Observations…

When I was in Seattle a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of working with an incredibly bright and insightful, young man named Herman. Herman had never used RPM before and he picked it up fast! Over the course of the workshop, we learned a lot about Herman. One of the many things that impressed me about Herman was his observations about nature and humanity! Here are his responses to a lesson on Emily Dickinson’s, A Bird Came Down the Walk.

A bird came down the walk

A Bird came down the Walk
by Emily Dickinson

A Bird came down the Walk— He did not know I saw—
He bit an Angleworm in halves And ate the fellow, raw,
And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass—
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall To let a Beetle pass—
He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all around—
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought— He stirred his Velvet Head
Like one in danger, Cautious, I offered him a Crumb
And he unrolled his feathers And rowed him softer home -
Than Oars divide the Ocean, Too silver for a seam—
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon Leap, splashless as they swim.

Spell Emily Dickinson: EMILY DICKONSON (I pointed out that this was a great phonetic spelling of Dickinson but that her name is spelled with an i following the k. Then I moved on. I find that simple, informative spelling feedback like this is well received by the kids!)

What do you think this poem is about? I THINK THIS POEM IS BIRD MAKES NEST

What does the bird drink? DEW

What is dew? CONDENSATION IN THE MORNING

How are the birds eyes described? LIKE BEADS

How does this poem make you feel? CAUTIOUS

What is the bird cautious about? NOT SURE OF PEOPLE

What point of view does Dickinson give the reader? OBSERVER

What message does this poem tell us about nature? HUMANS CANNOT CONTROL NATURE

If you were with Emily Dickinson when she was observing this bird what would you want to tell her. I WOULD SAY NOT TO BE SAD EVEN GOD DOES NOT CONTROL NATURE

Tell me about something you have observed. I HAVE OBSERVED THAT PEOPLE ARE LIKELY TO EQUATE INTELLIGENCE WITH TALKING INSTEAD OF THINKING. THAT IS A MISTAKE IN THEIR LOGIC.  I WILL PROVE THEM WRONG.  DON’T DOUBT ME AGAIN.

Poems are great to use as RPM lessons! You can find poems to address a particular topic you want to discuss or you can just focus on the poem and the art of poetry itself. I am a fan of the latter. I generally read the poem out loud once and then start to ask questions about the poem. (Read it only once?! Yes! Presume competence and bet that your student can listen to, understand and retain a poem of reasonable length when you read it once – even if you have been told a million times that she can’t! If your student isn’t able to respond to the questions – then go back and read pertinent lines – but until then, believe that your learner can do more than you expect!) Poems are perfect for RPM lessons because you can take almost any poem and meet your learner at his or her level!

If you are the choice level, start with simple teach-ask choices (e.g., “What animal are we talking about? A bird or a mouse?). Is your learner great at making choices and you want to transition to spelling on the boards? After your student makes the correct choice, ask him to point to the first letter of that word on the board (adding more spelled letters as you and your student become comfortable!) If you are just beginning to spell on the boards (the 3 boards or 26 letter board) stick with asking questions that only have one answer: spelling (“Spell bird); offer a choice and ask your student to spell the correct answer or; present a fill-in-the-blank (e.g., “The bird came down the _______.”  When you know the correct answer it is easier to know what your learner is trying to point to on the boards!

When your learner is a little more proficient on the boards, build the complexity of your questions as you proceed in the lesson. This gives even a skilled RPMer a little time to warm up his brain and motor skills! Notice that I did NOT do that here! (DOH! Yes, I get excited and rush ahead occasionally too!) Also notice that this was not Herman’s best response. This was not his fault, it was mine for asking an open ended question too soon! Ok, no harm done! We picked up right back up with a more concrete question, “What did the bird drink?”. Confidence now restored, we continued happily ahead! (Get my point here??!!). Finally, I build to one final open ended question for creative writing. When it comes to creative writing – I ask the question, zip my mouth and let the student respond. (If you are a Chatty-Chatterton like I am, resist the urge to jump in with a barrage of questions!) You will be amazed at what comes out if you just let it!

Need a little more Herman? Of course you do! In a subsequent lesson about books, (the book lesson will be in a blog coming your way soon) Herman indicated that he would like to hear his parents read Mark Twain. This was a surprise to his parents but they were eager to meet Herman’s request. When they got home and pulled the book off the shelf this is what they found….

Mark Twain had been decorated!

