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Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Ruby Slippers Phonomenon

What Is the Ruby Slippers Phenomenon?

It's that situation when key factors coincide and students learn much faster than we'd expected.

For example, I recently saw fantastic growth in writing in a young student.  She always had the ability, but she needed:
Expectations:  those around her needed to believe that this was possible for her.  And, she needed to believe in herself!
Time:  she had many many chances to engage in phonics activities and to write for real purposes in the course of six weeks
• Teaching:  her teacher gave her informative feedback, helping her see when she was confused about how to blend sounds, etc.
Technology:  the teacher provided a simple Qwerty AlphaBoard, since the student was struggling to form letters.

VOILA - success!  While it looked remarkable, she always had it the ability - she just needed the right supports . . . AND expectations!!

What Is More Functional Than Literacy?

I've had many interesting conversations about literacy vs. functional skills training in the past few years.  Here are a few outcomes from those conversations:

• I firmly believe that all students should be provided with the time, teaching strategies, and technology to support the growth of literacy skills.  This will support students in their lives within their families, schools, and communities.

• Literacy vs. Functional Skills is a false dichotomy.  Literacy can and must be superimposed on all learning for students with disabilities.

• I recently heard the following from a high school special education teacher of students with disabilities:  "Many of my students will live in group homes at some point in their lives.  If they need to learn functional skills, that will be a great time.  However, it's very likely that they will have less opportunities supports in literacy instruction once they leave school - now is the best time."

• Moving from emergent to conventional literacy is a continuum.  Students can benefit from instruction across that continuum.  Any growth in literacy can greatly enhance the life of each student.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

We Give Books Website

We  Give Books Website

Thanks to Dr. Gretchen Hanser for suggesting this website.  It’s a GREAT way to make books accessible for multiple purposes.

This free website has combined We Give Books and First Book to provide hundreds of books.  The two organizations combine public and private resources to make books accessible online.  While you have to sign up and log in (yes, another pesky password!) you then have easy access to books on your computer.

Here are a few ways to use We Give Books:

Books for Shared Reading:  Connect your computer to a projector and your books are enlarged so that all students can see them
Easily Accessible Books for Switch Users:  This website uses right arrow to go forward and left arrow to go back.  Just add a computer switch interface (e.g., Don Johnston Switch Interface; Crick Switch Interface) and two switches, and students can turn the page and also go back
Paired Reading:  One student can turn the page while a partner reads aloud.  This could be a great combination for a student who uses a switch and another who is working on building reading fluency.

Range of Books:

This website has a wide range of
Genre:  Nature / science;  art / music / dance; family;  friendship;  history, etc.
Age:  0-3; 4-7; 8-10;  11-13
Author: A wide range of authors is included, with many titles from the DK series

Note that many of the nonfiction books would be age-respectful for older students.  For example, a page from the DK book, Snakes Slither and Hiss is shown below.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Brain is a pattern detector quote

The brain is a pattern detector quote

'The brain is a pattern detector, not a rule applier.'

This great quote from Patricia Cunningham reminds us to STOP with the drill and kill!  STOP with the flash card craziness.

We need to teach students within interactive, hands on, authentic activities to support real learning and generalization.

Dance With The Girl You Brought Quote

Dance With The One You Brought Quote

The original quote comes from many sources:
• Traditional Southernism:  'Dance with the one what brung you.'
• Country music song:  'Dance with the one that brought you' (popularized by Shania Twain)
• Book by Molly Ivans:  Dance With Them What Brung You

Each of those referents shares the concept of being loyal to people who have supported you.

My version is totally different. To me, 'Dance with the one you brought' means many things, including:
• Start with a student's strengths, and move forward
• Don't wait until that 'perfect' high tech solution comes along – jump in and see what you can do today!
• Figure out environmental supports and use them.  Samples include peers (so often under-utilized), motivated siblings, eager aides, etc.
• Choose a few great apps such as Sticky, DoodleBuddy, Pictello, PicCollage, Word Wizard and use them in many creative ways; learn a few apps well rather than many apps a little bit.

Please share your own interpretations of this quote!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Warning - Closed Vocabulary Sets Quote

Warning!  Closed Vocabulary Sets Quote

This quote is a caution against excessive use of 'closed' vocabulary sets for writing.  These refer to sets that have a limited # of words or symbols, chosen by another person.  Limiting students to these sets do not support their growth as writers, as they do not learn to:
• Generate their own ideas
• Translate those ideas using their own words
• Expand their spelling skills

So be sure that students have access to more than closed vocabulary sets.  ALL students must have access to the full alphabet!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014