, starting from continents, then countries within continents, and finally a map of the states within the U.S. (there is more, but I will stop there for now).

Sample of Land/Water Language Cards (Head over the Montessori Print shop for traditional cards and extensions).

Sample of Land/Water Language Cards (Head over the Montessoriprintshop.com for traditional cards and extensions)

With Beth’s love of water, her direct interest in and experience with certain every day bodies of water (for example, river, stream, ocean, pond, and lake), and because I felt she needed a more concrete approach to relating what she knows to the globe, I customized the lesson. So I am mixing period 1 and period 2 and modifying the land/water forms and terminology in a way that make sense for Beth.  Also, I changed the presentation order, and we explored DIY custom trays and land/water sand cards before exploring the globe (I even changed the globe to be more meaningful to Beth and to tie in better with the custom land/water cards). Why go through all this effort? Because this lesson directly relates to terminology I have been trying to teach Beth for a very long time. I want her to understand all these things she loves….ponds versus lakes versus oceans, rivers versus streams. The sensory approach and the Montessori approach are perfect for teaching her these concepts.

Our Version of Intro to Land/Water with Montessori

1. Sticking with what Beth knows and absolutely needs to know in the real world, what she needs to understand to bridge from direct experience to the globe, and thinking forward to flat map work, I settled on these target terms for land/water:

  • Continent
  • Island
  • Ocean
  • Lake
  • Pond
  • River
  • Stream

2. Custom Land/Water Trays: Many people have done the land/water trays in a DIY way to reduce cost so this was easy, because it is just clay + cheap aluminum or plastic trays + colored water. I used Crayola terra-cotta colored clay and it was messy, but she seemed to get that it was dirt/land. I combined trays to reduce the clay need. For example, we started by making a lake, poured the water off and added more clay, then made a pond. After we were finished, I poured the water off and stored the containers so we could re-use the clay. This was by far the best part of the lesson. Beth absolutely loved it!

Making a Lake

Making a Lake

 

From left to right: Ocean, Island, River

From left to right: Ocean, Island, River

Land/Water Sand Cards: There are many do it yourself options out there, such as gluing sand paper to blue paper. I had some blue paper and adhesive foam board and sand, so I opted for pressing the blue paper onto the sticky foam board for the water and then rubbing the remaining sticky foam board in sand for the land. It worked surprisingly well (sand did not come off much when Beth rubbed it), but I suggest buying a stickier brand of adhesive foam board (Try Just Stick It, because I was not happy with Elmers and there are lots of complaints online about it http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=adhesive%20foam%20board&sprefix=adhesive+foam+boar%2Caps).

IMG_4109[1]

On left pond/lake/ocean, middle river/stream, right island/continent

On left pond/lake/ocean, middle river/stream, right island/continent

Sand Globe: Beth has grandparents on Lake Michigan and she loves long car rides, where I point out every river we drive across. Unfortunately the sand globe (bought on ebay for a reasonable price) does not have the great lakes or a river in the Unites States, so I did my best to add those features with some blue paint:

Our Sand Globe

Our Sand Globe

Land/Water Language Cards (for later use, have not introduced yet): While I was at it I made the matching language cards. Basically printed out some blue background squares in Word, and got creative with sand-colored construction paper and contact paper:

Three Part Language Cards

Three Part Language Cards

Basically I just let Beth do the sand trays and stated the terminology while she was doing the exercise. I had the sand cards next to the trays and later she rubbed the sand cards. When she becomes independent with the trays and sand cards, I will move to the globe,the language cards, highlighting language in natural environments, and real pictures online to supplement.

_______________

(1) This will be a quick and poorly edited series because things are happening fast and I just want to write it all down. My daughter is almost 7 years old and we are starting the Montessori program from the beginning using this book, you tube videos, and common sense alterations. We homeschool and do other standard K activities. Montessori is an attempt to fill in developmental gaps and increase independence. See this fellow blogger’s post on the division of the work into periods as outlined in David Gettman’s book: http://thehometeacher.org/2009/03/sequencing-your-activities-more-on-montessori.html. We are starting with period 1 activities (taken from the book), with adjustments of course:

Period One

  1. Practical Activities – pouring beans between two jugs, opening and closing containers; buttoning; buckling; other simple dressing frames; carrying and laying out floor and table mats; saying please and thank you; carrying a tray; lifting, carrying, and putting down a chair, sitting down and getting up from a chair at a table; climbing up and down stairs; walking on the line; folding, hanging clothes on a hook;  brushing hair; dusting
  2. Sensorial – Cylinder blocks; pink tower; box 1 of the color tablets; presentation tray of the geometric cabinet; sensitizing the fingers; touch boards; presentation of Geometric solids; stereognostic bags presentation
  3. Language – Classified pictures exercises; speech stages – I Spy; book corner and library
  4. Math – none
  5. Culture – land and water presentation

Period Two

  1. Practical- pouring water from a jug, medium difficulty dressing frames, simple braiding, setting table, polishing surfaces, washing hands, washing cloths, scrubbing a table top, sweeping sawdust, brushing clothes, folding clothes, hanging clothes on a hanger, handling a book, scissors exchange, greeting people, kindness to visitors, being silent
  2. Sensorial- advanced cylinder blocks exercises, brown stair, red rods, boxes 2 and 3 of color tablets, geometric cabinet exercises 1-4, binomial cube, blindfold, tactile tablets, stereognostic bags exercises, sorting grains, sound boxes, preliminary presentation of bells, three stage lessons and the names of Sensorial qualities
  3. Language- classified picture exercises 3 and 4, stage 4 of I Spy, exercise 1 of single letter sandpaper letters, metal insets, frequent speech questioning
  4. Math- none
  5. Culture- Land and water exercises, first maps, places classified pictures, preliminary work for classification by leaf.

