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Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Marvelous Mac: 1 Minute Mirroring!!

 What & Why.  It is often helpful to mirror the screen of your tablet (for me, and iPad) unto your Macintosh computer.  Maybe you want to model using an AAC system that matches that of one of your students.  Maybe you want to show how to build words using the Word Wizard app.  I find multiple uses for this trick almost every session!!

Yes, you can do this through a mirroring app, but that puts demands on wifi signal.  And yes, you can use a document camera, but that often results in glare, or a less-than-stellar image.  This solution has been highly effective – and efficient – for me.  (Note:  This may be possible for other computers, but I have only done it on a Mac).  This is helpful for:

• Classrooms projecting the teacher's computer, using an interactive whiteboard, or just a projector.

• Distance learning sessions.

• In-home sessions, mirroring to an Apple TV.

Needed Tools.

Quick Time Player software.  Download it here.

Cable to connect your tablet to your Macintosh.

Note:  I had to use an adaptor as my cable is USB and my computer requires USB-C

How To Do It.

Plug your iPad into your computer, and turn it on.

1) Open QuickTime Player on your computer.

2) Under File choose 'New Movie Recording

3) Move your mouse to open the toolbar  

4) Click the small down arrow   

5) Click both times you see the name of your iPad   

(Mine is labeled Caroline 3).  The 1st selects the camera for your iPad, and the second allows you to use the audio from your iPad, when you do something that is active.

6) Turn the volume up on on the toolbar, so that your iPad sound can be heard.  (Note the blue bar, showing that it is on maximum.  

Now your iPad screen appears over top of whatever was open on your computer.  You can enlarge it on your computer to avoid distractons!

NOTE:  I usually move the 'floating toolbar' from QuickTime player to the top, as shown on the picture on the right.

Moving From Computer Screen to iPad Screen:  Sometimes you want to go back and forth.  Simply use the Command-Tab keys.  It will show icons of all currently open applications s on your computer.  So, I wanted to go to PowerPoint to show that the word we built using Word Wizard was a real word.    When you want to show the iPad screen, simply click on the Quick Time Player image.

THANKS to Mark Surabian for teaching me this tip!!

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Multi-Modal Communication . . . It's Everywhere!

 Where and Why.  The idea for this post came from the pool.  

That's right, the pool!  I've been taking Aqua Zumba and Aqua Exercise classes.

Pools are LOUD!  And the music is LOUD!  The instructors can't rely on their voices to give instructions.

The more effective instructors are masters of multi-modal communication.  

How Do They Do That?  They use many components, including: 

Broad Gestures.  They point to a body part that will be involved in the next activity, such as slapping their right thigh two times to indicate: "Use your right leg."  They tap their abdomen, to indicate:  'Use deep breathing.'

Smaller Gestures.  Effective instructors also use smaller gestures, such as holding up 3 fingers, then 2, then one to count down to the start of the next exercise.  They also point to the specific muscle we are targeting.  

Facial Expressions.  They show their enthusiasm for the group with huge smiles, encouraging the participants to try harder.  They also use a head tilt along with the expression 'seriously?' if we aren't participating fully.

Vocalizations.  Many instructors weave vocalizations such as 'Woo!' or "Ole' into their routines to keep swimmers engaged and involved.  

All of these non-verbal supports are both effective and efficient.  Watching them made me realize that we need to do a better job helping individuals who use AAC develop their own multi-modal communication skills.  

Let's do this!!

So . . . There's a Tip for This!


Tip # 10, 2022

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Poems for 2 Voices

 WHAT:  Poems for 2 voices are meant to be read aloud.  Or listened to.  Or performed.  Paul Fleischman made this genre popular, with his book / audio version of I Am Phoenix.  

WHY:  Two voice poems are wonderful for supporting students in learning to compare and contrast.   Students can:
• Pick two characters from a book, two objects that have some features in common and some different, etc.

WHO:  These poems are fantastic for:
Students who are exploring their AAC systems.  

 HOW:  Show students samples of poems for 2 voices.  Discuss them.  Create a collaborative two voice poem.  

For example, we were studying Oceania, focusing on Samoa and American Samoa.  One topic of study was Polynesian tattoos.  We watched several videos, and looked at tattoo images.