Herman had “decorated” the outside of this Mark Twain anthology some time ago. His mom sent me this picture and commented,”We’ve seen that before but never realized he is interested in the inside of it!”  As she attached this picture she also noticed that Herman had decorated book in the background that his Dad has been reading (look just beyond the letter board) – Math in Minutes . WOW! It makes me wonder what other clues these incredible kids have been leaving us! ~Elizabeth

Making it Work: Tailoring your approach for your learner

I am afraid that some readers may take a look at my blog posts and think that all my clients skip eagerly into a RPM session, fingers poised to spell pithy, insightful narratives on the letter board in the midst of rainbows and sunshine! Isn’t that the way it looks when you do RPM?!! Nope, it doesn’t work that way for me either! Let me help tune that image into a more accurate picture with the help of my friend Jarrett.

Jarrett is a super smart, adorable (obviously!), twelve year old. He has been a bit beaten up by what I call, “ground hog day education” – being taught the same things over and over and over. He is a perfectionist and a little weary from a demand to show what he knows in order to be taught anything new. Showing what you know can be tough to do when you have a body that does not cooperate! As you know, my mantra and war cry is PRESUME COMPETENCE….Jarrett and many others kids I work with have been the on receiving end of the opposite tenant – assume incompetence until proven otherwise. Jarrett’s typical response to frustration is to go on strike – full on refusal to participate. So, my very first step with Jarrett was to build a relationship of trust and respect. I do this by presenting Jarrett with age appropriate, interesting, and challenging cognitive lessons.

Jarrett likes options! I pull out every board that I have and let him choose.

I present NEW information in every lesson!  We do not “recycle” information in RPM. I may talk about the same topic in multiple sessions but the content is always new and fresh! For instance, here Jarrett and I are doing part 1 of a 2 part lesson on robotics. There is way too much great information on robotics for me to cover in just one lesson!

I give Jarrett a choice of boards. He is able spell on all the options (the 3 stencil set, the large 26 letter stencil board, the smaller 26 letter stencil board or the laminated board) but sometimes he prefers one board over another. Choosing a board for each response is not my standard operating procedure for my RPM clients but it motivates Jarrett and involves him in the lesson so it has become JOP – Jarrett Operating Procedure!

Jarrett is also a tactile learner - so he enjoys writing the words we have spelled on the letter board.

Jarrett is also a kinesthetic learner – so he enjoys writing the words we have spelled on the letter board. I add my notes along with Jarrett’s!

Jarrett is a great auditory learner. He is absorbing everything he hears. He is also a kinesthetic learner. When I would write down the responses Jarrett pointed to on the letter board, he would also reach for the pencil. I quickly learned that he was letting me know that he wanted to write as well. No problem! At first, Jarrett could not form any letters so we worked hand over hand to form the letters. This significantly improved his pencil grip. As we write the letters, I state the letter strokes required to form the letters (e.g., “A goes down, down and cross”). Guess what has happened? Jarrett is no longer tactilely defensive with the pencil, his pencil grip has improved and he is forming letters independently AND he is not on strike! Now Jarrett is actively engaged in the lesson! It is easy to get caught up in the communicative aspect of RPM and forget that RPM is a “method to integrate all parts of the brain to empower the learner” (Soma Mukhopadhyay). RPM provides a means of expressing what the learner understands via open learning channels – visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic. For Jarrett, writing the words he spelled with me engages ALL of his learning channels. For other kids, this same procedure might be torture. The trick is to stay true to the methodology of RPM but actively engage your learner in the ways that he or she learns best! (Not sure what kind of learner your child is? This book is the best guide to figuring that out!).

Of course we have not reached perfection yet (in fact, I have yet to EVER reach perfection in anything!!!). Sometimes parts of our sessions still look like this!

Strike!

Strike!

That’s ok! We are in no rush. Jarrett is learning in every session, participating and expressing himself through RPM. Even when Jarrett is on strike, he is still listening and learning. Every lesson builds his confidence and adds to his success. In the meantime, I have plenty of patience and plenty of this…..

As long as I have my coffee, it's all good!

As long as I have coffee, it’s all good!

I think of teaching and therapy as implementation of the scientific method. Form a hypothesis about what may work for your learner. Try it out. Gather your data (is it working/not working; too easy/too hard) and adjust! Be patient with yourself and your learner and enjoy the process! ~Elizabeth

 

 

Further Travels to the Unexpected

unexpected-road1

Last week, I featured Ian’s responses to the lesson on Christopher Columbus – A Case Study in Unexpected Events. Since then, I have done this lesson with several other RPM clients, all of whom have produced equally fantastic essays that are too good not to share! Communication requires a speaker and a listener which is why so many of my kids (and their parents) are so willing to share their words with you. Thank you for listening!

