Our Handwriting Class: Exploring What The Students Currently Know Through “Play” Writing

As part of my academic curriculum, handwriting is taught. Handwriting is essential for many reasons and one main reason is to learn to write your full name. We have been practicing handwriting by writing our names, letters in the alphabet and numbers. The students enjoy writing on the individual sized chalkboards and using the eraser. They also like practicing on the drawing board. They are motivated to learn because they like the change from writing with a pencil. During handwriting class, they can write with a chalk, crayon, etc.

After completing a couple of weeks of this “play” handwriting, I now have a good idea of which levels the students are on. Some students are still tracing and may need the dots to follow, other students need practice writing their first name in lower case (first letter capital and the rest are lower case) instead of all upper case and a few students are learning to use the correct “grasp” when holding a pencil, crayon or chalk.

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Meet Some of My K-1st Grade Students: We Also Enjoy Structured Educational Play Through Various Ways

In addition to seated academic paper pencil work, we also learn through structured educational play. Some of the things we have done are playing with our rainbow colored parachute, exploring ourselves in the mirror, playing with play doh using our fine motor skills and using our imagination with toy trains on our classroom rug.

The rainbow colored parachute is popular with our students. They like to run under it as it is tossed in the air, balance balls on top of it and make waves with it. 

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Below, the students are looking in the mirror looking at different facial expressions they made.

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Here, you will see two of my students using their fine motor skills through play doh exploration!

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Another popular choice is playing with toy trains on our classroom rug while using their imagination making the “choo choo” sound and moving the trains along the imaginary track. 

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What Works in My Classroom of K-1st Grade Autism May Work in Your Classroom/Home

Below, you will see several things that make my classroom successful for the students. I would like to share this with you. We are on week 3 of school and the students are familiar with the class routine and are given structure.   Some of the things you see are the classroom schedule shown with visuals, the traffic light used for our classroom behavior management, a board of visuals used throughout the school day and painter’s tape (blue) used to personalize space for each student. These are some of the things used in my class that makes it a smooth and successful day! 


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The schedule includes visuals of the activities/subjects during the day. It is changed each day. Some activities stay the same like breakfast and lunch. On the bottom right hand is a laminated red envelope showing “all done.” The activities that are complete during the day are put into this red envelope to show the students what activities/subjects are complete and what is left.

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The traffic light is used throughout the school day. Each clothes pin has a student’s name on it and it signifies where the student is at the time. If a student is on the green light (thumbs up), he/she is following the classroom rules. If a student is on a yellow light, he/she was given a warning. If the student is on a red light, the student did not follow the classroom rules throughout the day. Most of my students understand this strategy and it works!

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The blue painter’s tape is used to separate space for the students as they share the table space. It allows for personal space and ownership.

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These visuals include: a visual for “break,” “wait” sign, and most importanly, the “yes” and “no” visual for my students who are nonverbal.

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My Poem (#7): My Lost Boy (A Child With Autism)

As I work with students with autism, I see many similarities and many differences in all the students! They are all special and all unique! Some need hugs and some do no like hugs, some children need sensory input and others do not and some children are ok with a high level of noise and some are not. Below is a poem about a child who does not like a high level of noise.

My Lost Boy

Find me mommy, find me,
Find me daddy, find me,
I’m overwhelmed and consumed by lots of noise,
By other kids around me screaming and playing with toys,
I don’t know what to do but I don’t like it,
So I hide in a far away corner by the fence and sit,
Crouched in the corner, I cover my ears,
As I rock back and forth, my face is covered in tears,
Take me away to my quiet bedroom,
Where there is peace and quiet, as I was in mommy’s womb,
“Tommy, where are you?” I hear from afar, “Where are you?”
I want to respond, I really really do!
As I tremble and rock with my eyes closed, I just can’t respond,
I want to say mommy, I am here, just bring your wand,
With your wand, you can zap me back home,
Where I can freely play and roam,
Then I felt a touch and a hug,
I opened my eyes and I felt a familiar tug,
My mommy found me!
My daddy found me!

Hooray, I am found, hooray, hooray, hooray!

Written by: Mary Tran

My New Classroom: Kindergarten-1st grade autism

The first full week of school is ending and I have learned the names of my students, their mannerisms and some of their strengths and interests. I continue to make observations as I am teaching. I am continually wanting to make the space in the classroom the best it can be for the students, organizing bins of toys and manipulatives and de-cluttering. I am also constantly thinking of ways to teach the subjects (math, reading, handwriting, communications skills, ADL)  that I do in an amusing but educational way to maintain the interest of the students.  For now, one of my general goals is to maintain student attention/interest for 30-45 minutes at a time without the students getting out of their chairs.  So far, the best way to do this is through music and manipulatives. If I lose the students attention and interest, they become bored, fidgety,  and find ways to amuse themselves.

Furthermore, I have observed that praise and positive reinforcement helps the students. They like high fives, receiving stickers and stars. They also benefit from breaks in between structured lessons. These breaks could include bathroom and water breaks. I also see that sometimes, shutting the lights off and having the students put their heads on their desks calms them when there is high volume and lots of stimulation in the classroom.

As a first time teacher to students who are at the ages of four to six years old, I am in awe at how much energy they have all day and how much their behaviors and mannerisms affect each other. Coming from 13 years of teaching experience in a middle school setting to students from the ages of 11-15, I see many differences and some similarities. The maturity level and interests of the students are different in elementary and middle school. The similarities are their importance to communicate and learn to be independent.

My job will consist of making observations, making modifications, adapting to the needs of each individual learner, maintaining interest and attention while teaching, create relationships with the students so they are comfortable to communicate their needs/wants and creating learning material that is appropriate, educational and amusing.