Below is a quick reference tool I made comparing these resources. This post will be updated when I have more time :)
There is something you should know about me: I L.O.V.E. stationery. It is a sort of special interest of mine and I am proud to say I could make you a pen recommendation for almost any need you have.
I have incorporated stationery into my practice as a teacher and as a support for neurodivergent students as well as disabled students. My hope with this post is to provide a few different ways you can incorporate highlighters into your practice that support students and you.
Sensory Note Taking Station
I got this idea from a website that specialised in disability education/special education needs and supplies. I ultimately formed my own way of doing it and my students have appreciated it. There are lots of ways to take notes and keep track of things in a classroom and some teachers require it done a certain way. I was one of the kids who, when I didn't understand a class or topic (*cough* Biology *cough*), would completely redo my notes at home using markers, stickers, highlighters, etc.
Whatever your practices and policies are regarding notes, some students have different needs and providing a sensory note taking station can support them! The idea is to support sensory needs (sight, sound, smell, etc.) through readily available stationery supplies. Here is what is in my cart (picture forthcoming as I don't have access to my classroom over the summer):
If a student needs supplies that support a limb difference or needs help gripping smaller objects this can help make the difference for them. Students should also be allowed to use a device when appropriate for note taking. I know that I prefer, for example, a paper notebook for my academic notes but I use my iPad (I use Notability) for professional notes/teaching notes, and I use Google docs for most professional brain storms. I also keep a variety of planners for different needs too (Plum planner, Google Calendar/Keep, and my bullet journal). It may seem excessive for some people, but for those who are neurodivergent it is an amazing experience.
Highlighters for Assessments
The other major way that I use highlighters is for assessments for students who need accommodations. While any student may need this for a variety of reasons, I've used this in the past to support students who:
I'd love more ideas to add to this! If you try using highlighters in this way, let me know how you use it!
Note: I've written before repeatedly about things like retakes and RRR on my Latin blog, Pomegranate Beginnings. As PBP is undergoing some changes, I am opting to post this update here as part of this series. I feel it fits both discussion of Latin and working with all kinds of learners however.
Retakes can be a sticky subject for teachers. I've heard many reasons as to why retakes should be given and why they shouldn't. I've even addressed some of these in previous posts (see above). What I want to consider today is how retakes can harm students and particularly neurodivergent and disabled students and, more importantly I think, how we can use this vital tool to support them instead.
I'd like to take a look at a few scenarios. Some are things I've heard about in general classrooms and some are things I've done in the past. I want to be clear that I am, in no way, trying to target any particular teacher and, more importantly, that none of us are perfect (I am far from it). Rather, I'd like to bring a different perspective to these practices that are often considered "standard" or even "best" in certain cases.
General Topic. Scenario. My thoughts.
To put it bluntly...
These kinds of retakes really only serve a specific type of student:
So... what can we do?
There is no one answer. I know that isn't the ideal response, especially as teachers who are responsible for multiple students (I have an average of 150-180). But, hear me out. The simple answer is: flexibility and adaptation... on the teacher's part. I was afraid when I realised this because I wondered how much extra work it would put on me. After a few years of working this way I realise... it doesn't. It isn't something I can put in a single blog post or provide a template for, however. But... let me address each of the students we talked about in our scenarios:
I wish there were a simple answer, but there isn't because we don't teach computers, we teach human beings. Education and testing, in particular, have largely and historically favoured the neurotypical, affluent, and gifted student when they are the students who often succeed without any help or intervention. As educators we should be working to ensure progress for all types of learners.
Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive list. My teaching is always adapting and changing. Additionally, you'll find other resources and more specifics on posts on this blog with the tag "Vision" and on the resources page of my website.
Welcome to the first installment in my series on working with all types of learners. I decided to create this series to (in no particular order) catalogue the things I was doing for reference and for the future, provide resources for teachers who may be new to working with various types of learners, and to help support advocates, teachers, and students in their educational journey. Today's installment will focus on supporting vision students.
Today's blog post and resources focus on working with vision students. Like all disabilities and types of learners, there is a wide spectrum to what qualifies as a "vision student". Some students wear glasses, some have varying degrees of vision and legal blindness, and some have temporary or chronic conditions that may require different supports at different times. In my district, various schools have programs that focus on specific disabilities. Our school cluster (elementary, middle, high) houses the vision program for the district. We have dedicated TVIs who work with our students and provide a variety of life skills and classes in things like braille, and mobility.
I am very happy to be personal and professional friends with our TVI and some of the paraprofessionals in this program. We work together closely to support students and I am really glad they are here! You will see references to them in this post as they have shared with me many ideas and resources that I use with my students.
For the Teacher
What can we as teachers do to show our support or prepare ourselves for teaching vision students? Here are some things I've done:
Putting things into braille
If you are able to put things into braille, that's great! If you have someone at your school who can do it for you, or if your student has assistive technology that allows them to read documents as if they were in braille, these pointers might help you:
For the Students
Here is a quick list of ways to adapt activities and support vision students in your classroom.