Then we looked at several poems for 2 voices, including the one shown below.  It was the first 'deep' poem written by a 7th grade student who was an early conventional student in a self-contained classroom.  She had worked hard to brainstorm 'spark'e words' that could help her compare and contrast concepts about tattoos.  She was especially excited when she came up with the word 'sick' which represents 'extremely cool' and 'might make you sick.' We discussed this with the students.  

Next we brainstormed a list of words that our students wanted to use regarding Polynesian tattoos.  

Finally, they decided whether the words / phrases should go into the positive column (green), the negative column (orange), or represented both (pink).

Notes about a few word choices:
• Some choices , such as the positive expressions (legit / cool) and the negative observations (nasty / bloodiest) are very clear.  Others might be more obscure without background information
• ''thrown on expressively' - They had talked about the spiritual elements behind the tattoos
• 'tired' – one video of a Samoan wrestler talked about how long it too (17 hours) for one tattoo session, broken into two days
• 'feel' represented the spiritual aspect (evokes feelings in the person and those who view them) and the physical component (feels painful).


Thursday, March 16, 2023

Pranks are PRICELESS!!

 Why Prank?  Oh, seriously, do I have to ask that?  

Well, here are a few ideas from Krista!  

When to Prank?  April Fools Day comes to mind.  But, seriously, ANY time is a good time to prank.  It's such a great way to start a fun interaction.

How to Prank?  
1) Get a 'partner in crime' – having a pranking buddy makes it way more fun!

2) Read the book that Krista and I wrote.  It has some great ideas.  Better yet, read it WITH your friends who use AAC – hopefully it will motivate you to 'get your pranks on!'  Here's a link to Pranks are Priceless – AAC Fun.


3) Get the book, Social Scripts and Pranks – at my TeachersPayTeachers page.

4) Start pranking - and share your pranks on social media!  And write about them.  ENJOY!!

Friday, March 3, 2023

This is the Voice!

At Fletcher Miller, we’re always looking to increase ways our students can engage meaningfully with their AAC at school and AT HOME.  At home, many of our Miller families report that they like watching shows like “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice” as a family.  To set students up for success using their AAC at home during these important family times, we’ve included fun events like our own “Fletcher Miller’s THE VOICE” to allow students a fun and engaging opportunity to practice using their AAC for such activities.  

To do this, we:

  1. Practiced being “The Voice” judges in our classrooms:  On our Mimios, we played re-runs of episodes of the “The Voice.”  Students were positioned with their backs to the screen.  Just like the celebrity judges in the show, the students were asked, “do you want to turn your chair?” as they listened to the contestants sing.  At the end of each contestant’s performance, we counted the number of students who turned their chairs for the performance and entered that number on a ten-frame.  We then encouraged our students to give the contestant some feedback, just as the celebrity judges do on the show.  Their responses varied from polite to scathing– and that made it all the more fun!  We compared the scores of the different contestants on ten-frames to determine which contestant won that round.

    1. >

  2. Next, we got prepared to host our own “The Voice” competition at Miller.  We worked hard and  rounded up some local, home-grown, in-school talent.  Some of our competitors took a little convincing!!  Luckily students were able to use their AAC to persuade and build up the confidence of our staff contestants.  One classroom even used their AAC to help build, guide, and critique their teachers’ song-and-dance performance of “The Bear Necessities.” (This performance, in the end, was a student FAVORITE, of course!)

    1. Performances in Miller’s First Annual “The Voice” included Gregory the Facility Dog (a.k. G Ice Swagg), a nose-flute performance by Ms. Leslie, a P!nk song by our facilities manager, Ms. Marie, “The Bear Necessities” by Ms. Megan’s Class, and “Man! I Feel Like a Woman” by various Miller staff.

  3. Next, it was time to prepare our celebrity student judges:  

    1. Student judges assembled their celebrity looks using the free YouCam app.  AAC was used by students to pick their hair color, styles, makeup, accessories, etc…

    2. Once they had their celebrity look, they needed to develop their celebrity persona.  AAC was used to help students name their hit song and life motto.

    3. Lastly, we accessed several free “rapper name generators” online to create a celebrity stage name.  This was great practice in using our alternate pencils to sign in with our names online!

