I am in awe of technology at the moment as we can do so much (as long as we know how haha!), but at times simplicity is the key. I often wonder if sometimes we can be too technological and too focused on the WOW factor. We have to remember that sensory pupils are learning how to be reactive on their environment and need suitable opportunities to have an impact on the world around them. Sensory pupils may also prefer to take in one colour/ visual/ sound effect at a time, so they can learn to understand what has happened. Put the needs and interests of your pupils first and create individualised technology sessions that really cater for the individual.
So here are some simple ways to bring ICT into every sensory lesson you deliver, that require very little technical skills as I’m stuck in the 90’s 😉
- The Interactive whiteboard (IWB)- I tend to use ours to share videos from you tube that relate to our topic, e.g. this term we are following STOMP (the use of household items to create rhythms) and in this context, I would use it for a whole class session, because, let’s face it, sometimes a group music session is FUN!
- The interactive whiteboard- We can tilt ours/ change the height of it, and this really makes it a useful teacher tool as any child can then access it at their level. Once you find the perfect angle, pupils working at a P1/2 will enjoy tracking activities. I use this program a lot-http://www.northerngrid.org/senswitcher/ . You can change the colour and the images. You can change the setting from experience to cause and effect, so pupils can press the screen to make the shapes move. It’s a really useful resource, as a teacher led activity, or as continuous provision.
- The Interactive whiteboard- 2 Simple software- Have you seen this software http://www.2simple.com/ ? We use 2 Paint to encourage pupils to make marks on the whiteboard. This reinforces cause and effect, and will tick off any mark making objectives for your pupils. While we are on 2 simple software, check out the music programs as they can bring ICT into your creativity/ music sessions.
- Floating switches- thanks to the invention of wireless switches (http://www.inclusive.co.uk/helpkidzlearn-easyswitch-p6315 and adapted plug in switches( http://www.inclusive.co.uk/inclusive-kidtrac-p2408 ) you can make your IWB accessible to those pupils with limited arm movements. They press the floating switch in a position that is accessible to them, and see the effects on screen. The wireless switches are amazing as because you don’t have to worry about stretching the wire too far, you can place the switch by their head/ food/ elbow, wherever you know the child can be most independent.
- The Powerlink http://www.inclusive.co.uk/powerlink-4-uk-p2575 – I just love this!! It’s so simple, yet makes sure every lesson can be related to ICT/ communication (cause and effect). You can plug almost any electrical item into it, add your pupil’s preferred switch and the pupil can turn on the electrical item, finding out about the world and learning about their effects on the environment. The settings can be changed from either a direct on/ off control, to a timed on/ off or a latched setting. I quite often use the fan/ lights (in the dark den/ sensory room)/ massager/ foot spa, as these have a strong effect. I like to see if my P2 pupils can press the switch with greater independence and begin to show anticipation of what is happening.
- The eye gaze http://www.inclusive.co.uk/articles/eye-gaze-say-it-with-your-eyes-a490 – this totally blew my mind when I was first introduced to it 4 years ago. The pupils can control the screen with their eyes!!! The Speech and Language therapy team linked to your school should recommend this for specific pupils. The programmes that we use in class develop pupils understanding of cause and effect, control, anticipation and encourage independence with those how have limited movements. This therefore links to both communication and cognition targets in your classroom.
- The ipad- Has so many options. The two main features I use it for are the apps and the camera. Get your ICT co-ordinator on task in finding lovely cause and effect apps. We like the piano/ xylophone, as the pupils can move their fingers across the screen to make sounds. It is handy if you need to work with another pupil in your group. Ipads are so accessible as you can hold them in the preferred position for your pupil to watch visual movements/ listen to sounds. You can move the ipad, to see if they will track and follow light or sound. They are also small enough to take into the dark den with you! As we like to be on trend in class, who doesn’t enjoy a selfie, or watch themselves back on video to celebrate recorded successes!
As ever, enjoy and please share your easy ICT tips J
Tuff spots are large trays that can be placed either on the floor or on adjustable frames, and are a very simple yet effective resource for your sensory classroom.