As a reminder, the creative writing for this lesson was, “Describe an event when things did not go according to plan. What did you do to navigate unexpected changes in plan? How did the event turn out?” Note: Comments or questions from me are in italics and client responses are in all capitals. I have added punctuation marks to my letter boards so use of punctuation (or lack their of) is determined by the client.

REALLY MY STORY IS ABOUT ME. SO I AM REALLY SMART BUT ALMOST NOBODY KNOWS SO IT IS UNEXPECTED.  I CAN TALK BUT I CAN SHOW MORE THAT I KNOW ON THE LETTER BOARD.  I THINK SOME PEOPLE STILL THINK NOBODY COULD TALK ONE WAY. ONLY TALKING WITH YOUR MOUTH IS EXPECTED.  SPELLING TO TALK IS NOT EXPECTED. GET PEOPLE TO BELIEVE THIS ACCEPTABLE. How should we do that? KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT. ~William

I ONLY KNOW ABOUT MY OWN EXPERIENCE AS A PERSON WITH AUTISM.  I DON’T THINK MY AUTISM WAS IN ANYONES PLANS.  HOWEVER, HERE I AM.  A YOUNG MAN WITH AUTISM  (I watched Ben pause, his finger hovering over for B [boy?] then C [child?] before he spelled YOUNG MAN) COMMUNICATING FOR THE FIRST TIME AT EIGHTEEN YEARS.  WHO EXPECTED THAT?  MY PARENTS WERE CERTAINLY NOT EXPECTING A CHILD WITH AUTISM.  MY BROTHER AND SISTER WERE NOT EXPECTING A SIBLING WITH AUTISM.  LIFE IS FULL OF UNEXPECTED OCCURRENCES. THE TRICK IS HOW YOU DEAL WITH IT!  MY PARENTS HAVE DEALT WITH ME CONSISTENTLY BY PUSHING ME TO DO MORE!  MY SIBLINGS HAVE EMBRACED ME AS I AM, NEVER ACTING ASHAMED OF ME OR EXCLUDING ME.  I AM NOT SORRY I HAVE AUTISM. IT IS WHO I AM.  I LOVE MY UNIQUE BRAIN AND PERSONALITY.  MY LACK OF TALKING DOES NOT MEAN I HAVE A LACK OF THINKING! EVEN THOUGH I  CAN’T COMMUNICATE BY SPEAKING I HAVE A LOT TO SAY TO EVERYONE.  I AM SO GRATEFUL RPM HAS GIVEN ME A WAY TO EXPRESS MY IDEAS.  I CAN NOW COMMUNICATE BY SPELLING.  THIS HAS BEEN MOST UNEXPECTED BUT WELCOME FOR SURE! ~Ben

I AM AUTISTIC SO NOT MANY PEOPLE THINK I AM SMART BECAUSE MY WORDS DON’T SHOW IT.  NOT EVERYONE THINKS I CAN TALK TRULY ON THE LETTER BOARD. MAYBE THEY SHOULD HAVE MORE FAITH IN ME.  NOT EVERYONE NEEDS TO TALK TO BE SMART. ~Emma

I HAVE NAVIGATED THE UNEXPECTED THINGS IN MY LIFE BY BEING OPEN AND ACCEPTING.  MY WAY THROUGH LIFE HAS BEEN FULL OF TWISTS AND TURNS AND NO MAP TO HELP ME NAVIGATE THE JOURNEY.  I HAVE FIGURED OUT HOW TO GET AROUND BY LISTENING TO AND LEARNING EVERYTHING AROUND ME.  THIS HAS BEEN SUCCESSFUL FOR ME SO FAR BUT I WOULD LIKE IT IF I DIDN’T HAVE TO WORK SO HARD. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HARD THIS IS TO FIGURE OUT! THE END. ~Huan

NOTHING IN MY LIFE HAS GONE AS EXPECTED.  I DID NOT PLAN TO HAVE AUTISM. MY BRAIN IS FINE.  MY BODY BLOWS (This client does RPM using a bluetooth keyboard and turned on the caps lock to spell blows in all caps!).  THIS WAS THE HAND I WAS DEALT.  MY CHALLENGE HAS BEEN TO MANAGE THAT HAND.  THE WORST PART IS NOT BEING ABLE TO TALK LIKE THE REST OF THE WORLD. ~Mike