      1. Above:  B Tang is ready for “The Voice!”

  4. When the big day came, we gathered the school audience in our auditorium.  One by one we introduced celebrity judges to the student audience.  With their backs to the performing contestant, our student celebrity judges were asked if they wanted to turn their chair for the performances.  They were also asked to give feedback using their AAC.  As they worked on their feedback, the student audience did the same and even used our favorite feedback report method, shown here:

  5. After feedback from judges was given, the ten-frames depicting the points of how many of our judges turned their chairs was compared and a “Miller’s The Voice” champion was crowned.  It was a great culminating moment for our hard work– and a TON of fun!

We shared this experience with parents and families and encouraged them to seek feedback from students while watching “The Voice” at home!

A NEW season of “The Voice” premieres on NBC March 6th!!!  We’re looking forward to hosting a Spring edition of “The Voice” at Miller.   It’s gonna be hard to top a rapping dog, a nose-flute, a pitchy rendition of Shania Twain, and a troop of dancing teacher bears –  but we’re up for the challenge!!!

Follow us on Instagram! @fletchermillerschool

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Gearing up for Valentine's Day at Fletcher Miller

February is almost here and that means LOVE and FRIENDSHIP are in the air!!! Are you looking for a little inspiration to find some new fun, motivating, and age-respectful activities that promote and celebrate the authentic use of AAC??  We’ll share a few ideas of activities in the works at Fletcher Miller in February.  Comment below and share yours, too!  What better way to get your kids engaging meaningfully with their AAC than talking about those they love and admire the most!??  

  1. Create a Valentine’s Day playlist-  Is your school/class planning a dance?  Have your students use their AAC to make a rockin’ playlist.  Students can nominate songs by using their AAC or use their AAC to critique popular love songs and say whether or not they make “the cut!!”  Easily assemble your class’ Valentine’s Day playlist on youtube to share with families, friends, and even use at a school dance.  Share via an email or social media post your students create using their AAC!

    1. Elliot’s song review-  will it make the cut for our Valentine’s Day playlist??

  2. Hot or Not-  have students compile a list of popular celebrities, activities, characters, trending topics, etc.  Students use their AAC to rate the selections and whether or not they think the celebrity/character is hot/cool or not– and why!

    1. https://www.youtube.com/shorts/1PubLJL8OWk

  3. Plan a “Galentine’s” Day!-  at Miller, we’re getting the gals together for a morning of girl-talk, Valentine’s Day sticker nails, chick flicks, and maybe even a few surprises from the gentlemen of Miller.  The ladies will use their AAC to girl-talk, select their nail art, request and comment on the chick flicks, and comment on their surprise from the Miller gentleman.  Everyone around these parts loves a good Galentine’s Day!!

    1. Below: Miller’s Mr. Jason doing a student’s nails during the Winter Holiday Galentine’s Party at Miller:

  4. Let Students Plan the Party!!  Have students use AAC to plan the Valentine’s Day party using their AAC.  Break off into sub-committees and plan the party in further detail as driven and directed by students’ AAC use.  We can’t wait to see what the sub-committees have in store for us?  Photo Booth??!!  We’re IN!!!

    1. The AAC-created Valentine’s Day party plan in Ms. Anna’s class:

  5. Celebrity Crush- have students (and staff!) use AAC to share their favorite crush.  Have them spell out names, share the characteristics of their celebrity crush, and/or tell why they chose that person.  Expand this activity to make a game– “Who is your celebrity crush?”  Have students match their classmates to their celebrity crush using their AAC.

    1. Below: a student’s celebrity crush revealed!

    2. Staff celebrity crushes revealed:

  6. Beaded Bracelets-  beaded bracelets with sayings or personally significant words are all the rage!  Have students use their AAC to select words or create sayings that are powerful to them or their friend.  Encourage them to make an “artist statement” on why they chose that word(s) for themself or their friend.  This is a great way to show self-love and empowerment– or make a bracelet for a friend!