Adjust them to a low level so pupils can explore the contents whilst on their tummies or on a bean bag. Take them higher for pupils to explore from their chairs or standing.
Then have great fun experimenting!
You could start off using them for water, sand or paint. Or you could just use them as a tray to put in topical toys such as bricks, cars or small world.
And then you could get extra creative by filling them with all sorts of topical loveliness.
Here are some ideas stolen off pinterest to get your creative juices flowing 😉
The sense of smell is wonderful and is often heightened with an impairment of another; sight, hearing. Smelling is a lovely and gentle activity that we can all enjoy and benefit from in our sensory classrooms. Remember to allow your learners time to inhale and respond, so make sure the activity is calm, quiet and at a slow, slow pace. You may see some wonderful communication of pupils turning their heads, or even parting their lips for more!
And here are some ideas to make smelling even more interesting…..
- Create some scent tubs (you can get tiny snack tubs from supermarkets) and have them available within your continuous provision.
- Have a massage box on hand with all your unwanted Christmas smellies. Allow pupils to smell each one, and share a response, or even a preference. Pupils can then engage in a hand massage of foot spa with their favourite toiletry.
- Create a sensory story that focuses on smells only, for example a fair, or bonfire night. 5 pages would be lovely, with different smells telling a story. If they were familiar to a pupil, or a recent event, they may share great responses. Repeat it daily for a given period and see if pupils begin to have preferences or show anticipation.
- Alternatively, just add in a few smells to a story that you are already exploring.
- Add scents to play dough for example, vanilla, gingerbread, mint. As they knead, the smell will develop and make the activity extra interesting! Link the smell to your topic.
- Add scents to water play.
- Add scents to paint or glue.
- Add herbs and spices to a tuff spot/ tray full of sand or rice.
- Create scent squares that might line your walls, so when pupils are lying down for a stretch, they can be stimulated by their environment. It may encourage pupils to move and turn slightly.
- Create a scent book, where each page has a different spice or fragrance on it. Turn the pages together.
So in a nut shell, smells can be added to any activity, adding a multi-sensory twist to your teaching. I find smells are great for lesson observations as it shows that you are really thinking creatively for those pupils who have a visual impairment, or those that need the extra stimulus to make responses. It can provide you with that little bit extra to talk about with your pupils during activities, whilst still keeping them quite straight forward.
My school plans half termly, using a theme to bring all the subject areas together. I always find a really good, exciting book or poem and break it down into really small steps, which can be linked to all curriculum areas.
At home, I have a 2-year-old son, so we do enjoy a few Cbeebies programmes. The other day, we watched a sound poem recited by ‘Magic Hands’ and it was wonderful, and got me thinking about how wonderful this could be at the centre of a topic. So, I had a google and found a similar sound poem (The Sound Collector by Roger McGough), and here are some examples from verses 1 &2 of how I would use this for a whole term, bringing in a wide range of cross curricular links. (I’m using loose curriculum areas as each school is different, and the topic could well be anything you like, as you could change some of the words to fit into a theme 😉 ) Hopefully I exemplify how to expand on certain words and phrases in order to get creative and exciting with your planning ideas!
Please message me if you ever need ideas on your sensory themes as this is my favourite bit!
Literacy/ communication and language-
- Make each verse into a sensory poem by finding lovely props for each line, this can make a nice whole class starter activity, or be lengthened into a small group activity.
- Develop communication strategies
- Develop mark making throughout using various media as stated in poem- crumbs, bubbles, cereal etc.
- Develop tracking- left to right and up and down.
- I find Literacy can fit onto lots of the activities below….
- Each week use number rhymes, counting, shape/ colour activities running alongside the following
- Verse 1- put items in and out of bags/ develop object permanence/ sort items into bags
- V1- explore telling the time/ explore daily routine/ explore night and day
- V2- make toast/ cut it into quarters etc/ hand out plates and toast to each child
- V2- fill a tuff spot with cereals, glitter, sand and dig!! Explore, fill, empty, pour.
