Jen Salinas writes:
We have been busy on the new computers since the Christmas break, and with our many challenges we have seen some great successes as well.
Both schools started new terms, so students and EAs spent time updating their Clicker course schedules. Depending on their need, students use their schedules in different ways. Miranda, a grade 12 student who attends regular classes, has a weekly schedule posted on the Skills room wall. Tyler, a grade 12 student who has different activities every day, has a printed visual schedule for every day of the week. Wyatt, a grade 10 student, has a weekly schedule posted by his desk and also uses the online Clicker schedule, which he uses to organize his visual schedule for each day. Alex, a grade 8 student, will be using the same set up as Wyatt as soon as we have time to create it. Other students do not need visual reminders for their day and so do not use the Clicker schedule.
Daily Journal Activity
Our main focus since January has been to personalize students’ daily journals so they can be writing about their school activities on a regular basis. Currently at NPSS, Wyatt and Tyler’s journals are edited and they both write a daily journal every afternoon. Miranda and Devon’s journals are mostly edited and they write a daily journal 2-3 times a week. Kennedy writes a daily journal when she can; however, computer and equipment issues have plagued her this year, making it difficult. At Dr. Kearney, Alex, Amanda and Callie write a school journal every day. Amanda and Callie still need updates and editing to their programs, but they make do and write about what they can.
Daily Calendar Activity
Wyatt, Alex, Callie and Amanda do the calendar activity every morning. This is a great activity for students to gain a better understanding of the days of the week and how time relates to their activities. Wyatt is learning about sunrise and so I have incorporated these into his calendar activity. Wyatt has to use the internet to look up the time that the sun rises, and we will be charting this to see the trends once school resumes.
Other Clicker Activities
Wyatt has been writing about the Vancouver Canucks using a Clicker program I developed. He uses stats from a hockey site on his iPad and a Team Roster word bank in conjunction with the Clicker program to write about things like who they played against, who won, who scored, how they played, and what their standings are.
Noun verb adjectives
When the grade 9 students from Dr. Kearney came to NPSS for two transition visits, we took the opportunity to have Clicker classes with all of the students participating in the project.
In the first class, we used Clicker programs to help teach a lesson introducing the concepts of nouns, verbs and adjectives. First, we had a class discussion on these terms. Next, students used a Clicker sorting grid to further strengthen their understanding of these terms.
Finally, students used a Clicker word bank to generate simple Noun Adjective Verb Sentences. We will continue to use clicker to reinforce these concepts, and students will have the opportunity to write silly adjective stories using a Clicker program I am creating.
For the second combined Clicker class we did a Valentine’s project that combined the noun verb adjective lesson plan with an art project. I created a Clicker grid so that students could write a modified cinquain poem and then create a background. The project was very well received, and several students went on to make more on their own.
Another Clicker grid students used was called Valentine’s Word Maker, where students were asked to make as many words from the letters in Valentines day. I found this on Learning Grids site and there are similar grids for other special occasions.
Successes and Challenges
We have finally arrived at a point where all students involved in the project can write a daily journal, which was the main focus of this project. There are, of course, tweaks and adjustments to make, but this is an ongoing process.
Students’ Home Pages are slowly being adjusted from the general template to a more individualized selection of grids. Again, this is ongoing.
Students have the new term schedule finished and are using them as needed.
Students and EA’s are getting more familiar with how the program works, how to properly save and access their work, and how to make simple edits to change words and/or add pictures.
Two EA’s, one at each school, have invested their own time in building their Clicker knowledge. Their students use Clicker every day and it is an integral part of their school routine.
What strikes me as the biggest success of this project is the engagement and enjoyment of the students using Clicker. Every student in the clicker project is so proud of the work they do and many students like to share their writing with the class. Daily journals are printed off and brought home to show their family. To be able to produce written output is such a powerful tool and should be seen as a tremendous accomplishment.
We have certainly had many challenges that have arisen with the project this year; however, we view these as learning tools on how we can better implement Clicker in the future.
At NPSS we have two Clicker classes per week, which greatly helps students learn about Clicker; however, this is the lunch break for many of our EA’s and so there are only two EA’s in the class to support 4-5 students. Dr. Kearney cannot arrange a Clicker class due to student scheduling and the fact that I can only come to Kearney on my lunch hours, when most students and staff are not there.
Peer mentors: We have two great peer mentors at Dr. Kearney; unfortunately, they are very busy with their own classes and extra curricular activities, and it has been very difficult to schedule time for them to learn and to help students. Our two peer mentors at NPSS are also busy and can only help out sporadically.
Students are busy with other courses and don’t always have the time to learn and use Clicker. Also, EA’s have little to no prep time, so even if they know how to edit their students’ programs, they have no time to do so.
We are so fortunate to have the new computers which work so well, so technological issues are minimal. The exception is one student who, in the past, was a big clicker user. She uses her head rest of her wheelchair to control her computer. Both her chair and her computer have had many problems this year and she hasn’t been able to use Clicker very much because of this.
The amount of time it takes to teach students, EA’s and teachers how to use and edit Clicker, combined with the time it takes to create meaningful programs that will help students write, is far more than one can do while working a position in the school district. It could easily be a full time job, and if we want to see students using technology to improve their writing skills there really needs to be a position dedicated to this. We have the software, we have IT support, yet we do not have support at the student level to implement and teach the software beyond a general understanding.
Goals for April-June
continue to write daily school journals, tweaking and personalizing as needed, working towards independent writing production
continue to work on other Clicker writing programs with a focus on nouns, verbs, adjectives and creating simple proper sentences
continue to support Dr. Kearney by going over on my lunch hours when I can
continue the poetry lessons with a mother’s day/father’s day activity
continue to explore other clicker programs that students can use to further their writing skills
plan more full group sessions with transitioning students on their visits to NPSS.