    1. What’s trending now/current events tie in– “Little Words Project” : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nRj1BAwyNI

    2. How to make the bracelets video here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTnQdtU9gX0

  7. Speed “Connections”- think “Speed Dating” but without the pressure!  Have students practice using AAC to connect with classmates and peers by engaging in brief conversations and rating whether or not they felt a connection with others they conversed with.  This is a great way to practice social skills and pragmatics using AAC to introduce themselves, ask questions, and respond to questions and comments from a communication partner.  Finally, use AAC to comment on their perception of their communication partner and whether they felt the spark of friendship ignite!

    1. To help build that background knowledge of “Speed Connection,” check out this clip beginning at the 1 min mark:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7IW6PQnZIg

  8. A special Valentine’s day note to mom/dad/caregiver saying WHY the student loves them so much- Let students use AAC to request materials, colors, etc they wish to use to create the perfect valentine for their loved ones.  Use AAC to create the perfect message for their special someone.

  9. Valentine’s Day Mad Libs: Work with a partner and use AAC to complete Valentine’s Day Mad Libs.  Use a free printable or create your own using AAC!

    1. Free printables here: https://www.mamasmiles.com/printable-mad-libs-for-kids/

  10. Staff Treat!  Whip up a sweet treat for staff and leave a personalized message with each sweet treat using messages from students using their AAC.

Have fun and enjoy!  Don’t forget to comment below and share your own AAC-rich Valentine’s Day activities!!

Follow us on Instagram! @fletchermillerschool

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Fact or Crap!

Looking for a fun activity to promote the functional use of AAC?  Miller’s secondary students LOVE a good game of “Fact or Crap?!”  (If this title might raise some eyebrows, feel free to call it “You or Boo??!!”)

In this game, students use their AAC to create several truths and several lies about themselves.  At Miller, we made a special gameshow out of Fact or Crap and pitted our three secondary classrooms against each other.  Students’ AAC-created statements were presented to the two opposing teams.  For students with a variety of sensory learning needs, we also worked to include tactile and auditory “Fact or Crap” statements.  So interactive and fun!!

Pictured Above:  Fletcher Miller’s facility dog, Gregory, gets in on the “Fact or Crap” fun.

Students worked as a group to determine if the statement was, in fact, a FACT or CRAP.  Each team cast their vote using hand voting signs depicting FACT (check mark) or CRAP (poo emoji).  This turned out to be the students’ favorite part!!  Audience members even got in on the action with their own Fact or Crap hand voters.  It was a blast!

After each class had cast its vote, the statement was shown again– this time with the checkmark (fact) or poo emoji (crap).

Pictured Above:  “Gregory’s Arch-Nemesis is Lamb Chop” is….. CRAP!!! (He LOVES Lambchop toys)

If the class’ answer was correct, they were awarded one point on their ten-frame.  The first class to fill their ten-frame won! (A great way to sneak in some emergent math skills, right??!!)

Comparing ten-frames!

Students loved creating their “facts and craps” and especially loved being the center of attention as their AAC-created statements were shared with the audience members and contestants.  They also enjoyed using their AAC devices to do a little friendly competitive “trash-talking” before, during, and after the Fact or Crap game (we’re a super competitive school, it turns out!).

This could be a great on-going activity for a variety of groups and classes.

What games are motivating for your students using AAC?  Comment and share below!

Follow us on Instagram! @fletchermillerschool

Friday, January 20, 2023

The Fletcher Miller Newspaper!

Before jumping into the journey of our school newspaper, I wanted to introduce ourselves. We will be contributing here and there with some fun ideas around teaching emergent literacy! Fletcher Miller is a self-contained school in Jefferson County Public School District in Lakewood, Colorado. We serve students ages 3-21 all with multiple, complex disabilities. We have roughly 100 students in our school, of which about 90% are emergent literacy learners. We are passionate about creating age-respectful and meaningful literacy opportunities for our students. We love to think of creative ways to reach this complex population and provide opportunities that help them to access the world around them. We are so looking forward to connecting, and sharing what we do! 

Do you remember your school newspaper? I still have some of mine! The idea of a school newspaper came up when thinking about authentic learning experiences for our students with complex, multiple disabilities. Wanting to diversify reasons for writing, and allow a different, collaborative, opportunity to write. 