- V2- make cornflake cakes exploring measure. Add cornflakes to cornflour to make interesting gloop.
- Verse 1- Explore strangers/ family members/ people around school who help us
- V1- can we practice and refine dressing skills/ look in mirror use props to make ourselves look different
- V2- can we share our cornflake cakes with friends from other classes?
- V2- A scraping noise can sound horrible! What sounds do we like/ dislike? Can we share our likes with a peer?
- Verse 1- what can we carry/ grasp/ lift/ pass
- V1- fine motor skills- feel and explore bread crumbs, add glitter and sand to make it extra sensory/ explore on a light box.
- V1- turn locks, explore toys that can be pulled/ turned/ slid
- V2- crunch cornflakes with our feet- what other textures can we walk over/ feel with feet/ hands?
Understanding the world-
- Verse 1- Explore morning routines
- V1- explore sounds as stated/ use a switch to control the kettle
- V1- explore animal sounds
- V2- make toast, explore and taste different toppings
- V2- popping! What else can we pop? Explore different textures and of course make bubbles. Can we make gloop that might pop? What about popcorn!
- V6- I would really explore the word silence, with reflection and mindfulness in mind.
Expressive arts and design-
- Verse 1- what sounds can we make?
- V2- explore bubble art/ bubble printing/ bubble paint
- V2- spread with marmalade- paint with orange scented paint/ what else could we spread?
- Experiment with sensory paint- add colours, textures, foam, scents.
- V1-6- could you make a fab display of sound socks or gloves? Filling said items with lovely sensory items for children to feel and think about?
I have had the pleasure of working with a lot of very different pupils over the years, each with various learning difficulties and multi-sensory impairments. I have always found teaching a child with a visual impairment and a severe learning difficulty really, really challenging. Even with the support of MSI teachers, and teachers of the visually impaired, I still struggle with new ideas, but here are a few pointers and activities that may help you, if new to the visually impaired.
- Communication– get your school up to date on TASSELS. This is an on-body signing method that can really support your P1- P3 pupils. Just concentrate on a few signs per child, that will cue them into the most important sessions of the day, e.g. eat, drink, hello, movement.
- Communication– Objects of Reference- these are object cues that you will use to cue your child into every activity. The objects should be exactly the same in every class across the school for good continuity. Some examples that we have used are; a spoon for dinner time (if the child is fed orally), a cup for drink time, some fabric for home time (to represent the coat). Your school can pick out the most important things on the timetable, and decide on your own cues, personal to your school.
- Routine– try to keep things quite samey, so the child can become familiar with your class and become more independent in their actions. Keep your classroom lay out uncluttered and unmoved as then the more mobile child can explore and find things with greater independence (and less accidents).
- Time– give the child plenty of time to respond to instructions and exploratory activities. Ensure the pupils can explore their
environment wherever possible to find out where they are and become familiar with it.
- Positioning– I always get picked up on this in observations; position your child with VI in a way that the light is coming behind them, not in front of them, or try to work in a more darkened area if possible.
- Texture– find really interesting sensory objects to explore relating to your theme (see my blog on renew, reuse, recycle!) I recently saw a class team develop a sensory wall, high contrasting items, reflective items, textured items, noisy items. Of course the pupils were encouraged to make items for the wall, through use of exploration and choice.
- Texture– create a sensory book, where each page of a story has a tactile item on it to explore. This will also encourage page turning, listening and sharing.
- Sound– when one sense is impaired, the others are more sensitive, so a lot of children with visual impairments will enjoy music and sound exploration. Use sound or music cues as part of your daily routine and enjoy familiar sounds and rhymes together.
- Sound– create a sound story, where each page has a focus of a sound rather than a texture
- Sight– most VI pupils do have some vision to work with, so following guidance from your MSI advisor, work in a dark tent exploring interesting lights/ shiny/ reflective items.
- Smell– create ‘smelly’ boxes relating to your topics!
- I will add more as I experience more good practice from my fellow sensory teachers 😉