The Power Of Visuals: Tips for the inclusive classroom and beyond.

As far as teachers go, we like to talk, a lot.  Walk into any classroom and chances are you will see a teacher standing at the front of the room talking to his/her class.  We are story tellers, we are communicators, we are people who want to get our point across.

There are times when we just need to stop talking and let visuals communicate for us.

For teachers of students on the autism spectrum and other special needs, the power of visuals is invaluable.  Something amazing happens when I stop talking and put an image, or a written word in front of a student. It’s as if we speak a secret language. Many students do not process verbal information in a way that is effective for them to learn. Using pictures, videos, and even sticky notes can make a huge difference in the classroom.  These visuals can be replicated and used in a variety of settings.  I am encouraging the use of visuals with my students who have supported jobs, in their homes, and even in social situations. Especially with the increased availability of mobile devices, these visual tools can be utilized anywhere.

Here are some visual tools to try:

Start with low tech sticky notes:

Sticky notes are small.  You can’t fit a lot of words on them.  This is a good thing because it forces you to just write the most important pieces of information that the student needs.  I will often write the numbers 1,2,3 on a sticky note and next to each number I will write the directions to follow. Often a little drawing helps my students focus.  I could be talking all day but suddenly with the sticky note in front of them, my students are able to participate along with everyone else.

 

sticky note

Google Images:

Google images has become the search engine of choice for my students.  They need to see images in order to make meaning of what they are learning. Also, the process of filtering the images serves as formative assessment for me.  If they aren’t able to filter out the images that  do not go with the topic, they don’t understand it and I need to re-teach.

Did you know you can even use images to search?  No need to put words into the search bar.  Simply drag an image to the search bar and you are using the “search by image’ feature!  Here, I am dragging one of the images of a tiger into the search bar:

2015-04-26_22-34-31

Create a Video:

With amazing sites like Pow Toon on the internet, it is easy to create animated videos and presentations for your students.   Here is a short video that I made to show simple steps for writing a thesis statement. Click the image below to open the video.

PowToon Image

Other favorite sites for creating videos:  GoAnimate, Animoto, WeVideo

Make An Infographic:

Piktochart claims you can make a beautiful infographic in 10 minutes.  Sticking with the thesis writing theme, here’s what I created in about 7.

 

Untitled InfographicThere are many other tools that you can use to create interesting visuals for students.  Let’s try to do less talking.  Sit back, and watch the learning happen.

 

What are your favorite visual tools to use in the classroom? 

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5 Reasons/Ways To Use Googledocs With Students With Autism

Logo Google 2013 Official

By Google INC (Traced from File:Logo 2013 Google.png) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I have been a teacher for almost 20 years and I have always worked with students with special needs.  Much of my recent work has been with students on all ranges of the autism spectrum.  One of the biggest challenges for my students is getting their thoughts and ideas out to the world, both on paper and verbally.   In the world of special educators it is referred to as “written and verbal expression”.  It’s tricky to tell exactly what gets in the way or which issue is causing what when it comes to students with disabilities expression.   Students are complicated and so is writing/speaking.  My students have endless IEP goals dealing with generating topics, using graphic organizers to plan their writing, editing checklists, sentence starters, etc.  I have color coded, created visuals, scaffolded like there’s nobody’s business and still my students’ progress is slow at best.

Until now.

Ok, I’m being a bit dramatic but it really does feel like a huge shift.

About two years ago my school started a pilot program with chromebooks.  The departments were given carts and we shared them.  We had an opportunity to try the chromebooks and see how they could be used as a tool to help our students learn.  I jumped at the chance to use the chromebooks and hoarded the cart regularly.  They were new, they were shiny, and I didn’t really know how to integrate this new tool into my classroom.  Now we are officially a 1:1 school.  Enter Googledocs!

Here are 5 ways that I use Googledocs with my students and why they work.  Continue reading