We started out by exploring newspapers both in print and online. We quickly realized that many of our students had never interacted with a newspaper before! It isn’t a total surprise, since most people are getting their news from the internet these days, but it ended up being a fun exploration. The feeling of the paper, the smell of the ink, and even how differently pages turn was a unique experience. The fact that the pages will fall out was an interesting exercise in adaptation for the adults. We ended up using paperclips to keep the pages together, and finding different ways to help turn the big pages for our students with physical motor impairments. For our students that primarily use switch scanning to access their literacy, we looked through newspapers online. We worked collectively to highlight the different sections and what belongs in each section. Not only was this a great literacy exploration activity, it was also a super rich language activity. Explaining sections like the horoscope, advice columns, and the classified section was so much fun! The students get such a kick out of the horoscope section, it’s become a favorite to write! From there, we asked each student which section they wanted to contribute to. Students would either use a conventional yes no response to auditory scan, or their dedicated communication systems. Once their section was selected, they would then narrow down to a topic. We ask students to use their alternative pencils to generate letters and words around the topic first.

If they selected an obscure topic or section, we made sure to learn more about the topic or section first before asking them to write. For instance, this month a student selected that he wanted to write a classified ad. He also picked dogs, spiders and alligators in his topic selection. We explored different classified ads and what they mean. Some sell items, some post about jobs, and some highlight an event, like a garage sale. He decided to stick with the “job” section of the classifieds. It was easier for his learning partner to then help him explore jobs where he might see a dog, spider or alligator. He decided on petsitter. For an emergent communicator, this is a huge amount of fringe and tier two and three language. We acknowledge that, and align our expectations to balance out the engagement of the student. We know the students will be absorbing much of these lessons receptively and that generating novel language around these topics will be tough. But, viewing this as an authentic writing opportunity and a world knowledge building experience, makes it fun and valid learning. The alternative pencils are used to generate letters and word-like groupings, and the writing was followed up with specific feedback from the students' learning partners. In the example of the classified ad, the student selected letters “LLF.” Words like “leash, learn, food, fun” were used to make a connection between their writing, and words commonly used by a pet sitter. Then the students are asked “Would you like to add any additional words from your communication book?” Some pick additional words, and some don’t. The last task of generating the newspaper is our editing section. We ask students to pick pictures they want to be included with their posts, fonts and colors. On the last day of newspaper creation, we set up a newspaper stand and sell the newspaper. This time is a blast. Kids love hearing others read their newspaper and talk about it with them!  Here are some snapshots of our newspaper! Let us know if you create one with your class! 

Follow us on Instagram! @fletchermillerschool

Thursday, January 5, 2023

MLK Songboard

 What:  This is a songboard that I made more than 20 years ago.  It was part of a ''Social Studies' CD that I was working on, but never finished.  There were some fun songboards, that have been added to my Singing to Learn 'CD' (a.k.a., dropbox).  For more information about that dropbox, use this link:  Caroline's 'CDs'/ Dropboxes Flyer

The MLK songboard folder includes PDFs of all symbols and images needed to create this songboard.  It also includes the lyrics and goals, relative to standards (see below).

How:  The MLK Songboard is designed to start a conversation about the many dreams of Martin Luther King.  While symbols are included to suggest typical examples (freedom, equality, etc.) students are encouraged to use their devices, voices, and the alphabet to share their own ideas.  Take time to read books, watch videos (including his "I Have a Dream Speech) and have a conversation first.  Using this songboard can be part of your assessment, determining how much your students learned from the prior lessons.

 The lyrics could be made into a transitional book using PowerPoint, Slides, Pictello, Book Creator, etc.

Where:  Download this as a gift using this link:

MLK Songboard Folder

Augmentative and Alternative Communication: breaking Down Opportunity Barriers

New Book!

What:  Excited to share about a new book by Susan Johnston, Cindy Gervarter, Samuel Sennott, Lateef McLeod, and Eric Sanders. The book covers multiple types of barriers:

• Knowledge / Skill Barriers

• Practice Barriers

• Attitude Barriers

• Policy Barriers

Who:  I contributed to case examples for attitude barriers along with Krista Howard and Brandi Wentland, and with policy barriers with Dr. Gretchen Hanser.

Where:  This book is available through Plural Publishing.  The price (academic textbook pricing) is $99.95.  But the coupon shown below offers a 15% discount!  Enjoy!