SO MANY THINGS IN MY LIFE HAVE BEEN UNEXPECTED.  FOR ONE THING I NEVER KNOW WHAT MY BODY IS GOING TO DO LIKE FLAP AROUND LIKE A FISH OUT OF WATER.  MY MOUTH MAKES CRAZY SOUNDS BUT NOT SOUNDS FOR SPEECH. LUCKY FOR ME I HAVE A VERY STRONG BRAIN SO NOTHING USUALLY HAS TO SURPRISE ME TOO MUCH.  PLEASE DO NOT FEEL SORRY FOR ME.  I WOULD NOT HAVE MY LIFE ANY OTHER WAY. ~Paul

Using RPM for communication and learning may just make the Unexpected a bit more manageable. ~Elizabeth

Navigating the Unexpected

I have written about my long time client and family friends, Ian and his parents.  It was not a hard sell to convince me to come out to Seattle for a visit and a RPM workshop – especially when I could work in a little summer vacation in the process! (This East Coast gal is awed by the natural splendor of the Pacific Northwest.)

bigtree

The workshop was a great success – lots of learning, spelling, breakthroughs, epiphanies, and joyful tears! The chance to do what I love in a new setting and share my passion for kids, families and RPM was a treat. I think Ian’s comments in the final session of the workshop sum up this experience perfectly!

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS…a case study in unexpected events! 

Christopher Columbus was born in 1451 in Genoa, Italy. Genoa was a thriving seaport. Columbus grew up to be a sailor, mapmaker and geographer. When Columbus set sail in 1492, his intention was to find a new trade route to the East Indies. Until then there was only one known route from Asia to Europe. Sailors traveled eastward across the Mediterranean Sea, then by caravan through deserts and mountains. Columbus was determined to find a better route by sailing west. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, rulers of the Spanish kingdoms Castile and Aragon, agreed to finance three ships to support this journey. Upon acquisition of new lands, Columbus was promised the position or status of Governor. Upon acquisition of new wealth, Columbus was promised 10% of the monetary profit.

What industry was Genoa, Italy known for? SHIPPING

Name one of Columbus’ occupations. MAPMAKER

What does a governor do? GOVERNS A REGION

Why would King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella want to find new trade routes or discover new lands? TO INCREASE REVENUE.

Nice word! So we are clear, what does revenue mean? MONEY

New trade routes had not been established because sailors feared losing sight of land. Sailors who believed the world was flat thought that sailing west would result in “falling off the edge” of the world. This fear illustrates the power of myth. As early as the sixth century B.C., Greek philosopher Pythagoras had written that the Earth was a sphere, or round. Several books were published between 1200 and 1500 that discussed the Earth’s shape, including “The Sphere.” Historians believe that educated citizens of Columbus’ day knew that the Earth was round.

Why had sailors failed to establish new trade routes? WANTED TO KEEP LAND IN SIGHT.

What indication did citizens of the renaissance have that the earth was round, not flat? BOOKS HAD BEEN WRITTEN ON IT.

As it turned out, the issue for Columbus was not the shape of the Earth, but the size of the ocean. While it was agreed that Asia lay to the west, no one knew how far.  Columbus estimated Japan to be approximately 2,500 miles west of the Canary Islands. Japan was instead more than 10,000 miles away from the Canary Islands. His miscalculation was a result of an assumption that the earth was smaller than it really was. However, this miscalculation did not land him in “America” as we know it.

How many miles away from the Canary Islands was Japan?10000 MILES

What caused Columbus to miscalculate the distance of Japan from the Canary Islands? UNDERESTIMATED THE SIZE OF THE EARTH.

On October 12, 1492, Columbus landed on various Caribbean islands that are now known as the Bahamas. He also explored the Central and South American coasts, but he did not reach North America.

If Columbus did not reach north America why do we celebrate Columbus day? TO CELEBRATE HIS GOOD TRY

The first Columbus Day celebration was held on October 12, 1972 to honor Italian-American Heritage. The Bahamas observe “Discovery Day” to celebrate Columbus. Miscalculations and mythical tales do not dampen the accomplishments of Christopher Columbus. As a result of his risk taking and navigational skills, he found the best travel route across the ocean to the Americas and best eastern route back to Europe. These routes are still used hundreds of years later.

Where did Columbus land on October 12, 1492? BAHAMAS

Name a lasting effect of Christopher Columbus westward voyages? DISCOVERED TRADE ROUTES TO THE EAST

Creative Writing:

Describe an event when things did not go according to plan. What did you do to navigate unexpected changes in plan? How did the event turn out?

