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Sunday, August 10, 2014

What I Did This Summer: How Will Students with Communication Disorders Answer This?

Every September (or insert your start date here) students around the country have, for years, written the dreaded What I Did Over Summer Vacation essay.  But how do our students who are not writers, who are nonverbal, who have significant communication disorders participate in this age-old school tradition?

For many students in substantially separate classrooms (whatever your state calls them), they’re not given the opportunity - or the challenge.  They have not been given robust literacy instruction, are non-readers or emergent readers, and maybe are emergent writers - if they write at all.  

However, technology has given us a wonderful array of tools with which to answer this question and solve this problem. There are iPads in every classroom I go into, and most of “my” kids have their own for communication or other academics.  I work with these teachers and parents to help their student create personal narratives.  
The kids with whom I work LOVE these.  
Creating books about them, with familiar pictures of them involved in activities, having experiences they can remember meets their goals in many areas: language, vocabulary, reading, writing, conversing.  
I have kids who can spend hours listening to their personal stories over and over again. These are kids who otherwise don’t ever sit still.  There is a magical power in these stories that are about them.  We can harness that power to build language and engagement and communication.

There are a lot of story building apps on the market.  Pictello, iBookCreator, Shutterfly, Story Creator, Story Maker HD - just to name a few.  The basic process is the same.  Take or import photos on the iPad, import them into the app, in whatever sequence is appropriate, add text and record. Then, watch the magic. *
   *   And do a little teaching - having the tools is meaningless if we don’t teach students how to use them.
Having a piano does not make a musician anymore than having an aac device makes you a proficient communicator”  David Beukelman 1991

If you need a little bit more direction: Make sure you have photos that are clear, that represent the activity or event, and that the student can see.  Ask parents for vacation pictures that show an event; including the people who were there, where they were, what they did, and - hopefully -  a sequence of what was done.
Work with the student to choose pictures, identify those elements that answer the Who, What did, When, Where questions; as well as, the “How was it?” question.  Encourage some commenting.  Did the student have a good time?  Does (s)he want to do it again?  Was it funny, scary, sad, silly?  Involve them in the writing process as much as possible.  Then put it all into the app.  
Don’t forget to print out a hard copy, too.  Always have a paper back-up of any system or digital book.

Looking for a fun book to share with your class? Try “How I spent My Summer Vacation” by Mark Teague.  I have a resource full of fun language lessons and activities in my TPT store here

And grab the free handout on using apps to develop personal narratives.  If you missed it in an earlier post, it is here.

How will your students share their summer vacations?