Saturday, December 27, 2014

Being Reminded by My Annoyance

Ahhh... the Christmas Winter Break. Staying up late followed by closing the shades so we can sleep in the next morning, relishing in the fact that 5 AM will come and go and we will never know. I'm not sure about you and your family, but my family and I love the laziness of the Christmas Holidays. It wasn't until I caught myself becoming increasingly annoyed (...and often) that I realized while we were basking in the unstructured, late-morning routines, my son was missing some very crucial parts of his- and sadly, none of us realized it.

K's two main areas of struggles, as far as sensory processing go, are Vestibular and Proprioception. Our Vestibular system allows us to accurately use our vision, prepare our posture, maintain balance, plan our actions, move, calm ourselves, and regulate our behavior. When his is out of whack and his body feels he isn't receiving enough input, we notice he is on the go more. Not really running around, just aimlessly wandering around (usually touching things) or twirling in circles. At times, we notice him rocking as if in a rocking chair while he is totally oblivious. 

Our Proprioceptive systems deals with the receptors located in our muscles, tendons, and various connective tissues throughout our bodies. These receptors tell us where our bodies parts are located and positioned, how close we are in proximity to others, as well as objects, and how much force is needed to carry out our movement for the task at hand. When K's are lacking sensory input, we notice he seems more clumsy than usual, tends to knock things over or spill things easily, and doesn't seem to be aware of his surroundings as far as bumping into things, stepping on things, etc. 

As you can see, when a child is randomly and consistently twirling through your house, bumping into things, knocking items over on his way to the fridge, spilling the milk he is pouring, and then usually making some type of new mess trying to clean the first one.... it can become a bit exhausting. And so it was today that I found myself saying "Be careful", "Pick that up", "Go over there out of the way", "Stop twirling", "Blah, Blah, Blah" that I finally had a lightbulb moment. He isn't in his regular routine of a school day and so some of the automatically built-in self-helps have been missing. 

Example, usually he walks across campus for each class. He usually uses the walk as an opportunity to run his hand along the fence or brick building which helps with tactile stimulation. The backpack he carries is super heavy, which helps center him more and make his body more aware of its place. It is actually satiable to the Vestibular system. With school being out, none of these usual opportunities for sensory input have been available. [Some home remedies are using 10-pound ankle weights and/or brushing (as part of a sensory diet).]

So, at the end of the day he presents as a clumsy kid who doesn't pay attention to anything he does, makes a lot of messes, and randomly twirls through life without a care in the world, but that isn't what is truly going on inside. This is further proof to me that we (I) need to slow down some of my own assumptions and look deeper at the root of the problem. If this is true of my own children, how much more true is it of those I have the privilege to teach each day?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Marshmallow Challenge and What We Learned

I heard about The Marshmallow Challenge at Region 5 Edcamp last year and knew I wanted to do it! Honestly I got a little excited at the thought of shoving as many marshmallows in my mouth as I could while chanting "chubby bunny" like we used to at youth camp, but then I found out this was a different kind of Marshmallow Challenge. 

The Marshmallow Challenge was created by Tom Wujec as a team building exercise that allows the participants the opportunities in collaboration, innovation, and creativity. It was discovered, however, that students were much better at this activity for several reasons. Learn more about the official Marshmallow Challenge HERE or see Wujec's TED talk HERE

I used the Marshmallow Challenge as a team-building exercise the first week of school. It was a fun way to see how students worked within a group, but also what strengths and weaknesses they brought to the table that could be used during the school year. I was delightfully surprised by the amount of thought and creativity that went into the project, as well as simply working with others in a group setting. Below are a few of the pictures that captured the hard work, followed by what groups felt they did well and what they wish they would have done better and it's solution if there was one. 

So what about you? Please share your best in-class collaborative project your kids have done and the results. If your class participated in the Marshmallow Challenge, we would love to hear your students thoughts and ideas, what worked and what didn't, We followed the highs and lows of many classes via their Twitter feed! Always fun to see what others come up with.