I HAVE BEEN A VICTIM OF UNEXPECTED OBSTACLES. NO ONE EXPECTS TO BE BORN WITH AUTISM.  I AM SURE IT WAS NOT WHAT MY PARENTS EXPECTED EITHER. I AM VERY HAPPY TO BE WHO I AM.  I WOULD NOT WANT MY LIFE TO BE ANY DIFFERENT THAN IT HAS BEEN WITH ONE EXCEPTION.  I WISH THAT I COULD TALK! I THINK THAT MY AUTISM HAS MADE ME AN INTERESTING PERSON.  I THINK AND PERCEIVE THE WORLD DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU NON AUTISTICS. THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT I DO NOT THINK AT ALL.  WHILE YOU ARE BUSY TALKING I AM LISTENING, THINKING, AND LEARNING. THIS IS A GIFT NOT A TRAGEDY.  SOMETIMES I FEEL SORRY FOR YOU.  YOU ARE CAUGHT UP IN A WORLD OF WORDS AND TRYING TO PROVE YOURSELF.  IN THE MEANTIME I HAVE BEEN FLYING UNDER THE RADAR FREE TO LEARN, OBSERVE AND LISTEN WHEN YOU DID NOT THINK I WAS LISTENING AT ALL. BIG MISTAKE!  I KNOW ALL YOUR SECRETS! DON’T WORRY I CAN’T TALK SO YOUR SECRETS ARE SAFE WITH ME.  I LOVE YOU ALL THANKS FOR LISTENING TO ME.

Wow! Just wow! It was a spectacular week. An added unexpected gift, my daughter, Andi, a teacher of 10 years who lives in Seattle, joined us for the workshop so she could learn RPM! You know what they say, the family that RPMs together……  ~Elizabeth

Andi, Ian, me and Rosaleen (Ian's Mom). A bunch of crazy people with letter boards!

Andi, Ian, me and Rosaleen (Ian’s Mom). A bunch of crazy people with letter boards!

A Westcoast Reunion!

Greetings from the Pacific Northwest! I am currently on vacation on Whidbey Island, Washington enjoying the breathtaking mountains, crystal clear waters and fresh air! Right after landing in Seattle, before we heading to Whidbey, we stopped in to visit with Ian and his family.  It has been two and half months since I saw Ian in Virginia. During our visit, I had a rare opportunity for a spontaneous RPM family session with Ian, his parents, and cousins! Here is our conversation.

Ian gets a chance to talk to his family!

Ian gets a chance to talk to his family!

Upon pulling out the letter-board, Ian immediately and without prompting, spelled:

Ian: HI ELIZABETH.  I MISSED YOU SO MUCH!

Elizabeth:  How’s life been Ian?

Ian:  I HAVE BEEN PRACTICING WITH MOM AND DEBORAH ON THE LETTER BOARD   IT HAS GONE PRETTY WELL

Elizabeth:  Do you have any feedback for your Mom?

Ian:  KEEP PRACTICING TO GET AS GOOD AS ELIZABETH AND ME

Ian:   I STILL AM NOT HAPPY WITH MY SCHOOL SITUATION.  I WANT TO BE EDUCATED IN THE REGULAR CLASSROOM. I FEEL LIKE I AM WASTING MY TIME IN SPECIAL EDUCATION. MY BRAIN IS NOT BEING PUT TO GOOD USE. I NEED TO BE CHALLENGED OR I AM AFRAID MY BRAIN WILL ROT. I WOULD LOVE TO BE HOME SCHOOLED SO I CAN PASS THE GED AND GO TO COLLEGE.  I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR ALL MY PARENTS HAVE DONE FOR ME.  I DO NOT WANT TO BE GREEDY BUT I DO WANT AN EDUCATION WORTHY OF MY INTELLIGENCE. I FEEL LIKE I AM RUNNING OUT OF TIME TO LEARN SO I DO NOT WANT TO WASTE ANY MORE TIME IN THE SCHOOL SYSTEM. I HAVE SO MUCH I WANT TO ACCOMPLISH IN MY LIFE.  I WANT TO HELP OTHER NONSPEAKING AUTISTICS FIND THEIR VOICE LIKE I HAVE WITH RPM SO I NEED TO GET ON WITH THIS MISSION. NO MORE WASTED TIME IN SCHOOL. PLEASE HELP ME. I HAVE NOT STOPPED THINKING ABOUT THIS SINCE I LEFT VIRGINIA. ALL I WANT TO DO IS LEARN SO I CAN MAKE A CONTRIBUTION TO OTHERS IN THIS WORLD.

At this point I  asked Ian if he had any more thoughts on the subject of school and he indicated that he was finished. When Ian was in Virginia, he texted his dad that he would like to attend a Seattle Sounders FC soccer game. His dad took him to a game when he got back from Virginia. He loved it! Ian’s cousins Warren and Jasen came and sat down near Ian to see him do RPM

Elizabeth:  Ian, how was the Sounders game?

