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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Literacy for All Students: Are You Teaching Your AAC Users to Read?

“No student is too anything to be able to read and write”          
(David Yoder, ISAAC 2000)

        Just as language and cognition are intertwined, so are literacy and language interrelated.   And so are literacy and augmentative communication skills development interrelated, as well. Literature and literacy can be used to develop and increase language skills, just as language is used to develop literacy skills.
Literacy skills are needed for academic, social and employment success.  Literacy is the way in which information is taught in schools. It is, ever-increasingly - the way in which we communicate with each other and maintain social relationships; through email and texting.  It is necessary for daily living skills, where we read labels, make lists, and understand directions.  Minimal functional literacy skills at least are required for most jobs.  
However many AAC users do not acquire literacy skills.  Too many are never taught at all.  Most students with complex communication needs receive no literacy instruction.
       Many teachers are familiar with the Four Blocks literacy program of Pat Cunningham, but not as many special education teachers and speech-language pathologists are as comfortable with using it with their students with special needs.
        What is Four Blocks?  And how do we apply it to our students?

1. Guided Reading: reading for a purpose
Students learn how to read different texts.  The opportunity to read different types of texts increases skills in comprehension.  Students learn that reading is not just decoding words, but also gaining meaning.  Use guided reading to build vocabulary.  Always set a purpose for reading.  Use graphic organizers to help organize the elements of the story.  Relate what is in the reading to the student's  own experiences.
  • Create e-books that “read” a modified version of the book and provide additional illustrations for comprehension. 
  • Pre-write choices of facts about the book to share; students can choose one to hold up or “read” when appropriate

2. Self-Selected Reading: learning to select their own reading materials that are interesting. It provides an opportunity to share and respond to reading individually and  provides the opportunity to read aloud to children from a wide variety of types of books.
The teacher can read these books out loud, the student can read at his own level, or he can share reading with a peer.
  • e-books can be commercial, can be made by upper grade students, and can be found in the library as adapted books.  
  • You can also use trade books at a lower reading level than grade-level.

3. Writing:  to develop writing skills 
Students share their writings with peers and learn to write with different purposes. 
  • Software options include graphic organizers (kidspiration, inspiration), word prediction, picture assisted literacy (picture it, boardmaker symbolate feature) and First Author software for writing about photos with core word banks
  • Make sentences from books using word cards or picture cards 
  • Use pencil grips, magnadoodles,  line up letters on toys, typewriters or computers as alternative pencils

4. Working with Words: increase decoding skills, learn high-frequency words, understand how words work.  
Working with words minimizes the physical demands of letter selection; differentiates between handwriting difficulties and word study. 
  • A word wall can be modified with velcro’d words on cards to choose or point to
  • Portable word walls can be made with file folders for students to have at their desks
  • Color code words 
  • Use manipulative cards, sticky notes, magnetic letters, or a computer based activity to make words
Looking for some great teaching resources for teaching language and literacy skills to AAC users?  Check out my TPT store during the site-wide teacher appreciation sale May 5-6.

Keep talking.  Keep reading.

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