montessori book

 

Adventures with Montessori and Autism: Shapes and Solids

In the first level of Montessori (1), the children explore shapes and solids (naming and categorization occurs in later levels). The Montessori program has a geometric solids set, a flat shape set (geometric cabinet), and a metal inserts shape set for pre-writing. They all tie together nicely, but Beth doesn’t really needs to know all the geometric shapes at this point. Learning new language receptively is hard, learning new expressively language is even harder, so I am not going to torture her with learning the difference between an ellipsoid and ovoid (a point which confused even me and my husband, both engineers with a fair amount of math under our belt) and the various types of triangles in preparation for geometry. So I cut some things out of the program, and tried to preserve any shape/solids teaching that might be helpful to Beth in real life.

Geometric Solids

I bought the geometric solids set from ebay for a reasonable price. This is a fantastic video on geometric solids that explains the whole process. Remember, at level 1, the children only explore the solids as in the beginning of this video.

As you can see from the video, Montessori takes a sensory approach and later teaches language concepts that are abstract on paper worksheets for kids like Beth. These language terms can be demonstrated with the shapes: roll, stack, flat surface, curved surfaces, pointy, blunt, you get the idea. These are the solids that relate most to the real world and therefore are the ones I am teaching Beth: sphere, cube, egg-shaped (called ovoid in the Montessori system, but I am going with egg-shaped), cylinder, cone (street cones being an obvious direct application), and the pyramid (we are using the square based pyramid, like the ones in Egypt, since I keep running into pyramids with Beth for some odd reason, usually in relation to camels).

Our subset of geometric solids. The circle, square, and triangle are bases used later in the program

Our subset of geometric solids. The circle, square, and triangle are bases used later in the program

 

Beth, me, a camel, and a pyramid, 2014 (Florida)

Beth, me, a camel, and a pyramid, 2014 (Florida)

Geometric Cabinet

What I love about the geometric cabinet: the process of feeling the edge of the shape to get a true sense of the shapes and the sequencing work with cards. What I don’t like about the geometric cabinet: Too many shapes with complex names and with the control cards, cabinet, and demonstration tray it is freaking expensive $$$$$$. I decided it was just best to use the metal insets to explore flat shapes (see below). It is not strict Montessori, but I think it is the best decision for Beth. So, we are skipping the geometric cabinet.

Geometric Cabinet

Geometric Cabinet

 

Demonstration Tray

Demonstration Tray

 

Geometric Cabinet Control Chart

Geometric Cabinet Control Chart

Metal Insets

In lieu of the geometric cabinet we are using a the metal insets for learning flat shapes and I will have Beth touch the outside of the blue inset and work left to right with the insets on the stand for the level 1 sensory flat shape experience (which Beth needs because she keeps confusing square with rectangle and the names of the shapes occasionally trip her up). Officially, the metal insets are for pre-writing (they are similar to a stencil) and in the book I am following it says they are not used until level 2 (1). Still, the metal inset set has more shapes than I feel Beth needs to know at this time, and some of the names are overly complicated for a kid with language delays. So I took about half the shapes and we will do level 1 with them instead of the geometric cabinet (touching the outside of the shapes).

Here is the full metal insert set…refer to control chart in section above for true Montessori names:

Metal Insets

Metal Insets

This is the set I decided Beth should work on for flat shapes in lieu of the geometric cabinet:

IMG_8050

Set we are using for level 1 sensory experience of shapes. We are calling them circle, oval, square, rectangle, and triangle. I am not getting into the whole that is not an oval, it is an ellipse thing-that again confused the engineers of the house. It is an oval to us, so an oval it is!

Again I found these metal insets on ebay for a reasonable price, but they are still one of the more expensive items we have bought thus far. You can go with a cheaper plastic version sold on Amazon if the cost of the metal inserts is too high, but I felt we needed the heavier version for the pre-writing work.

________________

(1) This will be a quick and poorly edited series because things are happening fast and I just want to write it all down. My daughter is almost 7 years old and we are starting the Montessori program from the beginning using this book, you tube videos, and common sense alterations. We homeschool and do other standard K activities. Montessori is an attempt to fill in developmental gaps and increase independence. See this fellow blogger’s post on the division of the work into periods as outlined in David Gettman’s book: http://thehometeacher.org/2009/03/sequencing-your-activities-more-on-montessori.html. We are starting with period 1 activities (taken from the book), with adjustments of course:

Period One

  1. Practical Activities – pouring beans between two jugs, opening and closing containers; buttoning; buckling; other simple dressing frames; carrying and laying out floor and table mats; saying please and thank you; carrying a tray; lifting, carrying, and putting down a chair, sitting down and getting up from a chair at a table; climbing up and down stairs; walking on the line; folding, hanging clothes on a hook;  brushing hair; dusting

  2. Sensorial – Cylinder blocks; pink tower; box 1 of the color tablets; presentation tray of the geometric cabinet; sensitizing the fingers; touch boards; presentation of Geometric solids; stereognostic bags presentation

  3. Language – Classified pictures exercises; speech stages – I Spy; book corner and library

  4. Math – none

  5. Culture – land and water presentation

montessori book