Ian:  I HAD SO MUCH FUN.  I LOVED GOING TO THE GAME WITH DAD.

Ian’s Dad was wondering if the noise of the game was bothering him and that was why he was burying his head in his father’s chest.

Eric (Ian’s dad):  Was the Sounders game too loud?

Ian:  NO SOUNDS DO NOT BOTHER ME AS MUCH AS LIGHTS DO.

Ian has been doing light therapy to help a vision problems he discussed via RPM when he was in Virginia. 

Rosaleen (Ian’s mom):  Ian, do you think the vision therapy is helping?

Ian:  THE VISION THERAPY IS USEFUL BUT THE LIGHTS STILL BOTHER ME

Rosaleen:  But Ian, you don’t like wearing sun glasses.

Ian:   I LIKE THE GLASSES BUT SOMETIMES THEY ANNOY ME SO I TAKE THEM OFF AND I HAVE A HARD TIME PUTTING THEM BACK ON MY FACE.

*I have heard this from other kids!  The sunglasses feel new and different on their face so they take them off.  When they want to put them back on, sometimes the motor planning required to do so makes this difficult.  

Rosaleen:  Should I keep pestering you to put them back on?

Ian:  I WILL TRY TO LET YOU KNOW. KEEP ASKING ME!

At this point, Ian’s cousin Warren had a question after watching Ian point out letters on the letter-board.

Warren:  Ian, can you type on the computer to communicate?

Ian:  THAT IS A DIFFERENT MOTOR LEARNING PATTERN AND I AM NOT ABLE TO BE AS FLUENT OR GET MY IDEAS OUT THE SAME AS I CAN ON THE LETTER BOARD.

I told Warren that this is the question I am most often asked. Ian’s reply is better than anyway that I have been able to explain it! Another frequently asked question is why the therapist has to hold the letter-board, why can’t it just be put on a stand. So I thought I would let field this one as well! 

Elizabeth:  Ian, can the letter-board be held on a stand so you can respond independently?

Ian:  PART OF MY DISORDER IS THAT I CAN NOT INITIATE MOTOR MOVEMENTS ON MY OWN SO I NEED ELIZABETH TO PROVIDE THE COACHING TO GET MY BODY TO RESPOND PROPERLY.  I CAN NOT DO THIS ON MY OWN. THIS IS WHY I CANNOT TALK.

One thing that Ian’s mom and dad have been amazed at is watching Ian play with a calculator app on the iPad. He will type large 12-digit numbers (billions) into the calculator then multiply by some smaller number. When he gets the answer, his parents are stunned to see the results. Rosaleen has seen him get products that are 15 digits long, all the same integer (for example: 999,999,999,999,999 or 666,666,666,666,666). Eric has seen him get answers such as 777,777,777,777,776 after which he might get 777,777,777,777,778 until he finally gets an answer of 777,777,777,777,777 which seems to be quite satisfactory to him. This blows my mind so I had to ask Ian about this!  

Elizabeth:  Ian, how do you do that thing where you multiply big numbers to get all 7s or 8s?

Ian:  IT IS EASY.  I JUST DIVIDE THE NUMBER I WANT TO GET AND THEN MULTIPLY THOSE NUMBERS.

Elizabeth:  So you do that in your head?

Ian:  YES

Wow! So much fun to be able to plop down in the middle of the family and include everyone in the RPM conversation! Our week of vacation on Whidbey is almost at a close. Tomorrow we head into Seattle for continued fun but also my first West Coast RPM workshop with Ian and a few of his buddies!  Can’t wait to hear what these kids have to say! ~Elizabeth

Old Glory ~ a Lesson for Flag Day!

Since Flag Day is Saturday, June 14 it seemed to be the perfect topic for an RPM lesson. I have gotten some fantastic responses from my kiddos as well as some strong opinions about whether it is appropriate to wear images of the flag on apparel. One of my favorite creative writing responses came from one of my younger kids, Carson.

This face always makes me smile!

This face always makes me smile!

I love the poetry in Carson’s newly developing creative writing skills. Carson is a soon to be 10 year old who started RPM on October 30, 2013. I know this date very specifically because Carson came in for his initial appointment fresh from a school Halloween party still wearing a Spiderman costume! That’s a first impression not easily forgotten. Let’s just say, Spiderman was an apt choice for this very active guy! Over the last seven months, Carson has settled into RPM very nicely. We started with making choices to answer questions in lessons then pointing to letters to spell out his answers. As Carson is engaged in learning, his physical activity has significantly decreased. He is able to sit and focus for the majority of the session. Every session, Carson’s expressive output increases as his motor learning for pointing to letters to spell improves!