Sensory overload is something that many people experience and I would venture to say that everyone experiences at least once. As teachers, however, we need to be aware that some people experience this regularly and some even daily in their lives. For example, I have anxiety and migraines and sensory overload is a symptom of both for me. Textures, light, sound can all become too much for me and I can have a very physical response to it.
What does all this have to do with classroom timers? Let's explore it a bit. Often, classroom timers are big, can be bright, and loud. They include a countdown of numbers that is constantly changing. They end with an alarm signaling time that is, too often, a loud repetitive ringing. All of these things can prompt sensory overload and can trigger major anxiety.
Today... I have a headache. It is not so bad that I cannot function, but sound is a trigger right now for me. I also needed a timer in class today. I went to an old favourite: Online-Stopwatch and was about to browse through to find a quiet timer when I noticed some choice menus at the top of the page. I honestly don't know how new of a feature this is, but I know that I just noticed it and have not heard much or any discussion on this topic.... so here it is.
Online-Stopwatch now includes a variety of sensory and calming timers. I've included links to the menus below. Check them out and let me know which are your favourites in the comments. Today, I am rocking this sensory marble timer.
Firstly, I cannot take credit for the origination of this idea. My colleague and friend Dr. Elizabeth Davidson first suggested to me that we consider playing ambient music while students worked during time when we weren't directly teaching this year. In the past, I've used testing and writing playlists (which I still use as the students want them), but this is something a little different. This music/these sounds serve more as a grounding, in my opinion, than as a playlist of music.
I am one who cannot work in silence. I need music or sounds otherwise I get lost in my own thoughts, can become discouraged, or even distracted. I have a playlist for just about every chore or to do item once can imagine. I have playlists with words and playlists without, it all depends. What Liz suggested, however, was more of an ASMR experience. A visual scene presented via youtube and sounds or soft music that can play non-stop during class.
And so, I present this playlist. It is not complete, but these are the sounds and music I have been playing so far in class. It will update as I work through it. Enjoy :)
Davidson, E. (2021). Beyond Solitaire. Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/beyondsolitaire
One of the things I like to do for story review is to have students brainstorm what they remember. In the past, I've taken notes on the board and taken a picture of them to put online to share. However, this is not a way to provide full access to vision students who read braille or use audio devices. So, I decided to try and find a way to take the notes in a way that was easy for me, but to provide it for students in multiple formats (multiple means of representation in UDL speak).
I did this today with a Latin I class. We were reviewing the first half of a story before reading the second half. I ask students to give me notes of what they remembered, in any order, each period. I added them all to the same document and made the notes available to all classes.
How We Made It Work
Right now I am teaching in person and digitally, so I needed a way to see all my students AND take these notes. So, I pulled out my iPad and wrote notes while they spoke and typed at me. I used the Notability app which I've talked about before when discussing annotated stories. I love this app for taking notes professionally and creating resources for students, but I still don't know everything about it. For example, today I learned that I can take my handwriting on the app and quickly convert it to digital type (which can be read by an text to voice system).
After I had all the notes written, I used the Notability app to convert them into typed text. It wasn't perfect and there were a few mistakes, but I quickly fixed those using a keyboard. I then uploaded the document as a PDF. Zamzar was able to take that PDF and turn it into a word doc. I then removed all formatting (making it more accessible to a braille Note).
As you can see, my handwriting is fun. I use a mix of cursive and print and I colour code things. I don't solely provide one or the other and often use a mix of my own handwriting and digital type. I see value in both (aka, this isn't the place to get into an argument over cursive vs. typing skills).
I am so glad I learned how to do this today and will definitely be employing it in the future as well!
This blog post is a reflection on the article, "A Resource for Equitable Classroom Practices" from the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. The button above will take you to the original resource. My reflection is reflected below in a video I created. This does not contain all of my thoughts, but does consider some key points in about five minutes.
I must give credit to Education Scotland for the original lesson plan called "Clipboard Quiz". I have used this for years, but I call it Round Table Discussion. It is one of my favourite ways to review and prepare for an assessment, project, discussion, or final exam. Most often I use it to review and discuss a story at a variety of levels of thinking. Some questions may be vocabulary questions, some are comprehension questions, others are culture or deeper thinking questions. The key to each question, however, is that it is open ended and has the potential for a variety of answers. You can also ask for quotes from the story to show students' abilities to work with the story directly.
Today, however, I want to mention a variation one can do with this to target various small groups or help students who need things like:
Essentially this works the exact same as described in the original plan, but you create 1 or more small specific groups. For example, you might create groups like:
As each group looks at their questions, you can focus your time on the main small group of students who need individualised instruction and, as they become more comfortable with the material, give them more and more independence through the period while you check in with others. This worked very well in a class of Latin I students and ~30 kids. I was able to work directly with one group, keep an eye on another, and do quick check ins to make sure everyone else was on the same page.
This is a quick list of accommodations that I employ as often as possible. These are easy to implement and often require little to no extra materials. What would you add to the list?
This page is dedicated to my compilation of ideas and resources. You can find my sources either in these posts or listed under the other pages in this menu.