Classroom Morning Meeting
The Early Childhood years are very critical for laying foundational skills for all children, but this is especially so for children with visual impairments. Most children with visual impairments will need extra support to succeed in school. Hands-on opportunities are important for the student.
By: Carmen Willings
Gathering or group times are wonderful opportunities to incorporate concepts, work on conversation skills, refine sentence construction, and to address self-concepts and interpersonal skills. There are simple adaptations that can be made to this time to make it accessible for students who are blind or visually impaired.
During these gathering times, provide the student with preferential seating based on their visual field and visual needs. For most students, front and center is the best location. This, however, isn’t always the rule. Some students will benefit from sitting to the left or right of the instruction if they have a visual field loss or an eccentric gaze.
Keep in mind that attention spans are short. Consider shortening gathering time to match the attention span of the students and schedule several different group times instead of one long gathering time. You may find that many students, particularly those that are visually impaired, can have difficulty attending or have inappropriate mannerisms during group times, when they are not actively engaged in an activity. Be prepared with a shoebox of fidget toys and provide one to each student that tends to fidget. Check with the occupational therapist as to whether or not a student would benefit from a weighted vest, lap blanket, or cushy seat during this time. Reward good listeners and those who are on task with gathering time jobs (help place the number on the calendar, check the weather, etc.)
Verbally welcome or sing songs to greet students (ex. We’re So Happy You’re Here Today). Practice social exchange. "Good Morning, ____." Student responds with reciprocal greeting. Encourage students to use appropriate posture, eye contact (or face in the correct direction), volume, and dictation when communicating. Bring the "sign in chart" to the group area. Have student’s identify who is at school today based on signatures. Find matching names to place on attendance board – use symbols that match current topic OR for older students, use name badges or time sheets similar to what is found on work site.
Be sure to use the names of all the students when talking to them. That way a student that is visually impaired won’t mistakenly act on an instruction or comment that was intended for another student. Avoid using gestures alone (or facial expressions) for managing class behaviors unless you pair each with a verbal statement.
The morning group time is a good time to encourage the student with low vision to use their vision by looking at themselves in a mirror during morning greetings or visually discriminating who is at school. Similarly, students with limited vision can practice their auditory memory and discrimination by identifying voices and determining who is missing. (Keep in mind the use of a mirror may not be the best option for all students, particularly for students with cortical visual impairment as the face is very complex and any classroom visual clutter is reflected in the mirror). You may choose to wear a silly hat, a scarf, or funny glasses to draw the student’s attention toward your face and visually scan to determine what is different about you.
Read the school menu for the current day using information gained during calendar time. Identify the daily choices. Encourage students to select their meal choice for the day if applicable or indicate that they brought their own lunch. Have the students locate their name on tags (using their symbol or print or Braille) and place them on a pre-made chart indicating buying or packing. Use this opportunity to interpret data and determine if there are more packing or buying, etc.
For calendar time, use a high contrast calendar with minimal visual clutter. Provide large print and/or Braille for future or current Braille readers. Have the students identify the day, week, month, and year using the calendar. Have the students’ rote count or tap out count up to current date, point to each number as you say it. Consider providing individual calendars for each students. Encourage students to point to their numbers as you count them (print or Braille as appropriate). Provide the students with a number card to place on their calendar OR encourage them to write the correct number on their calendar. This is a natural time to incorporate the concepts of yesterday, today and tomorrow (ex. Yesterday was Sunday, today is Monday, and tomorrow will be Tuesday).
Classroom Calendar Kit This wall calendar, available from APH, includes high contrast large print labels that are paired with braille.
Individual Calendar Kit, available through APH. This consumable calendar kit features brightly-colored embossed/bold line grid sheets, and paper labels in large print and braille.
Discuss the Day's Plan
Briefly review class and individual schedules to prepare the students for the days activities. Review the chore chart to determine responsibilities for each student for the day. Introduce or review the current topic/unit. Present materials related to the topic and point out how an object feels, what it is used for, or how it relates to some other object that your student is already familiar with. This is a good time to introduce any new vocabulary words related to the topic. Encourage students to help determine meaning of unknown words through use of classroom dictionary. When applicable discuss how some words can sound alike but have different meanings.For older students, use the classroom thesaurus to locate other words that have similar and opposite meanings. Classify the objects or words into categories.
Job Chart Review
The ability to perform classroom chores or jobs will prepare the student for being a contributing member of the classroom, homes, and community. It also lays a foundation for job related skills and employment later in life. It does take more time, and generally takes a lot of patience when instructing a student in these goals, but it will payoff over time and can lead to a self-confident, organized adult. Remember that plenty of experiences with real objects will help a student that is visually impaired develop an awareness of shape, size, texture, softness, temperature, weight, and other features of objects.
Some chores typically considered household chores can be taught and practiced within the classroom or school. Everyone should be expected to participate in basic chores on a daily basis such as hanging coat on hook or on a hanger, putting toys, materials and belongings away, placing trash in the trash can, sorting recycling.
Create a classroom chore chart with a variety of chores that students can have turns being responsible for. Typically students will look forward to having classroom responsibilities. Refer to Classroom Jobs for suggestions of chores.
Checking the weather is a concrete way of embedding seasonal and weather concepts. The morning meeting time can be a natural time to check the weather, or waiting until a later time in the day when it will be determined whether recess will be indoor or outdoor. This page provides suggestions for Weather Check time.
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