(*The lesson is regular font, my comments or off the cuff remarks are in italics and Carson’s responses are in all capitals.)

FLAG DAY

Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the United States flag, which happened on June 14, 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. Each Continental Congress was comprised of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies, which became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution. Our national flag contains 13 equal horizontal stripes of red alternating with white, and a blue rectangle in the corner holding 50 small, white, five pointed stars. The stars represent the 50 states of the United States of America. The stripes represent the 13 British colonies that declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Commonly known as the American Flag, it is often referred to by several nick names including Old Glory,” “Stars and Stripes,and The Star Spangled Banner.

o-AMERICAN-FLAG-facebook

What are we going to talk about today? FLAG DAY

What date was United States Flag adopted? JUNE 14

What significance did 13 equal, horizontal stripes have? COLONIES

What significance did 50 small, white, five pointed stars have? STATES

What is a common nickname for the American Flag? OLD GLORY

Flag Day is not a national holiday, but President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day in 1916.  In observance of Flag Day, the president issues a proclamation urging U.S. citizens to fly the American Flag for the duration of the week. The American flag is generally on display at all government buildings and you can often find private homes flying the flag year-round as well. Display and use of the American Flag is widespread on civic holidays like Memorial Day, Veterans Day, PresidentsDay, Independence Day and Flag Day.

Is Flag Day a national holiday? NO

Which president issued the first Flag Day proclamation in 1916? WOODROW WILSON

What did the president ask citizens to do in observance of Flag Day? FLY THE FLAG

Name one civic holiday, other than Flag Day, where the American Flag is widely used. INDEPENDENCE DAY

The United States Flag Code outlines guidelines for use, display and disposal of the American Flag. One little known fact, the American flag should never be dipped or bowed to a person or thing unless it is responding to a salute from a ship of a foreign nation.  Well known etiquette includes not allowing the American flag to touch the ground or be flown at night unless it is illuminated.  Further, if a flag becomes worn, it should be repaired, replaced or destroyed.  On Flag Day, organizations like the American Legion conduct flag retirement ceremoniesto destroy worn flags properly.  The American Legion is an organization that provides community support for war Veterans and their families.

What purpose does the United States Flag Code serve? TAKE CARE OF THE FLAG

Describe one well known flag etiquette tip. DO NOT TOUCH THE GROUND

What happens at a flag retirement ceremony?A FLAG IS BURNED (*notice that I did not say that the flags were burned! Carson is a pretty smart cookie!)

Many aspects of the Flag Code are ignored. Even though the Flag Code is federal law, there is no penalty for a citizen or group who violates the code. It is widely agreed that to penalize someone for display of the American Flag on apparel or personal wears to be a violation of the First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech. Flag code prohibits use for advertising purposes and states that the flag cannot be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins,boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use.

What kind of law is the Flag Code?  FEDERAL….What does federal mean? NATIONAL (Again, I did not explain that federal law is national law!  I love seeing all the things that my kids know!)

By presidential proclamation, acts of Congress or local custom, American Flags are displayed as several locations on a continuous basis. We can find flags on continuous display throughout the National Capital Area including Baltimore, Maryland at the Fort McHenry National Monument, Washington DC where fifty American flags are flown continuously at the Washington Monument, and Arlington, Virginia at the Marine Corps War Memorial, known commonly as the Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima monument.

Name one location you can find the American Flag on continuous display. WASHINGTON MONUMENT

CREATIVE WRITING:  Where have you commonly observed the Stars and Stripes? What does the presence of an American Flag inspire in you?

I ENJOY SEEING THE FLAG WAVING. IT MAKES ME FEEL HAPPY TO BE AMERICAN. I ENJOY SEEING THE FLAG BLOWING IN THE WIND. I’M HAPPY TO SING TO THE FLAG.

I love the national and international RPM communities that have formed over the internet. Here is a challenge to my readers who are from or who live in countries other than the United States. First, do this lesson on the American Flag with your child. Then, create a lesson on the flag of your country (this does not have to be anything complex or fancy!!!) and share it (you can post it in the comments section of this blog or message me on the Growing Kids Facebook page and I’ll post the lesson). This is a great opportunity to learn about each other and from each other! I promise to post what my kids learn from your lessons!  ~Elizabeth

A Collaborative Story by Mother and Son

Last week you met Ian and read about his first conversation with his dad via the letter board and then text. Today’s post features Ian with his Mom! Rosaleen is a mom who awes and inspires me! Her dedication to her children; tireless effort to insure Ian is supported and happy; and community outreach – all with the most infectious laughter I have ever encountered – makes it a joy to work with Rosaleen and Ian. This collaborative story lesson was the perfect choice for such a fun mother and son! I wish I could claim credit for this idea, but I stole this from my friend, Brianne, who is an RPM teacher extraordinaire working in New York. The process is simple – develop an impromptu story by having two or more people contribute one line of a story at a time. Although the process is simple, creating a story as clever as this one is pretty impressive!

I am a firm believer in lessons for RPM sessions. Why? Cognitive lessons feed the hungry brains of our kids who desperately want to learn. Cognitive lessons also allow you to work with information that you have just presented and then build upon with your questions (Soma refers to this as teach-ask). A nicely structured lesson allows you to build the complexity of language (and warm up the motor skills to point) as you progress during the lesson (and over time using RPM – remember, building to open communication takes time!!!). Move from simpler tasks like making choices, spelling, and answering closed ended questions (questions with only a few possible correct answers); to a little more challenging responses like definitions, to wh-questions; to more abstract questions like prediction and inference questions; and finally to open communication. This is collaborative writing lesson is the perfect solution when you want something a little different from a content lesson. Just don’t forget to warm up with some spelling and questions!

(*Note: Ian’s responses written on the letter board are in all caps, my comments are in italics and his mom’s in regular font!)

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A Collaborative Story  – by Ian and Rosaleen

Ian, we are going to do something a little different today.  Before we do, I have a couple of questions for you.  

First, spell collaborative. COLLABORATIVE

What does collaborative mean?  WORKING TOGETHER

Do you like working collaboratively?  SOMETIMES I LIKE IT

Do you know what Improvisation is?  DOING SOMETHING SPONTANEOUSLY

What do you think I am up to?!  I THINK YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE ME DO SOMETHING WITH MOM.

Very good!  What do I love to do at the end of lessons?  CREATIVE WRITING

Exactly!  So, I am going to have a you do an improvisational, collaborative creative writing assignment with Mom!  What could be a positive about this process?  IT COULD BE FUN. What could be a negative about this?  IT COULD BE A TERRIBLE STORY

*Ian chose to let Rosaleen initiate the story:

R:  In a time not so very long ago

I:  THERE LIVED A BOY WITH GLUM THOUGHTS

R: Sometimes those thoughts needed to be expressed

I: BUT HE PUT THOSE THOUGHTS IN AWAY IN A MAGIC BOX

R: There had to be a special key to get into that box

I: BUT NO ONE COULD FIND A KEY TO FIT THE LOCK

R: The key was searched for throughout the land

I: PEOPLE TRIED ALL KINDS OF KEYS

R: It was so very important to let those thoughts out of the box

I: COUNTLESS DIFFERENT KEYS WERE TRIED TO NO AVAIL

R: Then, one day, a special locksmith came into the town where this boy lived

I: PERHAPS THE LOCKSMITH WOULD HAVE A NEW SOLUTION

R: The mother of the boy sought the locksmith’s help

I:  THE LOCKSMITH QUESTIONED WHY THEY HAD BEEN LOOKING FOR A KEY

R: The mother told the locksmith that her son’s glum thoughts were locked in a box and she wanted to help get them out.

I:  THE LOCKSMITH ANSWERED THE MOTHER’S REQUEST FOR HELP

R: Soon, the locksmith pulled out a key that looked as though it would fit the lock

I:  FIRST THE LOCKSMITH SAID SOME MAGIC WORDS

R: Abracadabra – And the box flew open!

I: ALL OF A SUDDEN THE WORDS FLEW OUT OF THE BOX

R: The mother knew if they could get those glum thoughts out of the box her son would be happy

I: THE BOY REJOICED, GLUM THOUGHTS FLEW OUT OF THE BOX

R: The mother was so happy that the locksmith had come to town and made it possible for the box to be opened

I: THE BOY KNEW THAT AS LONG AS HE KNEW THE LOCKSMITH HE WOULD NEVER HAVE GLUM THOUGHTS AND HIS WORDS WOULD NEVER BE LOCKED UP AGAIN.

You don’t have to do RPM to write a collaborative story – this is language and interaction at it’s best for anyone! Even if you are at the beginning stages of RPM, you can adapt this format to paper choices or single words. For example: “do you want to write a story about an animal or person?”, the collaborator would take that choice and incorporate it into a sentence finishing with a new choice….”Once upon a time there was a magician (person) with the power to disappear/levitate, etc.  The possibilities are limitless!

Be the locksmith! ~Elizabeth